Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival – Poem

During the Wooden Boat Festival of Sept 2012 the Fisher Poets had a gathering and readings for the public. I was asked to read the following true event personal poem. A full year later I still chocked up on the deepest, darkest moments of emotion. It was truly a traumatic experience and one that has my wife and I nervy and respectful of high winds at sea. Thankfully we haven’t been caught out since. (Added 11/21/14)

Homecoming 9/25/11 by Martin Musson.

The South wind shifts, a sudden blow increases.

Jib sheets crack as we zip up our fleeces.

Sun streaked wavelets dance to a new beat

As we head Northwards on our sailing retreat.

 

The dark prior night had taken it’s toll

As wind whipped turmoil assumed the new role.

Our singing anchor had silenced. What’s gone wrong?

And we drifted unaware, but not for long!

 

A midship’s collision with something unknown

Had us leaping on deck, bare to the bone.

A call from three men. “Sailboat you’re dragging”.

Sleepy eyed into darkness the brain was a-lagging.

 

“Who’s drifting” shouts I to the three silhouettes.

Yardage increased as if moved by strong jets.

Brain fog cleared. They’re receding but quite static.

It’s us who’s dragging, and my heart beats erratic.

 

The wind is full force with rebounded chop.

We’re nearing harbor wall, but this must stop.

A fumble with keys and an endless ignition

Has the prop all a-turning and we’re into remission.

 

Ingrid brings clothes. A tee-shirt and sweater.

We draw from the seawall. Things’re getting better.

She takes over the tiller, heading out to the bay

As I haul in the anchor and stow it away.

 

Searchlights are scanning to find the commotion.

Nakedness shines back with no need for a lotion.

Rain spitter spatters then is driven with force

As we approach safer water by changing our course.

 

We re-drop the anchor and pay out the rode

Deploying enough to withstand the load.

She strains and she yaws as she tugs at the bitt.

Donned in foul weather gear the rest of the night I will sit.

 

It’s three hours till dawn. It’s already a long night.

Ingrid can’t sleep, try as she might.

Eyes pierce the darkness, they’re straining to view.

Where are my markers, I haven’t a clue.

 

The rain turns to drizzle, then eventually abate,

As I’m given hot tea, by my favorite first mate.

It’s warmth is refreshing as I gaze through the clouds.

But the wind is still whipping and strumming the shrouds.

 

As pre-dawn approaches, winds back-off, seas calm.

Making ready our departure, anchor is weighed with strong arm.

We check if there’s damage to the boat struck before.

Can’t see tell-tale signs, so we shout, they ignore.

 

Agate Pass Bridge

Agate Pass Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leaving Liberty Bay, aware of a potential rough trip,

How much of a test though, was beyond our grip.

Ebbing through Agate Pass at a bold nine and a half knots.

We motored along-side some other fleeing yachts.

 

Approaching Point Jefferson we hoisted up the jib,

But left down the mainsail in its scissor crutch crib.

The conditions seemed fair, but we soon expected more

And didn’t have to wait long before it blew like a whore.

 

Downwinding Northwards, surfing Puget Sounds waves,

In 25 knots and rising, had us scurrying like slaves.

Both ferries from Kingston seemed distant and small,

As we bucked onwards, in sunshine, not worried at all.

 

All felt controllable and Simplicity felt strong.

Her diesel engine ran steadily, kept moving us along.

Spring tides were against us, but we bettered 6 knots.

With an increasing Southerly and occasional drizzly spots.

 

Passing Point No Point in howling much confused seas,

Wind whipped wave tops sped horizontally in the breeze.

At 35 knots, maybe more in grey squalls.

The boat handled calmly over wave crest and falls.

 

Nervousness crept in with a slight change of direction,

On to Foulweather Bluff, no place for affection.

We gave it wide berth, trying to reduce the commotion

And battled endless tide rips with insane devotion.

 

Our tender snaked recklessly tugged by the tow,

Imp is it’s name and it was having fun in the blow.

It scudded across wave crests, and surfed down each face,

Imp played with Simplicity, as though it was a race.

 

The boat took a beating, tossed like a puny cork.

Her propeller ate air prompted by sea water’s stiff torque.

She yawed and she rolled then the boom came adrift.

It jumped out it’s crutch and swung athwart very swift.

 

The danger was real with its heft wildly swaying.

We had to do something to make it safe by belaying.

We hadn’t a chance as the next problem soon hit.

A noise from her bowels, then the engine would quit.

