Sh– Gets Real
There I was in the middle of nowhere in the Ladrones cluster of islands, heading further out to sea towards my ultimate desert island destination. I had decided to linger here an extra day of repairing one of the winches and enjoying the aquarium-clear sapphire blue water around me. It was morning and I had just hauled anchor and put up my sails, drinking my coffee, watching the humpbacks and listening to tunes through the cabin speakers, when I heard the buzz of an airplane. That’s weird, I thought, I haven’t seen an airplane in months. Suddenly I see it: small, maybe a 10-person twin prop airplane painted drab gray green. It reminded me of something old fashioned. It makes a pass over the island chain, and as I watch it, in my imagination the seabirds in the sky just increased in number by one. I try to follow this phantom bird, but it’s lost in a mirage.
I round a small island where juvenile whales thrash their tails around in the crashing water around the rocks, for who knows what reason. I hear the drone again, and here comes the plane, having turned around in a loop. It flies low over my head at a bit of a tilt so whoever is inside can see out the window. That’s odd, I think. Maybe it’s some island tour and they wanted the postcard view of the sailboat against the island. The plane completes its circle and heads off again toward the mainland.
About five minutes later, I spot something white in the water. It’s rectangular, about the size of an ice chest, floating on top of the waves and sealed with strapping tape. I inhale sharply, then let it out in a long “Oh fuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh–“. I flail my arms and stamp my feet on the back deck. “That motherf– just dropped motherf–ing drugs on MY SOLO SAIL! MOTHER F–ER!”
Isla Montuosa was another 25 miles further out to sea. In all the excitement and with the islands in the way I hadn’t gotten a good look at the sky and ocean ahead of me, but what I saw now made my blood stop. The whole horizon was a wall of gray, the shadow of the thick clouds over the water like a dark curtain, blurry with heavy rain. Within this forbidding barrier, I spotted an almost black serpent swerving down from the clouds to touch down on the ocean. “And that’s a waterspout”. Insert here the one word summation of your choice.
At this moment a startling truth fell into place: It was a hit. I’d been set up. I got too close. To What? Not important. Somebody had picked their moment very carefully. The trap had sprung. So . . . I looked around. This is how they’re going to do me. Clever to use me as the agent of my own destruction.
In the course of a minute, my carefully planned and prepared-for trip is over. I need to get out of here. It’s me and a cat with no guns against friggin’ sea tornadoes and drug runners in speed boats who I expect to arrive any minute. I tacked and sailed around the far side of the islands to put their tall cliffs between me and the floating package. Once I was out of sight, I pointed the boat back toward Isla Parida, 15 miles away, hoping that the Navy boat I’ve seen stationed there in the past would be within the vicinity. If that plane had been tracking my heading before it went out of sight, hopefully they would relay that I was heading out farther to sea. I’ll be plenty enough remote, I told myself. Montuosa’s probably got water snakes anyway.
Weighing the risks, I tried a radio check on the VHF, but nobody was within its estimated 20-mile range, or at least not responding. No help. Check. I strung up the HAM radio antenna and tuned it to the marine frequency, but propagation was pretty poor and there really was nothing to say. It occurred to me that the least appealing thing to me in this moment was to have to explain myself to some excitable old HAMs, especially if I was tilting at windmills.
I got out my machete and made sure it was sharp, then loaded the pistol flare gun for good measure. I didn’t know if I’d shoot it at the sky or at the most flammable part of their boat if they came, but I’d be ready. I briefly entertained a few Home Alone-style surprises for these inevitable wet bandits, but if I was going to go down, I didn’t want it to be ridiculously. I got out the satellite tracker and the emergency beacon, which were no use helping me out of my situation, but at least would prevent my fate from being a mystery. In the absence of Harmony, I get a little dramatic. You’re what, surprised?
My new destination was still 15 miles away, and the day had just started. I’d be four hours at least before I could cover the distance it would take a power boat 45 minutes. I had my binoculars out and watched the horizon, determined to see them first, although under full sail I was a very visible feature. Almost an hour had gone by, when far in the distance ahead of me I could see a power boat coming from the mainland along my reverse trajectory. I stood at the bow, hiding behind the jib, and attempted to get a steady, focused look at them from the binoculars to indentify what type of boat it was. The bow heaved in the waves and disrupted my aim. Ten minutes went by in this pose. There, I can finally make it out.
Join us next week . . .