I've had the itch to sail and explore for years and it really got to me this year as I began to reflect upon the fact that I had more years behind me than I had ahead of me. The itch became unbearable and in May of this year I cashed in a chunk of my retirement
and bought a used Bristol Channel Cutter
. It was love at first sight, so much so that I declined getting a survey
and bought her as is with the intention of repairing her shortcomings as I sailed. Her rig was sound and she sailed like a dream. She was always the prettiest thing in any anchorage or marina. The fact that her systems for the most part didn't work was something I intended to deal with over the winter layup
when I had her hauled and redid her innards and her unusual interior
When I inquired about insurance
I discovered that a survey
was required and since I'd forgone the survey I also decided to forgo the insurance
. I assumed that if she was lost
, it would be while I was offshore
and there would be no pressing need to restore anything for my heirs. I simply assumed I'd go down with her.
While berthed in Savannah I decided to take an overnight trip up to Hilton Head
to do some sailing instead of just working on her. On July 19 I sailed up to Hilton Head
and anchored off a point called Dolphin Head for the night. I noticed that the anchor
light seemed dim, but just assumed that it was going out like everything else electrical
on the boat. I'd been up and down the mast
a half a dozen times and hadn't been able to get anything to work. Another chore for winter. The tide changed around 9 pm and I went forward to raise the anchor
and shift my anchorage a bit to get closer to shore and farther from the sandbar.
After cranking up the chain and 60# CQR
, I turned and headed for the cockpit
and was startled to see smoke billowing out of the cabin
. The smoke was so thick I couldn't see in the cabin
and other then seeing the smoke pouring out around the electrical
panel I couldn't see where the fire extinguisher was or anything else. I knew I had a handheld VHF
on the chart table and went into the cabin briefly to reclaim the VHF
by feel and came back on deck
. I made a quick Mayday which was picked up by the Coast Guard and gave them a general location and then with cushion in hand either jumped or fell over the side. I'm a bit hazy on that.
While I watched the boat burn from the water
I started feeling like I was burning which confused me a bit until I figured out I must be in a soup of jelly fish
. The roller furling jib
had by this time fallen from the masthead and was still attached to the tip of the bowsprit
so I headed for that and sat in the jib
hanging from the bowsprit
as the boat burned and I waited for the Coast Guard.
The boat burned to the waterline and sank along with my dreams and a significant chunk of my retirement
Draw whatever lessons you wish from this.