For my entire life, I’ve been a list-maker. From the Book of Lists in the 70s and 80s to lists of games or pennies missing from a collection, or baseball cards, to daily to-do lists and master lists for large projects, I’m all about the list. I’m also a wizard of words, looking up words and word histories for the sheer joy of knowing all I can about a word.
The word “list” in an intransitive verb form means “to tilt to one’s side” or as a noun means “a tilt,” usually with regard to boats or ships. The word comes from, “Perhaps an unexplained spelling variant of Middle English lysten ‘to please, desire, wish, like'” with a sense development from the notion of “leaning” toward what one desires. Compare “incline” as in “We’re inclined to favor Beethoven over Bach.”
Of course all of this leads to an event, as it always does.
So this happened. On a weekend sailing outing on Pegasus, our 38 ft Hans Christian Mark II sailboat, it had grown late and we came in from a long day outside of San Diego Bay. We had plans to moor in Glorietta Bay, just on the south side of the Coronado Bay bridge. There one could moor a boat for the night, take a quick dinghy ride to shore for a walk and a meal at a nice restaurant or just take in the lights of San Diego from the boat. It was rarely crowded and quite private and serene.
We made it back under the bridge after dark, and we were tired from a long day of sailing. I located the yellow markers for the mooring zone and we dropped anchor, backed up to secure it and checked our position. After an hour, we re-checked our position and hadn’t moved. So we readied the dinghy and went into town for a bit. We came back and were exhausted, ready for a good night’s sleep.
Near 4:00 am, we woke from a rattle in the boat. We woke to find ourselves listing at near 30 degrees. The list increased rapidly until we were almost at a 45 degree angle. This made sleeping impossible as we were half upright in the berth. The rattle was pots and pans and equipment falling out of cupboards on the boat. The tide had gone out. We had moored on the wrong side of the yellow mooring buoys, and we were now on the land side of a large sand spit.
We weren’t in any danger, but we had to secure items so they didn’t fall off the boat or breakable items didn’t fall out of the cupboards. Traversing the deck at a 45 degree angle is treacherous. A wind had kicked up as well as if a storm were blowing in. After securing items, we tried to sleep some more, but it was almost impossible as there was no way to lay flat. We dozed a bit though.
We woke in the morning to a strong spring storm. The wind was pushing the boat into the shore, and we were dug in quite deep into the sand and mud bottom. We would have to wait until the tide rose enough to set the boat upright. The weather forecast called for increasing storm activity through the day. We weren’t far from our marina, but it would take us a little while working against the strength of this wind. But first we had to get off this spit of land.
Once the list had subsided, we tried the engine, but the propeller was buried in the bottom. There was nothing to do but wait. We noticed that when we tried to move the boat, we were pushed hard to land. This was going to be a challenge. Once we felt the boat become buoyant again, we tried starting the engine again. We were immediately pushed toward land. We had to start it and gun it in reverse to give us clearance, and get enough motion going that it would counteract this strong wind. Even with sails down, the boat served as a wall to be pushed to land.
We gunned it and slammed it into reverse. The propeller was still in sand, but more toward the surface. It churned up the sand and water and we headed backwards. It was enough to get the boat some clearance so that we could then put it in forward and make a sharp turn to head away from land. As we turned, we were broadside to the wind and were pushed strongly to land. The propeller starting churning up more sand and laboring. If we didn’t clear the land, we could bend the prop and propeller shaft. But fortunately, we made the turn and headed into the main part of the bay.
The short distance across the bay and down 1/4 mile took us 2 hours, a very slow crawl, straight into the wind. At one point, we were being pushed backwards by the force of the wind despite our strong diesel engine.
We got in our slip in the marina and safely tied up. The trip was exhausting and we were dead tired. The next day, as we tried to retie the boat, we had an accident. A small screw had fallen out of the gear-shifting mechanism in the steering column, nothing we could have ever known. We pulled out of our slip to reset the boat, and as we were positioned where we wanted to be, I shifted from reverse into forward and gave it more gas. Except nothing happened. I gave it more gas, and before I knew it, we had accelerated backwards. We slammed into the back of a boat, about 5 slips down from our own. We mangled their dingy hoist and ladder and chipped their hull a bit. Thank goodness for boat insurance.
The crash sent marina folks scurrying to help. There must have been 10 or 12 people turned out to help. We turned off the engine. There was still a brisk wind, but we hand-over-fisted the boat behind the other boats, pulling on lines and shrouds, to tug our boat into the slip. It would be some weeks before we could figure out how to fix the shifting mechanism and thus, we were in effect grounded for a while.
Screws fall out everyday, it’s an imperfect world. At least in the slip of our marina, we would stay upright and not list to starboard or port. But I did make a new list that day: things to fix and do to secure items on the boat and file an insurance claim.