Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jamaica: The Final Chapters

Miami to Jamaica

About 10 that night, I woke as Elska suddenly began to dance around, the water jumbled and choppy. It felt like an approaching storm, but it was only the Gulf Stream, a powerful ocean river flowing north from the Caribbean toward the Ireland and the British Isles. I went back to sleep.

Next morning, I woke to more clear blue skies and gentle swells, fresh, clean air. Looking over the side of the boat, I thought I could see the bottom of the ocean. I checked the depth meter; 60 feet. And I could distinguish coral heads as dark spherical shadows against the brightness of sand lit by sun on a cloudless day through the clearest of waters.

"I can see land. There," Ollie pointed east toward the horizon where we could just see the faintest tracing of white beach interrupted from the sky by a similar tracing of darkness that was trees.

"Is that Andros?" I asked.

"Yes," affirmed Ed.

Ollie shuffled a bit and looked toward his feet, "Maybe. I do not know though. We drifted a lot crossing the Gulf Stream last night."

"Not so much," disagreed Ed. "I allowed for a couple of knots. That fellow at the marina said the Stream had not been running so fast lately."

"Well, it sure seemed to get choppy if it was moving so slow," I chimed in, not really knowing what I was talking about, but having a feeling that was enough to justify expressing an opinion. After all, I had seen currents before. Maybe I did not know the Stream, but I knew that when a tide was moving fast enough to create a chop, it was moving more than a couple of knots.

Ed shook his head in emphatic disagreement and as evidence that he was a captain with a crew that just did not understand. We took turns with the binoculars scanning the island for landmarks that might help identify it as Andros or another island. If it was not Andros, we had no idea which it might be.

Ollie was the first to know. "That is Bimini."

"Impossible. Look at the chart. We would have to have missed our target by 90 miles," Ed argued.

Ed traced his logic and intended course across the chart for our benefit. What he said made sense. Except for a couple of assumptions, unfortunately, the two key factors: speed of current and speed of boat. While Ed assumed two to three knots of current, he also assumed that Elska would be travelling at five to six knots. When I had awakened in the night, we had been travelling three to four knots because the wind had dropped after sunset. Ollie nodded his head. Ed had failed to adjust his course when the boat speed fell below five knots. With a current flowing northward at four to five knots and a boat speed of three to four knots, we were simply floating in the Stream, making a course to the north faster than we were crossing.  Ed should have started the engine when the boat speed dropped below five knots.

Ed remained unconvinced that he had made the mistake until we could see the planes landing in the Bimini basin. Then he just as quickly decided that we should clear Customs. So we sailed for the marina dock and tied up.

The Customs officer was a caricature of a third world government official. He was stiff and neat and starched and aloof. His speech was curt; he treated us with respectful suspicion. His office was on the second floor of a powder blue cinder block building beside the marina. The office had a ceiling fan, but no air-conditioning. Most of the light came from the few windows behind his desk.

"Why have you come to the Bahamas?" he asked.

"We are sailing to Jamaica, delivering a sailboat," replied Ed.

"How long do you plan to stay?" the officer queried.

"We really plan to be headed south from here."

"Do you plan to stop again on another island?" the officer continued, as if not quite believing Ed, and not understanding why we had stopped to clear Customs in Bimini if we were not planning to stop in the islands again. I did not understand either; nor do I think that Ollie understood. But there we were, politely submitting ourselves to interrogation by a bureaucrat who would have preferred not to be bothered, but who, having been bothered, was going to be as thorough as his suspicion dictated.

As we sat there in his office watching him pace through the required questions with Ed, never lifting his head to acknowledge our presence much less commit even the smallest act of friendliness such as a smile, I began to think of the situation from his perspective. Two black men with British passports travelling with a long-haired young American on their way to Jamaica who have stopped to clear Customs in a country where they do not plan to stop again. Why?

Yes, he had a point. I just did not understand why he did not simply make his point, throw us out of his office and send us on our way.  We were being foolish or silly or superfluous or something, and if he had had half a brain, he would have told us to stop wasting his and our time and hit the water.

We hopped back on the boat and motored out the channel into the midday tropical heat. The sun glared off the slick still water of the bay, amplified by the blinding white of the sand. It was humid and stifling. There was not a breeze worth mentioning as we rounded the point and headed south for deep water, the noise and fumes of the engine making it seem only hotter.

