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Monday, July 18, 2011

Remembering having Briefly Sailed a Sunfish while Tropical Storm Bret Looms Offshore...

Well it happens to be that time of the year when inclement weather is the norm here in South Florida and sure enough a Tropical Storm has popped up out of nowhere, all reminding me of a very brief yet memorable sailing experience from awhile back.

For you see, it was while vacationing in Cozumel and but a mere hour or so after disembarking from a flight out of Dallas, that against my better judgement, I foolhardily elected to rent a Sunfish for a quick afternoon sail before a category four hurricane was to make its arrival the next day.

Tourist activities were already being cancelled left and right by hotels and proprietors alike. Storefronts along the main beach front could also be seen being busily boarded up as well.

There were not to be any scuba excursions, or blue water fishing or even any reef snorkeling until further notice. Even the ubiquitous Pirate ship wouldn't be motoring out anywhere any time soon for an evening of boisterous and decadent frolicking.

The only activities that still remained available to tourist and that had yet to be cancelled were four-wheeling on the other end of the island and of sailing a sunfish. And it had already been announced that sunfish rentals would not be resuming the next morning.

Well of course, I just had to make the most of what remained of that afternoon and after forking over payment for an hour's time of rental, I'm dragging my Sunfish out to the waters edge when I hear the vendor calling out to me in Spanish, "sale rapido"!.

Well that young man who had just rented the Sunfish out to me certainly wasn't kidding and I was already second guessing my decision to want to go sailing after feeling the strong gusting winds blowing hard ashore and of seeing a lot of chop out in the water.

Payment nevertheless had already been made and requesting a refund was simply out of the question... (Hey it's Mexico for goodness sake and the concept of a refund was most certainly unlikely to happen to say the least.)

So in the water I go and no sooner had I dropped the keel and tightened the sails, when I feel the boat lurching forward while swiftly carrying me out away from the shoreline.

The gusting winds of that imminent hurricane had me immediately fearing for my well being all the while that dinky little boat slammed into one wave after another. I can't help but vividly remember this very moment, my rear-end being constantly lifted off the settee of the boat only to then get slammed back down hard against the hard fiberglass every time I'd hit a wave.

It was all I could do to keep that Sunfish upright and I had but one prevailing thought in mind and that was to sail immediately back to shore and live to sail another day.

I suppose that my first clue before pulling away from shore should have been that no one else was out sailing that day but heck, it was already too late for that. I now had but one pressing concern and that was to make a clean tack and to head on back to shore without capsizing the boat with me in it.

Needless to say, I was much relieved after successfully tacking for my one and only tack. Even the constant slamming of my rear-end up against the hard fiberglass was now somewhat bearable knowing that I was headed to shore.

I couldn't get off that Sunfish fast enough and I was most relieved that I hadn't capsized for I'm sure that I wasn't experienced enough to upright that treacherous little boat in such strong gusting winds.

That vacation turned out to be a memorable one if only because of how miserable it made everyone feel. That hurricane in September of 2002, cut a swath through the Yucatan Peninsula, eventually went offshore and then had the temerity to remain virtually stationary for days on end thus keeping everybody stranded at the hotel with nothing to do but drink themselves silly at the bar.

The irony of it all is that our flight to Cozumel had initially been scheduled a week earlier but was purposely rescheduled so as to avoid air travel on the anniversary of 9-11...

That brief sail couldn't have lasted more than twenty or so minutes but nevertheless had me fearing for my life the entire time I was out on the water. I can now unequivocally state that sailing small boats is certainly more challenging than sailing the larger ones.

The above image is of me preparing to set sail on my Sunfish back in the day.
Las Croabas, Puerto Rico 1997

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