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Last week, I shared the story of our first sailing adventure on No Tan Lines (“Tanny”). Halfway through our day trip, we started taking on water. You can read Part I of this story RIGHT HERE but, in a nutshell:
We started off the day listening to the Coast Guard repeatedly asking mariners to look for a boat that was sinking…but the single person onboard didn’t know exactly where he was in the gulf. We were too far away to help in the search and rescue.
We had to play chicken with a tanker under the Skyway Bridge.
Our bilge pumps starting running repeatedly, which alerted us that we were taking on water. A LOT of water. Capt. Brian P. Whiddon (who is also the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly) fixed the problem but we didn’t know how long the patch would last.
When pulling down the main sail, it got stuck and a line got jammed as well. With three sails flapping violently, and rigging clanging, Brian had to climb part way up the mast in high winds, with Tanny pitching to and fro. It was very dangerous, but necessary.
With our hearts literally pounding after our back-to-back adventures, and constantly worrying about the previous leak breaking loose again, we just wanted to GET HOME to the safety of our slip at the marina…but the wind was not cooperating. We tacked, and jibed, and tacked, and jibed. We weren’t going to make it home until around 10 p.m., if we were lucky. If we got home AT ALL. As the sky grew dark, I tried to relax, silently talking to myself. ‘Come on, Angie. Chill OUT! I mean, seriously, what else could POSSIBLY go wrong?!’
I was tempted to text details of our current situation to Richard, who was on warm, safe, dry land, training a new employee. But, I refrained because I didn’t want him to panic. So, I simply sent him a couple more pictures of the boys, and told him about what time we expected to dock. He said no problem and sent a smiley emoticon, completely obvious to our situation…which was a good thing. (Later, he told me he was very glad he was unaware of what was going on because he would have spent hours worrying about us.)
After tacking yet again, and not getting any closer to our destination, my stress level was through the bimini so I asked Brian if we could just motor the rest of the way in. The engine had been getting hot earlier and we risked it overheating. But, I reasoned, if it got hot again, we’d simply turn it off, and put a sail back up while it cooled off. Brian agreed. I fired up the engine and Brian took down the staysail and mizzen. It was already dark so Max was on the bow, holding a spotlight, on the lookout for crab traps. I kept nervously checking the temperature gauge on the engine but it was holding steady.
It only took about 30 minutes to reach the basin outside of the marina. The engine hadn’t overheated and we hadn’t hit any crab traps so we were home free! Or, so we thought…
Brian asked me if I felt comfortable docking Tanny in the dark. Holding the wheel with my left hand, I waived my right one with bravado. “Of course!”
I’ve only docked her twice before and the last time would have been picture perfect if I hadn’t forgotten that I’d briefly put her in reverse…and LEFT her in reverse.
After we passed through the basin, I very, very slowly rounded the end of dock five, and turned into the fairway between docks four and five. I stayed close to dock five so I would have a wide area for my turn into our slip. Despite the late hour, our faithful friend Miles was standing on the dock with his boat hook in hand, ready to assist.
Brian told me when to start turning and I eased Tanny closer to the slip. I was heading straight in! It was going to be perfect! I was already patting myself on the back. Docking a 52-foot boat in a narrow slip is no easy feat and I’d done it after dark! At least, I thought I had…
As she was coasting in ever so slowly, the wind started to push her to port. The piling on her port side was VERY QUICKLY coming closer and closer.
Brian yelled, “Abort! Start over!”
No big deal. Aborting is pretty simple so I wasn’t nervous. I’d done it before. Reverse. Bow thruster. Turn wheel. Forward. Turn around. Easy peasy!
So, I straightened the wheel, and gently put her in reverse. As soon as the bow cleared the outermost piling, I clicked the bow thruster to turn her bow to the left. Then, I turned the wheel, and put her in forward. It was really dark away from the dock lights and I couldn’t see much in front of me. Max was on the bow so he was kind of in my way. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.) Then, I heard shouting from all around me. All the voices melded into one cacophony of male hysteria. What? WHAT?! I couldn’t see much but it looked like I was turning just fine. And, that’s when one loud, booming voice roared above the rest.
Ignoring Brian’s previous training, I didn’t gently click her into reverse. I THREW her into reverse. But, it was too late. I rammed a large piling head-on. Dead on. I couldn’t have hit it any more precisely if I’d tried. Miles later said that, after the impact, it groaned, and leaned way over but it didn’t fall. I’d missed that slip’s boat by mere inches. As I was backing up, I squinted my eyes ahead. I still couldn’t see that bleeping piling! Where was it?!
Once I thought I was far enough away, I clicked the bow thruster joy stick to the left again, put her in forward, and proceeded toward the end of the fairway. I squinted ahead again. Nothing but shadows in the dark but the lights from the park were in the distance so I was heading in the right direction.
And, that’s when Brian yelled from the stern, “ANGIE!! Are you going to hit ANOTHER ONE?!”
