The Whole Picture is Nothing But a Compilation of Details.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

C.R.U.I.S.E. Part IV: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Our boat is quickly transformed to a floating repair shop, brightly illuminated by deck lights. Not only is the steering cable off its track: The bowsprit is looser than it was when we cast off in Fort Lauderdale due to a rotted out heel, and there is a one inch play in the steel plate securing the mizzen mast.

Looks like we'll be here for awhile.

A surprising amount of tools are pulled out of the hold, one by one, like rabbits out of a magic hat; a mounting mess including hundreds of feet of anchor chain, a portable generator, a sawsall, spare pieces of wood, steel bars, caulk, glue, drill sets, socket sets, various hammers and mallets, bolts, nuts and screws of every size imaginable... In the wee hours of the morning, the moon, a creamy yellow big crescent of cheese sets in the big blue, and defeated by fate, we find a place to rest. I curl up in my sleeping bag under the dodger, worried about the prospect of our floating scrap metal yard being tossed around by the elements due to a dragging anchor with no available options of maneuvering. I wake up continuously.

Morning comes, and with energy levels and hope restored, the Balboa Clipper is pasted together with a mixture of ingenuity, steel plates, and marine caulk. I'd like to point out that, against all odds, the second most common problem on a boat, after crew, is not in need of repairs: the packing is tight and sounds like a happy donkey each time the handle is raised and lowered to flush. As a result, we begin to refer to the head as The Donkey. It didn't take long for "I'm going to hit the head" to become "I'm going to feed the donkey". Ah, life on board a boat...

We set sail, haul the anchor, and point the nose to the west, hoping to reach Key West before we have an altercation with the rapidly approaching, recently upgraded Tropical Storm Sandy. She brings us plenty of wind and a display of spectacular storm skies to our aft, but the skies above are blue and the winds on our backs. If I could only shake the constant, nagging feeling of "when?"

 "When" happens at sunset, just as we enter the channel to Key West, in close proximity to other boats and the hard (i.e. land) for the first time in sixteen hours. The emergency tiller, a two feet long steel shaft is installed and in 35-40 knot winds we enter the mooring field, its water boiling with whitecaps.

Another meal of rice and beans, anchors out and holding, wind howling through the rig. With no reliable steering, I'm happy that the Coast Guard Station is located eight hundred yards away.

We wouldn't need them until the next day.

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