We had been in Dartmouth for three glorious days (God, what a ravishingly beautiful place). For the first time ever, we had a berth on the town quay rather than on one of the big ship moorings where they usually put us. The weather
had been somewhat stormy, but we felt a break in it, and although I had bought tickets to the theater that night for the whole crew, we decided to take off to Plymouth, our next planned stop.
We had a tremendously difficult exit -- we were in the last berth with our stern practically jammed against the bridge. Ahead of us was a raft of two boats. The tide rips there . . . I lay awake at night worrying how I would get out of that berth without smashing the rafted up boat ahead.
So I decided to have a crewman get in the dinghy
and tie on to a stern cleat, and pull the stern out using the 25hp dinghy engine
, while I used the bow thruster to pull the bow out. Other crew stood by to cast off all the lines. In the event, the crewman in the dingy flubbed the maneuver and didn't pull anybody's stern out, but we got past the rafted up boats without a hitch. Hard left rudder
with simultaneous application of right bow thruster kicked the stern right out, and I got past with no problem.
But just as I was motoring around the rafted up boat to get into the main channel, we suddenly stopped. What the h*ll? I thought something was wrong with the transmission
. "I've got no drive!", I shouted, and tried putting in neutral, then shifting into gear
again. No luck. Suddenly it occurred to -- we're bloody well aground!!! It was low tide.
I sent someone to the quayside with a long line to hold our stern off the boat next to us, in case we floated and started to yaw. And waited. The harbormaster came by and said -- "So you found our sand bar, did ye? Don't worry -- you're on the high crown of it. You'll float off presently."
And 45 minutes later, we did, and proceeded to sea after picking up our dinghy.
I had just been saying at dinner the night before -- "I don't want to jinx anything, shouldn't be saying this, but I've never even touched the ground in this boat in 10,000 miles of sailing and God knows how many entrances-exits from unknown ports
We sailed out and found the worst sea conditions I have ever seen in my life. My 83 year old father was on board, and confirmed - the worst sea I've ever seen, he said. Although the wind
was light at that moment, around Start Point, the storm the previous night with 64 knots winds still had the water
churned up -- 30 - 35 foot breaking waves, in a horrible confused sea pattern. At one point I seriously worried that we might get rolled. We were laid down almost on our beam ends, and I thought all the crockery would be smashed. Two passengers were violently ill and terrified, alternately puking and praying.
We aborted Plymouth and put right into Salcombe, anything to get out of that sea.
All in all, a terrible decision to put to sea! And now I can no longer say that I have never even touched the bottom in my boat!