If a person beats you up, it’s going to take some time. One punch here, a kick there, maybe some scratches. It’s gotta hurt and hurt and go on hurting. I can’t imagine. It must be terrible. But when a boat beats you up it can do all that damage in just a split second. Anyway, you know it’s your own fault, not the boat’s fault. And besides, it’s so worth it, so infinitely worth it, to get to be out on this amazing water with sights and sounds that can’t be imagined, just waiting to reveal themselves.
We sail out to Mouse Harbor, going in through a special passage Eric and Ansel discovered last month. We get through the narrow opening and then we notice a crab pot float with something floating in the water next to it. It looks just like a partly submerged crab pot. Oh, wait, it is a crab pot and it’s sitting on the bottom. Just about this time we realize we have stopped moving and are aground. While I sit gaping in the cockpit, Eric heaves up the keel, tugs up the rudder, throws out the swim ladder and jumps off the boat. He grins up at me, the water up to his knees. He pushes us off. Later I kick myself that I didn’t jump off and get a picture. It’s a beautiful setting with the marsh grass lit up in circle around a blue pool.
The wind picks up around 5pm and we decide not to tempt fate and just to stay put inside the harbor. It blows for a few hours, we get a little rain and by morning it’s dead calm. At dawn I sit in the cockpit and watch the stars go out and listen to the sound of the surf coming from the sound side of the protective marsh.
The wind picks up after breakfast and we make a nice loop out into the sound past Pamlico Point and back around into the river towards Oyster Creek. The wind dies. I suggest we grill some lunch. Eric fires up the BBQ and lays on some burgers, squash and potatoes from the farm. We flop around, inching along for a couple of hours and then it picks up. We’ve been watching a thunderhead build all day and now we’re getting the leading edge of its wind. In less than two minutes, it’s blowing a gale. The water is streaked with white, the chop flattened by the wind and marked with cat’s feet. Eric happens to be at the helm, so I grab the sheets and furling line to bring down the headsail. We’re running downwind and the main is all the way out. I give the furling line a tug and the sail begins to roll up. I go to pull it again and the sheet is jerked out of my hand. The wind has jibed the sail to the other side. It’s luffing violently and I lose the other sheet. Next thing I know I’m flying across the cockpit and coming to what felt at the time like a soft landing on the lifeline.
I stand up and realize that the hand that was holding the furling line hurts pretty badly. I look and see that all the skin is gone from the inside of my index finger and all four fingers are white with blisters. I have to look away. I knot my hand into a fist and look at Eric. His face is terrifying. I put my hand to my neck and realize my neck really hurts too. But it’s not bleeding, so that’s good, right? Eric chokes out, “Your face,” and I put my hand up to my mouth, which I now realize feels a little funny. My hand comes away bloody and I decide this is not good either and we turn to the task at hand, reducing sail. I sit shakily in the cockpit at the tiller while Eric drops the motor, cranks her up (god bless Trusty!) and instructs me to steer upwind. The turn causes the boat to heel rather alarmingly (25 degrees?), but she comes around upwind and stops. Somehow I manage to steer with my undamaged hand while Eric gets both sails safely stowed.
I keep steering toward the nearest land (Oyster Creek) trying not to think about how much my hand hurts, while Eric lowers the bimini and readies the anchor. I have to stand up to see to avoid the crab pots and my legs feel like jelly. I have to bounce up every now and then and sit right back down. My legs just won’t hold me up for more than a few seconds.
We finally get anchored and Eric pulls out the first aid kit. I keep telling him I’m ok, and I really am, although my hand is really burning now. I don’t want him to see how bad it is, because I know he feels responsible and I’m afraid it will make him feel worse. I’m afraid the first aid will make it hurt even more. Seeing the wound makes me feel ill and I have to put my head back and breathe into my good hand for a minute. Then I remember that we have rum on board. I take a tentative swig and it burns my throat. But the aftertaste is sweet. I know it will help with pain control, so I take a few more swigs and then Eric fixes me a Dark and Stormy, cold ginger ale with dark rum. This goes down very nicely thankyouverymuch.
I let Eric bandage my hand and put first aid cream on my neck, which is beginning to sting from two four-inch rope burns. The first aid cream stings so bad my eyes water and I can’t breathe. But after about thirty seconds of torture, it stops. I like this first aid cream with lidocaine. I like it a lot. I like this rum too; it’s making everything better. I pull an ice pack out of the cooler and hold it in my injured hand. It takes the burning away completely. I take Ibuprofen as a precaution and I realize I should eat something. I’m starving. Luckily we have lunch on the grill! The rum makes me giggly. I keep telling Eric I’m fine, and I am. Eric pops out to the cockpit and returns with a delectable plate of burgers, squash and potatoes from the farm. We devour all the food. We agree that some hard liquor is a necessary safety supply to keep on board. Exhausted, but safe and content, we lie down for a nap.
Understandably freaked out, we nevertheless decide to jump right back on that horse and sail west. This goes fine and we anchor in the mouth of Goose Creek as the clouds are building to the south. They look very scary. I’m in no shape to be handling any blow. My hand has stopped hurting, but an alarming amount of skin is missing from my index finger, the skin on my neck is sore and my shoulder and knee have serious bruises.
Eric puts out both anchors just in case and we spend another peaceful night. The weather looks threatening in the morning and we hightail it to North Creek, but no storm materializes. The clouds wax and wane as we watch nervously. I’m up for a little bit of sailing, but I feel exhausted and have to take frequent breaks. It’s very beautiful on the river, the water all sparkly, the sun in out of clouds, just enough wind to move us gently along. Dolphin fins break the smooth surface of the water in slow arcs. We watch the lovely green and white tugboat Beaufort Belle slide downriver, something fine about a well-kept working boat. I remember with fondness my conversation with her captain on our last trip, such a nice man. Otherwise, it’s very quiet on the river and we like it that way.
We talk about what happened and how we’ll prevent it in future. We agree that Willadine is great boat and we love her. I tell Eric over and over that it was so worth it. I’m really fine and we had a great time. And boy, that rum really helps. –giggle-