One more story to tell from Sunday. As we came around Green #1 into the Intercoastal Waterway, we saw this little sailboat mostly not moving on the rocks that hide just beneath the surface. If you don’t have the local knowledge … they can be very dangerous. The area between the shore and Green #1 looks like open water, at least at high tide. But at low tide, you can see the hull-eating rocks just waiting for an unsuspecting boat like this one.
I didn’t have the camera out, and I should have, because this poor little sailboat nearly stood up on her stern as they pulled her across the shoal. I don’t have any idea how much damage was done, but all I know is that I’m glad it wasn’t me. Being aground on the rocks on a falling tide has to be a very bad feeling. I’ve been aground in just the mud, and that’s no fun. And, I knew it was already dead low tide. We waited about an hour and had enough water under us to float off and get back to the marina. This sailor was not so lucky.
I couldn’t help but think about a couple of other incidents that happened when we were Chesapeake Bay sailors. One I saw, and wish I hadn’t. The other I didn’t, and I’m glad.
I’ll start with the latter. We kept our sailboat in a marina in the little town of Deale, Maryland … about 30 miles south of Annapolis. There was a long shoal called “Long Bar” that had to be rounded to get to the good water of the bay, and at the entrance of the marina was a long riprap breakwater that protected the harbor. The channel was (I’m sure still is) very narrow.
Headed out for a sail one afternoon, we were treated to the sight of about a 25 foot cabin cruiser all the way up on the rocks. I mean high and dry above the high tide line … looking like the S.S. Minnow from Gilligan’s Island down to the hole in the hull. I didn’t see her go aground, but she had to be going really fast to wind up all the way up on the rocks. The rumors were that the captain was more than a little inebriated when it happened, probably at night. I recall that boat sitting on the rocks for the better part of a year before they got all insurance sorted out and salvaged her.
The other incident was a classic refueling incident. I was at the marina pool with Jenni when everyone heard a concussive “WHUMP”. When we looked towards the sound, I saw an engine compartment hatch tumbling about 50 feet in the air. Everyone ran to the side of the marina that was on the creek running inland. There was a bridge, and another marina on the mainland shore. Adrift, and on fire, was a 35 foot cruiser. With people on board.
The fire spread rapidly. Both people got off the boat, diving into the water. We learned later they both han 2nd and 3rd degree burns, and one had suffered a broken leg. The boat, made of fiberglass, burned to the weather deck in less time than it has taken to type this post. From pride and joy to burned out hulk in about 15 minutes.
Both of these incidents, along with the little sloop on the rocks, serve as a reminder that the water can be a harsh mistress unforgiving of inattention or neglect. It’s challenging enough sober and not distracted. I’m sure I’ve said before that there should be additional requirements to being a boat captain then having enough money to buy one. The truly unfortunate thing is that the “captains” that need to hear that message are convinced it doesn’t apply to them.