The days that followed were so hot and still that one simply melted into another. We drifted over the Grand Bahama Bank, seeing nothing in the air, nothing on the still metallic sea and nothing below the crystal surface of the ocean except trackless acres of sterile white sand. The depth varied from as much as 15 feet to as little as 6, barely enough to float us. Occasionally, we would glimpse a shadow darting out of vision; sharks. And once, but only once, I could bear the heat no longer and jumped overboard into the water; but the water was no cooler than the air. Ollie was the first to spot the five foot barracuda hovering off the stern, waiting, watching as I floated beside the boat, both of us listless in the tropical heat.

Meanwhile, Ed had been shooting his noon sighting. With the flat calm, he could not have had an easier horizon to find with the sextant. He pulled his navigation tables up into the cockpit beside him and began the excruciating process of calculating our position.

"There!" he soon declared he had completed his calculations. "I know exactly where we are." He was full of self-important satisfaction, despite, or because of, many errors over the preceding days. But he had unquestioned confidence that this position was at last correct, that he had overcome the earlier mistakes and arrived at the careful and precise location of our little ship in its place on the globe.

Ollie and I looked over Ed's shoulder to see the magic spot on the chart that represented our place on the planet. What we saw was the dark blue of deep water; the depth showed more than 100 fathoms; we were floating in barely 6 feet.

"Ed, you're wrong again." I could not help myself. Was it the heat or my own natural impudence? I do not know, but I know that what I said, I had to say. I could no longer remain silent in the face of his egotistical ineptitude. I needed for him to have to face the truth of his error, to confess the inadequacy of his effort, to admit to me and Ollie at last that he had no idea how to navigate, that he was lost and that we would all be better served by relying upon our collective dead reckoning.

"No, this is where we are," Ed pointed to the spot on the dark blue of the chart.

"You are positive?" I challenged him.

"Yes. Of course. I checked my calculations three times. They are right this time," his voice revealing some of his anger at being questioned by his crew.

I went for the kill. "Ed, what is the depth at our location according to the chart?"

"Looks like 100 fathoms or so," he responded.

"Come here Ed," I gestured to the port side of Elska, irritated that he was not willing to recognize his mistake. "Look down there." I pointed into the water. "Well, what do you see?" I asked not too smugly.

"The bottom," Ed said.

"Then how could your position, which shows us to be in over 100 fathoms of water, be correct?"

"I am sure I am only off a couple of miles," Ed replied in an attempt to make a plausible excuse.

"Then look to the horizon. Do you see any change of water color? No, you can't because we are over the Banks a long way from deep water," I lectured.

Ollie interrupted my tirade to say, "We need to get off this bank. We need to get to deeper water."

"Why?" I asked. "We're making little headway, but there's not likely to be more wind to the west. And besides it will take us off course; we will lose time."

"I know, but I think we must quickly get to deeper water and away from this shallow bank. We probably should motor away now," Ollie continued.

"We are not starting the engine and using what little fuel we have," Ed declared. "We may need it later, and we have no where to refuel."

"Ollie, why the urgency?" I asked.

"If we get a storm over these shallows, the waves will be steep and very rough. If we had only six feet of water and a four-foot chop, we would be bouncing the keel off the bottom and could break the boat. Besides, if we were to wreck, we have only this little dinghy for the three of us; the motor does not work, and Andros is more than 20 miles away. In heavy seas, I think we would capsize before we could reach shore in the dinghy."

I knew Ollie was right, but did not feel the same sense of urgency. We set a course due west for deep water.

After an hour or so, the depth had reached 25 feet or so. Ollie was relieved. We continued west, however, in an effort to find the true deep water.

Just before sunset, we saw a line of clouds to the south. Ollie suggested that the clouds might have wind so we steered southwest toward them.

In a half-hour, we could see the wind ripping the water in front of the clouds. Ed hurried on deck to reef the main. Then it struck! A dry squall. Our soft breeze from the south instantly became a howling wind from the west. We turned to run a close reach on the starboard tack. It had been so long since we had a fine wind that we ran where it would take us the fastest. South. We intended to run with it while it lasted, thinking that the squall would blow itself out in an hour or less. But it raged on. And we sailed hard with the mainsail under a single reef, heeled twenty-five degrees to port, the hull beginning to slam into the choppy seas. The seas turned dark and gray and dismal. The sky filled with darker and darker clouds, and the clouds seemed to fill with an anger of their own, as if they wished to extinguish light itself while they merged with the sea and vanquished our horizon.

