Saturday, November 10, 2012

Improbable Happenings on the Loop

Days on cruise:  231

Distance traveled:  12.1 miles

Travel time: 1 hr, 27 mins

Total trip odometer:  5,157 statute miles

This post has no photos and is written only by Cathryn, unlike our usual posts which are joint efforts. Bob takes, processes and posts all our photos and we’re temporarily, briefly apart.

When we began our Loop 9 months ago we felt we were “newbies” to this boating business, and surely the most inexperienced boaters doing the Loop (which turned out not to be true, but we wouldn’t know that for some time). We were told that because typical boaters put 50-100 engine hours on their boat each season, we’d gain the equivalent of 10 years experience doing the Loop in one year, adding 1,000 engine hours of experience. We were also told that doing the Loop would “stretch” us to grow and learn in unexpected ways, and today’s stories shows how true that is.

Those of you who know Bob know he’s more an introvert than not, and loyal forever to those he knows and loves, but considers any group bigger than 6 to be a “party” and too large for his preference. He would tell you his greatest concern about doing the Loop was handling all the problems that inevitably arise, as he’s not naturally mechanical, he knew he’d end up being more responsible than Cathryn (because he’s better at that kind of thing), and we pay to have almost all of our engine and systems work done as we don’t know how to do it ourselves.

Cathryn would tell you her biggest fear about doing the Loop was meeting Bob’s Co-Captaincy requirement, the condition on which he agreed to do the Loop, and overcoming her very significant fears about doing her share of driving, docking and navigating this big boat. She’s gradually built up to doing her full share of driving, and most of our docking, always with Bob nearby of course.

In our last post we mentioned we were headed 120 miles north in a rental car to Bobby’s Fish Camp (where we’d already been a week before on our boat) to assist fellow Loopers who were having problems on their boat and wanted assistance getting it down to Mobile. It struck us (mostly Bob) as most unlikely that he would offer, or anyone would agree, that he could do what was needed. But that’s what happened.

We drove to Bobby’s Fish Camp, both spent the night on the boat with our friends, then the next morning Bob took off down the river with them, knowing there was still a leaking fuel pump that might cause the single engine to be disabled and they’d be stranded. The three of them felt they could handle what might come, and Bob was okay taking off with people he likes really well, but doesn’t really know, for two days and an overnight. Only those who know Bob can appreciate how improbable this scenario is, and only those who have traveled this remote, isolated, “deep south” segment of the Tenn-Tom can fully appreciate what it means to potentially face such issues. And they had no spare fuel pump on board.

Cathryn got a text message from Bob this morning saying all is going smoothly, their anchorage last night was good, the fuel pump has held up so far, and they’ll arrive in Mobile this afternoon. What a relief!

Meanwhile, Cathryn turned in our rental car and returned to Next To Me in Fairhope on the east side of Mobile Bay. Our plan was to reunite late Saturday, then drive our boat to Mobile on Sunday where we’ll leave it to fly home for Thanksgiving. But on arrival in Fairhope at noon, Cathryn found the Bay was completely calm, sunny and warmish, and the forecast for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday called for high winds, waves and thunderstorms. We fly out of Mobile on Wednesday, so what to do? What to do?

Improbably, and with Bob’s support and confidence, but absolutely no urging, Cathryn decided to go ahead and move the boat across the Bay to Mobile, by herself! By phone Bob repeatedly told her not to do it if she felt uncomfortable. Well . . . there’s no way anyone would EVER do something like that if they waited til they were comfortable, right?

So Cathryn asked Corey (local guy) on the next boat over to help her set her course on the chartplotter, Keith to help cast off her lines, called the marina in Mobile to make SURE someone would be there to catch her lines on arrival, and off she went, with her heart in her throat. And it went fine.

The route is only 12 miles, the water is shallow (8-20 feet), it crosses the shipping lane going into Mobile, and there was only one tow with barges and one freighter to maneuver around. Despite this, Cathryn managed to work up a good adrenaline rush that lasted the whole journey, and was VERY excited to find Henning, Joanne and Erik from Flying Free (haven’t seen them in almost two months) on the dock to help catch her lines, having heard her calling ahead on the VHF radio and learning she was alone.

So . . . the idea that we can do things we weren’t sure we can do was reinforced. The idea that we’re still learning new things at this stage of life was too.  And we’re both very proud of each other for tackling something that felt scary and potentially difficult.

Cathryn will let Bob speak for himself if he wants to add more to the story later, but wants to give a big shout out to all the folks who helped her get to the point where she was willing to single-handedly take our boat across Mobile Bay:

- to Kevin P and Tom from Bremerton Power Squadron who so effectively taught the classes we took to prepare us before this journey began;

- to Mark T in New York who gave us the idea to do the Loop, then helped us repeatedly via email and phone with technical information as we shopped for our boat and learned how to do things once we bought it;

- to Chris and Alyse from Captain Chris Yacht Services who spent 3 days training us on our boat in January, then remained connected friends of ours, to help out by phone or email anytime we had questions or problems;

- to Jim and Sharon A who we met in the Keys last February on our “shake down” cruise, then adopted us and became mentors, offering advice and technical assistance by phone and email whenever needed;

These folks each supported and encouraged us to learn, build more skills, and become confident, capable boaters. We aren’t nearly as accomplished as we’d like to be, but we’ve come so far and are so appreciative to those who helped us get to this point.  Thank you!


Ocean Breeze said...

You are a ROCK STAR, Cathryn! I applaud you, your ability and your grit. After all my years of boating, I'm still not at the level you are in Captaining Ocean Breeze. HOWEVER, with your example before me I will meet the challenge...I want to and I should. Thank you for your courage ;-) Have a safe trip home for Thanksgiving and I look forward to seeing you down here in the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral area.

Paula Sue Russell
M/V Ocean Breeze

Anonymous said...

Helly Cathryn and Bob. I was prompted to read your blog by an entry on Jenny Reves' blog about your brave adventure. Congratulations to you both, and especially to Cathryn! As the one who does most of the driving and nearly all of the docking on our boat, I am constantly telling women they need to learn to dock their boat just in case of an emergency. After all, if you are at the helm, you are not out in the rain and cold doing lines! So congrats on doing what you had to do to get across the bay on a good day so you could make it home for Turkey! Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Betsy Johnson
Rick 'n Roll
Currently lying Myrtle Beach, SC