We had hoped to leave the day after Jackson’s departure, but strong kept us unfortunately stuck, as we did not relish the idea of being dashed to pieces on the coral, lining channel out of Luperon. We spent the day preparing for our sail back to Provo and stocking up on things like ice, Oreos, and beer…you know, the essentials. We spent a long morning the next day dealing with customs, because checking out of the country wound up being a multi-hour process, as our forms had to be passed from official to official, before experiencing one of the more humiliating moments in a trip absolutely packed with embarrassing experiences.
To understand just how awkward that morning was, I have to provide you with some context. We began a tradition in the Bahamas that we continued through the Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic. Basically, any time we pulled out of an anchorage or marina, we would blare the song “Eastbound & Down” by Jerry Reed (the inspiration for our boat’s name), while waving jauntily at all the cruisers who would inevitably come out on deck to determine the source of the ruckus. Now, you may be thinking to yourself “that sounds incredibly lame and immature” and you would be entirely correct (we are, after all, kids). You may also be imagining how funny it would be to see someone so cocky get their come-uppance by, I don’t know, running over a mooring line and finding themselves stopped short, unable to move as the music dies lamely and they have to call for help on the radio, blushing furiously. If so, you are in luck, because that is precisely what happened. I loosed us from the mooring ball, Ellen hit the music, and we began to pull away, stopping abruptly as we reached our mooring ball. Apparently there was a second line that we hadn’t seen, which maneuvered its way around our prop. This is, as we’ve discovered before, a rather effective impediment to motoring, so we called Papo on the radio, since we were somewhat concerned about cutting through his mooring line. He was kind enough to drive by immediately and take care of the line within minutes. After thanking Papo profusely, we finally pulled out of the harbor in the early afternoon, considerably humbled.
There was something almost vengefully triumphant about our sail back to Provo. After months and months of beating our faces into a merciless headwind, we finally fulfilled what we’d all been dreaming of as an East Southeast wind sent us speeding back towards the Turks and Caicos.The wind was brisk, though not too heavy, which was relief, as we were forced to run one-person shifts instead of two. A four-person crew allowed us essentially unrestricted travel, as we could always have two people on deck, watching out for one another, with two people asleep, ready to respond to an emergency, and preparing for their upcoming shift. We might not have gotten the most restful sleep (John, in particular, has displayed a reassuring capacity for anxiety that I didn’t think he had in him, and usually runs up on deck every half hour or so, worried that we have been crushed by a freighter and haven’t had the common decency to tell him), but over the course of all our off-shifts in 24 hours, we could usually put together a decent night of sleep.
With three people, however, a similar rotating schedule would require four hours on deck for every two hours off, a highly unpleasant ratio, with potential for disaster and a certainty of all of us refusing to speak to each other ever again before we made it a hundred miles. We therefore settled on a one-person, three-hour shift, with instructions for the driver to start blowing their emergency whistle to wake anyone and everyone within three miles if in any doubt of our safety. Additionally, John ran two lines from the cabin out to the back of the cockpit and made sure Ellen and I knew that if we planned on so much as sticking our heads up on deck, we had to have our life jackets on and be clipped in. Paradoxically, our ostensibly scarier shift schedule actually made for a six-hour off-shift, which made me, at least, feel significantly more alert and aware when on deck, as I wasn’t blearily staving off slumber. The lack of a spotter was riskier, sure, but with the driver clipped in and John sleeping like an anxious gazelle, it was actually far less reckless than it might appear. We arrived back at Southside Marina in Provo on Thursday afternoon, excited to meet up with Jay again (you may remember him from the At Last crew in Nassau) for our last days in the Caribbean before heading back to the U.S.