 

Engine cover was raised to see nothing but steam.

The problem is real. This isn’t a dream.

Our safety’s now shot and we’re solely under sail,

Bowled by heaping seas, boom swinging over lee rail.

 

We head straight downwind to calm the boat’s pitching

Try and tame the crazy boom’s motion, it’s really bitching.

Held only by topping lift, a single 3 strand line.

I’m amazed it hasn’t given yet, as it’s way beyond it’s prime.

 

Standing right on the stern with no safety line attached.

I’m screamed at and yelled at, this plan’s only half hatched.

My frustration is maddening ‘cos I’m losing a chance

To tame this loose boom and stop it’s slam dance.

 

Ingrid anchors a line secure to my life preserver,

As I retake position and make haste with great fervor.

I force high the boom as she slides in the scissor crutch.

It’s a hell of a battle, much cursing, lots of thrutch.

 

We lash down the boom to scissor crutch and to deck.

No more freedom for it now and we’ve averted a wreck.

A brief moment to pause, and think what next to do,

Then the gusts reawaken, and we’re still in a stew.

 

We’re blown beyond Ludlow with no chance to get there.

And to make Mats Mats’ narrow channel, we haven’t a prayer.

Our choices are slimming, with each passing minute,

All alone with no help now, we’re nearing our limit.

 

The weather radio reports wildness, off Fort Flagler’s tip.

On towards Admiralty Inlet, it’s one hell of a rip.

At above 40 knots steady, it sounds worse than Oak Bay.

But it’s still against Spring tides, just not a good day.

 

Mellow blankness sets in as we slide carelessly North.

An emptiness envelopes, what will it bring forth.

We’ve entered Oak Bay, at whose head is the Cut.

With tide flooding South, it gives a knot in my gut.

 

I retake the helm and reassess where we’re going,

The shrouds are all straining with the jib’s excess bowing.

Ingrid suggests we try tacking to head into the weather.

It’s a sensible idea, now we’re thinking together.

 

I push hard on the tiller to get the wind on her nose,

As she broadsides and pitches, then completely slows.

Jib flails like a flag whipped by a raging, torrid breeze.

We can’t come about in these God awful seas.

 

We’re blown off the wind and resume our North course

To try out a gybe turn, the jib cracks round with full force.

She succeeds without damage but fails to make headway.

Just slips Northerly when reaching, and refuses to play.

 

This buys us some time to think through the next stage.

We can’t wait for a tide change, to reduce the sea’s rage.

Ingrid radios the coastguard through crackly connection

Then onto the cell phone, with commiserate rejection.

 

A few gybes buys time, while Ingrid’s making the call.

We slip toward Marrowstone, hit by yet another squall.

We’re running out of options, there’s no chance of any rescue.

We’re going to have to run the Cut and hope we make it through.

 

I apologize to Ingrid, for putting her into danger’s grip.

I’m emotional with my phrasing, ‘cus we might lose our ship.

I head towards the Cut. Jib gybes with gay abandon.

The wind’s hitting from either side, completely at a-random.

 

Aligned to enter on center, jib pulling hard and strong.

Through 5 foot jumbled waves, hoping nothing would go wrong.

We buck the flooding tide, which slows us in our tracks.

From 6 to barely 2 knots, with winds upon our backs.

 

A death grip on the tiller and eagle eye fixed on the prow.

Deviations soon corrected, and onwards she did plow.

Waves abated midway, watching slow progress along the shore.

Concentration at a peak now, “we’ll make it Love” I swore.

 

Plans B,C, and D, were not needed any longer.

Simplicity and us survive, with emotions feeling stronger.

The ordeal is far from over, but we didn’t know that yet!!

Hadlock Bay had terrors awaiting, laid in it’s unknown threat.

 

We sailed beyond the Cut, before angling towards Marina

Wind shadow was not apparent on the water’s dark patina.

The fetch of waves now shielded, by land on her port side

Unleashing the anchor to drop, it was time at last to bide.

 

Ingrid phoned Brad & Suzy to tow us to our buoy.

They’d just returned from up North, were available ship ahoy.

They readied Saint Guisseppe, a little blue workboat,

Gunned the motor in Nordland and soon they were afloat.

 

We thought our woes were over as we swung on anchor’s bite

But the gusts were overpowering, it let loose; what a fright.

My mind wasn’t ready to deal, with this latest damn event

I blindly expected it to hold, held fast to my own dissent.

