Todays assignment is to write about a loss…
One of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life was when I saw her sitting on the bottom, the muddy brown water filling her cabin and sloshing around her decks.
The “Island Girl” was my fathers beautiful staysail schooner. She was the love of his life. We grew up on that boat. I remember so many happy days spent cruising the Gulf of Mexico with friends and family. I remember sitting around the main cabin doing my homework while my brother and sister screamed with pleasure as they hauled themselves up the rigging and then dived right back into the water. I remember taking the Girl up the rails at Tarpon Springs for a bottom job and running aground every time we left.
I inherited the Island Girl when my father passed away. I had already been doing all I could to help him take care of her while he was sick. But she was an old boat. She was build in 1910. Wooden hulled. I spent a couple of summers helping my dad cover her up with layers on layers of fiberglass in an attempt to strengthen her hull and so prolong her life.
As my fathers health declined, so did his ability to maintain the Island Girl. He tried, but he just couldn’t get down there to do all that needed to be done. There is always SO much work to be done on any boat, and the older they get, the more needs to be done. It’s a constant battle against rust and rot.
As always, I was working offshore and so couldn’t help much, but when I was home I would run down to the marina and at least start her up, check the bilges and see if there was any major change since my last visit.
I was working a month on/month off schedule. Same as I am now. You’d think with a month off I would have plenty of time to take care of a simple sailboat. After all, I’m a captain, I take care of boats for a living.
Well, I guess I could if I had an unlimited amount of money and nothing else to do with my life. Even then, I did have other things I preferred to do with my time off the ships. I really didn’t want to spend all my time off one ship working on another boat!
So, I just took care of the bare minimum. It was enough to keep her afloat while I tried to sell her. Every once in a while, I could round up some help and we took her out for a sail. What a treat! Even tho we couldn’t raise the mainsail all the way up due to an owls nest in the mast, she was still a pretty fast boat. We had great fun.
What a sad, sad, sight to see her sunk like that.
The night before everything was fine. There was a big storm coming, so I made sure she would be alright to ride it out. I went down to the dock and checked that her lines were properly secured. I checked to make sure every one of her 6 (!!) bilge pumps were working. I checked that the batteries were charged. I checked that she was all buttoned up for the rain.
The storm came and the tides were higher than normal. I had to wade down the dock through chest high water in my need to ensure she made it through it all OK. Yes! I sighed in relief! She was floating high and dry and looking lively. I made my way back down the dock, sloshed up to my truck and took off home thinking everything would be just fine.
I got a call in the morning from Old Rip at the marina. One every boat owner in the world dreads to hear. “Your boat’s sunk”. WHAT??!! Oh no! How could that happen? I was just down there last night and everything was fine!
Aiiiiyyyyyeee!! I jumped in my truck and rushed back down to the dock. The tide had gone down and the water was much lower than usual. The Girl was on the bottom. My stomach sank and I felt soooooo sick. I was stunned. I couldn’t figure out what could have happened. It was all I could do to keep from just sitting down right there at the end of the dock and just wailing my sorrow and loss.
That boat had been SO much a part of my life for so many years. She was like part of the family. Now what?