Saturday, December 4, 2010

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.......

One drawback to discussing plans openly in advance is exposing oneself to embarrassment when the plans don’t work out. My wife was quick to remind me of a couple such occasions, and that I had said at the time that I’d never again openly discuss plans in advance. It’s kind of bad luck, and yet, here I am.

Our first big offshore cruise was from the Chesapeake, through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and down the Delaware Bay to sea, and offshore to Maine. I can say we learned a valuable lesson that day and the error was never repeated. We weren’t too far north of the Delaware Capes when a jib sheet took a wrap around the fore-hatch, which had been opened a few inches for ventilation. It promptly ripped the hatch off the boat as neat as could be. The sheet flung it like a Frisbee, and it landed and sank 50-60-ft. away from the boat. Obviously we couldn’t go to sea with a big hole in the forward deck, so we diverted into Lewes, DE, with our tails between our legs, and found a week’s dockage there while I returned home and built a new hatch. From that day on, the fore-hatch has forever been securely dogged before we got underway.

The second time was also on the Delaware Bay. We had been selected to officially represent the State of Delaware in the America 500. This was a gathering of a couple hundred boats from most of the maritime countries around the world to re-sail Columbus’ Voyage of Discovery, with a double Trans-Atlantic and visits to most of the places that played a part in the voyage, including where the ships came from, the monastery where Columbus and his son lived, where his crew came from and so on. There were several big events to mark our departure from Delaware with attendance by the governor, and an open house (or boat) when the public could visit aboard and sign the log. With departure day, we were to leave Delaware City and sail south in company with a boat-load of well-wishers and photographers. As we got underway and began to set sail, I asked one of the crew to go forward and set the jib. Now keep in mind that we had done this hundreds, maybe a few thousand times, and in decades of sailing had made this mistake only this one time. Of course the one time would be in full view of a hundred people and dozens of cameras. As the jib started to go up, I called as loudly as I could, but in hopes that I wouldn’t be heard on the press boat, “Stop! Get it down, get it down quick!”

He looked at me like I was crazy and kept hoisting. “No, stop, get it down.” Only when he heard all the laughter from the other boat did he stop and look up. The jib had been hanked on upside-down. Then someone yelled across, “You’re sailing, HOW FAR??” Fortunately, all the press had the good grace not to publish a picture of the upside-down jib. We were embarrassed enough as it was. Anyhow, the point to be made is if our plans suffer a few future wrinkles, I hope you’ll remember it is all just part of the process.

Lin and Larry Pardey had a routine they followed to meet this problem. Whenever there were family and friends gathering for a send off at the start of one of their passages, they
would leave with all the bunting flying and hands waving, and as soon as they rounded the first headland that would put them out of sight, they would seek out an anchorage. They took the rest of the day to access everything. It they had forgotten something, they could return for it, in cover of darkness if needed. After all the hectic mind-numbing weeks of preparation, they could just stop, sit with a glass of wine, have a nice dinner, and actually get underway the next day when their blood pressure had returned to normal.

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