Every day life sounds a certain way. I get up in the morning and know as I head upstairs I will hear the patter of puppy feet behind me and the “whoosh” as he overtakes me on the third step. I know the moment the water is hot for my morning tea and Banjo and I prick our ears as the noises from the bedroom indicate the last of us is awake.
It’s jolting when a sound changes even if it’s no big deal, because in that moment when it changes, it COULD be a big deal. You just don’t know.
We had stayed on Drummond Island an extra day due to wind and waves. We always err on the side of caution where weather conditions are concerned, so we stayed put. We spent the day reading rather than cleaning and double checked the forecasts for the next day. Perfect conditions for morning.
We headed out at seven along with two other boats we’d met in the marina. We were all going the same way and safety in numbers whenever possible is our mantra.
The water was a very light chop until it wasn’t. I’m told we have a “modified V hull.” My understanding is we benefit by being able to go faster, but we tend to wallow if waves are hitting us towards the stern. The bucking forward and back, hitting waves with the bow is unpleasant, but the side to side wallowing causes puppy to puke, things to fall off shelves, and my heart to race. And so it was as we followed the other boats, the waves sending their covert message. “Keep checking those wind and wave apps,” they seemed to say. “A-HAHAHAHAHA!!”
When it became quite unpleasant, Rick called the others to say we were taking a more southerly route to get those waves hitting more on the bow and ease the rocking. They decided to stay the course and we parted ways. We’re used to traveling alone but in open water, seeing no land and no other boats is disconcerting for me. The pup was looking a little concerned himself, so I moved him to the couch and distracted myself by comforting him and playing solitaire.
I laugh when people see our boat and say it’s a yacht. Technically, yes, the size makes it such. But, if you travel with us for a day listening to those twin Detroit diesels, a semi is more likely to come to mind. Still, the noise is consistent and means we’re safely getting somewhere. Our somewhere this time was Mackinaw City, MI.
If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know I could charitably be called a “nervous boater”. Given the waves, I was already on heightened alert. So, when the engine sound changed, I sat up. When Rick stood up, so did I. I saw no land. I saw no boats. Just waves.
“What was that?” I inquired.
“I don’t know,” came the reply. I just want to emphasize this: HE’S ALWAYS SUPPOSED TO KNOW.
“Well, do all the dials look okay?” I asked, resentful I had to pull assurances from him.
“Yeah. Nothing’s off.”
Rick sat back down. I did the same. The sounds shifted again and once again Rick stood up. He began manipulating the throttles. I got a glancing view of a yellow light. When he turned an engine key I stopped breathing for a second. Panic rising in me, I asked, “Did we just lose an engine?”
“Yes,” came the reply.
I squeezed my eyes shut and said a prayer. My mouth went dry. I said a second prayer and a third. Who am I kidding? I had a running commentary with God at this point. I asked that He keep us safe. I tried to convince myself I had enough faith that I could calm down now. Then, I suggested that although I thought I had faith, it would be helpful to have a sign.
“We’ll be okay. That’s why we have two engines,” Rick comforted.
I asked God if that was my sign. Because, you know, Rick ALWAYS says it’s okay. If he ever didn’t I’d know for sure we were dying. So, I asked for a clearer sign. That’s when I realized I desperately needed to use the bathroom. I’d wet my pants if I didn’t go RIGHT NOW kind of desperate. I lurched down the stairs and wondered if normal urination needs could be a sign. Then I wondered if thinking that was rude to God. (I’ve never been very religious and, in fact, do not believe in organized religion. It’s too hateful. But I’ve always believed in God and feel often I’m being watched over, particularly since my parents both passed. I say prayers of thanks and guidance daily. But, I really don’t know the “rules” of prayer.)
Having returned to the safety of the couch, the pup jumped into my lap demanding reassurances in the form of pets on his head and chest. That’s his comfort. At this point, we were moderately successful at staving off the wallowing. I became acutely aware that my heart was pounding and could feel the blood pulsing through my veins. I briefly worried I’d have a heart attack. My hands were involuntarily trembling and I was gulping air. Re-reading this, I realize what a crappy first responder, doctor, or other “cool under pressure” profession I’d be. Most people can pull the calm out in emergency situations. I’d be the one sobbing violently in the corner, predicting the end of days, clutching a stolen teddy bear while it’s owner ran to mommy to report the mean lady.
Rick reiterated we’d be fine. He thought it was a faulty fuel pump or bad fuel. I pointed out bad fuel would mean both engines would be going out. He reassured me that would have happened by now, so it must be the fuel pump.
Ever the pessimist, I asked, “but what if we DO lose the other one?”
“Then we call Boat US for a tow.” He took a beat and looked at me pointedly. “The boat won’t sink.”
The boat won’t sink. I won’t drown. I spent the next couple hours listening for a faltering second engine.
The boat won’t sink. I won’t drown. I sent a note to a friend who repeated Rick’s assurances.
The boat won’t sink. I won’t drown. Slowly, Lord VERY slowly, the waves dissipated to the forecasted nonexistent height, which stopped the wallowing.
A-HA! The boat won’t sink! I’m not gonna drown! The sun peeked out from behind the clouds. I saw land on the horizon.
I SHALL LIVE TO TELL MY TALE! I say this 16 miles from our destination. I believe that’s called “faith”.