Captains log 201703.04
It's been a while so I figured I'd better update things for you all. The day after the Fort Lauderdale shooting I flew to Colonial Beach to pick up the car. As it's quite warm in Florida, I wore my sandals. My big Winter boots were in the car. Steve, a friend we met at Stepps Harbor View Marina picked me up at the airport in Charlottsville and I stayed the night at his place. In the morning he made breakfast (which was really good waffles and bacon) and we headed to TSC to pick up a new battery. The one in the car had collapsed. We get to the marina and the only people there were some guys working on their boat. It was a pretty miserable day, in the teens Fahrenheit (about -10C), snow covered the ground and I was in my sandals...
We called around to find out where the keys to the car were, and via Eric, another friend from the Marina we got onto the owner Brian who guided me through finding the car keys. At which point Steve and I unlocked the car, pried open the frozen doors and pulled out my tools to change the battery. I naturally changed into the boots but not before having to spend a good 20 minutes thawing out my toes which were screaming from the cold snow. We got the car started and headed back to Steve's place as there was no way I was going to be able to make the drive from Virginia to Florida leaving so late.
In the morning, yet another great breakfast and I was on my way. The weather cleared up so there was no snow fall but it was cold. I believe it was around 10F when I left in the morning, if I remembered correctly what Steve told me. The drive back was pretty uneventful other than the crazy drivers tailgating with black ice on the roads. I saw a few accidents but nothing serious. It took until part way into South Carolina before the lst of the snow was gone. It was a big storm.
I finally get back to the marina in Fort Lauderdale and we pack things up to go to a more permanent place. What we didn't expect was just how permanent that would be. The very next day, while we were having coffee we got hit by a boats wake and the MIL spilled hot coffee on herself, in an area no one wants to spill hot fluids. We got dripping towels as fast as we could but she was badly burned. A call to 911 and we moved to a dock to meet the ambulance. Turns out she was really badly burned. Second degree, almost third in parts. She was taken to a special burns unit in Miami after the first hospital saw the injuries.
The result of this was five weeks of the wife changing her mothers bandages daily while we waited on approval from her insurance to get the surgery done. The hold up it turns out, is that skin grafts are considered "cosmetic" surgery by the insurance company. Plus it was Medicare (USA not Oz) and with the latest Trump ACA reforms, no one knew what they were doing. What could have been done long ago was completed only last week. Close to eight weeks after the incident happened. The recovery time expected for the surgery is two weeks. So weeks of agony were the result. Our lives then revolved around her health and she was pretty much bed ridden all that time. Every day she would need to wash the injuries and redo the bandages with special cream (that the hospital pharmacy sells for $80) but if they use it in the burns unit, they charge $835 per tube for! That's not a misprint. She needed close to a tube a day initially but that reduced as she healed. Oh, the way we found out how much they were charging for a tube from the burns unit stock was by overhearing a nurse. pretty sure you can imagine that the wife would have been happy to walk to the pharmacy for $755 dollars!
Yesterday was the wife's birthday and the hospital tells us late on a Friday that the MIL is being discharged soon. Imagine Miami traffic on a Friday afternoon. They informed us so late we were already planning dinner. The wind was blowing about 25-35 knots making lifting the anchor and going to the dock a nightmare. After the girls got back we made dinner and were relaxing. Then at about 10pm, Spaz, our guard cat, informs us of a problem. She saw a boat anchored not far in front of us. In the howling wind. It started dragging its anchor. Apparently they were headed for another boat and the owners of that boat towed them away and put them right in front of us. They told us they were done helping them and suggested we move our boat so they don't hit us. Well, that would have been great, but you dropped them off so close that our anchor line was under their boat and we have no way to pull up anchor without first slamming into them. So they went and moved the boat about 20 feet and let without saying a thing. Like they were upset we made them move the boat! The exclamation mark was for both their attitude an the fact that they moved a boat that was over our anchor line to basically, a little further along so it was still over our anchor line. In effect we could not do a damned thing to move our boat short of cutting our lines and losing the anchor, chain and about 40 feet of 5/8 double braided nylon rode.
I felt at that point like a supertanker captain. Basically if you are piloting one of those, your mobility is so restricted that you can predict a collision way in advance but be totally unable to do anything about it. Sure enough, we were witness to a 30 minute slow motion collision of our boats. The keel or the rudder of their boat was on our line so it just guided the boat into ours and there was nothing anyone could do.
After we were locked, I suggested that they find our anchor line and disconnect it from the chain but not to lose our chain. I was willing to sacrifice the line but not the anchor or the chain. In the meantime , their boat was sideways into the wind bouncing on our line, slowly but surely pulling it bit by bit till our two interlocked boats were on a collision course with a third boat that was way behind ours but now rapidly approaching.
With no alternative, I started our engines and pushed ours and theirs against the wind till we could release the line from the chain and hold position so we didn't slam into boat three. I asked them to throw me the line so I could secure it to their boat. Which they obliged. Suddenly there was great pain. Turns out when you ask someone to separate the line from the chain, the big huge shackle that joins the two, naturally belongs with the line not the chain. I never realized this quirk of flawed wisdom till the shackle hit me in the forehead. Why the hell would anyone leave an expensive large stainless steel shackle on the line that might have had to be sacrificed, instead of leaving it on the chain where it should be. Commons sense it appears is not so common.
In any case, we pushed their boat forward with the our engine and made enough slack to release our bridal and line. With the shackle that I now have to go find a replacement for. We got out anchor back from them, they did manage not to lose it. Now I had to secure our 5/8 line to it without a shackle in howling wind at 2am. So I decided the wisest thing to do was to go to the boat ramp, tie up there and make the new bridal and attach it to the chain somehow. Looking in my tool drawer I found a 1/4 D shackle in stainless steel. Just big enough to pass the end of the chain link and the line through. Certainly not good enough for long term use but it will work for a night or two. I tied the line to the chain, made a bridal out of two dock lines and hooked it all up. The anchor to line hitch was then stitched at the ends to prevent it coming undone. After that we left the boat ramp and found a nice spot with no one in front of us to drop anchor. We did the same that day too but this time we were confident that at 3am, no one was going to dump a drifting vessel in front of us. When morning came, we were still secure and no one in front. Low tide hit and their boat was on a 30 degree angle. I guess they will wait till high tide to do what I suggested and remove our bridal and line from their rudder. I warned them if they don't, they may end up losing their rudder. It's /8 nylon, rated to 15,000 pounds. If it dangles behind them and gets caught on something (likely with 40 feet of line) they can kiss their rudder goodbye. Of course, the more likely thing is that it will get tangled in their propeller and really make a mess. We'll see what happens. I just noticed activity there so will be watching.