Between the two of us we have many talents but estimating the time a passage will take is not one of them. I looked at the chart, the weather and the predicted wind direction and figured it would take us about 24 hours to cover the distance from St. Thomas to St. Martin following our planned route. We had some errands to run Monday morning but even with our noon departure I was confident we could make landfall well before dark on Tuesday. As it turns out it took just under 36 hours because I haven’t fully learned to take into account the slowing effect of steep seas and countercurrents pushing us away from our destination. We’ve also come to realize that these short passages are in a way more exhausting than longer ones because our bodies don’t have time to adjust to the motion and we haven’t settled in to a restful watch schedule.
We arrived just before midnight which meant we had to anchor outside the lagoon overnight and wait for the bridge opening at 9:30am. We both just wanted to go to sleep but we were also hungry and very cranky. As Jack was finishing up the anchoring chores I went below to pick up the things that inevitably go flying on a bouncy passage even when they’re properly stowed. We often just leave them where they lie because it’s too hard at sea to move about without injury. My poor new Buddha lost his topknot. The rest was mostly books that had been ejected from their shelves clear over the fiddles designed to keep them put. As I was going down the steps to the starboard hull my feet slipped completely out from under me and I bounced down to the little piece of hallway below. The floor was slippery with the saltwater brought in on our feet every time we went to the bathroom and I decided this was a hazard that needed to be addressed immediately.
I was picking myself up from the fall and assessing the damage to my poor hip when I heard Jack bellow from the foredeck. “Maaaaaarce!” It took me awhile to realign my limbs and go upstairs.
“Turn on the wash down pump!”
“Do it tomorrow!” I whined.
I went back below, turned on the wash down pump then put some water and a splash of cleaner in a bucket to mop up the slimy salt slurry on the floor. I took four, maybe five steps toward the starboard hull and once again slipped on the step and down I went, along with the bucket of soapy water, now neatly contained in the bulkheaded hall. I lay where I landed and started to mop up the water with a sponge, squeezing it back into the bucket. Jack stomped into the boat muttering the kind of incomprehensible tirade spewed by Ralphie’s father in Jean Shepherd’s classic The Christmas Story whenever he worked on the furnace.
“I need your help on deck and you’re down here cleaning!” whereupon I burst into tears of exhaustion and frustration with myself for not being able to do a simple task.
“I’m not cleaning! I fell and spilled a bucket of water and now I’m mopping it up!” Jack offered to help but I sent him back on deck to finish his chores and I finished cleaning up the spill then washed down the starboard bathroom, which gets completely doused with seawater on a passage because there’s no way to close off the sink drain to keep the water from backing up into it and spraying all over the place. Next haulout we’re installing a seacock there for sure.
After that I took a quick shower, put on clean pajamas and poured myself a glass of wine. Seconds after I sat down I reached for something on the table and knocked the glass over, spilling wine on the iPad, my phone, the camera and our quarantine flag. Up again, moving faster than we thought was possible in such a tired state, we dried off the electronics, took the battery and memory card out of the camera and hoped for the best.
Jack was having his own struggles with the anchor and boat-tending, but eventually he looked at me and said, “How ’bout if I scramble some eggs?”
Perfect. It was nearly 3 am when we finally collapsed into bed, knowing we needed to have the anchor up ready for the bridge opening at 9:30.
They call it pleasure boating.