Our Most Terrifying Experience
Recently I was asked “Have you ever been scared living on a boat?” “Heck yeah!” I reply.
There have been a few rather unnerving experiences aboard Floating Home. However, I’d have to say the time we dragged anchor during a thunderstorm ranks as number 1.
Let me tell you the story.
The Day Begins
It is 8:30 in the morning as we depart Clarks Landing Marina to begin the 87-mile passage. Today is day three of the four-day journey from the Chesapeake Bay to the Narragansett Bay. The crossing from Manasquan, New Jersey to Shinnecock Bay, NY, on the south side of Long Island is a first for us. We will be approximately 20 miles offshore in the vast Atlantic ocean, at times with no sight of land.
It is nearing 2:00 pm as we approach Shinnecock inlet. Large boulders line either side of the somewhat narrow jetty. Turning in, we pass a marina and a dock with a fueling station. Along with a few pleasure boats, there are large commercial fishing boats, as well. Continuing on, we drop the anchor, a couple of hundred yards past the fishing boats.
A Peaceful Evening
We get Floating Home situated and drop the dinghy in the water to take Blue, our black lab, to shore. Enjoying a peaceful walk on the little beach, Blue sniffs and searches the sand for dead fish to munch on! We pass a family taking a walk along the beach, but that’s all. It’s a Sunday evening in early June. The temperature is a bit cool.
We appreciate the opportunity to stretch our legs and let Blue relieve himself. Then climb back in the dinghy and take the short ride back to the boat. These little rides are fun and Blue seems happy as his ears flap in the breeze.
Back on Floating Home, Jim looks at the distance between us and the commercial fishing boats. He decides we should move a bit farther away from them. I head to the bow and lift the anchor. Jim drives the boat to another location 100 yards or so further from the dock.
“This is such a great spot, I love it here,” I comment as we enjoy our dinner on the water. A couple of hours later we climb into bed looking forward to the final day of our trip.
It’s 11:30 pm. I wake to thunder, lightning, and rain. In the distance, I can hear yelling! “Hey, hey!” I run upstairs to look out the back. The boat is moving, it is heading toward the commercial fishing boats. I scream ” JIM, we’re dragging anchor!!!” He shoots out of bed and grabs his shorts attempting to put them on as he comes up the stairs.
We have to think very quickly! Jim grabs the keys. We both head to the bridge. Flashes of lightning provide us with light to see. Jim starts the engines. It is pitch black and we are disoriented. Where are we? Which direction should we head?
We are moving backwards toward the dock with large fishing vessels. Someone is yelling, attempting to alert us that we are heading toward the boats.
The current and wind are pulling Floating Home without our control. “Go out on the bow and pull up the anchor,” Jim tells me. “What? I can’t do that! I’ll get struck by lightning!” “You have to!” He’s afraid that the anchor chain will wrap around the running gear. Should that happen we’ll be in more danger than we already are.
I don a PFD over my nightshirt. In the driving rain, I head to the bow of the boat. Flashes of the lightning strike. My heart is racing! I step on the switch that operates the windless to retrieve the anchor. Immediately the anchor comes up out of the water.
I hastily return to the bridge. ‘What do you need me to do?” “Get the IPad.” This has the Navionics app. Once that starts up we will get a better sense of where we are.
We quickly realize the boat has drifted and is now close to the inlet! We need to get away as we fear we could hit one of those boulders lining the inlet.
There are two options: attempt to go back to where we were and reset the anchor or dock the boat. Jim remembers seeing all the large orange fenders that line the fuel dock. He decides that is the safest choice. Personally, I want to beach the boat!
“Get lines ready for docking!” I need to attach lines to the boat cleats. Again, I am terrified! I will have to jump off the boat to the dock so that I can fasten the lines to the pilings. One good thing is that the wind is blowing us on the dock.
Bang! Floating Home hits the dock! I jump and safely land on the dock. I begin to attach lines to the pilings. The boat is now secure. Jim comes down and together we tie up the boat.
In my wet nightshirt, I climb up to the bridge, collapse on the seat and stare. I am numb. What just happened? I realize how scared I am.
As abruptly as the storm started, it comes to an end. I am done with this! Are we crazy? Who the hell lives on a boat. Not me, not anymore! It’s over. Eventually, I head downstairs, put on dry clothes, climb into bed and attempt to sleep.
We wake very early if we even slept at all. The sun is up, the sky is blue, the water is calm. I take Blue for a morning walk and we depart for the final leg of our journey for a summer in Rhode Island.
Again, we enjoy another beautiful day on the water. What a crazy life we are living!