I wouldn’t. It just doesn’t quite capture it. Jumped. Landed. Struck. Those are all more appropriate. But, run? No. I wouldn’t say we ‘ran.’
May 10, 2014:
After a wild, peanut-shelling, hatty-hour hollerin’ night at Bowery Station, Phillip and I made our way back Up the Stairs for one final feast in Apalachicola. The braised pork shank appetizer, fresh baked bread and wedge salad were divine.
Not to mention the quaint, cozy view of the town from the upper deck. For dinner, Phillip enjoyed a perfectly cooked filet and I, according to the waitress, “put down some duck” (Caribbean style with roasted red peppers and mango).
She kept warning me when I ordered it how big of a dish it was. “That’s really a lot of food, ma’am.” Good, I thought. Because I didn’t come here for just a little! She seemed shocked when I cleaned the whole plate, so we got real crazy and ordered some dessert just for the hell of it! “Yes, we’ll have the homemade peach ice cream, please.”
In all, we thoroughly enjoyed our last night in that sleepy old Florida town. We woke the next morning, bright and early,
and readied the boat to motor “the ditch” back to Port St. Joe.
I am thrilled to say it was one of our easiest “de-dockings” yet. I am still prone to get a few heart palpitations when we pull up to docks and away from docks and near docks and around docks. The whole process is just fraught with peril, but this time the river pushed us right off. We waved a hearty goodbye to the friendly Blue Dolphin Crew anchored around us and watched Apalachicola shrink away in the distance as we headed up the channel.
And, just as it was last time, the Ditch offered us up another beautiful motor day. We eased along through old swamp-like pines, with Spanish Moss hanging the from the trees and birds swooping elegantly above the water.
Rusty old bridges, worn-out shrimping boats and driftwood boathouses littering the banks make it feel like you’re trudging up the ole’ Mississipp.
We even got to throw out the Jenny for a bit in Lake Wimico and do a little sailing. Otherwise, it was just a leisurely cruise. We read and wrote and enjoyed an incredibly peaceful five-hour motorsail over to Port St. Joe.
Bringing you the very best, from the cockpit of the Plaintiff’s Rest!
Everything was great and wonderful and perfect, until all of a sudden it was not. While we were protected from the weather in the channel (I’m assuming that’s why they call them “protected waters”), such was not the case when we came out under the bridge at Port St. Joe. We were motoring the narrow channel and it was blowing about 15 mph right over our port bow. With little protection from the South (only the thin sliver of Cape San Blas on the other side of the bay), the wind was picking up a lot of fetch across the bay and beating into us, bringing 2 foot seas along with it. The wind and waves were pushing us around in the narrow channel and just as we were coming under the bridge and preparing to hang a left to come into Port St. Joe Marina, the boat made a wicked “WHAM!” sound and slammed aground. Like I said, the word ‘RUN‘ would be incredibly deceiving in this situation. We didn’t just ease up gently on the bottom and scooch up on the soft sand. No, our boat lifted up on a wave and came crashing down on the ground underneath it. I bolted upright and looked around, thinking we had actually collided with something. We heard glass shatter below and looked down in the cabin to see that the globe from the lantern had popped off with the impact and busted into a hundred pieces on the cabin floor.
Out of instinct, Phillip said, “What was that?” Followed immediately by, “We’ve hit something. We’ve hit the ground. We’ve run aground,” as if his thought process was simply occurring out loud. I looked behind us and in front of us and it looked like we were still between the channel markers. Phillip revved up the engine to try and get us off, but we just kept hitting, over and over again. The depth was reading 5.2 but it was hard to tell from the GPS which side the shoal was coming in from. Meaning, we weren’t 100% sure which way we needed to go to get off of it. Phillip thought it was on the starboard side, but the wind and waves were coming at us right over the port bow, pushing us back each time on the shoal. We tried our boom trick, swinging the boom way over on the port side and having me hang off of it to try and list the boat to port to get off of the shoal, but it wasn’t working. We could see the marina. It was right there! We were less than a half-mile away, but we were stuck. Lodged on the bottom and beating it with every passing wave.
Phillip swapped places with me on the boom and gave me the wheel with instructions to keep trying to motor off the shoal toward port. He had pulled up the number for the marina on his phone in case we needed to call for a tow. I pushed the throttle forward and heard our Westerbeke struggling mightily into the weather while Phillip dangled and bounced his entire body weight from the boom hoping he could free us.
“Now?” he would shout between bounces. “Anything?”
“Not yet,” I would shout back. “We’re still hitting!” Ugh, it was such a sickening feeling.
Just as we were about to call it and make the call to the marina, I started to see depth on the GPS. First 6.2 then 7.0, then a joyous 8.3. Finally double digits and the boat stopped beating. Phillip could feel it and he bounced around a little harder as the boat finally started to ease off. I gunned it, pushed her hard to port, and we finally started moving forward. Once we settled out and got our bearings, we looked back, and it was clear the heavy wind and waves on the port bow had pushed us just enough outside of the channel to hit bottom on the starboard side.
It’s surprising, sometimes, how easily you can run aground when you don’t realize how much the weather is really pushing you. Our takeaway from this experience was to ensure the next time we find ourselves in a narrow channel in rough conditions, we’ll make extra effort to look both forward and backward and make sure we’re staying between the channel markers from both the rear angle and ahead. It’s easy to just look forward and think you’re staying in the channel because your path lines up with the markers ahead. But, we learned to look backward as well to make sure you’re not slipping out. It doesn’t take much of a “slip” to slam aground. We have never felt such an impact in the boat, and we never want to feel that again.
Thankfully, though, our trusty gal got us off and brought us safely into the marina where we gathered our collective breath, thanked and praised her profusely, promised we would do everything in our power to never let that happen to her again and then we hugged her. Or at least I did. A big bear one, right around the mast. Once again, despite our undeniable efforts but inevitable shortcomings, she had brought us safely in to port.