Father’s Day 2015 OK… Before we start, go grab a coffee (or beer if you’re in the right time zone) and put your feet up because this might take a few minutes. Been a very busy Father’s Day… First of all, justa big Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there, especially ours: Popeye & Granddaddy Pawpaw. thanks for your love, support, and awesomeness.
…it all started out with a best of intentions, in the wee hours. At this lat/long, sunrise is at 3:30am, which means the skies begin to get dusty by 1:30. My normal night shift has me on lookout for pirates, vessels, and weather from 11-3. So lucky for me, I’m the only one these days who is on watch in the pitch dark and pitching seas. Normally, I hear Ahab begin rumbling by about quarter ’til, my drooping eyelids yearning for the sleep. This morning it was especially cold and wet, so I spent most of my shift indoors with my eyes glued to the chart plotter. For twenty minutes I heard Ahab’s alarm going off to retrieve him from his slumber with no avail. That turd slept through his alarm, and all I could think of is what happens when you wake a tired, caged animal. So I let him sleep. Until 5am. That was my first mistake. Since the shopping out here on the high seas is quite limited, I decided to give Ahab what I would want: Sleep and corned beef hash.
After Ahab finally came to his senses, determining that I had not crashed into anything or gotten us lost, I was relieved from duty. Presto chango, I’m outta my foul weather gear, into triple layered jammies, snuggled in my rack in record speed. Fifteen minutes, just as the caffeine was wearing thin and I was drifting off, Ahab comes in and gingerly, pats my leg, “Um, hun? Before you fall asleep, can you help me put sails up?” I want to die. I was tempted to tell Ahab it was too late, and I had already fallen asleep, but somehow I don’t would he would have believed me. So, presto chango once again, I’m stripped outta my comfy cozies, back into foullies, and standing out in the cold, grey spitting mist of the English Channel. I’ve been up since 10:30 the night before, I’m freezing, and dunzo. Put a bullet in my head. I just want to to check into one them fancy like hotels, where they “triple sheet” the beds for comfort, the bathrooms are bigger than this boat, and soak in an overflowing steamy bubble bath….a girl can dream.
By six o’clock, Ahab has quit fiddling with the sails, and relieves me once again from duty. He promises that I “can sleep in as long as I want”. This is hilarious, because apparently he has forgotten that we have children who, if left to their own accord, would sustain themselves on candy and stale potato chips for breakfast. I managed to get a couple hours of sleep, glorious sleep. I think if I had a another child, I would name him Sleep, or Sir Sleepsalot…anyway…back to breakfast.
As you fine readers might remember from previous posts, Ahab really enjoys his food, especially a hot breakfast on a cold day. Since it was Father’s Day, I had planned a big one: Homemade buttermilk biscuits smothered in country style peppered gravy, corned beef hash, and eggs. It tends to be a bit of a production, but I actually enjoy this part of my commission. I had everything ready by about 9am, and was waiting ’til the last minute to load the eggs (who likes cold eggs?Yuck), when I looked astern…
I swear to Neptune, I cannot make this stuff up…I’m not that creative…..but it really did happen… Me: “Hey Guyon, do you see that large grey battleship heading right for us?” Ahab: “What? Hun? Ummmm….I wasn’t looking behind us.” Background: At this point we were in the Dover Straights of the English Channel. It’s the narrowest part of the channel, with land on both sides. I see London, I see France…We are fighting a 2-3 knot current, there are 5-7 foot swells pushing from behind. The winds are blowing astern at 20 knots, and cannot decide whether to be from the port or starboard, causing the rig to want to constantly jibe. The sea state is quite confused due to conflicting wind, swell, and current. Did I also happen to mention the 50 or 60 huge freighters, cargo ships, oil tankers, passenger ferries, and cruise ships swarming in all directions? At least it wasn’t raining. So, right after we spotted the previously mentioned frigate, Ahab is hailed on the VHF. It’s the French Coast Guard, prepare to be boarded.
Within a minute or two, they had a helicopter circle overhead a few times, until they could deploy their RIB. In the time it took Ahab to gather our passports and documents, the inflatable was rapidly approaching with four officers on board. Remember, we are still sailing in probably the worst conditions of the crossing, not mention traffic. The RIB came alongside perfectly (Kudos to their pilot, well done), and three officers, packing heat, and forms in triplicate had boarded WIDAGO. Now before we left the States, people would always ask, “Are you going to carry any guns? Weapons? What are you going to do about pirates?” The answer was always, “No guns or weapons. Too dangerous. We aren’t going in near the parts of the African Coast with pirates – don’t worry about it.” The last thing I imagined was that we would ever be boarded, especially by the French. Go figure.
In all fairness to the French Coast Guard, the officers were very courteous and professional. They went through all the paperwork, registration, gave the boat a thorough examination for contraband and the like, opening floor lockers, hatches, everything. Once the inspection was completed, and formed stamped, the officers gracefully returned to their waiting chariot (which the frigate and RIB had been trailing us this whole time. and we bid them adieu.
Sure am glad I waited to cook those eggs.