We are currently nestled near a band of mangroves which comprises the eastern wall of Jewfish Creek. In light of the fact that most boats in this narrow anchorage are stationary and home to the most intriguing faction of northern Key Largo’s minimum wage work force, anchoring here demands an unusual proximity to one’s neighbors. Thus we find ourselves quite hemmed in with a houseboat to starboard, a trimaran off the bow, and two dilapidated monohulls off each side of the stern. The “coziness” of this area required a composite of our most scrupulous anchoring techniques, and more than a few disagreements as to whether or not when the wind shifted we would find ourselves swinging right onto the foredeck of another boat.
After some “problem solving”, and Patrick’s rowing twice out with the dinghy to re-lay our second anchor we seem to be quite secure and ready to ride out the next few days’ strong north-easterly breezes.
Four days of relentless northern winds are the precursor to the southerly that is our golden sun-bathed ticket to the Bahamas. In the meantime we have suffered more than a few sleepless nights, enduring the persistent howling of 25 knot winds that squeeze over the tops of the mangroves and catch the top of our mast, causing us to sway abominably and hit the halyards against the mast with a loud, rhythmic clattering. After so many hours, the howling, whistling and clamoring begins to grate on one’s nerves; i.e., reminiscent of a low-budget “Stomp” performance over one’s head.
To make things all the more insufferable, the springy nylon of the rode that attaches us to anchor works like a rubber band in strong winds so that we pivot from one anchor to the other bouncing back and forth. There is nothing more disorienting than waking up in the blackness of night and seeing the stars swiveling madly, or the city-scape suddenly replaced by a darkened wood.
However fate has smiled upon us, and sent us a guardian blowfish that Patrick named John Wayne Gacy to protect us from unfavorable winds. He lives in a nook between the two chains that lead off to each anchor. At night we sit on the bow illuminating him with a handcrank flashlight telling ghost stories (holy ghost stories of course) while he swells enormously with what I assume is pleasure. I love you, John Wayne Gacy, you celestial scaly orb.
We have learned a great deal from our month-long stint of living “on the hook.” Most importantly anchor watches, or the more extreme, abandoning the anchorage entirely because one has been blown out of it are not unusual circumstances. In fact these scenarios happen often, and the way one handles them is a distinguishing mark of an experienced sailor.
Surprisingly as my knowledge of the sea increases so does my fear of it. Conversely, the more I blindly embrace each passage or night at anchor the more confidence I gain. There is something about sailing that elicits a combination of intuition and naiveté along with a respect for the elements and an awareness of one’s limitations that seems to make a good sailor.