Unsinkable

“Ships have been the most amazing achievement. They’re beautifully constructed. They protect you during a storm. They, in a sense, nurture you, therefore ships are referred to with the feminine pronoun.” Adm. Alan West, British Royal Navy

Have you ever been on a ship that’s about to sink?

Or had that sinking feeling your ship is about to go down?

It’s happened to me twice, the first time was at least a decade ago, but feels like yesterday, as trauma has no expiration date, and as we know many things pass from parent to child, trauma being no exception.

The second time was today.

To set the story, let me take you back to the first encounter… Larry and I are camping at Meeks Bay in California with our four kids, and a gaggle of friends from Campbell, we have our boat moored at the dock for the weekend, and decide on an early morning cruise of Lake Tahoe, while the water is calm, and the sun not at full strength.

Roving chaos travels the land, able to undo, the best laid plans.

It’s a thirty minute passage across the lake, I’m sipping coffee while the boat becomes littered with abandoned juice boxes, and string cheese wrappers. We meander along the East Shore, admiring the houses and lodges, reapplying sun screen, and for a minute I fantasize about docking the boat at one of those elegant lakeside bars, and ordering a Bloody Mary. Make it a double.

Here’s the deal, camping is not my thing. There are six of us, all crammed in a small tent, side by side air mattresses fill the space, along with backpacks, and unruly duffle bags. At night the rows of sweaty unwashed bodies assault my delicate senses. We cook most of our meals over an open fire, and my favorite, grooming in the public restrooms. It’s rustic, I realize that is the point camping, but I don’t have to love it.

Gliding by the Hyatt Regency at Incline Village, I watch my fantasy fade away, we continue to meander across Crystal Bay, almost reaching the rugged point. Then as if an act of God, the skies open up, showering us with heavy rain, and gale force winds come out of nowhere. Within minutes enormous waves are crashing over the sides of the boat, the kids tighten their life vests, huddling on the floor in a wad of panic and fear.

Larry is trying to get around the point, where the water is calmer, because turning back is no longer an option. He makes three heroic attempts at rounding the point, each time we are forced back by huge waves breaching the boat, forcing the bow to rise up almost perpendicular to the water. Even though the bilge pump is running nonstop, the cooler is floating in a foot of freezing water as I try to calm the children, frantically instructing them to swim to shore if we should capsize.

“Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear.” Buzzy Trent

As one would imagine the children are wailing, the storm is howling, and the bedlam in our little boat is unnerving.

At some point, Larry and I make eye contact, and this knowing passes between us, a silent acknowledgement that we might not make it. I’m suddenly living the movie The Last of the Mohicans when Daniel Day-Lewis shouts, “Be strong, survive, just stay alive, no matter what occurs, I will find you.”

It’s all rather dramatic, the only way to get out of these waves is to go through them, and get on the other side of that damn point. He nods at me, one last try, I see the determination in his eyes, but also the terror.

As he charges the erratic waves full speed, I scramble onto the floor of the boat, holding our hysterical children. He pushes our little boat beyond endurance, wave after wave crashes over her bow, tossing us around as if a cork in the ocean. I glance up from the cocoon I’m providing for the crew, and I can see come hell or high water, he’s not turning back.

“The only way to get a good crew is to marry one,” says Eric Hiscock. 100%

It’s Larry or the storm, a standoff of epic proportions, and I’m praying to a suspiciously absent savior, “hello, huge storm, ring any bells?”

I closed my eyes, put my head down, and resort to begging.

Time takes on a shape of it’s own in traumatic situations, and this would certainly qualify, it may have been twenty minutes or five, but it felt like forever before the ferocious pitching started to ease, the waves receded, and surges of water were no longer breaching our battered boat.

We made it, but honestly, if we had stopped for that Bloody Mary we would have missed the entire storm, just sayin…

Terror remains in our memories like scar tissue, painful when I feel stretched, no wonder I dream about water when I’m overwhelmed.

Jump forward a decade or so, Larry and I are walking the hood early this morning, when the second time in my life I find myself on a sinking ship. At some point I steer the conversation towards our innate biases around gender and identity (I have a training later today and want to toss it around a bit), you know, the ones we’re born with, the lens with which we view the world.

Of course, quarrelsome Larry is the wrong person to explore the concept of bias, right off the bat he says he doesn’t like the negative connotations that are associated with the word “bias.” That’s sort of the definition of the word, anyhoo…

“Why, were you not born into a family of origin, with it’s own culture, and identity?”

“Yes I was and it wasn’t yesterday.”

“Oh, wise are we now?”

