By: John Chalbeck
I grew up in the Florida Keys (born in Key West, lived in Marathon). My grandpa (nicknamed Captain Jack) was a retired USN Captain and fighter pilot in Korea (55 missions) and Vietnam (60 missions). He picked the Keys to retire, bought a 42 foot sailboat, and started a charter business which mainly consisted of families traveling to the Bahamas and back. My dad, at the tender age of 23, became the captain and was in charge of all the trips to and from the Bahamas. My father is the most competent and trust-worthy sailor I know and the only person I would ever let take my family or myself out of sight of land on the ocean. He is a real marvel on the Monaree (this is name of the sailboat). Some of his stories, which I truly believe because he told them to me, and he loathes liars/lying, are absolutely unbelievable. I know I just contradicted myself but work with me. I will share the three that first and most often come to mind:
1. He and a charter of people were anchored out pretty far from any land in some semi-shallow water (75-80 feet, as the anchor line only had a hundred foot of rope) on a very calm night. My dad heard voices coming from the water on the side of the boat. He checked the inside cabins and everyone was sound asleep. He was always afraid to sleep as he feared what Captain Jack would do to him if he lost someone or the boat during a charter. He kept hearing the voices and scoured the outside of the boat to find the whispering. He said is went on for like a half hour and he was completely freaked out. He made no mention of it to the passengers. He only told his brothers, my grandparents, close friends, and his kids. He told me on my first trip to the Bahamas while anchored off Bimini. He firmly believes it was the ghost voices of sailors lost to Davey Jones’ Locker. So many lives have been lost at sea! I wonder how many spirits and souls are still lost trying to find a way out of its depths.
2. On a different trip, my dad had to try and break the anchor free from the bottom at night, diving down about 40 feet. He swears on his way down, he got a weird feeling something was stalking him. This is very natural as the ocean is FILLED with critters that could swallow you whole. Whether this was a hallucination, we will never know, but he said he turned around and shined his huge light and saw a man under the boat. The light went out! He rose as fast as he could without giving himself “the bends” (nitrogen bubbles in lungs from rising to fast without decompressing the pressure). He did not go back in the water until the morning. Creepy part is light came back on soon as he got out of water.
3. The story which I find most fascinating is when he was sailing at night on a charter to the Exumas. The whole ocean as far as he could see lit up like a bright light had just been switched on. He speculates is was a nuclear submarine because there is absolutely no explanation for this. I don’t want to believe it was just a bunch of Navy guys messing with him for fun. I want to believe it was much more!