Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Is A Fine Mess, Part Three

Back to the dead end, with a 28 foot motorhome...

Some motorhomes have GPSbackup cameras, cell phones with maps, cell phones with GPS and so on.  At the very least, many RV-ers travel in a group of 2 or more humans.  

I have none of that. What I have is a monkey-on a string traveling with me. Some say that's the nickname for the dog, other's say that's a moniker for  me. 

Harley and I had our fun hiking around the dead end road,  then we decided we needed to get out of there before dark thirty. 

Have you ever felt an evil presence?  Well, once in awhile, I feel an evil presence, so I take heed and get far away from it.  No idea what made me feel creepy. 

I decided I could probably do a 12 point turn going back and forth like tacking around the clock, getting the motorhome completely turned around. 


I read recently in my handbook that came with the original Ford engine, something along the lines,  that power steering does not like hard turns.  So I figured I better be pretty fast whipping my steering wheel back and forth, as I  turned a hard left to backup 2 feet,turned a hard right to go forward 3 feet, then hard left back a foot, then hard right forward two feet and so on. 

I've had similar scenes, like the time my girlfriend from Puerto Rico went sailing with me around the Virgin Islands. She was not a sailor at that time,  but loved being out on the sea. She wanted to learn how to sail and mess about boats. About a week later, we were headed back to the homeport, to drop her off. 

We were tacking our way around a huge pile of boulders that bordered the island we were trying to sail around. My friend had learned how to tack the boat with me, so we were just having our last lazy afternoon of sailing her home.

We had zigzagged about five times already, only needing two more tacks to finally clear the big rocks and the point of the deserted island.  Suddenly the wind died while we were headed dead ahead to the rocks. I turned over the key to the engine, figuring we would motorsail now. 

My trusty engine, would not start!  

The battery had inexplicably gone dead.  I asked my friend to  hold the helm, while I ran below to switch over to the house batteries.  I asked her to try to turn the key in the ignition, but the house batteries had not enough juice to start the engine.  The deep cycle batteries were near dead too, from using the fans, lights, music, at night plus the VHF Radio for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore calls was usually on 24 hours. The solar panel had not topped the house batteries back up yet, as this was early to mid-morning.

There wasn't time to explain to a non-sailor what to do, so I bolted back up the companionway, climbed across the cockpit, then galloped forward, opened the anchor locker, threw out the anchor, then cleated it off what I hoped was about the right length of rode.  While it was rapidly deploying, I leaped up to the coach roof, released the jib and main halyards so both sails would drop to the deck. 

I did all this in about 20-30 seconds while yelling "Hold on!  We are going to stop abruptly!"

Suddenly the anchor snagged the bottom as we rapidly approached shallower depths.  My friend yelled "The rocks!"  with a look of horror on her face,  just as the sailboat came to an immediate halt, which caused the entire hull to lurch around 180 degrees. This left us rather suddenly, anchored nice and neatly, about 10-20 feet from the rocky shore. 

My bikini clad friend popped out her eyes and said "What are we going to do now?  Call for help? Announce a Mayday? Get a tow?  Call Search and Rescue?  Call the Coast Guard? Call VI Radio?"

We had no cell phones, they weren't around then, other than the big clunky ones that required a 20 pound battery,  but we did have a VHF radio. I had taught my friend proper radio protocol, as she had several times heard me answer calls made to the boat, by people looking for me.  I explained to her all about how to use a VHF and how to call a Mayday in an emergency.  

I looked at her and said "Have a cocktail!"   as I went below to rummage around for some rum and rain. 

She burst out laughing, peering at me down in the galley "Are you serious?"

I came back to the cockpit with two stiff drinks.  She took a gulp them asked "Shouldn't we be calling a Mayday?"

"We are safe, nobody's injured,  we are anchored, the boat is fine, we have food, we have drink.  We can't call a Mayday, nothing's wrong except the engine battery is dead. I held my drink aloft to make a toast "Here's to another day messing about boats in the Caribbean!"  

The end result, I switched the solar panels over to the starter battery. We spent a pleasant afternoon in the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, anchored by a deserted island, perilously close to the rocks. We could see colorful fish, turtles and more rocks below beneath the crystal waters. We deployed the aft swimming ladder, snorkeling around and swimming. Back on board the boat, we made a late lunch,  lazed around chatting, reading, and I think I even took a short nap. The sun was bright, so about 4-5-6 hours later, the engine battery was charged enough to turn over the diesel. We motored out of our rocky anchorage, to our intended island and mooring,  arriving before sunset. 

For some reason, sitting at the end of this lonely road, reminded me of that afternoon aboard "Sea Rose".  

Maybe because then like now, I was headed one place but ended up another. 

Oh wait, now that I review my pictures, I know why I was thinking of boats and sailing... 

The name of the park we were lost  in was Hurricane Shoals. That's a rather unique name for a park 270 miles from the ocean. 

So now, years later, I drove my motorhome back and forth, like I was tacking the 12 points of a clock. Eventually, I was actually turned around, ready to head  out the narrow road.  I felt enormously pleased.  

At the end of the strange road, before we turned back to the main road, I checked and there were NO signs anywhere advertising this road as a dead end. It looked like any other 2 lane paved road. Who knew it ended up a skinny one lane dirt road, after making a steep decent and hairpin curves?  

Just mind boggling. 

What was the evil presence I felt that made me want to get out of there before dark-thirty?  We were in a public park, but there was not a soul around anywhere. No one in the park anywhere at all. No workers, no visitors.  An unmarked road. 

Maybe someone stole the dead-end sign. Maybe the purloined sign read "Dead End, No Turn Around"  that sure would have been helpful, if it ever existed at all. We didn't stop anywhere in the park otherwise, because sadly, there were plenty of signs posted "NO PETS".  Also, very curious for a public park. 

Eventually I  drove back on the main map,  finding our way back to  Hartwell Lake where I workcamp and Harley woofcamps.  We made other stops, during our outing,  but more on that later. 

As my pilot friend would say "Any landing you can walk away from, is a safe one."

I am tremendously relieved to have extracted myself out of a fine mess, once again. 

Hurricanes and Hangovers and Other Tall Tales and Loose Lies from the Coconut Telegraph by Dear Miss Mermaid


Life is goof!