24 September 2013

Day 6 - A 3-Hour... No, A 36-Hour Tour

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A 36 hour trip...

Sunrise after the storm. How beautiful. John and I woke up at 5. It was still dark out, but we couldn’t sleep very well because we knew that that day we were going to start off on a long 36 hour stretch to Abrolhos reef -- the biggest coral reef in South America. Because of it’s ecological significance, Abrolhos can only be reached by boat -- my lucky day. 

Before we leave, we need to take the awning down, pull the anchor, and I will take another Bonini pill (for sea sickness). Definitively: another pill just in case. I did very well yesterday, without any pills or wrist bands and I am actually very surprised that I haven’t felt sick at all, especially last night and this morning. But just in case -- this will be my last pill.

The ocean after the storm. In Portuguese we have a word for it, “ressaca”, literally translated as “hang-over”. The night was over, but the consequences were still with us. 

Our first chore was to take the awning down. It was not easy. Gusts of wind filled it with air, like a kite, and tried to rip it out of our hands. We struggled to tame it, while balancing on top of the boat, trying not to fall overboard.

Then came the pulling of the anchor. John had warned me about the dangers of the anchor chain and windlass -- a powerful motor that lifted the anchor. “Don’t even think about stepping in front of it, who knows what can happen if something goes wrong.” 

Well, now my job is to control the windlass with a home-built switch box and to hose the mud out off the chain while it is being hoisted. I was keeping ALL my limbs away from it until the Captain “suggested” that I should actually be on the bow sprit, ahead of the pump -- the cleaning is easier. What now? OK, I do it, fearfully, but I do it.

Anchor stowed (put away), we motored our way out of Ilheus’s protected bay. Have you ever been to Disney World? To the Thunder Mountain or to the Space Mountain? The typical amusement park ride, where you wait for hours in the hot sun for 10 maybe 20 seconds of thrill? Well, let me tell you something...I didn’t wait even a minute in line and the ride was as long as I can take it. Fiona was riding those ressaca waves like crazy. Every 5 seconds my stomach was in my throat kind of feeling, and it didn’t stop. 

Nevertheless, we are making progress out of the protected bay, motoring towards the ocean. To our right are dangerous rocks, with wave breaking over them and sending splashes of water high in the air. Eric and John mentioned something about how dangerous it would be if the engine quit... Oh no, the engine quit. 

Eric and John are scrambling on the deck to put some sails up, hoping that they will prevent the boat to crash against the rocks. “You stay in the cockpit”, were my orders (thank you). The sails are quickly put up, but of course one of the sail ties is forgotten and Eric is thrown against the top of the cabin while trying to untie it.

I am never going to an amusement park again, I had all the thrills of my life in the last 15 minutes. I am done.

So, things turn out to be OK with Fiona again. We didn’t crash, nobody went overboard, but somehow I had a moment of “I had enough for the last two days”. Barry left me an encouraging comment on our blog reminding me that I will never be the same after this trip. Well, I was done never being the same, I was done with changes, I wanted to be on shore, wanted to have my hair cleaned, I wanted to be back to my garden and my kids and my students and my cats and my house, I needed a glass of wine. My tears were a bit more salty this time, probably because of all the salt caked to my face. That moment did not last long, it was more like course adjustment. 

Soon we were back in the amazing navy blue waters and I was able to relax again.

Ilheus was soon on the horizon and we met another group of whales, dolphins and numerous flying fish. Did you know that they can fly for a 100 yards? If I am ever to be a fish, that’s what I want -- I want to be a flying fish, how cool is that?

Time to take stock of what has happened until now, it has been days...

I am riding Fiona without a life jacket or line strap. One thing I learned is that the boat and the ocean and the waves are predictable for the most part. So, if the waves are breaking against the boat in one fashion, they will continue to do so. There will be no surprises.  Captain Eric also mentioned that all these “safety” devices give you a false sense of security and without them one is more prone to be extra careful. I roger that.

Being in the belly of the boat is another story. Remember the warning about the bruises, well, 63 and counting. John and I look like we were beaten really badly by Fiona and she still at it. Yesterday, I went to grab a pole and missed, instead I hit the back of my shoulder so hard on the side of the steps leading in, that it knocked the wind out of me. Today, I have a nice black and blue tattoo.

We drew cards today for the night watch. I am taking the 8-10pm and then the 2-4am.

See you in the morning. 

Next Episode: Water 360

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear from you. Please comment!