02 March, 2013

Going Walkabout

Location: Monument Beach, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: N 23 31.635 W 075 46.052

A cruising boat's dinghy is like the family car. Providing transportation, our dinghy “Belle” allows us to go ashore for entertainment and to shop and exercise. She hauls trash, laundry, fuel jugs, snorkel gear, beach treasures, and us with aplomb. She never complains and is always helpful. We both need and love her.

Every so often we hear on the VHF radio that someone has lost a dinghy. Most of the time what is lost is found, sometimes days later. Every so often it's not found and our hearts go out to the owner who has to cough up a bunch of money for a new dinghy and outboard. Most dinghies are lost because their owners don't tie them up correctly, or they don't maintain the painter (the rope used to tie the dinghy) and it breaks. We hear of the lost little boats and we shake our heads and say “Why can't people just tie their dinghies up properly?”. We chat with our friends about it, tut-tut for a while, and feel a tiny bit superior because we've never lost our dinghy.

A couple of weeks ago we went over to our friend's boat “Hampshire Rose”, for dinner (barbequed ribs – yum!). Rob was in the galley applying an awesome rub to the ribs and Holly welcomed us aboard. We handed her Belle's painter and climbed aboard. Holly tied it off and we proceeded to have fun conversation and a glass (well, maybe a few glasses) of wine.

A few hours later, after dinner, we were relaxing in the cockpit chatting away when Rob said “Hey! Where's your dinghy?”

To which we responded in unison “OH...MY....GOD!!!!”.

Belle had gone walkabout!! It was breezy. It was dark. The last time any of us had noticed “Belle” was about ½ hour earlier. How far could she get in 30 minutes? We couldn't believe it - the dinghys had been happily nuzzled up together back there for a couple of hours with no problems. Oh well – nothing for it - the two guys hopped in the remaining dinghy and went off searching.

This left Julie & Holly back on the boat.....waiting...wondering....worrying. Holly felt really bad as she was the one that tied “Belle” off. Julie was trying to make her feel better saying “I'm sure it will be OK” and “Even if they don't find it tonight I'm sure it will wash up across the harbour and we'll find it in the morning” and “ It can't possibly have gone very far”. But inside she was thinking “OH MY GOD WE LOST OUR DINGHY!!” and “It will float right out of the cut and be lost at sea”.

Meanwhile Mark and Rob headed downwind in Rob & Holly's dinghy. Luckily there was a pretty full moon just coming up. They stopped a few times so they could feel the wind to make sure they were still heading in the right direction and correct for the running tide. Further and further they went feeling less and less optimistic. After about 25 minutes they were nearing the cut that leads out into the ocean. They were almost ready to give up when Rob spotted her! There was “Belle”, bobbing around on top of the water about 200 feet off to their left, just barely within visual range. It was unbelievable luck to have found her – thank goodness for that moon!

They picked up her painter and towed her back to the boat. Needless to say, Mark tied her up when we got back. We never did figure out what had happened. Holly is an experienced cruiser and certainly knows how to go about tying a bowline. All we can figure is that we were all excited to see each other, it had been a while since we'd last been together, and the fun of the reunion must have clouded her mind for a moment. However it happened we were ecstatic to have our “Belle” back in the fold.

From now on we're tying off Belle ourselves and we'll let our friends tie off their dinghies when they come to Rachel to visit, too. Not because we don't trust our friends but because if something does happen it's best if it's your own fault and not someone else's.

The next day we took “Belle” to shore and cleaned her up nice and pretty, to show her our appreciation for her safe return and to encourage her to want to stay with us.

Going a bit dinghy,