Suddenly it was night, pitch black, a wild and angry gale howling in the rigging.

"This looks like it is going to last a while. Let's close her up, and everyone in the cockpit. Sails down. We may need to trail a sea anchor." Ed and Ollie agreed that this was more than a squall. Night had caught us before we made deeper water; but we still had twenty-five feet under the keel. "The water's deep enough not to wreck the boat, but it is going to be a rough ride."

We sat in the cockpit holding wherever we could while the boat leapt and jolted through random and chaotic waves of six to eight feet height. Surrounded by blackness, the ocean merged with the sky, waves visible only when they broke into whitecaps. Rain slashed sideways through the air, slapping our hands and faces, whipping through the bare rigging. The wind roared; we yelled to each other to be heard above the noise. The wind speed indicator showed gusts consistently exceeding fifty-five knots.

It was a week later when we learned that a severe tropical depression had swept through the Bahamas leaving much damage.

As the wind subsided to twenty-five to thirty knots late that night, we set a course to the southwest, again trying to get off the Bank and into deeper water. The seas softened into long swells of ten to twelve feet over the deeper water by morning. It had been a long night for all of us, and I had finally collapsed a little before dawn. After sleeping for a few hours, I returned to the deck. The day was fabulous, the sky swept clear by the storm, the seas big but friendly, and the ship charging confidently across the water.  As we rose out of a trough, I scanned the horizon and the heavy seas that surrounded us. Not a boat in sight, but there was an island, and we were only five miles or so from its shores. I could see the pristine beaches, the lush green of its palm trees. Then I realized I was looking due south. I was looking at Cuba.

"Is that Cuba?" I asked. Neither Ed nor Ollie had been paying much attention.

"Oh no," Ollie said quietly, thinking to himself what we were all thinking. We were in the wrong place, too close to Castro's Cuba, a country that still occasionally seized yachts and crew without justification.

"We need to get away from here."

And we did, tacking back to the northeast, carried quickly by the remnants of the storm winds.

For the next few days, we tacked and tacked and seemed to make little progress. Ed insisted on believing his celestial sights, while Ollie and I conferred on our dead reckoning. Ed thought we were making good progress to the southeast; Ollie and I were even more convinced that our tacking was taking us too far to the north and south and not far enough toward our destination. We ran low on food and, more importantly, water. We were content not to eat much since it was oppressively hot and we were not active. But the shortage of water concerned us.

The days and nights that we spent on our impromptu oceanographic survey of the pool of water that stretched between Cuba and the Bahamas all merged into one memory. Beautiful days with fair winds and gentle seas; soft, balmy nights with star-dusted skies that I studied endlessly on my night watch. Between an occasional scan of the horizon for shipping traffic, I lay in the cockpit, steering by the stars and marveling at the depth, the majesty, the sheer wonder of infinite space that lay above me. I had never before, or since, seen the number of stars that I saw there, every one a sun and none close enough for any human to ever reach in a lifetime. I relaxed in the pleasure of complete awe.

Ollie and I continued to suspect Ed's positions. And the water shortage was soon to be life threatening; we needed to find an anchorage. Based on his noon sight, Ed gave me a course for my night watch. It seemed too far north, but Ed believed it would bring us to an island by the following midday. I did not, so I began to sail a little south of the course. Yes, a small quiet private mutiny.

After a couple of hours, I thought I detected a change in the horizon. I could not be sure. It seemed like a hint of light, a weak glow that appeared only as a difference in the blackness of the horizon. I steered a little further south. Every five minutes or so, I stood up for a better look at what might lie before me. There seemed to be something, but I feared I might just be trying to hard to see something that I wanted to see, that I hoped to see. But I continued with the more southerly course, rationalizing that I could return to my original course later, if my vision proved to be fantasy.

Half an hour later, I was sure. I could see the sweeping light of a lighthouse. I called to Ed.

"I see a lighthouse."

What I actually saw was not so much anything identifiable as it was a spot of haze, brighter than the black ocean night surrounding it, that I hoped was a lighthouse, a point of reference associated with land and the possibility that we would no longer be quite lost somewhere northeast of Cuba.

"Where?" Ed asked.

"To the south," I replied.

