Sunday August 28, 2011
Back in July when we had our friends Jared, Jeff and Darryl out with us I promised that we had to get them out again sometime. It didn’t take much twisting of the arm on either side as we all love to spend time together and had such a blast the last time we had gone sailing. I was a little worried that Darryl and Jeff would be sick of seeing me since I had dragged them out from morning to well past night just a few days before for my birthday, but they were just as excited to see us and our boat again as we were to see them. Without having the good sense to pull up to a dock to pick them up again we made 2 trips in the dink to get everyone aboard. The day was already becoming quite hot and we were all ready to get our sun and drink on. Even in late August the nice days become more rare and I think we all wanted at least one more weekend with the heat of the sun on our skin. The weather report for the day had me depending on winds not over 10 knots, but once out on the big lake they were blowing at a steady 15. Since everyone seemed to be enjoying our swift ride of 6 knots of speed versus having the heat of the day on their skin, I sat back with my glass of boxed wine and enjoyed the company.
After awhile the chilly breeze made everyone scramble to the little bit of sun shining on the port side. Since we were on a tack that put our headsail directly in front of the sun creating 90% shade on the boat we decided to fall off a little and this would cover the whole starboard side in sun. Darryl and I were sitting on the edge with our legs dangling over the side watching the water pass by. Spending weekends on the lake I’ve seen tons of different things floating in the water from food wrappers and water bottles to balloons and magazines. Staring into the distance I saw a while arch in the water, what looked like a swimming noodle just floating along. Darryl spotted it as well and we pointed it out to Matt to see if he could make out what it was. Now that all of our curiosities were piqued we changed our course again to get a closer look.
Once we came upon it within a few hundred feet it was unmistakable that the white arch was the side of an overturned boat. A silence fell across Serendipity as we had all realized what we had just seen. Everyone started scanning the water around to see if there were any stranded people along with the boat in distress. It wasn’t very large, about 12-14 feet long, and at this point we were about 8-10 miles from shore. Not a good spot for an overturned boat to be. My heart sank into my stomach for a moment when I saw what looked to be an orange life vest floating near the hull. Luckily when we got a little closer I could tell it was a wooden centerboard to what we could now see was a sailing dinghy. It was still a little nerve wrecking not knowing if there might be someone still adrift out there, or even worse, trapped underneath. We realized right away that we needed to call the Coast Guard on vhf and inform them of the situation. With never having hailed anyone besides the fuel dock we were at a bit of a loss as what to say as ‘Mayday’ seemed too extreme for the case. We settled on ‘Muskegon Coast Guard’ (3 times followed by our boat name) and waited for a response. What seemed like forever and was probably only 30 seconds we heard back and gave them a description of what we had found. They asked a few questions such as an exact description of the dinghy and our location. We had floated away from it a bit while hailing the CG and also didn’t have our GPS on to give an exact (or any) coordinates. With a guess we replied that we were 5 miles West of the pier and would have to get back to the dinghy to get a better description of it. While questioning us the CG asked if the overturned boat had a rainbow sail and a laundry detergent bottle attached to the mast. Since they seemed to know something close to our description was out there it made me wonder if they had been informed of a missing person and had a description of their boat, or if someone reported their boat missing and we happened to come upon it. After telling them it would take us about five minutes to get back to it they jotted down our phone number and said they would give us a call. Bringing our sails down and throwing on the engine we motored back. Coming up to it again I could see Bennett 1400 written across the hull and the sail was mostly white with a three colored rainbow across it but no laundry detergent bottle at the mast. We still weren’t sure if this was the one the Coast Guard was looking for or if there were multiple boats lost the day before.
