What’s the Worst Thing You Can Have on a Boat?

April 28-29, 2014:

I like to just ask it that way.  See what people say.  Most kind of look at you funny, scrunch up their brow (Yes, scrunch – how do you think a “scrunchy” gets that way?)


Rockin’ it!

and either ask “What exactly do you mean by that?” or start thinking on the possibilities.  But, ask several cruisers that question, and I’ll bet you get several different answers:

A fire perhaps?


Just tragic … 



That would also fall into the category of ‘Suck’

Phillip tried several of these when I first asked him, and then – to my pleasant surprise – threw out a wild guess of:

A nagging woman?”


Nice try, but …


It is a fun question because it can spark so many different answers (as well as interesting follow-up questions – Do you mean to happen TO the boat?  Or be ON the boat?, etc.) – and it usually leads to some really interesting tales at sea.  I believe I would have answered that question the same way before we ventured off to the Keys, but I certainly did not expect to experience my particular brand of “worst thing” on this trip!  But, that’s the thing about sailing you have to constantly expect the unexpected.  So, where were we?

Ahhh … yes.  The busted First Mate.  Perhaps not the worst thing to have on a boat, but it’s definitely up there in the list of not-so-good things.  So, we were heading across the Gulf from Key West to Ft. Myers, and I was icing the knee and arm, hoping for immaculate recovery.

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Pretty.  The swelling really makes my bi’s and tri’s look huge, though, doesn’t it?  Like a body-builder.  Think I’ll sign up for it next year!


Hell yeah!

Thankfully, once we took the ice off, the swelling had gone down some and, while the arm hurt, it was mostly numb and mostly purple, but seemingly fully-functional, so that gave me some relief.  The knee, however, was the real cause for concern.  It was king of popping and clicking when I bent and straightened it and causing some pain when lowering and raising while weight-bearing.  Knees are just such complicated joints.  One little strain or tear and it just doesn’t function correctly.  I figured there was some soft-tissue injury for sure, but I just decided to really baby it and see how things went.  Thankfully, it was a gorgeous sailing day.

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We were on a perfect broad reach with 10-12 knots of wind most of the day.  Otto was holding, so we kicked back, cracked open a few books (and the Kindle) and spent a leisurely afternoon sailing and reading.  I was digging into the second of what I called the “Dragon Lady” books.  I had read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the way down to the Keys, and now I was tearing through the second in the series – The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Both very good reads – elaborate, intriguing plots and characters that keep you invested to the very end.  We polished off the blue cheese gnocchi that we saved from 7 Fish the night before,


and also dug into Phillip’s ham salad that we had made before leaving Key West.



Other than the potentially-permanent limp, we enjoyed an exquisite afternoon/evening of sailing.

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There is just nothing like watching the sun set on the edge of a vast, blue horizon.  There are no buildings or signs or structures to block it.  You can watch every single pink inch as it drops out of the sky.  Just proof that – more often than not – real life is better than the movies.  But we love movies too …

Uh-oh, guess what day it is??  Guess!!


Mmmhhh-hmmm, that’s right.  It’s MOVIE DAY!   Or movie time, I guess.  Since we had such a steady sail going, such great weather and a perfect heading holding, we decided to crank up the laptop and put on a movie.  (And, yes, much to Phillip’s chagrin, I do the whole “Movie Day” camel bit EVERY time we put on a movie on the boat.  Every … time … )  By the way, if you think about it – a camel.  Also another strong contender for “worst thing you can have on a boat.”  Can you just imagine …

We decided to put on Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar Hoover that night.

Hoover pic

Trailer HERE.

Another captivating performance by DiCaprio (that man is such a chameleon), and a riveting look at the development of the FBI’s internal database.  It was a little slow, though, and after the morning scare, my body’s attempts at recovery, gnocchi, salad and a soothing day of sailing, I hate to say it, but this crew was starting to nod off.  That changed, though, about half-way through the movie, when we started to hear the beginning rumblings of a massive thunder-storm behind us.  We had just been joking, too, when we began the movie that “movie night” on the old Plaintiff’s Rest seems just a bit cursed.  You may recall the last time we tried to kick back and watch a movie in the cockpit and Armageddon struck – the winds jumped from 9 to 15 to 25 in all of 10 minutes, we battled another flailing halyard, broke out the Frankenstein-assembled butterfly net on a stick (a.k.a. a gaff) and eventually lost the halyard up the mast altogether.

