I should have known as we started the day with windy conditions that it was going to be a mess out on the water. When we left our overnight dockage the captain was already fighting the wind, he made the decision to navigate the entrance to the marina, backwards. A little worrisome but given the wind, and the other boats I believe it was the correct decision. Minimizing the opportunity the wind had to influence the boats path. The channel was about the length of a football field, but the maneuver was successful and soon we were on our way. We were not however out of the woods yet. In a couple of short hours I would face the most terrifying 10 minutes of my life.
It was a trifecta of worrisome boating conditions that combined to create a terrifying situation. It was around 11am when we approached a bridge on the ICW. The bridge needed to be opened, our 17 ft height was too tall. I contacted the bridge and requested an opening, the bridge tender informed us it would be about 10 minutes. Ordinarily thats not an issued but today we were in trouble. A fierce wind was pushing us toward the bridge, gusts of 25 MPH and a tidal current driving us towards the bridge. When the captain shifted our boat into reverse the boat still continued to move towards the bridge at an alarming rate. He took drastic measures and turned the boat around attempting to fight the wind and current Head on. The wind still pushing us forward but even more alarming it was now pushing us towards shore, a concrete fishing pier awaited us like a knight awaits the chance to sink his lance into his opponent. The captain worked feverishly to maintain control against the conditions. Using the throttle to give the engines more fuel and more RPMs, engaging and disengaging the gears forward and back to cause the boat to swing around more quickly. Evening turning the rutters so the boat would come about a little bit faster. The space we were working in was smaller then I’d have prefered but the captain kept a level head and brought us through. In 10 minutes the bridge opened as promised and still fighting the wind and current was got turned about again to glide through the bridge opening.
Looking ahead I was able to contact the next bridge tender well before our arrival and we weren’t forced to make any fancy maneuvers. The bridge opened as we approached and we glided through. But our challenges weren’t over for the day. I made the suggestion that in the weather conditions perhaps we should think about getting off the water sooner instead of later. We were coming though little sarasota bay, unfortunately our prefered marina was booked and the mooring field they suggested was unprotected and a poor prospect in the fact of the deteriorating weather. I pulled out my magic wand (AKA my phone) and performed a dramatic rescue. There was a marina a hotel just north of our preferred location. I called and they had space so they got us off the water. The brilliance of the selection was the bay I arranged was protected from the choppy water, current and most importantly the wind. Large high rises on all sides shielded the bay and gave my captain the ability to breath a little easier as we slipped in. If I allowed my captain to believe that i intentionally booked us in that slip, in that protected basin at that hotel with a fabulous bar on purpose instead of it being a lucky shot in the dark then I am sure I can be forgiven.
We managed a tough day on the water. The captain earned his stars and bars. And I earned another glass of rum punch.