The day I learned that I had been a bad dingy operator started like any other. I had learned (so I thought) all the little nuances for starting and handling the dink from Al. We even had the verbal check list each time we went out. So far, I had done well. Al had to sit up front and so I was left to do the driving. Why, you may ask? Of course, no secrets among friends. The facts are that we had a small dink. At 7feet, 9 inches it sounds small enough. But then factor in that 16 of those inches were behind and outside the dink; in the form of the tube ends. Then our dink becomes really a 6foot, 5 inch dink. It gets smaller still when you figure in the extra 10 inches for the diameter of the front tubes. Now the dink is only a 5 foot, 7 inch dink. Since our tubes were small, whenever Al tried to sit on the back side tube to operate the outboard, the rear of the dingy would swamp. Maybe this wouldn't happen if we were small people, but hey, we like our meals super-sized. A hundred less pounds on the rear tube really made a difference, so I had to learn to be the dink driver.
As I had learned to from Al, I first would open the vent on the top of the tank, then throw the choke lever open and pull the crank handle. Vroom-vroom. We had taken the dink out for a few small trips just to test our skills, and check that the 3.5 HP outboard worked well. When I say small trips, I mean around 5-10 minutes in calm water at our marina. Then there was the 2 minute over-and -back solo that I did at Bimini to check us into the country. That was the extent of our dingy use, and my total learning curve.
So when we were asked to come over to another boat for our first ever sundowner event, I made up some pizza and enthusiastically jumped in the dingy. Al followed and we made the trip across the anchorage to our neighboring host boat. The tide was changing, and as sometimes happens, our boat had swung around, and theirs hadn't, so the trip was only around 200 yards. We made it fine, and had the great time one always reads about regarding these events. Life was good.
When we left, it was full dark, and finding the boat was done by the light of the sliver of moon in the sky. It sure looked a long way off. Oh, right, the tide had swung both boats by now so ours was a long way up current now. We climbed in the dink, went through the verbal check, fired up and left. The current really made our flat bottom dink work at getting back to the boat.
We were making slow steady progress when the outboard sputtered and died. The current grabbed hold of the dink without pause, and I tried pulling the cord to no avail. So I did what I thought was urgently called for in the situation, I grabbed hold of the oars and threw myself onto the floor of the dink and began to paddle for all I was worth. That got me wet from the water that resided in the bottom of the dingy. The current was a little, no, a lot more than I anticipated. I redoubled my efforts. We were losing ground, but I was determined, and slowly we started to gain on our boat.
Al asked if I wanted him to paddle. No, I could do this; I must do this, what if Al hadn't been around? I would have to do this, so I was going to by god do this. Our friends had heard the outboard die, and so had jumped in their dink and tore across the anchorage to give us a hand. I was fading fast, if not for stubbornness I would have taken the tow they freely offered. But by then I was a woman on a mission, and you don't mess with that if you know what's good for you. Inch by agonizing inch, I pulled that little dink closer to the mother ship. Finally Al was able to reach out and grab the stern rail. I was exhausted.
We thanked our friends and they gunned their outboard and left. Al and I wanted first to find out what was wrong with the outboard. With the flash in hand, he ran over the obvious, and stopped almost right away. "I thought I told you to open the vent on the top of the tank." "I did, see?" and showed as I closed it a quarter of a turn. "You need to open it three or four full turns, or it will stall for lack of fuel. You create a vacuum and no fuel can flow if you don't." "Oh," I said as I inspected my soaked shorts, "I was afraid if I opened it too far it would let water in." The bad dingy operator turned the vent open three full turns, pulled the rope, and Vroom-vroom. My clothes were soaked, my arms were as sore as they can get, and I was still slightly out of breath from the exertion. "You did a good job rowing back. I was really amazed!" Al said as he killed the outboard. "Yah," I replied, "that current was really strong." Poof! No more bad dingy operator. Al should have been a diplomat.
I have put this one off for a long time. It's touchy to write about the problems, shortcomings and total screw-up's of others. Much easier to poke fun at myself. Not just because we have so much subject matter to choose from when laughing at our own escapades, but because I am reticent to embarrass anyone else. Who knows when the aggrieved party might read the blog? (Ok, we're probably alright there) However, I have decided to give this one a go. Because it's just so good. So here are the rules. No naming of the true location, so as not to indicate who it may be. The name of the participants and boat name will be changed. The rest is too true.
We had planted our anchor in the area between the two islands where we had read we should think about placing a second anchor. It wasn't needed, as we had been swinging for over 24 hours with no problems. The water was crystal clear, and we were alone in the anchorage. Al and I had agreed to wait for a friend to show up in a day or so. They had wanted to stay and see a little of Nassau before joining us. We had been enjoying the time alone, swimming to the islands, videoing the local wildlife, and snorkeling.