While waiting to get a call on our phone we heard some chatter on the VHF relating to us. It was another boat in the area, Hot Fudge, asking the Coast Guard if assistance was needed. They had heard our ‘distress’ call with our very approximate location and wanted to seek us out. By this time I had been circling the dinghy for about 5 minutes with no word from the CG on what we should do, or if they were planning to do anything. We hadn’t seen anyone in the water yet and were leaning toward the idea that it was abandoned. Matt and Jared’s friend Andrew decided the the dinghy needed a closer inspection and were thinking if no one was going to call us on what to do with it, we’d just tow it back ourselves. Just as they were getting their life jackets zipped up and tow lines ready our phone finally rang. It was a gentleman from the Coast Guard asking if we had gotten back and could give a very detailed description if what we were seeing. I have him the name and size of the boat along with any other distinguishing features. They also asked for our location again, which by this time I could tell we were a bit more south than we had originally thought plus a few more miles out, and even though I had told Matt we should turn on the laptop to get coordinates it had not been done. The CG told us to stay put while they met us out there, but would still not give us any more info on the missing dinghy. However, Jared had been below and heard more chatter from Hot Fudge mentioning someone had to be rescued off a dinghy the day before in bad weather and US Tow had never located the abandoned boat. It looked as if they were still also trying to locate us on the water as well.
Trolling in small circles around the dinghy we kept a lookout to see who would reach us first, Hot Fudge or the Coast Guard. I was finally able to get Matt to turn on our GPS and we gave a call back to the CG with our exact coordinates. Another 5 minutes later we saw a big white boat speeding toward us that we assumed was them. A few of us that were getting a little bored by this point thought it might be fun to add some excitement to the afternoon by jumping overboard and having some beefy guys from the Coast Guard come to our rescue. Maybe even get a helicopter out. Matt had a good laugh at this but made us promise that no one would drop over. Once they were on top of us and the dinghy we got another call on the cell and they told us this had been the boat they were looking for the other day, thanked us for our assistance and dismissed us. Heading back to shore we were making jokes that a.) The Coast Guard was probably pissed that we found the boat that US Tow couldn’t and now they’d have to go through the trouble of bringing it back to shore and b.) Hot Fudge was probably upset they couldn’t get to the boat first and we were the ones to take all the credit (all kidding aside they sounded like very nice people that just wanted to lend a hand).
Once out of sight of the CG everyone’s drinks came back out and we got back to enjoying our Sunday. The wind and waves were building a little bit and it was fun to watch one of our unexpecting guests get sprayed with a rogue wave over the side (I know, I’m so cruel). As we neared closer to shore we were treated to a nice show of kite surfers getting 15-20 ft of air. Some even came within a few hundred feet of us so we could get a close-up view.
Finally making it into the channel the winds died down a little and things started to warm up. Darryl was dead set on going swimming and since the water by our mooring can be a little murky at times we detoured and dropped anchor next to a set of sand dunes next to the channel to do some grilling and swimming. Matt fired up the grill while I dug into Jared’s cooler for his sweet-tea vodka and and lemonade (a very good combination). Matt cooked the brats to perfection this time and we were all so hungry that they were scarfed right down.
I asked Darryl if he was up for a swim to the dunes so we could climb up them and run back down. I may be close to turning 30, but this is something I don’t think I could ever tire of. Standing on the side of the deck there were three of us that were going to jump together but Matt decided I needed to be the first one in the water and gave me a early shove. The water was a bit colder than I expected but I didn’t want to let out that scream of “Holy S*%t, this is freezing!!” for fear of scaring anyone else from getting in. I told Darryl the water was great and he should join me right away. He blindingly trusted me and him and Andrew were in the water a moment later. Knowing from past experience that a swim to shore could take quite awhile I started my trip in while the boys stayed around the boat getting out and jumping back in. When Matt realized I was serious about going in he started following me, and shortly behind him was Darryl. We all made it to shore safely, although Jeff who started out when we were about 2/3 of the way there and worked too hard to catch up and was a little more than exhausted when we reached the dunes. He stayed by the water while the three of us crawled our way to the top. No one wanted to do any further exploring with me and there was a creepy guy watching us from the next dune over. Racing to the bottom we all made it without falling all over ourselves and waded back into the water. Jeff and Darryl decided to stay behind and we would up anchor and swing around to get them. I was surprised I had enough energy to get back to the boat although I did learn that whenever I started doing the backstroke I’d turn myself around and start swimming back to shore. I did make it to the boat eventually and we brought it close to shore to grab the boys. The sun was starting it’s descent and everyone was getting into a comatose stage. Bringing ourselves back to the mooring we packed it in and began to shuttle our guests back to shore.