We pulled out the charts for the area. The only island with a lighthouse anywhere close to where we should have been was Great Inagua. Ed thought we were too far north to see Great Inagua, but the position was consistent with where Ollie and I thought we must be. I sighed a silent sigh of relief as we made directly for the island. Ed meanwhile pulled the harbor guide for the entry directions. It sounded like a tight channel and the guide said it should not be attempted at night. But we were somewhat desperate and tried it anyway. We needed the safety and implied security of being tied to land. It had been ten days since we left Bimini. (Unknown to me, my parents had begun to worry at hearing nothing from me.)

The next morning, Ollie went in search of a Customs officer. Here we go again, I thought. When he returned an hour later, he had found a bar, but no Customs officer. First things first; we were hungry and thirsty, and the bar addressed both needs succinctly. Of course, what I did not know at the time was that Ed and Ollie were also out of money. They had expected Jamaica to be the next landfall after provisioning in Miami, so they did not save any of the cash they had from the boat's owner. Even water was going to cost money on Inagua.

Next day, an eighty-foot Burger aluminum yacht docked ahead of us in the little square harbor basin. They had stopped in Inagua due to trouble with their desalination water maker. The crew let us enjoy their air-conditioned saloon since the owner was not sailing with them. As I met other sailors, most of whom had moored in open water off the town proper (near the bar), I discovered that virtually everyone had made an unplanned stop at the island due to one problem or another.

Soon after the Burger docked, a local boy drove up in a garish powder blue Chevy Nova; the hood ornament was a big Peace symbol. He introduced himself, "Hi! I'm the local pusher, man." We almost laughed; he was such a caricature of himself. But we restrained ourselves and tried to act as if we were taking him seriously. We seriously declined his offer of illegal drugs, though I believe he only had a little marijuana. Not missing a beat or an opportunity, he offered his taxi service, but again we refused; town was only a quarter mile away.

Except for Matthewtown itself, the island was undeveloped and uninhabited. The backcountry is over 500 square miles of scrub land that is home to wild boar and not much else. Lake Windsor (or Rosa now) lies 12 miles long and supports the largest flock of flamingos in the western hemisphere. The houses in the town were quaint and colorful remnants of 19th century British colonial occupation, stucco and brightly painted with tropical greens and yellows and reds. At one end of the main (only) street lay the marina, at the other the lighthouse, a blindingly white squat old lighthouse built in 1870 and still shining to the horizon to bring weary sailors to shelter. I climbed the neatly painted black circular stairway to the top for a view over the island. A small white mountain on the north side of the island caught my attention.

"What's that?" I asked my guide, Matthew (named for the disciple), the 21 year old keeper of the lighthouse.

"Salt," he replied.

"A mountain of salt?!"

"Yes. See to the right of the mountain. There. The long dark canals. Morton Salt draws sea water into the canals, lets it evaporate, then scoops out the residue." He explained that Morton was the biggest employer on the island and had built an airstrip to fly in its managers. The salt itself was shipped by barge.

Matthew was a bright young islander who was soft-spoken, articulate but reserved. He was proud of his lighthouse and proud of his responsibility for it. He seemed to enjoy showing me both the lighthouse with its antique fresnel lens and the island, almost all of which was visible from the lighthouse. Matthew pointed to the south of the island. I could see that the water there was quite shallow. He told me that Spanish cannons had been found in the shallow flats and that there were caves on the shore where people believed treasure was probably still hidden. In response to my query, he said very few people ever came to island to dive for wrecks or treasure.  

Over the next couple of days, as we tired of conch fritters for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Ed hocked almost everything off the boat. First the dinghy, then the dinghy's outboard (which did not work anyway), then his watch and the CB radio (also useless to us). He placed calls to Larry, but Larry was not in the mood to send more money. Tired of bar fare, Ollie and I jumped at the chance for some fresh fish. A couple of kids had speared a large amberjack; the kids had speared other smaller fish, but they did not want the amberjack; they said it was poison.

Ollie laughed and said they were just scared of the fish because it was big; island superstition. He said he liked amberjack and ate it all the time at home in Bermuda. I knew that amberjack caught off the coast of North Carolina had wormy flesh, but Ollie assured me this fish would be good. We fileted the fish and found no sign of worms. Then Ollie fried it in the skillet, and we devoured a couple of plates each. It was a delicious change after conch fritters.