We saw the two trawlers (that's not too much is it?) pull into the anchorage and make their way towards our location. There was plenty of room on the other side of the area, but we know how that goes, don't we?
They were buddy boats, and motored past us towards a sandbar that extended all the way across the anchorage. It was very visible, the water was only about six inches at high tide and the entire area was white, not the blue associated with water. Anyway, the fist one (we'll call it "Big Brother") dropped anchor a barely respectable distance from our bow. We watched as the second boat (we'll call it "Nirvana") motored past and kept going right onto the sandbar. The guy came out of the pilothouse and went up front to see what had stopped his forward progress. His big brother, I mean the guy on Big Brother, started yelling stuff at him. He backed off, and came back towards us and dropped his hook almost on top of ours. Great. As I was getting ready to go over and ask him to move, Big brother deploys a second anchor in the correct fashion. Had to, as Nirvana had anchored so close to him that they would surely bang together when the current shifted. So Nirvana, after conferring in back and forth yells with Big Brother, deploys his second anchor. Straight down on top of the first. I'm not going over there. No point. Al swam our second anchor out as far behind us as he could, to keep us from swinging down on Nirvana. Problem solved.
As the afternoon wore on, both boats got into Nirvana's dingy and went ashore. Later, we saw them or rather HEARD them coming back, yelling and paddling; the now defunct engine raised in the air. They were larger folks and it was a large dink, large engine too; we could see them struggling to row it against the current. If not for the yelling, cussing, and name-calling going on in the dink, we would have offered to help. The drama reached its crescendo as they dropped off their passengers on Big Brother and rowed the 4 feet over to Nirvana.
All was quiet for a time, until I asked Al if we were on fire. Something was burning, an acrid smell that wafted right down into the salon. We sprang topside. Nirvana was burning. The smoke was pouring out of the rear door. Wait, that smell.... "Someone is burning some blackened fish." False alarm. Gad, the smell burned in our noses. Hot oil, strong spices and burnt food. Just in time for our dinner. We put off dinner for a few hours to let the air clear
Nirvana must have sorted out the engine problem, because they went tootling off to see the iguanas (oops) a short time later. On their way back, they swung by our boat to say hello. Actually, he was a writer who had a book published and he wanted to sell us a copy. I asked what it was about and he recounted seeing a movie, thought it was good enough to copy into a book, only better. His wife nodded enthusiastically at this. He mentions the movie and I remember it tanked. Weak plot. Politely I decline. He had 40 copies of said book he was going to try to unload while in the Bahamas. His agent thought it was a good idea. Good luck, at $45. Hardcover.
He started talking about the many bridges on the ICW and told us a little trick he had for getting under the one near his house. He calls on the radio to the tender; "Hey, ya wanna see some tits?' and no lie, his wife raises her blouse to show us what happens next. They're both laughing. Al and I share the look. These are not our kind of people. I find myself glad I gave the book a pass. Thankfully they leave us to wonder how we got so lucky to be sharing this anchorage with them, and when will they leave for another. We are waiting on friends, remember?
The next morning I see big Brother pull his anchors and head out. Nirvana pulls one, and finds that the secondary has wrapped three or four times around it while swinging through the night. That tends to happen when they are dropped right on top of each other. Down goes the first. Up comes the second. Not. Down goes the second. Up comes the first. Now they are both at the bow, looking at the twisted anchors, boat still in forward, until one of them remembers and goes to put the boat in neutral. They narrowly avoid running into the island. Now ole dude decides to pull out the chain from the chain locker. "This should be good." I tell Al. He wants to know why. I tell him that the chain is more than likely bolted firmly to the bulkhead far at the bottom of the chain locker. We make bets and watch.
Big Brother is nowhere to be seen by now, but they are hailing Nirvana over and over. The calls go ignored by our intrepid boaters. We can hear their radio from our cockpit. There must be close to 300-400 feet of chain he pulls out of that locker. He works hard for around 20 minutes. It looks heavy. He piles it on the front deck. He pulls, reaches the end and "Clank!-clank!" He gives the windlass a swift kick and starts hopping around holding his hurt foot. We can hear the cussing from our cockpit "You owe me a real hamburger, in a real restaurant.' I high-five Al, as the guy starts throwing the chain back into the locker. Now all he had to do was nudge the boat in reverse around the anchor to unwind the wraps, but he can't figure that out. If it wasn't for all the cussing, we would have offered to help. Really. It's very entertaining watching him try to manhandle the secondary around the primary chain. He was totally covered in sweat around an hour later, when he finally managed to get underway.
So, in reading back through this, I can see where MAYBE the guy on Nirvana MIGHT be able to recognize himself in this story. But I have faithfully recounted it exactly as it occurred. Oh and as a postscript to all of this, the burger was delicious!