Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Losing Splitpea and Moving On

Splitpea's Last Hurrah

By now, most of you have heard that our beloved Splitpea went missing in the night about a week ago. We don’t think she was stolen; it’s just one of those things that happens sometimes. We discovered the loss in one heart-sinking moment the next morning and spent the day motoring around the circumference of the bay searching the beaches with binoculars. It was a good thing I drove while Bryan manned the binoculars; the girls and I couldn’t see for our tears. We built Splitpea as a family project a few winters ago and she has been a perfect dinghy for us, nesting away on our bow while we’re traveling, carrying all 4 of us (and sometimes, up to 4 full gas cans and 2 full water jugs too!) when we need to go places. She was superb in surf landings and rowed like a dream. We are trying to de-anthropomorphize the pieces of wood that made up our dinghy, though she was more like a family pet than a tool. But it’s been a hard week. We lost a winter’s work, a beloved comrade—oh, and a way to get to shore.
On our way back to the anchorage, we rafted up to the Navy boat in the bay and asked them to put out the word. They were kind and understanding and filled our water tank for us from their enormous supply tank. They laughed at us a bit when we said we just needed 6 gallons.
A sailor we’d met in California had recently pulled into the bay. He loaned us his dinghy for a couple of days and invited us to join a small party on his boat that night. It was just what we needed, to spend some time with other sailors and we went home distracted and a bit encouraged.
The day after, we tried to hitch a ride to shore to search the lagoon, where the dinghy might have been washed in a high tide. I made a list of all the ways to say, “Have you seen my dinghy?” in Spanish, but the only fishermen we could flag down didn’t seem to know anything. They could see that we were sad, though, and did the only thing they could…they gave us a bucket of lobster.
That night, we invited our sailing friends over to help us eat it, packed 7 of us around our tiny dinette, and were relaxing and enjoying the evening when Meira got it in her head to check on our friends’ dinghies. Well it’s hard enough to move through the boat with just the 4 of us around. We grumbled a bit at her anxiety as we let her through. A minute later she called down, “Will’s dinghy is missing!” I simply could not believe what was happening. We’d tied the dinghy up on our boat, so we felt so responsible. It was dark, and the wind was blowing. I started wondering how we would replace our dinghy and our friend’s too. Bryan took charge. He quickly flipped on the compass, figured out the reciprocal course to the wind, and set our full crew to work getting the boat moving across the bay in the dark. We had a bow watch with our big spotlight (which we’d charged just that day…for no particular reason) and a stern watch with another light in case we passed it in the dark. Within minutes, the miraculous call came down…”Found it!”
But I knew that spotting the dinghy was only part of the problem. Picking up a line and recovering it without losing anyone overboard in the dark and the wind was going to take all our concentration. Bryan drove by a couple of times and I managed to snag the boat with our boat hook. Will grabbed the painter and he and Meira lifted the boat up on deck and tied it down. We motored back across the bay, re-anchored, and poured everyone a celebratory hot drink. I still can’t believe our horrible/amazing luck! But you might want to keep your dinghies away from our boat for a while. I’m wondering if we’ve somehow become the Bermuda Triangle of the Pacific.
We spent another day finding a ride to shore, walking, walking, walking the beach searching for any sign and asking anyone we saw. One fisherman looked at the picture and seemed to say that he’d seen another sailboat in a nearby bay with our dinghy. “But they left already,” he said. We got a ride back to our boat and caught the afternoon wind to the next bay south, Bahia Magdelena. We wanted to check out the rumors, but we also needed to pick up fuel before we made the run to Cabo. I’ll write more about that part of the story in another post, and about our hairy ride to Cabo San Lucas in a gale. But suffice it to say we got fuel, didn’t find our dinghy, and made it to Cabo a couple of days ago. You’re not here to hear about all that though; you’re here to hear what we’re going to do next, right?
OK…after much discussion and a unanimous family conference, we’ve decided…to build a new dinghy.
Seriously? Yes. We need a dinghy big enough to carry all of us, but small enough to fit on our bow. We want a hard dinghy, so we can row through the surf (inflatables row like rubber ducks) when our outboard is broken, which is almost always. And we love to row together. Hard dinghies are hard to come by, and even harder without transportation to go dinghy hunting. We are stuck in Cabo by some bad weather in the Sea of Cortez, a fellow boater with a full supply of power tools is stuck here with a broken engine, and Bryan is brilliant. Since we started mulling the idea, he found a plan for a small, sturdy boat that we think we can build in 5 days (our last dinghy took us 9 months!) He’s familiar with the plan, because when he built his first boat (in our living room in Alaska, a whole ‘nother story!) he considered this as one of his options. It’s supposed to row well, carry four and their gear, and still will fit on our boat. It’s not nesting, but that will only simplify the build.
Today, while the girls and I did laundry and took advantage of the marina pool, Bryan ran all over town, tracking down the essential marine supplies, fiberglass and epoxy. He found all the specialty equipment we need. We asked around at our marina and a nearby boatyard and, late this afternoon, got permission to use a parking spot at a desalination plant for the build. They are affiliated with our marina and are really excited to watch the boat-building sprint (from a safe distance, so we don’t put them to work). There’s a shop in the plant, so we should have electricity.
Tomorrow we plan to bus to the Home Depot for the non-marine-grade materials, tarps, plywood, etc and we’ve heard that they will deliver for us. Then we’ve got a few long, hot days of work ahead of us. And our marina slip, so convenient during the day, is noisy with the Cabo tequila parties until the wee hours and with the departing fishermen before dawn. It may be a long week. But at the end of it, we hope to have a boat that will work for us. More importantly, every time we launch this boat, with all it’s not-quite-Splitpea-ness, we won’t be thinking of our loss. We’ll be thankful for the amazing way helpful new friends, crazy circumstances, and our own resilience aligned to get us past our loss to something new.
As we drove around the bay searching, that first horrible day, I said to myself I don’t want to have a story to tell about people’s kindness and our way to a solution. I just want my boat back. But here we are. No boat back, but grateful for our supportive community, amazed by the strong, resilient, creative crew on our boat, making more stories to tell.

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