The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

15 Jun

The Good – a welcome visit from friends.

Jim & Moira Smith from Buckie were over in Ireland last week on the hunt for a new boat. They had a successful trip, in that they did a deal on a Hunter Impala down in the Baltimore area; Jim’s keen to get back in contention ‘round the cans’ on the Moray Firth, having said good-bye earlier to the Sigma, Enchantress.

So, on their way back up to Dublin Jim & Moira stopped off in Arklow, having had a long drive from the South West. They stayed 2 nights with me and it was very pleasant indeed to have their company, even if only for a short time. Unfortunately, the weather was appalling while they were here, severely limiting opportunities for any sightseeing. They did treat me to a lovely meal at a local hostelry and my first visit this trip to a genuine Irish pub for a drop of the black stuff.

Moira, Jim and a pint of Guiness...


The Bad – the weather.

To set the context, before PT left he’d asked the guys here if the boat would be OK on the river pontoon for the next 2 weeks or so. The reply was that, if the weather got up, a nasty swell could develop – nothing to damage the boat but it could get uncomfortable. We opted to stay on the river, with the proviso that assistance would be available to help me move the boat if necessary.

Saturday dawned to drizzle and a brisk north-easterly wind. By lunchtime, there was a decent swell on the river as, with the wind in that direction, there is little protection from river mouth piers. I asked one of the marina staff if a move into the marina was in order but was reassured that the weather was forecast to moderate and all would be well. Ha!

As the afternoon turned into evening, the drizzle turned into a deluge, the stiff breeze increased to a gale and a sizeable wave was regularly powering along the bank on the other side of the river. At 6.30pm a stern line parted, but this was easily replaced and I was confident that the boat was secure with the addition of extra lines while we went into town for our meal.

We weren’t away long but, by the time we returned, the boat was trying to wrench herself free from the pontoon, which itself was intent on parting company with the piles keeping it in one place. Moira took one look at the situation and decided to sit things out in the car. Jim and I went down to the boat and basically tried to keep a watch because, by this time, a shift into the marina was out of the question.

It was a VERY long night! In all, a further 3 heavy mooring lines broke or chafed through. At around midnight, 2 lines went simultaneously, causing the stern to swing out leaving me alone on the boat and unable to get ashore safely because it was too risky to try and leap across the gap onto the bucking bronco pontoon! For once, my ear-piercing whistle came in handy to summon help from Jim who had retired to the car to keep Moira company.

There were three other boats on the river pontoon that night, all experiencing the same trauma. A Nicholson 39 from Weymouth also broke lines and a single-handed Frenchman on a 42-ft aluminium sloop ended up at 90 degrees to the pontoon when his lines went. There was also one casualty on the river moorings, an Endurance 48 ketch broke one of her mooring lines and ended up aground, but miraculously, there was no damage. Apart from the mooring lines, Two Choices suffered no damage either….the only other casualty was Jim’s left shoe! It was washed off at some point, leaving him shoeless!

The weather did start to moderate by about 4am, and although it took a day or two for the swell to die down, there didn’t seem to be signs of any further gales. I wasn’t taking any chances though and certainly didn’t want to repeat the experience in a hurry. The guys from the marina were soon on hand to help to squeeze Two Choices into the marina. We’re now as snug as a bug in a rug….getting out again will be another story!!

The Ugly – uninvited visitors.

Although the river pontoon and marina are overlooked by a large, fairly plush apartment complex, it is pretty quiet around here. Families, couples and groups of teenagers wander along the road on a sunny afternoon and evening and, although the town is said to have a drug problem (which town hasn’t?), it feels safe and peaceful.

On the first Wednesday night that I was here, at 1am I became aware of laughter and loud voices on the pontoon. I initially put this down to the crew of the neighbouring boat returning from the pub in boisterous mood but soon realised that, in actual fact, the boat was moving and there was someone aboard. Without thinking, I leapt out of bed and removed the washboards to find 4 noisy people making themselves comfortable in the cockpit and apparently settling down to continue a drinking session – the reek of alcohol was overpowering!

I’m afraid to say that I lost the plot at that point and started bellowing threats to call the police if they didn’t clear off sharpish. I don’t know who was more shocked, them or me! They hurriedly jumped off the boat, muttering apologies and disappeared into the night.

It seems that they were pretty harmless and did not have any sinister intent but, nevertheless, the incident did shake me up a bit. They have even done me a favour, in that it has made me think more seriously about security on the boat, particularly my personal security when I’m aboard alone. I’ve now got a personal safety alarm (courtesy of Sara, thank you) and keep the washboards locked at night. I also now make sure that my mobile is within reach.

I mentioned the incident to the marina owners> Apparently this must have been an isolated incident – there have been no security issues here previously, they say, hence the lack of locks on the pontoon gates. However, I have since heard from the sailing club members that there has been a problem with tenders being “borrowed” by local kids and that boats on the river moorings have been boarded at night. Not major incidents, relatively speaking, but enough to raise awareness and take precautions.


One Response to “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”

  1. Doug Smith June 22, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Hey Louandpete, enjoying your blog,good luck.

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