Monthly: November 2015

24 Nov

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Riding the Wild Ocean


By Paul S. Krantz, Jr.


Butler Hole and Pollock Rip –
The seas continued to build, the wind now shrieking. Lou began to express concern with the narrowing channel. On the GPS screen, he could see the shoals squeezing us on both sides. Our flashing red four-second buoy was clearly visible off the port bow as we rode over wave crests but disappeared in the troughs. Once again hard on the wind, we were going to slip safely past the red flasher mid-channel. The next buoy, a flashing green about a mile to the east, was directly in our path. We had to stay to the north of that buoy to stay within the channel. Missing that to the south would take us over shallow areas of sixteen to twenty feet at the northern end of Stone Horse Shoal, the channel being generally over forty feet deep between shoals. The concern over those shallows was not bottoming out against the sandy sea floor but encountering locally larger, steeper seas. I could tack to port to reposition into the channel but preferred to avoid that risky maneuver in those dark seas if possible. Lou could feel the seas still building. He began voicing his concern that he could not control the boat in the raging maelstrom. Suddenly he cried out, “You have to take the boat. I can’t control it!…

Dawn began breaking. In the dim gray light of morn, I silently went into shock at the spectacle of the seas surrounding us. Although we had been in them for hours, we had not seen the seas before that moment. I had never been in anything like that in my life. Mountains of water nearly as high as my spreader, which is halfway up my thirty-foot mast, raced by. Every wave foamed with angry, writhing energy. Spray blew from every wave top into the next trough. There was no color in that predawn world, only bleak shades of gray…

Caught in a Fish Trap –
Not wanting to sail headlong into the net and dismast the boat on the overhead steel cable, I threw the tiller to starboard. The boat began to spin to port just as it slammed against the unyielding net. I heard the single starboard shroud screech and then groan as it scraped along the heavy cable. The wind plastered the sail against the net folding it about the cable. The boom clamored past and under the cable with a metallic clunk. The jib flailed violently against the net. The sea that drove me into the net slammed against the hull and into my sail pinning everything hopelessly against the unforgiving net. I could see little in the inky black night. I was soaked. I could hear large fish next to me inside the net smashing into one another in their panic to escape the unseen intruder trying to get at them through the net. The boat dropped into a trough, allowing the stern to wash deeper into the net. The starboard shroud, riding against the cable, held the bow somewhat into the wind and the seas. Waiting for the seas to swamp the boat, I knew I was going to die.

The Bull’s Eye rose with the next advancing wave as I stood in the cockpit somehow hanging on to the sail above me. As the boat lifted in the sea, my head was driven into the overhead cable, which then scraped down the side of my face and ear onto my shoulder. I screamed with pain expecting my collarbone to snap. The excruciating pain collapsed my knees, and I fell to the floor. As I went down, the cable followed me pressing my back ever lower…

Chatham and the Race to Provincetown with Tropical Storm Hannah –
Our host drove us out onto the pier to the arch leading down to our boat. As we exited the car, the wind-whipped rain pelted us unmercifully. Vaguely aware of a large human form standing in the archway, we hurried in that direction toward the gangplank leading down to the floating dock. As we approached, the form moved into our path making clear his intent to stop us. Under the semi-shelter of the arch, I could see his face glaring at me from under the hood of his yellow, commercial grade, rubber foul weather jacket. He was wearing khaki shorts revealing heavily scarred, well-tanned legs, and leather work boots. With rain cascading off his foul weather gear, he conveyed an ominous intent. I came to a stop about four feet from him, Lou behind me.

“Do you two belong to that little sailboat down there?”

I responded with a firm, “Yes.”

“Do you make a habit of helping yourselves to other people’s slips?” I stood there dumfounded, staring up into that hard craggy face, not knowing how to respond to the question…

“Get your boat off my dock! I don’t care where you go, but get it out of here.”

Stalling for time, I mumbled something about sailing all night into Butler Hole, and twelve to fifteen foot seas in Pollock Rip, searching for an opening in the combers across Chatham Bar, getting caught in a rogue wave that ripped my dinghy off the back of the boat…on I babbled…about how exhausted we were. I began to feel about as pathetic as I must have sounded as I contemplated the agony of going back out into that storm to search for another place to stop and tie up…

Book available here.

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