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The closing on our new yacht happened during the week of May 20, 2013 and immediately put the responsibility on us to move, or have moved, the boat back to our home port in Kemah, Texas.  During that same week we procured a slip at Seabrook Marina…a second choice due to no available berths in Kemah Boardwalk Marina.  After investigating having the boat shipped overland from Fernandina Beach, Florida and finding it prohibitively expensive, we discussed several  options:  1) bringing the boat around Florida ourselves, 2) hiring a delivery crew to bring the boat home, or 3) hiring a delivery crew to assist us in bringing the boat back.  We debated the issue a lot.  We were torn between us doing it ourselves, or hiring someone to come with us.  Eventually, we decided to hire a USCG Captain and his wife to assist us.  The plans were for me to fly to Florida on Wednesday, May 22 to start preparing the boat for a Tuesday, May 28th departure…Captain Husband was to fly down two days later, Friday, May 24th.  That would give us four or five solid days to prep the boat.  The crew was to be at the boat on May 28th at the latest.

amelia island

I arrived in Jacksonville, Florida around noon on May 22nd.  I was on a mission.  I had lots to do before my guy arrived two days later.  First on the agenda was to go by West Marine and pick up a 24” HD Garmin Radar and a Garmin 740S Chartplotter.  Both needed to be installed on the boat before we departed.  After picking up the instruments, I was pretty jacked to be able to take all the time I needed to go through the boat and see exactly what was on it.  I arrived at the AmeliaIslandYachtBasin mid afternoon…and unloaded the bulky radar and Chartplotter.

sunset amelia island yacht basin

When I went below, I was surprised to find two huge plastic hampers sitting on the salon floor jammed to the top and overflowing; one had spare boat parts and assorted extras associated with the engine and generator…the other was full of kitchen and galley items.  It was just too much stuff to go through; I put them aside in the forward berth.  I could see going through everything on the boat was going to be a daunting task.

 

Sailboats are hot and immediately upon going below decks I turned on the one remaining air conditioner that worked.  I say one remaining because at one time our yacht had three separate air conditioners.  As the original owner found an air conditioner failing, he simply removed the unit and chose not to replace it.  The result was that instead of having separate units in the forward berth, main salon, and master stateroom aft…we had one ageing 12,000 BTU unit in the main salon.  However, that one unit, though quite old, quickly cooled off the boat.

 

I spent the next two days going over the boat as best I could before picking up my husband at the airport Friday afternoon.  I looked forward to him coming, things are always better when he is with me.  We had several things that had to be done before we could depart.  The radar and Chartplotter were two biggies for sure, but we also had to have the fuel tanks topped off, the fuel polished, and we had to move the boat from the Amelia Island Yacht Basin to the Fernandina Beach City Marina (where the water was deeper).  The water pump for the one remaining air conditioner had crapped out…that needed to be replaced.  And, also about this time the delivery crew went AWOL, we had not been successful in getting in touch with them.

 

Most of that following Saturday was spent replacing the air conditioner water pump.  The air conditioner then lasted only a few hours before the compressor failed.  We opted to replace the entire AC but there were none to be found in stock anywhere in Jacksonville…the AC replacement would have to wait.

 

On Sunday, May 26th, we mounted the radar and Chartplotter…they talked to each other beautifully…we had navigation and sight…things were looking good.  That is, until in early evening when we got a call from the delivery crew we had hired (and already sent a $1,600 deposit).  The delivery crew told us they were on a difficult boat delivery that started in Belize.  They were having engine problems, were stuck in Ft. Lauderdale, and could see no way they could get the boat delivered to Charleston, South Carolina in the two days they had left and then get back to Amelia Island to help us deliver our boat.  So, two days before we were to depart, we find out that we have no crew…suffice to say, we weren’t happy.  We made a snap decision to bring the boat around ourselves.  We had debated this in detail and it was a toss up to hire a delivery crew in the first place.  The decision had now been made for us…we’d sail the boat home ourselves.

radar installation

Then we had a major holdup that was completely out of our control.  Our eight-man life raft was in the shop being recertified.  The life raft was essential, an absolute necessity, and we couldn’t depart without it.  Finally, on the morning of Wednesday, May 29th we got word it was ready.  We drove to Jacksonville to pick it up, before then rushing back, unloading and mounting the raft canister, and then heading to Publix to provision the boat.  Some time around 2:30 that afternoon the dock hands slipped our lines and we were off.

