For those of you who think cruising is full of idyllic romance, rainbows without rain, sunshine, and butterflies, this blog entry is for you. The day had been perfect. We awakened at 0530, enjoyed coffee in bed, and a leisurely start. We prepared the boat for departure from St Augustine, Florida, in the usual way. We unplugged the shore power cord and set the lines so that I could retrieve them from the boat as we pulled away. After completing the pre-castoff checklist, we departed on time at 0645. The boat practically sailed itself away from the dock and into the channel at Camachee Cove Marina. We arrived at the Bridge of Lions by 0717, in time to see a brilliant sunrise, and motored through the bridge during the 0730 opening. We were on our way to Palm Coast. The temperature was a balmy 40 degrees and the sun shone brightly. We saw a couple of bald eagles perched together in a leafless tree along the AICW. Numerous dolphins swam up to greet us and escort us along the waterway.
We arrived at Palm Coast Marina about 4.5 hours later. Winds were 15 knots from the north. John skillfully turned the boat around in a narrow canal and backed it down the canal 100 yards in front of a low bridge, in order to dock for fuel and pumping out. John executed the maneuvers so well, and landed so gently at the dock, that the seasoned dockmaster gave him a “nicely done.” We added 23 gallons of diesel fuel to our tanks. Then it was time to pump-out the holding tank.
The holding tank is a 60-gallon tank in the boat for holding what gets flushed down the heads. Marinas have pumps and hoses that suck the waste out of the boat. Today, our holding tank was 55-gallons full. I did not read the cruising guide closely enough and failed to notice that Old Faithful erupts at the marina pump-out station on certain days at about noon. As John held the suction hose over the pump-out fitting, things appeared to be going smoothly. Suddenly, the pump seemed to stop. The dockmaster suggested that John break the seal and reseal the suction fitting. When John broke the seal, the Old Faithful geyser of holding tank contents erupted from the pump-out fitting, catching John in the chest, with collateral damage to his face, legs, hat, and shoes, in addition to splattering the side of the boat. It was one of the nastier things I’ve seen in my adult life. I am pleased with myself, because I did not laugh, nor did I say “sh_t happens”. The contents of our holding tank were two weeks old. You can imagine the stench. John showed considerable restraint. I did hear a few very technical pump-out words. All in all, though, he showed great strength of character.
Despite the events at the pump-out station, we still needed to move the boat into our slip at the marina. Winds were howling, and currents were swift. I worked hard, moving around the boat to stay upwind of John. In our next skillful joint maneuver, John backed us into our slip, while my job was to catch the first piling in the slip and walk the line up to the bow. I caught the piling, and as I gently pulled the line taught it slipped right off of the top. It reminded me of the scene in the movie Tin Cup, when Kevin Costner hits the golf ball over 200 yards over a lake and onto the green, only to have the ball roll off of the green and into the lake. So, we ended up a little bit too far over onto the other side of the slip. That’s why they call those things “rub rails,” right?
We finished securing the lines and fenders. Then, John peeled off his clothes and jumped into the shower. I bagged his clothes, hat, and shoes, along with the Cheer, Clorox, Spray and Wash, and a roll of quarters, and headed to the laundry room. Two hot washings later, his clothes, hat, and shoes were like new.
If I were coaching clients who had this kind of day, I would ask them what the gift was in this event that they perceived as being bad. I’m thinking of something like the gift of perseverance that develops our maturity and humility. For me, however, the gift is that I used to think John’s boat shoes were smelly. Now I hardly notice them.