After God and a leaking hull (part II)

“Luck is believing you’re lucky.” ~ Tennessee Williams

At first I hardly even noticed it. An empty wooden cable spool floated just a few feet from the bow. It popped out of the darkness as big and heavy, three-quarters of it hiding under water. I stared it going slowly by under my spotlight. It was instant collision alert on board as I could not determine if there where other similar mine like monsters floating ahead. What a miracle made us meet this terrible hull breaker while drifting through the night. Only imagine if we had raced with full sail or even motoring. We all sent a few selected prayers towards our guardian angels.

Joost started the engine and we backed up towards the cable spool. The first idea was that we should do something to avoid any future collisions. We examined the bulky object under our heavy searchlight. It had clearly spent some time in the sea already as marine algae and snails covered it below the waterline. How could we get rid of it so it would not be more danger for anyone? Could we sink it? Should we try to mark it somehow? Could we just break it into parts? An axe would not do much difference and operating a chain saw from fairly unstable inflatable boat in the middle of darkness at open sea would be more than suicidal act. We tried to calculate how much anchor chain we would need to sink it and how that should be shackled. The decision was that we should not try to do anything more during the night. We secured the beast by good length of rope and some fenders.

Rest of the night passed in tranquillity of calm swell. In the morning it took us almost an hour to chain the cable spool with 15 meters of old 1/2 inch anchor chain. We just smuggled the end of chain through the spool centre and locked the loop with, two to be sure, steel anchor shackles. The estimated weight of this load was over 35 kg and it did sink our trouble nicely. We expected the bastard soon absorb enough water and never break surface again.

Even morning did not start-up any breeze so we decided to have good breakfast after the sinking exercise. The motor was started and course was taken Southeast towards island of Corsica. According to captain we had quite sufficient fuel reservoir to make it Port de Centuri. As that was set to be our first target though it was known the port did not offer any official services.

For starters we had savory wholey egg sandwich, also known as “one-eyed jack”, each. You fry a slice of white bread that you have punched a hole, as large possible leaving the edges intact. Fry in butter, first on one side and while flipping it to another side, you add an egg leaving the yolk intact. Add black pepper and salt, maybe a few drops of Tabasco or some flakes of dried chili. You need to lower the temperature to avoid burning the bread. Just a moment under the cover gets egg fully done. Frying on both sides with the egg will destroy the one-eyed jack. Instead, if you don’t wish to eat whole egg yolk then you may break it little in the beginning. I especially like wholey egg sandwich with a slice of bacon. It really serves great start for the day. Then, for sweet tooth, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were served as well. Light toast, JIF creamy peanut butter, sweet cherry jam and breakfast tea.

Despite our delicious breakfast, our conversation revolved around all the garbage and dangerous stuff floating around at the sea. You would not expect it but it’s the reality nowadays. Say, the GPS and all other modern seafarers equipment are there to ease the sailing effort but offset is polluted environment, unknown dangers like floating freight containers and even these smaller potential boat sinking objects. I often felt envy for Joshua Slocum and his boat, the Spray, sailing single-handily around the world for over three years. He was the first man to accomplish solo circumnavigation of the earth. He did not need to dodge fishing net marks or cable reels though he had a lot of other serious issues to worry about. In his magnificent book “Sailing Alone Around the World” Slocum describes his momentary fear.

“Not only did the past, with electric speed, flash before me, but I had time while in my hazardous position for resolutions for the future that would take a long time to fulfill. The first one was, I remember, that if the Spray came through this danger I would dedicate my best energies to building a larger ship on her lines, which I hope yet to do. Other promises, less easily kept, I should have made under protest. However, the incident, which filled me with fear, was only one more test of the Spray’s seaworthiness. It reassured me against rude Cape Horn.”

Captain Joshua Slocum eventually disappeared at sea during his winter voyage towards West Indies. It was believed that the Spray had been run down by a steamer or struck by a whale. Being aware of history made me search irony in my thoughts. Even he did not need to zigzag in between all man-made hurdles he was still caught by an incident at sea. On the other hand I would consider something like that reasonably fair alternative for long-term illness and languish at some nursing home. I would call his case as nemesis. It will all happen as it is being written. Just only that we are allowed to read it afterwards.

