Monday, January 24, 2011

I Only Wish That I Made These Things Up!

I didn't have my camera with me today when the Rescue Squad, Fire Chief, Fire Truck, and paramedics showed up to take care of Hans.

I didn't take pictures of the blood all over our spring line, cockpit cushions, and helm pod cover.

And I think I'm kind of glad I didn't as I really don't want any visual reminders of what I consider to be one of the worst days of my life.

At the end of the day Hans received just 7 stitches in the palm of his left hand, has a very bruised and swollen knee, but he's alive and that's all that really matters.

Before I go any further though, I have to tell you the Rescue Squad was purely overkill (as was the stretcher they rolled up to us) and we were shocked and embarrassed (although Wilbur was thrilled) when they all showed up this morning after Hans informed a marina employee that he might need some stitches in his hand.

And to think that yesterday started out as a very uneventful day at sea.

Once again good old NOAA was completely wrong and the 15 knots of north wind that he promised were really 10-15 knots of south wind. I will never quite understand how these forecasts can be so wrong. The ocean was as smooth as glass so I went ahead and took advantage of this situation and made a pan of chocolate chip brownies.

We had hoped to sail as far as St. Catherines but since the winds didn't cooperate and it was getting late, we headed into Ossabaw Sound inlet. We decided that after days of cold nasty nights a marina might be a welcome relief, and with shore power Hans could watch the Steelers.

Here's a bit of trivia; water depths in the Ossabaw inlet can vary by 9 or more feet with the tides, and the currents just rip. We discovered that low tide is very low and at 6 PM we found ourselves aground at the entrance to the marina creek. And we draw two and a half to three feet!

Hans immediately shut down the engines so as not to suck a bunch of sludge and sand into the engines and we thought, 'Now what?' Just then a small motor boat came down the creek and the owner, a former tow boat captain who was on his way home managed to pull us off. By now it was dark and he led us up to the marina, helped us tie up, and absolutely refused payment. "We've all been there," he laughed.

After anchoring in three nights of bitter cold temps, we were so happy to finally be able to relax and use our space heater, I made Tuna Tettrazini (Tuna Helper!), and we watched the Steelers beat the Jets. All was well.

And then at 4 AM everything went wrong.

What happened next is exactly what boaters should never do.

Hans woke up at close to four o'clock and realized that our space heater wasn't working. A glance at the navigation station revealed that our shore power was no longer connected and our inverter had shut down our batteries.

That's when Hans broke our iron clad rule. Never go above at night unless someone else knows about it. I was apprised of this situation when a huge bang woke me up. Hans wasn't in bed, he wasn't in the head or salon, and then I found the cockpit door open.

"I'm in the water," Hans shouted when I emerged from the cabin, and there he was, pinned between our boat and the dock in at least four knots of bitter cold, outgoing current.

He looked stunned and I knew we didn't have much time. I didn't agree with him but Hans felt he should try to get to our swim ladder while I hysterically babbled about throwing him a life preserver which would obviously not get him out of the water. Somehow he managed to pull himself along the dock (against the current) and then lunge over to our stern which was swinging well away from the dock, and partially swim and grab at our boat until he reached the starboard side. I dropped the swim ladder and up he came. His sweat pants were down around his knees and he had to strip them off before he could heave his way into the cockpit.

I managed to get on the dock, reconnect our power, and tighten the stern line. It wasn't until I was back on the boat that we realized that the palm of Hans' left palm was slashed wide open and bleeding everywhere. We bound it shut and after getting the rest of his sopping clothes off I stuffed him into our bunk and made him a mug of hot chocolate. Even with blankets, Wilbur, and me draped all over him he shook for a good long time.

This morning it was obvious that his hand needed medical attention and that's when the cavalry descended upon us. Even after all that the paramedics were not permitted to suture his wound and Hans had to take a cab to an Emergi-Center and get stitched up.

How did this happen?

Upon realizing that our electrical cord had pulled free from its source, Hans decided to simply jump onto the dock and reconnect it. He didn't count on the icy conditions and his feet went out from under him and he dropped straight into the water. It was a very narrow slot and I can't believe he didn't hit his head on the boat or smash his jaw onto the floating dock. We're pretty sure his injured knee is what hit the dock first and saved him from being knocked unconscious.

This one simple act could have killed him. He could have been knocked out, he could have suffered from hypothermia (the water was 46 degrees), and if we hadn't been at a floating dock he could have been swept away with the current.

Don't think I haven't given him hell for this.

Hans has been around boats all his life and this is what happens when you get complacent and careless.

I'm still a bit shaken over all this and as embarrassing as it is to post, if this keeps someone else from pulling the same stunt, it will be worth it.


  1. wow glad everything turned out ok, as it could have been so much worse, like you say.

  2. Thankfully all worked out well and sharing this serves as a good reminder to the rest of us to follow safe practices, particularly when operating at night.

  3. Lesson learned! Such good advice to always let the other person (if there is one onboard) know when you're going outside. So glad that's over and hopefully today will be a GREAT one!

  4. Oh my gosh, Laura! I am so glad that Hans is okay, as he so easily could not have been! And as bad as this was to happen, I hope it does serve to remind him not dare to break another of your iron clad rules! You both really NEED to get to warmer waters and then hopefully you can relax and enjoy this trip!



  5. I told you to take whatever lucky charm you use out and shoot it but did you listen?

    Many do not realize that in very cold temps even though no snow or rain is falling that the comparitively warm water raises the humidity several feet above the water and then the cold temps hit it and the water freezes on the surfaces just above it. This can be a dock or the deck of your boat.

    I was impressed you were able to handle the shore power and the stern line-not to mention the rescue. The coldest water I've ever hit was 55 and it's hard to think straight in those temps. I can't imagine 46.

    Like I need to tell you- boating is very dangerous. Under normal circumstances you can be seriously injured or even killed. When you add winter to that the dangers now include hypothermia.

    If I were you, I'd grab a dock and sit for a couple months.


  6. I would love to pull into a slip, rip out the engines, and just sit! Forever.
    I have no idea where our so called good luck charm is and if I ever find it I'm going to wring its neck!

  7. I don't know that forever is needed.

    Motorcycle riders talk about a phenomenon. They recognize it after a quick series of mistakes. Maybe a turn too wide or a stop not short enough. They don't care if it's bad luck or bad decisions. They simply recognize that it's time to get off the bike for a while.