I started planning for my journey the next day. Most of the white-haired snow birds fluttered through in October, and we were already well into November. We set the departure date as the l4th of November. Once Jonah agreed to the plan, he did everything he could to make my trip a success.
Most of what I did was to sit back and watch people work, but I did have some priorities. One of them was to ignore John as much as possible. I cuddled my experience with him in my gut area and every time I touched that area I got braver. He did, however, manage to have Jonah put his VHF radio on Aquarius, claiming that he could not use it during the winter.
I spent most of my time assembling materials. I took a variety of writing materials. I have agreed to Jonah's request that I write of log of what was happening on the trip and mail it to him whenever I had a chance to do so.
Because I realized that getting a proper diet could be a serious problem, I also took along some powdered milk and vitamins figuring that would take care of my basic needs if I were in short supply. I did. of course, purchase canned foods.
I spent some of my time running down the government supply store in Riverdale, a town near my home, to find charts. Surprisingly, they did have a federal center there that edited and published federal charts. They had all that I needed. They did not have the chart books which I found much later along the way.
I did not buy any new clothes but laundered and mended those that I normally wear on the boat. Mostly I wore a swimming suit and added a sweat shirt top when I got cold. I did take along a couple of dresses in case I found some situation too formal for shorts.
The Yacht Yard workers were using the boat to make changes which Jonah thought would make single handing the boat easier. They installed the winches for the foresail on the cabin close to the cockpit so I would not have to go forward to adjust the sails while underway. They also installed a new depth-finder to replace the one that did not work on our October cruise.
As I would just be in the way while this was going on, I piled all the things I had collected for the journey in large plastic bags and would stow them in proper places when I got underway.
The final day arrived. My son had driven up from Florida with his family to see me off on my journey. They picked me up at four o'clock and took me out to the boat where Jonah was working on last minute details. He still had a long list of things to be done. Equipment was on board to do them, and I would have to do them myself. They were minor, though, like installing hooks for hanging storage hammocks. The boat was in good condition for sailing, even though a mass of confusion.
I threw my bags into the cabin and the five of us drove down to Happy Harbor Inn, a restaurant located a few miles from where our boat is slipped, for dinner. This is a seafood restaurant built over the water. It rollicks with water people who come there to eat their catch and drink draft beer. The building is rickety with pilings that seem to sway at times. The atmosphere is so jolly that I often wonder if the building does not literally rock with laughter rather than with the waves. The food is fresh, served hot and with the same earthy spirit that permeates the patrons.
The gods were with me because the special of that night was oysters. We stuffed ourselves with oysters on the half shell, oyster stew, oyster puffs, and fried oysters, all enhanced with a creative salad bar. My toddling grandson did a monumental task of plastering the high chair tray and the floor around him, smiling benignly with large brown eyes all the while.
Satiated with oysters, I told the waitress what we were celebrating – single handing a Tartan 27 to Florida for the winter. Word of my eccentric trip spread rapidly through the crowd. I should have known they would have been staunch supporters! I moved blissfully through congratulations to the door.
My son almost broke my rib cage when he hugged me goodbye. The baby yawned and his mother smiled through tears as they left. Jonah and I went off on a last minute errand to deliver the Tartan Association newsletter which I had gotten through the printing stage, but not in the mail. We were to meet another Tartan couple at Galesville's racing headquarters – The Pirate's Cove Bar. Much to my surprise, I found a group of friends who had gathered to wish me a fond farewell. It was the strangest farewell party I ever attended.
At first I took each comment seriously. "Do you have a safety harness?' Robert asked.
Yes, I think there is one on the boat," I replied.
"No, there isn't," Jonah replied. "I took it off."
Immediately Robert left the bar. "Be back in a minute," he said. And he returned with a brand new, top quality safety harness. He carries one in his car because he thinks they are so important.
The Tartan sailor I expected to meet is an ex-navy captain. He took the harness and showed me how to don it, giving minute instruction about how to use it. "Don't trust the life rail," he said. "Fasten it on something more solid."
Uneasy about having to use such a thing, I listened attentively and thanked them thoughtfully. But I had some doubts. "Goodness. I mused, how will I be able to concentrate on handling the boat if I am saddled with all of this paraphernalia?" I had to admit, hat I would be in trouble if I fell off the boat.
"Do you have a hacksaw aboard?" asked Bill.
"Yes. We always carry one. It's a
CBYRA safety requirement," I said
" You know why they require it, don't you?" he asked.
"No, not really," I replied.
" It's so you can saw off the steel stays if your mast breaks," he explained.
I gulped at my drink and said nothing.
"I grew up in Jacksonville," Hank said.
"Those currents going through the bridges will suck you right through. It's best to take the currents against the
tide and gun up your motor so you won't broach as you are going through.
"You know about Albermarle Sound, don't you,?" asked Joan. "It gets so
rough that tugs have wrecked there with all lives lost."
"Yes," I replied. "I'll watch the weather reports when I get near." I had a lot
of respect for Albermerle Sound. It is very shallow and when the wind
blows up on her, she gets astoundingly rough.
"One of the worst things we saw when we went to Florida on my daughter's power boat was the way the tug boats take tall the water out of the ditch," said Becky. "All you can see is dry land behind them, and there isn't any place for you to go."
By then I was beginning to laugh inside. Soon it was all I could do to keep from laughing in their faces. They meant well, but they were unduly concerned about my welfare. Thousands of boats take this trip every year and most of them get through one way of another.
The ex-Navy Captain was practical. "Just from a statistical point of view, chances are pretty good," he said, "that you'll have some kind of trouble with your motor. You know I have airplane privileges and can fly anywhere without cost. If you need help, let me know and I will come."
Bless him and bless them all. The women cried when they hugged and kissed me goodbye. The men all kissed me too, and I left the party with tears in my eyes, tears of joy for having such friends who cared so much.
Jonah was the only one who came anywhere near dissuading me. He didn't realize he was arguing against the trip. It happened when we got back to Aquarius after leaving the party.
I'd have one last thing I'd like to do before you go," he said. He got out the tool box he had prepared for me. It was a large green heavy plastic box with two tiers in it. The upper tier contained many compartments, The lower tier was full of large heavy things. He patiently went through it all, explaining what each was. I listened quietly throughout the review, knowing all the while I would not remember a bit of it. I am not mechanical, and he is speaking a foreign language.
As he talked, I began to hear the screams of the butterflies. It was so soft at first that I did not realize what it was. As Jonah continued to lower my self esteem the screams of the butterflies became so loud that I could not even hear what Jonah was saying. We went to bed right after Jonah finished his task, he in the V berth and me on my cockpit bed. In spite of the screaming, I began to think of John. He had returned from his vacation sail while I was on our October cruise. His divorce was completed and he had moved to Annapolis moving "Id" to a city marina. As my ire against him leaped again into action, the screams went away. I went to sleep thinking that I would show John how mechanical I can be when the need arises.
This series begins with Scream of the Butterfly.