 

The tide was going out of St. Mary’s inlet as we motored out of the channel.  The weather had called for 10-15 kt winds and 4-6 foot seas…the wind was closer to 20.  The combination of outgoing tide and opposing fairly strong winds warned us of steep choppy seas as we approached the bar.  We were not disappointed as we plowed through the confused seas to the outer markers of the channel.  Finally we turned to starboard and south and started down the coast.

 

After plotting a way point to Cape Canaveral, Florida (154 nautical miles and a full day of sailing away) we hoisted all sails.  We were sailing almost directly into the wind.  The southeast winds were just off our port bow…we would have to close haul and tack to get south, barring a more easterly wind switch…and though not in the worst of it, we’d also have to buck the gulf stream current.  And, so it went the first night.  The winds increased to 20-25 Kts and the seas jumped to 6-8 feet as we long tacked down the eastern coast of Florida.  We would sail as close to the wind as possible for 40-50 miles, and then tack back for four or five miles to get back on course.  All on a boat we had never sailed before.  It was exciting.

 

Mid day on Thursday, we passed Canaveral…we set another way point just off of Jupiter, Florida.  The day was punctuated with even higher seas (8-10 feet) and stronger winds (25-30 Kts)…we finally passed Riviera Beach, Florida in the early morning hours of Friday, May 31st.  I took over the helm around 2:00 AM and stayed there until daylight.  The wind was slowly switching more easterly, but it was also dying…not much more than 7 kts.  The seas were also lying down, less than 2 feet.  As dawn broke and Captain awoke, we found ourselves motor sailing less than two miles off the Florida coast (to avoid the gulf stream current) and admiring the sights that Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach, etc offer close up from the ocean side.

 

Around this time, a check of the weather indicated a tropical storm was developing over Key West.  Not good…Key West was the next port of call .  Mid afternoon on Saturday we entered Port Everglades    …another name for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  We’d decided to top off our fuel and water tanks and further investigate the TS over Key West.

 

Many might have the mind set that sailing constantly involves being at the helm and actually, physically steering the boat; that is hardly the truth.  If one had to actually steer the boat they would become worn completely out pretty quickly.  No, it’s the auto helm (auto pilot) that does almost all of the steering.  One thing the auto helm can’t do is dock the boat.  Considering out boat was brand new to us and that docking at Ft. Lauderdale would only be the fifth time I had docked the boat, there was major  angst involved…add to that the fact that our engine was not running well and would hardly idle at all…coupled with this being a Saturday afternoon in the area with the largest concentration of pleasure boats in the United States and, well, I had a lot of angst at bringing Freedom in to the dock.  The charts showed the Lauderdale Marina  (where we needed to go for fuel and water) was just past the 17th Street bridge…so that opening had to be negotiated. 

 

As I brought the boat around to line up on the Port Everglades channel markers the boat was barely making 4 Kts under power.  Any slower and the boat handled like a sand dune…any faster and running into other boats became an issue.  The channel into Port Everglades was jammed to the brim with boat…all kinds, shapes, and forms of boats.  There seemed to be no real concern with the “Rules of the Road” as it was almost like every boat for himself.

 

THIS is a webcam of Port Everglades.

 

Once inside the channel opens into a very large turning basin for the cruise ships (Port Everglades is the third busiest cruise ship port in the world…largest in the US).  After an eternity (it seemed) the bridge opens into the ICW and narrows.  We quickly spotted the fuel dock off to port.  The tide and wind was from astern.  I passed the dock before bringing the boat about and lined up the approach into the wind.  Slowly we approached the dock and when just a couple of feet from it, I put the boat in reverse and stopped her on a dime…easily we drifted into the dock against our fenders.  A perfect dock; I was glad it was over.

 

After we had topped off fuel and water, and while the boat was being pumped out, Captain Husband said he had a suggestion.  He said he thought it would be a good time to rent a slip for a few nights, procure a diesel mechanic on Monday, and check out the weather before heading on around the Florida Keys to Key West.  The weather looked as if it were about to cave in…there were extensive thunderstorms all along the East coast of Florida and down the Keys.  I thought it was a great idea…until I looked at what I thought would probably be our choice of berths.  Still, that was the plan.  Off Captain went to make it happen.

 

When Captain and the dock hand returned, before they sealed the deal, my guy wanted me to look at the berths and choose the one I thought would be the easiest to get into and out off.  I had two choices and neither was very good; I chose one, Captain went to pay, and the young dock hand and I discussed breaking away from the fuel dock.  Captain came back and all three of us discussed how we were going to undock.  Specifically, how to undock without wiping out the million dollar power boat that was in front of me.  Then we went to the berth we had rented and discussed how we were going to handle docking back in.  Having what I thought was a meeting of the minds, we went back and cranked Freedom up.  We undocked successfully with no problem.  That was dock/undock #5…one more dock and I could kill the engine, find a Cuban restaurant, find a glass of wine, find a shower, find the bed, and relax for a day or so.  Just one more dock…just one more dock.

