Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
Thanked 235 Times in 186 Posts
Rep Power: 10
two collisions in one night, I''''m not happy
This reminds me of a funny story that happened when I was a kid.
I have an Uncle who should never set foot on a boat. While not a particularly timid man, sailing makes him nervous. He does not fear heeling or the other things that often make first time sailors nervous, but his is the simple fear of getting hit by another boat. He only sailed with us on a couple occasions back when I was a kid in the 1960’s. On the most memorable day, it was a windy day in summer on Long Island Sound. As each boat seemed to close with us, he would point and warn, “That boat is going to hit us.” Each time, we would look and usually realize that there was no problem and then say, "Don''t worry, it always looks closer than it really is." But oddly enough, he was close to right three separate times while we were out that day.
The first close call was young woman steering an old steel powerboat. She was alone in the cockpit and obviously had not steered much. As the two boats closed with each other she developed ‘object fixation’ and began altering course ever so slightly to stay locked onto a collision course with us. As she rapidly approached, we began hailing her, and even blew the horn as she clearly was tracking us. As she grew closer we could see that the expression on her face was sheer panic. Yet, she stood essentially frozen, her eyes locked on our boat, aiming at our midships. At the last moment, a man came diving out of the cabin and spun the wheel; veering astern, only missing us by a few feet.
Later that day, we were beam reaching up the Sound and my uncle points at a large black schooner off in the distance and again said, “That boat is going to hit us.” Again, my father explained that it always looks like that from a distance but boats rarely actually hit. Still and all, this big black boat seems to be heading our way. As the boat looms closer, we realized that the boat in question is the then brand new Schaefer Brewery owned replica of the yacht ‘America’. As she draws closer she really seemed to be ‘hunting’ us. At the last minute we turn up and she turns down but just then a gust hits laying us both over and slows ‘America’s’ swing away from us. We pass a couple boat lengths (our boat’s length not theirs) apart. It turns out that they were filming a documentary and had people waving madly on board and a camera crew recording when the boats they passed waved back.
Despite the close calls, we returned safely to the mooring and were lounging comfortably in the cockpit. My uncle was just starting to calm down, when he looked astern and saw a 22 foot Ensign beating through the mooring area. This was the normal way that an Ensign would approach to pick up her mooring and so it meant nothing to us. Sure enough, the boat passed very close astern and then as we all sat there watching, rammed amidships a neighboring boat in the next row of the mooring field with a massive rig jarring crash. We all just sat that slack jawed as my uncle’s worst fears were realized if not on our boat, on a neighbor''s.
A few weeks later, I told this story to an acquaintance at the yacht club. He knew the boat and had heard about the incident. In a reassuring way he said, “You won’t have to worry about him for the rest of the season. ‘They’ took his boom.” As this acquaintance explained, the collision we witnessed was this guy''s third collision in as many weeks. As it turned out, the fellow who rammed the boat near us was a brand new sailor. He’d been through a course on sailing, had bought an Ensign and had gone racing.
In his first couple races he’d hit two boats and then hit the boat in the mooring field that we witnessed. A couple of the senior members of the Ensign fleet decided that they needed to do something. In the middle of the night they stole his boom.
This was not exactly as cruel as it sounds. For the rest of the season members of the Ensign fleet made a point of inviting him sailing with them. Whenever posible they coached him on boat handling and sail trim, even making sure that he had a chance to steer on the way in from and out to the race course. I could not wait to find my Dad and tell him this juicy story.
A few years later, my Dad was watch captain on a night race up Long Island Sound. During the night, his watch was chatting casually as the boat ghosted in the light evening breezes. As each member of his watch took their turn talking about their sailing experience, one of the crew said he had an Ensign with two booms. Of course Dad asked, “Why do you have two booms?” The fellow explained, “It’s the weirdest thing. Someone had stolen my boom. I filed an insurance claim and they ordered a new boom from Pearson. It took months to get the new boom, but a few weeks after the new boom showed up, the folks who stole my original boom mysteriously returned it. The insurance company didn’t want either of the booms so I now have two booms.”
Suddenly, Dad realized who he was sailing with. When he later told me the story he said he was really relieved to have a dark night so that the man with two booms could not see the trouble he was having holding a straight face.
Good luck with your problem child.