Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Thunder, And Lightning, And Swears, Oh My!
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Well, we've only been here in Punta Culebra a few days but already we've had more than our fair share of terrific times. In case you don't know, terrific originally derived from terrible, just like horrific derived from horrible, except 1950's movie goer's didn't know that and just assumed that "TERRIFIC" splashed across the poster meant watching something scary was really great. As someone whose recently did just that, I think they were wrong, but then again, I don't like horror movies any more than I like watching Zeus play darts with my boat.
Our story should start with "It was a dark and stormy night", but it was a dazzlingly bright and sunny day out when we left Triton at anchor and headed into shore for a quick brunch and maybe some shopping. Now any mere mortal would not have the strength of character, the sheer discipline, the military like training required to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that the calmly lapping waters, the spotted blue skies and the gentle breeze tussling our genuine "Kunawear" [made in China, trademark pending] cotton weave shirts, (even though the barometer was rising and the humidity was dropping) was actually nature's way of winding up with a sucker punch. But we proud few, we men of experience, we band of soggy brothers knew better.
No, our heroes were, from weeks of prior surprises, completely ready for Mother Nature's little jokes. We'd developed a keen, almost rigid faith in the sky's ability to part whenever we let our guard down or left an opening in the boat unattended. To that end, we'd dogged the hatches of almost every portal, made sure there was nothing left above decks that could get ruined and stowed anything that might get wet in plastic. Secure in the knowledge that we'd taken every precaution against the rain, we headed over to the dinghy dock looking forward to a delicious meal at the nearby restaurant that overlooked the bay.
But before I continue, I must first describe a character trait in one of the crew that needs some explaining. Lest I belittle anyone in front of their friends, I will use the Latino names we've chosen for each other, to maintain our anonymity. On our "barka" (that's Spanish for "Hey, they're three Gringo's on a boat, lets charge them more") there is El Capitan Retardo, so named for his command of the Spanish language, El Gran Thornia, so named for his stature and his name, and El Hombre de Soggitto del Papel, so named for his belief that all reading materials should be saturated before reading.
For some reason, this shipmate, who will remain almost anonymous, is unable to keep any printed material dry for more than a day. He'd asked for one of those "Teach Yourself Spanish In Three Hours" books, and AnnMarie went to great lengths to bring one down on her last trip. When it arrived, it was the standard eight by ten soft cover trade paperback about one inch thick; after only four days of El Soggitto's wash and dry procedures it is now eleven inches in every direction. He's taken to tearing off chapters from it so he can fit a manageable portion into his backpack without arousing suspicion in the city police. He slices off a hunk at a time the way a butcher might slice off a pound of turkey breast so you don't have to carry home the entire bird.
And his penchant for underwater reading material doesn't end there. We're yet to read a New Yorker that isn't three quarters of an inch thick, or peruse a New York Times that doesn't require an archaeologist to separate the pages. Apparently this is some sort of bizarre religious practice and we don't question it. Much. Some people launder clothes, others money, he washes his library. Let him among us, that is without quirks, cast the first damp ball of wood pulp.
We researched this a bit and discovered that this condition is called Hydrobibliophile, and is treatable only through shock therapy administered simultaneous with cranberry enemas. Sadly, the inverter is only 700Watts - which not enough to completely cure him, and we've run out of cranberry juice and have switched to pineapple, but we're willing to repeat the treatment if he gets anything else soggy. That's just the kind of selfless shipmates we are.
Anyway, I tell you this because, even with all our training, our weeks of experience, our iron willed self discipline, our burning desire not to sleep in the wet spot, El Soggitto still managed to forget a hatch. But, in keeping with his bizarre rituals, it was right above a magazine none of the rest of us had read yet. He still got his bunk wet, which will take decades to dry, but also managed to create yet another mass of black smears on a damp grey background. But I digress...and my editor tells me I use too much prose. She says I need to be more compact, use smaller sentences, less verbiage, cut down on the prose. Other authors have done it, famous guys with missing testicles, so why can't I? Okay, here goes...
We then went ashore. We ate and talked. The skies darkened around us. We talked some more. A bolt of lightening hit. We saw the flash. We heard the thunder. We counted to three. It was very close. Another bolt, closer still. Then another, and another...we were in fear, the skys were angry, bolts of light blazed, flashes of green everywhere, the ozone cracked about...
Fuck that moronic four word Hemmingway sentence shit, it was an amazing light show complete with lightning going sideways, backwards, green and in star patterns. The sound effects were better still, banging around the walls of the open air restaurant and setting off every car alarm for miles around us. If it weren't for the fact that the bolts were landing all around the boat, and with alarming intensity, and we happened to have the tallest mast in the harbor, it would have been a really cool moment. Instead, it was TERRIFIC! As in, it was terrifying and it fucking sucked. Especially since I couldn't remember if our insurance covered being hit with two hundred million volts and burning out every piece of wire and electronics on the boat.
