Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drifting in Door County

The GPS tells me we are 144 feet away from where we first marked our anchor using the MOB (Man Overboard) feature. That means we're drifting. It's now after midnight. Jim is asleep in the salon and I'm not asleep in the V-berth. I haven't slept a wink since the winds picked up. Howling overhead relentlessly. Thank goodness we found this little cove on the southern side of St. Martin Island closer to "Death's Door" passage than I want to be.

Half an hour ago, we discussed what action to take. It's pitch black outside. No moon at all or maybe a couple of days into the new moon. I will check that later. Jim suggested we could re-position the anchor and move ourselves closer to shore. But he's taken an Ambien and is very groggy. I don't like the idea of him getting to the bow of the boat much less hauling up the anchor. We had enough difficulty setting it before the sun set and the winds picked up. I didn't realize how hard it was to get the boat into reverse gear. I'm thinking of human error v. staying put.

The rollier it gets, the more we drift. According to the chart, to starboard, it's shallow. To port, there is a shoal. This cove is 3/8 of a mile wide. What the hell is that? I lived in Switzerland so long, that I have meters in my veins, not miles. No concept of three/eights of a mile. We have 125 feet of anchor rode (line) out so we should hold until dawn's early light.

Later, Jim puts the second anchor out by attaching it to the first one. He puts out another 25 feet of rode. Then he goes back to sleep. Not me. I set my iPhone timer for 45 minutes and am always awake as it hits one minute to go. I don't fixate on the GPS which, by the way, frequently beeps to signal it has lost the satelite.

In addition to the relentless wind, the temperature is dropping. I have on ski underwear including knee-high ski sox and on top of that every item of clothing I packed. I wear my Lake Michigan Unsalted hoodie with the hood up. Jim has given me a parka, but I am shivering and I know it's fear. I lie in my bunk with a flashlight, GPS and iPhone.

Every 45 minutes, I crawl out of the V-berth, put on my boatshoes and pad to the stern. I've figured out how to open the hatch. I remove the top panel and crane my neck out the little opening I've made. Aiming the flashlight at the depth gauge, I can see that we are still at 13 feet. Earlier Jim reckoned that if we drift fast, we will drift south...with four miles until we reach Washington Island. But now the wind has shifted. It's coming from the East. That means we will drift into the rocky extension that was intended to protect us.

Should I awaken Jim? No. Let him sleep. I plod back to my berth. It's high so I have to maneuver to get into it. Once in, I reset the timer.

I've been bothered by an insistent tapping. Now it's driving me to distraction. It's not just the sound. It reverberates. Has the boom vang unfastened itself? Mentally, I try to figure out what piece of equipment could make this irregular incessant noise. The next time I check for our depth, I flash my light to see a blue fender attached to the lifeline. The next day I learn that the fender is stored in the anchor locker and Jim hung it to get it out of his way. Hung it at exactly the spot where my head is positioned inside. Of course, I could walk to the bow of the boat and untie the fender, but the waves are strong and the wind is howling. And I don't have a tether. I left Chicago in such a hurry that I neglected to bring mine. That would be foolhardy. So I put up with the irregular reverberation thinking of Edgar Allen Poe's "Nevermore."

Eventually I succumb to a restless sleep. I pray. If the wind pushes us into the rocks, at least we will be on land. But would I be able to get out of the boat to rescue myself.

Daylight creeps in only after 6 a.m. It has been a long weary night. Years ago, Jim Kidd - Congregational minister and avid sailor told me, "Beth, if you're not scared shitless at least twice a year, you're not really alive." I'm certainly set for the next six months at least.