St. Marys, GA (GA - FL border)
November 24, 2009
The St. Augustine sun peeked through through the companionway and introduced itself to the galley and salon. It being 6:45 a.m. my bleary eyes mistook this as more of a full bore home invasion.
Consciousness having thus been thrust upon us our day began. It was to be a busy one. The new genoa from Doyle had proved itself and we had two old foresails to dispose of. Final shopping needed doing before we left St. Augustine and showers were also on the agenda.
This all had to be done before noon as our dinghy landing permission and shower access privileges expired then. At $10 a day you do not want to incur additional landing fees. Doing so would be enough to make you spend another day in St. Augustine.
Completing our daily ablutions we selected and donned suitable garb from the extensive wardrobe in our walk in closet (also known as our VBerth). We then dug out the overstuffed sail bags containing our old sails and threw them out the companionway ahead of us. Preparations in hand we emerged to challenge the day.
Stepping to the starboard rail to dump the first sail overboard and into the dinghy it was impossible not to notice that there was no dinghy to do the receiving.
Nothing gets your blood pumping like finding ocean where your dinghy is supposed to be.
Naturally enough we were galvanized into action. (An odd use of the term galvanized when you consider the nautical environment shreds galvanizing like lettuce in a grater). We carefully looked for and aft along the entire starboard side. All that was left of our dinghy and its 50 foot painter was a 20 foot length trailing in the Atlantic off our starboard side in the very strong St. Augustine current.
First thought running was that the dinghy painter had separated and the dinghy carried away in the very strong current. This thought was formulated in aid of human kindness. It was also a natural extension of the operating principle on Meredith that when a system fails the first thing you check is the last thing you "fixed" on that system.
A few days earlier the Budget Committee had been bothered by the squeaking noise made when the dinghy rubbed against the topsides of Meredith in the strong St. Augustine current. Ever the helpful mate I tied a new loop to extend our dinghy painter. When I did so I noticed the old loop looked a bit worn around its strain points so I untied it and "freshened the nip".
Past experience indicated that incompetence was a likely player and that the painter was in worse condition than I had thought.
We scanned the horizon with the binoculars looking in the direction of the current to see if our dinghy could be spotted. A calmer mind would have realized that since we did not know when the dinghy escaped its tether we had no idea which way the tide was running at the time of escape. We did not have any idea where to look.
In fairness we were a bit stunned at finding our dinghy gone. It is a very odd emotion let me tell you.
Our kind view of human nature was dashed when we pulled in the 20 foot remainder of our dinghy painter and examined its end. It was clean cut. No frayed end or pulled fibers. This end had been cut clean.
Damn. Someone had come up in the night and taken our dinghy and its outboard away.
Disheartened now we called the marina in a "what the heck" gesture to see if anyone had spotted a loose dinghy and reported it. No such luck. The marina did give us the phone number for the St. Augustine police so we could report the theft. Now there is no useful purpose served by phone the police in a matter such as this because the police are too busy working on important matters to take an interest. When you think about it what can they do?
You need a police report number before you can file an insurance claim and so you must waste the police department's time to satisfy your insurer.
St. Augustine police dispatcher was sympathetic but explained we would have to pull into the municipal marina and call again before they would dispatch an officer. The police report was going to cost us money because St. Augustine marina charges $4 an hour for temporary dockage. Nothing we could do about that.
I started the diesel in preparation to weigh anchor and move from our nice anchorage to the marina to tend to unpleasant business. The Budget Committee and I were still a bit numb from the whole thing and we were working in a fog.
The Budget Committee worked her way forward on deck to the windlass switches and I put the diesel in slow forward to take the strain off the windlass caused by tidal current. Connie started to wave her arms and yell although I could not hear a thing she said. What calamity had befallen us now was the general thought in my head.
The Budget Committee was not moving to weigh anchor so whatever the problem was it was big. I moved forward to help. My wife was not making sense but whether this was her impaired delivery of language or my impaired receipt of same was not apparent.
Arriving at the bow I shared her breakdown.
Wrapped around the anchor rode was our dinghy.
When I had tied the new loop I ensured the painter would be long enough to float the dinghy well astern of Meredith to avoid the squeaking. Seemingly I had also ensured the painter would be long enough to float the dinghy well forward of the bow. During the night an odd confluence of wind and current found Meredith pointing one way the dinghy being pushed the other. The dinghy was floating forward of Meredith.
When the tide and wind rationalized the dinghy came along side the port side of our boat and got its painter tangled in the anchor rode. The dinghy was pinned at the front end of the boat on the wrong side. It had been pulled very hard in the current and its painter was taut and hidden under the toerail of Meredith with extends a lip over the side. The20 feet of line which had been "cut" was the other end of the original painter and it had indeed been cut - by me when I bought the line at West Marine.
Reflecting we were happy that our first reaction was to suspect our own incompetence and not the failure of human nature. It was good to have given our species the initial benefit of the doubt and to have had that inclination be proved correct.
How depressing is it for the future of our race that our initial suspicion - human incompetence was not only correct but compounded so thoroughly in the process.
Just another day in paradise.
The end was not frayed. The painter had not parted under strain or stress.