Lowest low, highest high
13 December 2010 | Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay
NW 30-40, partly sunny
The front arrived with full fury last night. 30 knots, gusting 40 or more. As I got up to adjust the lines to the dock at sometime plus midnight, Alex arrived in the dinghy, soaking wet, sans lifejacket. "Dad, we have an emergency and you need to come quick." Turns out, as the seaside bar was closing, he noticed a sailboat aground and drifting ashore on the windward side of the harbor. In the pitch black gale, he raced to help, discovering a father and son struggling to save their sailboat and losing. I asked Alex a series of bracketing questions while I took away the dinghy "key." Lives were not at immediate risk. Clearly we were NOT going to save the boat ourselves on a very dark and stormy night. We established and maintained radio contact hourly for the rest of the night. (The Bahamas does not have a Coast Guard or a private towing service who will swoop in to the rescue.) At first light, I sent out the radio alarm to all stations. BASRA 20 miles away answered and said they would call the Green Turtle authorities. Ok, the wheels are in motion.
We coffee-d, dressed in foulies (with life jackets!) and dinghied/walked to the scene as I still did not have an accurate picture in my mind. A crowd of consultants had gathered. Two Green Turtle men were actually in the water and had gotten the pre-hypothermic Dad off the boat and to the clinic. The twenty something son was attempting to rig towing bridles. A huge landing craft type barge arrived. The first two attempts started to drag the boat and then snapped the bridles like rubber bands.
Tide coming in. 30-40 knots on the beam, breakwater literally feet away waiting to shred the fiberglass. Boat with 6 foot draft so hard on, you could walk through waist high water and climb aboard. Sensing the hopelessness, the crowd began to drift away. A very low moment. I was on the verge of walking also.
Standing a few feet away on shore, I had been pondering for the better part of an hour how I would rig a bridle, when the tug captain shows up with some inch and a half hawser. Yes! Randy (Green Turtle man) and I waded out and got to work. We asked the young captain to wait below as he was clearly debilitated from no sleep, too much adrenalin and stress. Around the mast, back to the winches, this bridle was going to work or destroy the boat trying. No sooner did we get it completed but the tug took the strain. With no time to get off, I jumped below with the distraught young man, lamely trying to assure him that each thundering crash on the rocks and shuddering lurch was a step closer to freedom. (The boat is a Catalina 40 something with a spade rudder and I had been fearing the rudder would get torn off in the process leaving a gaping hole which would take the boat down in seconds if not minutes.)
A couple more crashes and then we were upright and clearly moving. No water flooding it. In total exultation, I lept to the helm and we had steerage behind the tug as he towed us into Black Sound to the marina with a travel lift. We whipped it around to windward into the hands of a gang of men at the dock waiting to tie us up. Done. What a miracle. A buzz and three quarters. A deposit in Calypso's pay it forward account.