There are certain issues that couples avoid talking about. Craig and I avoided until recently the subject of weapons on the boat and failed to discuss the issue before we set off as newly-launched cruisers on our Maiden Voyage: British Virgin Islands to Panama via Jamaica.
Up until the unannounced scare outside of Puerto Rico, I thought, no way, not a cold day in hell, will I ever have guns on my boat. I thought of all those commercials I watched in America—if you have to have guns in the house, lock them up from curious toddler hands. I knew never to touch the armory my father possessed dating from WWII and the Korean War. He would take me out for target practice and I learned never to handle the guns without supervision.
I was already nervous about the 1,000-mile journey. We’ve talked about my fears, such as, what if Craig falls overboard? (I’m not worried if I fall over board, I know Craig will save me). Not only do I not feel confident in doing the MOB, but I just really don’t know how I would do it. Do I drop the sails first and then turn the engine on? Or maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, if I don’t save Craig then I’m a goner, too. I was a little frightened to do night watches but Craig assured me that he was only a shout away.
Our first night out at sea happened to be my first night-watch ever, so Craig helped me with the harness. (It makes me feel like I should be in the music video “Y.M.C.A.” with four fabulous gay men…makes me feel like a construction worker or a window washer…but mainly, it makes me feel safe.) Craig retired and I slouched into position behind the helm, port side, while Rita, our autopilot, maintained the course. Fifteen minutes into my watch, I heard something.
A speed boat? Maybe the wind, creating a wind chime with the back stay? I’m trying to get used to the various sounds on our boat. I can’t see anything. No lights to warn me of another boat. I scan, 360 degrees. Everyone is supposed to have their lights on at night, right? Suddenly a spotlight big as the full moon blasts through the cockpit, no further than 20 feet from port aft.
Pirates of the Caribbean. Drug runners. Highway robbery. Get ahold of yourself and get Craig up. We are going to be robbed if not murdered, hacked into little pieces, fed to the sharks. They will take everything—Rita too—Please, not Rita, she was so bloody expensive. These thoughts reel through my mind in milliseconds as I race to the companionway.
My new accessory, the harness, prevents me from rushing down below and pouncing on Craig in a mad frenzy. Like a chained Rottweiler, all I can do in my panic is yell, “A light! A light!” He knows from my voice that this is not just a red or green light in the distance.
Those next minutes seemed like hours—and our last hours at that. Craig figures out that the culprit is the U.S. Coast Guard, but not because they announced themselves for my surprise party. Aren’t they supposed to declare over a loud speaker that, “This is the U.S Coast Guard?” But they don’t. They say that in the movies. And I think, are they bloody crazy? What if we were some drug runners with guns aboard? And what would we do, as cruisers, if we had protection aboard? We’d pull it out, right? And then, would my welcoming party incarcerate us?
I’m livid from the situation. I guess I’ll write a letter of complaint from one American to the next. How lame…I’d rather give them the fright of their lives, you know, the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth theory. But Gandhi said, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
I still don’t want guns on board but what kind of protection should we have? Good thing we forgot about the flare gun we had on the boat, right? We could have pulled a Miami Vice on the U.S. Coast Guard because of absolute terror and then we would be spending our days in some prison where human rights are of no concern. We bought a machete in Jamaica but that’s for hacking through the jungle and bush in foreign lands.
For now, I would like to believe that the boater world is sheltered from the outside horrors of an unjust world. After all, isn’t this reason why the vast majority of people like me choose an alternative lifestyle as a cruiser?