Who's up for a harrowing tale from the high seas? This comes from Annie Richey, who is traveling the world with Tom Gensemer aboard their retrofitted sailboat Emma. Richey recently posted an account of the Midwestern couple's nearly catastrophic encounter with the Palm Beach Princess, the cash-strapped gambling barge that's based in the Port of Palm Beach.
Back in November, during a nighttime sail off the Palm Beach County coast, Richey describes taking night-watch duty while the ship's captain, Gensemer, dozed. She spotted the distant form of a big, bright ship, but it was a long way off, until it changed course near a channel that leads to West Palm Beach, heading in their direction. She woke Gensemer.
He sights it in the binoculars; it's definitely big, he says, and while he hails it on channel 16 and 13, I notice that it's getting closer rather quickly now -- but the bearing has still not changed, which means we are directly in its path.
Tom hails the ship twice with no response, and then a third time he gives our LAT and LONG and speed and course and says "If you need me to change my course, let me know. This is sailing vessel Emma standing by on 16 and 13." Still nothing. And it's getting closer, and it's REALLY big and then oh wow we are crossing its bow and its bearing down on us fast.
Richey describes how she tried not to panic. She concentrated on keeping the sailboat moving.
I head to wind a fuzz and pick up some speed. We are beam reaching in a very fair breeze, and the last thing I want is the sails to luff in front of this monster. All the while Tom is still hailing this vessel "WE ARE CROSSING YOUR BOW, DO YOU HAVE A VISUAL ON US?... DO YOU HAVE A RADIO?..."
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Of course the Palm Beach Princess has a radio! Um, unless that's one of the many repairs that the ship can't afford in its fragile financial condition. The Princess recently filed for bankruptcy, and in early January, the ship broke down and had to be towed into port.
Ultimately, Emma made her way safely out of the Princess' path, but the sailboat's captain and first mate remained mystified by the brusque treatment of the Princess captain, who could have saved the couple a lot of stress:
Apparently he didn't need us to adjust our course. So why not give us the peace of mind that he had us in his sights? Why not give us this courtesy? In Tom's words: "Why not answer the hail? It's a big ocean, a lonely ocean -- why make it lonelier?"
Full post is here, on the couple's blog.