“I call it like I see it.”

“Interesting… remember the other day when you told me it was a sacrifice to spend time with me?”

“I believe I said it was a sacrifice to miss the football game.”

“And then you said I should be appreciative of your sacrifice.”

“It had nothing to do with gender, or bias, it was about you not messing with your phone while we were watching a show.”

“Oh, I see, I should forgo my rights and privileges to watch television the way I want, because I’m a sacrifice?”

“Do I need a lawyer?”

“This is not a court of law, we are having a discussion.”

“Feels more like a prosecution.”

“Women have always been persecuted.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Can you tell me a time in the history of the world when it was advantageous to be a woman?”

Immediately he says, “if you were on the Titanic.”

“Let me see if I have this right, you’re telling me the best time in the history of the world to be a woman was on a ship that was sinking in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night? That pretty much says it all.”

I’m Living in the Gap, ship is going down, come bail me out!

Anecdotes:

  • “It’s like 2021 said to 2020, ‘Oh, you think that was bad? Hold my beer.” Linda Lee
  • Larry, “by the way, I won Mexican Train last night.” Cheryl, “You did not, I won.” Larry, “if we played 6 rounds like we started out to do, I won.” Cheryl, “but we played 12 rounds and I won.” Larry, “I don’t concede.” Hum…who does that sound like?
  • “To my crew: Please be reasonable and do it my way.” The Captain – Rusty Mills

31 Comments

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    1. Oh my, Pete, this was not the post to read if you already find boating hazardous. I should have had a trigger warning. I can attest this is the only time we got caught in a storm in all the years we’ve been boating. Lake Tahoe can be unpredictable and if we were more experienced boaters we would have known!

      When will I learn to pick my topics? I already knew I was moving into rocky territory but when he said “the Titanic” I just had to imortalize that one!

      The clip is of the scene in the Titanic when Rose survives and Jack (her lover) dies. It’s all rather dramatic and I thought it fit! Warmly, C

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I quite like going on boats, well at least the North/South Shields ferries across the River Tyne. Takes 5 minutes, no storms 🙂 Such a scary story Cheryl, sounds like Larry does have his good points really 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right Fraggle, Larry is amazing, he’s a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, but he does have what I like to call his “carmageddon” moments! The Titanic? That was too good not to post!

      I have crossed the River Tyne on a ferry several years ago, pre-pandemic, we were celebrating our 35th anniversary, I was completely charmed. Warmly, C

      Liked by 2 people

  2. As always Cheeky, very enjoyable prose. Especially knowing Tahoe as well as we do, “NOT” docking for a dockside cocktail and ordering something communal was at the least regrettable, at the most, sacralege! Would suggest Jake’s by the Lake (Terrie and I shared a seasonal ski cabin In Dollar Point for quite a few years with work friends and Jake’s was our collective kitchen and bar), but since you weren’t quite there yet on your ‘Three Hour Cruise’. . . Oh well. More importantly, there obviously is a BWTM. Hope you two are fine. Will pray for patience and understanding. We male types sometimes just aren’t worth the trouble after the kids are gone. Oh, wait, that’s a whole ‘nother trigger. Oops 🙊😬 see proved my point right there 🙄😂😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Chris, thank you, always love your observations, and I agree, not stopping was “sacrilege!” We love Jake’s by the Lake, spent many a night enjoying their signature cocktail, and bar scrapes.

      No worries about the relationship, we’re more than fine, Larry has a hardy sense of humor! Or at least a healthy sense of who he is and what he believes without remorse! Makes for lots of good blog material.

      I always appreciate your prayers!

      Hope you all are well, take care, stay out of trouble! 💕C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cheryl, your blog post ranges far and wide. What a great story. Your description of riding into the crashing waves was scary!! I can relate to camping experience. I had two less kids, so it was me and three camping loving guys. No air mattresses, though. We bought a cottage later and a boat. First time we took it out my husband realized he forgot to put the plug in the bottom of the boat. I didn’t know there was such a thing…we didn’t sink and our lake was a small inland lake. I’ve seen Lake Tahoe! Yikes!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Cynthia, the story was better than the memory! Like you, we camped for years, and finnally bought a cabin when I could not longer tolerate air matresses! It’s been a wonderful retreat for the family.

      Oh my, the boat blug, that’s nonnegotiable! We discover ours was left out after having it serviced. It was not a pleasant experience.

