Wednesday, October 23, 2013
One For The Record Book
Yup, been mostly missing here for a while....just not too terribly much to pontificate on currently....living day-to-day, doing the family 'thang. You know, the big *SNORE*...well, not entirely. There were some really good times out racing thrown in for good measure. Case in point, the fall Oxford race was just awesome! Good crew, good wind, really in sync--probably some of the best racing I've ever done...it was really nice to finally feel the exhilaration that comes when you know that the boat & all on board knocked it out of the park.
But I digress. Saturday looked to be a fun day on the water--nice breeze, fun crew, etc., etc. Time for the Annapolis Yacht Club's Fall Series race--2 days of windward-leewards & I was trimming spin...I couldn't be much happier....the previous week had been the distance race & it was good fun--& again, I got my trim on so I was in a good place.
So here's my story: We all have them--those crazy sailing adventure stories...
We were ready for the final race of the day & had gotten a terrific start. We were getting ready to turn the windward mark & I was thinking about getting set up for trimming the kite--making sure the sheets & guys were in place--the sheet wrapped around the winch on the cabin top so I could get the kite trimmed in after the hoist, etc. And then it happened. As another crew member & I were flying across the cabin top during the tack, I reached for the handrail at the same time & place she did & somehow never grabbed hold of it. I just kept on going--as in right off the boat! She told me later that I flew horizontally under the lower lifeline! Well, the first thought I had after I was under water was, "Wow! The bay is green this time of year!" The next thought was, "Oh Shit! I'm in the water!"
OK, don't panic! Here I am, fully dressed, foulies, in mid/late October, in the Chesapeake Bay treading water while the 2-3 foot chop splashed over my head & I still have my sunglasses & hat attached to me! Immediately, the folks on board yell "MAN OVERBOARD!" & throw me a life jacket--I swim to it as they tack around to try to get closer to me. Headsail dropped of course. However, I think they got just a little to close--if I hadn't backed out of the way, I would've gotten beaned and/or run over by the boat! Now to figure out how to get back on the boat--drowned rat that I am. It just wasn't gonna happen...there was no emergency swim ladder on board & at this point I was too heavy & too fatigued to even try to help pull myself up or even swing a leg over the gunwale. So maybe a makeshift ladder of bowlines? Nah. I was starting to get cold & fatigue was setting in. Thankfully, since we were close to the turn mark, the race committee wasn't too far away. They were hailed & came over. They had a swim platform & a ladder but I had to get over to them--the sea was just too choppy to get close to the boat I just flew off of & they had to take care that they didn't run me over either. Finally, a ring buoy with a line attached was thrown to me--but wouldn't you have it--Murphy's Law in action! The wind kept blowing the buoy back to the boat--ACK! Eventually, I was able to grab hold & be pulled to the RC boat. I climbed slowly out of the water to be rushed on board. All told, I spent 30 minutes in the water...if it had been a little later in the season & the water a little colder.....well, I think you get it.
Yeah, I can be pretty dense, or I was in shock because I kept telling the folks on the RC boat that they had to get me back on board so I could finish the race & get my stuff. This tiny woman looked at me like I was nutso & yelled at me, "You get your ass on this boat! You are NOT going back on that boat!" Meekly, I climbed under the canvas top & sat down. They didn't have much in the way of emergency equipment like a blanket or even spare jackets but there was an extra t-shirt that I wrapped around myself as best I could as the crew on board the RC boat raced back towards Annapolis & the yacht club. I must say that my "mother hen" was simply wonderful. She took care of me with the utmost concern. Found me a change of clothes, made sure I had something hot to drink, had a doctor, or three, including one oral surgeon, check me out (I have a huge goose-egg on my arm & some serious bruising), gave me a blanket, towels, & some really good cream of crab soup, and stayed with me until someone from my boat picked me up. She is my angel!
This situation, amusing now, could have been a lot worse when I look at it in retrospect. As I said, had it been colder, windier, choppier....had I hit my head instead of my arm on the way into the water...had the RC boat been farther away....anyway.
Here's my take on this: I think every racing boat should be equipped with an emergency swim ladder--they don't weigh much (very important), they roll up & can be stored easily. I also think that if a crew has not done a man overboard drill at least once per season, it really needs to be done asap. I also think that every RC boat should be equipped with blankets, towels, etc., in case this happens again and it will--not everyone who races is a he-man jock. And I don't think too many folk can just easily hoist themselves back on a boat in full gear after treading water in the cold...maybe they can but I really don't think so...
I also think that I'm one tough broad!
I'm ready to race this weekend, bruising & all!