 

After easily undocking from the fuel dock at Lauderdale Marina I will admit I was slowly, but most assuredly, developing a bit of confidence in my docking/undocking abilities.  With Captain on the bow with a line, I slowly brought the boat around and lined up on the berth.  The approach was not straight in, but close.  There would be this huge umpteen million dollar power yacht I would have to avoid on my starboard side.  When just past the power yacht I seemed to have plenty of room to turn back to port to line up the approach.  And, that is exactly what I did…perfectly, actually…I was quite proud of myself at this time.

 

Now, a refresher of sorts to those who aren’t down with sailing.

 

For the facts:  sailboats have one engine; sailboats can go in forward and reverse with the engine on; sailboats steer pretty good with the engine in forward but can be, as is out case, almost unsteerable in reverse; sailboats are very, very heavy; from the very moment a sailboat is put into motion it is imperative for the helmsman to know how he is going to stop it at all times.  And, lastly, when docking a sailboat it is absolutely paramount that the boat is moving very slowly.  Sailboats are not agile at slow marina speeds and they are built, by necessity, to be very strong. 

 

I knew the facts…the ones above and a whole lot more.  So, around the power yacht on my port side I go.  The engine is at idle.  The boat is moving agonizingly slow…perfect.  As soon as we’re past the big yacht I shifted the engine into neutral…we are barely gliding toward the wharf.  I am lined up perfectly…there is no wind.  As a safety precaution, and with the engine at minimum idle RPM, I shift the engine into reverse.  This was a precaution in case the boat didn’t bleed off enough speed for the dock hand to stop her with the dock lines…if that happened, I could just goose the engine and reverse would stop the boat within a couple of feet or so.  As luck would have it, I sensed the boat didn’t seem to be bleeding off boat speed at all…at all.

 

A bit dumfounded at the boats speed, and with the boat being about a quarter of way into the slip, and with the boat in reverse…I eased the throttle up…with the boat in reverse this should have stopped the boat.  It didn’t.  Instead, I sensed the boat actually speed up.  We are now half way into the slip.

 

Captain throws the dock hand the bow line that is supposed to act as a spring line and absolutely stop the boat from hitting the wharf in a worst case situation…the dock hand grabs the line and proceeds not to cleat it down.  Realizing we are going way too fast and that the dock hand has not cleated the spring line…I goose the engine again…and again the boat does not decrease speed but actually speeds up even more.  The bow is now less than ten feet from the wharf and the end of the slip.  I open up the engine only momentarily…instantly feel an acceleration and drop back to idle. 

lauderdale yacht crash 2 

I then watched a slow motion train wreck…it was somewhat like a nightmare, really.

lauderdale yacht crash

I watch as the dock hand realizes he should have cleated the spring line and that it is too late to do so…he makes a half wrap around a piling but is way, way unable to hold the 41,000 pound boat.

 

I hear my husband scream, “WHOOOAAAAAAAA!  Put it in reverse!”  I hear a couple of guys on the floating finger pier yell, LOOK OUT!”.

 

And then I watch as the bow of Freedom runs head on into the end of the slip…the floating dock…and keep going.  Then I watched as the bow struck an aluminum ramp that goes from the wharf to the floating dock.  I continued watching as the bow of the boat destroys the railing of the ramp.  It was a terrible experience.  There were lots of loud sounds as the ramp crashed down.  I then watched as the bow of the boat road up onto this aluminum ramp before finally stopping.  And, then there was silence.  Quite quickly, I’d created a situation.  I was kind of in controlled shock.  I had no idea how this seemingly easy docking had almost instantly become a Class A clusterfuck. 

lauderdale yacht crash 3 

Trying to figure out just what had happened, I looked up to see two guys on the dock trying to lift the bow of the boat up and off of this huge aluminum ramp I’d just destroyed.  And, then one of them yells, “Mam…you’re vessel is still in forward.”  I looked down and saw the transmission was bottomed out in reverse…then I looked over my shoulder and just as quickly saw the propulsion stream clearly indicating the boat was in forward.  Momentarily I was confused…this didn’t make any sense.

 

In the meantime, Captain had rushed in a panic to the cockpit and threw his hand to the transmission lever to press it down into reverse…but it was already at the stops in reverse.  I tried shifting into neutral…to no avail.  I killed the engine.  The two guys managed to push the boat off of the dock.  And, predictably…a crowd started to gather.

