Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Very, VERY First Anchorage

The year was 1972.

Two young kids fresh out of college had just bought their first (and as it now turns out, only) new vehicle: a Cal 21 sailboat. The paperwork was not yet finalized, but the dealer said, "Sure. Go ahead and take her out - overnight if you want to."

Are you kidding??!?

We loaded our camping stuff out of our beater 1961 Ford van and onto the boat in no time. She was tied up at the dock on Lake Carlyle in downstate Illinois. We had with us two bottles of wine - one to toast our new boat, and another to christen her - but it would have to be done at just the right time - at anchor on our first night aboard!

At that time, I knew how to make the boat move by using the sails - what else was there to know? We left the dock (OK, there was some drama there), and spent the day sailing. Eventually, we headed for the small cove that the 4th generation xerox copy of the Corps of Engineers' map showed on the eastern shore. When we got there, there was one other boat in there - therefore it became critically important that we looked cool.

So, now we had to anchor. I belatedly realized that I had never done this, nor had I ever seen anyone do it. But really, how hard could it be? I mean, you just throw the anchor in the water, right? (Does anyone hear the "What could possibly go wrong?" classic Farkism?)

So I clambered out on the bow. I had the anchor in my right hand, and the rode coiled in my left. Since I had the boat where I wanted her to be, it was just a matter of putting the anchor out there a little ways. Hmmm.. How about if I twirl the anchor around and let it go at the right time - it should just sail out there, right? So: Round and round... and anchors awaaay! Splash! Yikes! the line in my left hand instantly turned into a snarl, and jerked out of my hand. And, er, um, I had not had the foresight to tie off the end of the line. So, instead of anchoring our boat, I had just thrown away the anchor and rode. Cool quotient falling rapidly at this point.

Making a lightening fast decision, I dove in the water, and managed to get my hand thru the snarl of line before it sank out of reach. I surfaced, and got a finger thru the bow eye on the boat, becoming a human carabiner. I yelled for Jane, who was by now on the bow with a glass of wine, smiling at the people on the other boat, like "This is what we planned - we always do it this way"... Now what? All thoughts of "cool", "competent", and "seaman-like" were gone. Cool quotient: absolute zero. The wind was blowing, and I was being painfully stretched out...

They say the mind blanks out some especially troubling experiences. The next thing I now remember about that evening was climbing out of the water and toweling off. I just discussed this with Jane, and between giggles, she says that she really can't remember what happened next either. But somehow, we got a loop of the snarled line on board and tied off.

We drank the wine. Both bottles. Well, we did save a little to pour over the bow, but no way was there going to be a whole bottle poured out there.

It is a lesson best learned early:

Sometimes you are the audience, and sometimes you are the entertainment.
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