Tuesday, May 3, 2011

GUEST BLOG: John Visits Cara Mia

Georgetown, Exumas 23º30.9N | 75º45.4W

I've always wondered what our lives would look like to someone dropping in from land life, so I asked.

Here is our first guest post by John Herlig:

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas.” 
That famous line from the Twilight Zone seemed to me to apply perfectly to my cameo in the world of cruising.

Fresh off of an American Eagle turboprop flight from Miami, I met Chip & Tammy in the dining room of the gently-pink and Bahamian-proper Peace and Plenty hotel restaurant in Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas, perched hillside along Elizabeth Harbour.

I was just hours removed from Washington, D.C., and was eager to slip into this cruising dimension previously-unknown to me. My thirst for perspective made its presence known just as soon as the rum soaked into my system, softened the static of plane rides and taxi cabs and unleashed a torrent of questions.

I’ve known Chip & Tammy for a good long time. I’d known Cara Mia back to her dry-dock days when she was still Good Company. I’d read the blogs, tracked the cruising progress, learned the names of new friends along the path, all of which is about as useful as reading recipes to learn what new foods taste like. My week in the cruising world brought some actual life experience to the equation.

First, I learned that you have to rinse that salt water off. This was one of the hardest concepts for me to comprehend in the beginning. Your home floats in salt water. You propel yourself along the saltwater to come to and from shore, to and from the bars, to fetch provisions, drop off trash, or pick up friends. Salt water flies over the bow of the dinghy at every moment, coming at you as if your nephew was given the garden hose and told to have fun at your expense. This was all expected. But that the salt hampers fibers’ ability to dry and leaves an impossible mineral mess in its wake dictates that boarding the boat comes with rinsing off using precious fresh water. I’m sure that I spent my first couple of days aboard Cara Mia unwittingly breaking this house rule and subsequently reemerging, sheepishly, from belowdecks, at the sound of other, more-responsible members of our party dutifully rinsing salt-from-feet in the back of the cockpit. Whoops.

I learned that flushing the toilet in the head of a sailboat is a task of inexplicable stress and consternation, reminiscent of an actor having to walk, slowly and silently, off of a stage. It should just be so simple, but it’s not. And everybody else knows it.

I learned some spectacular sailing words and jargon and even declared at one point that we would have “Only Speak in Nautical Terms Day” which was supposed to coincide with “All-About-Tammy Day”, both of which, ruefully, never happened. Guaranteed, however, was that I would declare something to be “athwartships, OBVIOUSLY, duh,” or “22.5 degrees abaft the beam,” which applies to light visibility and, if you’re me, anything. “My water glass is 22.5 degrees the baft abeam of my plate – do you think that’s ok?” I don’t know why they didn’t throw me overboard, come to think of it.

There was so much more: the net -- a daily VHF radio broadcast entertaining in its generally-painful composition. There was the Family Island Regatta, a game of Iron Chef in Cara Mia’s galley, a dinghy-of-death ride, endless, boundless fun at the expense of other boat’s names (“Really? Really? What were they thinking!?”) There was the hybrid Tarheel-Nova Scotian VHF station “74 the ROCK – None of the hits, All of the time.” There were snorkeling trips and dinners with friends old and new and drinks under the stars.

There was more that week than I can possibly remember; more substance, more conversation, more life than I have had the pleasure of experiencing in quite some time, made decidedly more remarkable by being wound casually-yet-deliberately around a core of daily chores and foot rinses and toilet flushes. It is in fact another dimension, made so by the very essence of life and a symbiotic existence with your environment. I think Rod Serling would appreciate the parallel. I appreciated the reality.

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