On looking towards OB's snug berth between the dunes I could kid myself that I'd been in bed so long that my bearings were off or that the sand had piled up obscuring her from view. But as I neared a hole seemed to open up in me, corresponding in size almost exactly to the gap in the dunes where my boat wasn't.
Onawind Blue, gone? I couldn't comprehend.
Before clear thought returned my feet were taking me off at quite a pace along the beach downwind and downsea of the weather. Had she been stolen? The local boat club had suffered several robberies over the winter—even the Admiralty Pattern anchor had been ripped from its pedestal at the entrance, but why would anybody steal OB, no sailor surely, and what worth was she but to a sailor? I began to consider that she'd been taken by the sea. A fearful hypothesis, I knew well what would happen to her in the surf—she'd be rolled, filled, rolled and filled, sunk and dragged along the bottom by the strong current until she jammed on underwater rocks or came upon the sharp breakwater further down the beach. But mine had been the highest boat on the beach, how could she have gone when others stayed? Was she pushed?
All further conjecture was arrested by a shape, 500 metres away in the dunes. It was her, I was sure. But now I was crowded by fears that all I was seeing was the boat cover crowning a pile of matchwood.
Should I keep my head up as I neared and let the details reveal themselves to my myopic eyes, or stare at the sand and so receive the full impact. I looked down at the dog, still bouncing around my heels—he'd known something was afoot since we'd arrived at the beach—and boldly crossed the sand to the dunes.
The boat cover gave her a vaguely collapsed form but I could make out her fine unbroken line below. If she'd rolled she would certainly have lost the cover, why hadn't she gone into the sea, I wondered as I peeled back the heavy tarp to reveal a couple of wheelbarrow loads of sand. I dug about a bit. All the kit was intact and in place, she hadn't rolled or even tipped on her side. She'd had a sedate journey from one place in the dunes to another.
As I've learned, watching heavy weather over the years, waves push bigger boats with deeper draught up the beach into messy pile-ups while lighter, shallow draught boats float off on the backwash and go through an invariably fatal rinse cycle. Why had OB behaved like a heavy boat?
The evidence was under the sand. The drain plugs were open. She had virtually no buoyancy, a large amount of sea would have lifted her but water would have surged in through the drain plugs and she would have sunk back down again before she could travel too far on the backwash. The next gush of water would float her up the beach and again she'd ground out on the backwash. As she filled with sand she'd need bigger waves to lift her. Maybe she'd taken all of 24 hours to move those 500 metres, the big seas didn't last longer.
There was still some detective work to be done, how had she left her original place on the beach? Several people had commented how safely she was stored, at least 1.50 metres above mean sea level. She'd weathered several winter storms in exactly this spot. Storms that had denuded the beach and uprooted the shower installations. I was sure she was safe here. But the alternative? I've seen abandoned boats used as trampolines and trashed by children, even burnt on bonfires, but I still couldn't help thinking that it was far fetched to think that someone might come down to this deserted corner in a howling gale and give OB a shove.
Back at OB's spot the situation rapidly became clear. The wind, that had blown for two days before the rain arrived and the sea rose had excavated the sand from under OB's keel, lowering her considerably with respect to the water level. And there on the summit of the dune was a pile of seaweed. The wash from that one wave would have been higher than OB's entire freeboard, no wonder it sucked her from her den and filled the streets with spume.
I had a boat again. The mystery was cleared up. The lesson learned—tie the boat to something. Now all I had to do was retrieve her.
|The long roll home.