I’ve mentioned seafirechronicles.com at least once before, a guy named Fred Bailey, whose comments on depression/anxiety/whatever reflect my own experience in so many ways that I think he is worth checking out. Besides, he writes well. And takes great photographs. And has a dog named Jack.
But he, and Jack, are only a small part of this post. And that’s hard because this will be a short post I assure you.
As mentioned before I volunteer with the Jericho Sailing Centre’s rescue crew. Yes, sounds romantic I know, all that love of the sea stuff. Usually it is a series of correctives. We give mast-lifts to capsized dinghys (Laser/Taser/420) and beach-cats (a variety of Hobies/Nacras/F18s of all sorts), help run races, do volunteer work as part of other organization’s events, just doing stuff on the water. And I volunteer because I’ve never volunteered anywhere that treats their volunteers as well as Jericho does.
Twice now in the last 5 days I’ve done something that other people consider to be praiseworthy. And I can’t handle it.
Saturday was a bit blowy off the Straight of Georgia and in to Howe Sound and English Bay. It was also the day a group started their annual, scheduled, club sail off to some nameless island West of Bowen. It’s nameless to help protect the innocent. But it was windy.
I don’t sail. I don’t sail dinghies in any sense of the term; not Lasers/Tasers/420s, nor do I sail Wayfarers or other cruising dinghies to numerous to mention. I don’t sail catamarans of any description. I don’t sail.
But given the existing conditions on Saturday I would not have gone out of English Bay. Period, given what I know of dinghy sailing.
The Club’s original route would have taken them south of Bowen Island and left the entire fleet exposed to the winds of Georgia Straight, so, at some point (and some input from me as the most ‘weather capable’ rescue boat) the fleet decided to go north up Queen Charlotte Channel, east of Passage Island, then turn west above Finisterre Island to head for the original destination.
Within minutes of boats crossing an imaginary line running N/S from Point Atkinson to Point Grey, there were capsizes. Boat with no radios (meaning handheld VHF) in trouble, in the steep, deep, choppy maelstrom ( http://www.urbanoarsman.com/2014/02/23/the-urban-oarsman-rows-the-maelstrom-to-lighthouse-park/ ) that the area is known for. And wind and tide in opposition in the area things were interesting.
The boat I was skippering (20′ RHIB) along with great crew in the person of FK were informed that ‘somewhere out there’ was a capsized RS500. The organizer’s boat my a perfect call and said the conditions were beyond their ability to attend to Search and Rescue under the prevailing conditions, so FK and I were in the thick of it. And it was pretty thick.
Initially we started a search line running east – west, returning west – east, and increasing our north/south displacement on each pass. What happens is the box you are navigating gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger with each iteration. What you’re hoping is that you find the boat and crew in as few iterations as possible.
Imagine finding the boat. You know where it is. You know you are parallel to it. You even know that it is off to port, probably 30 metres away, and you know you can’t see it. One wave-trough away.
The RS has a beam of 1.5 metre, I’m standing in the rescue boat with my line of sight nominally 2 metres above our waterline, and with the RS on its side I can’t see it as we sit in a wave trough.
Eventually we take the RS crew aboard, no more attempts at righting the boat under these conditions at this time, and tow (on its side) the boat in to the leeward side of Bowen Island, eventually (an hour and a half later) to get the crew back aboard their vessel and under way again.
That went on all day. 5 real rescues. 2 of those rescues, including the RS, could have been fatal for one or more of their crew. That’s scary for them. It’s scary for us. And FK did a good job on the helm.
But now I come back to my own reality. The affected crews, other crews (some of whom have been on the water almost all their lives), the organizer all offer their sincerest thanks. Some of these people serve on the rescue boat, they really know what they’re doing.
And I feel a fraud when they praise me. I don’t feel a fraud when they praise the work the ‘rescue crew’ did; that takes the pressure off me and shares the praise with my crew. But even days after the event I’m almost reduced to tears when someone says ‘thanks for what you did on Saturday.’
It’s a rough go. Some people inflate under praise. Some try to go ‘aw, shucks,’ I just can’t handle the praise. The work, the actual ‘search and rescue’ part, no problem. But the praise is almost painful.
I’m thrilled no one got worse that really, really, really wet. We only had one case of hypothermia. We didn’t lose a boat – though I was 1 minute from hauling a crew aboard, calling Coast Guard to say I had the crew and was abandoning the boat due to weather conditions. All that was easy.
But please don’t praise me, I can’t take it.
My thanks to those who helped train me on the water. My best regards to those we hauled out of the water (with or without their boats, or soon to be re-united with their boats) glad things worked out the way they did.
Then today I had a couple of boys under my care for about 3 hours… apparently they had a good time,
“[t]he boys had a wonderful time. They were so impressed and impressing pubescent boys is not easy. Apparently you are “a great guy” who “likes to teacher people about stuff he knows” Stuff they didnt know Fyfer is quoting things you told them. I can tell cause he’s using your vocabulary. Yup. They had to phone their mom and detail everything from boat check,” to wind in my hair” to bunnies to “the best yam fries Ive ever had in my life”
Thank you so much. This will be one for the memory banks.”
And again, on the verge of tears. Seems like such a simple little bit of praise doesn’t it? Not the way it feels I can tell you.