The alarm was sounding in its muffled, diminutive tone – completely inaudible over the
storm raging outside. Having fallen into a deep, celebratory stupor, neither the whistling winds nor
the whispering warning awoke us. It took the air horn of a neighbor to finally shake off our REM.
In a very Stoog-esque manner, Don and I bumbled into our shorts and t-shirts to go check out the situation
It was the twilight hours of July 5th, the night following a day full of revelry
and merriment. Don’s mom Linda had brought our two little ones, Erin and
Camryn down from Ohio for a summer visit that spanned the holiday, and all five of us were spending the
night at anchor.
Sombrero Beach was the focal point for Marathon on Independence Day, and the balmy
weather meant boaters from far and wide would flock to that little bay. We couldn’t
resist giving our family a front row float to the festivities and fireworks, so we packed up some traditional
fare, and joined the flotilla of craft headed toward the beach.
By the time we arrived, the little lagoon was thick with clumps of boats rafted together,
fringed by deeper draft vessels such as ours moored along the outskirts. Holding off the beach was
notorious for being poor; silted, shifting, sea-grass covered sands that offered the flukes little more
than a precarious purchase. But the calm seas and clear skies lulled us into complacency.
We tucked in, dropped a scanty scope of chain, and planned to do a better set once the day-trippers
cleared the bay.
| ~ Red, White and Blue Miss Lorie ~
Then the riotous frivolity commenced. We barbequed off the
back of our boat, picnicked in the cockpit, then took the dinghy around to visit all our carousing
comrades. With each of
us dangling a leg in the bath-water warm sea, the girls and I straddled Dinky Duck for a fun,
Music filled the little cove, crowds filled the coast, and everyone was in high spirits.
Joe and friends served frozen coladas from his Mainship “Joelopy”; Sandy shared sparklers
from her sailboat “Quest”; “Miss Lorie” was in full patriotic glory sporting a
profusion of red, white and blue; and Bob’s “Mydas” soaked us with his water pistol
Everyone came prepared
for the party, with tubes, trampolines, and all sorts of water toys in tow. Our
buddy Brett offered up a kayak, much to Erin’s delight. She climbed in and paddled away like
a pro at a pace nearly exceeding our motorized puttering. There was swimming and snorkeling,
halyard swinging and hammock swaying, trampoline jumping and boat hopping, and lots and
lots of snacking and drinking. The evening ended with a spectacular concert in the sky; explosions
of booming rockets, fire flowers, and sparkling stars synchronized to a vibrant musical radio broadcast.
The day had been joyfully eventful, the evening was splendidly breathtaking, and shortly following
the fireworks’ grand finale, the throng of spectators departed leaving just a scattering of boats
anchored for the night. As soon as the weary quiet descended, we were all ready to drag ourselves
to bed, unaware that much more would be dragging that night.
| ~ Erin Snorkeling ~
In the wee hours cumulonimbus
clouds bloomed, and blew us off our cloud nine. The air horn brought Don and I scrambling out on deck
into a torrent of whipping wind and stinging rain. Our minds still sleep muddled, we both perceived
our nearest neighbor Sandy slipping by. I switched on the VHF in the hopes that I might
raise her to warn
her of her predicament. But in the
radio's lightening spawned static, a crackling voice broke through.
"Re ...CKRTRKC... tau! Cal
...CSRTEEKC... ling ves
el Re Me
Just as I perceived that we were the ones being hailed, Don realized the channel marker
off our stern was getting closer and closer.
"WE'RE DRAGGING ANCHOR!" he shouted, startling
both of us into high gear.
I started the engine and got behind the wheel while Don
went to the bow to pull up the bouncing plow. Already anxious about spending the night on the water,
Linda awoke the moment the storm blew through. The rumble of the Yanmar roused Erin enough to
sit up and rub the sleep out of her eyes. But the youngest one, Camryn was still completely
comatose, totally oblivious to all the pandemonium.
Thankfully, the storm quickly exhausted its energy,
but it'd left Re Metau good and grounded on a sandbar. We tried creeping forward and we tried backing
in reverse; we tried going to starboard and we tried turning to port. Bleary eyed, soaked
through, and still a little incoherent, I convinced Don that we wouldn’t be going
anywhere that night. He plunked the anchor down to ease his concerns and I comforted myself with
the knowledge that our towing insurance was paid.
We went below to await for dawn, soothed the conscious crew (Camryn was still deep in dreamland),
and headed back to our berths.
| ~ Camryn's Winning Smile ~
“That beeping is making it hard to go back to sleep. Can you
turn it off?” Linda requested.
