How We Survived Our First Storm

It has been exactly one month since we are in 3D Boatyard in Key West, Florida working on our newly acquired catamaran Fata Morgana, getting her ready for liveaboard and cruising. Since one month, we are hearing people talking about “hurricane season”. Our neighbor  Dale in the wooden boat on our starboard side said that the hurricane season officially starts May 1. It started a day later.

On Thursday, May2, a storm hit us, totally unexpected, unpredicted, and unannounced. Our first ever Tropical Storm.

Around 10 in the morning the sky became dark and thick with mean hefty clouds like a herd of buffalos galloping from the northeast at 40 miles per hour, coming straight at us. We closed all hatches and doors. Suddenly massive sheet of rain and fierce winds swooped over the boatyard. The few trees next to the fence almost let go of the ground and flew away. Hell, our catamaran Fata Morgana gently perched on four wooden crates almost flew away, shaking and jerking like a freight train. At times I thought we were airborne, it felt like it. There were lightening followed by impressive explosions so loud and so near us it seemed we were caught under cross artillery fire. Small rivers formed quickly around the boats, puddles transformed into lakes. The earth became liquid. “Good thing we are in a boat”, I kept thinking, “We might as well float away.”

Then the winds calmed down, the rain almost stopped, and we thought the storm was over. Lasted just about a few minutes, we thought. But the clouds kept moving above us, darker and fuller, lower and faster, and it hit us again. And again. And again… Every time: heavier rains and stronger winds from a different direction. The monster kept roaring, attacking, retreating, and coming back again more ferocious and bloodthirsty. It swirled around and hit us five times in five interminable hours, giving us a few false hopes during the short calm intervals of a minute or two. “Please stop, that’s enough”, I pleaded whoever was in charge of the storm. “I am scared”. I get an electric flash of blinding blue light in the face and a mighty thunder for a response.

At one point the jib of the boat behind us, a big fifty feet sloop, unfurled with much noise and started thrashing about. Looked like some maniac in a bridal dress dancing before a sacrifice. Ivo and Jessie, the young guy from the boat next to the sloop, run aboard, as the owners were not there, to furl the jib. The whole boat shaking, and with the wind pushing the open sail, she would surely tip over and crash to the ground. But they saved her.

Ivo and Jessie furling the jib

Ivo and Jessie furling the jib

The storm lasted so long, that after a while I stopped being so afraid and accepted the future, whatever it was. I even started enjoying this uncontrollable display of energy and might. Nature at her best: raging, exploding, attacking, devouring.

Then the sky brightened, the wind calmed down and life was beautiful again. Even more beautiful than usual; it was perfect.

The Boatyard after the Storm

The Boatyard after the Storm


Fata Morgana

Author’s note

The following legend was born because of a boat.

We named our boat Fata Morgana, but almost no one, appears to know what a ‘Fata Morgana’ is… It has nothing to do with neither fat women nor Arab women called Fatima, but rather with fairies, water spirits, and optical phenomena. Fata Morgana was also the name of another boat which a friend of ours built in the seventies somewhere on the shores of the Black Sea. Years later, this same friend took us sailing for the first time and with tender love and nostalgia in his voice, he would recount fantastic adventures aboard his Fata Morgana. His dream was to cruise the water-world. It became our dream. We are here now, at the edge of this new way of life, thanks to his contagious, incurable vision, his Fata Morgana. Our boat’s name and in fact our adventure are homage to him.

The legend of Fata Morgana

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880) (altered)

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880)
(altered: Morgana-me)

In medieval times, at the remote other side of the Earth at the antipodes, dwelled nine magical sisters. Nine blessed womb-burdens of the Isles of Apples, daughters of the king of Avallach. At dawn and at dusk they appeared floating inside the waves and lured the unwary to their death. The most beautiful and powerful of the nine was the seductive megalomaniacal sorceress, La Fata Morgana, La maîtresse des fées de la mer salée.

One April morning, between six and seven o’clock, the air calm and ambrosial, the sea peculiarly eerie, a dark schooner, like a bad omen, appeared on the north-western horizon. A crazy alcoholic pirate, Barba Roja, was the captain of the sinister vessel. He had lost one leg and one eye in horrific circumstances, but had two bellybuttons, the second of which, an inch above the first and a bit to the left, he had acquired during a mutiny when he was only sixteen and got stabbed in the stomach. Barba Roja had innumerable children in each port of each land his gloomy ship has visited and many poor women, struck by devastating love for him, have drowned themselves after his gloomy ship has left.

The legend has it, that all but one of the nine magical sisters, daughters of the king of Avallach, had also fallen in love with the pirate, and slowly, one by one, consumed by passion and unbearable sadness, faded away like puffs of mist or like shadows above the surface of the sea. Dissipating from the head down, only their transparent feet slightly visible, they walked slowly to the edge of the land where grey humid rocks meet the fury of the sea, never to be seen again. Only gentle footsteps upon the sands have been noticed afterwards by fishermen every now and then. Of course, Fata Morgana was the one who did not fall for the guy and therefore did not disappear. Plus, the villainess got so furious with Barba Roja because of this situation with her sisters, that only proper revenge could probably calm the small tornado that had gathered around her body disturbing everything in a ten mile radius.

No one, even I who have invented this legend, remembers exactly what happened to Barba Roja when he finally met Fata Morgana, but it is known that for the first time in his lonely life he felt the desire to recite poetry facing the setting sun, small yellow flowers blossoming on his wooden leg. On the following morning, his sinister schooner and all its crew, captain included, vanished, replaced by an unusual vision of an otherworldly object, resembling an inverted phantom-ship ever-changing in its appearance, hovering in the sky. This optical phenomenon: a ghostly mirage or a glorious illusion of a great upside-down schooner with black sails would often appear after that day (and still does sometimes) in calm weather before the eyes of melancholic sailors who would have staked their lives upon its reality. “Fata Morgana”, they would whisper, their hearts full of tender sorrow, nostalgia, and inexplicable love.

Some interesting-looking links to writings on Fata Morgana (most of them I still have not had the time to read, by I will)

1. wikipedia

2. Vanishing Tricks of a Goddess by Imorgen Rhia Herrad

3. Le Folklore breton et les romans arthuriens

4. Vita Merlin, Gaufridi de Monemuta/ The Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1973