The Lure of Sirens
The tradition of sailors abandoning their quest for the comfort and pleasures of shore – both real and imagined – is a pretty long one. I’m in good company. Or at least lots of company.
I had a quiet night of owls and shooting stars. Plenty of sleep. Over coffee, fruit and granola, it was cozy in the shelter of the little cove. (Writing this from Montreal, I realize I don’t have the photo of Kevin in Slip Jig anchored in the cove. I’ll have to add it later.)
Out in the main stem, things were not so tranquil. A steady procession of wavelets were driven into the cove, stumbling then collapsing as they crossed the threshold. On the far bank across St. Leonard, and on the ridge that protected the cove, the trees were waving vigorously in unison like a chorus line. What we left behind in the river the day before had come looking for us overnight. We watched the other boats across the way pull up anchor and start beating into it. While stowing the gear, images of the rough entrance to St. Leonard the evening before kept replaying in my head. It would be worse today.
It took me two tries to leave Rollins Cove. Drifting slowly out of the dead air I braced for the punch, but was still surprised when it hit, and didn’t have leeway to clear the point. Kevin B., I noted, was starting out with a reef. Spiraling back into the creek, I tightened up the sprits as far they’d go and tried again with a running start.
The tortured track out of the creek and back to Broomes Island.
The wind was coming hard out of the SSW, barreling straight down the Creek and bouncing off the walls. It made for challenging and technical sailing. A lot of fun ripping past each other in close quarters on opposite tacks, often zipping by close enough to pass a beer between boats. But you had to be on your toes.
I headed over to Steve Flesner’s to refill water bottles. His house was set back in a pocket of the west bank, another dead air spot, and I found him standing on the dock with his camera. He kindly held Aeon off the pilings while I ran up to the house and back.
photo Steve Flesner
Back out in it again, I passed Doug on a couple of close tacks. He shouted we were stopping at the entrance of the creek to pow-wow and make a plan. Things were not looking so good. There’s a sand beach just inside the mouth, off to the side out of the wind. I caught up with the others there.
Folks were looking concerned. Ron’s mast was bent further already, and we expected much worse conditions out in the river. There was worry it might break. The mouth of the creek was treacherous, too, with waves piling up at the entrance. We’d have to tack against the wind into all that to get out. The outgoing tide would help us make headway – we wouldn’t have to fight both wind and tide – but the current against the wind making the waves bigger. We walked around the corner for a better view. It looked like a big corral of wild horses, and made my stomach churn.
I asked about staying in the creek another night. We could head up to Vera’s, get a seafood dinner and drinks! Head back tomorrow. Problem solved! This idea was sounding pretty brilliant to me, a lot better than getting trampled by horses in the mouth of the creek. Pete shook his head. Tomorrow would be worse. Small Craft Warnings. We also had to get to the ramp at high tide to get Mike’s boat out.
Vera’s from Google Earth
Well, Vera’s looks like a big marina, I bet they have a ramp. What if we just stay in the creek? Then a couple of us get a ride back to pick up some cars, come back and haul out, then take the others back for their cars? Possible. George said his wife could give the first group a lift. I called Vera’s – sure enough, they had a nice deep ramp, easier to get the Haven out. Just $5 to retrieve a boat. About half the group liked this idea. The other half, the bigger boats, wanted to go for it. There was a timing issue for some, and they wanted to get to different spot for the night.
Ron and I had the smallest boats. I knew if I got out of the creek OK, I’d be fine. But I also new if I got back to Broomes Island I’d haul out. Tomorrow didn’t sound fun, and I didn’t like the idea of others having to change their plans because of me, and certainly didn’t want anyone putting themselves at risk trying to fish me out of the river because I was foolish enough to keep going. If I got back my trip was done. Ron had other worries, but he was done, too, regardless of which ramp he reached.
I offered to stay with Ron. He and I would hang in the creek, which was fun sailing, get a good dinner and some margaritas. We’d have a great time. Then tomorrow, after the rest were all loaded up, someone could swing by and give us a lift back to pick up our cars. Every time I imagined turning over in the big washing machine just around the corner. this whole plan was seeming exponentially better. Just spiffy, in fact. Ron thought so, too. He had gone from ashen-faced to downright beaming. That pretty much settled it.
