An Excerpt from Dungda de Islan'

From May 13 until May 31, my fellow Books-a-Fire authors are offering selected books for 99 cents. A few may even be free.  Each day, the discounted books will change, so browse the website at daily to see the day's specials and fill up your Kindle.  Dungda de Islan', the non-fiction adventure / travel book that tells the tale of how my wife and I came to be living in the Caribbean on our boat is one of the featured books .  Here's an excerpt:


We're finally leaving!  Only the short-lived, fast-fading line of our wake still connects us to shore, and the boundless horizon of the North Atlantic beckons.

We spent years preparing for this moment, years filled with anticipation, doubt, and anxiety, but we were finally throwing the last of our caution to the winds.  We were still anxious as we left Beaufort Inlet, on the North Carolina coast, to begin our Caribbean adventure, but we were going anyway.  We had postponed this trip for years, bound by self-imposed constraints, both real and imagined.  We had found excuses not to go because of family ties, mechanical problems with our boat, and financial insecurity.  Finally, we had worked up the courage to break free and pursue our dream.

By this point, we had been cruising for about 4 years, up and down the East coast, into the Gulf of Mexico, and over to the Bahamas, always following warm weather and avoiding cold.  As Leslie still says, we had gotten into a rut.  But, it was an agreeable rut.  Heading for the Caribbean was an exciting departure from our routine of south in the winter, north in the summer.  Neither of us had been there before, and our expectations were high, honed by the stories my father told of his World War II years spent traveling the Caribbean basin, recruiting laborers to come to the States in support of the war effort.  He never tired of telling wondrous tales of his adventures on beaches, in bars and bays, and on inter-island freighters, which are still an important vehicle of commerce in the region.  We had read the cruising guides and the travel brochures, whetting our desire to see this fabled paradise from the deck of our own boat.

Our emotions aside, we'd been struggling with a balky auxiliary diesel for months, trying to figure out why it wouldn't start after sitting for a day or two.  We'd tried all the obvious things to fix it, to no avail.  My cautious side wanted to stay until we solved the problem, but the optimum annual period for departure from the East Coast for the Caribbean is short, and my wife pointed out that if we didn't go now, we might never get this close again.  No way was a diesel engine going to delay us.  Once a sailboat is in the open ocean, what good is an engine, anyhow?  We only carry enough fuel for about 500 miles under power, and the trip ahead of us was 1500 miles or more.

We weren't new to sailing, nor was this our first blue water, offshore venture.  My wife and I make a good team when it comes to voyaging.  She's quiet, not given to taking a firm stand very often, but when she does, she's usually right.  So, when she put her foot down and said, "I think we should just go.  If we delay to fix the engine, who knows what kind of problems will crop up.  We'll never get to the Caribbean if we wait until everything is perfect," we went.  We had waited in Beaufort, for a favorable forecast for the first few days of our trip, which would get us across the Gulf Stream and well clear of the East Coast.  When the fall weather finally quieted down for a few days, we set about casting off our dock lines, and, predictably, the diesel refused to start.  I quickly bled the fuel system and got it going.  After all, I'd had months of practice.  We dropped the dock lines and motored out of the inlet, making sail as we went.

By the time we were in the ocean, it was mid-afternoon, and we had about 5 knots of wind out of the northeast.  We took up an easterly course, putting us on a broad reach with all the sails drawing to get the most speed out of the light winds.  We shut down the engine and ghosted along at 2 to 3 knots in slick, calm water.  We started our normal 4-hour watch schedule after dinner, and drifted on into the night.  It was beautiful out there, as we left dirt behind us.  The stars at sea are stunning when there is no man-made light to spoil their splendor.  During the early evening, the wind built a little, up to 10 knots or so, and the sailing was idyllic.  This was why we chose to cruise full time, giving up our harried, land-based existence several years ago.

November 17, 2004

By early morning, we were well into the Gulf Stream, and the wind had built to 15 to 20 knots, out of the Northeast.  These were not ideal conditions for crossing the Stream, but Play Actor is a heavy displacement, full-keeled boat, so we weren't too uncomfortable, and she was in her element, charging across the chop, putting her shoulder into it, making hull speed on a close reach with warm spray flying into the chilly, fall air.  We rocked along through the first full day, covering miles and getting into our offshore routine.

November 18, 2004

When the sun rose on our second morning at sea, we had covered better than 200 nautical miles -- not too bad, considering our slow start.  Conditions had moderated as we left the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, with the wind dropping into the mid-teens, and the sloppy square waves settling to an even 6 to 9 foot northeasterly swell.  We were still making good speed, right on our desired course to an arbitrary point some 200 miles south of Bermuda, where we expected to pick up the trade winds and turn south, to sail "until the butter melts," as the old timers put it.  Sunrise at sea after a night of boisterous sailing is magical.  It's always a time of renewed hope, even on a morning like this one, which was a little gray and gloomy looking, although about 20 degrees warmer than when we left North Carolina.

Filled with said hope, I decided to crank the diesel and charge the batteries, since we were both awake at this point in the watch schedule.  To illustrate the perversity of inanimate objects, the diesel started on the first try, despite having had a couple of days' rest.  We settled in for three hours of converting hydrocarbons to smoke and noise as we topped up our battery bank.  There was more smoke than we reckoned on, and the wrong kind, too.  Even a die-hard sailor can tell the difference between diesel exhaust and an electrical fire.  Our alternator was dead.

Follow the links below to read excerpts from the other authors' books, then head over to to get these books on sale or even FREE!  To see excerpts from the featured books of the authors, just click the author's name:


Calinda B said...

sounds like a suspenseful book!

Charles Dougherty said...

Thanks, Calinda. You're fast; I'm not sure I was even finished with the post before you got here.

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