“Roar!”… (The sound of engines.)
“Roar! ROOAARR!”… (BIG engines.)
(More shouting voices, louder.)
These are the sounds that get your attention, particularly when you’re down inside the boat and can’t see outside very well, and you’re a little nervous about being in this alien land called a “Marina” anyway. There are an awful lot of boats in a very small space, and the currents rip through like they have somewhere very important to go. It can be challenging.
And so it was this morning for a vessel named “Five Star” and her skipper. He was aiming for a slip across the alley from ours, and the entry against a 1.5 knot current was requiring more skill and experience than he possessed. Things were not going well.
Third time’s the charm, they say. On his third attempt to maneuver for the slip, he’s let the current push him just a little too close to the row of boats along our pier, and Sionna, it seems, is about to be the point of contact. The tip of Sionna’s mizzen boom, to be exact. As he backs (and Nicki and I are standing on deck now, wishing we could help, or teleport him and his 30,000 pound boat into her slip, or SOMETHING…) the elegantly shaped and laboriously finished teak handrail on his starboard side slips under the end of our mizzen boom (which overhangs the stern by nearly 3 feet), the hardware of our boom gouging valleys in his wood and scrapping varnish, until the bronze tang that holds the mizzen sheet blocks gives way with a resounding “Bang!” and he’s free again.
Finally he settles into a berth – though not the one intended. He’s laying against a concrete pier and the stern of another boat (with padded fenders out, this time), and he’s waiting for the current to go slack – which is what he should have done in the first place. He’s heard that several times in the last half-hour.
Just for a review, “Current” is the horizontal movement of water, from whatever cause. A flowing river, a rising or receeding tide, a prolonged wind from one direction in shallow places like the Chesapeake Bay. All produce currents of varying strengths, and all can raise hob with the maneuvering of a boat in close quarters. You can’t fight it unless you have room to maneuver, so lacking room, the answer is always to wait. The current will ease when the tide changes.
So waiting is what the “Five Star” is doing now. Tied conspicuously in the channel against a boat and a post, looking for all the world like a docking attempt gone bad. Which of course it was. How embarrassing. No holier-than-thou here, however. I’ve been in a couple embarrassing places myself, and I’ll be there again – boats teach humility.
But you know, there is a silver lining, even to boat damage. The 53-year-old bronze bail that snapped saved our wooden boom from anything more than a little crack, easily repaired with a bit of epoxy. And the reason that bail broke was because it was already cracked about 90% through, fatigued from a half-century of normal use. Rather than failing when we were hard pressed at sea some dark night, it broke now, when we have the leisure to fix it.
There’s usually some bit of good that comes from something bad. You just have to be open to seeing it.