Bright, cheerful sunshine greets us this Saturday morning. What a delight! The weatherman is predicting a beautiful warm day in the 70s. Finally, I can book that sunset sail for this afternoon at 4:30. But by the time I am done with the conference at 1 p.m., wisps of clouds have started to appear overhead. It is still sunny though. Maybe, those clouds don’t mean anything, I tell myself.
Our first stop of the afternoon is the beach at Curry Hannock State Park located between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. The sandy beach faces the Atlantic Ocean. We beachcomb along the shoreline enjoying the sunshine and the ocean breeze. This beach is also sprinkled with jellyfish who have become stranded here and a few Portuguese Men-Of-War who lie silent and unmoving among the sea weed.
Curry Hannock State Park also protects a large area of mangrove swamp with a walking trail through it. We decide to get some actual exercise by hiking the trail. It takes us several attempts and a stop to ask before we can find its entrance. Then we disappear into what feels like a South American rain forest. The ground underneath is spongy and muddy but one does not sink into it. We finally realize that the under support to this land is coral and not the usual dirt we think of in Minnesota. A sign along the trail tells us that we are 5 feet above sea level – a “mountain” on these islands. The grove is intertwined with palm trees, mangrove trees, and Poisonwood trees, a species of tree that acts like poison ivy if touched. By the time we see the sign informing us about that kind of tree, I have touched numerous trees. I wonder when I will start to itch and turn into a pumpkin. Thankfully, neither one of us develops any rash or itching so we must have seen the sign in time. An hour of walking winds us around the 1.5 mile trail and back to our car.
We have about an hour yet before our boat ride so we drive to a beach close to the marina we are to sail out of to kill some time. The clouds overhead have increased to the point that the sun only gets a chance to peek out occasionally. I keep trying to convince myself that they are not rain clouds. It is not supposed to rain at all today. By the time 4:30 p.m. rolls around, the clouds have become dark and ominous to the west. This is not looking good. Captain Mike, a US citizen originally from Cuba, meets us at the dock beside his racing schooner.
“Do you think this is a good idea? Should we just forget it?” I ask.
He checks a couple of weather websites on his smartphone and shrugs, “I think the storm miss us but it up to you. How many days you here yet?”
“This is our last chance,” I say, “We leave tomorrow.”
“All right. Let’s go. Leave shoes in that box so they won’t get wet if it rains,” he instructs.
Barefooted we jump over the water gap by the dock and into the sailboat. We have no rain gear. We do both have light jackets and the camera bag. Captain Mike starts the engine and begins trolling out through the channel to the ocean. The wind is quiet but the sky continues to darken. I look up at the tall mast above us. I wonder how safe this is being out in a storm in a sailboat. Why did I think this was a good idea?
“Oh, there’s a lightning arrestor on the mast,” he comforts us.
In spite of his assurances that the storm will miss us, he throws open the side hatch and motions for us to place the camera bag and our jackets in it. There will be no taking pictures I guess. The first hour heading out goes smoothly in spite of the ever darkening skies. I am wondering if we are crazy and I am ready to head back but Captain Mike keeps put-putting along with the 9.9 HP motor. “There’s not enough wind to put up the sails,” he says.
Suddenly, he points out across the water. “It’s raining over there.” He reaches into his small hatch and pulls out a canvas. “You wrap up in it,” he instructs.
We have no more than gotten the canvas tucked around us than the heavens release a torrent. I am hoping it will only be a short burst of rain but the deluge goes on and on, showing no sign of letting up. We have taken up a position on the opposite side of the boat so that the wind is at our backs but that provides little refuge from the pouring on our heads from the overhead bucket. Trickles of water begin to creep down my back and into my underwear. My once warm dry space begins to shrink. I pull the canvas over my head the best that I can and snuggle up to my hubby for warmth. I am sure it is not that cold but the combination of the wind and the water soon leads to misery. Captain Mike begins to shake violently.
“I am Cuban,” he declares. “I cannot stand the cold.” He stops for a few minutes and rummages through his supplies. He soon pulls out a dry canvas for us and a couple of towels to wrap himself in under his raincoat. The ride back seems to go on for ages while the water continues to drench us. Will this ever end? As we motor through the harbor towards our destination, hundreds of sailboats, houseboats, big cruisers, small, medium, and large ocean going vessels are anchored in their bays. Only we troll by huddled down in the cold wet rain. I am sure the people are wondering what is wrong with those idiots. I am only too happy to reach the slip. After that miserable ride, I am thinking that our host will give us a discount. I ask him how much we owe him and he rattles off the full fare amount. I am a little surprised but I guess if you are miserable taking idiotic guests for a sail, you would want your full fare.
We are soaked to the skin and we leave tomorrow so now the question is, how am I going to get these clothes dry? They will not air dry in this humid air. I have a brilliant idea when we reach our hotel room. There hangs an iron and ironing board. I watch the steam rise off the clothes as I iron each piece two or three times. It works. Only the jeans are still moist in the morning.