St Petersburg to Freeport, a Crew’s Perspective by Mike DeGeorge

Thanks to our dear friend Mike DeGeorge for his wondeful insight and guest blog.
Captain Don

25JAN2010 St Petersburg to Freeport, a Crew’s Perspective by Mike DeGeorge

I returned home on Saturday, Jan 23rd, after 8 days aboard Mary Rose V. I want to thank Don and Lana for allowing me to join them on their inaugural voyage from St. Petersburg, Florida to Freeport, Bahamas. As I write this, Mary Rose is some where amongst the islands headed toward Nassau in 15-25 Kt winds and 3-8 Ft seas. Don and Lana have done a great job blogging each step of the journey. So, I am thinking to myself, “What more could I possibly add?” This writing may wander from one thought to the next and for sure will not be poetic….for the record, I am not apologizing for that.

Why would anyone want to…..
... sail hundreds of miles in the sun, rain, wind, swells, darkness
… search for shelter and anchor from the elements
… tire from hours of keeping watch, sailing/sleeping
… get sea sick from greasy fries and sailing into the swells in the darkness
… wish for a hot shower and clean clothes after two days without

It is hard to understand if you focus only on what may appear to be the “inconveniences”.

I wanted to go on this initial leg of Don and Lana’s journey for many reasons…
… spend time with great friends
… experience the unexpected and magical moments
… wanting to learn more about myself and what I am capable of
… motivated to stretch myself beyond my comfort level and grow

It is easy to understand when you awaken in the middle of the night to take your turn at the helm. Ascending from the belly of the boat, the water is like glass, 2000+ feet deep, in all directions and reflecting the stars or the steaming light (I can’t tell which). No boats, no land. Looking out a little further in all directions, it looks like fog, but it is really just darkness. We are heading into the abyss. If it was not for the sound of the boat gliding through the water and the changing picture on the GPS, you would not be sure you were actually making progress toward your destination. Looking up past the apparent fog on the horizon, there are billions of stars in all directions. Your own personal planetarium….only it’s real (I think)! Oh yeah, did I mention the illuminated plankton glowing and dancing in the water moving past the boat and in the quiet wake of the hull. I have never seen anything like it. Just one of many first time experiences that seem like a dream.

It is about relying on your own capabilities, preparing for what might happen (let me tell you, Don and Lana ARE prepared), and then relying on your skills and faith to get you through nature’s challenges. As we were crossing the gulf stream from Key Largo to Freeport in the middle of the night, there were times when you thought you were the only boat on the water until you looked at the radar screen. At times, it looked like a ware movie (or video game) with incoming bogies waiting to be shot down. I lost count of the blips on the screen. We knew we would be crossing shipping lanes, but what were all of these reflections on the radar screen? Ghosts, ships, or ghost ships? Were they real? Yep, they were real. We could see ship lights 3-6 miles out with good visibility, but not sure what kind. Then we realized they were giant oil tankers in every direction. Trying to figure out if they were coming toward us or going to miss us….we were highly motivated not to get in their path (and stay on course for our destination). I am pretty sure the tanker crew would not even know if we happened to become a hood ornament on the hull or a speed bump in the water. No need for a night time stimulant when you are trying to avoid meeting Davy Jones before sunrise. Then it was my time to sleep while Captain Don took the Helm. I was tired but could not sleep thinking about the radar screen and the ships lurking in the darkness. Then, when I finally did go to sleep, I was wakened by a surge in the sound of the engine only later to learn that we were being chased in circles trying to avoid a shrimp boat. It was a time for having faith in your captain, admiral, and a sound boat. Then, I relaxed and fell asleep.

It is about connecting with nature and other cultures. It is about helping people along the way. The people on Grand Bahama Island are incredibly friendly. They rarely walk past you without saying hi or good morning. Our waitress sang us a song at breakfast. We wanted to meet more of the local people and see how they live, so we walked down the street (away from the tourist area) to catch the bus. After a friendly barter, the public city bus (van) driver (Rudolf, 59 years old, never married, 11 kids, 10 grand kids) agreed to give us a personal tour of the island. He took us down town which highlighted the courthouse, jail, auto parts store, grocery store and others. The driver said high to someone at every corner. We moved on down Queens Highway between the ship yards and the oil storage field. We eventually made it back to the coast and down a road where many local Bahamians live. Houses were made of cinder blocks. Segments of land along the road were owned by different “families” indicated by the names on the signs (i.e., Mack). If you were a blood relative in the family you could build on the land. Driving down the road, some of the houses were convenience stores, bars, and a bakery (see Lana’s previous blog post). We got to see how most of the local people live and even meet a few along the way. Oh, did I forget to say we stopped and tasted the local rum? Next time you see Admiral Lana, ask her about “Fire In The Hole”…..enough said.

It is about enjoying good friends. My last night on Mary Rose V….We are all a little tired….Lana having swam with the Dolphins just a few hours earlier….Enjoying an island beverage. And then….Captain Don started calling and pranking our relatives telling them he was a Constable with the Commonwealth of the Grand Bahamian Police and they needed to come to the Bahamas to bail us out of jail for swimming naked on the beach. We laughed so hard, I was crying. Thanks to those who we took advantage of and for being good sports.

Was it a vacation, adventure, unique experience, magical, peaceful, uncertain, challenging, fun, tiring, amazing, a great time with great people? Yes…..AND MORE!!!

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