National Geographic : 1948 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine The next morning we bounced through the gap behind the Cordilleras Reefs, and on the afternoon of April 27 came to anchor off the Club Nautico in San Juan Harbor. Thus ended one phase of our cruise. We had planned to loaf from Port of Spain to San Juan, staying at each island as long as we wanted, anchoring every night. We had taken three and a half months to sail 900 miles. So far the three of us-helped by guests on a couple of short runs-had sailed up without hardship or difficulty. But from here on we had to do some passage making. Long runs can be very tiring when only two men must split "watch-and-watch." To our delight we were joined by an old shipmate, Henry K. Rigg, of Annapolis, a top sailorman. Steady Trades Fill Our Spinnaker We gave Bunny a fine introduction to Trade Wind sailing; after we left San Juan Harbor the wind was dead astern, so we hoisted the small spinnaker-a parachutelike sail set on the opposite side from the main. The mizzen, or after sail (Plate XXXII, upper) was doing little except blanketing the main, so we furled it, rigged a cockpit awning, and slid along admiring the view and pitying all landsmen. But conditions did not long remain ideal- they never do, not even in this part of the world. With night the breeze dropped off to leave us wallowing horribly in the Mona Pas sage, where we had anticipated good wind. With morning the Trades came back, and for the next two days and nights the storied coastline of Hispaniola lay to port as Carib rolled along in the track of the early Spanish navigators. We were at Cap Haitien before dawn of the fourth day to replenish our supply of ice and fresh stores, and to make a visit to Chris tophe's palace. The next stop was the island of Great Inagua, one of the Bahama group, where an American family, the Ericksons, have revived the ancient salt industry. Sea water is run into flat areas called "pans" to be evaporated by the fierce heat of the sun (page 36). Salt forms in huge crystals on the bottom and is harvested by hand or machine. At one stage the water becomes a deep rose in color. This is caused by red algae that grow in the brine-an expert can estimate the density by the color (Plate XXX). On my stop the year before only Bill Erickson was on the island, as his brothers were still in military service; this time, how ever, the family was reunited, and we were fortunate enough to arrive for a party. No one could see this group and what it has accomplished without realizing that the old American pioneering spirit has not died. Beyond Great Inagua lay familiar waters. We were backtracking our runs of the previous winter-the Mira Por Vos Pass, Crooked Island Passage, and Exuma Sound. The wind stayed in the east as we slid along with sheets freed and a fishing line trailing astern. Nassau is like a second home to us, and it was with excitement that we dropped anchor off Prince George Wharf.* For the last lap we were joined by another friend, Dan Rugg, of Pittsburgh, just recover ing from an illness. While some might ques tion the benefits of a pitching small boat for the relief of a stomach disorder, Dan improved rapidly-proving that nothing really bothers a true sailor except life ashore. The favoring current of the Gulf Stream helped us on our ocean run up the Atlantic coast, and 3 days, 4 hours and 30 minutes after we crossed the bar off Hog Island, buoy "6C" at the entrance to Charleston, South Carolina, was alongside. As Carib passed through the jetties, the water changed color from blue to muddy brown, and another phase of the trip was finished. We had covered the 1,500 miles from San Juan in three weeks, even with a week's layover in the Bahamas. For the next five days we "ditch-crawled" the Intracoastal Waterway, powering up through the Carolinas and Virginia, enjoying the scenery and the mirror-smooth water, almost overwhelmed by the perfume of the honeysuckle that grows along the banks of the canals. "Beware of the Chesapeake!" The weather forecast at Norfolk promised fresh winds, but it took the motor to push us up the home stretch, Chesapeake Bay. Then, off Thomas Point Light, with almost 3,000 miles astern and only 3 ahead, we had our tragedy. I was lazing at the wheel admiring a white steamer and the graceful curve of the bow wave as it spread across the glassy water. Suddenly Carib stuck her snoot into that wave, her mind doubtless occupied by thoughts of her comfortable stall at the Annapolis Yacht Club, now so near. She gave a startled leap, and there was a crash from the cabin-the coffeepot had upset over everything! "Beware of the Chesapeake on a calm morning," someone should have warned. * See "Bahama Holiday," by Frederick Simpich in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1936.