February 19, 2004
In our October 18, 2001 entry ("Single By Choice?"), we described single handing sailors as anomalies in the couples dominated cruising scene; we also suggested that most single handers would probably choose to have mates on board if the circumstances were right. This sociological commentary on our part was based entirely on anecdotal evidence provided by the various solo sailors we've met. We had no personal experience ourselves. That is, not until this past week.
Last Wednesday, David took Eileen across Elizabeth Harbour into George Town so she could catch a flight to Florida. Eileen was scheduled to perform at the Miami Strictly Sail boat show. David wanted to go, too, but we couldn't afford two plane tickets and someone had to baby-sit "Little Gidding". Eileen was going to be gone for one whole week. In ten years of full time cruising, that's the longest time we've been separated. David didn't think he was going to like it. "I'll miss you," he said.
"I'll miss you, too," Eileen replied. "And don't do anything stupid like sink the boat while I'm gone."
It just so happened that the day after Eileen left, our friend Derek on the little sloop "Unity" arrived in Elizabeth Harbour. Derek is an experienced single hander; David's mother would have labelled him A BAD INFLUENCE. Derek might live by himself on his boat, but you rarely see him alone. He's very gregarious and makes friends easily, especially female friends. Most afternoons, he plays bridge with the card enthusiasts under the casuarina trees on Volleyball Beach. Later in the day, he joins the energetic throng at the volleyball courts on the beach. At night, more often than not you'll find him at one of the local bars: Chat 'N Chill, Eddy's Edgewater, or the Two Turtles.
Despite his carefree reputation within the George Town cruising community, Derek has undertaken a serious responsibility that he performs every morning by himself. Derek supervises the sunrise. David is one of the few people who know of Derek's solar commitment because he is also up just before dawn to go for a run on the windward beach on Stocking Island. No matter how late Derek has stayed up the night before, David sees him the next morning sitting up on the hill overlooking the breaking surf, coffee cup in hand, waiting for the sun to appear.
When Derek met David at the beach the morning after he had arrived and learned that David was temporarily single handing it, he enthused, "Great, we'll have some fun together."
David responded warily, "I promised Eileen I wouldn't sink the boat."
"Actually, I had a spear fishing expedition in mind. We'll take my dinghy; it won't involve your boat at all."
Derek has a go fast dinghy. Ours is slow and getting slower with age. "Great!" David said. "We'll engage in mortal combat with some giant crustaceans. We'll fight huge fish to the finish. We'll capture wild conch and show no mercy." Guys talk like this when there aren't any women around. It's that male primordial hunting instinct. Too much testosterone.
Saturday, David and Derek went hunting. Derek speared two lobsters while David spent most of the time stalking one huge lobster that refused to leave a hole in the coral where David's spear wouldn't reach. When they got back to the anchorage, Derek gave David one of his lobsters. Single handers look out for each other. "See you at the Valentine's dance," he cried.
Saturday night there was a dance at "Chat 'N Chill" organized by Ron and Karen on the sailboat "Sea Dancer". Their boat is aptly named; Ron and Karen are great dancers and they have one of the best collections anywhere of old rock 'n roll CDs. It was Valentine's Day so David came to the dance wearing a red Tee shirt. So did Derek. They started recounting all the giant forms of sea life that had managed to elude them earlier that day when a woman interrupted and asked Derek to dance. That was the last David saw of Derek that evening. He never left the dance floor. No one asked David to dance.
Yesterday, Eileen arrived safely back in George Town. David met her taxi in front of Exuma Markets. "I really missed you a lot," Eileen said. "Probably not as much as I missed you," David countered. "And I didn't sink the boat, either."
This morning David went for his run on the beach and saw Derek on the hill. The sun came up. In fact, David has noticed that the sun has been coming up a minute or two earlier each day. Derek is doing a good job. But David's decided he wouldn't ever want to change places with him. Single handing just isn't that much fun.