Monday morning broke dark and overcast with remnants of winter as snow showers fell (melting before hitting the ground) and wind built from the south. Rather than take a long walk along the roads where wind would chill me to the bone, Scout and I bushwhacked through the adjoining pine woods looking for signs of the deer we have seen along the roadside and scavenging for flotsam left inshore by the storm surge from Hurricane Irene last August. We wandered through thickets of wild saplings and around flooded sloughs while the sky spit occasionally. Scout sniffed new and unfamiliar smells in the wet duff.
When we found ourselves out of woods and back on asphalt, we returned to the marina. The wind was just as I expected, howling across the river with a sharp and icy edge that ripped through my shelled fleece. We hustled back to the boat where I boiled a cup of tea while Scout curled up tightly in the cockpit and promptly fell asleep. It was a good day to remain inside, a rainy day without the rain, a day to stay quiet and warm.
The forecast called for winds blowing 10-15 with gusts to 20 plus in the morning, but rising to almost gale force in the afternoon, 20-25 with gusts of 40 or more. The morning forecast held. Late morning, I went topside to check our dock lines. The starboard bow line had slipped through its chafe protection, and the stainless fairlead (more sharp than fair) was merrily sawing through the line as the boat rose and fell and pitched and yawed in the fierce fetch stirred up by the winds. This kind of thing happens on a moving platform, so I tried to grin, but it was more of a grimace. Still, thankful to have discovered damage before the line parted, I secured a second line with stronger chafe protection (old fire hose). That should have sufficed as my tragedy averted for the day, and tragedy averted makes any day a good day. I went back below to the warmth of the saloon.
After lunch, the winds clocked around to the west and heeled the boat hard to port. The starboard stern line screeched and squeaked through its fairlead with the steady pulse of wind and wave pushing the hull, stretching the dock line to the point of torture before releasing it for a brief moment of restful silence. Once again, I secured a second line and re-tied the first to change the angle of pain; the torture of the line continued, but quietly. Another challenge resolved.
The afternoon forecast also held true with the west wind continuing to build. I heard the bimini popping in the gusts as it has in other winds. Then I heard it snapping a rapid staccato. The wind had ripped off half of the aft zipper. Time to take it down. Cameron joined me in the cockpit to wrestle the flailing canvas. A second zipper failed and then a line of stitching. We worked hurriedly to strip the canvas from its frame. In my haste, I forgot, as I always do, that it is the tension of the bimini that supports the frame of heavy stainless steel tubing. When the bimini is unzipped, the frame falls onto the closest support -- more often than not, my head. Bang! Yes, I exclaimed the moment with one of George Carlin's Seven Words You Cannot Say On Radio; I could pretend I said "shoot", but you know how the rest of the monologue goes.
Once we tamed the bimini, I returned to the saloon to recuperate with another cup of tea. Thank goodness Beth remained topside filling the water tanks so she was able to catch the custom grill cover just an instant before it imitated a kite over water.
Sailors sometimes face death or injury due to weather, storm winds or high seas. However, most of the time, the surprises are more mundane even if still potentially damaging to boat or crew. Sometimes the surprises are self-inflicted; forgetting to secure a line or close a hatch or turn off a gas valve. Other times, it is just the vagaries of place and conditions or old equipment that finally fails. Even an ostensibly safe marina slip offers some degree of risk. After all, we are floating on water, and we can sink. We have to maintain a sense of humor about the accidents and mishaps or we would drown in despair at the many little things that go wrong from time to time.
|River peninsula from Whittaker Pointe Marina|
Best wishes from the crew of the still-floating Wild Haggis.