An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Reefs and Rudders

One major downside to being at sea is you can neither blog nor journal very well. Blog because of the obvious lack of internet availability. Journal because while yes, you do have a LOT of time on your hands, the time you do have is spent concentrating on the simple things in life. Such as not breaking things, falling overboard or tossing cookies. Suffice to say I have some catching up to do.

Before I do, allow me to comfort our faithful readers and concerned followers who sent plenty of emails over the past week and a half wondering if we were still alive. We are. We made it to the Dominican Republic and after kissing… nay spooning the precious ground for a few awkward moments, we pulled everything out of the boat to begin the drying process. Already I’ve had the chance to tour the orphanage village and it is amazing. But that’s still a few stories away…we first need to get you out of Georgetown!

While I was typing my last depressing entry, Dan was hard at work with a new piece of steel he found, applying support for our endangered mast. Somewhere between the internet and the dock, everything changed. I radio’d Dan, “I’m all done here.” Dan radio’d back, “Me too. The mast is ready. Tomorrow we sail!”

I could write an entire blog on the next 48 hours: Beating into the wind (except for the occasional squall which stole our wind and spun us around a time or two). The 40-degree angle we functioned at as the boat sailed heeled through the waves. The 60 miles progress we made sailing nonstop for 48 hours. But I’d just assume forget it. Instead I’ll jump to Day 3: the day we ran into reef.

On day 3 we learned the southerly wind we were expecting was not coming after all. Instead there would be no wind. Which means when sailing you can either sit and float, waiting for an occasional breeze or you can drop sails and power up your 20 horsepower beast of an engine. We opted for the later.

When you are a sailor (and no I’m not making any bold claims right now) there is a sense of defeat when you have to motor so we decided would fish in attempts to salvage a bit of our manhood We tied two lines to the back of the boat, trolled a third on a rod and veered toward a small island right on the cut of the ocean. Small. Remote. Perfect for huge fish.
Also perfect for huge uncharted coral heads. As Dan guided the boat closer to the island we thought we were going over a large sand bar until we noticed the coral. Titanic towers of razor sharp coral ascending just below the surface. At first we admired, but within moments it dawned on us that coral doesn’t just grow on the side of the boat.

“Derek, I need you on the bow.” I ran to the front of the boat. Tippy-toed, I spanned the calico water. Interesting how fine a line there is between beauty and horror. There were coral heads everywhere! “Right!… Now left, LEFT!” I would yell to Dan. “Now right!” We were actually doing it. Turn after turn we timidly zagged between the sleeping giants. Then the worst case scenario.

Like a good chess game, you try to think at least three moves ahead. But when you are out numbered eventually your opponent surrounds you: Check. I guided the boat, best I could through the heads, barking out orders to Dan. Until I realized we had entered a room with no exit.

My heart beat through every vein.  “Dan, we’re surrounded!” I shout. “There might be a small passage to your left, but it’s REALLY narrow and turns to the right.” There weren’t many alternatives so we tried. CLUNK! The whole boat shuttered in the water. CLUNK! CLUNK! CLUNK! We were hitting coral on every side.

Between my futile yells, I whisper, “God, get us out of here…” as I can only imagine the water that’s poring through into the hull beneath my feet. CLUNK! This time the swell rolled us back. Dan lost control of his rudder. “We’ll have to walk it out,” Dan called out. “I have not control of the rudder.” And then somehow we were through. Maybe another swell, who knows, but by the time I had gotten to the back of the boat we had floated through the coral.

I dropped the anchor and Dan walked through the cabin to check for water. Good news-we weren’t taking on water. (PHEW!) Now, for the rudder. We still had no control of the rudder (and I still have no idea what I’m doing) so Dan got on his snorkel to take a look underneath. After a quick shark check (only one small nursing shark) Dan goes down.

“The rudder is knocked out of place… I’m going to try to hold it into place and you pound on the back of the tiller (the stick used for steering the boat).” Ok. A very long story short we finally get it. Who knows how good, but the tiller was moving the rudder. Very good news!

Now just one more thing. In Dan’s dive, perhaps while looking over his shoulder for sharks, he noticed there were some nice sized fish down there. Our pride now suffering more than ever, Dan asks if I want to do a little spear fishing before we get going. “With the sharks you just saw?” I felt a fair question. “Yes.” “No, not especially,” I reply as I grab my fins and snorkel.

Dan’s in first. I’m right behind him and just as I am pulling away from the boat I see him dive down. I take a breath and right when I dip my head in, Dan is speeding to the surface. That’s all I needed to know.  10 seconds later, I’m trying to figure out how to climb a ladder with flippers, Dan has already figured out how to jump out of the water onto the boat with a speared fish.

Success! Alas a small ounce of pride restored. We gaze over the side to the location of spearing and that leads me to my next post… the sharks! Yes… another shark story (and video!).


1 D Walker { 01.25.08 at 11:02 am }

You can’t just leave a brotha hanging like that, man! None of us know how long until you resurface… literally and figuratively. Bring on the shark story!

2 Ima Traveler 2 { 01.25.08 at 3:49 pm }

oooooooohhhh. I’m telling. You ran aground on a reef!

And they’re Nurse sharks Silly! -not normallyharmful to humans unless stepped on. It’s them Bull sharks you’ve got to look out for now. 🙂 Good Luck!

3 John Kimble { 01.28.08 at 1:45 pm }

Me happy friend good. Me miss friend, sad. Me think friend happy, good. Simple life good. Like sailing or good first date….Breathe. Water. Food. Friends. Wind. Sun. Stars. Moon. Music. Wine. Shelter. Kisses. Hugs. Sex. Smoke. Sleep. Smiles. Laugh. Learn. Love. Death simple after good life. Enjoy!

4 Cindy LaRue { 03.10.08 at 1:06 pm }

I am really enjoying everything that I have read so far. You may not remember me. I worked for AAA in Roseville MN as the branch manager for many years. 12 to be exact. I now work for Carlson travel and received this email from Jim Roberts. I admire you sense of adventour and what you and your friend are doing. What a fun and great thing. Thank you for sharing with others!~~~~~~

5 Fran Bastuba { 03.11.08 at 9:37 pm }

Hi Derek – I don’t know if you remember me, but I was on the Grand Canyon FAM with you and Jim in August of 07. I am from AAA Michigan and was traveling with Cheryl Fudge. Jim sent this web site to us. It is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing with everyone. I admire your dedication to helping others, and your adventurous spirit. I look forward to checking your site often as I now saved it in my favorites.
Best of luck and I wish you good health and safety in your journey’s.
Fran Bastuba

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