(This entire 17-part story can be found in the “travel” category.)
Finally, we docked in a marina full of nice boats. Unlike Mayaguena Island, we weren’t the only boat around. Here in Freeport, Bahamas, were hundreds, maybe thousands of every size and description. I eased off the onto the dock. I had become so used to the swaying of the sailboat that the ground seemed to be swaying underneath me. I had to fight to keep my balance and not stumble over like a drunk.
Tony spoke to the harbor master, then returned to the boat with instructions for us to stay put until customs officials arrived. After 20 minutes, I was going nuts. I could see the marina’s bathroom and showering facilities. I couldn’t resist. I had to get the salt stains off my skin, wash my cuts, smell fresh again. I gathered up clean clothes, shampoo, soap and a towel, and headed for the shower. I muttered over my shoulder, “Let them arrest me. I wanna shower!”
Once in the shower, I couldn’t wash myself. I had to hold my arms out sideways to brace against the walls so I wouldn’t fall over. My land legs hadn’t returned yet. Still, I was all smiles and finally got enough of me clean to call it quits. I dressed, then walked a hundred yards over to a casino in the first floor of a hotel. I stood at the Coke machine and bought three straight sodas, guzzling each one like I’d been in the desert. It was sooo nice to drink something cold again.
Returning to the dock, I saw uniformed authorities checking Tony and Lisa’s papers. They passed. As they eyed mine, I announced that I would not be leaving on this sailboat. The higher ranked official didn’t like that thought. “You have to,” he stated with a genuine smile. I was firm in my resolve, so we began negotiations. Soon, he relented and would allow me to fly on an airplane. He drove me to the airport and we had a wonderful discussion. He was a nice chap, a pride to his country.
At the airport, I bought my $79 ticket and he assigned a security cop to make sure I got on the plane. Two hours and another three cold Cokes later, the puddle-jumper plane bound for Orlando began boarding. Soon, we were airborne.
By the time the hour flight was circling Orlando, just about all 20 passengers on the little airplane were thoroughly engrossed in the tales of my sailing adventure. I showed off my cuts and bruises like they were medals. After touch down, we departed the plane onto a tarmac. Surrounded by a dozen of my new friends, I dropped to my knees and kissed the ground. They applauded, causing a tear in my eye.
Needless to say, I have not stepped foot on a sailboat since that fateful adventure in 1990. Once was enough. But I have relived that trip a thousand times. I’ve swayed with the waves, heard the wind, felt the seaspray, and looked longingly at the sunrises, sunsets, moonrises and moonsets.
- Mountain Man