25 December 2011

The Best Laid Plans

"Sometimes," to misquote a line from an episode of the new ABC drama, Pan Am, "the stars misalign."  I should have known our mission was doomed to fail when, on the day before our pilgrimage, the dinghy outboard konked out.
 Well, to be fair, first we ran out of gas, but even when Jane put more in, it still wouldn't start.  She fiddled with it for nearly an hour, but to no avail.  (Our dinghy and its outboard are Jane's babies.  She has named it/them "Elsie.")  We had to make a decision.  Our plan was to get to Green Turtle (the cay), anchor near Green Turtle (the yacht club) and take the dinghy ashore.  It's always easier to take a dinghy ashore than dock a big boat, especially for just a couple of hours.  However, without Elise, we'd have no choice but to hope they'd have room for us on a dock and that they wouldn't charge an arm and a leg to use it. "It's supposed to be an adventure, " we reminded each other, so we cast off the lines at our slip at the Treasure Cay marina and headed out to sea. 

It was too late in the day to get very far, but we'd decided even before experiencing dinghy failure, to anchor out somewhere about halfway to Green Turtle and go the rest of the way in the morning, all the better to get there early.  Jane found an anchorage off Great Guana Cay called Bakers Bay.  Good holding, somewhat protected (from the predicted 5-10 knot winds), a good place to spend the night, all in all.  It was a perfect evening.  I grilled chicken and Jane made a vegetable dish of cabbage, garbanzo beans and tomatoes.  Very tasty.  By the time we have it, cabbage, which far outlasts all other vegetables, is a sure sign that we need to provision soon. I opened a bottle of red; Jane a bottle of white.  We watched another astonishing sundown sky show while we ate. “ This must be a good omen…right?”  We’d worked so hard to make it for the anniversary date.  Mornings, when we were freezing , we’d sing “All I want for Christmas is a Tipsy Turtle, a Tipsy Turtle, a Tipsy Turtle…”  Sometimes it was my primary reason for holding on.  Surely, nothing could stop us now.

The next morning, we woke up a civilized hour (bad idea), made breakfast (badder idea).  The wind looked pretty fresh, at least consistently breezy, so we thought we’d put up the sails and sail on over.  The Fates had less charitable ideas.  One of the battens had begun to slip out of its pocket and it took us the better part of an hour to figure out how to get it back in.  It was nearly 10 a.m. by the time we weighed anchor and shoved off.

I can’t say we were going in blind.  We ‘d called ahead to find out if they’d have room for us and were told that while they did at that moment they couldn’t guarantee anything.  This, coupled with the fact that it’s always harder to get a slip for a largish, widish boat such as JOY, and our late start, didn't bode well for our success.  About an hour out, we heard the captain of a boat called “Felix the Cat” radio to Green Turtle Yacht Club to reserve a spot for the night and our hearts sank.  People familiar with the naming habits of boatowners, know their penchant for punning.  Some of the worst and very rarely the best puns are on display on the transoms of boats.  No group is more susceptible to this sad phenomenon, it seems, than catamaran owners, who are apparently unable to refrain from incorporating the word “cat” into the names of their boats.  Because of this, we didn’t even need to hear her captain give the Green Turtle dockmaster Felix’s dimensions, to know we were almost surely out of luck as far as getting a spot on their dock.  Adding injury to injury, a few moments later, another captain radioed in to Green Turtle to say that they were traveling with Felix and that they would also like a slip for the night and, yes, of course, they were also aboard a cat.  And that was that.  We’d find no space there.

Our plan B options were not very appealing.  We could try to get a slip for the night at another marina on the island and take a golf cart over to the yacht club.  As much as the idea offered a certain historical appeal--it was by hitching a ride on a golf cart that we got to the yacht club precisely one year before--we really didn’t want to spend the money to rent a slip for the night just to have lunch, drinks and leave and we didn’t want to stay the night because Jane’s mom was making Christmas eve dinner for us.

With great sadness , deeper than I can express, really, I told Jane to turn the boat around and head back to the Treasure Cay marina.  Jane doesn’t take dates as seriously as I do.  For her, going back a few days later would be just as good.  For me, it’s done, the perfect moment gone, no reason to go back now at all.  There are 731 other islands to explore in this nation.

Our crappy anniversary made me cranky all the way back.  The day just kept going from bad to worse.  I was about to write it off entirely when, just as we were tying our docklines, a very distinguished gentleman walked up to us and with a slight French accent, asked why we were following him.  We couldn’t believe it.  It was Michele, our savior from day one of the dreaded ICW.  We would get to give him the wine and cookies we’d promised him in Virginia and again in South Carolina.  This time his wife was with him (but, sadly, Mona was not).  After dinner with Jane’s mom, we met them at the Tipsy Seagull (the only game in town, as Jane put it) and had a great time and our second actual cruiser conversation, compete with tales of groundings, engine and/or equipment failures, rude boaters, and as "live-aboards" what a project it is just to do things like laundry (not that we’re complaining—at least not to non-live-aboards). 

Today we went back to mom-in-law's to see if by some Christmas miracle we could figure out why Elsie the Engine wasn’t getting any gas.  Elsie did us one better.  She just started right up.  We have no idea how she healed herself.  We are grateful to have a working dinghy again and to not have had to spend money to fix it, but I have one nagging question, which, of course, will never be answered: what has she got against Green Turtle Yacht Club, or anniversaries, or me and how did she know in the first place?

Our failed passage to Green Turtle was the last of our…you’ll pardon the expression, “dirt dweller” scheduled events and it taught us a lesson.  In this life, you don’t plan to arrive anywhere that involves crossing water at a certain time.  You arrive when wind and current and the worthiness of your vessel give you leave.

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