|If you could lift your house, swing it around 180 degrees and set it back down, facing the opposite direction, even if just for a few days, for a change, would you?
One of the joys of living on a boat is the ability to do just that. When Hurricane Rina was described on CNN as “bearing down on Honduras,” John scratched his chin and gazed off into space.
“I think we should turn the boat around, at the very least. All the wind is going to come from the west and the north. We would be really sorry if something happened.”
Anxiety washed over me as I tried to envision the plan. “Can we at least wait until Joe, Doug and LH get back from down island?” I pleaded. “We sure could use the help.”
Patches of rain, driven sideways along the canal by the wicked wind of the west, etched random patterns on the surface of the water. Lines creaked and moaned, as horrific images of attempting to maneuver the boat in howling wind raced through my troubled mind.
“We need to do it before it get dark. It’s easy,” assured the captain, still scratching at the two day, pre-hurricane stubble on his chin. “We don’t even need to start the engines, just tie the bow off, push the stern out and the wind will do the rest.”
“But how will we get the stern back in once it swings around?” I asked, unable to envision the sequence of events. I vaguely remembered doing this back home, years ago, in our narrow canal in Keswick, but here, in the tropical storm wind, along a busy waterway, it seemed a much more daunting task.
“Don’t worry, you’ll see,” he said, “here climb up on the bow and cleat the end of this line off on the port side.”
I wound the long, back-up anchor line under the pair of anchors that hang on the pulpit, cleated it off, hopped back down and helped the captain switch fenders from the starboard to port side.
I stood on the dock by the bow with the long anchor line in my hand, while John pushed the stern of the boat out into the canal for the wind to work its magic. I guided the bow so it didn’t scrape along the dock and walked it up along the dock as the stern came slowly around to rest on the opposite side, precisely the way John had promised me it would.
We disassembled our power cord, neatly arranged along the length of the dock, tucked in and under trees and shrubs, and re-positioned it, across the lawn between the dock and the house, in order that it would reach across the aft deck to the starboard side, which is where the connections to the boat are.
We are docked on the “wrong” side of the boat now, as our water intake is also on the starboard side, but these are minor details. We are bow into the gusting wind and ready for Rina. Inside the boat we barely feel the wind, and our back door, which we have had closed again the driving rain for the past week, can be left wide open. Even our port side windows, facing south, are open and dry behind me, as I face the streams of rain rolling down the outside of the windows across from me.
Despite the oncoming hurricane, I am giddy with excitement. Everything seems as new to me as if we’d taken a trip. Instead of facing the house and my growing collection of tropical plants, as I have for the past two and a half years, I face the canal. Twin shrimp boats, hung with enormous green nets, decks a flurry of activity, are docked on the other side. Along the street I see the row of tiendas, or small grocery stores. Directly across from us is Hessie’s, a two-story cement structure, painted golden yellow with white trim and a covered balcony up top. Here is where the music that I first fell in love with, when we first landed here, wafts across the canal from. To the left of Hessie’s is the shrimp factory, where scores of employees pour out onto the dock at break time, identically shod in squeaky clean, sparkling white, rubber boots.
When I turn my head to the right, which normally is to the west, and the little footbridge that connects our spit of land to the town of Oak Ridge, I now face east, and my view is of the candy-coloured houses, perched on stilts above the water, that dot the shoreline, and behind the houses, the majestic peaks of Pandytown, one of the lovliest backdrops on the entire island.
I left John to finish tying lines while I ducked out to capture a shot of the twin shrimp boats. Tiny raindrops set the mood in front of an ominous, orange sky. Thankful later to have captured the moment in time, I woke in the middle of the night and looked out across the water, to find them gone, in search of somewhere safer, to ride out the storm.
Early to bed we went, not sure what to expect during the night, and we had company. I had first spotted him as I lay reading in bed the night before, a mouse, I thought, at first as he ran along beside my bed, and disappeared behind John’s closet. My book flung in one direction, reading glasses in another, I vaulted from the bed and through the boat, scaring the hell out of John, who sat peacefully at the captain’s table, headphones on, playing his favorite video game.
Pausing his game, John went in to save the day, a long knife in one hand, a flashlight in the other, in search of the creature, but it was gone, or so it seemed. The volume of the chewing sound above our heads a few hours later led me to believe that it was more likely a rat than a mouse, but either way, eventually we slept and woke in the morning, thankful to find that we had dodged the bullet.
The storm had moved far enough to the north that we would be feel nothing more than the heavy rain and driving wind that we experienced all week. A little cabin fever, to be sure, but on the bright side, a brand new vista. So, if you could, with little effort, even for just a few days, swing your house around 180 degrees, would you?