 

Scooting right along, the police were called and a report was filed.  We have comprehensive insurance on the boat so the what turned out to be $3,500 in damage to the ramp and pier, though most unfortunate, was not really the problem.  However, now we had a transmission issue.  The damage to the boat was essentially a bad scratch, though one we’d have to have repaired. 

 

We’d already figured out more or less what happened…this is how things actually happened:

 

The fate of the docking was sealed when, on my approach and with the engine on idle, I shifted from forward to neutral…for the fact of the matter is that that shift didn’t happen.  At that exact moment that I dropped the transmission lever down which would have removed the boat from forward to neutral – at that exact moment – the transmission linkage cable failed…and in doing so failed to shift the boat transmission from forward to neutral, and then from neutral into reverse.  In short, at the points I think the boat is in neutral and then on to reverse, it is actually still in forward. 

 

The boat isn’t bleeding off speed as it should because the boat is still in forward…but I didn’t know that.  And, so, as the boat is not bleeding off speed, I drop the boat into reverse…except the boat is not in reverse because the transmission linkage cable has failed…but I don’t know that.  And, so, as the boat is still not bleeding off speed, I increase the throttle a bit.  If the boat had been in reverse the boat should have come to a stop…but it wasn’t in reverse but still in forward and so the boat speeded up slightly.  Still not realizing the boat is still in forward, thinking it was in reverse I gave the engine even more throttle…and we took out their pier.  And, we took out the marina pier in style, too.  Lots of people, lots of noise…a big commotion.

 

Anyway, no fault on the my part for the crash.  If the marina’s dock hand had had a clue, he could have stopped it…but, he didn’t.  The boat’s transmission linkage failed at the exact moment we were docking.  The helmsman had no fault in the issue.  Still, that didn’t make me feel a whole lot friggin better.  And, it put my docking confidence back to zero.  After the crash, one of the skippers on the dock asked if I was OK.  I said I was.  He asked what happened; I told him.  He said, “You’ve got a strong boat…on a scratch.  It’s a good thing you weren’t driving a Beneteau…it would have sunk after a hit like that.” 

 

Anyway, finally the boat was docked and we had a few days of down time.  The boat was provisioned, fueled up, and the water tanks topped off.  We couldn’t do anything about the dock and knew that was an insurance thing.  So, we decided to work on the boat until the weather cleared.  We really couldn’t do anything until Monday anyhow.  On Monday we’d line up fiberglass and mechanic type people.

 

We rented a motel room and car to get around.  First on the list of things to do was a new air conditioner for the boat.  West Marine’s largest retail store is in Ft.Lauderdale and they had a 12,000 BTU marine AC in stock.  On Sunday, we installed the new air conditioner…and ate Cuban food.

 

We spent Monday, June 3rd, lining up fiberglass people and a Perkins diesel mechanic…that took most of the day…both were to show up Tuesday morning.  Almost to the second, Tuesday morning the two different crafts showed up and got to work.  After we lined them up, discussed the pertinent issues, Captain and I went and sat under the palm trees of the marina on a bench.  It was a rainy, blustery type of day…tropical weather was absolutely in the area.

 

While we are talking and sitting under the palm trees, one of the fiberglass techs asked if we had a utility razor knife he could borrow.  Captain said we did and got up to go to the boat to get it for him.  I really wasn’t paying much attention, but the next thing I heard was the engine mechanic saying, “Ohhhh…are you okay…WOW, are you okay?”  I glanced up and could see my husband on all fours on the boat deck by the port side boarding gate.  I flew off the bench.

 

My guy is a tough guy…he in no way qualifies as a wuss.  As I walked up to the boat, he was on his hands and knees and not moving much.  I asked him if he was okay…his reply was, “No…I’m not OK.”  Slowly he got up and I could immediately see blood.  I turned him around fully expecting to see a gash on his head or face somewhere, but the blood was all coming from his mouth.  It turned out that when he had stepped from the fixed pier to the boat deck he had slipped and fallen head first into the cockpit combing.  At first glance, it looked as if he’d knocked out, or broken off at the gum line, the four teeth from the front teeth over past the incisor.  He looked terrible.  It was a very nasty fall.  After giving him some salt water and a cool towel to wipe blood off with…I got him to the car and off to the first dentist my iPhone recommended, about five blocks away.

 

The first and nearest dentist we went to saw us right away.  After X-rays, he deferred treatment and instead referred us to the emergency room of Broward GeneralHospital, a Level I trauma center.  The dentist indicated that the injury required the expertise of an oral surgeon.  He sent us off with a prescription of antibiotics and painkillers.  Thankfully, the hospital was also just a few blocks away.

