Sunday November 20th, 2016
We are well sheltered behind the piers of the ICW bridge at Jensen Beach. The weather was reported to be relatively benign. A cold front was to come through during the night and with that would be a surge of North wind 20 gust 25 but would only last for an hour or so and settle to 10/15 and continue to settle.
I slept with one eye and one ear open and the wind didn’t come. At 04:00 the wind came up and as advertised was cold and from the north. I was zipping up the windscreen in the dodger when there was a noise on the bow. I thought one of the circus bikes had fallen over or something else had broken (we are having a run of that). In silhouette I could see something on the bow that didn’t look right.
When I turned on my Canadian Tire flashlight my fears were confirmed. We had a 28 foot sailboat in the bowsprit. Luckily at that moment a gust came up and took Fracas to the west and let the newcomer slide down the starboard side. As luck or fate would have it the ghost ship’s anchor snagged on our chain and the boat came to rest rafted to Fracas albeit without fenders or invitation.
Sensitive that I was a guest in a foreign land and knowing that some words are different I tried to communicate with the crew of this interloper with common language…. “What the f*ck”? And “Hey”? No answer. I then noticed that the companion way hatch was padlocked. This is usually a sign that the crew has abandoned the ship. Considering the route this particular ship was taking I would have abandoned it as well.
Now ML was up and an active member of the crew. It was only appropriate that if we were having guests over, perhaps from Florida someone should be preparing biscuits, gravy and grits. My sexist alarm is ringing, I would be on the list of those who are capable to make biscuits, gravy and grits if required. We quickly ascertained that the ship was unmanned. Fenders were quickly put out and lines were attached.
Who do we call? Of course the coast guard. By now it is 05:00 we called them and they were friendly and helpful but clarified as we weren’t in danger and basically it was an emergency averted… The wind was settling some. The Chief Petty Officer we spoke with was very professional, practical and helpful. He said that someone would get back to us once they tracked down the owner of the vessel. Around 08:00 we received a call from the Coast Guard they reported they were having trouble locating the owner but would continue to try. They also said they would contact Fish and Wildlife who have police jurisdiction on the water here.
Shortly thereafter we received a call from a very apologetic ‘Ron Howard’. I looked at the boat and decided it would not be the same Ron Howard I was thinking of. He assured us he would be out as soon as he got his clothes on… I thought perhaps it was time we also put our clothes on.
Sure enough, we noticed a truck arrive at the landing and offload a small fiberglass dinghy and what I thought looked like a motor. I’d like to say that I wasn’t watching them with binoculars but I can’t. Next thing ‘not Ron Howard’ Ron Howard and his friend began to paddle their craft out to Fracas with what looked like half a Kayak paddle each. It took them a while but they made it out. What had looked like a motor was an electric trolling motor and apparently wasn’t up to the task of bringing ‘Not the real Ron Howard’ and the accomplice out to their mooring.
Guess what? They just got the boat yesterday. “We’ve been watchin’ YouTube videos to learn about sailing and were hoping to fix this boat up to get a bigger one”. I suggested that keeping it away from other vessels would be a good first start. I told him “Here’s what you are going to do”, the Irish will say things like that.
We put a few more lines on the offending craft and they set off to gather up their anchor and get it out of our chain. It wasn’t a long trip. It was a combination rope/chain rode that was 20 feet of rope and 10 feet of chain. In 8 feet of water it might have held if the anchor was sufficient and if it had been set. Then the anchor appeared. Perhaps an 8 pound Danforth might be light. Further, I suspect that the anchor was thrown overboard with reckless and wanton disregard.
Next followed a quick anchoring 101A with a hope that they would go somewhere downwind to re-anchor. Not so, they went back near where their night sail began. I tried to be polite and helpful. Fists and choking would have been soothing but not helpful. We need to recruit people into boating and sailing. I and I’m sure most of you who boat learn from the terror, near misses and ‘incidents’ that meet us as we do our boating. This is the first time Fracas has been hit by something or someone. We did hit the steel post at Hoppie’s but that’s another blog entry.
The friend/accomplice never got out of the dinghy. Not sure about him, likely brought along as he was a member of the Cornell rowing team?
As captains we have to be vigilant and sleep with one ear and one eye open on the lookout for YouTube graduates.
This reminds me of a saying begun on Jazzebelle some voyages ago; “Some days you watch the show and some days you are the show”.