Sailing South on Solitude

John, Penni & Timmy

Sometimes adventures happen at night

We left Bimini Cove Marina at 7:15pm. It was later than they wanted. Officially we should have left by 11am. Unofficially, the dockmaster is rumored to have told others to leave by 6pm. We pushed even that deadline to avoid exiting through the shallow channel at low tide. We weren’t sure exactly where we would anchor. Right outside the marina was a popular spot but it could be roly at times. Our other option was ten minutes away near where the cruise ships come in and where we had successfully anchored before leaving Bimini last time. It was a beautiful evening, the sun was setting and although it was a little roly just outside the marina, we congratulated each other on a good decision. The sky was stunning, we saw what we thought is known as a mackerel sky in one direction. With a red glow, the small clouds were dotted close together. We talked about getting Frank’s book out to see if we were right, but instead enjoyed eating our salmon sandwiches in the cockpit, surrounded by the stunning beauty that the Bahamas is known for. We then retired for an early night and set the alarm for 4:30am. We needed to make an early start if we were to get to Lake Worth before dusk. As we lay in bed, the gentle rocking began to intensify. Sleep was elusive for us all. Timmy could not settle and I was aware he had started panting. Was he in pain? We had given him a little salmon, perhaps that was too rich. Was he nervous? The boat was bobbing rather roughly but nothing he hadn’t experienced before. Perhaps he was just hot - I offered him more water and he lapped it up, but still could not sleep. Meanwhile, John was up on deck making sure everything was tied down tightly and storing the Bimini. It was dark and the boat rocking was intensifying. When he returned, he gave the cabin the same treatment as Timmy and I cuddled uncomfortably, rocking from one side to another. I tried to stay in the center of the V Berth hoping that would limit the movement. Timmy was panting heavily now and molding his little body against mine. I focused on breathing steadily. I was not worried, but I was not comfortable either, I did not want Timmy picking up negative vibes from me. We were all resting, but not sleeping. John came over, scooped Timmy up and took him to the cockpit and then to his cabin. We all fell into a state of restless sleep. You know when you are having a nightmare and then wake up with relief as you realize it was just a dream? The reverse was true here. I woke up to the boat rocking intensely. It was creaking, jolting, banging and the wind was howling. I could see the sky lighting up intermittently as lightening flashed brightly. It felt as though I was lying on the middle of a see saw. My worst enemies sitting at each end and pushing off forcefully, unexpectedly and relentlessly, my body reacting as best it could. I pushed my feet to the sides of the cabin to steady my movements. John brought Timmy, still panting, over to me and he cuddled up, eyes furtive. ‘Should we have our life jackets on?’. I did not know whether we were safe or not so I turned to John for guidance. ‘I’ll get them ready’. I was not sure that was the response I was looking for. We were only a couple of hundred feet off the beach and the image of me tossing in the waves came unbidden to mind. Surely, we could all swim to the beach if needed. Timmy started shaking, I could feel every movement as he huddled in close while we were leaning from one side to another rhythmically. There were also jolts as we swung on our anchor. The waves hit us from different directions- some on the side, and other times Solitude’s bow slammed down. ‘The lightening is about a mile to the south’, John explained. I did not ask any questions. I did not want to know the answer. Did this mean the storm would get worse? The answer came twenty minutes later in the form of lashing rain in addition to the wind gusting noisily. A fellow cruiser had told me that thunderstorms only last for twenty minutes. He did not mention that the wind could impact us for half an hour before it actually got to us. I started the countdown. I could get through twenty minutes of this - as long as the anchor holds. Oh God! Please let the anchor hold. As bad as this was, it could get a whole lot worse. My legs felt weak, fatigue and nausea washed over me. I was on anchor but beginning to feel seasick. I put my anti nausea wrist bands on and sat up. Neither John, Timmy or I were even trying to sleep. We didn’t talk much either, we endured. There was no relief when the calm came. We collectively held our breath. Was this the eye of the storm? Or is that only with hurricanes? The calm became intermittent, lasting only a few seconds before waves continued to batter Solitude. But there was a weakening. I lay back down and closed my eyes, reassuring Timmy and myself that we would be okay. We got some sleep before the alarm went off at 4:30am. It was still raining. My head and body ached. John looked outside and the waves were still above 4 feet. We would not be leaving for Florida today. ‘’We can try a different anchorage later’, John suggested. I was too weary to respond but vowed that we would be going back into the marina as soon as possible. And that is what we did. We have been napping most of the day. It is still stormy, but not as bad. Boats in the marina were affected too- one lost a spare sail that had been on deck, another’s awning was half removed. No one expected a storm that strong, although the forecast had said it was possible. John estimated the winds were about 40 mph. Our neighbors came over when we arrived and told us they had been thinking of us during the storm ‘We know that’s what you wanted to avoid, and we knew you were out there on anchor’. Yep, we were, and we coped with the challenge that was handed to us. Or as John said ‘Now you know what it is like in a washing machine’. Picture of the calm before the storm


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