Head to­ward the Is­land

Spousal mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion has painful con­se­quences

SAIL - - Experience Under Sail - By Bill Wag­ner

When you’ve been sail­ing with your spouse for more than 30 years you get to know each other pretty well. It al­most goes with­out say­ing that you don’t al­ways see eye to eye and so some­times there are ne­go­ti­a­tions, some­times ar­gu­ments and some­times ac­qui­es­cence. In the end, the boat keeps go­ing, and the joy and won­der of sail­ing pre­vails. But not al­ways.

This past sum­mer my wife, Mil­lie, and I set sail on a rel­a­tively short cruise from our home port of Hunt­ing­ton, Long Is­land, to­ward the east end of the is­land on Santa Maria, our Beneteau Ocea­nis 440. Our first port was one of our fa­vorites, Sag Har­bor, gate­way to the Hamp­tons. We love Sag Har­bor be­cause it has great shops and restau­rants, a the­ater, a su­per­mar­ket by the wa­ter­front and easy bi­cy­cle rides to all the Hamp­ton vil­lages. Mil­lie en­joys cy­cling in this area, and she loves to cook on the boat, so the nearby su­per­mar­ket is one of her fa­vorite places. We spend a week there ev­ery year.

At the end of our week this year, we de­cided to leave for Block Is­land. It was a beau­ti­ful day with blue skies, a bright sun and a fair breeze. Ev­ery­thing was stowed away, the bi­cy­cles were on board and the out­board was re­moved from the dinghy. We weighed an­chor around 1100 in or­der to catch the tide through the Race on our course to Block Is­land.

As soon as the an­chor was up, I told Mil­lie to mo­tor to­ward a small is­land (re­ally an out­crop­ping with a big rock on it) in the chan­nel lead­ing into Sag Har­bor from the east. We’ve done this rou­tine many times over the years. The an­chor­age is out­side of Sag Har­bor and out­side a break­wa­ter. It is a pop­u­lar spot for boats to an­chor or pick up moor­ings. I long ago charted the route in and out of the an­chor­age and de­ter­mined that when ap­proach­ing the an­chor­age from the east, it is best to leave the chan­nel when this lit­tle is­land, which houses a light and nav­i­ga­tion aid 10A, is on our star­board beam. We would then turn to port and pro­ceed south into the an­chor­age. Had we gone a lit­tle fur­ther be­fore turn­ing we would have en­coun­tered a green buoy, but we al­ways turned be­fore reach­ing it.

I had never told Mil­lie that I had care­fully charted this route in and out; I just did it, and we al­ways mo­tored to­ward the is­land when leav­ing the an­chor­age. This day, after telling Mil­lie to head to­ward the is­land, I went for­ward to ad­just some lines at the bow. Sud­denly, there was a crash, and the boat lurched. I smashed into the star­board shrouds and even had to grab them to avoid fall­ing over­board. We had clearly hit a rock. I looked up to see where we were, and to my sur­prise, we were not headed to­ward the is­land I had in­di­cated, but rather to­ward the green buoy. I couldn’t be­lieve it. An­gry and in­cred­u­lous, I shouted, “I said the [ex­ple­tive deleted] is­land!”

I took the helm and started to back up. We nicked a few rocks as I tried to get out of the area, but since I knew there was clear wa­ter to star­board, we fi­nally got free. That done, I went below to check the bilge. All seemed well, but now I wanted to take the boat into the har­bor and get her hauled out.

The trip was filled with ten­sion. We had never gone into the har­bor, so we had to check the chart and watch the buoys while be­ing aware of boat traf­fic. I also had to con­tact the ma­rina to check if we could bring the boat in. It turned out the ma­rina was not mon­i­tor­ing VHF, so I had to look up the phone num­ber and call them. Fi­nally, we were told to bring the boat to the yard and head for the Trav­elift. To our re­lief there were two work­ers at the lift, and they guided us in and se­cured the boat.

Since I was bleed­ing and had some pretty bad bruises, we de­cided go to a hos­pi­tal to get the wound cleaned up and have some X-rays taken of my wrist and knee. For­tu­nately, the X-rays were neg­a­tive, and my wounds didn’t re­quire stitches, just ban­dages.

While wait­ing to be treated, I was ob­sess­ing about the boat. Our pre­vi­ous boat had a prob­lem with the keel con­nec­tion to the hull that caused me great con­ster­na­tion, and I feared I would have a sim­i­lar prob­lem now that we had hit a rock. On the way back to the ma­rina, we stopped for lunch and when we re­turned, the boat was out of the wa­ter. Lou, the owner of the ma­rina, gave us the good news: there was no se­ri­ous dam­age, only a chip on the bub­ble of the keel. What a re­lief.

We de­cided not to stay on the boat that night, since it was very hot and there were bugs ev­ery­where. We also felt we needed some time away to gather our­selves be­fore head­ing out. It took a while to empty the re­frig­er­a­tor and gather our be­long­ings since we had to climb up and down a lad­der to get to the cock­pit. This was es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult since my leg hurt so much.

Once home in Hunt­ing­ton, we re­viewed what had hap­pened and why. It turns out Mil­lie felt that go­ing to­ward a buoy was safer than go­ing to­ward an is­land. She didn’t re­al­ize that we were on the wrong side of the buoy, which was a nav­i­ga­tional aid to keep boats from go­ing into the rocks along­side the chan­nel lead­ing into Sag Har­bor. We were al­ready out of the chan­nel and on the wrong side—the side where the rocks were.

Two days later we re­turned to the ma­rina and found Santa Maria float­ing near the Trav­elift. The yard had filled and painted the dam­aged spot, and we were good to go. We be­gan the task of reload­ing and re­pro­vi­sion­ing. In the process we dis­cov­ered that the wa­ter heater had moved. It took a good deal of ef­fort to re­po­si­tion the unit to its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion.

That af­ter­noon we left the dock, mo­tored to the an­chor­age area and hooked up to a moor­ing that the ma­rina pro­vided for a few days. We waited for some bad weather to pass and fi­nally set off. This time we headed straight for the is­land—or bet­ter yet, nav­i­ga­tion aid 10A. s Bill Wag­ner is a na­tive Long Is­lan­der and re­tired pro­fes­sional ed­u­ca­tor. He and his wife Mil­lie have been sail­ing in the New Eng­land area for many years.

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