It only took an hour for the poison to penetrate my system; I was drinking a beer in cool air-conditioned comfort on the Burger when I began to feel so lightheaded that I could barely stand. I returned to Elska and crawled into my berth. The rest of the long night was an endless cycle of dehydrating diarrhea and vomiting as my body tried to cleanse itself of the poison. In the morning, Ollie asked "The Pusher" to give me a ride to the local clinic. I almost blacked out when I stepped from the boat to the dock.

The clinic was clean, pale yellow and empty. I waited only a couple of minutes to see the doctor, an Indian who had been educated by the British empire and was thus obliged to provide his services in such an unserved place as Inagua. He spoke little and administered a sulfa medication of some sort and sent me back to the boat. He thought I would feel better in a few days.

Before I got the food poisoning, I had made plans to sail with a couple of Brits on their trimaran, hunt wild boar with a guide that "The Pusher" knew and hoped to find a day to snorkel off the south shore where the cannons and treasure might lay. Instead, for the next four days, I slept and rested and tried to regain my strength. I had little appetite, and fried seafood was nauseating. Likewise, fresh water was expensive, and beer was not good for rehydrating.

I was still weak when we set sail from Inagua bound for Jamaica. I feared I would be seasick, but settled into the rhythm of the swells comfortably. Ed and Ollie had hocked and bartered enough to acquire food and water for about five days. We hoped the next leg of the voyage would be no more than three days, but needed some margin against unfavorable winds.

The first couple of days were filled with steady trade winds and clear skies. When I came up on deck on the second morning, we were just off the coast of Haiti in the Windward Passage rolling over long, gentle swells. I was glad we were not within sight of Cuba lying to our west.

As I sat with my morning coffee, I heard a loud whoosh somewhere off the stern of the boat; I turned to look, but saw nothing. A few minutes later, I heard another, louder, whoosh; again, I turned to see what had made such a noise, but again I saw nothing. I mimicked the sound for Ed and Ollie, and then realized it must be a whale. The following several minutes dragged slowly as we scanned the waves hoping to sight the whale when it surfaced. Then it did! Not more than thirty yards to port, a thirty-five foot gray whale surfaced for a quick exhale and breath, then sped onward parallel to our course. Though it was a brief encounter, it was truly awesome to see and hear a creature of such size, especially in the ocean.

We cleared the headland of Haiti's northern finger and steered southwesterly. We did not want to approach any closer to Port au Prince. The capital of Haiti was socially and politically unstable, and foreign sailors were vulnerable to attack as well as seizure of boat or person. We carried no weapons, so we thought distance was our best defense. By sunset, the winds had fallen to a quiet breeze and we were making less than four knots.

I came on watch at ten. The air was still. The sea reflected the stillness so perfectly that every star shone from the water as well as the sky, and you could not see where the heavens ended and the earth began. We drifted as if floating through space, sparkling silver stars above us and below. Mesmerized, I lay back in the cockpit and studied the infinite suns that spread over me, seeming close enough to touch, but too distant ever to reach.

Ollie had cautioned me to keep an eye out for sudden thunderstorms before he sank into the darkness of the cabin. Although my fascination with the sky absorbed me, I sat up to check the area for shipping traffic every few minutes. About midnight, I spotted a soft flash of light out of the corner of my eye. I watched until there was another, followed by more. The flashes were lighting a huge thunderhead several miles (probably more) to the south. At first, I thought to wake Ed or Ollie. But then I waited as I watched the fireworks of lightning bolts shooting down to the ocean and flashes illuminating the cloud from the inside. I heard no thunder, and there still was no breeze. The light show continued until Ed came on watch. Then, just before dawn, a rain squall finally struck, but the winds were light, so Ed did not call us to reef the sails.

Dawn of the third day out from Inagua, we were anxious for landfall. It had been over three weeks since we left Beaufort, two months since they left Bermuda. We were three men on a small boat, ready to reach our destination. Ollie began extolling the good taste of Red Stripe beer. All three of us dreamed of good food, nothing fried, fresh vegetables and fruit and all the water we could drink. By midmorning, a good breeze had developed. By midafternoon, big seas had joined the wind. We were sailing hard and as fast as Elska would sail, about six knots over long eight to ten foot high swells with the tops blown off. We hoped the high winds would deliver us to Jamaica by nightfall, and all kept a serious land watch throughout the afternoon until sunset.

Sunset without making landfall was gravely disappointing and more disheartening than any of us had expected. We knew we must be close, but we also knew it might be two more days.

