Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mind the Gap

Maybe it was just because we were tired, and anxious to get back to our normal lives on Cinderella. Maybe we were distracted, or out of practice after our time on the Galeon. Whatever the reason, we didn't follow our normal procedure for moving items aboard, and it cost us.

The evil "gap."
Our slip is aligned more-or-less along the current, but there is a small sideways component. There are no pilings on the other side; we can only single-side tie to the floating pier.  Therefore, incoming tide jams our boat tightly along the finger pier (thus the large collection of fenders along that side), and the outgoing tide pulls us away (as in this photo) creating the dreaded "gap" between the pier and the side of the boat.

We have regular, very simple, rules for how we get things aboard. Generally one of us in on board and the other is on the dock handing things across the "gap."

The rules:

  1. 1.  Don't let go until the other person acknowledges they have a good grip on the item, by saying something like "Mine" or "I've got it." 
  2. 2.  One item at a time.
  3. 3.  The change of hands happens over the deck or over the dock, not over the water.  If something is dropped you want to go "clunk" instead of "glug glug glug."

It's a pretty straightforward -- and pretty smart -- system.  Costs us an extra 30 seconds here and there, but we have fewer stories of items dropped overboard and lost to King Neptune than many of our boating friends. Until last week, when for reasons that are still unclear, Dan handed up a bundle of swords and sword belts all tangled together. Mistake #1: We broke Rule 2: One item at a time. I carefully counted the armload he was passing to me: two steel swords in their leather scabbards and baldrics, two plastic photo prop swords. I made sure I had a solid grip on all of the items I could see, and said, "Mine," and he released his hold. We had gotten Rule 1 right: Don't let go until the other person acknowledges they have the item in their control.  But because we had broken Rule 2, all the items I could see wasn't all the items there were.  Unnoticed in the jumble was another prop, a Pakistani dagger in its own sheath, on a leather belt. Mistake #2: Outgoing tide was pulling us off the dock, creating the dreaded "gap." The bundle was a full armload and the gap was wide, so our arms weren't long enough to span the gap, so the exchange happened over water and we broke Rule 3: Change of hands happens over the deck or the dock, not over the water. So guess what happened? Glug. Glug.

At low tide there's only about 5 feet of water in our slip, so at low tide Dan went swimming.  We pressed a boat pole into service as a descent aid and marker where we thought the dagger went down. On his very first attempt, Dan came up with the belt and we hoped the rest of the recovery would go as easily.  No such luck, though we spent the next hour trying, until the currents became too strong and darkness was falling.

Long story short, the next week our regular diver was scheduled to clean our hull so we asked him to have a look. We showed him what he was looking for; we still had the previous sheath, now protecting a kitchen knife of similar size to the dagger.  We waited on the surface while he handed up an eclectic collection of items he'd found on the bottom, previous victims of the "gap" by previous occupants of our slip -- a steel shackle, a copper saute pan, a chunk of wood (don't ask me why that last had never floated away, I don't know). He was about ready to give up when finally he found it, and handed up something that he said he had first thought was just another piece of wood. "That's so cool!" he exclaimed.  "I'm usually asked to dive for things like sunglasses or cellphones. But this ... I've never been asked to find something like this before. This is like discovering historical artifacts!"

The time spent underwater just made the dagger look even more authentic and weathered, and adds to its mystique.  So next time you see Dan in his historical or pirate persona, ask him to tell you the story of the dagger that crossed the ocean from Asia and was rescued from the bottom of the Matanzas, and has never been defeated in battle. (It as also never won a battle, because we don't use it for fighting or stagefighting, but we leave that part out to make the story better.) And next time you're coming or going aboard, mind the gap.

Don't know how well you can see it in the photo, but when this pan first came up it was bright pink. Electrolysis maybe?