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Sunday, 6 December 2009

Second lesson in running aground

First Mate's submission...
Despite problems with mobile phones and unlikely-to-be-received messages on Facebook via a borrowed laptop in Shaggies last night, Susy phones to say they were on their way to join us for some sailing. Martin is dead keen although he worries that Susy will be seasick but she is determined to try new things and have new adventures. They join us at Puerto Blanco just after 10am and we make two trips in the dingy to get us all aboard. It's a perfect day with a good breeze and we set about taking off the sail cover and making ready as Ray starts the engine and we head off to negotiate the tricky exit of Luperon Bay. We are now pretty confident we know where the narrow deep channel is and where to squeeze between the two reefs. Ray is at the helm but is getting acquainted with Martin and loses concentration as we approach the little beach where we should turn sharply to starboard. He misses it and we go aground on a sandbank (again!). Ray puts the engine into full ahead but no progress forward, just sideways as the wind pushes us towards the beach. It's all a bit chaotic and I worry that Susy will be losing confidence as we wallow about on the sandy bottom. Suddenly a dingy approaches at full speed and a friendly Irishman pops his head over the side to offer assistance. We quickly hand him a halyard and he drags Odyssey over on her side, lifting the keel off the sandbank and we move slowly forward. Ray calls over that he owes our saviour a bottle of rum as we continue out towards the reefs. Once in open water Colin hoists the mainsail and we trim in the jib as Ray shuts down the engine and we're off out to sea. This is exhilarating sailing with breaking waves and with a strong wind we are soon a mile or so off land. As we clear the headland the swell increases strongly and we have some huge waves which Ray's boat takes in her stride. Susy is quiet but seems to be hanging on in with Martin sitting close as Colin and I take turns at the helm and lines. Barry nods off as his crewing skills don't seem to be in demand. Somthing tells me his evening didn't end at Shaggies last night. Martin and Susy are sitting on the upper deck in front of the liferaft and as they lean in response to a large wave the liferaft slips to one side. Ray admits that securing this vital item of equipment is yet another job that needs doing, the liferaft is just resting on the deck so Ray spends most of the voyage leaning against it to prevent it going overboard. Susy asks Ray innocently, 'What happens if someone does go overboard?'. 'I'll give you a demonstration' says Ray and I wonder who is going to get the short straw. But Ray pulls out a tissue, throwing it overboard he says we will pick it up before it sinks. Ray pushes the tiller hard over and Odyssey turns on a sixpence, sails flapping madly until we are suddenly heave-to, with the jib fighting the mainsail we have virtually stopped and there in the water is the tissue. Confidence restored!
On the way back Colin offers Martin the helm and he jumps at the chance. Holding a steady course we crash through the waves and Martin, now grinning from ear to ear, lets out a 'Yee Hah' as spray wets us through to the skin. Martin is clearly loving this and has sailed many times before. He takes us safely back into Luperon Bay and I know this won't be for the last time as he's already talking about buying a boat. As we approach the mooring, Barry gets the boat hook and with Colin they wrestle with it at the bow trying to pick up the lines. Somehow Barry drops the boathook and its chaos again. We are floundering about with the current and wind pushing us dangerously close to the mangroves and shallow water. Ray keeps the engine in forward as we try to maneouvre the boat close to the dingy amid much shouting and hand signals. Barry hands Colin his hearing aid in preparation for jumping in to retrieve the boathook. Quick thinking Martin jumps into the dingy and we are safe once again but the boathook, well that floats by towards the mangroves never to be seen again. Back at the Marina and after some lunch and a cold beer, we say goodbye to Captain Ray and Barry and thank them for yet another enjoyable and eventful days sailing. Let's hope we can do it again soon.
For Martin and Susy the adventure didn't end here. Their car broke down just out of the Marina and somehow we drove past them, getting close to the Puerto Plata turn off before Susy phoned to ask if we would come back to get her. We picked up Susy leaving Martin to wait for a tow truck which meant Colin had to negotiate the traffic in darkness but we arrived home safe and sound, followed by Martin a couple of hours later, none the worse for wear and still on a high.