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Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Early Morning Oh Crap Moment...


Not that I've ever been told otherwise, but I do know that I'd be somewhat remiss if I were to only ever recount my "adventurous" sailing exploits while conveniently omitting any mention of the occasional, inadvertent sailing screw-up.

SOooo... against my better judgement, I will indeed 'fess up to an inglorious, "oh crap, sailing moment" which just so happened to occur the morning following my uneventful seven hour sail on down from Bahia Honda and on into Key West.

And yep... Ya'll heards' me right 'cause ya'll did indeed hear me use the phrase "screw-up", a phrase commonly used to describe a careless, poorly thought out action or inaction for that matter resulting in a bit of misfortune.

So... after sailing on in to Key West a few months ago, I dropped an anchor just offshore of Flemming Key among a number of other sailing vessels at anchor. And as previously narrated in a prior blog entry, I was indeed quite exhausted yet most relieved to have sailed in without further incident.

Well I must have been blissfully sound asleep soon after sunset and after chowing down a simple yet satisfying meal of steamed rice served along with a tin of salmon cooked with sauteed onions, and capers.

In fact, I gotta believe that I was so hungry that I inadvertently scarfed that meal down faster than how a hungry stray-dog might gulp down an errant hot-dog... I was that hungry.

And before ya'll turn your collective noses up at my concoction, kindly remember that I be on a boat and that one must make sacrifices and make do with whatever one might have stowed within one's tote-box that serves as the boat's pantry.

It also goes without saying that the gentle rocking motion of the boat at anchor after indulging in a full-blown meal had the effect of making it feel as if I were snoozing in a shaded hammock. So yeah, I slept blissfully throughout the night and well on till sometime before daybreak.

So it was around four-thirty in the morning or so that I eventually awoke feeling completely rested and wide awake. Sunrise wouldn't be happening for at least another hour or so and even then some.

And since it was still dark outside and because I wasn't in any particular hurry to pull up anchor and set sail just yet, I did the only sensible thing at that hour of the morning and that was to brew myself a pot of coffee.

I'd have all day to pull up anchor and scoot on up around the north end of Flemming Key and back on down to the Garrison Bight Mooring Field. So yeah, indulging in a pot of Folgers finest 100% Colombian Coffee was indeed in order at that very moment as I settled back in for a bit of quiet time.

I suppose that if I had any misgivings at that particular moment, it was that there wasn't an attractive Colombiana to be found anywhere aboard my boat so that I might have someone to share my coffee with.

So yeah, sharing my coffee with an attractive Colombiana early that morning would have suited me just fine if you know what I mean.

But alas, it was just me aboard my boat with but a robust pot of Colombian Folgers Coffee at that hour of the morning and no one there to share it with.

So that is how I spent the next hour or so while waiting for daylight... sipping on a comforting pot of coffee while perusing over a few Grandmaster chess games that I'd previously downloaded onto my laptop.

Hey... what can I say other than that we all have our "secret pleasures" and that I for one happen to be readily captivated by the cold logic of chess. Much like how an art critic might perhaps find them self captivated by the visual beauty of some random oil painting.

Well heck, while I'm thinking about it, I suppose that chess could perhaps be defined as an "artistic expression of logic". But that my dear friend will have to be a topic for another day.

In hindsight it is the "quiet moments" such as this that one relishes the most while cruising aboard a boat and this indeed was such a moment for me. Nevertheless it was while relishing my quiet moment when I unexpectedly heard and felt a gentle thump followed immediately by another thump.

But the reality of it all is that there is no such thing as a "gentle thump" insofar as boats are concerned for a gentle thump can very soon escalate into a loud THUMP and then possibly further escalate into what sounds like a CRUNCH.

And if one were to have the misfortune of striking a reef, then one might even hear a sickening CRACK followed by the gentle sounds of gulp, gulp, gulp as the boat takes on water.

So no... there is no such thing as a gentle thump while one is aboard a boat.
Needless to say, that unexpected "thump" had me immediately scampering up on deck to see who in the hell might have incautiously set their anchors only to then have their dang boat drag on into mine at that un-gawdly hour of the early morning.

Yet it was while assessing the situation and valiantly straining to fend my boat from bumping yet again into another boat that was quietly at anchor, that I reluctantly concluded that it was none other than my own anchor who had been grossly negligent and at fault.

Not only was my anchor remiss in not doing what I had specifically instructed it to do but it also had the temerity to drag during the night only to then snag onto another boat's anchor rode.

Well heck, it wasn't my fault that my anchor didn't stay put as I had emphatically instructed it to do... and it also wasn't but a moment or two later when the captain of that other boat also suddenly also sprung up on deck to assess the situation as well.

And I must be getting old or something 'cause that captain seemed to be but a kid and couldn't have been much more than half my age. He did however appear to be rather unfazed and remarkably composed now that I come to think about it.

Nevertheless it was while assessing how to untangle the anchors that his female companion also appeared up on deck while still showing obvious signs of being half asleep.

