My worst sailing experience was in calm water
in the channel in Fort Lauderdale
. A buddy of mine was living on an Irwin
52 and had spent months restoring it for his friend. The guy sailed with me often on my boat, and he would always be talking about what he was doing with the boat.
When he was nearing completion of the project
, he took a group out for a sail. On the way to the 17th st. bridge in Fort Lauderdale
, the group in the cockpit
was laughing and enjoying the ride. I remember thinking how it is on my boat when I am at the helm
and everyone is socializing, and they lose sight of the fact that we are a vessel in navigation
. We were just nearing 15th street fisheries, which is on the canal that I had my boat.
SO all of a sudden I hear this awful groaning grinding noise
. We are plowing right into the steel
I beam that is the green flashing light navigational marker before the bridge. My instinct is to run and "fend off" so I run forward and see the teak
cap rail just exploding as the I beam is rubbing down the side of the boat. The bow pulpit is crumpled into a ball. As I am halfway up there, the inner forestay snaps and whips up into the rest of the rigging
which turned me around right in my tracks. Fend a 52 foot Irwin
going 6knots? Not going to happen. The broken forestay could have cut me in half.
We end up sort of connected to the I beam and when the dust settles, we go up there to try to disconnect. The poor guy says to me "look the light is not flashing," but I notice it is because the battery
from the light is laying on the deck
complete with spilled acid on the newly polished stainless steel window frames. We got disconnected, and just then the bridge was opening up, and my buddy proceeded through as if to be handling it like "no big deal, we can still go sailing." The boat did have a plexiglass hardtop dodger
, and he just didn't see the light straight in front of him.
The fallout was terrible. The guy's friend kicked him off the boat and the guy's wife was even more upset with him.
The moral of the story is that you can't be too careful. On my boat, I completely appreciate when people say, "do you see that boat, etc." From now on, one eye is always paying attention even if not on my boat.
I heard that a few months later the guy's friend went aground in the bahamas
with the centerboard
down. He forgot to raise it before the towboat pulled him from the stern off the reef and did some pretty good damage to the centerboard
and the trunk.
There have been times at sea in brutal storms where I was cold, exhausted and even scared but that is, to me, part of the fun and adventure. Seeing this guys boat trashed for nothing more than carelessness on all of our parts
was just terrible.