Seven days ago my crew and I drove south to the luxury of the Comfort Inn in Essington PA. It is not the most inspiring place any of us have been to but we were there to wait the arrival of Dorade. After some last minute delays we finally got the green light for offloading on Monday morning. I can’t say the day started particularly well, despite booking a taxi the night before and specifying that there would be five people and lots of luggage, the guy showed up with a car with only three available seats. He then proceeded to watch as we loaded our gear before declaring that the load would break his car and it would cost us $75 to make the two mile trip. Upon questioning his morals, he decided that he wouldn’t take us at all. Some heated negotiating later and I made a deal but was forced to leave half the crew to find another way to the port. Travel stress over and we arrived to be met by a ships crew who clearly wanted rid of the last remaining piece of deck cargo.
Last Monday was not a nice day. It was grey and very windy with a strong current running in the Delaware River. I had slept no more than three hours the night before going over the offloading and our delivery strategy given that we would need to pull in to avoid storms probably twice with really rather limited options for berthing. Marinas in the area being either seasonal or boasting no more than six feet of water at their docks. Sadly around 10.00am as Dorade was being lowered into the water the crew lost control of her. With the stern of the boat pointing into wind which was gusting into the high twenties, the crew managing the stern line let her swing out. As her keel touched the water, the fast flowing current which happened to be running in the same direction as the wind, exacerbated the situation and right in front of our eyes we watched as the two guys lost the stern line. Very quickly nearly 40,000 pounds of yachts swung around and t-boned the steel hull of the ship. The thick wire cables hanging from the crane wrapped around the rig and all we could do was watch in horror. Panic was setting in amongst the bow line crew who thankfully managed to keep a hold of the line or this tale would have had a very different outcome. Once the boat had done a full 180 degree turn, now facing into wind and current, they finally stabilized her enough to allow us to board. The ships mate said nothing more than “looks like its just a scratch”, it did not require close inspection to realize that this was significantly more serious than a scratch.
The impact with the ship moved the forestay tang sideways by a healthy 4mm and bent the bronze, the cap rail cracked and signs of the shock load were visible in the paintwork cracks just below the cap rail. We remained alongside the ship for about half an hour while I tried to find us a marina close by. Plan B needed to be executed fast as there was no way we could sail her to Newport. I tried to talk with the ships captain but he sadly had no interest and did not make himself available. Damaged noted on official paperwork and we made our way upriver to a tiny little marina, parking up just in time before the wind became even stronger. The next few hours were a frantic dash calling insurers, shipping companies, truckers, marinas, crane rental companies, vehicle rental companies and hotels. The Delaware River is not exactly set up with boat yards that are able to handle a boat the size and weight of Dorade. After exhausting every boat yard option we could find, a call to Delaware City Marina gave us some hope. Despite the chart showing it would be nearly impossible to make it up the narrow shallow channel to the yard, the yard manager assured us we could do it. Chewy and I jumped into the car and went to check it out. The crane and travel lift were by far the smallest I have ever used for Dorade but once again we were assured the euipment could take the loads.
The next few days turned out to be an exactly coordinated exercise in moving people and boat contents between Delaware and Rhode Island. Our trucker was able to just about squeeze the haul into his schedule and arrange the oversize permits required at the 11th hour and the boat yard guys had just enough time in their own schedule to pull rigs and haul Dorade. Having lost a lot of sleep, made a crazy number of phone calls, send a large number of e mails, driven well over 1,000 miles, worked through thanksgiving and drunk and incredible amount of coffee, I am very pleased to report that as I write, Dorade is on the road probably somewhere in New York state right now and will be offloaded at LMI this afternoon ready for her winter refit. It may not be the route we had planned but at least she will be home. A big thank you to all the delivery team, especially Chewy who gave up his Thanksgiving, to the team at Delaware City Marina for going all out for us and to Tim Pyne of Joule Yacht Transport for coming to rescue Dorade. I am very proud of everyone involved.