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"Dinghy Surgery" on the Rio Dulce

 More proof of the axiom “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

That hole in the dinghy is a major inconvenience!  Good thing for friends to help you along.

S/V Dragonfly awaits the return of her little friend.

By Hal Schade, Sailing Vessel Griffin

The day was windy and the seas choppy. Al of catamaran “Dragonfly” was picking up guests at a dock in Belize City. As he approached in the dinghy, he was greeted by weary travelers with piles of baggage. Another dock would have made loading easier, but he didn’t want to trouble the guests. All were aboard, but within mere seconds of departure a dip in the swell pushed the dinghy down under the dock. Al gasped at the sight of a large threatening bolt below the dock Pre-op dinghy surgerythat would surely puncture the boat when the wave rose. Cries of “shove off” were drowned by the loud “wooooooosh” of air escaping from a 3-inch tear in the rubber fabric.

Okay, this is not a story of what happened on that fateful trip. Rather it is about a repair on that tear some months later. You almost had to be here to appreciate it, but I’ll try to give a clear if not exactly factual account.

When Al and Jill returned to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala in December to “Dragonfly,” Al found the earlier patch of his dinghy was slowly leaking. He called a meeting of friends Joe and Tom for advice and consent on the best possible course of repair.

After a struggle to lift the 500-pound boat out of the water, a lot of rubbing of chins, scratching of heads and plenty of what-ifs, plans were finalized and tools (instruments?) were laid out.

Gentle hands .... send for Hawkeye.The three gathered around the now-exposed tear like surgeons around an open incision. The less-than-sterile field held an electric drill with grinding wheel, scrapers, patches, glue and HEMOSTATS! Every boater carries these, for one reason or another, I guess.

Much consulting ensued as they decided to put a patch inside first and then close the wound with another patch outside. The techniques for this resembled “delayed primary closure” of a surgical incision. After not-so-gentle probing and scraping (that would be a D&C for some of you!) the team bent to the task.

TractionSix hands busily put the internal patch in place, and the boat was set in “hemostat traction.” The team finally gave up on watching glue dry and set about other tasks. Improper healing proved a minor setback. But as the daylight began to wane, this was overcome and the final graft was applied. Dark descended as more glue-drying-watching took place. A brief consultation led to a consensus that it was time to put the patient on the ventilator overnight. Gentle air pressure saw the dinghy revive slightly, plumping out toward her former healthy state, only small wrinkles remaining in her pallid skin.

Al, Tom & Joe ... they just play surgeons at Monkey Bay Marina

Al, Tom & Joe ... they just play surgeons at Monkey Bay

Only A Small ScarThe team retired for the night to suffer restless sleep as they wondered if their heroic efforts would prove fruitful.

As the sun rose, (actually it was really cloudy and raining, a most foreboding event!) they cautiously gathered for their rounds. The ventilator pressure was slowly increased, tender chins rubbed, the patch gently touched. A minor scar here and there, possibly resulting from poor light and sundowners. Finally, all agreed the procedure seemed to be a success.

Tranquility returned to Monkey Bay Marina.

Postmortem: “CUMAJACABE” is back in the water! The name is a combination of Al’s and Jill’s family names. Speaking of names, before we celebrate toooooo much, let us not forget that the assistants included Joe from “Déjà Vu” and Tom from “Paradox (Conflicting with Expectations)” Hmmmm?

Only time will tell…...




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