Filed Under (Boat Docks and Boat Ramps) by Debbie on 08-05-2007

Regular readers of this blog know that I hate being part of the boat circus. This last weekend our yacht club had its first cruise of the season and it was wonderful! However, we were the last of our club to leave and to my horror, I discovered my husband had turned into the dock ape idiot and we were the circus.

We’re in the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia River in Oregon and we’d gone to Government Island’s east dock. The docks are very nice with plenty of tie-ups. There’s a nice sandy beach, composting toilets and an area dedicated as natural for the animals and there are some nice ‘log breaks’ just up river to slow the current and shuttle floating debris away from the docks. A train occasionally lumbers past on the far side of the river; it’s lonesome whistle and gentle click/clack drawing to mind Samuel Clemens stories.

It’s a popular spot. There’s launch ramps near by, no water hook-up, no shore power and no fees, you can stay for 3 days. Several other boater’s came to the dock and we were always glad to lend a hand with dock lines and fenders. As evening came our club had ‘happy hour’. One boat had 15 bottles of wine for a wine tasting courtesy of their friend, a chef at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. It seems there’d been a 1,000-bottle wine tasting event and their friend brought home about 100 opened and barely consumed bottles to share. Several of us brought snacks to add to the wine and everyone had fun. Thank you Timberline Lodge! (If you’ve never been there, you really should. It’s a beautiful lodge.)

Dinner was wonderful and the air mingled the combined aromas of each boats dinner over the water. The sun remained semi-warm for the occasion and not one drop of rain fell. Laughter and animated conversations began to settle as the sun slid below the horizon until finally quiet spread over the area. We built a fire in our wood stove heater and played board games until bedtime. It was a blissful day.

Breakfast was wonderful in the cockpit. It never fails to amaze me how much better even coffee is while sitting in the cockpit of our sailboat. The morning air is usually crisp and the steamy mug warms my hands. The other guests at the dock also begin their day and before long there is a low hum of activity.

This time of year there is quite a bit of current due to the spring run off. I thought quite a bit about how to move the boat away from the dock without hitting anything. The keel really poses a problem as the current has lots of area to push against. I’d also watched several of the clubs boats leave and thought that there were too many people helping to get them off. It shouldn’t be that difficult and basically I felt you should be able to do this all by yourself.  So, I sat there with my coffee and thought again about the current, the keel and the Carver 35 behind us.

Mid afternoon found our club gone and my family and I still visiting with the family who’s boat was docked astern. They are an interesting couple and we really enjoyed visiting with them. We’d met before at this same dock last year. He enjoys fishing and always seems to have his line out off the back of their Carver.

Finally, my husband and I returned to our Newport 30 and as we stood on the dock, I pointed to the spring lines and said, “I think we should remove these and keep the bow and stern lines in place. When we’re all done and ready, I think you should cast off from the bow and as the current swings the boat away from the dock, I can cast off the stern line and we’ll drive out.

He said, “Uh-ha.”

I’m thinking great we’re in agreement, something that’s rare without much discussion. I stepped aboard and fired up the engine to warm her up. I stowed what we didn’t need in the cockpit for the trip back.   I’m standing in the middle and looking around when I heard my husband call asking me to run up to the bow. He tossed me one of the spring lines, which I rolled up and stored as he moved on to the next. Wandering back to the cockpit I heard him ask me to put the boat into reverse for a moment, which I did.

I’m standing there behind the wheel, the rudder’s still locked in place, the engine is warming up and I’m looking around the cockpit thinking about what else we might need to have there. I’m thinking I need to go say good bye to the family we’ve been visiting and thinking I need to take the dog for one last walk before we cast off when I hear my hubby say something, which of course I really didn’t hear. So, I start to turn towards him to ask what he’d said only to see the bow of the boat pointing towards the other dock.

I think, “Why is the boat pointing this way?” I turn to my husband only to find him standing on the dock with the stern line in hand, “Oh my gosh! What are you doing?” Springs from my lips as I realize he’s cast us off.

Queue up circus music!

I quickly unlock the rudder, my hubby is yelling something about reverse and I turn around to see the stern about to make contact with the dock, so I slam her into forward and try to gun it to soften the blow. Of course, we hit the dock and now all eyes are on us…or rather me. Panic sets in as I realize the current has full force against the keel and I haven’t a clue as to how close I am to the Carver 35. I spin the wheel hard to port and push the throttle forward and then as I move into the open space between the docks I crank hard to starboard and move past the Carver.

Whew! I didn’t hit their boat or any other. What a relief.

Our daughter comes running topside, bless her she did don her vest first, good girl. Then she runs forward to look around. Considering the sound the boat made as she struck the dock, she probably thought we were sinking!

I realize as I move out onto the river that my hubby is still standing on the dock, I have to go pick him up. I’m so angry with him for not telling me he was letting the lines go I could have just left him there. Taking a steadying breath, I head up against the current aiming for the dock to pick him up on the starboard side.

At this point our daughter comes running back and holding onto the dodger, leans down and starts yelling at me, “Dad says this side!” She points to port.

“No.” I tell her as I look at the current.

“Dad says, this side! Dad Says!!!”

So like an idiot, I do what Dad says. I go up river, turn around and approach on the port side with the current. Of course I can’t maintain steerage, sweep past the dock, hubby, owners of the Carver and several others who’ve come to help. I nearly run over the fishing line off the back of the Carver! I get back out on the river. Our daughter is still pointing and yelling, “Dad says!”

Now I’m really mad.

First at my hubby for not communicating with me prior to casting us off and for changing the plan we’d talked about but mostly, I’m mad at myself for listening to him. I can hear him yelling at me from the dock, our daughter is yelling at me and the entire dock is giving me their undivided attention.

The circus music swells to a deafening crescendo.

“Dad says…” continues to come from the foredeck.

“Hush.” I tell my daughter.

“But Dad says…”

“I don’t care what Dad says,” I snapped. “….hush!”

I locked off the rudder so she’d hold her nose into the current.   I stepped up to the deck, opened the starboard lifeline for boarding, flipped the starboard fenders over and into place, then went back to the helm. I unlocked the rudder, throttled into forward and gracefully came up against the current to the dock on the starboard side to pick up my hubby. The very thing I’d first planned to do.

He stepped aboard.

I swung away from the dock and out onto the river. I could hear the circus music dwindle away as I got farther out on the water. My hubby looked at me, ready to point his accusing finger.

I frowned at him and Queued up the theme from Jaws.

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