But what made her sudden appearance up on deck rather memorable was the fact that she happened to be strikingly attractive and was wearing but an ordinary pair of white cotton panties along with a skimpy top... yet protruding just beneath that skimpy top were her "girls"... eagerly pressing out from within and inadvertently disconcerting me to no end.

So yeah... I was indeed unnerved at the sight of that attractive young lady idly standing up on deck in the soft moonlight while she rubbed the sleeppies out of her eyes with her balled up hands.

And after much effort I eventually did divert my attention back to the task at hand and together, the other captain and I successfully un-twined the anchor rodes without much ado.

Blondie-Dog was now adrift as I apologized for the mishap while scoping out the anchorage for an open spot to re-set the anchor.

Unfortunately my early morning sailing woes didn't end quite there. In my haste to unfurl the jib and get underway, I did a half-assed job of cleating off my anchor rode as my anchor rested just above the water line.

It wasn't like I'd be sailing far to re-set the hook. Besides I simply didn't want my anchor sliding about the deck as I easily sailed what was to have been a short distance.

Yet unbeknown est to me the anchor rode had been slipping all along and by now the anchor had snagged itself yet again onto another boat's anchor line and Blondie now definitely wasn't making any headway what-so-ever against the swift Key West Channel current.

And that's when I decided that I'd had enough of this "noise" and proceeded to hook up the gas tank to the outboard motor. I was now rather annoyed about my circumstances and most intent on demonstrating to that swift current that I was boss of it and that would be the end of that.

So after cranking up the outboard motor, I turned the throttle wide open in an effort to prove once and for all that Blondie would be plowing straight on through that swift current whether that channel liked it or not.

Well to my incredulous dismay, my boat still couldn't make any forward progress with or without the motor running. I hence proceeded to shut that motor down in an attempt to figure out whether I'd inadvertently run aground or something.

Yet running aground didn't make any sense either for there was plenty of depth in that anchorage and by now Blondie was slowly yet surely drifting yet again on into another boat that was quietly at anchor.

Only this time I'm intently being watched by a small dog up on deck. That small mutt couldn't have been much larger than your typical marina dock rat. Before long that mutt starts to barking its little yappy head off announcing to one and all in that quiet anchorage that I've somehow managed to screw-up yet again.

A moment or two later, the boat's captain emerges from down below to see what all the fuss was about. It's the same fellow, with the same unkempt stringy long hair I'd seen the previous day when I first sailed in.

It was he who quickly noted that my anchor line had slipped off the bow cleat and that my anchor had snagged onto one of his anchor lines.

And after retrieving my anchor, I apologized yet once again for the inconvenience that I had caused at that early hour of the morning.

His response was direct and to the point... "There's no such thing as one anchor in this channel" and with that he went on back down below along with his crappy little mutt.

I'm still somewhat amazed to this day that I didn't have a bunch of F-bombs hurled in my direction. I knew better than to set but one anchor out but heck, I'd only be anchoring out for one night before picking up a mooring ball in the morning.

So after purposely stowing my anchor in its proper place I unfurled the jib yet once again. And although it was still dark outside, daybreak would be occurring at any moment now so I elected to simply get on with it and motor-sail on over to the Garrison Bight Mooring Field.

Besides that, I certainly didn't want to be the object of ridicule and derision in that anchorage and preferred instead haul my ass on out of there under the cover of darkness.

But it was at that very moment when I suddenly heard a brief yet ear-piercing air-horn blast emanating from the U.S. Coast Guard station. That air-horn blast was promptly followed up by a spotlight lighting up my jib.

It goes without saying that I immediately took a hint and scrambled down inside the cabin to flip on the switch to my running lights and with that, the spot light was turned off.

In hindsight my anchor got what it deserved for causing me so much grief... it got bent beyond repair when I had opened up the throttle to my outboard motor thus putting one heck of a strain on it.

Within the hour I had sailed around Flemming Key and had picked up a mooring ball much to my relief and without further incident.

I later disposed of that bent anchor under the cover of darkness less anybody see me carting that thing around and wondering how it had gotten bent out of shape in the first place.

I certainly didn't want to have anybody yucking it up at my expense and I'm pretty sure that you would have done the same thing had you been in my place.

Google Map of Key West courtesy of Capngeo aboard "Happy Days".

I found myself a decent anchor lying around unclaimed in the Historic part of Key West. Now all I need is someone with a pick-up truck to help me cart it away.

Oil painting entitled "El Traje de Boda" by my mother at an art exhibition... awarded third place in the classical art category. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I well remember when this painting was hardly more than a blank canvas resting on a large easel with but a charcoal outline of the dress lightly drawn on it... Off to the side could be found what seemed to me an old faded dress that could very well have been pulled out from the very bottom of a cedar chest and had now prominently re-emerged on a dress stand...

My initial unenthusiastic and unsolicited commentary of the subject at hand was readily dismissed with a "áh... tu eres un huevo sin sal" as my mom intently continued mixing her paint colors...

I was later to learn that what made this painting so challenging were the subtle changes in light contrasts found in the folds of the dress...

A reknowned French artist, invited to be a part of the judging panel, was later quoted to have stated, "Esta artista pinta con su alma"...