I Think We Need A Bigger Boat

In the early 1990's my wife, Edrianna, and I were lured into the world of boating. After completing scuba diving training, it seemed the logical thing to do, enabling us to get to the numerous dive sights off our coastline. It was great fun to navigate out the inlet and find a specific dive location using a book that supplied us with landmarks to vector us over the drop zones. We both aced the safe boater's course and thought we were hot stuff.

 

Our good friend, Brady, was getting into boating about the same time and we would meet up on weekends for local diving or day trips up and down the Intracoastal Waterway. In May of 1993 Brady approached us with a plan to sail to the Bahamas. He had several friends from the Orlando area that had taken the voyage a couple of times and he thought it would be fun. Without hesitation, we said yes, after all we were experienced mariners!

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This poster was inspired by all the crazy things that happened on our trip to Walker's Cay, Abaco Bahamas.

 After a month of preparation, gathering enough gear to survive on Gilligan's Island for years, we met up with the other members of our flotilla at a marina in West Palm Beach, Florida. It's not that I was suffering from boat envy but our boat looked like mighty small next to the other boats that were to take the journey. I assured my wife that even though our vessel was designed for lakes and inland waters we would be safe.

Everyone agreed that if the wind was blowing stronger than 15 miles an hour and seas were running more than 3 to 5 feet high, we would abort the trip. The weather forecast called for calm winds and I wasn't concerned. The next morning we awoke to 15 miles and hour winds and 3 to 5 foot seas; so much for weather forecasts. We all started out the Palm Beach inlet into a wall of breaking waves. I was at the helm with all the confidence of the captain of the Titanic, and Edrianna was clinging to our cooler and wearing 2 type III life vest (the kind that are found on aircraft carriers). One was wrapped around her shoulders and the other around her legs. I think I saw her praying in my peripheral vision. We followed the other three larger boats as we headed toward the break water (for the non-mariners, the super scary breaking wave you have to pass thru without flipping the boat). I was at pucker factor 10 as we went head on into a wave, washing over our bow and windshield and drenching everything. I started super-sizing my religion and was praying to everyone from Jesus to those guys that hang out at the airport. A Coast Guard jet flew over and I just new there was a crew on board taking bets on which crazy boaters would keep heading toward Grand Bahama Island and who were going to turn around and bale.

We started to serpentine thru the oncoming seas and getting bashed. After a couple of wave hits we started noticing screws and bolts hitting the deck. This is something you don't want to happen when you're preoccupied with trying not to sink. I turned the wheel over to Edrianna and went to investigate. I discovered a dry rot problem in the inside bolster on the starboard side. Not a good time to discover dry rot. It wasn't structural but it was a real morale killer every time a bolt detached and bounced across the fiberglass deck. I thought I convinced Edrianna that it wasn't going to be a problem. I found out later that she spent the entire crossing singing Amazing Grace to herself. What a trooper!

We continued at a snails pace. As I looked back I kept seeing Florida and wondered if we were making any headway. Our boat could not travel on a straight heading like the other boats because of our small size; therefore, I was playing "dodge the waves." I had no idea that waves crested that far out; you could have surfed on a few of them. At about four hours into the trip a bottle nosed dolphin jumped in front of our bow, startling me practically out of my shorts. I don't know if it was a coincidence or a message from the universe, but the seas started to calm a little after that. A hour and a half later we reached the calm turquoise waters of the Bahama Bank. We raised the Yellow quarantine flag (this is a Bahama law, we were not carrying any diseases accept stupid-saileritis) and pulled into the marina at West End, Grand Bahama Island. I exhaled a sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn't die at my mother-in-law's hands. I could still hear her voice ringing in my head: "Be careful, you are caring precious cargo." Edrianna stripped herself of the life vests and took over steering because I broke into a full body explosive sweat that was burning my eyes and soaking my hands as I released all the tension that built up during the ordeal. It took us five and a half hours to travel 56 miles. We used up 60 gallons of fuel with only 12 gallons to spare.

After clearing customs we still had a 3 hour cruise north to Walker's Cay and I was spent. I promoted Edrianna from cruise director to captain and I crashed on the back seat. 

The rest of the trip was terrific; we did it again the next year... on Brady's bigger boat.

Edrianna and I in the marina at Walker's Cay with our boat, "Vanishing Point"

 Two years prior to traveling to Walker's Cay, Abaco, Bahamas, I worked on a project to upgrade the hotel on the island.

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Edrianna Stilwell: Energy Healer-myhealingcottage.com