DAMN, glad he told me. I wished Chester was still around. He always made me feel better, acted like my Dad, kind and never impatient. Thankfully Don would be along to hold our hands, just as Chester had a month earlier.
I hadn’t told my mother we were actually leaving Florida for ports unknown, but she knew most of the rest and took it in stride. Cap’s brother and my sister knew more of the details, since they were our forwarding addressees and could help with any stateside business. They were also the executors of our wills, not that we had much anymore.
We were to leave during the wee hours of the morning, when the winds are generally at their calmest. We tried to catch a few hours rest but in no time it was midnight and time to get up. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the marina was quiet. Stars twinkling. Couldn't be better, I thought. While Cap did boat-stuff outside I grabbed my list of things to secure: dowels in the dish cabinet grooves; cupboards and fridge latched; portholes closed; bedroom hatch shut; mini blinds rolled up; swim ladder tied; bathroom door rock'd. (Please note: most of these photos are from later years, and at different times of day.)
At the last minute a regatta of sorts in another marina announced over the radio they’d also be leaving. The prediction was 2'-4' seas with a slight chop. Sailboats are able to take advantage of the wind and tack their way to their destinations, but Ruff Life would chug along in a relatively straight line, battered by seas in all direction.
Cap said that at 7 knots it should take us about 8 hours to reach the Bahamas. We'd be having breakfast in West End. I was hoping to spot the once-in-a-lifetime planetary show announced in the news, and with a clear sky, far from city lights, my chances seemed pretty good. From the Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1, 1997:
"Appearing after dusk through Dec. 8, the planets will be lined up from west to east, beginning with Pluto and followed by Mercury, Mars, Venus, Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter and Saturn, with a crescent moon alongside."
BrrrrUmmmm. If our diesel motor didn't wake up the marina, I don't know what would. Cap flipped on the bright lights attached to the mast's crossbar and lit up the boat. Czar began to pace. Don and Cap walked around making final checks, while Kelly said nice things to me: clear skies; hardly any wind; Don's made this trip dozens of times. Cap would, of course, drive from the flybridge. None of us wore life jackets, including Czar, who wouldn't keep his on.
"What do I do?" I hadn't a clue.
"Grab the lines from Kelly."
I never claimed to be an expert and to this day cannot satisfactorily comprehend how different events happened; particularly weather-related. Occasionally I'll see something similar in a movie, but I can only relay my own understandings, right or wrong, as with the following:
"DIVE," and we threw ourselves in opposite directions, laying along the sidewall. My face was pressed to the deck as I heard a thud, then slow, God-awful screeeeech above my head as the anchor touched the cabin wall and scraped its way across both plexiglass windows towards the back until, thankfully, it ran out of cabin. Ruff Life looked as if she'd been keyed. Cap finally regained control and yelled down,
"Are you alright?"
"I opened the side door to check on the boys. In the darkness I saw a huge shadow just off the flybridge. First thing I thought of was the planetary lineup.""What is that…the moon?" I yelled upwards.
"Turned out Cap had grabbed the mast to help stand up, and the bottom 2-foot piece came off right in his arms. Needless to say the mast fell down, almost on Don's head, and they had to tie it down with rope. I asked (several times) if we were turning back but they said no."The wooden mast was rotten and whitewashed like the rest of the boat. Cap later told me he was coming down to check on us, but while climbing out of the bench seat he grabbed the mast to steady himself and it disintegrated in his arms.
"He checked to see if I was OK, shocked that no bones seemed to be broken, but he had to leave because he was green around the gills. So Czar and I stayed below the whole time. Didn't have to worry about the fridge falling anymore. I was so demoralized, watching everything we own getting trashed. Czar finally lay down on the settee and I spent the rest of the trip on the floor, propped up against the ice maker. Poor guys - I couldn't get them a thing - not even to drink.""I thought this was supposed to be fun!" I yelled after Cap. Don, no doubt hoping for some sustenance a couple hours later, came down to ask if I wanted the fridge up-righted. I couldn't reach the sink for fresh water, and I had to jump over it to get down to the bathroom, which was not easy.
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