Any problem that happens while you are tied to the dock, are a gift.
One rainy afternoon in Southeast Alaska, I was moving Empiricus out of her slip. I had an appointment in the morning to haul her out for maintenance and wanted to stage her near the lift the night before.
My father came along for the ride. We cast off the lines and slipped the purring engine into reverse, building some speed , so we could steer as we backed amongst the other moored vessels.
Once we gained enough speed (A quick walking pace), I used my foot to shift into neutral, as a sailboat can steer without the engine, as long as she is gliding through the water.
Much to my dismay, the linkage refused to shift. It was jammed hard reverse and we were gaining speed. The vessel is heavy and carries momentum well…. Things went from daily routine to drama ridiculous quite quickly. I pushed hard on the linkage. It broke. We continued throttling in reverse, now at a jog pace. I quick killed the engine, but she had done her work and we were headed for collision. I grabbed a fender (Buoy) and left the helm, as it was hard to port and not effective enough in this small area to overt disaster….
In a brief, foolish bound, I pounced on the wood pin rail that enclosed the stern, and firmly braced for impact with another vessel, just prior to collision, I was able to deflect Empi’s stern to the side, by planting my feet on the neighboring vessel and driving off with everything I could muster. Wow. I thought. That was stupid. I could have been crushed… Not time to reflect on that now. I’m adrift in the harbor still. Engineless in reverse and the wind is picking up… Some bystanders came over to help and I threw them a long line. Now held fast to the dock, we took another line back to my slip, and towed her back in by hand. Now we were tied up. Right where we started….
That day was one that stuck in my mind. It was a day of learning and I learned allot. But mostly I learned about prospective.
Had I known of the linkage problem (By testing it like I should have), I would have repaired it, before casting off.
In other words. Any problem that happens while you are tied to the dock, are a gift. Period.
In Alaska you can be 5 minutes out your back door and be utterly alone. On the sea, you can be 100 feet from the dock and be in great peril and or a hazard to others. While tied to the dock, I have all the resources, that community can offer, right at my fingertips. There is food, parts, help, shelter, and work. Work to pay for it all. You have the time to plan and wait for the right season, day or hour to depart on your journey.
I took all that for granted before I discovered sailing. I was one of those people who would let their day get ruined over a flat tire on the highway. Like the world was out to get me because such an untimely event entered my life. I was impatient and Spoiled by conveniences, to which I felt entitled….
Once you cast off your lines, you are on your own. Entitled to nothing.
That instance was very early in my sailing days, yet it imprinted these concepts in my mind.
I can recall many, many, instances of finding, fixing and dealing with mechanical problems at sea. As time has gone on, I am less and less disappointed with the problems I find at the dock. Ill gladly wait till morning and make a trip to the hardware store, in order to sidestep a safety concern. I no longer take recourses for granted and literally a flat tire has become a good reason for a nice walk on stable ground.
And when I catch myself complaining about these petty details, I know… Its time to go sailing.
Captain Jesse Osborn.