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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Waiting for the Wind

Tonight NOAA Weather radio reported a not so favorable forecast. Not unusual for this time of year. A low from the west combining with remnants of a tropical storm in the Caribbean, reforming off the coast of the mid-Atlantic states and tracking north. Another low, an Alberta Clipper, tracking across the Great Lakes and looping northeast through the New England states. Both systems bringing gale force and maybe storm force winds to the area Tuesday and Thursday. A double whammy.

For me, it means making sure I've hunkered down the boat on its mooring. For Lobstermen in the area, it means getting out now and shifting gear, or, at the very least, hauling as many traps as possible, before the wind arrives. The old saying You Got to Make Hay While the Sun Shines applies to fishermen as well as farmers.

Trawl fishermen and scallopers won't want to be caught in the weather, but many of them won't have a choice. Some of the bigger boats, out of New Bedford and Gloucester, were built for extreme weather. Doesn't make it fun, or even all that safe. Even the finest, most capable vessels find themselves in dire need.

A friend of mine once asked me, "Why is it when the excrement hits the fan, it always does it at night?" It was a rhetorical question. Reminds me of something my Spanish grandmother always said. She said it in Spanish. Translated, it means: "At night, all the cats are black."

When you're out there and you hear a report like this, you end up wondering about all the little things you didn't do, all the little repairs you either neglected or postponed. Like maybe instead of using a new wire connector on that lead from the alternator you just wrapped it with a little electrical tape. Last time you looked, it was starting to unwrap from the heat in the engine room, and one of the cable clamps seemed loose.

Maybe there was a partially rotted hose on one of the through-hulls that needed replacing. You meant to deal with it but then your kid wrecked his car and broke his leg and you spent the weekend at the hospital making sure he got proper medical care.

These are the things you worry about.

Years and years of Coast Guard accident investigations proves what happens when little problems combine to create big problems. It's a daisy chain of disaster. The hose breaks and water starts flooding into the bilge. You realize this a little late, as the vessel starts to wallow with the added weight of her unwanted ballast. You figure there's still time to get down there and shut off the valve, but then the little wire from the alternator pulls against a manifold and a spark sets the engine room afire. Now you can't get down into the bilge because of the heat, and fighting the fire is made more difficult because the boat has lost stability.

I'll be out checking on my boat during these next two blows, but my mind will be on those less fortunate souls caught in the thick of it. Let's hope if they have little problems, none of them add up to catastrophe.


Copyright © Bob G. Bernstein (seabgb) All Rights Reserved!

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