December 22, 2010.
Today was just one of those days. It had a bit of everything, the good, the bad and the ridiculous.
Last night we sailed into our chosen anchorage and dropped the hook as the main luffed. Its fun to do once in a while, the only draw back being that if the breeze is slight enough, setting the anchor just doesn’t happen.
On the bright side we did awaken right where we had gone to bed, so the day was off to a great start. Shortly after that while I was using a pair of scissors in a manner other than which they were intended, I managed to ram one of the scissor blades into the end of my index finger. The resulting bloody mess would prove to be one of those all day, throbbing affairs. Crap.
We jumped in the dink and headed to the north end of the cay to explore the meandering mangrove channel that bisects the cay. We took the dogs with us and they happily frolicked on the ocean side beach during their first time ashore since October.
We were back to the boat and had the hook up by 1000 hours. There was only a light breeze from the north as we sailed of the anchor and headed south.
Lets compare Bermuda and the Bahamas for a minute. Bermuda is a spec of an island 700 miles from anything. Travel there and I think you're relegated to spending your time there drinking overpriced beers or foo foo drinks poolside or having your picture taken with some guy wearing a pithe helmet.
The Bahamas on the other hand is freaking huge. I’m not or have never been a professional cartographer and I’m too lazy to go look at my charts BUT, the Bahamas are like 800 islands and cays spread over 750 miles. They’re also about 200 miles wide so that maths out to like 200 billion square miles of crystal clear warm blue water, give or take.
Considering that our boat is roughly 42 feet by 13 feet, what are the chances that another random boat, in the middle of a clear, sun drenched day would try to occupy our 546 square feet of personal space? And yet today it happened.
We were sailing almost dead down wind yet not quite downwind enough to go wing and wing. We were on starboard tack making about 3.4 knots in 6 knots of breeze. Everybody else on the water was motorsailing southward. We watched as 3 sailboats were slowly overtaking us.
One of them seemed to be on a converging course with us. It was a smaller boat of about 32 feet. He was motoring at over 5 knots and with 6 knots of breeze coming over his stern and his genoa was just hanging there. Unfortunately, we were in the blind spot created by his useless genoa. He was off our starboard quarter and bearing down rapidly. Visibility was unlimited. You could literally see for miles and miles yet he evidently didn’t see us. His course was fairly erratic as he seemed to be hand steering. He might be planning to cross our stern or maybe he’s going to overtake us to starboard. With each passing moment he was getting annoyingly closer. Now we had to get dressed. Crap. We couldn’t turn off to port as our sails would collapse and we’d be dead in the water. We were moving so slowly that gybing away wasn’t really an option. If we turned to starboard we *might* be able to cross him safely, unless he did see us and was planning to overtake us to starboard.
Technically we were the “stand on” vessel. We were being overtaken, we were sailing on starboard tack and we were leeward. Even though we were in the right, it's every mariners responsibility to avoid a collision but it was basically looking like we were screwed. No response on the VHF, then there was screaming and then finally the air horn blasting as he bore down upon us.
It was insanely frustrating to watch as the distance quickly closed from 60 to 20 to finally 10 feet before impact. We were both standing on the starboard quarter with Christy blaring the air horn while I looked for something to fend with. The only thing within reach was an unusual pole spear. Our friend Scott sold his cruising boat this summer and he gave us a bunch of his stuff when he cleaned out the boat. One of the items was a trident type pole spear and today it came in handy.
I choked up on the spear and slipped the forks over the idiots bow pulpit and really leaned into it in an effort to fend him away. Then as he slammed into us I pulled back the spear and fended off on his shrouds as Christy was now fending the bow pulpit. We never saw a body on the other boat until the point of impact. Boy, were they surprised.
It ended up being a very hard but glancing blow with Veranda absorbing the blow entirely on her aft starboard rub rail. Veranda’s rub rail sticks out about 4 inches and has a gnarly screwhead sticking out of a stainless steel plate every six inches. It was pretty cool to see just how much gelcoat those screwheads were able to gouge out of the other guys hull.
Evidently the “captain’ was below while the crew was “navigating”. At the impact the captain jumped up from below and started apologizing for running us down while the crewman opted to scurry below as I verbally criticized his watch keeping and ship handling skills. I might have been foaming at the mouth. After the glancing blow they were soon several boat lengths ahead and out of effective verbal communication range so I was soon reduced to flipping the double handed bird as they veered away. But we were not done; they turned around…..
With the captain now doing the boat handling he attempted to come alongside to apologize even more profusely. Of course they yet again approached us from the starboard side, they still couldn’t seem to see us with their sail in the way and almost succeeded in ramming us again before I could get him to cross our stern and come up the other side.
By now I’d put down the pole spear because I was afraid I might kill someone. I had time to go forward and get our boat pole. They attempted to come close enough to hand us a bottle of wine for our troubles. I was not holding the boat pole; I was brandishing the boat pole. We own 2 boat poles so if I lost this one in this guy’s ass we’d still have another. The rest of the interaction went something like, we don’t want your f’ing wine, pay f’ing attention before you kill someone, don’t come any closer and bear off NOW!! As they bore away he launched a few more “sorry’s” before asking “So, where you guys headed tonight?” Holy f’me, was he kidding, I almost laughed.
Fortunately, the only damage seems to be the gelcoat that he lost and the holes in the side of his dodger where I tried to fend them away with the trident.
So what did you do before lunch today?