 

The Broward hospital was huge.  As an example, after we were admitted, my husband was in waiting room number 68.  By necessity, the emergency room operates on a very defined triage system.  Even though there were 25 or so people in the waiting room ahead of us, my guy was seen almost immediately.

 

The long and the short of it was that the oral surgeon that saw my husband essentially gave the same diagnosis as the dentist:  there were some teeth that been misplaced, none were knocked out, none appeared to be chipped…the blow my husband took was from below, and not the front, jamming his teeth up into his upper jaw.  The oral surgeon, not surprisingly, definitely felt oral surgery was essential to either remove or repair four of my guy’s teeth, from the top left front to past the top left incisor.

 

I say, above, not surprisingly, not because of any slight on the oral surgeon but because both me and my husband, particularly me, from the moment I first saw his poor mouth that he was going to be in for some extensive dental work.  Both of us knew all along his mouth and teeth were going to have to be seriously addressed…and, the sooner the better.  But consider our position…

 

We find ourselves sitting in the emergency room with an above average injury:  husband has four teeth that have been jammed into his upper jaw.  We have a very, very expensive sailboat sitting in a very expensive slip in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida…which happens to be a 1100 miles or so from where we live.  And, my husband has to be back at work the following Monday morning.

 

I asked the surgeon how urgent was the surgery?  She said it was not really urgent that the surgery be done in the next few hours, but that it definitely needed to happen soon, within a couple of days or so.  We then told the doctor that we were not from Ft.Lauderdale, about the boat trip, and essentially that we had no support here.  My husband was strangely not in any pain and what we really wanted to know is could this surgery wait until we were back in Houston?  We told her we had an oral surgeon in Houston, could be back in Houston by the next day, and into our surgeon’s office on Thursday…would that be OK?

 

The doctor said that would be fine.

 

The next day we were back home in Houston.

 

And the next day, Thursday, my guy went to our own oral surgeon.

 

And this was the scoop on that:

 

As with the dentist and the oral surgeon in Florida, our doctor concurred with the Floridian’s diagnosis.  Four teeth had been pushed up into the upper jaw bone and somewhat back.  Their were two avenues of approach in repairing his teeth.  One was to sedate my husband, replace the teeth to where they were, and then wire all of the teeth together…hopefully bone would grow around and the teeth would become stable…if the teeth survived, each would then require a root canal. 

 

Pro: One keeps there teeth

Con:  success rate is 50-50 at best

 

The second approach was to go ahead and pull the teeth and go the partial bridge thing.

 

Pro:  Whole issue is decided

Con:  Whole issue is decided

 

It was my guys decision but I agreed with it.  He took the conservative approach of having the teeth realigned and trying to save them if he could.  In the event his teeth can’t be saved by taking this approach he would have to have them pulled anyhow and the bridge.  So, it was like, let’s try to save the teeth first and if we can, we can…if we can’t, we tried.

 

On Friday, my guy had the surgery.  His teeth were wired together, like braces.  His mouth looks great.  We’ll have to see if the approach taken will end with him keeping all of his teeth, but at least we are trying.

 

I was greatly relieved to have my guy back at home and his teeth repaired.  Later that afternoon we jumped in the pool and had a few drinks.  All was well and it was good to relax…sort of.

 

All I could think about was B-O-A-T.  In fact, BOAT was all I had thought about for the past several months, night and day.  From the moment I woke up until the time I went to bed all I thought about for weeks and weeks and weeks had been our boat.  My husband had no more significant time off and, at least in the short term was out of action because of his mouth.  In the big scheme of things, my husband’s circumstances meant almost nothing…meaning, we couldn’t really dwell on them.  We had just purchased a very large and extremely expensive sailing yacht that was now sitting over a thousand miles away in a slip at Ft.Lauderdale.  No one was looking after the boat and it was costing us over $200 a day for every day it sat there. 

 

Before we ever left Florida he and I had talked.  And, it was a given that it would be up to me to get our boat back to Galveston.  I knew that…my husband knew that.  Until the boat was back here in Texas there would be no peace…for either of us.

 

 

Continued…

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2 Comments

    • MWhite:LittleCunningPlan
    • Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:19 PM
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Oh my goodness! You really do know how it feels to have no control of the boat suddenly. What a nightmare , and then to be faced with your husband being injured. I’m sure you are so glad that is behind you. Now I need to read the rest of your story.

  1. Yep, I do, sadly. Once the boat was back here in Texas, we changed the throttle cable as well. It’s always something, I suppose. LOL


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