A New Book Soon To Be Published
Adventures Of A Sailor
I am aware those who admire the Flicka 20 also admire its Naval Architect……. Bruce Bingham. Since finding s/v Wookie one of my greatest pleasures has been the close friendship that I have developed with this talented old sailor. After our chat yesterday he has kindly allowed me to let my readers know he is currently working on his new book “Adventures Of A Sailor”. Below are some of his fabulous illustrations and a small paragraph to whet your appetite.
An Unedited Excerpt From Bruce Bingham’s New Book
Finding Sunken Treasure
© Bruce Bingham 2015
Most of the summer of 1980 was spent aboard my Flicka, Sabrina, anchored in Brenton Cove at Newport, Rhode Island. It was an America’s Cup’s year with competitions between the international 12 meters from France, Sweden, England, Australia to choose which would challenge the United States for the 129 year-old cup.
I was engaged by Sail Magazine to produce an article and illustrations comparing the 69-foot 12 meters of the day with the colossal 137-foot J-class yacht, Ranger, America’s Cup winner of 1937.
My time in Newport was occupied by photographing and documenting the deck layouts and hardware of all but one of the seven competitors docked or hauled out of the water on the several piers on the eastern waterfront. Only Baron Marcel Bich (pronounced “Bic”) refused me boarding permission, France III, for any reason. It may be he suspected me of being an American spy.
Once finished, Katy and I sailed Sabrina down to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut in mid-September. I would spend a couple of weeks at the Marine Historical Museum’s extensive library, copying photos and the original blueprints of the J-Boat Ranger, and viewing rare videos of the vessel under sail as background for my illustration.
On our last night at Mystic, it snowed and left frost on everything. We decided to pull anchor and get heading south early. After a quick breakfast, we began to haul anchor. Unfortunately the anchor would not break loose no matter how or what we tried. After an hour, I decided I would have to dive into the frigid water to find the problem below. As the water temperature was probably about 40 degrees, I hit the water fully clothed in hopes it would ward off the shocking chill and help me stay somewhat warm when I emerged.
With my first attempt, I quickly discovered that Sabrina’s anchor was caught on some sort of an iron casting. Repeated dives allowed me to uncover a large ring almost a foot in diameter. Luckily, the bottom was soft silt and easy to remove by hand. Subsequent dives finally revealed the upper end of what appeared to be a huge cast iron anchor.
Not able to sustain the painfully cold water and fearing hypothermia, I boarded Sabrina with Katy’s help and scrambled below, blanket-wrapped to absorb the welcoming warmth of the cabin.
We put our collective sailors’ heads together and came up with a possible working plan on how we might be able to raise the huge hunk of iron that could have a submerged weight of 700 pounds or more. It would involve using every block (“pulley” to land lubbers), every foot of substantial rope aboard, every winch and cleat and of course every ounce of strength between us. Once warm and dry, we set about pulling all of the anchor rodes out of the forward locker, unreeving the mainsheet, disconnecting the heads’l sheet from the clew of the jib, and setting aside two of the four dock lines in case they were needed as bridles slung under Sabrina’s hull.
We connected the boom vang to a double-looped rope and dropped it over the side. We also lowered the two sail halyards into the water. I jumped into the bay one last time to attach coils of rope to the anchor’s iron eye, and helped Katy thread several lengths of line under Sabrina, through the anchor’s eye and back to the deck’s opposite side. We wondered if we could actually lift the mass upward through the silted bottom and free it of its long-lived captivity. We decided to combine the power of the halyards and the boom-vang tackle at the same time. In retrospect we might have also used the technique of applying “burtons” to the rope tales to multiply their power. I must admit I was worried we might rip the halyard winches right off the mast or the bridle cleats out of the deck.
We began cranking and hauling various ropes on combinations of threes. The first several feet only took up a strain, but after that, we could take in only an inch of line at a time. We cranked; we grunted; we huffed and we puffed. We sweated in spite of the frigid air temperature, and I recall both of us noisily passing gas a time or two due to the physical stress we had undertaken. This went on for what seemed to be over an hour. All we accomplished was the raising of Sabrina’s stern high out of the water until the outboard propeller was almost dry. At the same time, the boat’s bow had dropped several feet under the load.
During one of our brief rests, Katy asked about the state of the tide. I didn’t know. I went below to check the tide table stowed in our small navigation area. “The tide is rising and should have four feet to go,” I shouted. “Well … the tide will either sink us, or it will lift us and the anchor out of the mud this afternoon.”
We sat and waited. One hour, two hours passed, and Sabrina sank deeper into the water. Her freeboard could only tolerate another foot, and we weren’t sure how much more strain the mast, the boat’s rigging, or our ropes and tackle could take. We discussed the possibility of cutting ourselves loose and let the anchor go rather than damage our little ship.
Another hour passed as Sabrina sank deeper yet. Then suddenly, Katy shouted, “I think we’re drifting!”
I looked shoreward, and sure enough … Sabrina was moving very slowly toward the north. The anchor mush have worked itself off out of the bottom and was totally suspended under our keel.
I immediately started out little five-horse English Seagull outboard that had no gear … in forward. Only the tip of the propeller made contact with the harbor’s surface, but it was enough to propel us with enough speed to steer. We could only make about half a knot.
We manoeuvred our way less-than-100 yards toward the rental docks in the Seaport. It took over an hour. We must have looked very silly, but not a single question was asked about the crazy bow-down, stern-up attitude of our boat or the ridiculous rooster tail of spray emanating from the outboard’s prop. A dock master waved us to an empty space on the inner side of a “tee” dock.
After tying up and making ourselves presentable, Katy and I went to the dock office and paid for our stay. We spent the rest of that day and part of the next morning speaking to the Museum’s acquisition office and all of the many antique shops in the town of Mystic. No one seemed the least interested in our rare and valuable treasure.
We discussed what to do, and decided to sling, move, and drop the ancient anchor directly under the tee dock where no one would ever know it was there. We could return, perhaps years later and get it with a more appropriate and sturdy vessel.
That afternoon, we successfully moved the anchor out of sight, requiring an enormous amount of strength and energy. Sabrina soon returned to her normal floatation trim when we eased off on numerous tackles, and cut a couple of ropes. The anchor sank without a bit of fuss and disappeared from sight. Bubbles and silt rose from the surface and within a few minutes there was no evidence of its existence.
We sailed out of Mystic and into Long Island Sound the next morning, heading south to Florida and, the Bahamas with the intention of continuing to the Caribbean Islands.
We accomplished all of that over the next 18 months, covering over 10,000 miles with no worse for wear. We never returned to Mystic to retrieve our treasure, never mentioned it to anyone, and don’t know if it still rests below the dock at the Seaport Museum waterfront.
Ya know … it could be yours if you have the energy and enough desire to retrieve it and cart it to your own front lawn. Be our guest!
CAN’T WAIT TO READ MORE……
Some Of Bruce Bingham’s Lovely New Illustrations