Monday, March 25, 2013

Clang, Crunch, Scrape

-Prepare for collision.

-What did he say?

-Prepare for collision!!!!

The winds were light, skies were clear and we were under way by 8 am.  Breakfast was done on the go.  A seven-hour run from Nassau to Freeport was our float plan for the day, with a couple of bailout provisos in case of heavy seas or a turn in the weather.  Things rolled smoothly along all day—no bailouts needed.  Regular engine room checks throughout the day gave us assurance that things were as they should be and we motored safely on.

Nelson hunkered down in his fly-bridge crate and slept the day away.  We passed several feeding frenzies, attested by diving birds and jumping fish and wished we had time to drop a couple of lines in the water.  By 3pm, we’d made the entrance to the Ocean Reef Yacht Club on Grand Bahama Island.  It had been an uneventful day at sea.  Leaving the crashing surf behind her, Steadfast glided into the placid waters of the inlet. 

-Ocean Reef.  Ocean Reef.  This is Steadfast, Steadfast.  Requesting slip assignment please.

Our VHF hail went unanswered.  Nobody home in the office late on Saturday afternoon.  Captain B slowed to idle speed in the marina basin, waiting for directions. 

-Hey!  Where are you headed?  Are you coming in?  We could already feel the warm welcome.  Captain B requested directions to our appointed slip and the banter passed back and forth sending us in the right direction.

Sonny Boy and I walked out on deck, getting our first glimpse of new surroundings.  A jumble of motor and sailing vessels were tied up in front of colourful buildings.  Cruisers lounged on aft decks.  Drowsers lazed in hammocks strung up in rigging.  Chatter-boxes leaned over waist-high walls in front of their condos getting the latest gossip.  Little did we know we were about to become their newest, hottest topic, as we shattered their peaceful bon hommie.

Without my turning around, I was suddenly facing jungle growth beyond a rock wall on the side of the marina opposite the resort.  Steadfast had turned and was advancing on the wall.  On the fly bridge, Captain B’s jaw clenched.  His hands flew back and forth from the transmission leavers to the throttles.  Sweat plastered the shirt to his back.  The boat was acting of its own volition, steering us directly into a rock wall.

Out on the front deck, we had no idea what was happening when we head the words one NEVER wants to hear:
-Prepare for collision.

Refusing to move from forward gear, the port-side engine plowed ahead in slow-motion.  Molasses-oozing-catastrophe into a chilly void.  Sonny Boy threw himself onto the bowsprit, straddling the anchors.  His feet in flip flops braced against the wall in a futile attempt to fend us off.  The two anchors slammed together as they made first contact with the rock wall—clang.  The fiberglass hull spoke next—crunch, crack.  Then the wall let us hear from him—scraaaaaaaaape.

-Turn off the port engine.  I ran inside and hit the kill switch.  My legs felt like spaghetti, my stomach turned to water. 

The sun-drunk marina sprang up as if a bucket of ice water hit it in the face:  everyone alert, on duty, grabbing fenders or spare lines, jumping into dinghies, revving up engines, hustling to best view vantage points, calling advice to us and to each other.  The world exploded into action around us. 

Working in concert, strangers came to our rescue from every direction.  An inflatable dinghy acting as stern thruster, swung our aft beam alongside the appointed slip.  Seven men and women hauled lines to tow us into position against a freshening wind.  We made land.  The crisis was over.

It was the next morning before the engines were cool enough to get up-close-and-personal to figure out what had gone wrong.  Captain B quickly diagnosed a linkage problem in the port transmission.  An itty bitty piece had come loose and fallen off.  Now we have a great big hull repair to deal with.

Lessons re-enforced:  Little things can cause big problems.  Boating is always an adventure.  Life is unpredictable.  There is no use crying over spilled milk/scratched-cracked hulls.  Nothing happens if you don’t leave the dock.

So how has life been treating you these days?  Anything new?  Any lessons leaned? 

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