Log and Journal

April 25, 2003
Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji

Stuck in the Anchor Locker
By Lois Joy            

I am seated at my familiar perch at the starboard helm of Pacific Bliss, as she sits here at the Marina, patiently waiting to sail again. My right forearm is bruised and black and blue, but that is nothing compared to Gunter’s belly. Below his ribs, the skin is the red-purple color of congealed blood.

“I couldn’t sleep well last night,” Gunter said, looking up from The Fiji Times.

“Why? Did this oppressive heat get to you?” I asked.

“It’s more than that. Every time I would almost dose off, I would think about how it felt to be upside down, stuck there, the blood rushing to my head. I didn’t want to go there, so then I’d read awhile again.”

“But you didn’t seem to panic,” I said.

“I was concerned. I was afraid that I would pass out.”

“So was I. That’s why I called for help. If you passed out and became dead weight, I could never have pulled you out.”

Here’s what happened yesterday:

I was standing on my little stool, carefully loading liquid soap into the dispenser of the washing machine, forward in the starboard hull, when I thought I heard a distant, “Lois, help.”

I rushed into the cockpit. “I again heard a muffled “Lois, help,” louder this time. “I’m stuck in the anchor locker.”

I quickly crawled underneath the sunshade lines and rushed to the bow of Pacific Bliss. There I saw Gunter, head down into the anchor locker all the way to his waist, his stomach pressed tight against the square opening. His hands were down, so he had no way to right himself. “Put your hands under my stomach,” he grunted.

I tried that, but all it did is bruise my arm against the sharp edge where the hatch would close. In vain, I tried somehow to get a handhold on him so that I could pull. Fearing that he would lose consciousness, with the blood rushing to his head, I yelled for help. After all, we were in a marina at mid-day, with yachties and boat workers within earshot. Then I bent down again to continue my efforts to release Gunter. He had somehow managed to shift his weight so that there was a small opening, I pulled back hard, and he popped out like a cork in a bottle, as I fell back on the deck. He stumbled to his feet just as Fijian worker bounded onto the gangway; a yachtie approached a few steps behind. They asked if all was all right. I had expected Gunter to emerge red-faced; instead he was ghostly pale. Then sweat poured down his face and chest.

“Here, get a bandage for my finger,” he said, as we walked back to the salon. I dressed the finger he had cut a little as he made his final push out of the locker.
“Let’s go to the showers,” Gunter said, still dripping with sweat.

We stood together in the bamboo-enclosed unisex showers a few yards from the yacht basin, letting the cool water refresh our bodies.

“What happened?” I asked, as we walked back to Pacific Bliss.

“A shackle pin dropped as I was connecting the French anchor—the one that came with the boat—to the rode. I pulled all the chain out. Then I tried to reach it. But it had dropped all the way to the bottom—you know how deep that locker is—but I thought I could reach it. I managed to touch it, but then it went farther and farther down in there. All of a sudden, my equilibrium shifted and I was caught, head down. What a horrible feeling!”

“Don’t you ever do that again,” I ordered, trying to look fierce. “Ask me next time. I could have probably stood in there. Perhaps could have grabbed it with my toes.”

“Yes, it was very foolish of me,” Gunter looked down with uncharacteristic humility. I seized on the opportunity: “And don’t you do anything else foolish. I need you around.”

We hugged each other, then turned on the fans and collapsed in the master berth. I slept while Gunter read. Then, still too exhausted to cook, we walked to the Marina’s restaurant—called The Hatch—for Bula Burgers and cokes.

When we returned to Pacific Bliss, Gunter had an idea. He opened another hatch—this one for the cockpit locker, wide and shallow—and started taking things out.

“What are you doing now?” I asked.

“Here.” He held up a mechanical gripper with an extra long handle. “We could have used this. That’s what I bought it for.” The price tag was still on the tool.