Youth and Ambition Part 6 (Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas)




Youth and Ambition Part 6 (Hatchet  Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas)

It was a perfect time to leave the beach because the winds kicked up from an approaching front. Making our way down the gravel road we could clearly hear loud music pumping from somewhere. Just when we reached the main road a fifteen-vehicle parade passed right by us. The flat bed trucks were filled with eight-foot speakers blaring reggae. The people all shouted at us to head to Hatchet Bay for the festival. The caravan crept down the road blasting the music and partying along the way. Of course we were going to check it out, but first we had to eat dinner Snake (Jake) style.

Jake prepared a feast that included: four chicken breast, mass carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic smothered in olive oil and baked at 350 for an hour and half. It was delicious and the first complete meal we had in two day after surviving on peanut butter and jellies and homemade beef jerky. The Hatchet Bay festival was going on at the center of town and the numerous speakers filled the air with music clearly heard from the boat. The festival was a tempting visit, but the cloud cover kept mounting and a light drizzle began.

We decided to at least check it out. We jumped in the dink and bee lined it for the docks.

As we pulled up to the dock it was obvious all the other sailors were heading in the opposite direction untying their dinks and zooming off to their boats. Sailors raced back to their boats to withstand the oncoming storm and all we could do was sarcastically remark, “Is the rain coming?” This couple passed by and informed us that a nasty front was on its way. The festival was too attractive to resist, so we pushed forward and checked out the music, food and girls.

The same guy that sold James the conch fritters set up his mini- van on the roadside and sold these crazy coconut juice and rum drinks along with fresh conch salad. Then out of nowhere Joker popped up as usual. We talked with him and he let us know that if the tide was high it was definitely going to rain and the current circumstances were all adding up to a big storm. Looking up at the sky Joker observed the building clouds and said, “Oh man it’s going to pour.”

The winds instantly kicked up to the 20 knots and the rain started to sweep across the bay. We blazed back to the boat in the dinghy dodging the onslaught of rain. The storm hit in full stride just as we reached the shelter of the boat. Without warning and absent of any weather devices the squall raced into the peaceful harbor. Thinking the worst had already came we sat and watched the movie 300. The first violent gust slammed into the starboard side heeling the boat over 30 degrees tossing our supplies in all directions. The initial gusts packed the most intense winds and it slapped our vessel around like a bath toy. We were having flashbacks of No Name Harbor and we raced to the deck to make sure nobody had pulled anchor and set a drift into us. We also worried about the strength of mooring lines and hoped they didn’t chafe through. James yelled for us to flip on all the lights to make our position known to the other boaters. The sailboat behind was smaller and lighter and its reaction to the winds were multiplied. All of a sudden we noticed the 50-foot houseboat anchored in front of us started to drag anchor and drift towards the boat behind us. Not again! We knew too well how quickly these situations could escalate and with relentless winds boaters are left with minimal choices. His anchor must have caught again because he paused temporarily as he closed in on the helpless sailboat.

As we watched from our boat we had the go pro out recording the situation that was unfolding in front of us. The wind subsided slightly and we expected the houseboat to crank up and put some distance between him and the moored up sailboat. Then someone emerged from the sailboat hull and started blasting their air horn right at the houseboat warning them that they were way to close for comfort. When the winds gusting over forty mph, all your senses are heightened and time slows down. The houseboat finally cranked up his motor and pulled over to a safer anchorage away from the cluster of sailboats.

The wind finally calmed enough for us to survey our surroundings and we found out that the two abandoned sailboats behind us had been ripped from their mooring balls and drifted ashore. We cruised over on the dink in the morning to survey the boats that ran aground against the rocky shoreline. One boat was completely smashed lying sideways in the shallow waters. The other has a double keel keeping it safely perched above the damaging rocks and a simple high tide would provide an ample window to rescue and restore the vessel, which also hails from Melbourne, Florida.

The Bends-

“Man we need some Seafood!” Since we arrived in Hatchet Bay the fishing has been dismal. Each day we spend time cruising in the dinghy, diving picked over reefs that provided us with little to spear. It was ten days since we harvested our own food. This had to change. Desperate for food, we decided to try new tactics. Stories circulated of large crawfish in the blue holes. Located in the deepest part of Hatchet Bay we decided to check it out with the hookah before free diving the hole. The deepest part of the hole was fifty feet, which would push our free diving abilities.

We quickly settled on using the hookah rig as a means to check out the mysterious hole. Just as a pre-curser or foreshadowing, this hookah rig’s was a foreign device. We had all been accustomed to scuba diving with tanks but none of us has had any previous experience using a hookah. But you never know until you go, right? James and I suited up while Jake manned the dinghy. The machine was “brand new”. James even had to put oil and gas in it before he could start it up. We placed the anchor up wind and the dinghy settled directly over the hole. The blue hole pushed water up from the depths and created a large boil on the surface.

