Day 10 – Hair-raising Night

Saturday, October 22, 2011

South Shore Boat Club, Peru, Illinois to Turkey Island somewhere on the Illinois River

(see accompanying Photo Blog for Day 10)

Last night I had a hair-raising night.

Before I tell you about it I need to tell you about the cabin assignments. There are four bunks in the aft-cabin where the navigation station and engine compartment are. There two aft and one each on the starboard and port sides of the boat. The deckhands usually live there. In the forecastle there are thee bunks, a bit smaller; two of which held science school ship equipment. There are also two bunks in the saloon above the settees; these slide in and out. When they are pushed in they are only half-width, so people can sit comfortably at the table. Pulled out they are a single bunk. There’s also the “captain’s cabin” on the other side of the galley wall, at the waist of the boat.

Mike and Terry were the first to arrive on Wednesday, the day before our departure. Whenever I’ve shared a room with others, it’s been first come first choose. They were polite and didn’t claim dibs until Hugh decided where he was going to call home for the next three or four weeks.

David Leanza, the captain who Hugh was relieving, told us when we arrived on board, that in the aft-cabin the port side bunk was the widest; thinking we might want it. But Hugh knew he wanted to be in the captain’s cabin. He had made it his home years before when he captain of this boat, when she was in Traverse City, MI and named Westwind. The captain’s cabin had two narrow bunks, one above the other along with what could be considered a small desk. There was also a folding door. So it’s quieter and a bit more private.

“I’ll be in the captain’s cabin.”

Mike and Terry took the bunks of their choice in the aft-cabin. Bill arrived next and took the third, which left the fourth for Andy to occupy a few days later when we picked him up in Chicago. Each of the bunks have a wooden cut-out of an animal. I have a manatee, Hugh has an octopus, Mike a frog, Terry a dolphin, Bill is the bat and Andy is in the seal bunk. When kids do educational sails with Appledore V they are assigned their bunks by these animals.

Hugh had warned me that the bunks in the captain’s cabin were narrow and we’d be sleeping in separate bunks. We decided it was better for him to take the lower bunk, as it would be easier to jump out of in the middle of the night if need be. When I got the chance, I checked out the upper bunk. He forgot to tell me that there was no head-room. Claustrophobic is how I would describe it. There was no way that I was going call that bunk my home. As much as I’d love to be near Hugh, it really didn’t matter since I couldn’t be in the same bunk. So I chose to sleep in the saloon, above the port side settee.

I’m glad that we don’t have the public taking tours of the boat. It’s nice leaving my sleeping bag, pillow, blanket and miscellaneous items in a tidy pile. I do have to push it in every morning so that we can sit back without hitting our head on the side of my bunk. Then each night when everyone turns in, I pull it out and make it up. There’s absolutely no privacy though.

This means that I have to find someway somewhere to change clothes. The other guys have bunks that have curtains on them – to hide their mess and to get changed behind. There’s no space to change in the head, so that’s not an option. What I’ve done is change in the dark before they get up, since I’m the first one up with my alarm for breakfast. Or I change in Hugh’s cabin and have him stand in the tiny doorway, as the folding door doesn’t close securely very well. It’s worked pretty well so far.

Okay, back to my hair-raising night story…

About 12:30 in the morning I heard a quiet whine; I thought it might be the battery’s inverter. It slowly got louder. Eventually it got so loud that I felt compelled to check the circuit breaker board in the after-cabin, where the navigation station and engine compartment are. I knew that a quick glance would tell me if there were problems or not. If there were red lights glaring at me there would be cause for concern. If the inverter panel was green, all was good.

As I was climbing out of my bunk, in the dark, I saw bright white lights and flashing yellow lights through the starboard windows. Somehow, I then miss stepped and fell into the table.

“Dang!” I shouted, not caring who I woke up.

I had hit my shin very hard.

“Are you alright?” Hugh sleepily asked.

“I’ll be alright,” as I hobbled up the companionway. The forward hatch rattled as I slid it open, making more noise.

A good distance away, a tow passed us. His white lights and flashing yellows glared in the dark. The only thing that was close to us was the tow we were tied to. I carefully descended and attended to by shin that was rapidly swelling. The way it was swelling quickly made me initially think that I had broken my tibia. But I was able to bear weight easily and without any discomfort. The pain was coming from the tissue that I had mashed into the edge of the dining table. I knew from my training as a massage therapist and former EMT that I needed immediately to apply compression and ice to minimize the swelling. When severely bruised tissue swells it damages more cells and creates more pain.

I sat on the settee holding my shin, of which an area the size of a salad plate was swollen. After about five minutes I then made more ruckus dragging out the ice cooler, which held our juice, and fished out a bag of partially melted ice. Water ran all over the floor. I made a mental note to find a sponge and wipe it up before I crawled back to bed or else one of the guys in the middle of the night might slip as they made their way to the head. My hand and leg were sufficiently cold after about 20 minutes, so I figured it was safe to head back to my bunk. Before I crawled in I found my 200c potency arnica homeopathic and Aleve. I normally don’t take pharmaceutical medications, but I knew that pain was not my friend and this was not a time to be stoic. I needed rest and the less pain I had the better I would sleep.

Carefully I lay the dripping wet towel on my leg, that I had previously wrapped around the bag of ice. It was cold and wet as I lay there in my bunk. There was so much traumatically induced heat coming from my leg that the towel was warm within about ten minutes. I tossed it onto the table below me and finally dozed off to sleep.

