That Sinking Feeling -October 4, 2001
Living on your boat on the hard is not fun. Since returning a couple of weeks ago to "Little Gidding" in Trinidad after a two month sojourn up north, we've been making Sisyphus-like progress on our list of boat maintenance projects. No sooner do we finish one chore than another unexpectedly appears. Our launch date has been revised enough times that, a few days ago, Ray, the travel lift driver, began dropping boats in the space in front of us. "Hey," we yelled, "how are you going to get us out of here with those boats blocking the way?"
"Don't worry," Ray replied drily, "at your pace, they're not about to hold you up." And sure enough, a swarm of workers appeared and the newcomers were fixed up and on the way out while we were still dealing with that little hairline crack on the stem that any sane individual would have simply painted over. David, of course, just had to probe a teensy bit deeper and in no time had managed to create a simulation of the Grand Canyon running from the bowsprit to the keel.
Last week Eileen took a break from boatyard purgatory to play a gig at the on-site restaurant. As we were setting up the sound equipment, we saw our friend Ken's catamaran, "Ken-B", being splashed. "Why can't that be us?" Eileen muttered. About an hour later, just as we finished our sound check, we saw "Ken-B" back in the travel lift slings. It was six o'clock, long after the yard workers usually quit for the day. We said simultaneously, "Something must be wrong!"
It wasn't until the next morning that we got the story on Ken's aborted launch. He dropped by our boat and said, "Everything was just fine until I realized I was sinking." He told us that he had motored out of the travel lift slip to a dock space about a hundred yards away. After a cursory check of all the through-hull fittings, he had settled into the cockpit to chat with an acquaintance who had dropped by. After half an hour, Ken had gone below to get some refreshments only to discover his cabin sole was awash. What followed was a frantic search for the leak. All the obvious means of water ingress - the through-hulls and shaft log - were okay. With a bright work light, he could just detect a hint of current running through the water in the bilge. Ken stretched his arm "upstream" under the floor boards and, with a bit of blind searching, stuck his finger into a 3/8" hole in his port hull!
"I was lucky," Ken said. "I managed to find the hole and jammed in a softwood plug. Then Ray came down after hours and lifted me."
The most disturbing aspect of the entire incident was that the hole had been purposefully drilled AFTER new bottom paint had been applied, meaning it must have occurred within a day of Ken's launch date. The timing makes it hard not to conclude that someone had wanted to sink the "Ken-B". Ken is totally baffled. He's unaware of anyone who may bear him a grudge. He likes to think he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps a disgruntled worker committed the act of vandalism to discredit his employer. Or maybe another frustrated cruiser, too long in the boatyard inhaling toxic chemicals, went berserk with a cordless drill. We'll probably never know.
For the past week, the radio waves have been humming with commentary from cruisers worried about Ken's mishap and a number of other security incidents. There's been a rash of break-ins at a neighbouring boatyard. Several people have been held up at gunpoint when returning on foot to the yards and marinas after dark.
"That's it," Eileen said. "Fill the Grand Canyon and let's get out of this yard. But first check the chandlery for some spare softwood plugs."