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  • Bruce Tate

Spinning

I can't tell you exactly when we lost control. The boat was not new, but it was new to us; it had plenty of scratches and dents, but few we had added to the unique collection of faults and strengths that made up Currently. All boats have faults and strengths, but this one seemed to fit like a glove.


Giant concrete chambers called locks serve as elevators on a river. Each one uses gravity, a few strategically placed drains, and doors on either end to float boats up and down using a system that's been around for more than two thousand years. We had used the locks with great success in the past in our old pontoon boat with few problems, but we'd never been through them in this boat.


Pontoon boats and trawlers like Currently handle quite differently. The pontoon has a giant engine that pivots so an experienced pilot can add power in the perfect direction when she wants. The massive engine dips way down in the water, dampening a boat's tendency to spin. Neither of these things are true about Currently.


When the lock light turned green, we approached the lock, and entered the chamber that would lower us some 80 feet in around 20 minutes. Our initial approach went well, until it was time to move to a wall and attach to the floating metal post called a bollard. I goosed the throttle with the rudder pointed the wrong way, and I reacted poorly, and we were spinning in the lock. If one of the lock masters is unkind, there's a YouTube video out there somewhere of a blue and white Ranger tug comically going from perfectly controlled to spinning in the span of a few seconds.


This whole great loop adventure seems like that sometimes. The neat spreadsheets and charts that make up our perfectly controlled plans sometimes don't survive the winds, waves, or inexperience life throws our way. One second, we're aiming at a November launch date after a steady drip of delays. Drip... bank loan. Drip... survey. Drip...part shortage. The next minute, fate intervenes to move all of our timelines up by two weeks of unexpected good luck. We're pushed into the current unexpectedly, we goose the throttle a little too hard, and we're spinning.


But it's all OK.


If this great loop teaches us anything, it will be to control the things we can, and let go of the things we can't. Truth be told, we're not going to damage a two hundred year old lock chamber, and our slowly moving boat surrounded by enough rubber fenders to save the Titanic, we were always going to come through with nothing but a few new scuffs on the paint.


After a few minutes, I brought the boat under control. Maggie tied us off like a pro, and the water slowly spilled out of the lock through some unknown pipes and valves. We sank down gently under blessed control, let the lessons sink in, and laughed nervously like we'd gotten away with something.


Then, we started to pull away. It was cold outside so I passed Maggie the helm and went out to secure the lines and fenders for departure. The swirls at the lock gate began to pivot us in the water, and Maggie pulled off of the throttle at the wrong time.


Once again, we were spinning.


And it was all OK.





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