 

We dragged across the sea bed, in utter disbelief.

No action forthcoming from Simplicity’s Commander-in-Chief.

Ingrid shouted loud, “We’re going to hit a big black boat”.

I turned to view our course, and got a fear lump in my throat.

 

I could see disaster looming with Imp between 2 hulls

Oh, for the freedom elsewhere, of the over circling gulls.

We stood with fenders ready, to reduce any crushing blow.

With Providence from above, we scathed free, don’t you know.

 

We blew into deeper waters, towards Naval Magazine.

I guessed the time at encroaching on land so close and green.

Brad & Suzy wouldn’t reach us, in time to slow our drift.

I had to pull out the stops and make my brain take shift.

 

I asked “What depth of water?” beneath our keel below.

Ingrid shouted “78 feet” as the gages clearly show.

I let out all our rode, a maximum of 300 feet.

As we bobbed along the wavelets resigned in great defeat.

 

Our stern swung downwind slowly as the rode became taught,

The drift had been stopped, when the anchor had caught.

It’d plowed a long furrow, to bury deeply in the mud.

This stationary position, had us feeling pretty good.

 

Sporadic gusts pummeled at Simplicity’s writhing hull.

She held fast to anchor, with rode stretched by the pull.

The phone rang. It was Suzy, who gave Ingrid an update.

“Maybe ½ an hour, have a cup of tea”, she told my first mate.

 

Saint Guisseppe was steaming, full bore down each wave.

Approaching a broaching in each trough, they’re so brave.

The further South they ventured, seas calmed as wind dropped.

No longer like dancers, they snaked and hip-hopped.

 

Below decks was a shambles from our roller coaster-like ride.

Above decks, not much better, though secured and all tied.

Preparations were made for the ensuing homeward tow.

We tidied up all over, to restore normal status-quo.

 

In so doing, seas calmed, wind dropped and sun shone.

Unexpectedly pleasant now, whatever’s going on?

I gazed to the Southwest and saw grayness en-masse.

It’d been there all day, and always ready to harass.

 

I wasn’t concerned, with conditions from the Southwest.

We rode them out, though we’d been so hard pressed.

I gazed to the North and saw a landmass under blackness.

We were so small, compared to all that vastness.

 

A little while later, whilst coiling the mainsheet,

It started to rain, to pour, and then downbeat.

I rushed below, for foul weather gear and boots.

The wind changed direction, it could care less, two hoots.

 

Ingrid shouted “We’re drifting”. I glared through the porthole.

Big raindrops splashed down, and it darkened my soul.

Blackness engulfed us, as winds raged from the North

This wasn’t in the forecast to come sally-forth.

 

She shouted again “We’re going back to the big black boat”.

Disbelief at the new direction, of our ongoing float.

I sat on the bowsprit with one hand on the rode,

To feel if we’re dragging through vibration-like node.

 

I scanned all ahead to see through heavy, pelting rain.

Searching for the little blue boat, now and again.

With continuing drift aimed at the large yacht,

We’re once again heading into a painfully tight spot.

 

Estimating we’d hit before our rescuers would arrive,

Unless our anchor grabs, so safety could revive.

We swung in an arc, of maybe 600 feet,

And came to rest graciously in the clear, oh so sweet.

 

The little blue boat, appeared though the crud.

We’re so pleased to see them, the feeling was good.

They toss us a line, to loop around Sampson post,

And take-up on the slack, thus becoming our host.

 

I hand haul the anchor, an arduous endeavor.

As we’re drawn ahead slowly by the Captain, so clever.

I sweat like a pig, with throat rasping for air,

And hoist it on deck, almost expired, I declare.

 

We’re towed to our moorage, close to the shore.

To pick up the pendants, and attach as before.

Saint Guisseppe came alongside, for a celebratory beer

We’re happily saved now, no longer in fear.

 

Suzy cuddles Ingrid, in a welcome, friendly brief,

Which brings forth mild tears, and final relief.

We’d been through a lot, over the last 15 hours

I too felt the pain, it was beyond all our powers.

 

Outside the cafe Ajax, we’re dropped off dockside.

They needed some shopping and asked for a ride.

We all felt restored, that no harm had occurred,

Even though the entire day, had felt quite absurd.

 

We returned Brad & Suzy to their little blue boat.

Cast them off, homeward bound, once more they’re afloat.

They are true Mariner friends, who’ll help anytime.

That’s the end of my story, it completes out this rhyme.

 

 

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