Trading Wheels for Water
Never has wind played such a significant role in my life. It dictates everything now, the force of some unseen hand quietly deciding what each day will be like. How long will we stay at this island? Depends when the winds calm down enough to leave. Can we sail today or do we have to motor? Depends which direction the wind is coming from. Will we sleep well tonight? Depends on the wind.
A few weeks ago I joined my good friends Mike and Jen in West Palm Beach on their Catalina 30 Sailboat – Lacuna. They had invited me to join for a month exploring the Bahamas, which was something I couldn’t turn down. Sure some plans had to be rearranged, sure my training is going to take a hit, sure it’s going to be hard for me to stay in touch with work, but life beckons.
Since then I’ve been quickly adapting to life on the water. Not surprisingly, it isn’t that much of a shift from van life. The space is limited but more than adequate, you basically have your home with you all the time, and you don’t shower very often (although an ocean bath is never more than a few feet away). On the flip side, you can’t exactly just pull your boat over and stop when you want a break, knowing the weather is absolutely critical, and you constantly have to stay attuned to the forces conspiring to move your home places you reeeeeaaaaally don’t want it to go.
It’s an odd feeling, having to worry about your home breaking free of its tether and floating away in the night. That my home stays where I put it has always been something I’ve taken for granted, albeit slightly less so in the van. Not the case on a boat. The first time we anchored and expected heavy winds, Mike got in the water and “dove on the anchor” to see how well it was set. I couldn’t help but laugh; isn’t the point of an anchor that it stays where you put it? Apparently this isn’t a given, and “dragging” is something it’s prudent to worry about when anchored in high winds. If the anchor isn’t set properly or the sea floor isn’t good for holding, the anchor can drag. Not good when there are other boats around, or land.
This hit home after an eventful (for some) night at Green Turtle Cay. We had picked up a mooring (theoretically stronger and safer than anchoring) because of expected high winds. The harbor was pretty crowded with other boats also seeking shelter from the wind, but we were comfortable with our location and the mooring we were on.
Our afternoon called for some errands, so the three of us headed into town in the dinghy to check out the area and find a grocery store. First things first though, we stopped for a late lunch and a drink at the Pineapple Bar and Grill. By the time we were done eating it was happy hour, so we obviously had to at least get a round to take advantage of the 2 for 1 rum punches. We got to talking with some fellow cruisers, and one round led to two, led to… It soon became obvious we wouldn’t make it to the grocery store in time, so we just settled in at the bar to enjoy ourselves.
After a few more hours making new friends that culminated in a swim in the bar’s pool (which maybe wasn’t entirely consensual for everyone, and yes, a pool at a bar is normal around here), the bar fortunately decided it was time to close for the night. We piled into the dinghy, one who will remain nameless missing their shorts, and took the rough ride back to our boat in the steadily increasing winds. The rest of the night, as far as we knew, was fairly uneventful.
The next day we ran into our friend Tom, who we’d met a few days earlier. Tom filled us in on some excitement we’d missed during our alcohol assisted slumber.
“Wow, you guys are really heavy sleepers, huh!” Tom exclaimed.
“Uh, sure. We might have had a bit to drink last night.”
“Yeah, I figured. I was anchored next to you.”
“What, when? Where’d you go?” I wondered.
“Well, after the catamaran in front of you dragged, almost hit both of us, and had his engines screaming trying to get turned around and away from us, I started dragging. The guy from Persistence over there came and jumped on to help me out, and we ended up moving my boat to the marina for the rest of the night.”
“Wow, apparently we missed a lot.”
“Yeah… we were blaring the horns and shining lights at you guys trying to get your attention, but you were out.”
“Funny, I thought it seemed a lot less crowded when we woke up.” I noted.
So, apparently we missed a pretty eventful night. I guess dragging is a very real thing, and it turns out that even if you’re on a mooring, you still have to worry about the other boats around you! So, maybe next time the forecast calls for 30 knot winds, we’ll take it a little easier the night before and pay closer attention to what’s going on.
But… I mean I did sleep pretty darn well for such a windy night.