On Boats, Babies, and Rolling Hitches
A lesson learned and a fender returned, this soon-to-be granddad comes full circle in the name game. "On Watch" from our November 2010 issue
There was no crosswind, so it wasn't a difficult maneuver.
I first reconnoitered just off some pointed rocks while watching my graphic depth meter intently. Then I had Carolyn lower my anchor and chain 100 feet straight down into the clear, blue Mediterranean water. Next, I backed up to the rocks; I had 100 feet of water depth when we were 200 feet off.
"Pay out the rest," I said, and Carolyn paid out our full 200 feet of chain.
I continued backing. About 100 feet from the rocks, our anchor took up, and we stopped. Roma and Christian ran two lines ashore and tied them around the rocks with separate short pieces of junk line, so the chafe didn't matter.
Then Carolyn put us in tension with her anchor windlass; we were snug as a bug in a rug. Even though we only had 2-to-1 scope out, the angle of our chain rode wasn't bad because of the steepness of the bottom. We were fine in normal conditions and, of course, would leave if bad weather approached.
"Christian," I said, "just in case some drunk in a powerboat or an idiot on a jet-ski tries to cut between us and the shore, let's tie something on our stern lines so they won't get injured."
Christian took two P.F.D.s and clipped their loose straps around the middle of the stern lines. I knew it wasn't a perfect solution, but the orange was highly visible, and I didn't want to be negative. He was coming along fine as a sailor, and I didn't want to discourage him.
Within the hour, however, both life jackets had walked up close to the boat and were no longer acting as visual warnings. Thus, I had a teachable moment.
"I'm going to attach two fenders to the middle of our shorelines," I told Christian, "and use a special knot called a rolling hitch so they can't slip toward the boat in the wave action."
He carefully observed my actions.
I smiled a smug smile until an hour later when Roma Orion said, "Where's the port fender, Dad?"
It was gone. My knot would've been fine if there was constant pressure on it and it could cinch up, but the gentle wavelets had evidently untied it.
I'd used the wrong knot while pompously lecturing my new son-in-law to not do exactly that.
I tried not to blush. And they kindly tried not to smirk.
But I was internally berating myself. We'd just purchased four brand-new fenders at great expense in Tel Aviv, and for the first time in my entire life, my fenders matched. And now I'd stupidly thrown one away. Damn it!
Then I allowed my thoughts to drift away like mental clouds and refocused on the present.
Roma was giving Christian a tour of the boat, showing him where she slept as a child, stowed her My Little Ponies, and kept her dog-eared schoolbooks. I'm thrilled by their chatter. They are so much in love. "Wild Card has been a part of our family for many years," she said to Christian.
Bang! It was like a flashbulb had gone off over my head: She'd hit the nail perfectly. My boat was my home and my transportation, yes, but mostly it was about family and friends. My mother and her siblings are extremely tight, having grown up together aboard the schooner Elizabeth. Could Carolyn and I have melded without our boats, Corina, Carlotta, and Wild Card? Would Roma be Roma without the salt water in her veins? Would George Zamiar and Dave Lovik, my two best friends, be that if we hadn't sailed thousands of miles together over the years?
My boat isn't about me-she's about us. A boat isn't something you buy to "get away" but to move closer toward your family, your friends, and your God.
"Hey!" Carolyn said, and snapped me out of my deep reverie. "We've got visitors."
Everyone rushed out on deck.
At first I didn't recognize the small fishing boat. Then Abdulla and Mustafa's grinning faces came into view. They looked odd. Why were they grinning so? And we'd met many days and harbors ago-what were they doing here now?
They'd throttled down and were coming alongside when Abdulla lifted up the missing fender. "We found it drifting in the Domuz cut, heading out to sea," he said. "I wouldn't have connected it with you except for the hand-stitched black cover. Wild Card is the only black boat we've seen for months. So we hunted around a bit and, well, here you are!"
They refused to take any money even though I knew they were desperately poor.
"Please," Carolyn said, "come aboard for some Turkish coffee and baklava."
Once we were all settled in the cockpit, I introduced everyone, and then added, with a first sweep of my arm, "Family." Then, after another sweep, "Friends!"
All was well with the world. I'd gotten my fender back, thanks to the karma bank I've been making small deposits into all my life. And there had been a teachable moment, only I'd been the humbled student, not the pompous teacher. It was I who learned "what knot to do," as Roma put it in a pun later.
In the end, it all worked out perfectly. Perhaps the best lesson a father-in-law can convey to a son-in-law is that even a captain plays the fool occasionally.
And now my head could verbalize what my heart had known all along: that boats are about family and friends and love as well as sailing from Point A to Point B.
A few hours after Mustafa and Abdulla had left, I suddenly got another inspiration. "Hey," I said, "I've got another baby name for consideration!"
Roma and Christian both swiveled their heads toward me.
"You know my brother, Morgoo the Magnificent, named his daughter Carlotta after the boat Carolyn and I built in Boston."
"Wait," said Christian wearily, "I thought it was traditional to name boats after people, not the other way around."
"Goodlanders do tend to do things backward," I admitted. Then I said, "How about Corina, if it's a girl?"
Roma knitted her brow in consideration. Christian smiled, hunted for a politically correct way out, then said graciously, "I like it better than Princess Fatette!"
The Goodlanders will spend Christmas in Finike, Turkey, then fly to Amsterdam to help with the new baby. Cap'n Fatty's latest book, Red Sea Run: Two Sailors in a Sea of Trouble, will be available at Amazon.com shortly.