Friday the Thirteenth

I regularly get asked the question “So, how’s life on the boat?”, and I have a couple of stock answers ready.  “Ridiculous.” is the usual one, which in my opinion sums up the whole thing pretty succinctly.  Sometimes I’ll answer “it’s a constant running adventure!”, depending on the events of the previous week or so, or if it’s been particularly stressful I’ll say “up and down, but mostly up.”.

Well, today marks one of the more ‘down’ days; there were a bunch of factors, but it definitely started with my own stupidity.  Technically it “started” yesterday but the turning point was at about 2am last night, at least three beers past the “pint of no return”, when I decided that my baby sister’s suggestion to return to her house with her and some friends for more beers sounded like an excellent plan.  That plan involved riding my bike five kilometers in the light rain with a guitar on my back, drinking several more beers, singing songs and laughing for an hour or so and then riding five kilometers back home in the pouring rain, finally arriving back home at about 5:30am.  I peeled off my soaking-wet clothes, flexed some blood back into my stiff, frozen fingers, and climbed into an icy bed.

At about 7:00am, I got an SMS message from work – something had broken in the webserver farm, and it needed my attention immediately.  Of course, the laptop was in the other cabin, so I had to get out of my (finally) warm bed, get dressed, walk ten feet through the pouring rain to the other cabin where I had left my laptop, and then sit in the cold dealing with a server issue.  Fortunately it was nothing terribly difficult and I was back in my bed in about an hour… just long enough for the bed to have gotten cold again.  At some point during that hour the rain had stopped and the wind picked immensely, howling in the rigging, blowing the hatches closed and making my halyards slap against the mast with a rhythmic cowbell-like sound.

I had only been asleep for an hour or so more when my phone rang – it was my neighbor Shawn, calling from aboard ‘And-E’, his 26-foot cruising sailboat.  “Hey,” he said, “Heads up, that powerboat has dragged his anchor again and just slammed into us, he’s headed your way now…”.  I thanked him and got off the phone and started getting dressed, and just as I put on my boots I felt the shuddering *thud* of another boat hitting my hull.

It was *freezing* out!  The strong westerly wind coming up the False Creek channel wicked any semblance of warmth out through the weave of my sweater, but I was still a bit too groggy – and quite possibly still a bit drunk – to remember to put on a windproof jacket.  I put out a few fenders, pushed the boat off my bows and let out some more anchor rode.  Fortunately it seemed that just as he hit me, his anchor found purchase in the ocean floor, and as I moved ten feet or so away, he swung back and forth in front of me but didn’t come any closer.

Now, that’s a really good thing – if you’ve been following along the past few weeks, you’ll know that my engine currently doesn’t start, which means that if I have to move the boat, I’m… well, in the interest of keeping this blog clean-ish, let’s just say it rhymes with “out of lucked”.  I have faith in my anchor; the 35-pound Delta on 40 feet of heavy chain and 300 feet of strong one-inch polyester rope has held me in place through rougher conditions than this – but that’s not to say that there’s no stress in wondering if it’ll hold this time.  The bottom of the ocean floor can change without warning, and False Creek is notorious for garbage and silt.  Recently I helped another friend re-anchor after he dragged, and when we pulled his anchor up we found a one-foot length of steel I-beam lodged firmly in the blades; no wonder he hadn’t gotten a good hold!

I watched the powerboat warily for a few minutes – I’d spoken with it’s owner a few days prior about his constant anchor dragging, but he’d apologized and shown me his brand new 50-pound ‘Bruce’ anchor, which definitely should be more than enough to keep a little boat like his in place, so I was pretty sure that if he’d found purchase he probably wouldn’t be going anywhere.  I figured he’d be coming back pretty shortly, and so with the powerboat swinging back and forth ten feet off my bow, I went back to sleep.  At this point I realized that it was going to be “one of those days”, so I didn’t bother taking my clothes off; I just took off my boots and jacket and pulled a blanket over myself.

Well, I got a good solid 40 minutes or so of sleep before my phone rang again.  This time it was Dale, the owner of the other (and nicer) Searunner trimaran in False Creek.  “Drew,” he said, “I just got a call from the police, and they say my boat is up on the rocks – are you on your boat?  Do you have a spare anchor…?”.  I looked out my front window, and there was Dale’s boat, sitting up on the rocks near Monk’s.  I do have a big spare anchor, and so it was back out of bed again and into boots and raingear.  I put the heavy anchor into the rowboat and fought the howling winds rowing the 300 meters or so west, dropped the anchor into the water, rowed back to Dale’s boat and climbed aboard.  I wrapped the anchor rode around one of the winches, intending to winch him off the rocks, and went to grab a winch handle… nope.  No winch handles.

Fortunately at this point there was a small wave system building, and I was able to rock the boat off the rocks and pull her to safety with just my arms, lying on the foredeck with my legs braced on the stanchions, using the two anchor cleats to gain a mechanical advantage.  You’d be surprised just how large a boat you can move with just a sustained pull!

Once Dale’s boat was safe, I rowed back to Tie Fighter to try to catch some more sleep – but of course, there were a few emails that needed my attention, so it was another half-hour before I could return to my bed, which was now once again cold.  I kept the raingear and boots close and buried my head in the blankets – it took a while to drift off, due to the physical activity, but I was determined.

I had finally nodded off and had been asleep for a good solid forty minutes or so when I was awoken yet again by that now-unmistakable sickening *thud*.  I jumped out of bed and threw on my boots, and headed out to find the powerboat crashed into my bows again – this time with a man aboard, doing his best to get his boat untangled from mine.  He apologized profusely; apparently he’d come to retrieve his boat, and in doing so his engines had stalled just after he pulled up his anchor, and they were now refusing to start.  His problem was cooling fluid, or more accurately a lack thereof.  I had some to spare, so we rafted his boat up against my port side and tied him off, and he tackled the cooling problem.  In a few minutes, he was up and running again, and we untied his boat.  He set off with more apologies, sincere thanks and a promise of a delivery of beer sometime soon.

So that brings me to now, more or less.  It’s barely 5pm on a Friday, which usually means the day is really only about to begin.  I’m due at a very exclusive techno dance party tonight, but with five hours of sleep and very little physical endurance left I’m not sure how that will go.  The wind has died down a lot, but it’s still quite windy out, and the temperature has dropped a few more degrees – thankfully my diesel furnaces are working very well, and the aft cabin is warm and toasty.

Some days are up, some days are down.  I spoke once before about the amplitude of the good-day/bad-day sinewave, but I’m still maintaining that the good days outweigh the bad.  This blog pretty much only reflects one portion of my life also, and suffice to say my romantic interests lately have been equally tumultuous – actually, way moreso.  *sigh*.

I’m almost afraid to have a nap at this point, lest it anger whatever gods govern Friday the Thirteenth and something else comes up – but I think I’m going to give it one more shot.