Retirement to Bahamas

Mike and Judy have been sailing for some 25 years. We have dreamed for years about retiring and sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean. We are living our dream!

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12 February 2012

Judy's "Ditch Bag"

14 February 2010
So in yesterday's blog I discussed the very tumultuous night we had with the vigorous front that came through around 6:30 p.m. I mentioned that there were dire directives from the Coast Guard that everyone should take shelter (not only boaters) because of the very strong expected winds and lightning. I had directed Judy to get ready to abandon ship in the fairly likely event that , if the winds reached what was predicted, we'd be blown ashore and have to scramble to safety. People were tense around us, letting out more anchor rope/chain, putting out extra anchors and securing any loose objects on deck. The "chat" on the marine radio intimated that people were anxious. There were incessant notices from the Coast Guard either about boaters in danger or warning to take shelter in advance of the front.

So, as I indicated, I told Judy to prepare a "ditch bag" which will be a term familiar to off shore sailors but probably not to landlubbers. A ditch bag is a small, preferably waterproof bag which contains the last minute, essential items that you would want to bring with you in the unfortunate eventuality that you need to abandon the mother ship for your life raft. Typically it such things as:
Diaper Wipes
Cyalume Glow Sticks
Signal Mirror
Survival Food
Water - Marine gloves
Important papers, etc

Get the picture? Last Resort items.

Well, Judy and Chopin have a different definition of both importance and spatial significance. Judy is a dutiful first mate and in the thick of the tumult, I looked down into the cabin and Judy with an apprehensive but brave look on her face, had three (yeah, three) fully stuffed ditch bags, not including Chopin in his cage) ready for our impending "ditching".
I'll let her describe what she included and why.....

When Mike told me that morning we would not be able to leave the boat all day, warned me of the heavy gale force which will arrive around 6:30/7 p.m. with 40 knot winds picking up through the afternoon ( I thought no romantic sunset dinner this evening) continuing through the night, and to pack what I thought he said (remember my hearing) "Dish Bag", ( I thought funny term but didn't question my orders).I was not told what's on the legitimate list above. So I starting packing what I thought I would need to abandon ship and proceed in the dinghy to a hotel, knowing I may lose what's left behind if Sea Sharps sinks!!!

Using a SMALL knap sack first thing on my list: toothbrushes (always have unopened aboard)
toothpaste/sm. mouthwash. 3 pr. Underwear, hand towel, 2 gift boxes of gold/diamond jewellery (some pieces from my mother which I've yet to wear by the way. Camera, purse in Ziploc bag, glasses, hearing aid box, my $1200 dentures which I don't wear, Olay facial wipes (only to find out later equivalent to "Diaper Wipes" on legitimate list which I thought in case of toilet emergency in dinghy ride to shore, bag of Chopin's treats, didn't know what to do about Kitty Litter at this point, large ziplock bag of prescriptions/toiletry's etc. Well my very "Dish Bag" was quite full at this point, Am I to arrive in a hotel with only the clothes on my back, "I don't think so". out comes my large Sea Sharp bag proceed to fill with some extra clothes, and I could always add the small knap sack to this bag. Sounds reasonable. OK one last check on what I call "My Vanity" in the aft cabin, sad to say leaving behind 3 boxes of my earrings and lots of clothes. Oh well I better follow my orders. One last very important item, Art McKendy's (Mikes's father) rosary beads, which I placed in my pocket as I put on my foul weather gear, life jacket. Mike's bag consisted of more important items, passports/important papers, computer, dinghy light, flashlight, underwear, shorts/t-shirt, hand towel, thought of my DVD player but not enough room as his bag was probably the legitimate size. Now I'm ready and I join my Captain in the cock pit.

The scary segment of my story: as 6 p.m. approaches, the sky is getting very dark, and Mike directs my eyes to the North West, the rain/winds were very visible and he says, There it is Judy, my heart skipping a beat at this point. The he quickly says go to the bow and pass the second anchor to me. I question, you're going in the dinghy with the second anchor NOW!!! His reponse "don't question my decisions on a night like this and you have to trust me" you just know you don't respond to that one just do what you're told and I did. I did ask is it possible both anchors could cross, and yes they sure could when Sea Sharp turns.

6:30 gale force over our heads now just like Mike had informed me the time element, and I proceed to sit on steps of companion way with rosary bead in hand thinking of our beloved John and asking him to be with us and keep us safe. And so he did!! Things settled down around 8 and we thought (I thought it was over) Mike then tells me of Coast Guard warning to local home owners to proceed to basement during this small scale hurricane. I headed to bed not long after thinking the worst is over, but suffice to say all hell broke lose at 1 a.m., the winds howling, cracks/sounds coming from Sea Sharp I did not recognize, Sea Sharp moving all over the place, both of us awake, scared to death I was, and asked if the mast could break in two, Mike's response, "I have to worry about the boat now and can't "babysit you"" , Oooh wrong thing to say to "The Admiral". Mike checked the anchors on deck in underwear and returned with everything is OK and didn't mean to make that comment. At this point I didn't respond but asked if I should take a tranquilizer but then if I did, I would not be able to act quickly if needed so endured the pain/fear. And so the winds did die down within the hour and we were able to fall asleep. And to my surprise did not have any nightmares. The worst night yet since our cruising life began, except for "Oriental" NC last year one significance difference, we were on the docks and able to walk off Sea Sharp to safety.

The next morning Mike serves me coffee in bed like every day with Chopin at my side, we both can't wait for the Captain to leave the aft so we have lots of room to stretch. The sun is out and the day turns into another night in the life of cruising.

Vessel Name: Sea Sharp
Vessel Make/Model: Hunter Legend 37.5
Hailing Port: Douglas Harbour, NB, Canada
Crew: Mike, Judy and Chopin (the boat cat)
Mike will be retiring in September 2008 after a long and rewarding career with the civil service in New Brunswick, Canada. I will end my career as President of Service New Brunswick, the "single window" service delivery agency for multi-jurisdictional government services to citizens and businesses. [...]
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Sea Sharp's Photos -

Preparing for Retirement Trip

Who: Mike, Judy and Chopin (the boat cat)
Port: Douglas Harbour, NB, Canada