There is an old superstition about lighting among golfers. It says, if you find yourself trapped on an open course, devoid of any tall trees, and a really bad storm starts throwing bolts all around you, the best defense is to pick up a four iron and hold it over your head. The argument being that not even God himself can hit a four iron.
Now, any seasoned sailor will tell you that God helps those who assume he's out to kill them, and that the only proof against a lightening strike is placing your precious electronic gear in a Faraday cage, which is basically a metal box that shields things from the devastating effects of voltage spikes. Its impossible to do this for everything, but you can, at least, easily shield your hand held equipment this way. And, any really clever physicist will also explain that almost every home and boat has a Faraday cage already, in the form of an oven, which is basically a double walled metal box. So, being seasoned, clever ducks we always keep all our emergency electronics in one of those airtight, water tight, yellow plastic boxes, which we place inside the oven.
Except today. It had been left out on the table. That meant that if we did get hit, everything, including our precious satellite phone, our backup GPS, our MOB watches, our direction finding gear, everything that we would need in an emergency, would also be lost. We watched helplessly, in horror, as the thunderbolts slammed down. Eventually the storm ended, and we decided to back to see if there was going to be a boat to go back to. Much to our relief no one in the anchorage had been hit, including us, and nothing on board seemed to have been affected by the storm. We did discover El Soggitto's wash and dry reading material, but as I've said, to each his own.
I should take this time to mention something about hatch designs, lest you all get the wrong idea and think that the boat leaks. Triton, a beautiful, dry catamaran and a wonderful and comfortable ride to boot, must, as must all other vessels, obey the first law of marine physics called "The Conservation of Ingenuity", namely, you are not permitted an abundance of any good idea without a counter balancing design flaw. This rule applies to almost any vehicle, shelter or instrument devised by man.
If someone builds a porch that allows one to sit quietly in the afternoon sun, then by definition, it must have some counterbalancing flaw that makes it unsuitable for, say, blustery days. The Edsel, which was the first vehicle to include disc brakes, four wheel independent suspension and fuel injection, was, according to this principle, counterbalanced by a body design that looked, if it were a woman, like a forty six year old priggish virgin with bad glasses and cramps.
In our case, the brilliant design idea of building the bathrooms entirely out of waterproof fiberglass that can stand any amount of rain such that one could leave both of the small, secure hatches open even when the boat is left unattended, is compensated for, according to the laws of physics, by placing all other hatches out of easy reach, and all situated such that the slightest rain will land in either your bunk, your closet full of freshly cleaned clothes or the fiberboard shelf that runs along the entire length of the saloon. And, in keeping in balance the other great designs of this boat, such as ease of access to the engines, sacrificial keels, a great anchoring system, etc., the shelf has absolutely no place to drain the water. After only a few showers, it has swollen to about three inches thicker than before. We now keep only Jeff's books on it.
It also has a four inch high sill between the cockpit and the salon, which is edged in razor sharp metal. It is impossible to step over this entrance way more than six times without cutting your foot at least once. Mota cut his foot so badly he required a tourniquet. Well, I said he needed a tourniquet, but he wouldn't go along with me.
We have all cursed this idiotic and unnecessary design feature but realize that fixing it means we have to eliminate the really cool engine access panels, or the redundant fresh water pump system. To do otherwise would be to spit in the face of the gods. In fact, if I improve the galley layout, I'll probably have to raise the sill height just to keep the balance of good and evil.
Well, enough of our sad tales. We are struggling through, despite the incredible odds against us, and have managed to survive to tell yet another sea tale. We expect Holly Turner to arrive this evening, haven't heard back from Eric Drake, so it's looking dim for him, but we are preparing to roast a significant amount of marinated chicken and invite some of the neighbors aboard tonight for more lies, damn lies and statistics.
Hoping everyone is happy, well fed, and at least has enough of a life that they aren't reduced to reading these dregs for entertainment. We'll see you all soon enough, although Jeff is threatening to go off to Cartagena instead. He said something about wine, women and song, but I think it's really to check out property values.
P.S. As I began to write this it was a beautiful, clear day, with a warm fresh breeze and the sun low in the sky. We took advantage of this by opening every hatch on the boat, and giving the vessel a good airing out, something we haven't been able to do for days. The wind streamed through the cabins, Jeff's periodicals began to dry, and our hearts gladdened. Almost immediately, the sky darkened and we saw lightening off in the distance. We ran around quickly closing off every hatch we could and securing anything we'd placed outside to dry. Since then it hasn't even as much as drizzled and it's been hours. Thorny came back from the store and said "Wow, it's muggy in here." He popped open a few of the salon windows. It began to rain. Not enough to really want to close the windows, but enough to know that if we don't we'll have a puddle on the book shelf. Mother Nature is one mother.
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