Ordeal vs. Adventure
- August 13th, 2009
- in Yachting
Often we hear tales of unpleasant things happening to sailors upon the deep ocean. Only a few weeks ago, reports surfaced of a couple who had encountered a hard object, perhaps a whale, about 50 miles SE of Virgin Gorda and were forced to watch their pride and joy sink beneath the waves. Their rescue and subsequent adventures make for some fine reading at http://helenmarygee.wordpress.com. The kindnesses shown to this heartbroken couple are quite astonishing and will do much to restore your faith in Caribbean culture.
Not all adventures are equal, however. Just recently I was brought up to date on an adventurer with whom I had some personal acquaintance. This man, known to me only as the Polish Taxi Driver (PTD hereafter), came to my attention by inhabiting a previously abandoned small sailboat anchored off the mangroves by Wickham's Cay. The boat he had boarded belonged to a charter captain who had left the island a year or so prior and who had apparently struck a deal to sell his boat to our friend, PTD. I became aware of this new presence in the anchorage when I saw a stranger hoisting and handing sails, plucking standing rigging and generally fussing over the boat. Soon a diver came to scrape the crusty bottom.
My attempts to converse with PTD were not good—his English was only barely better than my Polish. I did learn, though, that the engine wasn't working, and the batteries were weak. He was determined to leave. He was sailing to Poland. I asked if he had checked the rigging and what about the engine? "Engine?" he shouted at me. "Engine? Not need engine until Poland!" I offered to tow him out into the harbour when he was ready.
Soon that day came, and I tied my dinghy to his aft quarter whilst he was busy raiding an old wind generator from another yacht abandoned nearby. Off we went under the gaze of some cruise ship passengers. He hoisted sail and made ready to go. I gave him my card with my email address. "Let me know," I shouted to him.
I heard nothing until a couple of weeks ago when a friend told me there had been some contact with the original owner, the one who had sold the boat to PTD. This man had been adamant that PTD check the sails and rigging before undertaking any voyages, since the sails had crossed the Atlantic three times already. It turned out that PTD had lost his sails pretty early on out of the BVI. He had continued north under the storm jib, reaching Bermuda in 28 days. Exhausted, he tried to tack up a narrow channel but had lost the yacht on the rocks.
After his rescue by Bermuda Coast Guard, PTD contacted the man who had sold him the boat. "Amazing!" he’d said. "Fantastic adventure! Great time! Thank you!" The best $2000 he ever spent, for that was the cost of the boat. And there's the lesson—the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is simply attitude.