Glub glub, our sunken tub
Aside from a little time people watching, Miami was really not so much about South Beach as it was getting set to leave again. I had ordered a bunch of parts including a new bigger anchor and chain which would be delivered in a couple of days. First though was the commitment I had made at work to finish a project before leaving the states. It wasn’t that big of a project, but it had been started and stopped so many times, it was now completely out of control. We had now prolonged our leaving the states for almost 2 months to try and finish it, working a few hours and then waiting a few days, but still there wasn’t an end in sight. I handed the project off to a co-worker and we targeted the first good weather window in 2014 as our push off date.
They say that the biggest mistake you can make “cruising” is trying to live by a schedule. The pressure causes you to force things to happen, which leads to bad choices and particularly – weather problems. Well weather because a problem, with a storm roaring into Biscayne bay with 35kt winds. I retied the dinghy with a triangulated painter to keep it from banging the transom all night, and we went to bed. About 1:00AM I got up to check the boat, and the dinghy… our dinghy… our only way off the boat… was GONE. I mean it wasn’t there any more, and we are maybe 400 yards off the beach with no way to look for it, or anything.
Earlier in the day, we had met the couple on the 55′ Stevens designed wooden ketch “AWAB” who have sailed all over the Caribbean. One of their big warnings was to lift your dinghy every night because the Bahamian crooks swim out and cut them loose off the back of your boat. Once they drift away they can “salvage” the motor and make a few bucks. Obviously I should have taken their advise just a little sooner and better, because we now had the opportunity to see how big of a problem this could be. I called the police and the Coast Guard to report the theft. At first light we called the insurance company to file a claim, and the marina that was “down wind”… just in case. This was not really the kind of thing we needed right now. I had just quit my job, we had burnt through about twice the cash this year we expected, and now I needed to replace a dinghy and motor before we could leave… about a $6000 expense. We actually discussed just dropping the whole cruising plan and going “home” instead. Enough is enough and we were about tapped out.
Around noon, we got a call back from the marina. They had found and recovered a dinghy that had sunk against their sea wall, would we come and get it – please. Sure…. how ? First I called Peter on “AWAB” and asked if I could borrow his dinghy. They had rented a car to go shopping in town, so he said we could have it for the day. A little 2 mile run down the VERY choppy shoreline did show that the collapsed and torn up inflatable with the outboard dripping sea water and oil was indeed ours. “Could you remove it now please, it is an eye sore for our guests.” Uh, sure… just as quick as I can. I was able to the the 145lb engine off and into AWAB’s dinghy and traveling at the slowest speed possible we traveled the 2 miles back to “Dancer.” I had to stop several times to pump out AWABs dink as we were awkwardly loaded and shipping water about every 6-7th wave. Once back to Dancer, I hoisted the engine onto its rack on the foredeck and began the process of draining sea water and replacing it with diesel fuel to stop corrosion and “pickle” the engine. With 20+ knots of still blowing, this process resulted in oil and fuel being blown all over the deck. Our proud yacht was a complete and total mess.
Later in the day the new anchor and chain were to be delivered. A few quick phone calls and they agreed to allow their driver to use the delivery trailer to carry the dinghy home. What a life saver. By 5PM we had the saddest looking mess of torn fabric, deflated tubes and just general soggy stuff dumped next to the dock along with a bright shinny new anchor and 200 feet (300 plus lbs) of chain. The dinghy dock was also a public launch ramp, and police station and dock. Although they were not happy to have this little mess sitting in front of their office, they were big hearted about it and said it would be “OK, for a while – I guess.” Well you don’t patch up 5 major tears in a dinghys tubes in a rain storm, so we chained her to a tree and waited for the rain to stop… and waited…. and waited.
Two days later the weather had cleared enough to put new oil back into the outboard, and start the tube repairs. The tubes went pretty well, but the motor just refused to start. Through a long process and a lot of help from Scott on “Saltine” and Peter on “AWAB” we dried out the electronics and got some new spark plugs installed just in time for a rousing “rooooooorrrrrrrr” just at sunset. The outboard LIVES. By morning the tube patches had cured and we towed the still shabby, but floating dink back to Dancer to be joined to her outboard. 8 days of our lives we will never get again, but we have our “family car” back.