The Stow Away
By Jean Benacchio
It was a clear sunny day with a crisp chill in the air reminding us that the autumn leaves were about to fall this September of 2000. I was a Stewardess, Cook & Navigator on an 86-foot Hatteras named the “Subconscious”. We had just finished a long hot summer season cruising the Northeast entertaining corporate employees and their families for Subway World Headquarters.
When the Labor Day Holiday arrived, we were elated to be able to start our trip home to Florida. But first, there was one more final good-bye party. By late afternoon, our guests took their last photo opts of the Manhattan skyline with the iconic Twin Towers in the background. We just went under the 59th Street Bridge, when the boat lost acceleration. The Captain turned to me.
“Take the wheel”, he abruptly instructed, “Something’s going on with the Port Engine.”
I struggled to maintain steering as we entered “Hell’s Gate”. It’s a 3-foot elevation change in the waterway where the East River meets the Harlem River creating dangerous eddies and whirlpools as the current runs through this area. With less power, the ship’s stabilizers were ineffective. The 86-foot yacht started to rock abruptly. The party atmosphere suddenly stopped in silence.
The pilothouse door swung open, “Shut down the Port engine!” the captain yelled.
With two strokes of my palm, I shut the Port engine and powered the Starboard engine at full throttle, till the boat struggled clear of the river’s currents.
Turning to the captain, I was stunned to see his face covered with soot.
“What happened down there?” I questioned. “Is it a fire?”
“This isn’t good,” he responded with a blackened face. “We blew a rod! Oil sprayed all over the engine room from a cracked turbo. We’re not going to see Florida anytime soon.”
The rest of the ride was quiet. We notified the guests of our slow trip back to port. Our ETA would take an additional two hours before arriving in Stanford.
After our guests disembarked, the ship hobbled its way through Long Island Sound to a shipyard in Norank Connecticut where we remained there for one more month rebuilding the engine.
It was an October foggy morning when we started our way
back to Florida but decided to head east and stop first at “Star Island Marina.” Mechanically the engine wasn’t sounding right and we noticed a major crack in the salon window.
It was 7:30 in the morning when I was jolted out of bed. I threw on my cozy white bathrobe with Hilton inscribed on the lapel and staggered down the hall way and up the stairwell to the pilothouse where the gangway met the dock;
Looking through the pilothouse glass door window I could see a familiar face with white hair. His steely light gray eyes circled in red, looked like he wanted to be there… just as much as I did. It was the contractor from Norank Connecticut.
Sliding back the glass door, my greeting was as enthusiastic as his appearance.
“Hi Mel. Wow I didn’t expect you to get here so quickly.
“I got on the first ferry from Port Jefferson. Whatever is going on in the port engine needs to be adjusted.
“Is the Coffee on?”
“I’m on it, Mel, Have a seat”.
“My men should be here shortly. They’re picking up a pane of glass for the salon. I’ll be checking the port engine while the guys put in the window.” He explained.
Mel followed me to the galley, plopping himself into settee booth in front of the galley.
“Where’s Rip?” Mel asked.
“He’s out speaking with the Dock Master about our length of stay.”
“Hey Mel, move your butt up a minute, I have to get another can of coffee under the bench.”
He slid over to another cushion. As I picked up the seat to retrieve a can of coffee in the stow compartment. I moved a box of Cheerios to reach for the can. Surprised, I watched as the bottom of the cereal box fell out splashing all the cereal over the bottom of the storage area.