Down The Hatch and castaway

Within a few years, the Polaris had become a way of life, an escape mechanism to a world of adventure and relaxation from the turmoil of work and jostling crowds. I had added a flying bridge over the main cabin, and a davit to raise and lower the dinghy. The Polaris was a floating island to which we could invite and entertain our friends. We would invite friends for a day’s cruise. The usual plan was to cruise to a nearby bay and anchor. Then we could talk, swim, row the dinghy, eat and drink, in comparative seclusion. When drinking cocktails I would say, “Down the hatch.” “Bottoms up,” sounded threatening and ominous. When the sun pulled down the blanket of night from the multicolored skies on the horizon, I would pull up the anchor and cruise back to our slip in Freeport.

As with life where we learn to cope with and learn from experience, so it is in boating. At times when I planned an early departure, some guests would arrive on time, but some would have us wait hours before they showed up. This called for a behavior modification strategy. I announced the departure time from my marina when I would depart, and when I would cruise past Hudson Point at a certain time. If they were late, I told them to park their car and wait at the scheduled hour, on the dock at Guy Lombardo Restaurant, located at Hudson Point, at the foot of Hudson Canal. If they were there I would stop and pick them up as I cruised by.

After enjoying the Polaris for nineteen years, we purchased a forty-foot Roamer, a twin engine, steel hulled luxury cabin cruiser. It had beautiful teak decks, a refrigerator, an electric stove plus a propane gas stove, and a shower. A teak diving platform was on the stern, and a nine-foot dinghy was on davits. It was a very seaworthy vessel, and we had it for nine years. We documented it as a yacht and named it, Edythe. With it we were able to undertake more extended cruises in comfort. With pride, we entertained guests.

After an enjoyable cruise with guests, we returned to have dinner in our slip. Edythe had prepared a sumptuous meal, of pot roast, plus turkey with assorted trimmings, including freshly made cranberry sauce. After the guests left, we had to clean the boat. While Edythe washed dishes and straightened out the cabin, I washed down the decks, and checked the bilge, I opened the stern hatch. I was checking the forward tie-up lines when I heard a muffled cry and thud. I raced to the stern and a groan came from the open hatch. I looked to see Edythe wedged between the engines. There was frightening red ooze on her face and body. I dragged her up on the deck while she complained of great pain in her left leg. She had left the cabin to dispose of table scraps, including cranberry sauce, in the trashcan on the dock. She fell down the hatch, and what I had at first thought to be blood was only cranberry sauce.

Edythe’s leg was broken at the ankle and required pinning and a cast from ankle to her hip. Unhindered with a cast, Edythe continued enjoying boating and long cruises for the rest of the season aboard the Edythe.

Down The Hatch and Cast Away

With Edythe’s leg in a cast, anchoring was more difficult. I used to sit at the controls and watch her long legs and shapely body strain as she lifted the anchor and lowered it into the water. She paid out the anchor line as I backed up the boat, and presented me with a good view of her enticing buttocks as she snubbed the line to a cleat. Hauling the anchor let me view again the choreography of her body as I slowly powered the boat forward as she lifted the anchor and secured it in its chocks. Now, with her at the controls, I found myself yelling, “right engine, left engine, neutral, reverse, or straight ahead.” The solution to the problem was solved when Edythe gave me an early birthday present, an automatic winch to lower and haul the anchor. I could now lower or raise the anchor without leaving the controls, but I lost the deviously subtle enticement of watching Edythe lowering or raising the anchor.

The week after she was out of the hospital and her leg in a cast, we departed for a vacation cruise. Aside from the assistance needed to help her climb into the dinghy, or on to a dock, she managed to efficiently move about, with and without crutches. The boys, Bruce, Kenny, and Ronnie, accepted her condition and helped when needed. Leaving Freeport, we made an ocean run toward Shinnecock Inlet. The barometer was slowly dropping and the radio reported that high winds and heavy seas were in the offing. I had estimated a three-hour passage to the inlet, and to arrive there before inclement weather set in. The estimated time of arrival was accurate, but the whims of nature were not that predictable. The waves stipend to twelve feet, and windblown spray splattered on the windshield as the sweeping wipers fought to give me undistorted visibility. The sun was out in all its brilliance, and the Edythe continued on course, despite the wind and waves.

At Shinnecock, the waters at the inlet were in a raging turmoil. That inlet was noted for shifting channels and low spots. Only a boatman with invincible ignorance would attempt entering the inlet. I headed offshore to deeper water, where the waves were farther apart. Not far from me was a large sixty-foot Trumpy yacht, also riding the waves and avoiding chancing the inlet. A dragger was approaching the inlet and I moved close to it. Over the noise of the wind I asked the captain if I could safely follow him through the inlet. He saw Edythe and my sons anxiously waiting for his reply. He told me to follow him, far astern, and to do exactly as he did. With reborn confidence and concerted action I followed him. I noted that the passage he took, with his experience with the shifting inlet, was different from the chart’s suggested channel. He seemed to diagonally head to the stone jetty, and then turn sharply away to an area marked on the chart as a reef. I followed knowing that he was familiar with the shifts of the inlet. Then after a few more turns through the boiling inlet waters, we were in the safety of sheltered waters.

I waved my thanks and noted that the large yacht, undoubtedly captained by a cautious skipper, had followed us through the inlet. We both sounded our horns, and waved out thanks to the captain of the dragger, and to each other.