Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Been Fun

This, my final blog, has been the most difficult of all blogs to write. So much time has passed, and so much Life has been squeezed into the last 3 months, it’s hard to know what to leave in, and what to leave out. It’s difficult to think about the sweet memories of my recent past, the longing to be there again is painful.

I guess I could begin from where I left off. Yes, the boat was struck by lightning. It was an awful storm. Lightning was reaching the surface throughout the anchorage. I heard later that 2 other boats in the anchorage were struck during the same storm. Once the storm hit, I felt it was inevitable, that I’d be struck (I’ve never seen so much chain lightning, happening all at once), and I just hoped that my lightning-rod ‘system’ would do it’s job properly. The tops of my masts are metal, the stays supporting my masts are metal, and are attached to the wooden hull by metal plates. My keel bolts are big rods of stainless, so with a thick copper wire bridging the gap from the metal plates to the keel bolts, the boat should be grounded to the surrounding ocean. When the lightning hit, I can’t explain the feeling. It wasn’t electric shock, but it was definitely some sort of ‘awareness’ attached to the event, I don’t know what other word to use to describe it. It lasted for 2 or 3 seconds, to the best of my memory. There was a ‘pop’, which was soon followed by the smell of burning. It smelled metallic, not wooden, but on instinct, I ran on deck in the midst of the storm to double-check that I didn’t have an impending disaster on my hands. Convinced all was well for the moment, I went below, grabbed my softest blanket and curled up helpless on the bunk below, waiting for the remainder of the storm to pass.

The calm sunset that followed seemed like nature’s defiance, pretending nothing had happened at all. As I wandered around the deck, it didnt take long to discover where the boat had been struck. A melted VHF antennae was the most obvious of the clues. The lack of response when turning on various electronics confirmed what I feared. My newly working autopilot and depthsounder were fried. That little boat is traditional through and through, rejecting any new technology that might make navigating and journeying easier or more pleasureable. Much like her owner, she seems prone to doing things the hard way.

So that was around the 6th of June, and what drew me to Miami in the first place kept me there for 6 weeks. Of all the temporary friends I made while in the Bahamas, at least one has become permanent. As he had promised when we met in the Exumas, Phil showed me some of the finer things Miami had to offer. I had been through Miami twice before, probably at anchor in the area for a few weeks combined, but had never been ashore. I'm sometimes a quick judge of character, and I decided the city was full of rouges and thieves. And guns, lots of guns. While that probably remains true to a certain point, there's certainly a lot more to the place, which I'm sure I've still only had a glimpse of.

Phil took me to the botanical gardens, full of hundreds of tropical trees, plants and flowers, and world headquarters of mosquito production. He demonstrated how to drive in Miami without getting yourself killed, and how much fun it is to ride a motorcycle! (note to self: sell boat, buy Harley) We toured around the neighbourhood where he grew up, on the fringes of the city, surrounded by tropical tree farms, fruit stands, and feilds of strawberries and mango trees. We explored the extremely contrived South Beach area by bicycle. I could probably sit along one of the pedestrian streets and people watch until the end of time.

As you could expect, making the decision to leave Miami was one I struggled with for weeks, before finally accepting a job offer back in Canada. It was time to get Annie out of the hot southern waters, and I knew I had to get her back to Lunenburg sooner rather than later. I had about 2000 miles of ocean to traverse between Miami and home. Now I felt in a rush to get there, and knew very well that if I had to hop my way slowly up the coast (as I would have to do without crew or autopilot), that it would take me months, rather than weeks. I had a lot of feedback when I put out the call for crew, but in the end, only one person came through. My dad flew to Miami one evening, and we left the

following morning from the Miami River, winding our way past the construction and skyscrapers and dockyards, bound for the Atlantic.

I remember looking back one last time before we rounded the bend in the river, to see Phil standing on the stern of Retriever, wondering when we'd see each other again. At this point I had no other choice but to

look ahead and face the task at hand. About 750 miles of open ocean to North Carolina, with my dad, who'd never been to sea before.

Maybe I'll save the rest of this story for one more blog.