Another Rough Day in the Stream
In the morning the wind was blowing hard from the northeast. We were heading east, so even with the strength of the winds Bill thought we'd be all right. I was nervous about the fifty-mile crossing, especially when I saw that even the sheltered water of the harbor was heavily spotted with whitecaps. I tested Bill to see if we couldn't put the trip off another day. He said we'd go out and try it, and if it was bad we'd turn back.
We headed out into six foot seas. The wind threw water over us in buckets, and within five minutes we were both soaked to the skin. We went up a wave, we went down a wave. As we moved into deeper water the swells grew to twelve feet. They towered over the boat, dwarfing the Crownline. I watched the power of the water as it took shape in tall solid blocks and then crumbled into froth. It occurred to me that if anything happened to the boat I wouldn't last fifteen minutes out there, PFD or no PFD. I was scared.
Bill seemed comfortable. He stood at the wheel, negotiating paths up the shoulders of waves, then skiing down the back before the water toppled. His eyes scanned the ocean, reading the water, as he searched for patterns in the waves and tried to time our movement through them to yield the smoothest ride. He joked with me but I was clammed up with fear.
It wasn't logical. I knew we were in no immediate danger. Bill was relaxed and at times even seemed to be enjoying the trip. I, however, was too afraid to even look up. Each time I saw the giant waves approaching my breath would catch in my chest. It was better not to look. I kept my head down and my eyes on my feet. Water washed over us in volume; soon my eyes were stinging with salt, and I had to keep them shut anyway.
Halfway across I assessed the situation. No immediate danger. Captain doing a fine job. Out of VHF range of any possible help. I decided that we were in the hands of God and there was no reason for me to be afraid. It was useless. I couldn't do anything to improve or affect the situation. I could only sit back and endure, and therefore, why be afraid? This was an excellent opportunity to learn to master my fear, I determined. Taking a deep breath I unfurrowed my brow and faced the sea. Breathing deeply, I chanted to myself, 'You're calm, there's nothing wrong, the sea is big but it's not bad..."
At that moment, a green wall of water broke right in the boat, crashing down on our heads with force.
Panic, I decided. Panic. Learn to lead with your emotions, and just PANIC. Whimpering sounds came out of my mouth. I huddled in the corner and prayed. We climbed a big wave and it dissipated beneath us, dropping us with a slam into the trough. I struggled to keep from crying.
Bill was worried about me. He tried to joke me out of it, but I refused to be cheered. "Look," I snapped at him. "I know it's not logical but I'm afraid and nothing you can say will talk me out of it!"
We spotted land when we were still twenty miles out. It was frustrating being able to see our destination but still having two hours of travel before we reached it. However, it did help me calm down, and when we started to hear radio traffic on the VHF I was able to relax some. Knowing that if we needed to send an SOS that someone might actually have a chance of hearing it put my mind at ease.
Five hours after leaving Bimini we pulled into Fort Lauderdale harbor, soaking wet, chilled to the core, exhausted, and starving. We tied up at the public dock and raced into the cutty to strip off our drenched clothes. We huddled inside, tossing our wet clothes through the door as we dried naked bodies and put on warm clothes, laughing at the sight we were providing for the fishermen.