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Old 31-07-2016, 05:40   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Dana Point, Ca
Boat: bare boat charter world wide
Posts: 150
dink leap, bad wx, wayward auto pilot

BVI, Tortola, moorings base at Road Harbor.

We had just finished inspecting the moorings 36i. and completing our systems check out. We go beyond the check out, learning all of the rigging, the reefing systems, condition of the sails, check that the anchor clevis pin is moused, flake out the anchor chain and rode and check for chafing and that the bitter end is secured in the locker. We double check the ships compass with my personal hand bearing compass.

The day was low overcast, strong winds, dark clouds, unusally low visibility. Maybe 1/2 to a mile and lowering.

The vessel and ourselves are ready to sail over to Norman Island for our first night. The moorings dock crew brought over our dink and tied it up at the bow pulpit. We are docked stern first.

Erica released the dock lines, and we motor the Jeanneau 36 out of the slip and along the narrow fairway to exit the moorings and get out into Road Harbor to hoist the mainsail.

In the narrow fairway, Erica is hauling up the fenders, when she and I, at the same time see that the dinghy painter is slipping free from the bow pulpit. We did not re-cleat down the dink painter ourselves, since once clear we would walk it back and secure the painter to the stern. WRONG !

As I yell to Erica, " The dink painter ! " she takes a step forward and the line slips away, the dinghy is free and traversing along the hull. If I stop the strong wind will blow us down into the bows of all the docked moorings vessels.

The dink is floating free, very quickly along the side of our hull. " Take the helm!" I have it in neutral with fore reach, and head for the shrouds and step over the life line both feet on the outside rail. Erica is instantly at the helm.

I look down at the dink slipping along the hull. If I miss this is not going to be pretty. Timing is going to be critical. I leap off, both feet landing in
the center of dink, sticking the landing.

" Ahead slow, take her out ! " Erica puts the vessel back in gear and the 36 moves nicely out of the fairway, and Wickhams Cay, into the expanse of Road Harbor. I haul in the painter to the dink, start the out board and follow our boat out to where we have sea room.

'Erica slows and I drive the dink up onto the stern swim step and toss her the painter. I crawl up to the cockpit, the dink is secured to a stern cleat.

We motor slowly, finish stowing fenders and dock lines, and engage the auto pilot with the heading to Norman. The visibility is now very low and it is starting to rain, but light rain.

The auto pilot is holding, but then I check the auto pilot heading with the ships compass. Whoa ! The heading difference is about 45 degrees. With the low vis we cannot see any of the islands in the Drake Channel.

So, we turn off the auto pilot, note our position and time on the chart and
use DR's to Pelican Island, to keep it off our starboard side, and then on into Norman.

In about an hour Pelican and the Indians appear out of the gloom and now
we are greeted with stronger rain. We give the reef plenty of sea room, and motor in to the Bight at Norman Island.

We plan to snug in along the cliffs, a few moorings up from the Willy T.
I have rigged double bridles for the mooring, Erica is at the helm, and I am giving her hand signals. The wind, of course, starts roaring, the rain is now coming down sideways, and there are white caps on the water. The cliff disappears, as the visibility is near zero. But, we can see a mooring.

Erica puts the port bow up and along the mooring can, I grab the float and eye with the boat hook, haul up the mooring line and run the bridle thru
the eye, and cleat her down. The did the same with the second bridle.

The wind is howling, the rain is coming down, but with the dodger and bimini we are fine in the cockpit, and all settled in with a well earned rum, and of course singling along with Jimmy Buffett.

Looking out at the mooring field, the visibility is getting a little better. No one is above deck, on any of the other boats, and there will be no party time on the Willy T tonight.

Confession Part: Old rule, that I disregarded. Never trust anyone to tie up a dink line or a dock line. I should have inspected that dink painter when the staff brought the dink up to our boat. If I had, I would have
noticed he used a slip knot. I should have released that, and secured it to a bow cleat with a proper cleat hitch. I did not. That wont happen again.
That lack of attention is on the skipper. No excuse.

Also , very big mistake. Even though I double checked the boats binnacle compass with my had bearing compass, I did not turn on the autopilot before we departed dock, and check that the autopilot heading agreed with the ships compass. If I had not discovered the discrepancy in the headings , the auto pilot would have taken us off to who knows where, and what kind of real problems may have occurred.

Usually, in the BVI , you can see the other islands. This was the first time
of many, many BVI cruises that we had such low visibility.

The squall and rain lasted most of the night but the next day, we did have
overcast and strong winds, in the 20's. We double reefed the main, rolled the jib in to a 100% lapper, and had a grand and spirited sail up the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Virgin Gorda Sound.

Party time on the Willy T would have to wait until our last day of our two week sailing vacation. But, we would have a grand time at Leverick with the bbq, the band , dancing, and the mocko jumbies. All was good.

The other point is that we do not rely on GPS, we back that up with our own paper charts, and use coastal navigation. The GPS on this vessel was not operating. We had no problem with our coastal navigational skills.
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