Steaming full speed out of Pelican Bay. Headed for Boca Grande Pass. Up towards Venice. Anchor up. Scott is driving. I grab the wheel. Came in a few days before so know where the channel is. Beautiful morning. Life is grand, and then out of nowhere, thump, crunch, bad lurch and full stop. WTF. I blame it on the early morning brain fog, the crappy charts on my Raymarine Chartplotter, the early in the trip haven’t been on the boat in a while, inattentiveness. But really as I look at the chart later, it’s so obvious. I screwed up.
Tried the engine to get us out. Could rotate her around but no forward movement. Put up the sail to heel us over to one side to release the grip. Row an anchor out in the dinghy to kedge us off. All with no luck. Tide headed out. Lucky all of the bottom is sand. But stuck. Seriously stuck.
Called Tow Boat US. The AAA of boating. Pay your one fee per year and get unlimited free tows. Such the deal. Captain Steve there in a half hour. Racing the tide he says. Ties on to the bow. His twin Suzuki 115’s strain, pull, drag… us deeper onto the sand bar.
Had to get the anchor back up to free us to pull forward. Attach a floating ball, pulling chain. Large palaber. Anchor dug into the sand. Deep. No luck. Boat quite stuck!
Tide headed out. Long day chilling in Pelican Bay facing the wrong direction while the other anchored boats look on. Sometimes you just need to wait.
As night time came the high time came along with it. And with both of them Captain Dwight with the next effort, saying he’s the guy the gets people out when nobody else can. Bigger boat. More horsepower. More torque. More experience.
Attach a bridle to the port side on the bow. Tow boat at full torque. Orion rolling to her side, but insistent on her place in the sand. Switch to starboard. No movement at all. Not looking good.
Start talking about if we can’t get her out coming back tomorrow to put inflatable bags all around her hull and floating her at high tide. Not easy. Not cheap.
Wait another hour until the absolute moment of the highest tide. Line on Starboard. Pull to one side. Engine running full on the towboat and on Orion. Movement? Hard to tell.
Line on Port. Pull over to her other side. Just need 20 feet. Maybe some movement. Some release. Forward bumping then onto another sand bar. Back and forth we go.
Then from a bottle pops the cork and we are floating free and at ease.
All of which is another lesson. Another day. Another learning.
Which is all part of being the Captain. The responsibility can be small on a day to day basis. But there is always a half an ear out for danger, even when sleeping. What is that thump? Is that banging ok? Crawl out of bed and take a look around to make sure the anchor isn’t dragging. That our entire home isn’t floating quietly towards destruction on the rocks. And then up on deck when all is silent to survey with a smile. All seems well. Back into bed.
Many serene moments where all systems are working well and is joy. Punctuated by the furling line jamming and headed for Governors Island at 7 knots with the only option being to crawl onto the pitching foredeck and twist into an awkward pretzel to somehow unravel the knot. All a day in the life.
So the grounding is a learning. A mild slap in the face to pay close attention, always. Because the nudge is not always so gentle. And the price of inattention, potentially immense.
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