Space Mountain (from the passage)

Let me ride on the wall of death one more time,
Let me ride on the wall of death one more time.
You can waste your time on the other rides,
This is the nearest to being alive.
Oh let me take my chances on the wall of death
—Richard Thompson, Wall of Death (added to hjsailing playlist)

Some quick updates from my last post, “Diversionary Tactics”: I started that post with a quote from a John Prine song. The other day I heard that John Prine is intubated and in intensive care with Covid complications. So sad. Wonderful John Prine/Stephen Colbert link here if you are interested. Also, in the post I said I had no idea where the name Cow Wreck Bay came from. I was taking to my friend JJ and he looked it up and found that in 1929, the 380 foot freighter Rocus was en route from Trinidad to Baltimore with cargo of cow bones to be ground into fertilizer. Rocus foundered on the notorious reefs of Anegada and sunk. Since then, the nearby ocean floor has remained scattered with cow bones. That’s so funny because last week I spent 6 days anchored off the island of Anegada. One day I did a 7-mile beach hike from Setting Point to Cow Wreck Bay. I wasn’t aware of the history at the time and on the hike I did see what l thought was a cow femur in the dunes above the high tide line—at the time, I thought that was odd but didn’t think any more about it.

Richard Thompson wrote the song Wall of Death and is one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top-100 greatest guitarists. Of the 100, I’d bet he’s one of the least widely known. In Wall of Death he sings about his fascination with a carnival ride that I’m sure has been banned for years because it’s so damn dangerous. There used to be one at Midway Park on Lake Chautauqua that I loved.

A Wall of Death

It reminds me of a situation I had in another (slightly bigger) theme park in Orlando years ago (Where is Dan going with this you ask? Trust me, the story will eventually get back around to sailing.). In high school my friend Chip was having a birthday, and for his birthday his ever-so-fun-and-generous parents offered to take him and two friends to Disney World for a few days. Chip asked me and another buddy Mike to go with him. Naturally, Mike and I jumped at the chance. In Disney, we rode the Space Mountain ride many, many times. Our most memorable ride on it—and frankly the only ride on it I remember clearly—is when it had a mechanical issue. We were halfway through, strapped in, loud noises, strobe lights, tight turns, etc. and—all of the sudden—the ride slows and stops, and the emergency lights come on. What was outer space moments before, transforms into a large, ugly warehouse with tracks, scaffolding, lights and speakers. “Cast members” start appearing out of the woodwork to escort all of us out of the ride. They urged us to not look around, etc.—I guess they didn’t want us to see how and where the Disney magic was made.

That story reminds me of yet another amusement park when I was growing up: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania’s beloved Kennywood Park. I forget the exact ride, but I distinctly remember on one of the rides a button with a packard that read, “If you are feeling sick or uncomfortable, press this button to stop the ride.”

Getting back to sailing, and specifically the 1,000 mile passage from the Bahamas to Virgin Islands, a friend recently asked me, “On your voyage what has been most enlightening or surprising to you?”—what a great question. I replied that, living for 12 days in isolation without a button to press if I wanted to stop the ride was, in itself, enlightening. Sure, if Hazel James was foundering in a storm or otherwise sinking, there are a couple different ways I could have gotten a Mayday call to the Coast Guard and probably…probably would have been rescued. However, if I would have contacted the USCG and said, “I’m really kind of freaked-out out here. Can you come pick me up?”, I’m quite sure they would have ever-so-professionally told me that they weren’t coming and I needed to figure it out.

I loved a blog comment from my sister’s friend Sue, “… you are getting to see some of the most beautiful places…in their full, uncensored glory that the rest of us get in small, safe doses from our plane ride and resort hotel.” The phrase “uncensored glory” is just perfect and certainly no slight is intended toward how others travel or what others are able to do. However, I myself enjoy the “wall of death” and not having that button to press and stop the ride.

Sailing and voyaging is such an interesting dichotomy of—on one hand—needing to be totally self-sufficient and dependent on no one, with—on the other hand—being part of a community of sailors who are so generous of heart and would do absolutely anything for each other. Case in point: there are 10-15 boats in our little bay and we are all under lockdown, as is the rest of the British Virgin Islands. In theory, no one is allowed off their boats and on land, no one is allowed out of their home. Many of the yachts in Little Harbour know each other and all are so helpful and supportive.

Little Harbour, Peter Island, British. Virgin Islands

While we are under lockdown through end-of-day Thursday, April 2nd. We recently found out that is being extended by 14 days with a brief relaxation to re-provision. We’re gearing up for that re-provisioning opportunity. I’m reminded of the Robert Earl Keen bluegrass album “Happy Prisoner”. I feel a bit like a happy prisoner myself; it’s paradise, I’m healthy and I’m as close and connected to wonderful people as any of us should be at the moment. In other good news, I think I got some of my connectivity issues sorted out so can post some wonderful pictures. For now, I’ll leave you with some of those pictures from kayak trips around Peter Island prior to the lockdown. I hope everyone reading and following is healthy, and I hope this blog continues to be a healthy diversion.

Key Bay on Peter Island (yes, the snorkeling was as good as it looks)
Dinghy dock on Dead Chest looking west across the Sir Francis Drake Channel (Peter Island is to the left; Tortola, BVI to the right; St. John USVI behind Peter Island)
A sea fan half-buried in the sand on Peter Island
Someone left these two conch shells for me to find (Peter Island)
I love the colors in this one (Dead Chest looking east, the island of Virgin Gorda BVI is in the distance)
There’s nothing like waves crashing into rocks

5 thoughts on “Space Mountain (from the passage)

  1. So Dan, if you’re there for another 14 days in the bay, would you tell us a bit about your fellow Happy Prisoners in your new neighborhood? I love hearing about the friends you’re making!

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