Memorial Day dawned sunny and warm. Yay! A perfect day for our first trip away from the dock - and with our daughter and son-in-law (another Tom) aboard. My husband and I felt a great sense of pride and accomplishment as we completed our pre-sail checklist and bustled about importantly. More than once my daughter expressed her apprehension at leaving the dock (she was aware that my boating experience was less than 6 months old). We stifled her objections and assured her that we were just taking a short spin in the harbor, how could things go wrong in the harbor?
First mistake was our naivete that we thought nothing could possibly go wrong in the harbor, our own backyard for heaven's sake. Within an hour of boarding, the captain was easing For Us out of her slip. I coiled the lines like I've been doing it forever, took in the fenders and went up to the flybridge to check on the captain. All was well up there, so I headed down the ladder to get our binoculars and charts from the pilothouse. I was just taking a chart out of the drawer when I heard the engines slow down. Since that was our agreed-to signal that something was needed or God-forbid, wrong, I dropped everything and bolted up the ladder to the flybridge. When I saw the look on Tom's face I knew he didn't slow the engines cause he needed a drink of water! In a much too calm voice he said, "Bunnie drop the anchor". The what I thought? Anchor? Oh God, now where was the anchor? My brain leaped into life as I recalled the one anchor lesson we had with Captain Patti in April.
Down the ladder I flew to the bow where sure enough, the anchor was. In my haste, I stubbed my toe on the windlass (the thing the anchor chain is attached to). That's why boat shoes were made, by the way. Somehow I remembered to remove the chain stop, give the anchor a bump to get it out of its little holder and then step on the down arrow to get the anchor moving. I had no idea how much chain we had, no idea how deep the water was there, no idea of anything. Except one thing, the engines were completely stopped by this time and .....we were drifting in a narrow channel that was surrounded by moored boats and other boats entering and leaving the channel. Not a good place to be!
Tom was now on the radio (frantically) calling Sea Tow. I calmly (not) reminded him that we were not members of Sea Tow, but rather BoatUs. Since Sea Tow was the first to respond, we asked for their help; luckily he was just a few minutes from us. We still hadn't been acknowledged by BoatUs. While Tom was on the radio, the police boat pulls alongside us and asks about the problem. Isn't it obvious I thought, but knew better than to be sarcastic at this time. While I was speaking with the police, I got a glance at my daughter's stricken face. My motherly instincts kicked in and I gave her a job to do. "Watch these 2 (moored) sailboats on our left side (no time to be nautical here) and make sure they stay near us". As I tried to give the police the documents they were requesting, Sea Tow came alongside and asked for our help lashing the towboat to For Us. He must have thought I looked like a bona fide boater decked out in Ralph Lauren navy and stripes, 'cause he asked me to tie us up with a few bowlines. Bowlines???? That line was only shown to me once on our last night as Captain Patti's crew - and - after several glasses of wine at dinner! That's the one where the rabbit goes in and out of the hole, right?
I think I sounded in control when I told him that the only way we were going to get tied together was with a clove hitch - that is unless he wanted to wait for me to get my knot tying book out and proceed with step one.... Voila, I convinced him. While this discussion was going on, my daughter frantically came over to tell me that she couldn't do what I had asked because the sailboats she was watching left. Left to go where???? No one was on those boats! Sure enough, I peeked over the Sea Tow operator's shoulder and saw that we had indeed drifted an alarming distance from our original stopping point. By this time my Ralph Lauren stripes were sweat soaked, my heart was threatening to jump overboard and the look on my husband's face devastated me. He kept asking himself how this could happen. How could our trustworthy John Deere engine built to last forever do this to us? After what seemed like an eternity, we got lashed to the tow boat, the police did their paperwork and we were on our way back to the dock. Though it seemed like we were gone for an eon, it was really only 45 minutes from casting off the lines at our slip to casting them onto the tow boat! Our dock neighbors gaped in utter amazement as our little parade made its way back to our slip. They all helped get us untied from the tow boat and pulled, tugged and dragged us into our slip. By this time the tow boat operator and I were old friends. I invited him to come aboard the next time he was in the neighborhood.
Once back in our slip, Tom ventured into the engine room. After being gone only a few minutes, he reappeared looking half disbelieving and half embarrassed. Oh oh I thought, this can't be good. In what I hoped was an authoritative tone, I demanded to know what had happened. Very slowly the answer emerged. It seems that the day before, the captain had decided to polish the fuel in anticipation of our trip. Since the captain isn't too keen on reading owner's manuals (or for asking directions), he just went right ahead with his polishing. Open this valve, close that valve, etc. Well....it seems that he neglected to open the valve that allowed the polished fuel back into the engine, so in essence starved it. Our trustworthy John Deere engine tried valiantly to do its job, but without any fuel, did what engines without fuel do - stop! I wasn't sure whether to fall down laughing, look sympathetic or scream. I'm pretty sure I handled my reaction well since none of the above occurred. I knew he had to deal with his feelings of misery and failure, so no sense adding fuel (bad choice of words?) to the fire. After arriving at the dock, tying up and washing off the boat, we decided that since the boat wasn't broken (just our egos), it was time to do enjoy apres boating and discuss our heroism during our disaster at sea. Needless to say, we were instant dock celebrities and had to endure much ribbing. Though it took a long time to live down our introduction to the marina, boating and our neighbors' jokes, we managed to make the best of it - and learn some valuable lessons along the way (know how much chain you have, how deep the water is and how to tie a bowline - fast)!