James and I slipped into the waters with regulator in mouth. Immediately we noticed the splitter valve spewing bubbles from the joint. The hoses were still supplying sufficient air. With air flowing and our hope for lobster riches still in sight we descended deeper. The deeper we dove the worse the visibility was. The pressure forced the water out of the hole and acted like a tornado whipping the sediments to the surface. We slowly distanced ourselves from the dinghy and I looked over to James. I couldn’t find him. I looked all around, left, right, up, down. Where did he go? Finally I saw his silhouette through the gloomy water. He was headed back up to the boat. At this point I was nearly thirty feet into my descent. Up to this point my regulator had performed well and provided ample oxygen for my lungs. Then the regulator seemed to become partially strained. My deep full breathes before now became slightly more difficult. At this same moment I had reached the blue hole. Shadows scurried across the sand and ran for cover in the cave’s rock ledge.

I noticed a group of lobster’s hiding underneath a shallow ledge and got an un-controllable urge to swoop under the ledge and check them out. Everything happened in an instant. Just as I grabbed the rocks, my breathing stops! Not like it’s difficult to breath or I am short of breath, my oxygen supply completely STOPPED! Now I was positioned forty feet down inside a blue hole with a new hookah rig and my next breath was in serious question I instinctively weighed my options. I could try to figure out how this thing stopped working or I can book it for the top, which looked a long way from down here or I can continue at the lobster and die in the hole?

The feeling was tremendous and my body’s adrenaline took over. If I could have had one more breathe to swim up with. This wasn’t the case at all. My brain was shouting at me to breath. At this point the repercussions of my actions weren’t clear. I just knew I had to get to the surface and breath as soon as possible. I kicked and swam as fast as I could to reach the top. About fifteen feet from the surface I started to feel this immense pain in my head. I reached the surface and took a giant gulp of air. Both James and Jake looked at me because of my actions. Only after I gained that first breath did I start to feel the effects of my rapid ascent. It was overwhelming!

James and Jake could tell something was seriously wrong. Jake pulled me over the edge of the dinghy. The pain felt like a bulldozer was pushing out from the inside my head. The backs of my eyeballs were being forced out. The pain became numbing. Not knowing how to perceive the pain I told them I just needed a minute while I tried to tough it out. But something was seriously wrong. The pain was unbearable but still I figured I could rest at the boat and shake off the immediate effects.

James and Jake flipped through various diving books feverishly and searched for an answer. It goes without being said but we agreed it was the bends or decompressions sickness. They read aloud symptoms of each and I found myself checking more boxes than not. Jake urged that we need to go seek medical attention. Stubborn as I am I tried to relax and see if the pain would diminish. We took the dinghy to shore to seek more assistance in the town. My eyelids had now drawn shut and I could slightly see out of the small slits. While I tried to downplay my condition to Francis’ wife I coughed up two chunks of bright red blood. That frightened me. I knew that was not good. Never in my life have I coughed up blood.

Gina exclaimed to James and Jake to take me to the town clinic. I stumbled down the dirt road in the direction she pointed. My knees became very weak and each step was more difficult. Since the clinic was in a small town the doctor hadn’t arrived for his daily visit. They took me right into a back room and hooked me up to pure oxygen. After an hour of sipping enriched oxygen my eyelids were able to open again. I was encouraged by the reaction to the oxygen, but the pain hadn’t subsided. Finally the doctor arrived to examine my condition.

He asked me how I felt after breathed the oxygen for two to three hours. I informed him that it helped relieved the pressure from my eyes, but the throbbing pain in my brain still persisted. He took me off the oxygen and monitored my reaction. My condition steadily declined once removed from the oxygen. Within ten minutes of transferring rooms I had worsened to the original state of pain. I continued to cough up blood and now the doctor felt I needed additional attention.

Just as I opened my eyes I James came into view. He had a worrisome look plastered all over his face. I braced myself for the news he was about to deliver.” The doctor thinks you have the bends, and we need to get you to a hospital and hyperbaric chamber as soon as possible.” Like the current situation couldn’t get any worse. Now I had to search for a pilot that could fly below 1,000 feet just low enough to get my oxygen bottle and I to Nassau safely to undergo further treatment. The nurse searched her contact list for pilots. She came back into the room where I was to tell me the flight will cost $2,000, and the pilot will take me immediately. Reluctant to the charge I was left with no choice once again. Then they set up the flight while I laid in bed helpless.

