Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Adventures, and mis-adventures

"Sooner or later you're going to run aground."
"Sooner or later you're going to hit another boat."

These are things people tell you when you start boating. It's meant to make you feel better so that when these thing happen to you, you know you're not alone.

Turns out we did both. In one trip.

The day started out with a bad night's sleep. We'd been keeping an eye on the weather for a a while, noticing the "good conditions" turn to "okay conditions." The wind was expected to come up to 15 knots. When we got up around 5 am, they were already blowing pretty well. The only reason we went ahead with the journey was the direction of the wind, which was due east. So if we stayed closed to shore it shouldn't be too bad. You'll notice that this crossing was just that -- we didn't do the straight line across the gulf. We headed outward around North Naples and were greeted by two foot seas, which are doable but uncomfortable (for us, anyway). 

Christmas morning on the boat
The tide had just reached it's lowest point as we left the canal from Naples. Once we past the last channel marker we turned northward, well before our Navionics told us to. And sure enough, we shuttered and slowed. We hit something. Checked the depth and, yep, it was 0. We did continue to move forward so I cranked the wheel back to port, hard. We moved along slowly, both of us wide-eyed and holding our breath. The depth gauge painfully inched (literally) upwards. Slowly, we gained more depth and headed right out to the sea until we got to the location our electronic map told us to be on. With a bit of paranoia, Russ checked the hulls to ensure we didn't puncture anything. Nope, all good.

Note to self: Just because the gulf looks all big and watery doesn't mean it really is.

Yes. That is an alligator. Waiting for his ride.
For the next three hours or so we bounced a bit, but the strategy of staying near the shore (but watching the maps and depths obsessively!) worked well. Things were choppy early on but as we neared Ft. Myers the ride smoothed out. As we made the turn around Estero Island we thought we'd made it.


We managed to get a slip in the Pink Shell Resort and Marina for the next three nights. No small feat, with New Years approaching, another big boater holiday. The forecasts predict that the next best boating day will be Saturday, so that is our target departure.

The wind never died down. It should get stronger over the next three days. It was coming from the east so I planned to get into our slip accordingly. However. There was a H U G E shiny boat in the slip next to ours, I'm guessing about 70 feet. It sticks way out, like a perfect target. My other issue, proving my ignorance in this whole boating thing, was the tide which was coming in and quickly. Lastly, the marina is exposed and just off the channel, giving me very little maneuvering room. And of course, they wanted me stern in.

Attempt #1. I pulled up next to the slip and started to pivot. While backing in I drifted toward the big boat. I pulled forward to set myself up for a second attempt, but we had to wait for the parade of boats coming down the channel.

Attempt #2. I again pulled up, but gave myself more space on the starboard side (where the big boat was). I lined it up perfectly, then started to reverse. But the current was strong and I wasn't quick enough. Again we drifted towards the boat. The dock hand there to help told us we could pull bow in if that was easier. I decided to do just that.

Attempt #3. I came about, turning into the slip. Russ managed to get a bow line to the dock hand. As I started to move into the slip, the stern was pushed outward, and into the shiny boat. Just before we hit, a kid (I'm assuming the son of the boat's owner, about 15 years old) ran from out of nowhere, seeing the tragedy unfold. He threw himself at our boat from his bow just as a horrible scraping sound filled my ears. Russ, too, dashed to that side, and the two of them pushed our boats apart as I finagled getting fully docked. The dock hand started yelling at us that he needed a stern line, or we'd hit them a second time. As Russ dashed to get it the father came out as well. He and his son started to inspect their boat for damage. 

The TALL boat is the one we hit. *I* hit.
I felt just terrible about it, embarrassed and ashamed. After a few minutes, we were safely tied into out slip, and (THANKFULLY) the other boat had zero damage. Except for a candy cane I took out -- only then did I realize it was decorated for the holidays. The father/owner (bless his heart) looked me in the eyes and asked, "Are you okay?" I said I was, but I was crazy flustered. He smiled and said, "Just breathe. It's fine."

Our boat, too, was fine. We didn't even get a scratch. I'm assuming the scraping we heard was from our rub rail taking out the candy cane, but it was a terrible noise.

As the afternoon went on a couple of other boats docked in the slips next to ours. I am a bit relieved to say they, too, had a difficult time with their boats. Russ watched one, saying they came at it sideways, got a line to the dock hand, who spun them around the pole to get parked. Odds are they've done this way more times than me.

So, okay, I feel a little better.

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