A Pirate Humbled – Unexpected Adventure


We spent the night on the sailboat “Kathryn” the night before our planned adventure from Corpus Christi, Texas to Key West, Florida. It should have taken about eight days and we would have covered about a thousand miles. It was a long night. Restless.

Early the next morning, Thursday, we made final preparations with hope for fair winds, blue skies, and warm weather. It was cool, overcast, and breezy at 6:30 am as we cast off the lines and headed for Port Aransas – our last stop before open water.

Why does it seem that weather forecasts are only wrong when good weather is expected? The forecast called for moderate winds – right on our nose – with three to five foot seas. Two days later, a front would move through and up the ante. The forecasters nailed this one.

We motored out through the jetties and on to open water. The waves started rolling as expected and I first noted that feeling of impending doom and dread. I tried to dismiss it. We hoped to sail straight across the Gulf, and then turn south with the prevailing east winds which would carry us to Key West on our pleasure cruise. Wishful thinking. The south wind that we hoped for the first day was east so we sailed twenty degrees north of our preferred course. We had a choice: sail toward Northern Florida or sail toward Ecuador. We had our passports, but chose to take the northerly route. A good decision.

The seas continued to roll but Steve and Buford were unaffected by the motion. I was not so fortunate. I felt every back and forth, side to side roll over the waves as my stomach tensed and my mind focused on maintaining my composure. We were six hours out to sea when I realized that this could be a very long trip. We would be out here for at least eight days.

I found my way to my bunk and nestled into my sleeping bag for some comfort. My first scheduled turn at the helm was coming up at eight o’clock PM. I would be there until midnight. My stomach was cramped and my mind was focused. The seas were moderate but relentless. I was seasick.

As an aside, I found an efficient new use for gallon size ziplock bags. They are re-useable.

Eight o’clock arrived. I took the helm with some trepidation. The sickness was worsening. It was a dark night, still overcast. I tried to keep my focus on the horizon – that 360 degree circle of water surrounding the boat. Ziplock at hand, I did my best to keep a close watch on the instruments and radar screen. The green glow of the radar screen matched my complexion perfectly. By eleven thirty, only thirty minutes to go, I was functioning but clearly not at my best. Steve came up and relieved me early. I was thankful.

Things were not good for me at this moment. My emergency stomach ejection bag was getting regular use. I ate no food but even the water that I drank to maintain hydration would not stay down.

I headed for my bunk and forced myself to sleep. Prayer helps.

There was some commotion on the boat. Something about water backing up through lines and flooding the bilge. I was only semi-coherent at this point.

By three thirty in the morning, the guys woke me and said that we had a decision to make. We were at a place in the Gulf where we could turn north and get to the coast in only about twelve hours. They strongly suggested that we go in, get me some relief, and avoid the approaching front. I came to the realization that I was useless as a crew member in my current condition and I was not getting any better.

We turned north and twelve hours later, we made safe harbor.

I am a seasoned sailor. I got seasick and caused a diversion that would cost over a whole day. I was not feeling very good about myself at this point. Humility was the word of the day.

We enjoyed a warm shower, good food, and sleep on the boat that was more like a gently rocking chair than a roller coaster. Life was good again.

Then I made another decision. I would not be completing the trip. I would not put these guys, my friends and fellow sailors through this scenario again. They are great sailors and would be fine without me. Longer shifts, but no worries about a seasick crew member.

I still feel badly about bailing on my friends, but what happened next was wonderful.

I rented a car, drove to the airport, and flew home to surprised, but thankful family members and friends. I don’t know if I will ever get accustomed to the comment “I didn’t think you would ever get seasick!” Well, it’s not the first time and probably not the last time, but I will remain optimistic.

As it turned out, I arrived back home the day before Easter. A celebration of new life and new beginnings. That’s the way I see this adventure.

We had a great time with family and friends. We played our traditional Easter kick ball game.

Life is good once again. I am humbled and thankful.

-Lee

P.S. As I write this, the guys are still out there somewhere on the Gulf. Sailing very slowly. The wind died after the front moved through. Sorry Guys!

 


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