The Curious Shop Rag

I had been cooped up in an office for five years. So when I switched jobs and they asked me to take a brand new Grand Banks to South Seas Plantation for a rendezvous, I was pretty excited. The Grand Banks had no electronics—paper charts and visuals were a must. And I was eager but nervous; it had been a long time since I’d been out on coastal waters. I solicited the help of my good friend Debbie; she was pretty good handling lines and I’d soon have her reading charts like a pro! 

As we were leaving the basin I heard something pop and realized I had no rudder control. Maneuvering with the twin engines, I got the boat back to the outside dock. “What happened?” yelled two service techs.

“I got zero rudder control,” I answered.

The techs looked at each other and one commented, “It happened again.”

“What happened again?”

One of the fiberglass pulley blocks had broken free on the cable steering, leaving a very slack cable, thus no rudder control. The same thing had happened weeks before when the boat was delivered new from Miami. The techs performed a repair, but we were now into the early afternoon and the boat was due at South Seas that day. Nevertheless by 1:00 pm we were off again, although I’d been advised to use as little rudder as possible for the next few hours to let the fresh fiberglass repair cure. I decided to stay inside on the ICW to reduce rudder activity.

Still determined to make South Seas, we prepared for nightfall. I taught Debbie how to help with the charts, calling out flashing lights, their color, intervals, and what unlit marks lay between the flashing marks. It was going to be a dark night and staying focused  was a must. Eventually, Debbie had trouble seeing the chart without a light. I’d packed a medium-sized Maglite and described where she could find it. As soon as she turned it on, though, my night vision was zapped! All I could see were white spots everywhere, even minutes after the light was off! “We need to diffuse that light somehow,” I suggested. 

“What do we need?” she asked.

“Anything, a towel might do, there may be a red shop rag in my tool bag that would be perfect,” I replied. Debbie left the flybridge and returned a few minutes later brandishing a red-lensed flashlight.

“Perfect,” I exclaimed, feeling really proud of the mate I had chosen for this adventure! Soon we were rocking down the ICW and Debbie was doing an excellent job, although I eventually noticed the “shop rag” I thought she had retrieved from my tool bag was trimmed in red lace!

“Perfect,” I exclaimed again, with even more enthusiasm! This was going to be a great weekend!

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