When I came on watch at ten, the sea was as still as the night before. We were barely drifting. By the time Ed came on watch, there was a touch of a breeze, just enough to keep the boat moving forward. I fell asleep quickly, still tired from my illness.

When I woke the next morning about 6:30, I crawled out of the cabin and stumbled to the stern for my morning ablutions. As I was zipping my jeans, I turned to ask Ed if he had seen anything during his watch. When I looked up, I was shocked and instantly overjoyed to see that we were coasting along the shore of Jamaica less than a quarter mile offshore.

"We made it! Are we really there?"

"Yes, it's Jamaica, but we still have to find Runaway Bay. Ollie, bring Mott's directions."

Ed unfolded the map, and we began to look for landmarks that would indicate Runaway Bay. Mott's directions did not make much sense, but we thought they might make sense once we saw a reference point. Jubilant and relieved, we enjoyed sailing quietly along the coast studying the coral shore, the rocky sea bottom and the lush tropical forest. We saw neither people nor signs of people. Then just before sunset, we thought we had found Runaway Bay, and we turned into the harbor. It was Ocho Rios, not Runaway Bay. Night was falling so we headed away from land while still looking for Mott's landmarks.

We could not find Runaway Bay in the dark, so we continued down the coast. It was the middle of the night when we dropped anchor in Montego Bay. Ollie was determined to go ashore even though we had not cleared Customs or Immigration and could not legally leave the boat until morning. I went with him. It was quiet in town, but we were happy to simply walk around. We met a couple of women who quickly took an interest in Ollie. Ollie turned on his charm and the threesome began talking trash to each other. One of the women grabbed herself indiscreetly to emphasize her point, and Ollie just laughed. When he turned his pockets inside out to dramatize his point, she laughed too.

Jamaica: The Epilogue

The conclusion of our voyage was anticlimactic. Customs boarded Elska mid-morning and performed a thorough search. I suppose we still looked untrustworthy, neither yachtsmen nor perhaps even sailors, more like vagabonds. Ed contacted Larry by phone to let him know we were there, but not quite there. In the meantime, a fierce wind arose from the east, the direction of our intended sail. Also, the anchor chain had wrapped itself around a large coral head thirty feet down and could only be freed by someone diving to the bottom to unwrap it. Ed cut the anchor line, leaving for local salvors the anchor and chain at the bottom of the bay.
Ed convinced Larry that it would take at least forty-eight hours for us to tack into the thirty-knot winds back to Runaway Bay. Mott agreed to pay a sportfisher to tow us back. Six hours later, replete with lobster sandwiches, we had been towed to Elska’s new mooring off The Silver Spray Club in Runaway Bay. Larry gave us a hero’s welcome, Bloody Marys all around and sent us to our own private bungalows.

Larry threw a party for some American friends who had dropped by to celebrate delivery of the boat. One friend from New Jersey recommended that I join the Navy as a diver; another said I needed to meet his daughter (his wife agreed). I think everyone was trying too hard to be sure it was a memorable party.

Larry invited me to stay as long as I liked and to drink as much Red Stripe (or whatever) as I wanted; literally the keys to the cooler. With his driver, I rode to Kingston to take Ed and Ollie to the plane; we stopped at a restaurant in Ocho Rios where one of the rivers spilled over a waterfall beside the bar. In Kingston, they sat me between the two of them for fear that I might otherwise be attacked as we drove through town. They had been good shipmates.

After several days of lobster sandwiches and trying to climb coconut trees, I knew I was ready to return home. Larry’s secretary made my plane reservations and made sure that he paid me the wages I was due (it slipped his mind). I cleared Customs in Miami; the officer gave my backpack a couple of good pats, then winked and smiled knowingly and said, “Have a nice day.”

Two months later, I finally started my fragmented college career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When my parents arrived for their first visit a few weeks into the semester, they entered my dorm room looking sheepish, as if they were hiding something. I asked what was on their minds, and my father handed me a postcard. It was from Mott; Elska had dragged her mooring and sunk, and he needed a captain for his new boat. He wanted me to return as captain of the Elska II. I considered the offer for several days before declining; I had lived my dream of sailing to a tropical paradise. I stayed in school. For a while.


  1. I think about my two girls and wonder if I would have let them go on a trip like this. Would you let Cameron or Tyler?

  2. probably so, but with LOTS of caveats and conditions.


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