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From the Taffrail: The Triangle

Apr 27, 2018

A nefarious source of voyaging mishaps?

The cruising cat Indigo in the grip of the Triangle.

The cruising cat Indigo in the grip of the Triangle.

Digital composition by Eric Sanford

When I was young, the Bermuda Triangle always seemed to be making headlines in the news.

Planes, trains, automobiles and boats disappeared without a trace. It was considered a black hole in the middle of the ocean and the rumor was “aliens.” So, at the tender age of 10, with the thought of being swallowed up by the seas on my mind, I vowed never to go anywhere near it. Ever.

Fast-forward 40 years. In 2013, my husband and I bought a 46-foot Leopard catamaran named Indigo. We set sail from St. Petersburg, Fla., with sights on the Bahamas … what could go wrong?

The grace of the ocean filled our hearts, dolphins escorted us down the west Florida coast and life was good — for a day. Then the weather deteriorated. No big deal; we could find a little place to hunker down until the storm passed.

We picked a small cove (with a dozen other boats), dropped the hook and settled in for the night. The wind howled and our boat was tossed about like a toy. Our anchor held tight, but others weren’t so lucky. It was carnage, boats dragged and ended up in the mangroves. This was our introduction to Atlantic sailing.

A few days later, we cut east through the Keys. Coming into a strong east wind on a port tack with fully loaded mainsail, we were flying along when the jib sheet parted and all hell broke loose. The jib was snapping wildly and became a lethal weapon in 30 knots of wind. With some quick thinking we were able to head into the wind, grab the other sheet and furl the jib to replace the broken line. Chaotic and frightening, but ultimately just another day on Indigo.

Our established theme for the next four years became “How bad can it be?”  Lines breaking, anchors dragging and snagging, motors, pumps and generators failing, sails tearing, my husband’s real-life MOB episode and let’s not forget running aground. That was a favorite trick and we were good at it.

After a few months of meeting other cruisers with similar stories, we decided the countless problems that plagued us were just part of the normal cruising life.

By the spring of 2017, after cruising from Florida to Grenada and back again over four glorious seasons, we were thinking it might be time to sell our boat. This wasn’t solidified until we reached Turks and Caicos. My husband rented a scooter for the day and was involved in a head-on collision with a truck that almost took his life.

He recouped in fine style and a couple months later we were back at it. Our last hurrah, our final cruise, and it started the way it began: huge seas and ferocious winds, but this time it added in some monster squalls and fearsome lightning. Time to head home.

From Turks, we island-hopped north. We were so close to home, sitting peacefully just off Gun Cay in the Bahamas one morning when the boat lost all her power. We were only a couple days back to port, but we just couldn’t get there. No wind, no motors, no electronics.

Finally my genius husband figured things out and we got underway. Five miles out from Ft. Lauderdale we got boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard. Big black boots, serious faces, hostile questions — ironic, really, since we were taking Indigo to be sold.

As my husband grumbled about the black marks left all over the boat, I said jokingly, “It could have been worse, we could have been stranded in the Bermuda Triangle.” He started laughing, turned to me and asked, “And just where do you think we’ve been the last four years?”

“No way!” I protested. “Bermuda is a thousand miles north. We’re nowhere near Bermuda!”

He shook his head, grabbed the iPad and pulled up a map with the boundary lines of the “triangle.” I suddenly realized how long we had been in the “zone.” And then it all made sense: the crazy winds, wild seas, storms, wild currents, groundings and, yes, even the MOB fiasco. The Bermuda Triangle was to blame!

And all this time, I thought it was aliens…

Debbie Lynn grew up near Portland, Ore. She met her husband, Eric, in 2008 and they bought a 38-foot Puget trawler. Four boats later, they’re still going strong and are headed to Alaska on their Symbol 57.

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