Dave and I had been hoping to leave on the 7th and we woke up that morning with the intention of doing so. However, upon waking, we saw that the winds had picked up and we wouldn’t be going anywhere, once again.
We were wasting time, hanging around the air-conditioned marina, when we heard a call for help to the Berry Island’s Club. As usual, the caretaker, Howard was nowhere to be found on the premises. Dave decided to respond for the marina, and found out it was Frank and Recey, a couple staying on a mooring ball in the harbor, who we had met the night before.
We could barely make out their call. They had taken their dinghy (which, is a 22 foot powerboat) out fishing and the engine had died on them. They wanted Howard to come and tow them in. We had to inform them that Howard wasn’t around, we had no way of contacting him, and that we didn’t have access to the marina boat. Dave told him to drop anchor, and ride it out until Howard shows up (which very well could have been hours).
A couple of other boats in the harbor heard the distress call and decided to offer help. Ted and Sarah, a retired couple in a huge tug-looking powerboat cruiser named ‘Manatee’ headed the rescue. They were cruising with friends in a similar boat, Joe and Connie. Ted, as we came to learn, is the kind of man who just likes to live on the edge in a completely utilitarian way. When he heard calls for help, he figured he had nothing better to do. Both Joe and Ted are in their early seventies and they are still boys at heart, tearing life up. They were too funny to be around – running circles around us.
When he told us that he’d lend a hand, we hailed Frank and Recey back to let them know help was coming. We asked for their coordinates, and set off on ‘Manatee’, Ted and Sarah’s beastly boat, towing behind his dinghy – which he has deemed the ‘Dinghy From Hell’. This is a pretty good description; he’s had steel bars fitted for the bow of it which are Kevlar reinforced. The rubber is Hypalon rated for Coast Guard inflatable boats that he had shipped from France to Quebec to Marathon, FL and then sent down to the Caribbean to be custom made by Caribe Inflatables. He has every electronic know to man in it – the thing is 4-wheel drive, a marine version. It was rated for a 25 HP outboard, so he put a 90 HP on it so he could push the ‘Manatee’ at 6 knots if the motor died. The thing is truly hardcore.
It took us a couple hours to get to his waypoint, and when we reached it, they were nowhere in sight. We hailed them over and over on VHF, and couldn’t hear anything. The seas were rough, but not overwhelmingly so. Even so, we were worried about them dragging into the rocks. We looked for an hour, and heard nothing from them. Finally, Ted and Dave got into the ‘Dinghy From Hell’ and went plowing through the waves, head on, catching air in the process. Dave basically held on for dear life and operated the radio while Ted guided the craft through the chop. At some points the dinghy was almost underwater, Ted’s response was ‘This thing is better than a submarine!”
When they circled around one of the islands we were nestled in, they saw them anchored out. They towed them in to the mothership, which was over a mile away and helped them onboard. Frank, completely green around the gills, instantly tossed his cookies over the side and then went to sleep below. Recey explained to us, that the battery on their handheld VHF had died. They had been stuck for hours, anchored out in rough chop, 100 ft off an iron shoal. Nothing too bad, but definitely unpleasant to be in for a couple of hours.