Sunday, July 10, 2011

Securing the Dink

Disturbing news was recently published on the Puddle Jump lists to the effect that dinghies and outboards are being stolen in unprecedented numbers from Tahitian and Moorean anchorages. These are not rumors. We've spoken with one of the captains who lost a dinghy. Tourism officials and local organizers made a point of letting all the participants at the rendezvous know that this is a serious, unresolved issue, and cruisers should be highly alert.

As a result, when we decided to go for yet another of our many "hikes in the woods" today leaving from Pointe Venus on the northwest corner of Tahiti, DrC and I canoodled for quite some time on what to do about the dinghy. Obviously, we needed it to get to shore, but neither of us felt comfortable leaving the vessel unattended on the beach. We decided to drive the dinghy to shore, drop the family, then I would drive back and chain the dinghy to our transom. Along with the locks on the motor, we felt this would prove a strong deterrent to the casual thief.

Like many of our great ideas, this one proved challenging to implement. First, the locks are slippery. I mean this literally. After telling us not to drop them overboard about 500 times in the past three weeks, DrC promptly drops one of them overboard as we leave Don Quixote fully loaded with children and hiking gear. I watch it sink out of sight with only the smallest sigh and a warning look when the captain starts to shift the blame. He subsides after sufficient glaring and motors us into shore. Our next hurdle comes from a common problem -- I can't start the dinghy motor. Actually, I can. I sweat, I swear, I disavow all knowledge of mechanical things, I kick the soft squishy sides of the dinghy (not the hard crunchy toe-breaking bottom), I chant something, then I agree that my soul belongs to the devil, after which it starts. By this time, locals are gathering on the beach and watching the entire performance with something approaching glee. I don't think French T.V. is nearly as entertaining as American cruisers with recalcitrant outboards. My inner child decides that I am merely enacting a scene to ensure that these self same locals have absolutely no motivation to steal a dinghy which can cause such loud and embarrassing antics.

The drive back to Don Quixote is otherwise uneventful. Which is good, because now I have to figure out how to chain up the dinghy. DrC had thoughtfully moved the heavy stern chain bucket to the starboard transom. The idea was to use the security cable on the bow of the dinghy, loop it through the transom handle, then loop chain through both the dinghy and the handle, and then lock chain, cable and dinghy together. However, the security cable is pretty short, the chain unwieldy, and in the 10 knot breeze, the dinghy keeps moving off out of range of the two. Frustrated, I throw one leg into the dinghy and brace the other on edge of the transom step while I wrestle with the cable and the chain. Giving the chain a yank to get more scope, I find myself suddenly in possession of plenty of chain while the rest slides off the transom, down the steps and with a clatter worthy of the ghost of Christmas past slides into the ocean.

It's 25' of high test 3/8 chain leftover from when we replaced the front rode. It weighs about a million pounds. It goes into the water simultaneously slow enough for me to mentally record every single link and quickly enough that it takes considerably longer to describe the event than to actually live it. What I want to do is drop the chain, divorce my husband, move to a one bedroom flat in Seattle, and pretend like this never happened… "this" essentially being my entire life. What I do instead is pretend like I have inner thigh muscles and squeeze the two boats together, hanging on to the chain for dear life. With the dinghy touching the transom, I throw as much of the remaining chain as I can over the bow of the dinghy. A satisfying few feet land with a thunk in the hard bottom. Then in a maneuver worthy of Cirque du Soleil and never to be repeated, I swing my DQ side leg over the bow and sit my ass on the chain. To do this, I must briefly let go of the chain, but I use my impossibly hard and/or impossibly large and squishy ass to pin the thing to the bow of the dinghy. A most disconcerting sensation of chain links moving rapidly between my butt cheeks alerts me immediately to the essential stupidity of this strategy, so I reach between my legs and grab -- quite literally, the last foot of chain before the entire lot drops into the ocean.

Cruising life presents many such "Now what?" moments in which no possible action can reasonably taken, but life or expensive property depends on taking the action successfully. I have hold of the chain which due to its length and weight has now effectively anchored me a few feet from the stern of Don Quixote. There is no bringing it back on board either vessel. My back is not something we talk about much, but suffice it to say that it still doesn't work. I'm not going to be able to get this thing inboard. But I can lock it! I have locks. I have a at least one fully functional lock somewhere in the bottom of the dinghy. With one hand on the chain, I use the other to grab the cable at the bow of the dinghy, then loop it into the handhold on DQ's transom. With a third hand I was unaware I possessed, I grab the lock and braid the mess together in a secure tangle. My last considered action is to drop the cable, watching lock, chain end, and cable all sink three feet before settling as neat as you please into a taught stern hook. The dinghy is now so tightly and inextricably bound to the back of Don Quixote that the two craft might as well be grafted together.

With considerable élan, I don my goggles, dive neatly off the dinghy, and swim ashore. DrC regards me curiously as I stride through the shallows, "How did it go?"

"Swimmingly!" I reply with a heartiness that has all four of my family members staring at me suspiciously. "There's gonna be a wee bit of work when we get back, but it's all good. No one is going to be stealing the dinghy while we're gone. Trust me."


Sherry said...

I think you should submit this to Latitude 38. It really is a masterpiece!!

j-slice said...

Toast you are freaking hillarious. Excellent writing!! How come Dr.C wasn't the one to do the honors?

NatGeoWannaBe said...

Holy crap that was funny. I agree with Sherry - submit it.

judith said...

I agree with all above! So one day in the past you must have shown that you were more capable of doing this job above all others. You really should keep this kind of information to yourself.