Then the wind eased a bit.
We all shoved off and made test runs back and forth, initially planning to go separate ways. It was a brief lull, but it only took a few minutes for the waves to back down from terrifying to just scary. Pete hollered, “What do you think? Ron’s game! I’ll follow you, and the other two Marsh Cats will follow him.”
“If I can get out of the creek, I’m good!” The biggest boats headed out first, Mike in the Haven and Ken in the O’Day. The rest of us tacking just inside. Then two Marsh Cats. Then Ron, then me, the Handy Cat, and Pete in the last Marsh Cat.
It was still a pretty wild ride. I crossed to the east bank twice, before realizing that was the roughest part. Then I got around a headland to a more sheltered crook where I could work my way out slowly with less stress. Once around the last point of land, I shot west on a beam reach, hugging the shoreline in case I got in trouble and needed to swim the boat ashore. As I got farther into the broad shallow bay formed by Broomes Island, the water tamed considerably, even as the wind picked up again.
At that point it was actually fun. I sat up hanging haunches off the rail, and Aeon drove along stable and fast, averaging 5 knots over the whole 3 miles. I don’t know if the two Pete’s in Obadiah were having a hard time keeping up, but they sure didn’t pass me.
Ron made it safely back, as well, and frankly everyone was relieved. Though conditions on the water were moderating some, tomorrow’s prospects were not improving. He and I hauled out and started packing.
I had earnest invitations to ride along on other boats: Ken’s O’Day, Kevin M’s Marsh Cat, or Doug’s. Next time I’ll probably do that. It’s always nice to be able to focus on working a camera while someone else works the sheets and the tiller. But I was tired and hungry, and I swear I could hear siren songs from Vera’s calling me across the water.
We shot some photos and video of the Marsh Cats for an article Doug is writing, then they all tied in reefs and headed out. I headed for Vera’s.
The original Vera was quite a character, apparently. At one time she had aspirations to be a movie star and lived in Hollywood. When she married and moved east, she and her husband bought a large piece of land on the water and turned it into a private playground. When her husband died, Vera opened it up to the public, and held court every day gliding about in elegant silk caftans, waving a long slender cigarette holder. She wanted the whole place to be a sort of fantasy getaway, decorated with exotic items she collected from world travels, where you could forget your troubles and even where you were for a while. By all accounts she succeeded.
Sunbathers watching for sailors
Much of the original land was parceled off and developed over the years, so you have to wander through narrow neighborhood streets to get there, enough that you keep thinking you’re lost until you find the next sign pointing the way. When you finally arrive, the size and complexity of the place is too much to take in at once.
View from the docks on the golf cart loop
I found a table on the veranda; not just because I was three days without a shower, but perched high on the hill there was a great view of the water and the beach below. The food and drinks were reasonably good for the price, and positively gourmet compared to the previous nine meals I’d had.
The spirit of Vera lives on. There’s a pretty young girl who’s sole purpose appears to be circling the complex in a golf cart, ferrying guests from beach, to docks, to restaurant ,and back all day long, just so no one has to climb the hill. There are plastic palm trees that ring the restaurant, and live palms and palmettos growing down by the beach bar.
View from the terrace
The Beach Bar
Sirens and Satyrs
Boats come and go steadily – some docking, some nosing into the sand – discharging a stream of bikini clad crews to and from the bar, where the frosty drink blenders never seemed to stop running. The place certainly caters to all kinds. Some look like bikers on boats, some actually are bikers arriving overland. Some yachty types. Some crusty, unwashed open boat adventurers, washing up on the bank like dead fish. Well, OK, one anyway.
Texted a photo of the shrimp and oysters and margarita to the the guys. They were spending another night on the water, and had holed up out of the wind in Battle Creek near to the ramp. Apparently, quite a roar of anguish went up when they opened the message. I may have exaggerated a tad about reclining in the shade, being fed delectable morsels of fresh seafood by a covey semi-nude nymphs, but not that much. You just have to squint your eyes some, let your imagination drift off the rhumb line a smidge, and it’s all true.
Really, it’s all true.