Last week we saw how to inflict thousands of dollars of damage to a pristine Hinckley yawl, using nothing but a bit of chain. For more on this, see last week’s blog, The Delivery, part 1. And now we carry on to the rest of the disaster. We have left the scene of the damage, and are approaching our home dock.
Pause to look at this dock. There are no boats moored nearby, no obstacles of any kind. It is a wide U-shape, with the bottom of the U parallel to the shore. It is also parallel to the wind today. This means that, as we approach the dock, the wind is blowing directly onto our bow. There is room enough on all three sides for our boat. We could motor up to the far end, turn to port, and the wind would assist us by blowing us gently down onto the dock, port-side-to. Alternatively, we could just get in close to the long side, and with a little port helm at the last minute, the wind would help us land. Sam assessed things as we approached the dock, and gunned it for the near side.
By this point, full of righteous disgust, I am only too eager to get the hell off this wreck. I see what is coming, but I go forward with a mooring line, determined to get that line ashore. As per his established modus operandi, Sam angles in towards the dock at flank speed, then cuts power at the last second. At which point the boat begins slowing down, and the effects of the wind on our starboard beam quickly outweigh our diminishing inertia, blowing us away from the dock. But we are so close, just a few feet away, so I jump. And slip on the lovely varnished rail. I land, half on the dock, half in the water, but I have the mooring line triumphantly grasped in my hand. Before I can get it onto the cleat, though, I hear the all-too-familiar sound of the Hinckley’s engine revving up to full throttle, and see, out of the corner of my eye, that the hull is moving astern, accelerating rapidly. In an instant I am yanked violently off the dock, because the mooring line is tangled around my body. Of course. The boat continues at flank speed astern, towing me planing into Blue Hill Bay. Unable to free myself from the loaded line, I reach back, grab my trusty sheath knife, and begin sawing away on the line. And stop, realizing that, even if I cut myself free, I will almost certainly die of hypothermia before I can get back to the dock, assuming Sam doesn’t run me over first.
Fortunately, just then Sam reverts to idle mode. Actually takes it out of gear, then runs to the bow, where he stands mute, literally wringing his hands. I pull myself along the mooring line towards the nearest side of the boat, which happens to be the starboard side, where the lifelines are still intact. In the cold, cold water, everything is simultaneously slowing down and taking on a surreal clarity. Eventually I reach the boat, and try to pull myself up to deck on the line, at the bow. No go. I just don’t have the strength. “Help me,” I said. So Sam reaches over the lifelines, grabs me by the back of my jacket collar, and pulls up. This acts primarily to strangle me with my own jacket, but doesn’t get me much further out of the water. Spots appear before my eyes. I can’t breathe, can’t even say, “Let go.” And then, just as I am about to lose consciousness, he says, “I can’t hold on,” and drops me. On the way down I bang my head on the rail, and then I am underwater, utterly detached, looking up at the light, giving serious thought to the option of dying, deciding against it.
I surface, look at Sam, look at the boat, and notice that the boat’s drift has brought me closer to the starboard lifeline gate, which is open. Swimming to it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but when I get there, Sam has no choice but to grab me down at deck level, and the two of us are able to haul me aboard. A quick radio call, and half a dozen yard crew run down to the dock to catch lines. They hustle me to a hot shower, where I stay until the water begins to turn cold. I understand now that this is not an optimal treatment for hypothermia, but oh, it feels so good.
Later that day, I ask Sam why he had backed up. He explains that he had seen me land partly in the water, and was concerned that I might be crushed by the hull. Now, at the time, the hull was being blown smartly away from me and the dock. And if it hadn’t been, then the hull would have smeared me along the length of the dock. But it was a nice gesture.
That evening as I huddle by a fire, still trying to get warm, a fellow with a schooner phones me up, and says he is in need of a gang of rigging. I phone in my resignation to the yard the next morning, and I’ve been out of a job ever since.