An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Back On Track But Out Of Gas


When you’ve just had your rudder knocked out from crashing into the reef, then decide to go spearfishing where you’ve just seen a shark (nursing or not!), then have a race from the sharks you imagine chasing you to the shelter of your boat, all you can do is chuckle as you sit breathing and dripping heavily in the Bahamian sun. Dan sliced the fillets off his fresh catch. I watched the sharks below, circling, searching for the source of blood they so quickly picked up.

It’s amazing how quickly a shark will show up when there’s blood in the water. And it’s amazing how quickly your boyish mind starts swimming with ideas when you’re standing on the bow watching. There were sharks in the water, fish carcass in the boat, and fishing line still tied to the back of the boat: A + B = C.

With our tiller working again we trolled this time OFF the bank rather than over it. The fish carcass swam casually 50 feet behind the boat. Meanwhile I sat armed with my camcorder and dreams of dorsal fins. We trolled for a while, stopped to slap the top of the water like ringing a dinner bell for our toothy friends, then continued trolling. With in moments we hear splashing and see a school of tuna jumping out of the water. Moments later…the fin.

A massive white tip raises out of the water, then disappears as smoothly as it appeared. We stop the boat and keep the cameras rolling. Dan grabs the baited fishing line and pulls it in close to the boat. I pan the crystal waters for shadows. Bit by bit the shark circles closer to our fish, deciding just how interested it is. This is the shark that swims in my imagination. Probably 10 feet long and according to our Atlantic Sport Fish book ranging up to 350 lbs. It circles and circles and on occasion bites but eventually decides it’s not interested. I can only assume it was maybe expecting something a little bit longer, whiter and skinnier. Still we were pretty stoked.

After eating our reward we motored into the sunset. A warm cup of tea and a fresh packed pipe (totally legal of course) Dan and I both agreed- today the real adventure began. This was “The World by Sea”. Running on reef. Losing your rudder. Trolling sharks. It felt like the beginning. And it was, as we would soon find out over the next 4 days of sailing to the Dominican Republic.

According to the weather forecast we only had so many hours of trolling weather before the impossible Easterly winds returned. We needed to get to the other side of the Turks and Caicos Islands if we didn’t we faced the possibility of being stranded again on the wrong side of a passage. By morning we faced a new problem-gas or lack there of. It’s true a 25 horsepower, two-stroke engine is fairly fuel efficient, but when you only have a 20 gallon tank “efficient” can only get you so far. We were fast approaching our limit and would have to make a decision soon…

We could motor to the closest town which reportedly has gas “sometimes” and hope to refuel. The problem: we lose 10 or more hours and probably our window. OR we keep sailing south, get to a position to cross another bank. The problem: you need gas to cross a bank filled with coral heads. OR we head north and hope to get far enough to use the Easterly through the passage we needed. The problem: if we didn’t and with the amount of gas we had (we wouldn’t) we would be trapped with no place to anchor and have to back track. Enter the solution: Prudence.

We spotted another sailboat shortly behind us and radioed back. Turns out it was a couple of cruisers on sailing vessel Prudence who left Georgetown the same day we did. They sold us 5 gallons of gas and even through in some homemade ginger snaps to keep us going. I also inform our readers that on this day I became a man! Don’t be perverted, I just speared a fish. Yep, after going on two months “spearfishing” with no fish, I got one on my final day, at our final anchor in the Bahamas. Thank you-you can email your fan letters by clicking the “Contact Me” button on the left hand side.

We kept sailing. Dan’s adrenaline finally wore off from the reef hit shark troll and at 5:00 pm he cashed in, leaving me with just the tiller and my thoughts. Already a breeze was picking up and I watched the final hours of calm disappear with the daylight. The next 8 hours were magic. For the first time I found the true love of sailing. I’ve never really played an instrument, and never been much of an painter but in these euphoric moments, I understood what it meant.

There comes a moment after years of practice, strumming your guitar, stroking your canvass, when you finally know your art. And for the first time with instrument in hand you create. You compose the music in your soul. You paint the image in your dream. And when you step back that emotion translates perfectly through your art. I can’t say that happened to me and sailing, but I can say I understand what it means.

Everything seemed to happen at once. It’s hard to explain but as I sat there in the cool air, with the tiller in hand and the moon painting scenes in the clouds, I connected with the boat. I was able to lighten my grip and rather than fight the waves, I glided with them. I knew as the wind clocked I needed to ease the main, so the mast could cup the breeze just so. I knew the jib was too trim and the traveler was to leeward. And I knew how to fix it. This was the dream every person has when we speak of sailing. It was the first time I had it and it was beautiful.

I sailed until 2 in the morning when Dan finally peeked his head out. The moon had set an hour before and I was using the stars to navigate. I’ve never been so content on the boat, so I handed over the tiller and nestled in the bosom of my new friend. (Not Dan, you sickos… I’m talking about the boat.) The rest was good and just what I needed because the next 3 days would be the hardest sailing to date.



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