I can’t remember the particulars of the last time a bird shat on me. Actually, I take that back. I think it was graduation day for my Masters degree. In retrospect, I believe the bird was preparing me for the daily struggle of teaching. I haven’t determined the reasons behind today’s attack.
The day started in a mass of confusion. We were leaving Paducah for a resort marina near Land Between the Lakes. I was excited because all the amenities the condo people had, we also could use. Two pools. Massive lush grounds. Best of all, a spa for massages.
Unfortunately, we had to make it through a lock first. We’d heard rumors about work being done; times the lock was open to use were batted about. No one knew for sure and calling the lock led to endless ringing or static on the radio. We thought we’d leave at 8:30. Rick got a text from a boat that left the day before. They reported the lock closed six am to six pm. Plans changed accordingly. We were traveling with two other boats. One eventually got through to the lock master. We were instructed to come right away and anchor. If the crew knocked off early (Sunday), they would get us through early. We spent about five hours enjoying the scenery. The other two boats had beaten us. One had their anchor down; one was struggling. We held in place waiting to see where they landed.
We finally decided to just drop anchor where we were. It was my job to go to the bow pulpit. I controlled the anchor with up/down buttons I stood on. They are difficult to keep down unless I hang on to the rail for leverage. However, I needed to count the feet of chain we were putting out and relayed that back to Rick via hand signals. I also needed to use my arm to show the direction of the chain so he could adjust speed. So, I mashed the button with the ball of my foot placing all my weight on it.
We were at 100 feet when Rick yelled out the door, “Hold it! We’re going to raft up to Jim. Bring the anchor up.” So, I reversed order. By now, I was sweating buckets. My hair was soaked on the back of my neck and my brow; drips fell off my nose. All but 20 feet was up and the chain slipped off the windless and fell back down into the water. It clanged down; I flailed my arms and screamed. It was a whole thing. There’s no way to stop it without injury, so we waited for it to stop.
This tends to happen when we let a lot of chain out. Rather than filling the chain locker evenly, it piles onto itself. When the pile reaches the entrance hole the chain becomes looser and slides off the windless. Poor locker design. We tried once more and were successful.
We easily shimmied up to the other boat and quickly tie off. So two boats were now holding on one anchor. Well, that was the theory anyway. Both Rick and I were dubious about the anchor holding since our boat was the larger and we were soon proved right. The current was pulling us back and we were pulling the other boat back, dragging their anchor. We untied, moved away and dropped our anchor again.
Except for the heat, it was quite pleasant. We finally bowed to the heat and turned on the generator to run the air. Around 4:00 the room crackled with a radio call to “the three pleasure crafts outside the lock.” The crew was knocking off. The lock master was willing to take us in the chamber with the work barge.
We all started to pull anchor. Ours again slipped down. Rick sent me to the locker with “my pole”. Built to snag lines or push off walls, the pole can extend and has a hook on the end. Although not ideal, Rick pulled the anchor from the cockpit and I managed the chain. As the chain entered the box I used the hook to snag it and pulled towards me. Then I reached in to unhook the chain and repeated. I got behind a few times but managed to topple the pile before it loosened the chain on the windlass.
We were ready to go, but the boat in front of us (we were last in line) was struggling to get their anchor up. The lock master called again. “The three pleasure crafts. We are doing you a favor. You need to get up here NOW.” Rick responded that one boat was struggling with his anchor, but we were all good now and heading in. That bought us time but they still weren’t actually anchors up. I told Rick to go around them. We’d buy time with the lock master and we wouldn’t miss getting in the lock. He wouldn’t do it in case they needed assistance. I then suggested we call the lock to say we will need to wait until later. I was worried about angering the lock master as they can make our lives miserable. It’s kind of like Seinfeld’s soup Nazi. You follow directions and say thank you or “No lock for you!”
The anchor finally came up and we double timed to the entrance. The lock master announced we should stay to our port to steer clear of the work barge at the entrance. We all complied. Boat one was instructed to move all the way forward. Boat two was instructed to move to the opposite side, once past the barge, all the way forward. He didn’t. He went behind boat one. Disaster! “What are you doing, man? Don’t piss off the lock master!” I whispered under my breath.
The lock master barked out the order again and boat two started to comply. Rick politely asked where we should go and we were told to move on up. Then, we were asked if we’d be okay rafting off boat one. They aren’t allowed to make us raft, but he wanted the pleasure boats as far away from the barge as possible. Both boats agreed and we made our way up.
Their boat, was about our size. As we got astride, I saw that Sue was holding their boat to the wall. Both boats would be attached to the wall by only that line. I handed off a forward line, it was looped around a cleat and handed back to tie on our cleat. I handed off an aft line. Gregg struggled to pull us in because our aft was drifting away as we secured forward. He finally got enough line to tie to his cleat, but his aft was now drifting with us. He used his thrusters to pull us both to the wall. But now his boat was hitting the wall. Rick grabbed one of our giant fender balls to pass over. That helped.
We continued the dance. The aft would drift, thrusters were used, etc. At one point there was a shout from the wall. Sue called out she was losing grip. Boy, I’ve been there. If that happened our two boats would be tied together floating in the middle of the lock. Rick jumped across boats and took the line. At some point Gregg joked (I hoped) we’d settle up any damages later. 😮
Then we waited. And waited. The barge showed no signs of entering the lock. There was no biting remark from the lock master. Double standard. Grr. Eventually the barge lumbered in and the gates closed. By now an hour had passed.
We started rising and to my relief, it wasn’t quick. Generally you get tossed around tremendously if you are the forward boat. But this wasn’t bad. I took a sigh of relief and hung my head. That’s when it happened. At first I thought it was drops of water off the walls or the other boat. I felt it hit my hair and then my arm. When I glanced at my arm I saw it was white. *Sigh.* “Rick!” I shouted. “Here’s the topper. A bird just shit on me!” We laughed and laughed. Ahh…good times. *Sigh.*