Islands Notes 71
There is something out of place, uneasy. There it is. The wind is blowing out of an unusual southwest direction and it has turned my boat’s stern to shore. I normally approach while swimming on the port side, toss the waterproof bag in, and move around to the stern to enter by ladder. I have done it hundreds of times before.
No problem. I will just throw the bag in from the back. I do. It gets struck between the toe rail and the bottom of the gallows. It might fall back into the sea while I’m climbing in. No matter. I can grab the ladder with my right hand, leap upwards and push the bag in the boat with my left. This is just like a smooth basketball move. As I reach for the ladder, I unfortunately only grasp the front, hinged part. Lunging forward to complete the move, the ladder comes undone and smashes into my face. Problem.
I am in shock. I blacked out for an instant and now open my eyes. My right hand still holds the ladder, but the boat has swung 45 degrees away from me. Is the ladder broken? Unhinged? I am unsure and let it go. I still have my sunglasses and hat on. For some unknown reason, I take off the cap and clutch it. The boat looks far away now. I try swimming with my free hand, but I start to sink. This is becoming a matter.
The cool water over my head startles me into awareness. I stare through my sunglasses, but I am underwater now. I have to get to the surface! I do quickly. I am not that far below. I swim to the boat, still clutching stupidly to the hat. I grab the hanging ladder with my free hand and access the damage.
The water begins to turn crimson from my blood. What a strange color contrast to the turquoise blue. I put my soaked hat back on and check my teeth. Nothing is loose or cracked. My upper lip is swelling fast though and I run my finger along an inch-long gash on the inside of my mouth. Better to just let the salt water flush the wound and let the bleeding stop.
I do this for a few minutes. My clarity returns but the pain from the impact begins. While I hang out in the water, I inspect the ladder. It is not broken at all, but hangs hinged and normal. I look up and my dry bag is still there where it was stuck earlier. I realize that I came real close to going under. That would have been a bad day. There is no one around other than a couple of visiting yachties on nearby moorings. They probably would have never noticed. Close call.
What to do now? I can swim home, lick the wounds and just concentrate on the pain. Or I can go sailing, get my mind off the pain a bit and enjoy part of the day. I choose the latter. I climb aboard and prepare the boat to sail. I need to stop repeatedly to spit blood overboard. If I can only get the tasks done that require me to lower my head, I think the bleeding will lessen. It does.
I let off the mooring line and pull in the main sheet. Kontentu takes off like a two-year-old filly at Churchill. The winds are strong and come in sporadic puffs. I probably should have reefed, but I’m still OK. It is just a bit more challenging to handle the boat. The pain and swelling increase a bit, but the sailing takes my mind away from that. Full attention is needed on handling these tricky winds. After about an hour, the headache begins. It is time to sail home.
I put the boat away. As I swim to shore I ponder what could have happened. But I also think about and appreciate how things turned out. Glass half full. I have to agree with Ziggy Marley who once so eloquently sang,
Irie days. Come on and play. Let the angels fly. Let the devils die. Got to do what you can with the time at hand…. These be the good ol’ days.