Continued from Part One. Click HERE to read part one.
I anchored in eleven and a half feet of water, took some time tidying up the boat, and then settled into my cozy cabin to prepare a warm dinner. It was cold, foggy, and drizzly outside and even though my sail was finished for the day, my voyage was not.
When I began sailing it was on a Ranger 23. I was eight years old. My family would spend our evenings and weekends day sailing every summer. When I was old enough, I began teaching dinghy sailing and racing at a summer camp, then finally expedition sailing with Outward Bound. It was there where I decided that sailing was not just about hoisting the sails and finding the perfect line of sail trim. Sailing is about discovering new places, or old ones with new eyes, being close to the weather, navigating, swimming, cooking on a healing boat, trying to sleep comfortably in huge waves, keeping warm, and finding my way in the fog. It is the entire experience and I am eager to have more of it.
After a warm rice and vegetable dinner, with water on for tea, I lowered the table and converted the salon into a berth. The air was motionless, the sea was glass, and I anticipated a solid night of sleep. I knew how important sleep was as I set my alarm for 0300. If I hoisted the anchor by 0320 then I would make it to the cut before the strong currents turned against me. In fact, the water would be flowing in my favor and quickly carry me through. So, I turned in as soon as I could because I anticipated an early rise.
Almost every other time I have anchored a boat and slept on it, I had an anchor watch. Anchor watch is a position that rotates throughout the night, keeping an eye on the boat, so that the rest of the crew can have a full night sleep without worry. This time, without an anchor watch, as I snuggled into my sleeping bag, holding my kitty Dory close, I said a quick prayer thankful for the clam sea and making an appeal for fair weather, clear skies, and an uneventful sleep.
An hour later I awoke to the sound of the bucket in the cockpit sliding from the starboard side to the port side. Startled by my unfamiliar surroundings, I sat up quickly and immediately registered what was happening. I was aground. This was the first time I ever went aground and I was worried. The boat was resting on its port side, and I perched high on the starboard side stewing over an irrational fear that perhaps the boat would roll over, fill with water, get a hole, or worse…crack in half. I called Benji.
“Benji, I’m aground! I’m aground,” I said. After a brief explanation he reminded me that it was ok. The sea was calm, the bottom was sand, the boat was ok on it’s side. There was nothing to worry about.
“Take a picture,” he said, wondering what it looked like. I wouldn’t, and instead reminded him that there is a picture of the Nor’Sea dried out like this in the Nor’Sea brochure. Remembering this picture brought some reassurance, knowing its not abnormal for sailors to anchor their boat and let the tide run out from below them so that they can clean, check, or do work on the hull.
But how could I have let this happen? It has always been a part of my anchoring routine that when I set anchor, I check the tide table to see if the water was coming in or going out. How much water would be lost throughout the night? Was there enough to stay afloat? I think I blamed Benji a bit for my carelessness. When we sailed together when I first launched the boat, he wasn’t as worried about the tide, and I came to believe that in this part of the country (like in Lake Michigan) it didn’t matter as much. But the truth is, I was an idiot for not checking, and it likely will never happen again. Thank goodness for calm weather that night.
So there I sat. Perched on the high side of the forward berth, holding my breath, waiting for the tide to fill in setting my boat afloat. I explored the deck, checked to see if the depth sounder would work in this situation, and watched the crabs scurry sideways along the ocean floor. And when the boat was floating again, I went back to sleep. Click Here to read part three.