The sail home

Friday, June 25, 2004


Okay so the sail home from Mexico was awesome. A couple days out from Mobile I wrote a big long note, talking about all the great things that had happened while we were on the boat, and then I stuffed it into a wine bottle and tossed it overboard. Subsequently, I haven’t really felt like writing about the trip in my diary. So if you really wanna know what happened you’ll have to find that bottle.

Seems unlikely, so here’s another version of what happened.

There were six of us aboard: Tom and Bette Lee Walker, the boat’s owners; Jim Younce, a friend of theirs; Gretchen, the Walkers second daughter; Kelly, Gretchen’s friend from San Francisco; and myself. We sailed out of Isla Mujeres and headed north to Isla Contoy, a short ways north. Isla Contoy is a nature reserve, so you have to stay one mile off the island. Not long after we had settled our anchor 1.3 miles off, a pair of officials motored out to us in a small powerboat and told us we needed to move 500 meters further away. Dr. Tom argued with the honcho a little, but then turned it friendly, inviting him to come on board for some drinks and to have a look at our GPS, which showed us being 1.3 miles away from Contoy. He did not accept the offer, but he acquiesced, saying he would go back and check his GPS. We thought that would be the end of it, but a little while later he came back out and insisted again that we move. This time we just did it without bothering to argue.

Once we’d re-anchored, we hopped in for a swim. We made friends with some remoras who kinda freaked me out cuz they were so friendly and kept swimming right at me even though i was trying to shoo them away with my flipper. I guess I thought they would try to attach themselves to me. I wondered what that might feel like, but thought better of trying it just then. Then we took the dinghy out and headed toward the reef to do some snorkeling. We anchored the dinghy a fair distance from the reef and started swimming toward it. Along the way we saw some amazing starfish and held them for a little while. They really like to hold on. Then Dr. Tom noticed that as we got closer to the reef there was a strong current pushing us toward it, and away from the dinghy, so we started heading back.

The next day we started sailing for home, and for most of that day and some of the next we had pretty good wind although the forecast had been for really light winds. We each took a shift on the watch, 2 hours each, twice a day. My shifts were from 10am to noon and 10pm to midnite. On my first night shift I was feeling pretty woogy and eventually I threw up over the side. Up to that point I’d never got vomitously seasick on a boat, something I was kinda proud of, but that night I had to swallow my pride and unswallow my crawfish etouffe. Meh. After that I felt fine, for the rest of the evening and the rest of the trip.

The next couple days are kind of a blur of sunny days and good times. The wind eventually died on us, so we spent the rest of the trip motor-sailing. Flying fish were constantly leaping out of our path and flitting off to one side of the boat or the other. Gretchen and Kelly and I laid out in the sun on the two trampolines on the forward part of the boat, sometimes shaded by the jib sail. I played guitar for them and we had a couple little sing-a-longs. We saw turtles and manta rays breaking the surface from time to time, and bull dolphin fish swimming under floating two by fours. We dragged fishing lines behind us and caught 2 dolphin fish. The first was too small to keep, and the second bit through the line right as we were hauling him aboard. That was okay by me, cuz he was my catch and he was so pretty I didn’t really wanna cut him open, especially since we already had so much food aboard.

On a couple of days we stopped motoring some time around noon and we went swimming out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. From our charts we figured the water was probably around 5000 feet deep. The water was so beautiful and clear, you could see all around you for probably a hundred yards or more. Looking straight down, the sun’s rays would converge around you and slowly fade into the seemingly infinite nothing below you. It was like being in space, or some kind of space. Mind you, I’ve never been in space.

At one point I spied a whale breaking water off the starboard stern, and Dr. Tom dropped the throttle and came about to get a better look. We think there were three of them at least, and we think they were sperm whales, but it was hard to be sure. Everytime we got close to them they would dive. The closest we got was about 20 yards, but even so it was a really amazing experience.

That night about 7 or 8 porpoises swam directly in front of and between the two hulls of the catamaran. It was a dark night and the water was full of phosphorescent life that would light up in the turbulence of the water, so every time the porpoises would arc out of the water they were all aglow with phosphorescence. It was really amazing.

Eventually we motored into Mobile Bay and were greeted by a nice rain shower. I needed it.

At some point I’ll post some pictures here, I swear. There’s a ton of em.

pascal’s diary · copyright about now · rss