“There’s a large piling RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!!!”
I quickly hit the bow thruster again, moving the bow farther away from the dock four boats and their pilings. Only when we were passing the last, very large piling could I see it.
Max was still standing on the bow, shaking his head, likely wondering why he hadn’t chosen to spend the day at his sister’s house. Mason (age 11) was sitting right next to me in the cockpit, wrapped up in his bulky, neon yellow life jacket, completely silent. Such a sweet boy. He’s the only person who didn’t yell at me that day!
As I headed back into the basin to turn around, I was wondering how Brian had seen that piling all the way from the stern of the boat. He was a good six feet behind me. It didn’t make any sense. Something was tickling the back of my brain but I didn’t have time to fully process the thought. I had to get Tanny docked so this day would FINALLY END!
After making a wide turn in the basin, I prepared for my second approach. Brian said, “Are you SURE you can dock the boat after dark, Angie? Do you want me to take over?”
I rolled my eyes. Men!!
“I’m fine, Brian. The wind pushed me to port last time. I’ll compensate better for that this time.”
I heard him grunt.
I know I need to learn how to do these things. And, there’s some sort of male sexist thing going on here at the dock about women not being able to dock boats. Pushaw!!! I was going to show ’em!
I once again turned into our fairway, hugged the dock five side, and turned towards our slip. I waited about three more seconds this time, knowing the wind would be pushing me to the south, into the pilings. I planned to bump her forward when that started happening again, overcompensating for the wind. Then, she’d just glide right down the middle of the slip! Buuuuut, that’s not what happened. The wind caught Tanny again and the middle of her port side again started moving quickly toward a piling.
Not thinking about how many of our neighbors were already asleep, I hollered at Max, who was still standing on the bow with his boat hook. “MAX! PILING!! PORT!!!” Max dropped his boat hook, ran over, and pushed against it with all his might but the distinct whining sound of piling vs. toe rail began. SCRAAAAAAAPE! All the way down the side of Tanny.
That caused Tanny’s bow to move right, toward the finger dock. I muttered a profanity because she was now cockeyed in the slip. Brian yelled, “Bow thruster to port!” I clicked it a few times and she straightened out. Max had pushed on the piling just enough so the scraping had stopped.
Using his own boat hook, Brian grabbed the stern lines, and secured them while Max threw the bow lines to Miles. It was late so, once we were tied off, Miles walked back to his boat, with our grateful words of thanks following him down the dock. It was sweet of him not to tease me about the entertainment I’d provided that evening. He saved that for later.
I quickly texted Richard: “We’re back! Just tied the lines and about to clean up. Something happened while we were out but I didn’t want to worry you. We were taking on water. And, then I crashed the boat. Minor damage only. I’ll tell you all about it when you get here.”
He texted back one word: “WHAT?!?!?!?!?!”
We all went to work putting the bumpers back on, hooking up the power and Internet, cleaning up the deck, and stowing things below. Aside from a few gray hairs, several new bruises, and elevated blood pressure, we were none the worse for wear after our harrowing day.
The boys went down to take their showers and Brian grabbed a cold beer. I sat down in the cockpit, and took a deep breath. My brain had settled down, and was working logically again. And, that’s when it hit me.
I turned my head, and said, “Hey, Brian. There’s something I probably should have told you before tonight.”
He took a swig of his cold beer, and let fly a loud captain’s burp. “Yeah? What’s that?”
“I’m night blind.”
The next day, my phone rang. My caller ID said it was Miles so I answered. After some polite small-talk, he started laughing out of the blue…and got louder and louder. I said, “What’s so funny?!”
After he caught his breath, he finally said, “I almost (bleeped) my pants when you hit that piling! If my wife ever wants to dock our boat, I’m NOT going to be there!”
I’ll undoubtedly get some good ribbing from our male neighbors at this week’s Friday Night Dock Party. And, I’ll just smile, and gently remind them to thank me for not hitting one of THEIR BOATS.
OH! I ALMOST FORGOT!!
What caused our big leak? Capt. Brian traced the hose. It starts in the propane locker, which is under the deck on the starboard side. It’s not the main drain. There’s a hole in the bottom of the locker for that. This particular opening is about half-way up the side. The semi-transparent hose runs from the locker, down underneath the aft shower, past the seacocks under the galley floor, and to a thru-hull. Each time the boat heeled to starboard, water was rushing into the hose. The pressure caused it to break and, thus, start filling the bilge. We have found a LOT of weird things on this boat and it wouldn’t surprise us if the previous owner turned one fully functional thing into something that makes no sense at all.
Our next order of business is to contact other Irwin owners (there’s a great group of them on Facebook) to ask them what the purpose of that hose is. I suspect it’s backup drainage but I’m probably wrong. I admit I’m enjoying trying to solve the mystery!
NEXT: RIDING OUT TROPICAL STORM ALBERTO! WHOO HOO!!
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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.
Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.