Saturday morning I was stiff and very tender, but I could walk without much discomfort. I didn’t hobble too much while making breakfast. There was minimum bruising and I was glad that it didn’t feel broken. My poor shin; in junior high school I made my dad take me to the emergency room because I thought I might have broken this same shin (tibia) when one of the boys on the soccer team unintentionally kicked me. X-rays revealed then that I was still in one piece.

We cast off our lines from the tow bright and early, before the sun had crested. Terry and I had the first watch and as much as I would have enjoyed carefully crawling back into my bunk to catch up on some sleep, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. Fog was rising off the calm water. The only thing that disturbed it was our wake at eight knots, causing the reflection of light oranges and yellows to undulate.

Our next destination was Henry Harbor Marina for diesel fuel, pump out, water and groceries. Hugh had spoken with them the day before, but they did not answer their phone in the morning. We knew that there should be plenty of water at the fuel dock, as it was an old lock. We arrived down river at Henry Harbor Marina late morning. The fuel and pump out were obvious, but no one was around. The marina office was located by the restaurant a good distance away from the dock. He walked over there and found out that they didn’t open until 11 AM. It was about 10:15 AM. Terry offered to help me go get groceries, so with back packs, cloth bags and the shopping list we went for a half-mile hike up to town. The first person we saw was a mechanic. We asked him where the grocery store was.

“Two blocks up turn left and go more two blocks. You can’t miss it.”

Easy enough and it was. Groceries procured we walked back to the boat a slightly different way. We went down Edward Street, which seemed to be the town of Henry’s main street. We didn’t pass by the pharmacy that was mentioned in Skipper Bob’s book, but we did come across the hardware store. We got a new light bulb for the galley to replace the spare we needed a few days earlier. It was a really neat hardware store. Along the side wall were small and medium sized wood drawers and more drawers. This place boasted on their sign outside “There’s no store like it.” If these guys didn’t have it you didn’t need it. Hatchet handles, horse brushes and skate parts were hand painted on three of the thousand or so drawers.

“Look there’s parts in here for skates like I used to have as a kid.” I could see memories flood Terry’s mind of strapping steel skates onto his shoes and go gliding down the street.

We arrived back at the boat a little before 11 AM. Hugh and Bill working the pump-out machine. The guy from the marina came cruising around in his golf cart and helped fuel us up. There was a hose in the distance for water, but it was at the dock in the inner harbor in water too shallow for us. Oh well, we’d just have to conserve until we found somewhere else to fill up.

On our way again we made our way past a highly industrial area Peoria, Illinois as well as Peoria Lake.We could tell that we were nearing the Mississippi River when we started spotting paddle boats tied up on the side of the river. There are a couple “are we there yet” locations to mark our progress. Chicago/Calumet, Illinois was our first place of “are we there yet.” Then next major landmark is the Mississippi River, then the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, then Mobile, Alabama (where the masts will be put back in) and the Gulf of Mexico; and finally Fort Myers, Florida.

Other important, but not predetermined locations, are where we get diesel, water, get pumped out, groceries, do laundry and find a hot shower. But the most important location to find is where we anchor or tie up for the night. Skipper Bob’s book did not have any recommendations for us as the places he recommends anchoring are too shallow for Appledore V, which draws eight feet.

Peoria Lock was our seventh lock between Chicago and the Mississippi. When we arrived there it was time to start looking for a place to anchor for the night. Skipper Bob mentions being able to possibly anchor just down river of the lock, with the lock master’s permission. The lock master said that we were allowed to anchor on the right descending bank, but in order to get far enough over we would have run aground. The next possible place was mile marker 148.6, Turkey Island. We found a spot just upriver of the island that we could set a bow and stern anchor, pointing into the current and out of the main channel. The water was calm and quiet.

The last task before chowing down was to jerry-rig an anchor light. With the rigging down, we had no running lights, no VHF, no radar, no horn. These we could do without. A hand held, battery operated VHF radio and a manual horn have taken the place of the normal ones. This was the first night not tied up at a dock so we had to come up with an anchor light; no ifs ands or buts. Perhaps if we were able to tuck ourselves in some little hidy hole, where no one would find us, it might not be too much of a concern. But we were on a major river and there was guaranteed to be traffic in the middle of the night. We did not want anyone even bumping into us. So the search was on to find some form of portable light that we could tie to the top of a length of 2×4 stood on end. Flashlights or spotting lights were not an option because it had to be a white light that was visible on all sides.

“There’s a mechanic’s work light in the engine compartment,” Terry said. “That might work.”

“Sure, we’ll just take the plastic guard off so it’s visible on all sides and use twine to tie it onto the board,” Hugh said.

With the official setting of the sun we had a ceremonial lighting of the anchor light.

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About juliemckaycovert

I am a therapist, teacher, photographer and published author. I am a lover of life and nature. My husband, Hugh, and I live off the grid on a remote 40 acre island, Shelter Island, just off of Drummond Island in the far eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This blog is about my life, a life I thought I'd never be able to live. This blog is about dreams and ideals being manifested. It is about daily events with a backwoods twist. It is about the simple pleasures and wonders being brought forth. I invite you to be inspired and even, as some friends have, live vicariously through my words.
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