Shortly after I agreed to the flight I had an ambulance at the clinic take me down to the airstrip. After I arrived at the airstrip they loaded me into the plane where Jake and James wished me farewell. From here on out I was on my own with nurse Johnson and the pilot. The pilot navigated his small plane across the rustic airstrip and lifted her into the air. We hovered just over the water during the hour ride to Nassau. Ms. Johnson accompanied me taking my information and consoling me during the trip. We landed at Nassau airport where I had to wait another thirty minutes for the ambulance to arrive. They drove right onto the airstrip and loaded me into the ambulance. Ms. Johnson stayed next to my side the entire way through. As we broke through the emergency room doors the chaos from inside spilled out. Doctors and nurses paced the hallways with files and note pads in their hands. Ms. Johnson directed the cart that I laid on. She placed me in the Emergency Room while she fills out the proper documents. The plan was to examine me there and take me to the hyperbaric chamber based on their results. Ms. Johnson then told me she was going back to Eleuthera and from here out I was on my own. So now I was in the middle of Nassau’s government run hospital lying in the emergency room with nobody but myself to depend on.

Three hours after I arrived a doctor finally injected my IV with pain numbing substances, which help relieve the pressure from my eyes. Then he informed me that the hyperbaric chamber would cost me an extra $4,000 and they didn’t have any transportation for me to get there. I told him I didn’t care and I would walk if I have to. I didn’t have another $4,000 on top of the $2,000 James and I spent for the plane. Without anybody else to rely on or ask for help I came up with my own plan. Frustrated by the circumstance at the hospital I told the doctor to get the hyperbaric chamber back on the phone. I transmitted my situation through the doctor as he spoke to the hyperbaric chamber doctor over the phone. Then I told the doctor to ask the dive doctor if I will die if I don’t go to the chamber. I listened in while he asked the question. He looked up at me nodding his head. He told me the doctor said you most likely won’t die but you will be in extreme pain for the next week. Due to the short amount of time spent near the bottom of the seafloor he felt my condition wasn’t fatal. So I told the ER doctor that I wasn’t going to the chamber. They wheeled me into another room where I was hooked up to additional machines to monitor my heart. My heart had an irregular beat due to the accident and they wanted to make sure it didn’t escalate.

I stayed at the hospital for an additional two days until they finally released me. I had nowhere to go when I was released. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go either. Lucky for me I believe in God and he sent an angel to guide me. She was an older woman that looked over the patients in the final room where I was being held. She asked me what I was going to do after I left and who would be waiting for me. I told her I was here by myself and I was going to look for the ferry back to Eleuthera. She told me if they let me out before four pm she would take me to the ferry and to get a hotel. The ferry didn’t run until the mornings so I would have to find a place to stay.

The angel took my hand and guided me along. She brought me down to fill my prescriptions as she weaved her way to the front of the line and demanded the medicine. Then we filled into her Honda Civic and drove to the docks. There she acquired a ferry schedule and brought me to the booth to purchase my ticket for the morning ferry back to Eleuthera. Then she brought me to the Red Roof Inn hotel where I gave her a big hug and thanked her before checking in. What a Godsend that lady was. Without her I would have had no idea where to start. Not to mention I had no car, cell phone or contacts.

The hotel room provided me something I needed very much. Finally I had some quiet time, food, and water. It gave me a chance to comprehend everything that happened. I was still alarmed because the blood I coughed up before now drained from my sinuses. Somehow my dad found the hotel and called my room. I told him the whole scenario, which made him feel helpless. He offered to fly down and get me. My family was very concerned and had little information provided to them by the hospital. It was comforting to talk with somebody other than a nurse or doctor.

I still couldn’t sleep due to the pain. The night took forever as I waited for four am so I could walk the two miles to the dock and catch my 6:00am ferry. God dropped one last angel in my path before I returned to Eleuthera. I planned on hitchhiking from Governor’s Harbor the south end of Eleuthera back to Hatchet Bay once the ferry docked. That wasn’t how it played out though. Robert the bartender from Da Spot bought a new car in Nassau the day before and noticed me on the boat and told me he’d be happy to take me back the Hatchet Bay. Thank God. We drove from Governor’s Harbor back to Hatchet Bay, stopping off every couple blocks to show off his new ride to his family. I didn’t care how long the ride took after what I had just been through. I was just happy to be alive and out of the hospital.

I hadn’t talked to Jake and James since they sent me off in the plane to Nassau. So they had no idea when or if I would be coming back to Eleuthera to join back up with them. I still didn’t know how I was going to get out to the boat without a dinghy. Fate has it, just as Robert and I pulled into Hatchet Bay in his new ride, Jake and James were walking down the side of the road. I thanked Robert once again for his hospitality and meet back up with the boys.

I learned a lot through the entire experience. I learned about others and myself. I learned to test your equipment thoroughly before experimenting with it. I earned a great deal of patience, dealing with other people and myself. I learned to not be in control. I learned that I could only do as much as I can. I learned there is definitely a God. I learned that you only live once!

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