Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

March 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

DDWID loggIt was a warm and sunny August day with 10 to 12 knot winds out of the southeast. The day was made better because our daughters Christin and Annie were visiting my wife Suzy and me. Christin’s college roommate, Alex, and Annie’s fiancé, Matt, were also along for a boat ride.

The six of us set out on the Stella Maris towards Atlantique. We planned to walk to Ocean Beach for lunch, spend some time on the beach, and have a leisurely ride home. When we arrived, there were no slips available and the basin to the east was crowded with boats. Not surprised, I dropped anchor just east of the north wall of the marina, inflated the raft, and checked the anchor twice to be sure it was holding before we paddled our way to shore.

At the shore, I realized I left my sandals on the boat. No biggie — I’ll pick up a pair in Ocean Beach so I can get into the restaurant. Finding anything cheap on Fire Island isn’t easy, so it took a visit to three stores before I found a comfortable pair of sandals on sale. We have an enjoyable lunch overlooking the bay and a pleasant walk back along the ocean. Perfect, I think — how lucky am I?

Heading back along the boardwalk, Annie said she didn’t see our boat. “No worries,” I said. “You wouldn’t see it from here.” Or so I thought.

As it turned out, Annie was right. The boat was gone! As Suzy and I (in my new comfy sandals), hurried to the dock I was filled with a thousand thoughts — none of them good. Sunk? Stolen? Slamming against the dock wall? Tangled up with another boat? Where did I put the towboat number?

We turned onto the north wall and I could not believe my eyes — the Stella Maris was about a half-mile northwest of the marina, heading towards the Robert Moses Bridge. Plan A: I asked Suzy if she could make a swim for it. Her answer, as you might expect, was somewhat negative (thankfully, the kids were not nearby to hear).

On to Plan B: Beg for a ride! As fortune would have it, a family across the dock was getting ready to shove off. When I explained our plight, they told me to come aboard. Not wanting to get their boat dirty I took off my new comfy sandals and wiped the sand off my feet. I asked Suzy to go to the raft, wait ten minutes, and then row out. On the way out of the marina my new best friends mentioned their dinghy had once drifted off, too. You can’t imagine my feeling when I had to tell them it was my boat, not my dinghy. (People say boating is an expensive hobby but at that moment, it was also agonizingly humbling.)

Fortunately, we found that the boat was not aground, the anchor had finally caught, and there was no damage. I thanked my new friends for their kindness and headed over to pick up the family. I was so thankful that I didn’t hurt anyone or cause damage, and also angry at myself for not letting out sufficient rode for the anchoring condition as I’d been taught in a basic boating class.

With everyone on board, we were underway for our leisurely ride home filled with well-deserved, good-natured kidding from Christin and Annie, including, “So Dad, what kind of a captain loses his boat?” and “You should have had Mom check the anchor.”

And what about my new comfy flip-flops? I left them on the dock where I met my new best friends — I didn’t want to repay their kindness by dirtying their boat with my sandy sandals.

By Joseph Russell

A version of this article originally appeared in the Great South Spray, a publication of the United States Power Squadrons®

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