Ive never been truly seasick, I’m one of the lucky few but I’m feeling really queasy and suffering from my own form of the bout. My abandon ship bag is packed, ID, medical card, ships documents, knife, camera and iPad. Nothing else matters, the strain on the boat is amazing but it’s not the boat I’m worried about, it’s the rickety old dock.
We had our first tragedy this week, a boat was beat to smitherines and sunk at the dock in high winds. These docks are old, very old and the the bay isn’t protected at all. In calm weather this place might seem like a dream come true but right now it’s rapidly decending into hell on water. To add insult to injury the power has just gone out and I can feel the chill creeping in rapidly. It’s 6:00 AM and I have nowhere to go.
Wedged into the quarter berth the VHF is calling for gusts to 60 and 18′ seas in the straits just a few miles from here, Gale warnings are the one thing I find truly annoying about living on a sailboat out in these islands. There are no breakwaters, no protection, the elements are very real and today the wind is angry. I peer into the darkness wondering if the gangway will go, the docks are completely awash, it’s hell out there and that’s where I’m headed, to check on all of the boats.
In these conditions, walking is difficult if not treacherous, I’d like to say I had forgotten how bad it gets here but you never forget, it’s ingrained in your mind which is why I have three sets of lines out, why I’m the only person here in the winter. People make fun of me, the same people who’s boats I pull off the beach in their absence, the same people who expect me to watch and care for their boats, the same people who…
I’m on dry land now, the machine gun fire of pelting rain blinded me as I made my way to the warmth of the jacuzzi room trying to find any feeling in my fingers, I’m bleeding all over my iPad. The wind sounds like a jet fighter zooming in for the kill, close enough to touch, it’s just beginning. When I left Sookie she was in her most dangerous state, bucking hard at her lines from the surge, she is strong but piles of half inch line can only take so much. I’ll check on her every half hour or as often as I can warm my fingers, there is nothing else I can do.
It’s impossible to show the depths of weather on film, i snap a few shots in near darkness and am surprised they show a sky I can’t see. One image for the record, Im reminded I don’t need yet another reminder that the sea doesn’t care, she doesn’t care if your cold, wet, hungry, tired or scared. Turn your back for one second and she will take everything from you. In a lifetime of sailing I’ve been witness to many experiences. Of all of those, honestly and truly, the most scared I have ever been for the boat is when she is tied to the dock.
There is an old quote, the safest place for a ship is in the harbor but ships are made for the sea. I don’t know who wrote those words but he obviously wasn’t a sailor. The safest place for a boat in conditions like this are out there where she was designed and built to rein, the docks can be treachery to the sailors craft.