October 10, 2012 by Last Star blog
Any Port in a Storm….
Seems like a good idea and truth be told the port we are in is fine for the most part there are just a few circumstances that have made the physical aspects here a bit hellish.
We arrived under sunny skies and a bit of a fresh breeze. As we motored up the channel (normally a no-wake zone) we were flanked by these clowns.
This is NOT zoomed in, they were that close, but if you zoom in you’ll see one of them is waving and giving us a “high-five”, we gave him a “high-one–the middle-one. We had seen the pair of gunships doing maneuvers and high speed passes as we approached the channel so they are probably just happy to be back in after the pounding they were taking. Naturally I applied full-throttle and pushed the Last Star to her limits (7 knots) and pursued them to read them the riot act. Some story about a Seal Team blah blah and training and I told them I was a retired Colonel and was not interested in what freaking Circus or Sea World act they were with and no Seal act was going to upset my rum-n-tonic and they needed to slow down. I think I left them properly chastised.
Once I received permission to approach the facility we were greeted by a military police Zodiac and a teenage boy with two guns came out to verify my ID. Fortunately he just came close enough to see it and I did not have to physically hand it to him as I could easily see the hand-off going less than perfect and my ID slowly sinking to the bottom of the channel.
After a few garbled radio calls to the marina we eventually found our spot at the end of the T-head. The wind was a bit brisk and I realized I needed a better plan to secure the aft end of the boat as we docked. Patricia had her part wired and my approach was perfect but I decided to “go around”. This would prove to be a big mistake as during the go around Mutt and Jeff from the marina had the time to make the 200 yard walk to the end of the dock and “assist” in the next pass. Again my approach was flawless but Mutt rather than take the line early as the bow slowly glided by the initial part of the T elected to wait OVER his cleat until Patricia literally handed him the line. Meanwhile Jeff was standing by the cleat at the rear of the boat for me to throw him a line. As the bow was being cleated I threw the aft line but now I had zero boat speed and no way to maneuver. Everything now hinged on Jeff cleating the rear of the boat before the cross wind swung it and I would be flailing in the wind attached by the nose to the dock; like some giant forty foot fish on a line. Now Jeff was no decathlete, his biggest muscle was around his middle and the breeze pulling on Last Star’s 40+ feet of broadside was proving to be a challenge. What he didn’t understand was that the cleat is your friend, put any portion of the line over it, stomp your foot on it and the combination will hold a really big boat, bigger than mine. At this point it was looking like a disaster waiting to happen. His hands were trembling and muscles beginning to fail (about 20 seconds had transpired so far) and both Mutt and I were appealing to him to “use the cleat” but he took this to mean that he should cleat the line–which to him meant wrap the line in some crazy figure-eight configuration around the cleat as fast as possible with lots of slack and turns. There was so much tension and the boat was bucking from the wind that I feared he would lose a finger. Rather than see my nice lines soiled by Jeff’s blood and digits I decided to go for it. I leaped the ever widening expanse (chasm by this point) and landed deftly on the dock (thank God for grippy Tevas) and scared the crap out of Jeff as in his mind’s eye no human could make such a leap and grabbed the line. Using the cleat and a few tugs I secured Last Star. I tried to explain to him how the combination of the cleat and the pulling is way stronger than just getting into a tug of war with a 26,000 pound beast and 15+ knots of crosswind. He nodded while gasping for air. Once he had his wind back he explained how we were welcome at the Marina and he was the Manager. How he can manage a marina yet not be able to cleat a boat is beyond me. Now truth be told both of these guys were very friendly and full of local info on hours, locations, etc. Once the boat was settled we were glad to be back at a dock after 3 nights of anchoring. Things went rapidly downhill after that. We went out to dinner and happy hour with our local friend getting back to the boat about 10:00 PM. The brisk breeze from the west was now a brisker breeze from the north and running right up the back of Last Star. There was no turning her around now, not in the dark, and not with this wind. Boats are pointy on the front for a reason, taking the chop from the rather expansive bay has made the last three days (and nights mostly) hellish. As we tried to sleep (and I had earplugs) we were constantly pounded by the random and occasional wave at just the right angle that would SMACK the hull with a noise and concussion like someone dropped a chest of drawers on deck. It was really jolting but not dangerous or damaging, just really loud. Like a belly flop tossed against the side. In the last 72 hours the rain has been nearly continuous, the temperatures have not gone past 60 degrees, one of our fenders came loose the first night in the melee and amazingly we found it today (we went out during a break in the rain, it was right where we expected as the rain has not shifted an iota). We’ve hauled trash to the dumpsters in driving rain, Patricia fell on her can on a slippery metal part of the dock and only bruised her pride a bit. I went to take a shower and I think I was wetter when I got back on the boat then when I got out of the shower–at least the shower was hot. At one point when we got to the rental car we were so totally soaked that Patricia looked like she had washed her hair–she still looked lovely though. We still need to put fuel in the boat but the wind has kept us pinned to the dock and has yet to let up. We also must replenish our fresh water. We hope to accomplish this Tuesday and to push south Wednesday. I wanted to take advantage of the north winds and go out into the Atlantic entering into North Carolina at Oregon inlet but was discouraged from that plan due to shoaling in the area. The other option is around Cape Hatteras and enter at Ocracoke, Patricia does not like the idea of the over-night sail so we’ll do the ICW for the next bit, should feel and sound a lot like the Chesapeake. My sail boat does a lot of motoring.
Don’t know if this has been entertaining but rest assured as many of you on the Mid-Atlantic felt the first touches of fall and some wind and rain it has been a very different experience for us on the water. I’ll try and post this from the USO tomorrow and with any luck we push off again on Wednesday.