Pay It Forward

Doesn’t that sailboat look a little close to you?

Exhale and Halcyon, photo by Gail Bernstein

August 2, 2021

On the VHS radio we heard “Slow moving trawler just off the lighthouse, could you give us a hand? Tow boat US is not answering our call.” 

The Hinkley sailboat was tangled up with a Lobster trap, rendering their prop immovable.  Before calling for help the hardy sailor plunged repeatedly into the brutal Atlantic waters, reportedly for over 30 minutes, attempting to cut the lobster trap free, to no avail. 

With a successful toss of a line from the bow of the distressed sailboat to Exhale (good catch, Mary), reinforced by Eagle Scout-worthy marine knots from Capt Rick, Exhale had the 48-foot sailboat nervously under tow, roughly 75 feet off our stern, with heavy seas jostling her to and fro. 

Milbridge 2:54 pm

Stationed in the cockpit of Exhale, communicating with Capt Rick via my trusty eartec headset, my job was to monitor and report on the lines as we traveled toward the next port.

After nearly 3 hours of rocking and rolling with the waves, I jinxed the moment with something stupid like, “looking good from here” followed by a sudden “Oh, Shit!”

The line snapped free – no longer secured to the bow of the sailboat.  Capt Rick dropped the engines to idle. A rush of adrenalin fueled my desperation as I frantically pulled the heavy sinking line into Exhale’s cockpit – the worst possible outcome would be entanglement in our prop – leaving two boats dead in the water. 

With the line retrieved – courtesy of a serious cardio workout – the next major challenge was safely reconnecting.  First, Exhale had to maneuver as close as possible to the sailboat. Then, someone had to accurately toss nearly 100 feet of HEAVY water-soaked line from the stern of Exhale to the aggressively bobbing bow of Halcyon.  That someone was Capt. Rick, placing me at the helm of the boat.  We needed to get as close as possible to the sailboat, without injury or damage. The task was far worse than parallel parking on a hill – with a lot of blind spots – coupled with a critical line toss! Major kudos to Capt Rick who gave steady direction and remained calm and collected during this tricky operation.

Commercial Break – Deja Vu

Here’s a little deja vu / throwback moment from 2018, when we flawlessly executed a certain bread and cookie exchange – in motion – with Bushranger!

Cargo trade. Heather’s fresh bread. Apalachicola handoff, November 8, 2018

Back to our Story

Capt. Ned opted to add 50 feet of heavy line – by tying in two other lines – to increase the separation between the boats and reduce the strain on his bow cleats that secured the lines.

Extended tow line

Exhale tentatively throttled forward as the crew (Maddie and me) resumed watch.

Winter Harbor, 4:06 pm

Our destination was the mooring field of Bar Harbor.  We all breathed a sigh of relief as the harbor came into view. In total, we towed Halcyon 21 miles, over the course of 4 hours. 

We were greeted by Scout, the dinghy from Tonto’s Reward.  Aptly named, the tender served as a Pilot boat, guiding Halcyon to the open mooring ball and helping them get secured.

Bar Harbor, 7:32 pm. Mary and Ned from Halcyon

An hour later, Ned and his wife Mary paddled over via their little rowboat. It was delightful to finally meet them. When asked if they could sponsor a nice dinner for our troubles, Capt Rick smiled warmly and said thanks, but no thanks.  Instead, he asked, “Do us a big favor, when the time is right – pay it forward. “

By the way, Ned, a VERY experienced sailor, never seemed rattled by the ordeal. It turned out he had borrowed the 60 year-old, pristine, sailboat. Excuse me, but WHO loans out their classic Hinkley? Clearly the owner was very chill, evidenced by the definition of Halcyon:

halcyon [ˈhalsēən] ADJECTIVE denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.”the halcyon days of the mid-1980s, when profits were soaring.” synonyms:serene · calm · pleasant · balmy · tranquil · peaceful · temperate · mild · quiet 

Finally, a shout out to Heroes Jim and Susan, who paid it forward when they rescued a boat in distress during the loop; and towed it for miles and miles and miles. On the continued theme of pay it forward, we leave you with the t-shirt of the day:

t-shirt of the day

Next Stop: Bar Harbor, Maine

Author: Exhale49

North Pacific Trawler

11 thoughts on “Pay It Forward”

  1. I’ve never towed another boat, and would not unless it was an emergency. I absolutely would remain in the area until help arrived since the situation might devolve and it would be best to tow. In manageable seas, I would certainly tie to another boat to keep them in a safe spot.

    Hell, I’m a retired paramedic. I would ultimately do whatever was necessary, but I also am good at improvising and KEEPING EVERYONE SAFE.

    Great job, Rick and Mary! Hope you are nearby if I ever got in trouble.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: