A few days ago, we drove the Squid Wagon back into the boatyard from Florida, dog-tired from a two-day drive. “Hey! There’s someone on Honey Moon!” exclaimed Barry. Our circumnavigating friends Don and Aggie were back from Australia, having stored their boat for six months. They spent a week finishing their projects and launched the boat on the windiest day we’d seen yet.
The problem was an external deadline. When their plane landed in Los Angeles, the US Customs agent had only given them 28-day visas, barely enough time to fly across the US, paint the bottom, provision the boat, see their friends, and get out of the country.
We were sorry to see them go, and a little worried as the wind picked up even more that evening. Boats were shaking on their jackstands, large items were flying through the air, and the wind sounded like a freight train. They were probably fine; they’d sailed half the world to get here.
The next morning, I was in the office, chatting with a cruiser from Switzerland. Having a Swiss flag is kind of like having a boat with a home port in Nebraska or Wyoming. There’s no coastline, so the boat can never actually go to its home port.
Anique was behind the desk, answering the phone as Patricia and I talked. “Good morning, thank you for calling Bock Marine,” she said. Then I heard, “Margaret is right here…” and she handed me the phone.
This was a complete surprise, as I have never received a call on the office phone. I go into the office for about 5 minutes a day, always at a different time — how would someone know I was there?
It was Aggie, from Honey Moon. They’d left their boat key behind, and were wondering if we could bring it if we came into town. “Sure, I said, “how were things last night?”
“Absolutely awful!” said Aggie. It was an understatement.
It was their first night at anchor in six months, and it was a night to remember. In a 60-knot gust, they dragged anchor. Pulling it up, they found a giant muddy fishing net wrapped all around the anchor and chain. They had to back in circles to keep from fouling the prop while they struggled to cut it off. The deck knife was too dull, so Aggie went below for a sharper kitchen knife. She crawled to the foredeck, where the wind was picking Don up and bouncing him against the stays.
Sometime around then, the headsail partly unfurled. The wind caught the loose edge and began to shred it. At around 10 pm, Aggie hauled Don up the mast to wrap a spinnaker halyard around the flogging headsail.
The anchor was cleared and reset, the sail was secured, but this was no time to go below and sleep. They maintained an anchor watch all night, meaning one person had to be awake to make sure the boat didn’t drag anchor.
After a night like that, the least we could do (besides delivering their errant key) was drive them and their sail out to the sailmaker for repairs. Afterwards, they invited us to come out to the boat for a cup of tea. I looked at Barry, “Well, we were going to do some shopping, but…” “You’re not going to Wal-Mart, are you?” asked Aggie.
This was followed by some discussion about what each of us needed from Wal-Mart. They needed to put more minutes on an expired cell phone. We needed a new space heater. “We have a space heater we need to get rid of,” said Don. “You can have it.”
Now we didn’t need to go shopping, so the four of us got into their dinghy and headed for the boat. We made it about ten feet from the dock when the engine died. Don yanked and yanked the starter cord as Barry and Aggie held us off a piling. Then he said, brightly, “Here’s the problem!” The fuel hose had gotten brittle and broken off.
We let the wind push us to a nearby bulkhead, and Don rowed the dinghy back to the transient dock.
“Good old Squidley,” I said, as the four of us piled back into the van. “We really like your van!” said Aggie.
This time, we went to the marine parts store and then to Wal-Mart and Staples. It was evening when we returned, so they invited us aboard for dinner. This time, the dinghy made it without incident.
After dinner, we were sitting in the cabin when there was a noise outside. “You’d better go have a look around,” said Aggie. She calls herself the “noise police.” Don was warm and cozy, and he shook his head. “Nah, I’m sure it’s nothing.” “That’s what you said last night!” said Aggie. Laughing, he got up and stuck his head out the companionway.
“Oh, this is interesting. You’d better come up and see for yourself,” he called down.
The three of us piled into the cockpit to see. It took me a second to realize that giant white wall was a huge yacht that we’d bumped into as the current spun all the boats in the anchorage around. Oops.
After adjusting the chain to pull us away from the neighbor, we went back below. “You haven’t been cruising in a while,” I said. “You’ve gotten a bit rusty!”
When it was time for us to leave, Don got into the dinghy and started the motor. The fuel was old, and it conked out and had to be restarted. Barry and I climbed in, and Don revved the engine to keep it going. We said our goodbyes to Aggie, and she tossed down the painter.
Don put the engine in gear quickly, so it wouldn’t stall, and we zoomed away from the boat. We made it about ten feet. BOING! We were jerked to a sudden stop, like a dog that has reached the end of its leash and looks like its eyes are popping out. If a camera had been running, it would have been a candidate for “America’s Funniest Boat Videos.”
Aggie and Don are conscientious and careful cruisers. That means they secure the dinghy with not one, but two painters. Unfortunately, when we took off, neither of them remembered this fact!
I couldn’t stop laughing, all the way back to the dock. Not because of the mistake, but because of the looks on our faces. I’ll file the two-painter idea away as a smart cruising tip. I’ll file the leave-one-attached idea away, too: Under practical jokes.
That sounds like something Loretta and I would do on land–ride the storm out, do everything right, but come up with a good laugh on us all the same.