I laughed at the irony. The nearly imperceptible
sound hadn’t even penetrated Don or my thoughts. Linda’s pillow was very near the GPS,
and having no idea that incessant staccato note was to alert us of the anchor dragging, she’d
been as reticent as the tiny
little tone in disturbing our slumber. Don punched the alarm off, cursing the
manufacturer for not splurging any serious decibels on such an important feature.
The next morning we arose to leaden skies and vacant seas - the complete antithesis of the day before.
After breakfast, Don and I went up on deck to check out our situation. We were hard aground; nary
a bob nor a bounce was happening under our hull. I peeked over the side and was struck by the fact
that, though our deck was perfectly parallel, our waterline was a good four feet above the water level. Re Metau was precisely balanced on the bottom edge
of her 12" wide keel. I called TowBoatUS to get on their schedule for high tide, but the two foot rise was nowhere near what
we'd need to float, and it wouldn’t occur until
late afternoon. It was going to be a very long day.
was a bit of agitation aboard; quarters were tight; nerves were taut; and sleep was
deprived. Thankfully Erin and Camryn were easily entertained – just add
water. They were pining to paddle around in our little pond,
and happy children meant our peevishness wouldn't peak, so we were easily persuaded
to let them jump in for a swim. Much to our chagrin, when we
hung the ladder off the side, where as normally two rungs dipped in the sea, the bottom step remained
high and dry. Fortunately, the agile and energetic girls had no problems pulling themselves up and
jumping in again.
And then the winds kicked up and the cloudy sky turned ominous.
Forced by a rapidly building
storm, Don unenthusiastically urged the even more reluctant girls out of the water.
Erin immediately obeyed, but Camryn chose to drag her fins. I arrived at the top of the ladder,
beach towel in hand to help coax the soaking wet lass out. Stretching to reach the bottom
rung, Cam looked up into our wide eyed, awe struck countenance
and instantly noticed something was amiss.
“What? Why are you guys looking at me like that?” she inquired.
“Just climb on up here. Hurry up. The storms coming.” Don prodded in a somewhat
| ~ Kite Surfer ~
He and I had just witnessed an enormous spotted eagle ray gliding inches below her
toes, its wing span more than twice the size of our seven year old! Camryn plodded
up the ladder and the graceful giant soared away
leaving her completely oblivious to its presence. Had she known there was an aquatic polkadotted
monster below her, I'm sure she'd have been provoked to pick up her pace.
hit with gusto, and the gusty blows succeeded in knocking us off our tippy-toe. Great! Now
we were grounded AND our entire world was askew! So there we sat in the cockpit, under
a charcoal smudged sky, in catawampus discomfort, waiting for the tide to rise and our tow to show.
A kite surfer, brought out by the blustery wind, was the only colorful spot on our otherwise rather gray
Alas, the moon pulled through, the tow boat arrived, and it was not a moment
too soon. In order to determine the best direction to draw us into deeper water,
the operator took depth readings all around Re Metau. We had 2 feet off our stern, 2 feet to
port, 3 feet off our bow and 4 feet to starboard. Our keel was 6 1/2 feet deep. This was not
going to be easy. But having seen a TowBoatUS rescue involving a large vessel left on top of a bridge
by a hurricane, I was confident they’d dealt with far worse. With our halyard hooked
to the tow line, our liberator revved his twin 250s and delicately tipped us onto our side
to reduce our draft. In due time we were celebrating our independence again – only this time
from the shoal. I could not boast enough about these amazing TowBoatUS guys and the invaluable service
they provided. They’d always proven to be highly skilled, timely, and professional.
This incident was most definitely our folly. At the end of the evening when the
cove cleared out we should have done a better set of the anchor. Though we'd gone to bed under clear
skies and on calm seas, one never knows when nature will change her mood (it always seemed to occur in
the dead of night). Fortunately, Re Metau dragged across a sandy, grassy bottom and her thick hull
was no worse for the wear - only her crew was affected. Don promised to wire a much louder
buzzer to the anchor alarm. I pledged to invest in an electric windlass so multiple moorings would be less
vowed to forevermore spend her nights firmly reposed on dry land. And
as far as Erin and Camryn were concerned, there was much to be said about the innocent ignorance of youth
when one has perfect trust in one's parents.
With Re Metau’s deep draft, this
wasn’t our first time, but it was definitely our worst time ‘Locating the bottom’.
The experience was filed away as another memorable adventure on the water - errr - on the sand as it were.
But we refused to be embarrassed because as the saying goes amongst sailors: