Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Gods of Docking

On our recent BVI trip, we were docked comfortably at a slip at Leverick Bay on the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. Sara and Momma were making breakfast and I was up on deck enjoying the morning when I saw a sailboat pulling into a slip on the opposite of the pier. They seemed to be coming in rather fast so my gaze stayed fixed on them to see just how abruptly the skipper was going to slow down. The bow of the boat cleared the finger pier and then the boat slowed somewhat but it was still coming in faster than I would consider typical. I began wondering if this was some hotshot skipper trying to show off or some poor sap who didn't know what they were doing.

It was then that I noticed that there was no skipper. The boat was drifting in from the sound and, purely by the most blind of luck, managed to come in, bow first, almost directly into an empty slip. My mind raced for a moment at the near-astronomical odds of this happening. Had the wind or current been moving in any of an infinite number of other directions, this boat would have been washed up on rocks, drifted into one of the buildings on the dock, or crashed into one of the other boats at the dock.

A photo posted by Ben Cushwa (@nautography) on

I quickly put aside all thought of the odds and by the time my feet hit the pier in order to help secure the drifting vessel*, I felt a low thump as the bow hit the pier. Myself and several others managed to wrangle the boat into something of a secure position using lines that were handy, but with no fenders and a bit of a swell on that side of the pier, the longer this boat was there the more likely it was going to sustain some damage. I say "some damage" because the impact with the pier managed to leave only the slightest of dings on the bow; the soft wood on the edge of the pier had absorbed most of the impact, and even the damage to that was minimal. Rather incredible when you consider the circumstances.

Those of us on the dock securing this wayward boat wondered what had happened to it and where its crew were when we noticed that there was a line hanging off of the bow. Someone fished the other end out of the water and discovered that it had been the pendant of a mooring ball and that it had likely been cut by a propeller. Our guess was that someone had taken a dinghy too close, damaged the line, and left the boat to adrift and at the mercy of the wind and tide.

With the marina dockhands on the scene, I left them to their work, still amazed at what  had just seen. Sara & Momma didn't almost didn't believe me when I told them over breakfast. The owners must have been nearby because the boat was gone within an hour or so.

My takeaways from this episode: be careful with your dinghies while in a mooring field...and whatever Boating Gods the owners of that boat pray to seem to be highly effective!

*This was one of those times that I opted to forego snagging my camera to catch the action and just go help. I did take pictures of the minimal damage afterwards, but the boat was gone before I had a chance to offer to share them with the owners. Oh well.


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