Friday, August 20, 2010

Damaged Goods

It was going well. We left Burlington and were headed west to cross the lake and end up in Plattsburgh. I took the wheel, the wind was coming from behind. To stay on course I needed to keep the boat dead north, and Todd had warned me not to stray further than 10 degrees.

I meticulously watched the compass in the GPS, our bearing hovered at 2 degrees, right on target. And then I, stupidly, blinked my eyes. And then the compass read 30 degrees. And then Todd said “Holy shit! Thirty degrees?” And then he said, "Look out!" The mainsail jibed—rapidly changing from the right side of the boat to the left. It’s the kind of thing you see in movies, when the sail goes flying across the deck and the character gets smacked with the boom and goes flying overboard. It happens that quickly

I didn’t get hit with the boom. I got hit with the main sheet, the rope that attaches the boom to the boat at the very tail end of the boom. It’s this rope that controls how far out the main sail will be. The rope, coiled around pulleys on the boom and where it attaches to the boat, was pulled taut. The coiled rope struck me on the right side of my back as I tried to dive out of the way. The force of the boom sweeping across the boat caused the rope to shove me hard onto my left side where I smacked my hip on the edge of the wall in the cockpit. I crawled out of the way, but it didn’t really matter. I’d already been hit, the wind knocked out of me I struggled for a breath while tears flowed down my cheeks. The pain stretched across my back and centered on my left hip.

I remained at the wheel for the remainder of the ride to Plattsburgh. I pressed my body against the steering wheel to give the main sheet ample room to move around behind me. I flinched at every noise. The bruise forming on my hip could not sustain the weight of my loose cotton shorts; I unbuttoned and unzipped to alleviate the pressure.

We arrived in Plattsburgh and created our own mooring. There was the weight below the water and a buoy on the surface, but nothing to tie our boat to. I leapt into the dinghy with ropes and shackles in hand while Todd circled Sabine in a holding pattern in the mooring field until I was ready to tie on. I clipped on the shackles, I waved him over, I grabbed her bow and expertly slipped the mooring lines to the post, momentarily forgetting about the pain in my back.

Back on the boat, Todd inspected my bruise which had formed into an ugly purple splotch just below where my bathing suit bottom would sit. I felt it throb as the blood rushed into that spot and wondered how I’d sleep that night. He walked, I hobbled, in to explore Plattsburgh for dinner.

Plattsburgh is the former site of a large and active air force base. The city itself is small, and I am sure it struggled with the closing of the base. We roamed the streets and I tried to picture how it would have looked with uniformed airmen ducking in and out of storefronts. And I wonder where all those airmen went after the base closed. My fifth grade best friend had moved to Plattsburgh at the end of the school year because her father, also in the Air Force, had been assigned there. I tried to imagine her walking around Plattsburgh as well, and wonder whatever happened to her. (I see a Google stalking session in my future.)

We made plans to explore the local area more the next day, with a trip to Ausable Chasm as we ate dinner at a sidewalk café. I slouched in my seat to keep the pressure off the bruise.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I wondered how you had only hurt your hip in a jibe, now it makes sense. Glad you are OK. Love the blog!

August 22, 2010 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Todd's back from SF tomorrow night, and I think the bruise will be entirely gone by then. Now, about the half dozen bruises on my legs. LOL.

September 1, 2010 at 9:11 AM  

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