Fire and Flood

Fire and Flood

Storms swept through the northeast this week keeping people grounded on airport runways and trapping others indoors. We learned that every state in the nation but Florida reported snow. The forecast predicted 25-35 mph winds from Friday night through Tuesday in the Bahamas, so on Friday morning we headed up island to Paradise Beach. The north end of the island has been developed by Hilton into “Resort World,” and the beach Chris’ 2003 guidebook said was great for snorkeling now has a fancy-looking restaurant with giant speakers that pipe out music so loud that you can hear it when your head is underwater even half a mile out.

Later that night the winds ratcheted up as predicted. I had already woken up several times to secure loose lines that were thwapping against the mast, but at 5 am Greg looked out the portholes and then sprang into action. The Frenchman’s boat, the only one spinning on one anchor instead of two, was being dragged backward by the wind. It was only a matter of time before it slipped right back into us.

We had already discussed moving to the Big Game Club, the marina where we’d seen the bull sharks. At least for a few days, until the winds tapered off. We just hadn’t planned to do it in the dark.

Within minutes all four of us were on deck. We once again brought up the anchors like pros, but before we could get the boat secured in the slip, the sky broke open and rain pelleted down on us. Greg drove the boat into the slip and we hopped around securing the docklines and fenders, extremely careful not to slip lest we end up in shark-infested waters.

Then we all stripped down out of our drenched clothing, piling it in a bucket beside the main hatch, and went back to sleep.

When we woke again, after hours of rain, Chris went into town to buy ice and found the streets swollen shin-high with water.

“Unbelievable,” she said when she arrived back at the boat. “Already on this vacation we’ve experienced a squall, anchoring in the driving rain and record flooding.” That night we would be able to add “fire” to the list. As Gabe was making dinner, I sat in the cockpit washing out plastic ziplock bags in a giant bucket of soapy water and absent-mindedly instructed him on how to fill the alcohol stove with fuel. Next thing I knew Chris let out a shriek, “We need to cover it with something!”

I looked down into the boat and saw flames coming out of the back of the stove. I grabbed the bucket, plastic bags and all, and dumped it on the burners. One small flame survived, so I dropped to the deck, loaded up another bucketful and dumped it on the stove too. I was trembling. It wouldn’t take much for Lemonade to go up in smoke.

It turned out that no one had shown Gabe how to remove the blue pads that keep the fuel from evaporating out of the burners, so he’d poured the fuel through the top. It had then slid down the blue pads and off the back of the stove. When he thought he was lighting the burner, he was actually lighting uncontained fuel. To be fair, I had done something similar a few days before he and Chris arrived. I had removed the blue pads but poured the fuel down into the burner reservoir while it was still lit. The flame jumped to the cup in my hand and sent me into a panic.

In the end there was no damage. I spent the evening mopping up saltwater from around all of the utensils stored under the stove, we all learned a bit more about the systems on the boat, and we ended up grilling the cauliflower and potatoes – which were delicious.

Saturday was also the day we got word from the new neighbors back in Florida that our apartment manager was taken off life support. Throughout all our adventures, he has never been far from our thoughts. That night we raised a toast to him, and to life.

Later, when I walked up to take a shower at the Big Game Club, the three-sided boat glided out from under a dock. Mystified at how it could have weathered the storm, I watched it weave a meandering course through the slips and out toward the channel and the open sea.