Jon and his crew had shoved off the Dana Point transient dock and were headed back to San Diego. Coffee and kahlua were poured, and a sweet aroma of croissants wafted from the oven. Everyone was settling in to a beautiful cloudless morning and a comfortable broad reach.
Someone wanted to use the forward head, knocked on the door, and received no response. Jon told them to wait five minutes. Ten minutes later…no one answered. Fifteen minutes later, still no one had emerged. So then they asked, “Where IS Barb?” Jon replied, “Oh, give her a few more minutes.” After about twenty minutes, Jon was perplexed because I’m very mindful of water usage and conservation on a sailboat.
“Take the helm.” Jon said to Laura, as he scurried below and flung the door to the head wide open. Like a whirling dervish, he did an about-face and raced up the companionway. His eyes were the size of dinner plates and his mouth formed a big “uh oh.” He grabbed the wheel and did a jibe in order to point the boat back towards Dana Point. He shouted orders to bring in the sails so he could turn on the motor.
Everyone knew what had happened. Jon had told me how great the showers were at Dana Point. I had gone to check it out, and now I was still there, a very UNhappy camper!
Meanwhile, back at Dana Point… I finished my shower quickly because I knew we were about to shove off. I dressed, grabbed my duffel and walked out to the where we had been docked. Instead of our boat, I found an empty slip. I thought, okay, maybe they had been asked to leave and were motoring around waiting for me. Or maybe they were playing a joke on me…they’ve moved and are going to record my reaction. I thought I’d been “punked.”
I asked a couple of guys working on another boat if they knew what happened to the sailboat that had been right there. “Oh, they took off awhile ago.” “Really?” I asked, “That’s not funny! I’m supposed to be on that boat!” The two shrugged their shoulders and told me where the harbor master’s office was, in case I wanted to check with them.
I walked and I walked through the docks, over the bridge, and then another endless block to the harbor master’s office. Dana Point has twin harbors and the transient slips are in the farthest point from the harbor master’s office. We had been assigned a slip that was on the opposite side of the water from the office, so it was a very long walk. I was wearing a tank top, flannel shorts and a pair of flip flops. I didn’t need much to walk the twenty or so yards from the boat to the shower and back. Little did I know I’d be parading throughout the entirety of the Dana Point Harbor looking like this!
Streams of emotions overcame me. First I was so mad I couldn’t see straight and just stomped along, mouthing a new expletive with every step. Finally I could relate to the phrase “she has the mouth of a sailor!” I couldn’t believe my husband– the very one who told me to go ashore to enjoy the wonderful shower facilities—would leave me there intentionally. I was angry that he didn’t know I took his suggestion of using the shore facility. And I was perturbed with the rest of the crew for not noticing I was missing.
Anger turned to fear. Had Jon been plotting to get rid of me? I had heard all sorts of crazy stories on the news about seemingly happy marriages ending in bizarre ways. My imagination ran amuck for a few minutes. I got hold of myself, and then I got really nervous—once they figured out I wasn’t there, would they have time to come back for me? We were all supposed to fly from San Diego to Phoenix later and would surely miss the flight if they turned around to get me.
Still walking with great purpose (by now I had walked somewhere over a quarter mile), I started thinking I can’t be mad, I can’t be upset; what I really need is to figure my way out of this situation. What would a rational person do? I kept thinking and walking…it took me a very long time to make my way to the harbor master’s office.
When I finally got there, I climbed the stairs and told the harbor patrol officers that I’d been accidentally left at the dock. The two officers glanced at each other, and then back at me, then smirked, and told me the best way to get to San Diego was by train. Maybe I could figure out a way to get to San Diego on my own? Right! I didn’t even have a quarter to make a phone call, let alone the money for train fare or a way to get to the train station! I didn’t have an address book to call anyone who could help me. Heck, I didn’t even have a comb with me! I had not planned on being left behind. And if I defied all odds and actually made it to San Diego, I didn’t have an ID, a plane ticket, or flight confirmation number with me. Fat chance of getting on a plane! Everything I needed was on that sailboat that had neglected to wait for me. It took all my self control to keep from telling them how absurd their suggestions sounded to me. I asked if they would be so kind as to try to hail my boat on their marine band radio. They obliged but no one answered. I concluded my crew was not monitoring channel 16, the emergency channel that all boats use to initiate communications with police, harbor patrol, coast guard, etcetera. Jon didn’t answer because he didn’t have the radio on or they were playing music and simply didn’t hear the call.
I thanked them and went outside to contemplate my next move. I had always been taught to seek help from police (the harbor patrol IS the police of the harbor), but these guys really fell short of being helpful. It had been over three quarters of an hour since I left the boat to take a shower. This was sufficient time to calm down, examine my situation from all angles and to conclude that it was just a silly mistake. The outcome could have been a whole lot worse in a foreign country with language and social barriers. (Remember, I only had on a tank top and very short flannel shorts!)
Surely by now my husband and the rest of the crew have realized where I am and would return for me. I stared out into the inky blue Pacific and my heart jumped when I saw a boat coming toward me. I watched and waited with great anticipation but the boat passed by Dana Point. But wait! Just a little while later, something caught my eye. It was a sailboat, sails down, motoring directly for the entrance to Dana Point Harbor. It was them! I got up and frantically waved my beach towel like a flag, waving it for them to come and get me.
With great finesse Jon positioned the yacht abeam of the seawall, I jumped aboard and we were on our way in an instant. As I sat down in the cockpit, the others aboard smiled tentatively at me and said “welcome back!” I didn’t know whether to curse or smile, so I just sat there. My good friend Laura sat beside me and said “this could be very positive for you… You are in a really good position to have anything your heart desires…Jon is so mortified that he left you there…what do you want?” After a few thoughtful moments, I had my answer!
From this experience, Jon learned that you should never leave the dock or weigh anchor without personally accounting for each and every crew member. Thinking they are on the boat is not good enough-make visual contact! He had thought I was in the shower and he was only half right! I WAS in a shower, just NOT on the boat. Always do a crew call!
And in the end I got something far more valuable than the jewelry or new car that could have been my payback. Instead I gained what I really wanted–a friend who never left my side, was loyal to the end, and always protected me…. she watched and waited for me to come home every night for the next 14 years until her passing… my yellow lab, Schooner!