When we left Orace and Audrey’s place, we started heading back home. It took a couple of days to get back down to Smuggler Cove, and when we got there the place was full of boats. We found one of the last places to tie off, even though it was fairly early in the day. Everyone was sandwiched in there like a trailer park of sailboats. We had to anchor the back of the boat to make sure it didn’t swing out and hit the people beside us.
There were a million jellyfish everywhere in the water. Little ones the size of silver dollars all the way up to ones as big across as a Frisbee were layered from the surface all the way to the bottom. You could barely see a spot that didn’t have one whipping its tentacles to swim up and down.
We would be going back to Vancouver the next day, and we were in a very festive mood. We brought out the Spanish coffees right away and watched the jellyfish pulsating around the boat, and later stuffed ourselves on another of Esso’s feasts.
Since it was summer, and we were so far north, it didn’t get dark until practically 11:00 at night. We could see big rocks below the boat. The depth sounder warning alarm had been beeping this very annoying noise for the last couple of hours until we finally turned it off. We figured the jellyfish were setting it off.
After one last protracted game of Scrabble – the Spanish coffees made it impossible to think of words longer than 3 or 4 letters – we went to bed. About 3 a.m. I woke up, wedge up against the way. The bed was at a 45 degree. “Wake up you guys,” I hollered, “the boat’s tipping over.” We all jumped up and ran out on deck. The boat was listing way over to one side. The tide had gone out and we could see boulders sticking out of the water.
Esso started the engine and tried to drive us off the huge rock we were resting on, but we didn’t move. I yelled, “Jump up and down on one side.” With all of us jumping, eventually we “rocked” the boat off the rock, scraping over it as we went, and motored out into the cove away from the shallows. We dropped anchor out there and congratulated each other for being so smart and getting off the rocks. I bet we woke up everyone in the Cove.
When our adrenaline levels subsided we went back to sleep, and woke up the next morning surprised that everyone wasn’t heading out of there since boaters seemed to like to get an early start. We ate breakfast and shoved off, excited to be going home.
The boat rounded the corner of the protected cove and hit huge waves and wind blowing like a hurricane. Unlike the rolling waves we’d gone through crossing over the Strait the first day, these were coming from all directions. The boat would get smacked on one side, and we’d list way over. We tipped so far that the mast was only feet above the water and we had to hang on to keep from falling in. Then a wave would slap us from the other direction, and we’d tilt way to the other side.
I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’m a great swimmer, but I knew if I fell in that water, even with a life jacket, I probably wouldn’t survive. We were in a shipping lane, and a few gigantic ferries and tankers passed a couple of hundred yards away. Their wakes came all the way across and tilt us even more. There was not another boat our size anywhere in any direction.
“We’re going to die if we don’t turn back,” I screamed above the roar of the wind.
“We’ll be fine,” Eric hollered. “I’ve got to get back to work.” He had flown up to Vancouver from Portland, and I’m sure he didn’t want to miss his flight. I held on and kept my mouth shut until we rocked so far sideways I thought the boat would fall over.
“We’re going to die if we don’t turn back,” I screamed.
“We’ll be fine,” Eric said.
“Look, there’s not another boat out here. That’s why Smugglers Cove was so crowded – people were waiting out the storm. We have to turn back.”
Eric and I continued this debate for about another twenty minutes. Esso was busy trying to steer the nose of the boat into the oncoming waves, which was impossible, but he was making a good effort.
“If this boat tips over, we’ll all die,” I said after a really nasty wave had the mast practically touching the water. “There’s no way we’d could swim to shore.”
Eric argued, Esso fought the steering wheel with all his might, and I whimpered like a blubbering baby and calculated how many hours I could last in the water before exhaustion overcame me and I drowned.
Another ferry went by, and its wake pushed the boat so far on its side that the mast hit the water. I started crying and begging to turn back, “I don’t want to die, it’s not worth it, let’s go back before it’s too late.”
Either out of fear or pity, Esso turned the boat around. Eric was fit to be tied. “You can’t go back, I have to get to Vancouver today. Oh, man, don’t be such a wuss, you can make this!”
We went back like a coward dog creeping away from a fight to lick its wounds, and I was never happier. Eric, on the other hand, would have thrown me in the water if Esso hadn’t been there.
We got back to the little slice of mooring that we’d left – no one had come into the Cove since we set out. We spent the day there killing time because the storm never let up. We figured that’s why all the jellyfish were in there; they had enough sense to take shelter even if a certain member of our crew did not.
It was a long, antsy, uneventful day of passing the hours, listening to Eric lament not getting back on time and how we could have made it. If there had been a harpoon on the boat, his life would have been in danger. We didn’t play Scrabble that night, which was a relief because I know I would have slapped him.
Next morning the sun was out and we had smooth sailing all the way back to Vancouver. Esso was gone for a long time checking in the boat. “They dived under the boat to check for damage and said there was a big chunk torn out of the keel,” he said. “I have to pay them almost a $1,000 bucks to get it fixed.”
It was then we realized it would have probably been better just to let the boat stay on the rock until the tide came back in, but how did we know?
We took Eric to the airport, and we started the drive back to Portland. We got across the border with the three bags of oysters we’d gotten earlier in the trip, and had a party when we got home with some of the neighbors.
To this day, Eric still says we shouldn’t have turned around. “If wasn’t that bad,” he says, and we get in a good-natured argument. Recently, for my birthday, he blew up a picture he’d taken of me sitting in the boat. I looked like a whale. My face was as round as a beach ball, and my sleeve looked like a tourniquet around my arm. I’d forgotten about all the eating I’d done on that trip, and I was a little embarrassed that I made those guys look at me like that for so many days – they even saw me squeezed into a bikini a few times.
Oh well, they survived it. And now I’m done telling this tale. All is well.