      Thanks for the lovely comment. How’s your new book doing? C

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my, what a memory Kim, saving the day with your husband’s sneaker! Bahaha, by the grace of God we made it home, for that I am grateful, but also for the memeory of overcoming obstacles put before us. We survived 2021, literally bailing with our sneakers, and now I know stopping for a cocktail could be lifesaving! Warmly, C

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Lake a Tahoe is stunning! I imagine it’s pretty quiet right now with all the CIVID restrictions but hopefully Jake’s on the Lake will open their doors again soon. Thanks for your comment Crystal, I so enjoy our exchanges. C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Cheryl,
    Long time since I have written. Hope you are well. I keep re-reading this post and it always diverts my thoughts to an incident that happened in Missouri in 2018. The tragic Duck Boat sinking. Reading how you and Larry with your kids were fighting the fight, making that last heroic effort to reach safety kind of gave me the chills. First you were gliding across the bay. Then you describe how a perilous situation arose. It kind of shows how quickly things can go awry and how potentially fleeting life can be. As an aside, your description of using public restrooms to groom does not fit my vision of camping (perhaps a bucket of water to wash up and a trowel to bury human refuse would be more apt?) After your misadventure, it is a minor miracle that you are willing to go on Clear Lake (thankfully you have an experienced Captain.)
    Anyway, as I reread this entry, I keep getting drawn to the 1 question I have about the Duck Boat incident, and that is, what would I have done in that situation? For background info, the Duck Boats are amphibious boats that tourists go on to sight see. The boats went out as severe weather was approaching. They struggled to return and 1 sank killing 17 people. Looking at the video it is clear that the canopy and plastic sidewalls would act as a cage as it sank. If you put on a life jacket you would easily still be trapped in the boat. The question that sticks in my mind, is….If you were on that boat, and assessed the situation, would you realize what was about to happen and have enough courage to grab a life jacket and somehow bail with your family? If you wait for the sinking, it is too late. If you bail early and it makes it, you will then need to be rescued, plus you are distracting the captain. Will it be your fault it sank? A lot of pressure to sit there and hope it works out.

    I do like your take on how time seems to do its own thing during a crisis. I will recite numerous examples next time we get together.
    I like Larry’s response regarding how it is advantageous to be a woman. I was also thinking being a milkmaid during the smallpox epidemic.
    Hopefully you were successfully reprogrammed during your bias awareness training.
    With regard to the Mexican Train incident (there you go again) you agreed to play 6 games, then he clearly won. If you did not re-formalize the challenge, the games after the first 6 were just practice. You know the rules. ;- )

    Stay safe, say hi to everyone, miss you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike! Always good to find you in the comments! The deep dive into the workings of your brain is as joyful as it is enlightening. Let me refresh my coffee before slipping into your thoughts.

      We are all well, although we are spending exorbitant amounts of time together, and the result is we’ve mapped the next couple of decades if ever we are released from this blasted lockdown? I believe California will be the last to do so! Ugg.

      Oh, and stops and stays in Missouri are sprinkled throughout the plan, keep the lights on.

      I remember the Duck Boat accident in Missouri and also remember thinking about what I would have done! For one I would have opened those plastic walls as they seem to catch the wind and were the cause of much of the pitching and rolling. And two, they would have allowed escape when the boat toppled. Just an opinion, it was tragic what happened, and I can only imagine the panic and fear as the boat battled the unexpected storm.

      In our little Tahoe battle, I remember thinking if we do flip or sink we all had life jackets and most of us were strong swimmers. I had no doubt we would have made it to the shore, although frozen, and tramatized. Definitely in need of that Bloody Mary!

      Life is full of surprises, some good, some bad, but nonetheless unexpected. That’s what makes it so interesting.

      Looking forward to your experience of time during a crisis when we are finally together again. I believe we’ll all have a lot to catch up on. Gail and I will reminisce over coffee while you and Larry challenge the mounain. You can bring us a slice of pizza on your way home!

      Okay, when I got to the milkmaid during the smallpox epidemic I spewed my coffee all over the place. You are hysterical. I heard the rumors about how her solution to the smallpox dilemma is being disputed? I’m staying with the myth it’s so much nicer than the horsepox theory? Or was it the cowpox? Anyhoo…she nailed it.

      My bias awareness training was illuminating. I now know I need to identify my pronouns upon meeting new people so they know how to address me. I identify as she, her in case there was a question or concern. 🙂

      I dissent with your ruling of Mexican Train, the said player should have left the playing field if he was claiming victory, gone to bed a winner, but he stayed, therefore his actions were in agreement to further rounds, and albeit, he went to bed with the winner!

      Miss you all, be well, play fair! Love, Cheryl

      Liked by 1 person

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