My Day at the Races
20 September 2008 | Vava'u, Tonga
We had to leave Anchorage #7 after about 5 days and head back to Neiafu because 1) We were looking for a restaurant fix; 2) We had garbage piling up (Neiafu is one of the very few places in Vava'u where you can responsibly deposit trash; and 3) it was almost time for the Friendly Friday Yacht Race and John was going to race again on Moonduster. In addition to that, our friends on Tin Soldier and Orca III were due to arrive from Niue and the girls were jonesing for some kid time.
I figured since Moonduster had come in 3rd in the first race and 2nd in the second race this was going to be the one. I was sure of it. So sure, that I couldn't figure out why they were tying back up to the mooring ball before crossing the finish line. Turns out the clew on the head sail had come free. Doh! Denied again.
We decided to continue hanging on the mooring in Neiafu because our rental back home was requiring some attention on our part and internet is only available in Neiafu. In addition, John decided this Friday should be my turn to race.
There are usually at least 10 boats participating in the Friday races- some more competitive than others. There are always some boats looking for experienced crew. Even if you're not so experienced there are plenty of boats who are willing to take passengers- also known as "rail meat"- provided they can haul their butts from one side of the boat to the other (whilst avoiding lines, booms and sails) during a tack or jibe. I didn't feel like grinding a winch or, frankly, working hard and getting yelled at, so I told John I would go on our friend's boat, Airstream, with the proviso that my only role was that of rail meat. That wasn't going to be a problem because Bill and Janet had enlisted Wayne from Moonduster, Dennis from Shilling, and Glen from Tin Soldier to do the "strong" work. Glen's wife, Marilyn, and I took our places on the foredeck along with a handful of other "passengers".
The race was due to begin about 4:50 so we got on board and slipped the mooring around 4:20 and started sailing around the harbor, getting familiar with the boat and how to move about during a tack while jockeying for position for the start- you know, the "dial-up".
Just before the gun, disaster struck. Glen, who was in the cockpit manning the outhaul and vang, was struck on the head by the mainsheet (the traveler on this racing boat is right at the companionway- unlike our boat where it's behind the helm). It struck his head hard enough to slam his face forward into the winch on the cabin top resulting in a gash above his eye and a very swollen, very broken nose. Oh yes, and a LOT of blood. It took everyone but Janet a few moments to even realize something had happened, but she quickly had him on his back with a huge ice pack on his nose while she staunched the blood flow over his eye. Janet quickly realized that the race for Airstream was OVER, despite Glen's protestations that really, he was fine and we should all just continue on. When the rest of us took a look at Glen we realized it was pretty serious. Poor Marilyn was wrecked about it.
Fortunately the other Janet (Janet from Shilling who's job on board was to monitor the radio and race time) quickly put a call out for John, a young ER doc who is cruising aboard his CT, Night Wind. As it turned out, John was also racing that evening- aboard the boat, Bodrine. Another John (from Sandancer) raced his dinghy over to intercept Bodrine, off-load John and run him over to Night Wind to retrieve his medical kit and then brought him alongside Airstream (making siren noises the whole time, no less!) just as we were securing the mooring line.
Glen probably couldn't have had better care if we'd pulled the boat up to a trauma center. John quickly assessed the situation (laceration above the eye, broken nose, possible concussion) and went to work, including putting sutures in the laceration.
When all was said and done, poor Glen looked like he'd gone a few rounds with Rocky Balboa (the young Rocky, of course) and everyone agreed how fortunate we were to have a competent physician within our midst. And naturally there was also much discussion about the hows and whys and what to do different next time.
And yes, there will be a next time. Next Friday. Stay tuned.