Where’s Lizzy

Continued from previous installment

The following morning the wind blew us almost all the way to our next sea parking lot at Bahia {{{Honda}}}. Honda was a huge bay with virtually no road access by land. There were a few local inhabitants on the fringes of the bay and a more densely populated island in the middle. We were running low on provisions and hoped to at least find eggs, butter, and fruit there. I wasn’t quite sure where to drop the hook, as there were a number of spots that looked feasible. I circled around and then followed a local boat around toward the back of the island. On the way I came frighteningly close to colliding with a pile of underwater rocks. The depth gauge jumped suddenly into the low teens and I frantically swung Swell’s nose 180 degrees. The tidal range was nearly 15 feet here, and with a poorly timed high tide arrival, the rocks lurked just below the calm surface of the bay. Another local appeared in a cayuco with his wife and daughter and led us across the bay to ‘a better anchorage’. Little did we know at the time, but the locals enticed sailboats closest to their homes for a better chance at bartering opportunities. The man signaled for me to drop the anchor and it plummeted to the bottom in about 40 feet of water.

After getting settled, Kennedy, the same local man agreed to ferry Heather and I across the bay to the little island to buy groceries in exchange for filling up his fuel tank. So we set out across the bay in his old, hand-carved dugout. The island echoed with the sounds of Canival festivities. Kennedy walked us around to their version of a 7/11. The first had little more than rice, beans, pasta, and toilet paper. We went up the road to another and found bread and cookies, and then stopped by someone’s house for eggs and butter. The ‘eggs and butter’ house also sold gasoline and hosted ladies’ Bingo and cartoons on t.v. for the kids. I couldn’t resist giving away our just-purchased candy and cookies, along with a pile of stickers to the happy flock of beautiful, brown-eyed kids. They stared at Heather and I with wonder and innocence.

That evening we invited Kennedy and his wife and daughter aboard. Just after their departure, another young couple paddled out seeking medicine for their 2-year-old girl. Rosalin, Edwin,and little Deize came aboard, too, while I tore apart the first aid kit looking for the best medication for a rash on her face. The couple was young and happy and great company. They explained that Rosalin’s parents owned the whole strip of beach there and that Kennedy was Rosalin’s brother. I gave them some LX sunglasses, shoes, batteries, and a pile of clothes. When they invited us in for dinner ashore, so we all climbed into their cayuco despite both Heather and I being close to exhaustion.

The family welcomed us into their home and served fresh orange juice, rice, and pork. We learned about the history of the area from Domingo, the grandfather and owner of the land, while we sat in the basic kitchen and living area. Neither a plush couch nor flat screen could have impressed like love in that house did. Everyone helped each other with a smile and laugh. Edwin sat in the hammock holding little Deize while Heather and I talked with Rosalin and her sister. The women seemed strong and intelligent. We thanked them profusely for everything and returned to Swell inspired by the graciousness of our new friends.

The next morning I woke to a knock on the hull. It felt like someone had superglued my eyelids shut. We had told both families we’d be leaving that morning, so out they came at dawn to deliver fruits and make final trade offers. First it was Edwin with coconuts, then Domingo with bananas in exchange for gasoline (which I spilled all over the deck in my superglued state), next was Kennedy who needed fishing line, then just when I thought I would be able to lay down again, here came Olivia and Melanie, Kennedy’s wife and daughter, hoping to exchange coconuts for earrings and pants. By the time Olivia and Melanie paddled away I was worn out and it wasn’t even 9 am.

The wind pattern had changed significantly in the night. It was now howling out of the north, opposite from when we dropped the anchor the day before. I looked over the side and noticed that I could see the bottom all too well. There was barely six feet of water below us! The new wind direction had swung us around over a shallow sandbar. We hadn’t gone aground during the overnight low tide, so I figured that we might bump the sand when the tide bottomed out, but it wouldn’t be for too long if we did.

Heather was forced out of bed as Swell’s keel hit the sand and we began our tidal tilt to starboard. She’d slept peacefully through each of the seven visitors that morning and despite not quite being ready to talk, I plunged into the morning’s events and notified her that we were now aground and wouldn’t be leaving until the tide came back up. The ocean gradually slipped from below my beloved hunk of fiberglass, leaving her stranded helplessly on her side like a beached whale. When I was certain that the tide couldn’t possibly get any lower, we continued to lay farther and farther over. The bay was calm and the sand was soft, but that didn’t keep me from fretting over the situation. Swell patiently cuddled the sandbar as if she’d rolled over for a nap, while I anxiously stewed, fretted, and paced back and forth on the interior starboard walls. It was impossible to relax, cook, or do anything really, so we eventually got in the water and scraped off the few barnacles sprouting on the port hull. Three hours later the tide began to rise again and Swell was lifted back to equilibrium. I thought up all sorts of excuses for nearly running aground the day before and then letting Swell go high and dry like she did on the sandbar, but I accepted both incidences as reminders that my existence out here can be taken away in a matter of seconds. Not a day goes by that the ocean allows me to put down my ‘guard’ and it spanked me for not paying closer attention to the tides and for letting people distract me from my most pertinent responsibility-to keep Swell floating!