And, now – we put on a movie and what?  Thunder??  Cursed, I tell ya.  Cursed!!  It’s funny how on the boat, though, when either of us hears that first guttural rumble in the distance, you kind of ignore it at first.  I mean, you heard it, you’re sure the other crew members heard it, but it’s like you don’t want to be the first to acknowledge it – as if you’ll bring thunder to life by mentioning it?  You usually kind of wait until you hear one more, and then you exchange that “look” with your fellow crew of — you heard that, right?  We both heard it.  We both knew what it was.  After a few rumblings, we paused the movie to look around the boat and – sure enough – a big, billowy cumulus thunderhead lurked behind us off the starboard stern and we watched as a vicious streak of lightning blazed through it.  It was pretty far off in the distance, so it didn’t worry us too much, but just as we were looking out past our stern, a huge bolt raced through a cloud that was just off our mid-ship, maybe a mile or so out.  That concerned us.


Okay, that image is *ahem* … borrowed, but I did try to capture a bolt or two while we were out there.  It’s just so hard to click fast enough to capture the light.  Here’s Phillip looking out, though, on the the only-intermittent darkness.


We kept watching the movie a bit longer, but the periodic rumbles and bolts were far too distracting.  We decided to turn the movie off for a bit and sit up on the deck to watch the lightning.  It was still a good ways off, but it was hard to tell which way the storm was moving – particularly the stack of clouds on our midship.  While the storm was kind of frightening, it was also invigorating.  The adrenaline woke us both up, and the sight was just breathtaking.  To get to watch lightning streak through the sky like that, time and again, really is stunning.  Thankfully, though, the mid-ship storm rolled past us at a safe distance.  While it’s not at the top of my list, lightning is definitely something I never want to see on the boat.

We finished the movie and transitioned into our now pretty-routine pattern of “night shifts.”  Aside from the occasional tricky ladder shuffle with my bum knee, the night went smoothly.  We cruised right along on our same broad reach under a thick blanket of stars and sailed right through to sunrise.

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Looks about like sunset, huh?  But, that’s one of the great things about life on the boat – you start to rise and set with the sun.  It was a rare day on the trip that we didn’t see both the sunrise and sunset, which is a really reassuring sign that you are truly enjoying every minute of every day.  We boiled up a nice pot of coffee and enjoyed the cruise toward Ft. Myers.

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A visual inspection proved not much had changed since the day before … my arm and leg were still looking … ummm … pretty.

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We had made such great time during the night, though, that we decided – instead of stopping at Ft. Myers Beach again, where spent an incredible few days before making the jump to Key West, to go ahead and motor on up into the ICW by Sanibel Island to check out the area around Cayo Costa Key that our buddy Johnny Walker had told us about.

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And, THAT’S when we experienced the worst thing think you can have on a boat.  Phillip headed down below to re-fill his coffee mug and re-up on the sunscreen (a regular routine on the boat) and fiddle around with a few things.  I was a bit of a slow-mover that day, so I didn’t get off my keister to investigate, but I heard him pull the cover back on the engine.  Not too abnormal of a thing to do when we find ourselves motoring for a while.  It’s always good to pull the cover back every couple of hours and make sure you don’t have any drips or fluids or water leaking out of the engine.  So, that wasn’t too out of the ordinary.  But, with the engine hatch still back, Phillip took a few steps up the companionway ladder and started looking around intently, as if he was trying to figure out exactly where we were, just how far we were from land.  That’s when my brow scrunched.

“What?  What, is it?” I asked him.  And, after a few solid seconds of silence, he finally let out a rough breath and responded.

“Well, we’ve got somewhat of a leak.”

SOMEWHAT?!?  You either have a leak or you don’t.  He confirmed what I feared was true.  We had sea water coming into the boat.  Now, THAT, my friends is the worst thing I think you can have on a boat.  A LEAK.

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