Worst Day of Cruising

Some events are so powerful that they can shape and reshape anything that occurs around them. For us, it was when we lost our dingy. 

This day began amazingly. We had a nice sail to a new anchorage where we dinghies a short distance to shore to a beach side bar that served amazing and innexpensive burgers. We made friends and put in our order for a local "Chill and Grill" cookout that was happening at the marina. We went snorkeling, took a dinghy ride into mangrove channels that were full of rays and sea turtles. We even caught a ride with a local to the Chill and Grill where we ate again with our new friends. After dinner, we all went back to our new friends boat for sun-downers and relaxed in the cockpit as we watched the sun set and talked. 

At 11:30pm, we decided to head back to the boat. We said our goodbyes and began the 2 mile walk from the marina to the dinghy. When we got to the beach, our whole world unraveled before our eyes and my heart sank into my stomach. Our dinghy was gone! 

It was not stollen, no, worse. I didn't tie the anchor rode to the dinghy securely and it drifted away at high tide. The anchor was well set and the rode pointed in the direction that our dinghy floated away, pointing down the beach.  

Here we are at midnight with no phones, no flashlights, no radio, and most of all, no dinghy. 

We walked the beach for two miles as we headed back to the marina to see if our new friends could lend us some flashlights or even better, a boat, to find our dinghy that had floated away. 

One person who was rather long winded rambled on about the hopelessness of finding the dinghy as it has been drifting for several hours and the harbor drains into the Atlantic Ocean. He had a dinghy, but it was about a 15 mile journey from the marina to the harbor we were anchored in because of the reefs and island structure. The only way to get there was to head out to sea and circle the island on the North side. At midnight, this was not the time to begin such a trek. He did lend us some flashlights, and we ran back to the beach to begin searching the waters of the harbor in hopes of seeing our dinghy once again. 

We shined our light beams as far as they could go, getting our hopes up every time we spotted a mooring buoy, and then loosing hope when we realized what it was. Then, the light shined on something that wasn't a buoy, and it was rather dim too. Seeing the light reflect off this object felt like hearing an ear piercing scream from miles away. You know it's a scream, but you can't quite make it out, but you know you heard something. 

This floating object was 4 miles away from where we anchored the dinghy. Thankfully we anchored at the extreme end of the harbor so that the dinghy would have to drift the entire length before reaching the inlet. Had we anchored any closer to the inlet, we might not have been so lucky!

We watched as this object was drifting down the beach in the same direction that our dinghy drifted from its anchor, and as time passed, it drew closer to the shore. In time, we were able to make out the sides and front of the dinghy as it would spin around in the waves of the harbor. We found our dinghy! 

The only problem is the dinghy is currently drifting towards an inlet, where it will be swept out to see. The harbor is shallow, and you could easily swim out to it, but the distance is remarkably deceiving. What looks close by is actually very very far to swim, especially in the dark! I tried to swim out to our dinghy, but I was too afraid of what might be lurking in the water in the dark. My friend that was with us "demonstrated" that you could just walk out to the dinghy, and walked out to retrieve the dinghy that was rather far from shore. 

I stood on the beach and shined the flashlight at him and the dinghy, both keeping an eye on him and illuminating the dinghy so that he could see where he was going. He made it out to the boat and brought it back to shore, rescuing our dinghy! 

The lessons we learned that evening are as follows: 

1. Always make sure the anchor rode is securely tied to the dinghy! 

2. Always carry a radio on you. There were other boats in this harbor, but there was no way of contacting them from shore. If we had a radio, we could have contacted them and done a search from the water with the aid of their dinghy. This would have saved us the trouble of swimming out to recover the dinghy and instead allowed us to tow the dinghy back to the boat. 

Thankfully, the kindness of the cruisers we met earlier that day helped us save our dinghy. They also all told us many stories of the times they have lost their dinghies over the years. The couple that lent us flashlights had lost 3 dinghies over the years due to theft and poor knots (which happen to all of us at some point when you tie something in a rush without putting your mind to it). The couple that helped us search and recover the dinghy had lost their dinghy twice. Once when it floated away from their boat in shark infested waters, the second time when their painter chaffed and it drifted away in the strong tidal flow of Nassau harbor. 

Accidents happen, and you never want to experience the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that we experienced that night on the beach. Be sure to check and double check that your dinghy is tied up well every time you leave it or you might have to suffer through the same situation we did.