I am not sure where you will be when you read this entry, nor what other challenges will be occurring in your lives, but at the risk of you two developing a sense of revisionist bliss about our time on Rafiki, I wanted to tell you about one of our greatest obstacles to date.
We had staged into a very exposed bay on Rum Cay waiting for a break in the wind to do the 130 nm crossing to Mayanagua. This is a very exposed stretch of ocean where we bear the brunt of the full Atlantic ocean for 24 hrs without any good bailouts. While in Rum we went ashore and were given an interesting tour from a local gentleman who showed us the abandoned marina, abandoned salt mine, and the abandoned harbour. It is a small, friendly community that prosperity seems to have passed by. We came back on board and settled in for dinner as the wind steadily increased to 20 knots plus. After dinner, I casually turned to your mother when I didn’t see the RIB on my side of the boat and we quickly discovered that it had broken loose and was now a mile behind us, being blown out to sea. As you know, the RIB is critical to us since it functions as a taxi, ferry, grocery boat etc. After the initial shock, Mommy suggested that we pull anchor and go after the RIB with Rafiki but I was concerned that we would find ourselves on a coral reef in falling darkness. Alternatively, we had been given a blow-up kayak in Stuart and we quickly pulled it out of the bag and launched it. I grabbed a spare radio, air pump, and life jacket and paddled as hard as I could. Kathryn maintained visual contact with the RIB and vectored me in, while Alex manned the radio and Mommy tried to raise assistance from the shore. I initially thought that the RIB was easily reachable but as time progressed I realized that either the current and wind were stronger than I initially had anticipated, or I was no longer twenty. Perhaps both. I looked at my watch to see that it was 6:55 and the sun was starting to set; that is when my first doubts crept in that maybe I was perhaps over my head, literally. The wind and surf were increasing as I paddled clear of the reef and we were both being pushed out to sea. Finally, at 7:15 I made the decision to abandon the RIB and try to reach shore. By now, the kayak was taking on water and it was getting dark, although we now had contact with a gentleman on shore who was trying to marshall some support in town.
I did not appreciate how tired I really was, and with the kayak coming apart, I was afraid that I was going to have to make the rest of the trip to shore in, rather than on, the water. Just at that moment, a dark shadow went under the kayak and I realized that I had no desire to go swimming with the sharks. I bailed the boat, pulled up the sides and managed to make it to shore in another 15 minutes; no worse for wear other than a little tired and wet.
By this time a local fisherman came out but it was too dark to mount much of a search. We had lost the most important system after the main boat itself and your mother and I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night weighing the different options of proceeding or returning to Florida. Although I don’t think I was in any real danger, the events of last night did highlight our isolation and need to be self-reliant…and it’s a big ocean. I am always amused at folks’ reaction when they hear we will “only travel in the Caribbean” as if it is some Club Med resort in Cancun. This is a rough and isolated stretch of water with little in the way of support or assistance.
The next day I managed to procure a derelict old dinghy from a gentleman on shore which is a miracle in itself so we have decided to press on to the Dominican Republic where we will try to purchase a replacement. We will either try to anchor close to shore or use marinas until we get this sorted out. We did have a giggle when our RIB has now gone from “Poca Bota (little boat)” to “Poca Grota (Grotty Boat)” (our apologies to any Spanish speaking readers!)
The weather has been consistently blowing 20kts to 30kts with 8-10 feet seas which are no fun on the nose. We think conditions will improve tomorrow and, after the much-anticipated arrival of the Easter Bunny (on surfboard??), we will continue South. Still waiting for some of those “fair winds and following seas”…