Knocked Down

This post was started as comment on my friend Paul Barosse’s blog  – Paul’s Voyages of Discovery & Etc.

Doyle has asked for a story, and as I have 11 costumes to create for the unicycle act at Science Fiction: An Experiment in Circus, I’m going to start with this kernel.  Alas, not a garden story.

The boat I lived on 25 years ago was knocked down one early morning in Round Rock Passage in the British Virgin Islands after a hideous night sail with the charter guests from hell.

We were moving the boat at night, something we all hated because no one on the three person crew got any sleep, and there was apt to be at least one passenger who could not sleep because they were seasick.

The night had been no exception to the night sail with charter guests rule. Although seas had been calm (we had almost no serious weather EVER in the Caribbean) the rocking of the boat had left one of the guests marooned in the aft seating area, throwing up. Of course she would use the head instead of leaning over the rail, so the aft cabin was going to need some major cleaning. Ew.

We were running; no spinnaker on this big old boat (75′ – sloop rig) but we had rigged a second sail with a whisker pole. We had rocked all night (like sailing a soap dish). The breeze was beautiful, and the sky and sea were a lovely blue. A million stars were out, but all of this was colored by the guests that were generally unpleasant.  And sick.

The sun was coming up, always a good sign, and I was below making muffins. Once the muffins were in, my job would be to start forward on the boat and move aft, wiping down all of the varnished wood.

Jim and Øle (mate and captain) saw the gust on the water and shouted to hang on. Fortunately I was on the leeward side of the galley as we went down. One second I was standing, the next I was on my stomach leaning into the cupboard.

(Short aside – Now the galley on this boat (a Little Harbor ’75) is counter-intuitively placed athwart-ships. This does make it look like the kitchen in an apartment, but when you are underway you lean right or left instead of forward and backward. There is no way to gimble the stove [set it on a pivot so it stays level with the horizon.] Øle had rigged up a fiddle in the floor for me to wedge my feet against. Now, back to the story…)

Jim let the sheet go so we did come back up, but not before losing three stanchions and potentially fracturing the rod rigging.  (That’s my photo on the left.) What I heard in the moment after the shout was a lot of crashing and breaking glass. Not good signs.  The woodwork would have to wait.

My responsibilities began at the companionway, and lots of small stuff had flown around below. Muffin. Batter. Everywhere. The boat owner’s wife had recently added framed watercolors to the main cabin, and they didn’t survive (how tragic). Clean up took a while, with all that broken glass and the possibility of bare feet.

No injuries, but a few shaken guests. I did manage to slice the crap out of my hand later in the day in a fit of exhausted stupidity.  We arrived in Virgin Gorda and promptly put the guests off to go to the beach while we spent the day going up in the boatswain’s chair to check the rigging.

Other problems on this charter:

  • a guest that would NOT abide by the “no smoking below deck” rule. Remind me sometime to tell the you the fable about exploding bilge gas.
  • The sewage holding tank would not empty. It was the sewage maze.
  • The generator stopped working. On a boat that had electric rigging (roller furling and downsized winches) and guests that demanded air conditioning.

Crazy stuff. But still, a story.

Image by mcaretaker

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul says:

    Thanks for giving us the whole story!

    I’ve been to the top of the mast on a 40 foot sailboat in a bosun’s chair. It’s not for the faint of heart.

    1. Kate Tabor says:

      Thanks for the memory jog. Somewhere I have photos from that day. Torn stanchions, flailing lines, tired faces. Think about the size of the mast on this puppy. Sloop rigged. 75′ – so like a 90 foot mast. No faint hearts indeed. Loved the story of Saturday’s race, by the way. Okay – back to the sewing machine.

  2. Michael Doyle says:

    I love your stories–I feel like I’m there, places I’ve never seen, yet become vivid through your mind.

    I remember taking a bus from Athens to Piraeus, a day of dust and stories and confusion.

    Thank you.

    1. Kate Tabor says:

      Now that’s a story that I want to hear! I love taking the local bus. Sam and I took the bus in Portugal frequently. Who says you can’t buy a thrill, right?

      More stories to come. Thank YOU for reading them.

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