Fourth of July weekend: watching our first dragging boat – but fortunately not ours!

Fourth of July weekend arrived with sunny skies, warm temperatures, and on Saturday, a small craft warning.  Sigh.  We had planned to go for a sail around Fishers Island Sound and then anchor in West Harbor for the long weekend, but it looked like Saturday was now going to be set aside for small boat projects.  Beginning on Sunday, however, things were going to be looking up!

The main thing we wanted to get accomplished on Saturday was to come up with a way to make our swim ladder more user-friendly.  Pegu Club came with a nice removable swim ladder.  As I had unfortunately discovered last August, it was really hard to climb out of the water because the ladder legs are all the same length while the hull curves inward.  New ladders are pretty pricy, so we were hoping to come up with a cheap way to fix it.

Jeff (aka MacGyver) had a great idea using PVC and two tennis balls.  A quick measure of the outer diameter of the existing legs on the ladder, a short trip to Home Depot for the PVC with the inner diameter matching the outer diameter of the ladder legs  (we already had the tennis balls), a little sawing, and voila:

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If only all boat projects could be so quick, cheap, and easy!

Saturday night was bumpy – literally.  We had recently discovered that the area under our mooring must have shoaled because during full and new moons, we now hit the bottom at low tide (even though Pegu Club’s draft is only 4’4″).  Fortunately, it’s only mud down there but we still don’t like it.  We had made arrangements to have our mooring tackle moved to another deeper spot while we were away on vacation, but given that vacation hadn’t occurred yet it didn’t help us at the moment.  After bumping along for an hour or so at 3:00 a.m., we were more than ready when morning arrived to head out to Fishers Island for the rest of the long weekend.

Sunday morning at high tide we were off.  We had a good breeze and we made record time, anchoring in West Harbor one hour after we had left Shenny.  Pegu Club was flying!  This was going to be our first anchor of the season.  Anchoring is something we take seriously.  If I have any hope of sleeping at night, I have to know that we’ve done everything we can to do it right.  We let out plenty of scope, we take our time, and we back down hard for good measure.

After deciding that our first chosen spot was a bit too close to a neighboring boat, we moved farther away and began the process.  At one point I looked over and saw an inflatable dinghy by itself, and thought it was odd but figured maybe someone had left it there to save their spot.  We were halfway through our anchoring routine when we heard shouting from a boat upwind and off to the side.  I had the engine on and couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I was concerned that we were about to run into trouble so I quickly looked around, heart pumping.  Nothing was amiss, and Jeff figured out that they were shouting at us to rescue their dinghy (the one I had seen) which had gone adrift.

Now I was pissed.  We were in the middle of anchoring (did I mention I take it seriously?), and they are hollering about their dinghy?  Even if we had brought Pegu-teeny (which we hadn’t), it’s not like we were going to drop everything to rescue their dinghy.  When we were finished, sure (again, if we had brought Pegu-teeny), but not now.  So we ignored them and finished up.  In the meantime, the people in a boat behind us had climbed into their dinghy and brought the wayward dinghy back to its owners, who promptly hopped into it and left.

Securely anchored, Jeff and I began hanging out in the cockpit.  Cocktails would wait until we were sure we weren’t dragging, but in the meantime we enjoyed the scenery and relaxed.  It was rather breezy – around 15 mph winds – but that is child’s play for our Rocna anchor which was holding firm.

After an hour or so, I glanced over at the boat with the wayward dinghy and said to Jeff, “Does it look like that boat is closer than it was before?”  It most definitely was.  My immediate instinct was to ask if we were dragging, but quickly realized that we wouldn’t be dragging upwind.  Nope.  The vacant boat with the wayward dinghy was starting to drag.  Keep in mind, there is absolutely no reason to drag in West Harbor.  The ground is pure mud, and with a decent anchor and sufficient scope you should stay put.  It was clear that these people didn’t have enough scope out.

This was most definitely a first for us.  I have read in various sailing forums about people commenting on how stressful it is watching boats drag, and now I could relate.  If the boat isn’t upwind of you, then fine, but if it was….  This boat wasn’t directly upwind, but it was close enough to keep Jeff from having his martini (much to his displeasure) while we waited to see what would happen.

We weren’t sure if we should contact anyone – or even who to contact given that Fishers Island doesn’t have a harbormaster – but after watching the boat continue to sporadically drag, we called the Fishers Island Yacht Club on the VHF on the off-chance the owners might be there.  Nope.  Back to watching this drama unfold.

Another boat came into the harbor and as they passed us we pointed out the dragging boat.  They thanked us and anchored upwind of it.  After another hour the dragging boat had moved around 300 yards and safely passed us, so now we turned our attention to the boats downwind of it, hoping that their owners would notice.  We tried to radio one boat but they didn’t have their radio on.  Fortunately, the dragging boat passed them by.  At this point the boat had everyone’s attention.

Eventually the dragging boat broke completely free and with a steady 15 mph wind it started MOVING.  The poor couple directly downwind of it started quickly hauling their anchor to escape, and although they weren’t entirely successful you could tell the boats only gently bumped as the dragging boat moved on.  Then we watched the guy on the boat that had just kissed the dragging boat jump into his dinghy in an attempt to corral the runaway.

Jeff and I were debating whether that was something we would do given the opportunity  while we continued to watch the drama unfold (the lawyer in me was reluctant to climb onto someone else’s unattended boat – even though it was for a good cause – for fear of it coming back to bite me in the ass).  The guy was unable to stop the boat but just as he climbed into his dinghy to leave, the Coast Guard showed up.  Now this was really turning into quite the episode of Boat TV!

We watched the Coast Guard as the guy on the dinghy left and started heading our way.  Turning off his outboard as he approached us, we weren’t sure what was up.  Much to our delight he said with his British accent, “So tell me about the Pegu Club!  Have you been to Burma?  Are you familiar with it?”  It turns out he was born in Malaysia and knew all about the original Pegu Club!

We had a delightful conversation (he mentioned that he had a good recipe for the cocktail) and as we chatted the Coast Guard came over.  Jeff and I told them that we had watched the owners hop into their dinghy and leave, and we hadn’t seem them since.  The Coastie smiled and said we had just made their lives much easier.  It turns out the companionway doors on the dragging boat were locked and they needed to make sure there wasn’t anyone in distress down below.  Looks like we had kept them from having to remove the doors.

Eventually the boat was secured (it had easily dragged almost half a mile) and everyone went back to their festivities, waiting to see when the owners would arrive.  Jeff was finally able to drink his martini while we debated whether the owners would even notice that the boat wasn’t where they had left it.

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Jeff’s martini with the Mystic Whaler schooner anchored in the harbor with us.

By the end of the day the owners still hadn’t shown up, so our attention turned to an absolutely stunning sunset and a fun fireworks show over West Harbor.

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The nicest sunset of the boating season so far.

On Monday we wanted to be sure that we arrived at our mooring back at Shenny after low tide, so we enjoyed a lazy morning lounging around at anchor (the owners of the dragging boat had apparently returned sometime in the middle of the night).  We had a nice breeze all day so we took the long way home, sailing down the coast of Fishers Island before turning left and sailing home.  It had been a lovely long weekend.

Next up – vacation!

West Harbor to Shenny
Our July 4th sail back to Shenny.

4 thoughts on “Fourth of July weekend: watching our first dragging boat – but fortunately not ours!

    1. At least we can cross that first experience off the list. 🙂 Vacation was great. We decided to save MV for next year in the fall instead of July since I’m not a big fan of crowds. Blog posts coming up soon!

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