I am being tortured??. ..Someone seems to have duct-taped my eyelids open – they are flashing a bright torch directly into my captive pupils whilst others who had previously covered my head with a large biscuit tin are bashing it with with baseball bats………………….
Realizing and awakening from my dream – I am peering upwards through my forward berth hatch, I’m lying almost at the base of my 50ft mast which is firmly shaking the whole boat to make everything judder and loose items fall about. It all comes back…..I now recall the previous nights veiled warning given out on the VHF and the TV – “Tropical storm Mitch will reach it’s height around midnight” and me – being almost casual, donning my waterproofs to tie down all the loose ends on deck before bedtime. Now – I forget all my sailing knots as I frantically fight the constant and torrential rain double checking that I actually had tied down anything and everything that could blow away in the 50mph gusts expected. It’s 6.03 in the morning, there is no light by which to see – other than blinding flashes lasting many seconds lighting up the whole cockpit and cabin. The nightmare sounds of the baseball bats have been realized for low low ground rumblings thunder set off by the most powerful storm I have ever witnessed. Every few seconds the yachts interior is illuminated again and again by horror film like arc flashes. Mum’s instruction ‘to count seconds from each flash to the rumble of the thunder’ goes awry – the sound of the first flash is attached massively to the shocking impact of the next, every stomach churning Million volt strike is shaking the boat, the dock has beating waves and swells INSIDE the marina!! I bob like a lose cork. There is no let up whatsoever in the noise of the rain – which has been constant for the last 24 hours. A totally inadequate description would be to say the relentless sound may be simulated by 10 people with powerful hoses spraying your car windows, roof and door. Every rain drop – the size of a crystal clear pea – splatters with the next one to resonate on this floating watering can – my aluminium boat ‘Daze Off’….. Strangely enough – while there is nothing in my experience to match this event, I’m not at all scared. Smugly, my technical mind tells me that living inside a metal boat – I am inside ‘Faraday cage’, even if 50,000,000 volts should make a direct hit, I am confident that it will bypass my living space, follow the aluminium hull and further dissolve the now foaming marina waters into steam. I try and look through a darkened porthole to the other boats, to see if anyone else in more vulnerable craft is showing any concern, I seem to be the only one awake?? can I be the only one awakened by the noise?? In the darkness, violently interrupted by electric blue flashes mixing with a cacophony of swirling drenching rain, I’m finding it difficult to maintain my balance, my boat is being shaken rapidly, being lifted up and dropped down like a match stick, the water around me is swirling and looks like it is boiling. I just hold on…no-one else seems at all bothered, there is no frantic panic like on my boat…Oh well, better just keep an eye open but I nod off…….
Slowly, the creeping grey of a strained dawn points out just how much this little vessel is being tossed about, it’s like a bobbing apple in a Halloween game, the heavens have opened up and huge balls of water are pouring down relentlessly drenching everything and all of us in the marina . The gusting wind is whipping the halyards into a frenzy, a loose toggle clip on the end of the main sheet – which somehow has ‘given up’ its hold – has broken away and is flying wildly about like a metal tipped lashing tongue, metal on metal clanking and banging against the standing rigging. Flapping canvas from a broken bimini cord is thrashing the cockpit sides adding to the noise. Even if I put my fingers in my ears, the thunder is unreal, the lightening is so blindingly bright it even penetrates my screwed up eyelids like an X-Ray, I can’t escape natures violence, I am part of it, my feet are witness to the yachts vulnerability and I’m being tossed about like the coin in a small boys money box. Where I was once tied securely by three strong spring lines now ‘Daze Off’ jives menacingly with the solid concrete quayside, I’m attached only with what now seem like cotton strands, I look aftward to a short distance horizon onto the Indian River. This little marina is safe but feels like we are in a boiling boiling pan. All around are the heaving masts of adjacent yachts straining and fighting independently to stay upright against the 60+ mph blasts of blustering drenching gusts, how long can this go on?
Three more hours pass without let up, the water in the marina has risen to within 10” of the dockside top and the morning regulars – Bill, Tony, Gina et all are sheltering under the office veranda each weirdly cocooned in unusual waterproofs hastily resurrected from their forgotten wardrobes. It’s relatively bright now, the light is an even muggy grey and slowly mid-morning emerges, drips from the soaked halyards are pattering on deck tapping out a new dance step, over the marina office the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ has been raised in defiance, others are proclaiming a new ‘T’ shirt slogan “we survived Mitch” and I suppose now we can afford to laugh…..It’s a blustery wet and windy new day……….