March 29 – Chesapeake gets a ride

After 26 days we’re leaving the Fish Hook Marina here in Golfito.  The transport ship just arrived and at 4 o’clock in the afternoon we head over to big lift Happy Ranger to wait our turn for loading.  We’re waiting and waiting and waiting.  It’s hot.  There’s no bimini so we’re baking in the sun.  Our friend Ruben comes over with the ship’s diver to say hi.

Well there’s been a complete lack of communication with anybody who seems to know what they’re doing.  We’re sure there are people here who know what they’re doing, they’re just not telling us.  Finally, just after 5pm, the load master shouts over to us to come over.  We position Chesapeake on the port side of the ship.  Big yellow strapping lines are thrown down to us to feed through the bow and stern cleats.  After a lot of yelling the straps are made taut and we swivel against the ship, our fenders protecting our hull, while Jim releases the back stay and removes the boom lift.  We climb onto a small outboard so they can hoist Chesapeake up (we’re not allowed on board for that).  It starts to rain.  Typical afternoon downpour and we get soaked.  The diver adjusts the pads so the lifting straps don’t damage the hull.  Our lift marks are ignored – the load master guesstimates where the straps go based on, um, experience?  It’s agonizing to watch.

It’s now dark and we’re allowed to board the ship from a small metal ladder attached to the outside of the ship.  We’re given hard hats.  We stand around in the rain waiting for them to finish securing Chesapeake in the cradle.  All around us welders are securing other cradles for the next two boats.  A flimsy ladder, barely reaching the stern, is held by two crew so we can climb up to our boat (still raining). We need to reattach the back stay and boom lift, then remove our dock lines and make a general check everything is secure on board.  It’s surprising how tightly packed all the boats are – like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

We climb down, not for the faint of heart on that ladder, and see our little outboard is ready to take us to shore but the crew are taking down the ladder on the outside of the ship.  They reposition the vertical stanchions on the ladder but there is no connecting rope for a hand rail to hang onto .  It’s a nerve-wracking crab walk backwards down the ladder into the outboard.

For us, the whole operation took 3 hours.  We were lucky.  The fellow behind us, loaded last, spent 5 hours fighting current, rain and wind to get his boat loaded.  This morning we all compared notes with our agent here.  We were assured this was not a typical experience.  More like one of the worst he’s seen.  Let’s hope unloading goes more smoothly.