S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

four point four

NOTE: The following post contains some hyperbole. Jill wants you all to know that we were never in any danger of hitting the tug.

Sit down, lubbers, and I'll tell you a tale that'll turn your hair white.

'Twas nigh on two bells (5 P.M. to those that don't know no better), on Friday, the 25th of November. Brisk, to be sure. Why, we had on all the clothes we had with us. The S/V Delilah and her crew were steaming down the winedark Alligator River Canal, a desperate place, hewed from the solid clay of North Carolina. Straight as an arrow she be. Until the Wilkerson Bridge, that is. There, the river, she becomes, for a moment, serpentine. And shoal. Very shoal. Thin water, some say. And narrow as a topman's mind. We was proceeding along as the sun bid goodnight, and was following the cans that the Army Corps of Engineers had placed here and there, when the TUG FROM HELL appeared fine on our starboard bow, pushing a monstrous barge.

The crew panicked. "What to do?" cried they. The stalwart skipper did not blanch, did not shrink from his duty. He put the wheel hard to port, hoping against hope to miss the Leviathan bearing down upon them. Delilah, noble and fine vessel as she is, obeyed the command. For a moment, it seemed all would be well. Have you ever seen a barge run over a sailboat? It's not pretty, to be sure. Suddenly, just as we passed out of harm's way, we slowed. Then we stopped, engine still chugging mightily. Did Delilah's bow actually RISE out of the water a hair? The incredulous captain looked at the fathometer: 4.4 feet she read. Delilah draws 5.8. And there we sat, as darkness grew...

As this is a family blog, we cannot report the next few minutes of conversation. Let's just say some very salty phrases peppered the air.
A passing sailboat offered help, but we didn't want their boat to go aground also. Some guy on the VHF piped up to suggest that we kedge off--using our dinghy and and an anchor. Our dinghy is deflated and stowed so well that we will have to dismantle the boat to reach it some day, so that was not an option. We have a stern anchor, which Roger (a.k.a. The Mayor, of World Headquarters fame) had donated to our cause. We threw that over, tied to the halyard, and winched it in to try to tip Delilah sideways a bit and shorten her draft. No dice. But we weren't that worried. We have "fifty dollar insurance" from Boat U.S.

It turns out that "fifty dollar insurance" means that they pay the first fifty bucks, and the sucker who needs the tow pays the rest. I won't go into the gruesome details, but fifty bucks does not begin to cover tow charges on the water, which they make up on the spot when they see how desperate you are, plus travel time. And they always seem to be at least forty-five minutes away.

We waited, and it got dark, and we tried a few things, and we sat some more, and then the bow seemed to shiver a bit. Dean threw her in reverse for the twentieth time, and this time we discovered we were moving. Tow Boat U.S. appeared two minutes later to collect their hefty fee for travel time and to advise us that we should sign up for the more comprehensive tow package. Thanks. At least we got free of the shoal without their assistance. The two ludramons (that's some phonetically-spelled Gaelic) in the towboat hardly knew how to come alongside Delilah, and I've heard horror stories about boats damaged by tows that tried to drag them THROUGH obstructions.

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