Monday, September 21, 2009

Lofty Lessons on Preparedness

We all know that, no matter what, you cannot and WILL not be prepared for everything in life. The Universe throws monkey wrenches into our spokes, and usually, at the most inopportune times. The same goes on a boat. I have mentioned in this blog a few sailing truths that we have learned both by first hand experience as well as by reading about others.  These are, namely, a) mother nature is #1 - no matter what b) boats and their mechanics are prone to wear and tear and, ultimately, breaking and c) as such, you must always be diligent about checking rigging, gear, lines, bolts, pipes, valves and screws...etc. for signs of wear and tear and replace them regularly so that they don’t snap, crackle or pop when you need them most (i.e. in a storm at sea).

However, sometimes "shit happens" (pardon my French) that no amount of preparation can ready you for.  This past weekend, Scott and I were humbled by one such occurrence.  We were out with about 12 friends sailing, jib only, on my dad's boat.  The wind was blowing 15-18 knots out of the North and the seas were lumpy, choppy white-caps with some intermittent rollers in-between (welcome to Lake Michigan!).  Not very pleasant for a sunset-booze cruise.  We had just decided to jibe around and head back in when all of a sudden we heard a loud "CRASH" followed by what sounded like glass breaking.  For a split second we all thought "party foul!" - but then realized, a split second after that, that our main sheet (the line that controls the main sail by positioning the boom) had completely broken off of the boom.  This probably doesn't mean much to non-sailors - but, imagine if you are wind surfing and suddenly you let go of the sail.  It's something like that.

It was dark, choppy, and suddenly we had a boom that was loose and ready to swing wildly like a pendulum across the deck.  A few of us held the boom steady as we pitched and yawed and eventually we secured it with a spare line.  Disaster was averted - thankfully.  However, as the person responsible for all the people in the boat (most of whom were not sailors) I was a tiny-bit shaken.  Had we had our main sail up we could have had one heck of a time getting that boom in and...Well, suffice it to say it just could've been ugly.  Could've, would've, should've.  What we realized once we were docked safely in the harbor and after close inspection was that the bolts securing the turning block to the boom had COMPLETELY sheared off.  It was as if the tops of the bolts just popped off, leaving bottoms of the bolts were left in the mast.  WOW.   What was most humbling was the fact that there was no real way we could have prepared for or foreseen that - despite the fact that this little incident had probably been in the making, slowly but surely, for the past 4 years.

My dad, who designed and built the boat (a custom Kanter 47) - never one to get phased - simply responded, "Well, you guys get the record for the most things broken on the boat!" and, while rolling the top half of one of the sheared  bolts between two fingers thought out loud, "Hmmm...I guess I need bigger bolts".  Needless to say, he's been around the block a few times and when it comes to boats - he hasn't seen it all - but he's definitely seen a lot.  His "ho-hum" reaction to this little episode made me feel better.

Another lesson not so much learned, but definitely confirmed...No amount of preparation will ever ready you for exactly what lays ahead.  Life is full of surprises; big, small, tragic and terrific.  It's how you handle them that really count. 

Brittany & Scott


Lara Kercinik said...

Nice read Brit - and I'm relieved to know that you guys are alright. Particularly appreciating your final sentiment. I may just copy that down and keep it where I can see it ;)


kathryn said...

Yikes! I'm particularly appreciative that your dad wasn't super-ticked....I don't think mine would have handled it so gracefully. Thanks so much for stopping by my insanity!
(I think you guys are B-R-A-V-E)

Lisa Hanneman said...

OK, so when we were on the boat on Saturday and your dad and Scott were "tinkering" with the boat... That's what he was inspecting? Wow, Weird Old Mr. Stephen, always cool and collected. Gotta love him!

Sue Blugerman said...

You and your "little episodes" are surely a delight to read and amazing how well you document not only the tragedy, but how you handled the situation and the spiritual guidance behind it all. I absolutely can't wait til you write your first book! Scott and Brit are truly meant for each other, and Daddy has such a cool attitude about life and it's trials.

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