They say that most accidents happen closest to home and I don’t think that since our home is a boat we are exempt from that rule. Take, for instance, this example of a daily commute gone horribly wrong.
Getting to shore presents a continuous problem for me. I’m not entirely comfortable taking the dinghy on my own, although I do know how and am perfectly capable of starting the engine and steering around given practice. I typically wait out the day’s events to pair whatever I need to do ashore with what Brian is doing ashore; packing the computer, taking along the laundry, shower stuff, etc. so that when he goes I am ready for everything and anything I can fit into our shore time. It’s nice to have a driver. (Getting multiple things accomplished while out is a task I mastered while growing up in Podunk, PA when it was a 45-minute drive to civilization. That meant not only did we get groceries but also crammed in whatever other shopping, errands, etc. needed done while in the “big city.”) I am completely comfortable taking the kayak, which also boosts me with feelings of independence and strength.
Now that I’ve begun running once again, there is reason for me to go to shore on my time which happens to be early-ish morning when I prefer to run. On Monday morning I was up and ready by 8:10am and headed on deck to get myself into the kayak for the paddle to shore. The current was whipping though, “good,” I thought, “current toward the dock means less paddling.” Days prior I had taken the kayak into shore for a walk and encountered a strong current. I had no difficulty getting myself quickly into the kayak and on my way. On Monday there was one additional factor, however, to getting into the kayak. I had a backpack with shower gear that needed to be lowered and stuffed into the kayak along with me. So into the water goes the kayak – splash! Then into the kayak goes the backpack – plunk! I lower myself into the kayak and like I’ve done so many times before. I hold the rub-rail of the boat with one hand while I bend and shove the backpack behind the kayak seat with the other hand. During this maneuver, the kayak which is normally nicely parallel to the boat began to veer off with the current pushing it away from the boat. Two hands on the rub-rail now I was using all my might (remember those sore abs from the first day’s run) to pull the kayak back to parallel alongside the boat so that I could get myself seated and grab my paddle. Since the kayak had veered off the current had much more surface area to now push it backward and farther sideways. I managed to get it nearly alongside the boat and was trying to change my position in order to sit when it veered off again, current chugging along not helping. So now, still both hands on the rub-rail I’m pulling the kayak back toward the boat. Feet in kayak I’m getting stretched like Gumby and then the kayak tips just enough to pull in a bit of water. Uh oh! I can’t get it tipped back to upright and now my feet are in the water filled kayak clinging by just my ankles and the current is pulling it HARD. “Not…holding…on…much…longer…Brian! BRIAN!!”
Brian comes to the rescue, still sleepers in his eyes. He grabs hold of my wrists and directs, “let go of the kayak!” My mind is spinning. I’m now wet from the waist down, ankles straining all I can think is if I let go the kayak will float away in the current. But the now full kayak is HEAVY and I cannot risk letting go of the boat or I’ll be floating away in the current too. At least I have my lifejacket on, maybe I can grab a crab pot buoy on the way past. “Let go of the kayak!” he repeats sternly. “OK!” I free my feet from the kayak cockpit and there it goes, floating away while Brian heaves me up higher and out of the water. We both pause for a rest, he not letting go and me gripping around the side of the boat now up to my elbows around the edge of the deck. “Swing your leg up,” he says. Umph, swing my leg up that high!? Damn this running idea, my legs are dead weight! Ok, swinging…in slow motion. On the third try my leg is over the rub rail and Brian is pulling me by lifejacket into the boat. Safe, and shaking, we’re not done yet. “Into the dinghy,” Brian says, “we’ve got to get the kayak,” and paddle that went along with it.
Thinking all this through, I could have waited until the current lightened at bit. Always waiting for some element of weather. I could have put the backpack into the dry compartment on the top of the kayak before the kayak was even in the water. Might have even kept everything dry, what a concept! Or I could have taken the dinghy, easy to get into and powers right through current in any direction you would like to go. Hmmm…
So now I’m dinkin’ around, driving the dinghy each time we go to shore. It reminds me of when my brother gave me dirt bike driving lessons. Unfortunately I toppled the dirt bike over three times and then my dad put a stop to our lessons. But the dinghy engine has the throttle right there on the handle used to steer, so depending on what side of the dinghy I’m sitting I either speed up or slow down when steering. This is what practicing is all about. I’m a bit shaky getting the dinghy docked alongside the boat, but won’t be making solo trips for a while.