By Jeff Smith
When the Random Writers sat down collectively and were throwing out ideas, I don’t remember who threw this question out. It is a good one, but I think this might be the hardest one for me to answer. I guess there are really two different things that come to my mind off the bat. One is the simple answer of “I can do it”.
Once upon a time I bought a little condo, right at the peak of the housing market. It wasn’t much, but it was my first home and the first time that I was not living under my parents roof. Most of you can identify that under these circumstances, a shoe box sparsely outfitted with some bean bag chairs and a little TV on the ground seems just perfect. Having silverware is a bonus. After awhile, this was not enough. I started to remodel the little condo. Starting in the bathroom, I ripped everything out. Everything. Just some studs on the wall, and a concrete floor with just a few holes for plumbing running through the floor.
My wife at the time was freaking out. I was even a bit concerned. However my Mom walked in, noticed the destruction and the look in my wife’s eyes and simply stated, “Don’t worry. Jeff can do it. He can do anything”. That has pretty much been the truth in my life. If I decide I want to do something and I have enough ambition to begin the project, I know that I can do it.
This mantra came into full effect over the past weekend, but I also learned another important lesson. I live on the coast of Florida in a house which is a mile away from the marina where my sailboat is moored. What was to be a small two day rain shower with 15-20 mph winds, turned into a 60 hour serious storm with periods of 50 mph sustained winds and gusts to 70 mph. My sailboat at the marina was in serious peril.
While most boat owners were relaxing in front of the TV watching football, a few of us more adventurous ones decided to hold down the fort. Pumping out sinking boats, retying dock lines as the water rose and fell, and enjoying the moments of “Holy crap, did you see that!” that followed. There were, however, a few incidents that overshadowed the stormy weekend.
Eric is a marina resident, (he lives on his boat, while alas, I do not) that I have become close friends with. He currently has four boats in the marina. His personal fleet consists of a 12’ john boat, a 20’ sailboat, a 36’ powerboat (where he his wife and their two young daughter live), and a 56’ behemoth which is an ex British military boat that was converted into a live-a-board yacht (which has been undergoing remodel and they were to move into this weekend). Needless to say, he needed help. We had to be a team.
The first major challenge came late on Saturday night. The winds were a constant 20 mph for a few hours, which stretched out the dock lines on the 50,000 lb 56’ yacht (we had all moved onto this boat since it was the most stable and did not resemble Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride), causing it to rub on a piling that supported the dock. It wasn’t long before I found “stick”. “Stick” as it became lovingly referred to, was a perfect 2×4, which I jammed between the giant boat and the dock and then used to wedge the 50,000 lb boat off the dock while Eric retied the dock line. Smoothly and efficiently we did this several times until we were safely off the dock. We would soon find out that our first team work effort would be put to the test a few hours later.
When the sun rose and the marina members awoke from a restless four hours of sleep, one by one we looked at the radar and listened to the predictions. It soon became obvious, the weather was about to get worse. A lot worse.
Eric and I decided that we needed to do something about his other boat, the 36’ powerboat that was docked next to mine, right in front of the mouth of the marina. Simply put, the worst place to be. A plan was developed and moments later we were in the 12 foot dinghy, facing 30 mph winds and 1-2 foot waves, taking an anchor out, dropping in in a rock pile, attaching the other end of the line to the boat, and then retreating back into the safety of the dock. No problem. Then the wind picked up. Off we went to secure another line to the boat, this time with 40 mph winds and solid 2 ft waves, which upon the return we both noted that it was quite a “sporty” ride. A congratulatory beer was in order!
So, here I am, on a 56’ yacht with the wind blowing a constant 35, gusting to 45, having a beer, when I decide to look at the radar again. My face must have told the story, as the only response from Eric was “what is it”? “It” was the fact that the storm was starting to rotate and the lovely red part on the radar was making a bee-line for us. It was going to get worse. Much worse.
All it took was a look at each other and we knew what was happening. With out speaking, Eric ran to grab a larger anchor, and I ran to get a line for the anchor. Now in the dinghy with 50 mph winds and 3 foot waves, we were at it again. Waves were crashing over the bow sending blinding and stinging spray into our faces and nearly throwing us out of the little boat. It took us just one attempt to get the anchor exactly where we wanted it. Thankfully others noticed we were going back out and a few of them ran to Eric’s boat to grab the loose end of the line and tie the boat off when I threw the line at them, at which point we turned around and hauled ass back to the dock. Mission successful.
Six hours later, all was well, and the river was as still as a country pond.
While I hope you enjoyed the story, I rambled for ever to say this: I really learned the importance of team work this weekend.. Had the 36’ powerboat broken loose from its’ precarious position at the end of the dock, it would have blown straight into another dock, potentially taking out another 20 boats with it. We both were putting ourselves at great risk, in order to save Eric’s family home and the homes of several other people. Yet I never doubted my safety when I was with Eric and he never doubted his when he was with me. Teamwork saved this little community. Teamwork brought us closer. I’ve always known I was capable, but this weekend learned about real teamwork.