Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pittstown Point, Crooked Island, Bahamas

0 nm
Wind: SE 10-15 knots, afternoon thunderstorms (as usual)

After all my indoor boat tasks were done this morning, I decided to attack that one aspect of boat maintenance that has so far passed below my purview: the bottom. Cue the Jaws music. I was doing well--my spirits were high, my motivation constant--I had even managed to bake a pie crust for the key lime pie that was to me my gift for Karl this evening. The only thing left was the worst job of all.

I put on my Kathy Ireland-designed bathing suit that looks more like a workout outfit circa Jane Fonda’s 1980s (it was obtained used), and dove right in. That may be a slight exaggeration. First, I engaged in a sustained bout of sunbathing, that arcane art also of 1980s vintage involving turning oneself as if a hot dog on a spit. In middle school I had it down to a science--fifteen minutes on each side, with an obscure mathematical formula computed internally to compensate for oversleeping minutes on either side, ensuring an even brown.

Sunbathing may be denigrated these days, but don’t underrate it. It’s a form of therapy, really--a combination of meditation and endurance sport. I still remember those heady and overjoyed days from Thailand when I would rise up from my towel in a daze of heat and coated with sweat, light-headed, and plunge into the ninety-degree water that now felt icy cold. Like a Swedish sauna. I still insist the sun has to be good for you. Maybe not taken to the extreme (I wouldn’t recommend sunbathing for twelve hours straight, nor do I approve of tanning beds in the slightest, just as I wouldn’t recommend overstaying one’s fifteen minutes of alloted time in the hot tub), but in moderation. I haven’t been sunbathing at all since I’ve been in the Bahamas, not in the focused Las Vegas-showgirl sort of way, despite the surfeit of gorgeous sunlight. It seemed profligate when we were meant to be adventuring and working and sailing and boating instead of being on vacation.

Today, though, I felt I had earned it. If we’re really going back to the States for the heart of winter (are we crazy? Certifiable? I believe I have answered that before with a resounding yes), then I need to mainline my Prozac in as vast of quantities as I can manage. I need to have every inch of flesh toasted to an even nut brown and my hair as close to platinum as I can manage, skin cancer be damned. It’s the only way I’m going to survive Maine, Chicago, and Massachusetts in November and December.

Eventually I had to give in to the sweat and dive in, which had been the plan all along. Delude myself into thinking that cooling myself off by diving into the scum-soaked water is a good idea! All went well at first, even considering that I discovered a filigree of tentacle-like algae clinging to the swim ladder. This I attacked with a vengeance, moving on to the scum above the waterline on the port side. I decided on this approach so I would have a tangible feeling of progress, in addition avoiding using our now-leaky mask to survey the real damage. (For the boat-savvy: the water-line scum was a full three inches above our bootstripe. Does that give you an idea of how rolly the anchorage is?) In addition to all the other obstacles, Secret had not stopped bouncing around to get her bath. The swell takes on a whole different perspective when every time the boat rolls she slaps water into your face.

Still, things were going quite well when I finished the port side and moved on to the starboard. In passing behind the transom, I decided to take one more swipe at the nasty tentacle-y things clinging to the swim ladder, then began to spray and scrub to starboard, as I had done to port. Then, I swear: the boat stung me. I kid you not. I became aware of a burning sensation on my left shoulder, under my arm, and stretching up the side of my neck. At first I thought it was just general underwater angst, my skin adjusting to the salt or something, but as the burning progressed to itching, stinging, then all-out pain, I made a break for the border.

My general theory is that it was the stuff growing on the swim ladder. I cackled gleefully as I pulled the ladder up out of the water. Take some ultraviolet radiation, sucker!! Of course, it could have also been jellyfish polyps floating around the boat, or even disembodied jellyfish tentacles, like the man-o-war tentacle I was stung by in Eleuthera when I was fourteen. But I persist in believing it was something growing down there.

Karl rolled his eyes when I told him my tale over dinner--he thinks I blame the bottom growth for everything. He’s not the one that has to face it, in all its ugliness. I was trying, though, and I have not yet given up the fight. Now its made me angry, and I won’t rest until the whole thing has been wiped clean. As Karl has said, now we have a whole ecosystem living under there--little fish living off the algae, whole schools of blue runners living off the little fish, and a two-foot-long barracuda that has taken up residency and is living off the schools of blue runners. It’s almost a shame to disturb it. It’s also disheartening: what’s the point, really? For an extra half-knot of speed when we take the boat down to French Wells? It’s all just going to come back worse by the time we come back to the States, and we still have no good prospects for a haul. Somehow el cheapo bottom paint from West Marine (we paid fifty bucks a gallon) doesn’t work so well in summer in the tropics. Who’da thunk it?

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