Title: The Last Katrina Fridge.
Scene: Middle of the Gulf of Mexico, middle of the night, on Gort, a cruising catamaran, three years after Katrina.
It was sometime after midnight and I was on watch. This night had been as uneventful as the others on this passage and my routine was to do a careful scan of the horizon every fifteen minutes, confirm our course and position on the GPS, confirm that the autopilot was keeping us on course, and make certain that our sail trim was good. Otherwise, most of the time I let my head loll back in the helm chair and let my mind drift. No lights out there to relieve the darkness and, possibly, threaten us with collision. Steady wind. Steady seas. Gort slicing along, eating up the miles, heading for his new home. Peaceful. Hypnotic.
The booming, hollow sound of a fiberglass hull taking a significant hit sounded a tocsin in the quiet night.
I came fully and sharply alert, my heart thumping.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked myself.
Chuck sat up, clawing his way up from the depths of sleep.
“What was that?” he inquired, still half drowsing.
“Something hit the hull,” I replied. “Pretty sure it was starboard side, aft of mid-hull, maybe all the way back here by us. Let’s check for water belowdecks first.”
I did a quick visual sweep of the horizon for lights of potential traffic and then stepped down from the helm seat. Chuck put on his headlamp and stood up from his cushion bed. We went into the cabin and went down the stairs into the starboard hull. Chuck hit the light switch and headed into his cabin in the stern to check there. I stepped forward toward the head to check it for leaks and/or damage.
The first thing I did was pop the access hatch in the sole to check the bilge for flooding. Dry. Ok, that’s good. Very good. I then opened all cabinets and access panels to check for hull integrity or failure of one of the thru-hulls which bring ocean water into the boat and are a potential source of flooding danger, but they all looked fine. Everything in the head and surrounding area looked fine. Phew! Good. That’s good. That’s very good. I stood and turned to see how Chuck was doing.
He was finishing up in his stern cabin and shook his head.
“No water. No visible damage,” he reported.
“OK,” I said and reached down to open the hatch in the sole of the passageway to check the bilge there. Dry as a bone. Sweet. Good, good. Good! We were looking good.
“Let’s go look at the hull and see what we can see,” I said.
Chuck nodded and gave an elaborate sort of shrug, “So whaddya think?”
“Hell, I dunno,” I proclaimed as we started up toward the main cabin and from there to the cockpit. “Junk in the water, sleeping turtle, clumsy dolphin… I dunno. Lotsa junk in the ocean these days. Important thing is that we’re intact. Hull looks good. Looks like full integrity from the inside. Let’s see if we can see anything on the exterior.”
We stepped into the cockpit and I again did a scan of the horizon. I was more on edge than I’d been during the day’s squall. Things that go bump in the night! Ick. That shit just ain’t fun. Especially when the only thing keeping you for going to visit Davy Jones’ locker was a half-inch of fiberglass. Half an inch. Of fiberglass. Less in some places or even in the important places if the workmen were drunk or pissed off or just plain lazy on any particular fabrication day.
We stepped to the edge of the deck and leaned over the lifelines, turning our headlights to full power. As we swept our gaze along the length of the hull, we saw numerous dolphins still with us, some very close to the hull. As for the hull itself, neither of us could see any visible dents or deformations. There were certainly no visible cracks. I began to breathe more comfortably and steadily.
“I’m thinking one of these guys just misjudged and gave us a little bump,” I told Chuck. “You know how loud fiberglass is for even a small hit against it. In the dark, in the middle of the ocean, well, that’s probably all it was.”
“Man, I hope so!” he replied. “That scared the shit out of me. I was deep asleep and I came up thinking we were already half sunk. It was pretty damned scary.”
“Yeah, I hear that!” I agreed. “Scared the crap out of me, too, and I was on watch, looking out for problems.”
“It was so loud,” Chuck added. “Sounded like part of the hull exploded or something.”
I nodded, my head bobbing. “Yep. Scary loud but… pfffft! Nothing important.”
Chuck blew out a long breath. “Well, it’s about time for my watch so I guess I’ll just stay up and take over. You should go get some sleep.”
“I think I will,” I replied. “Think I’ll go down to my cabin and stretch out on a real mattress and get some genuine deep sleep. We’re on course and trimmed just fine, making steady progress.”
“Cool,” Chuck replied. “See ya in two.”
“Back in two,” I responded.
As I headed through the slider into the main cabin, I stopped and turned. “Cap’n Blacktoes, you have the conn,” I declared in my best Hollywood captain-leaving-the-bridge voice. Cap’n Blacktoes was an amusing pirate-esque moniker we’d hatched at some point in our intemperate past. It seemed appropriate now.
Chuck smiled and replied, “Aye-aye, sir! I have the conn.”