Friday, November 9, 2012

Adventures In Belize - Day Two

Friday, October 12, 2012
    To say that it rained several times during the night would be like comparing the flow of the Mississippi to the flow of a creek. Thunder rumbled, the wind whistled through the rigging, and the rain dashing down against the fiberglass deck and sides of the boat sounded as if someone had focused the stream of a fire hose on us. Loud, but steady, the white noise lulled us back to sleep as it tapered off.
    At about a quarter to six the light began to brighten the glass hatch directly over my head. I slipped into a pair of shorts and padded softly up to the deck. The sun was just rising behind towering cumulonimbus clouds to the east, highlighting the edges of their cauliflower tops with brilliant silver. I strolled down the deserted concrete dock where other thirty-eight foot and forty-eight foot catamarans sat empty.
    Where the dock ended there was a little sandy cove where a small heron sat on a low mangrove branch, watching for breakfast to come to him. Beyond, a dense thicket of mangroves stretched off along the shoreline. I waded into the clear water with silent apologies to the bird, who flapped off to look for a more solitary fishing hole.      
    The water was only a bit less than body temperature, cool on entering, but feeling sensuously warm once in. After a short dip, I wandered back to the still deserted marina building, where I found open bathrooms with warm showers where I washed off the salt before heading back to our catamaran, the "Lovely Cruise".
   Nobody else was yet awake, although it was close to seven o'clock. I went back to bed for a short snooze, waking a little later to the enticing smell of coffee brewing. One by one the others appeared, and we ate a leisurely breakfast at the table on the stern deck together.
    At half past nine, we were met at the boat by our Sunsail mentor for a walk around briefing on lines, halyards, reef-points, diesel engines, water and waste systems, and all the various mechanical things we needed to know about the boat.
    By ten-forty-five we had started the dual engines, and the marina pilot had slid the catamaran out of its slip, made a sharp right turn, and threaded the narrow slot to open water. He stepped off into the hard- bottomed Zodiac that had been shadowing us, waved good-bye, and we were on our own at last.
    The captain's chair, a bench big enough for two people side by side, sits high at the front edge of the stern deck, looking over the top of the salon cabin. Next to the ship's wheel there GPS chart plotter and a vertical bank of instruments that show information about wind speed and direction, depth, and speed of the boat. There is also a floating magnetic compass and the controls for the auto pilot.
    The Sunsail base is on a narrow spit of land facing a shallow lagoon, and we had to steer carefully from way-point to X-marked way-point for the first half hour to stay in water deep enough to allow passage. We eventually passed all eleven marked way-points, reaching the open water between the mainland and the barrier reef far offshore.
    In addition to the GPS chart plotter we had been given updated paper charts and two inch thick Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico's Caribbean Coast, with specific cays and hazardous obstructions charted in greater detail. Our first encounter on our route toward the north east became apparent as a broad area of lighter blue water that marked a bank of coral reef very close to the surface. We adjusted course slightly to motor along parallel to it, soon leaving it behind as we approached Lark Cay.
    As we cleared the north end of the cay we could see the small green patch of trees that stuck up from Logger Cay and South Long Cocoa Cays a few miles behind that. Safely past Logger Cay and its surrounding coral heads, we altered course a bit more to the east.
      There were many spots where we became more cautious as we observed areas where the water was a much lighter shade of blue, marking shallower water. At one point we slowed the engines and proceeded with extreme watchfulness as the depth meter numbers went from over a hundred feet to forty, then twenty, and eventually a bit less than ten feet before passing over the submerged reef and passing into deeper water again.
    We took a wide curving course around the spot marked on the charts as Viper Rocks, swinging to the north and then the northwest as we approached Wippari Cay, our destination for the day. The seas had been running five to eight feet since morning, so it was a relief to be approaching a mooring.
    As we covered the last quarter mile, the dark wall of clouds that had been gathering to the north began to sweep toward us, and it began to rain. It was only a sprinkle at first, but quickly increased to heavy rain as the wind speed increased.
    We eased up on the mooring buoy, but the wind veered the bow at the last minute, and we could not retrieve the mooring line. Turning in wide circle we came around again, heading into the wind that was now blowing harder. The rain fall turned into a violent deluge, beating down the crests of the waves as nearby bolts of lightning added to our anxiety and urgency. The next attempt to snag the mooring line with a boat hook was successful. 
      By the time all lines had been secured and the engines turned off everyone was soaked and taking gleeful showers under the cascades of fresh water gushing off the edges of the hard roof covering the stern deck. 
     That is, all except Ruth. I found her sitting on the deck next to one of the benches, holding a washcloth to her left shin. Blood was seeping through the cloth.
    As the heavy downpour had started, Ruth had begun to make her way toward the shelter of the inside cabin. As the boat pitched and rolled, she grabbed a hand hold for balance. Unfortunately the handle was on the sliding glass door, which was not locked in place. It slid, and Ruth fell to the deck, lacerating her leg on something as she went down.
    I examined the wound, which was almost four inches long, and deep enough that the sides were separated by at least a quarter of an inch. I tried to pull the edges together with some adhesive tape that someone handed me, but it was soaked, and would not stick. I got some paper towels and applied gentle pressure to slow the bleeding while others searched for the first aid kit. Jane found some regular band-aids, and Sheila came up with a gauze bandage that had an adhesive edge all around it. John found in his emergency supplies a tiny bottle of super-glue gel.
    I removed the ineffective tape, one strip at a time, blotted the gash until it was dry at the edges, and gently pulling the two sides together, applied the super-glue gel to the cut. I cut one of Jane's band-aids in half the long way, and placed it tight across the middle of the wound to hold it closed. I applied the super-glue gel to the upper half of the cut, and then covered the whole thing with the large adhesive bandage that Sheila had supplied. Ruth said that she felt fine an hour later.
    I have no recollection of what we ate for dinner that evening, but everyone was in bed before eight thirty. Distance covered today: 17.3 miles.

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