Chronicles of Cruising III
I alone have a skill that NONE of you other sailors possess. You might be close, but this takes years of practice. Now that I have your attention, some background first...
Ever made a passage? Ever been at sea for a while? Let me tell you what it is like: Got sit in the bathroom with the door closed for a few days. When you come out, all of your senses are hightened. You can fell every movement of the boat. You can hear every clang of the rigging (and know when something is amiss). Your sense of smell and taste are vastly increased to superhuman proportions.
Passagemaking is a spiritual phenomenon. It helps one to come to appreciate all the things in life we take for granted. A little starvation, bland foods, broths for supper, chunking over the side... yep, all part of the spiritual enhancement we call passagemaking.
There is an island off of the South Florida coast called Useppa. It is a favorite for cruisers after a long punch through the gulf because it is fairly well protected and is an easy access to and from the gulf. It is often very crowded with sailors that have just made their gruelling run. Especially when the seas are bad, it makes a perfect refuge. And, it is when the seas are bad and it is especially full, I make my grill-run.
What is a Grill run? Let me explain. You anchor just up wind of all of the cruisers. You pull out your grill and the days cooking. My personal favorite for a grill run is a whole chicken. I do not use those Pilgrim Prides... nope, not enough yellow, greasy fat on those birds. The fatter, the better. Now, crank up the grill and throw on the poultry!! Nothing smokes like a fat yellow chicken. Second, I have a small personal cooler filled with ice and a bottle of Jack Daniels on the cockpit table. As the smoke drifts across the anchorage (where all the hatches are open), our newest arrivals (passagemakers) inevitably stick their heads out of their portals, dodgers, hatches, etc wondering and saying, "How in the world is that smoke drifting into my boat... and MAN that smells good!" (PS, did I mention there are NOOO grocery stores anywhere near by).
(Now the part of my special skill)
It takes patience and practice, but I can steer my boat while anchored. It sometimes requires a good current, sometimes a bit of the main (and there are other tricks, but I am not telling)... but I can steer with my left toes, support myself with my right foot, hold my ICE-mixed drink in one hand, and my grill utensils in the other. The trick is that you have to learn to do this while staring over your shoulder to make sure that line of chicken smoke makes its way just down the forward hatch of the anchored boats and out the companionway. When their head pops out (mouth watering, I might add), I waive hello, take a long swig of Jack, toss the ice into the water (this part is very important since they probably do not have any ice), and refill. Their eyes get wide, some get envious, many get angry, but few understand that this cruisers-boot camp is neccessary for them.
My wife calls this cruel and sadistic. That is not the case at all. I just want to help everyone after a long days sail to enjoy and appreciate the spiritual aspects of passagemaking. However, as fate would have it...
On one especailly blustery day (to quote Pooh Bear), the anchorage especially filled, my chicken especially smoking, and my Jack especially flowing, I reached down inside my cooler to refill my glass with ice for another admiring cruiser. The wind had been blowing hard all day (and still was) and I had been fighting to keep the grill lit. I had stuffed every orifice with foil and had to keep the burner on HI. A lesser sailor would have given up and taken his bird below... but not me. However, as I looked down in my cooler, the wind had finally taken its toll on me: I was out of ice!
"Not a problem..." I wearily stood up, and wobbled to the companion way. I was greeted with the warmest of comments.
"The chicken done yet?!!" my wife demanded. "What is taking so long?"
"Well, the wind's bleewin' hard and-"
"So, how much longer then? You getting ANOTHER drink?"
I looked at my empty glass longinly, then back up to her. "No, baby.. just summm icee.."
"Well, you can come get it yourself. We're starving down here."
We keep a bag of ice in the ice compartment on the boat. Problem is, it always seems to freeze into a block of ice. I pulled it out and began chipping away at it. It took a about five minutes, but is ALWAYS worth the effort.
"Last drink," I thought, walking back up to the companionway. I glanced over to my right. The grill was not smoking. In a momentary lack of reason, I reached down with the aim & flame, stuck it through one of the holes that was crammed with foil, and pulled the trigger.
What happened next is a little vague & hazy. I can tell you that those instant explosions you see in Hollywood, well, real life is not like that. There is like this long millisecond (that feels like hours) where you see the yellow, orange, blue and green flames bubbling out of every crevice in slow motion. There is no explanation for it in physics, but the time-space continumum stops and God gives you a moment to realize and truly comprehend your stupidity.
A moment later I am on the starboard side of the boat sitting down like I had stood up a moment earlier. My left hand was still grasping my glass, but the ice had apparently dissintegrated in the explosion. My right hand was still in the same position as if I was holding the Aim & Flame, but we never found it. Pieces of foil were floating in the water, the lid was wobbling on what was left of the hinge, and the bottom side of the Bimini had millions of black specks spread across it - left over barbequed chicken butts I guess.
For a brief moment I heard nothing but the ringing in my ears and what sounded like rolling laughter and cheers from the anchorage. Obviously my hearing was shot - no courteous sailor would laugh at a fellow blow-boater in pain. My wife popped her head up out of the companionway:
"What was that!!" she demanded.
I slowly turned my head over to look at her. "Thheee grillll, itt, the gas... well-"
"Is it done?" she demanded.
I looked across at the grill. It was empty. I turned and looked back at her, "Uh, huh. It's done."
"Well, come on, we are hungry. I can see you finished your drink so supper must be ready." She went back down below and I stared at her through the fiberglass and shot X-Ray Beam eyes with all my mental powers... it would be unwise to open my mouth. As it would happen, there were a couple of pieces of chicken smoldering on top of the bimini. I picked them up, brushed off the charcoaled Sunbrella, put them on the platter - and dinner was served.
For myself, I went to bed. Chicken never has really tasted the same since. I have also come to the conclusion that it is time for me to find an heir-apparent for my Grill Run. I have served my pennance.