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The Madness Begins

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Night of Madness, by Daniel Sipes (continued)

Catalina's Year-End Storm

The Madness Begins

It was dark, but I could still make out the other boats in the anchorage. I noticed an 8-foot Zodiac inflatable with a small outboard literally flying from the stern of a sailboat and wondered how much wind might be necessary for such a thing to occur. Thirty knots? 40? Then I heard, “Avalon harbor patrol, I am off my mooring! I need help!”

Avalon harbor patrol responded, “We are on our way but still towing the dinghy dock. We will get to you as soon as we can.”

Baywatch chimed in, “Our prop is still wrapped—we have a diver in the water.”

I went up to the bridge and saw the free-floating boat in the distance, banging into other boats. Not long after, the harbor patrol arrived, put a line on the bow, and towed her to a calmer part of the bay.

I was becoming concerned, though—the seawall was only about 75 feet behind my boat. If the forward mooring line parted I would likely be in the breakers and smashed against the wall before the harbor patrol could arrive. I climbed down from the bridge and went up to the bow to check the line’s attachment to one of the cleats. It looked okay. Earlier in the day, I had run a second line from another cleat to the eye of the mooring line and it looked okay too. By doubling up in this way, I figured if one cleat pulled out, the other might still hold.

But there was a problem nevertheless. The mooring itself was loose—its stern and bow lines, from the anchors below, were so close together that there was too much slack. This allowed my boat to get too close to the boats on either side and, worse still, it kept her from constantly facing directly into the oncoming seas. Instead, she would go somewhat sideways now and then, thus increasing the stress on the mooring lines when waves hit. My neighbor to starboard, onboard a 37-footer, placed his Achilles inflatable dinghy between our two boats and I also placed fenders forward.

I started my generator to top off my batteries and also cranked the engines. Then I felt a particularly large wave hit the boat—the bow snatched up all the way to the ends of the mooring lines. I heard a loud bang as the slack ran out and wondered if a line or lines had parted—I quickly took bearings and determined my boat was still fully secured.

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