We approached the coast and got a sight of Cap Corse. The sea color started turning greenish like the gemstone I recall on my old Great Aunt’s emerald memory ring. Though Port de Centuri was expected to be an exquisite port to visit I still felt even greater anticipation for visiting the tiny island of Giraglia, at the northern tip of Cap Corse and maybe even Gorgona and Capraia on the eastern side of Corsica. I felt being an islomaniac case of the most difficult kind. Islomania, yet recognised but less studied, is an inexplicable attraction to islands. Some dictionaries describe it as an obsessional enthusiasm or partiality for islands. I actually did not discover this part of myself until later in adult life but afterwards have realised it’s been a part of me from early childhood. I remembered an old saying, that the mainland is for ordinary life, but islands differ. Gods live on islands and so do monsters.

The traffic at sea was quiet. I would believe that in a month or two these waters and ports are really crowded. We saw only one sail boat on our leg to Port de Centuri. S/Y Koekoeā was 46-foot Nautor Swan, followed by the British flag, desperately trying to accelerate in light aft breeze with all canvas available. It passed us that morning on port side about 500 feet. We both explored each others through binoculars. There was a woman at the helm and she replied to my salute. We had a pair of 7×50 onboard since they offer bright an image as could be obtained in a reasonably sized binocular. Otherwise than that it was really peaceful approach to Cap Corse and I came to think over this way of traveling that I had been lucky to make use of. Naturally it was not for everyone and I’d like to point out that even some might think me as a free-rider I was most certainly not. Joost and Carrie did agree to take me in just for having a pair of extra hands and company. I could not agree that without taking some share of the cost. After little negotiation my enlistment was then finally approved somewhat grudgingly but leaving us all happy. I also spent some thoughts for going forward beyond Corsica. I would love to have the great opportunity for visiting Sardinia as well and ‘m quite aware my path would eventually need to be different from Van Emst expedition. Good wind of Gods had brought me so far and I did not hesitate to carry on with confidence. Something would show up for me if I only kept my eyes and ears open.

Port de Centuri, the small fishing port, is one of the rare shelters in the west coast of Cap Corse though reserved for local fishermen during peak season. We are expected to stay on buoy north side of Island Capense just to avoid any uninvited guests. Rather small, yet irreplaceable, Zodiac CFR 250 dinghy with Honda BF 2.3 four stroke outboard would provide our connection onshore. We were yet uncertain to know how to refuel the boat since it was expected that no official service was available.

Quite early one morning, before tea, in a space where the early sky reflects like a golden foil from the sea as smooth as a millpond. The temperature was already too much to tolerate inside the cabin at this early hour. Captain and his wife were visiting the doctor since yesterday evening. It looked that his sour thumb had not healed as expected and they needed to get some medical opinion about it. They had decided to bunk onshore since the village doctor seemed to have quite original appointment times. I enjoyed the solitude and was proud of being trusted to keep watch for the boat. I finally felt as being on long endless summer vacation under the blazing sun. Quick dipping in the refreshing sea made me ease the hot sun. While then lying and nodding on the afterdeck I slowly became aware of, with only half-open eyes, our next door neighbor that had arrived at very late hours. “S/Y Magpie”, slender and smart-looking 52 feet aluminum cutter under Greek flag, was swinging lightly in the buoy next to us. I recall that Chinese, for example, regard the magpie as a good luck symbol, happiness, and long-lasting fortune and that made my heart smirk. I did not notice any movement onboard at the start but sometime later, while inspecting the vessel with binoculars, I think I noticed a move in window curtains. It wasn’t too long the cabin doors were swung open and there was a burst of tanned kids all over the deck. I counted half a dozen but could not really get the figure as I was nailed looking at the woman who arrived out in behind. She looked after kids bustling around and jumping into the nice warm sea. Soon after they were all swimming around the bathing ladder she looked directly towards “S/Y Sunride”. Pretty straightforward welcoming hand gesture was presented and I needed to make a quick decision if I should go and introduce myself rather than just remain unresponsive and practically watch the world go by. Well, that wasn’t too hard to do. I waved back, made a hasty note “Visiting neighbor” for Carrie and Joost should they arrive meanwhile, quickly checked the boat attachment, grabbed a purse of self-made citrus cookie based Paw Paw & Macadamia triangles and detached the backup dinghy. This was a tiny 6 feet inflatable with paddles. I had prepared it in use after Van Emst expedition taking the proper one. After a few paddle swing later I was welcome to have a cup of tea with smiling bunch of the most bright-eyed children and their lovely chaperone, Ms. Amandiakis.

This chapter is an example from yet unpublished volume
currently identified as "The Fast and Slow Rays"
by Yumatzuga (2011 - 2013).



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