Thursday, March 17, 2005

Commander's Error

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Mosquito Lagoon, N28 48.616 W080 47.584

When we left the anchorage this morning I handled the anchor and chain (the heavy lifting) and asked Libby to steer us out backtracking the way we came in the night before. Libby called out “I don’t know how to get out of this.” I rushed back and just as I got to the cockpit, we ran aground.

“How did that happen?” I said. As I listened to Libby’s explanation it became apparent that she was so scared of running aground on the shoal to our right, that she veered too close to the shore on the left. As she saw the depth on the depth meter decreasing, she turned even more to the left. That’s known as the deadly spiral.

Now what. Our first grounding. I checked and high tide was three hours away so logic dictated that we be patient and wait. After only 30 minutes of waiting, I got antsy. The wind was blowing us ashore and I feared that as the tide raised, the wind would just blow us closer. I decided to take the more active and certain remedy and kedge us off.

We launched the dingy. I got in and Libby lowered the anchor and 100 feet of chain in with me. I rowed 100 feed out to windward, and dropped the anchor. Then I rowed back to Tarwathie, and we used the windlass to pull us off the bottom. It only took 10 minutes of windlassing. Great I thought. “Libby, head us away from shore dead slow while I secure the anchor,” was my command.

When I secured the anchor I looked up, and Oh No! We had made a complete circle and were aground again in the same spot as the first time. “How did that happen? Why didn’t you call for help?” I pressed Libby. Poor Lib she was completely distraught. “It happened too fast,” she said.

Oh well, we repeated the whole kedging procedure once again using dingy, anchor chain and windlass, and soon we were re-floated. This time I steered us out while Libby tended to the anchor. It was then, as I had time to reflect. I realized that the whole incident was my fault.

When I learned to fly, my instructor carried rubber disks that served as instrument covers. Whenever he detected me fixating on one instrument, he covered it up and admonished me to look out the window. That’s standard flight instruction technique. I had never provided Libby with that training. She was trying to steer a course using the depth sounder and without looking up to see where she was going.

I also failed to apply the principle I learned in the fire department, that nobody is authorized to perform anything for which they are not qualified.

I explained to Libby and apologized for putting her in such a position. It is vital that she develops confidence in our abilities, not fear of making errors.

Anyhow, that Chinese fire drill cost us almost half the day, so we didn’t make many miles. Mid afternoon in the middle of a big bay a fierce rainstorm came along that reduced visibility to 50 feet. We were forced to pull alongside the channel and anchor to wait it out. Because these bays in Florida are only about 2 feet deep, the ICW channel is dredged. The point is that I could only move 30 feet off the channel to anchor and that made me nervous.

Right now, we’re anchored in Mosquito Lagoon, another big bay. It’s part of the National Seashore and undeveloped so the nature is wonderful. The lagoon is full of white pelicans, other birds and lots of dolphins. Tomorrow I hope to see turtles, alligators, sharks and eagles.

The only suitable anchorage in this whole 20-mile bay is again only 30 feet off the channel. Around dark a thunderstorm with 30-knot winds came up causing big waves and making us very uncomfortable. I had to let more scope out for the anchor. I got completely dunked in salt water while working on the bowsprit. The weather forecast still says 5-10 knots wind, and nothing about storms. So much for weather forecasts.

I just hope there are no idiots chasing up and down these channels in the dead of night while swilling beer. I’m thinking of the snowmobilers back in NY and the way they behave.

I can’t get those mega yachts from Fort Lauderdale out of my mind. I’m as capitalist as they come. I believe in letting people get rich from success and from spending their riches as they see fit. Free enterprise is the only moral economic system because it leads to the greatest good for the greatest number. Still, my convictions are stretched to the limit when I see a young man detailing a 150-foot yacht with a toothbrush.

I’m not a religious man, but the word sin keeps popping into my mind when I think of such overtly ostentatious ways of spending wealth. I heard that the Amish believe that lack of humility is a sin. Is that a mainstream thought with other religions too?

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