So, after Dasani bottles and duct tape, what do you think the next most important item on a boat is? A plunger? No. Unfortunately, if the head stops working, that glorious contraption of wood and rubber is not going to save you. Try again. Something incredibly important, like transmission fluid or oil? The infamous ” Johnson rod,” maybe?
A what?!? A Johnson rod:
Seinfeld: The Fusilli Jerry (#6.20)” (1995)
George Costanza: [about mechanics] Well of course they’re trying to screw you! What do you think? That’s what they do. They can make up anything; nobody knows! “Why, well you need a new johnson rod in here.” Oh, a Johnson rod. Yeah, well better put one of those on!
And, you laugh, but I now know that the standard-issue oil absorbent pad, which we now keep under the engine at all times, really does look just like a wadded-up Depends undergarment.
So, with my make-shift “Depends” in place, I was ready “get back into life” and get topside to help Phillip. But, now we’re docking again, and we all know how exceptionally great I am at that. So, of course, my heart is beating and thumping out of my chest. My hands are all sweaty and I keep stubbing my toe on things as I’m scrambling to tie lines and hang bumpers. We were coming in here to the Palafox Pier in Pensacola:
Here’s the birdseye view:
We were planning to just tie up at the fuel dock while we got our things together and wait for the dockmaster to find us a temporary slip for the day. Our first plan once we got the boat to Pensacola was to have it hauled out for a bottom job. That’s where they pull it out of the water with giant straps and set it up on jacks in a shipyard to sand and re-paint the hull. We knew that would mean a couple of weeks out of the water, so we didn’t have a permanent slip lined up yet. If you recall from the survey, we knew we were going to have to have a bottom job on ours done as soon as we got her home as our surveyor (you remember the ever-charming Kip):
“Every gal loves a good banging first thing in the morning!”
had found the potential leak in the core where the strut is fastened to the hull as well as several blisters in the paint on the hull that were allowing sea water in (http://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/05/12/april-3-2013-the-surveysea-trial/). Saltwater is just rough on everything, and every sailboat needs to have its bottom work redone once every 3-4 years. We knew it was time for ours so we had scheduled her for a paint a polish as soon as we got back. But, if you’re checking the calendar, you’ll see the day we pulled into that fateful dock was, unfortunately, Memorial Day (May 27, 2013), so she was scheduled to be hauled out the next business day – May 28th. As luck would have it, we had arrived a day ahead of schedule this time but if the initial Crossing taught us anything it was to never try to sail anywhere in a hurry. Always build in a few days’ cushion for weather, wind, boat problems. transmission leaks, complete engine failures, you know – the usual boat stuff. So, we just needed a temporary spot at Palafox Pier for the night. A transient slip they are called. But, the guys that run the marina don’t tend to open up shop at 5:30 a.m. just in case some rogue midnight traveler needs a transient slip, so we planned to tie up at the fuel dock while we waited for the dockmaster to arrive at 8:00 a.m.
This was our path in to the fuel dock:
Now, while I’m sure you may have tired by now of my many harrowing tales of our numerous docking debacles (docking is scary!), I will try your patience for just one more, because the true hero here was Phillip. The wind was strong that morning (of course!), blowing about 12-15 mph right out of the east:
Which meant it was blowing our nose right off the dock:
As Phillip began pulling the boat up alongside the dock, the wind kept pushing us off and the gap between the bow, and even the midship, and the dock kept widening. I just couldn’t make the leap (without losing a limb or two or my teeth when I hit the dock on the way down – and, to be honest, I’m kind of fond of all of those appendages – particularly the teeth). I had a line clenched tight in my hand, this time, but it was just too far to jump. I didn’t know what to do, but thankfully Phillip did. He was still close enough to the dock at the stern to leap off, stern line in hand (smart man!) and tie it quick to a cleat. He then ran forward and shouted at me to throw him the bow line. I wadded a few loops in my hand, gritted my teeth and tossed it up in the air. Phillip and I watched breathlessly as it snaked out, slowly unwinding and floating toward him. It was like Rookie of the Year pitching the famous “floater”:
You can imagine the dramatic Hollywood score playing in the background and the bright clang of the cymbals as Phillip caught the tail end of the line. Trumpets blared! He pulled the bow of the boat to the dock and told me to go back to the stern and kill the engine. I did, and the silence of the moment suffocated us. Everything was suddenly so inordinately quiet. There was no motor running, no shouting, no water or waves. Just silence … and safety. Phillip and I just sat for a minute on the dock, staring at her in disbelief. There she was, our boat, tied to the dock in Pensacola. She was safe, secure, home. We had finally done it.