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Old 11-05-2009, 09:56   #1
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My First 'Big' Trip

Just finished my first "big" trip on D&D, our 1988 Cal 39. A 3 day trip from Connecticut up to Salem Ma cutting though the Cape Cod canal. This was also first time taking the boat out as we got it just a couple of weeks ago.

Started kind of normal on Thursday. Decided to go fuel up to be able to get an early start the next day. Was tied up to end of the dock and on leaving decided it would be good to spend some time getting a handle on how the boat handled under power. So after fueling decide to motor out of the the marina to practice. It was mid tide and I knew the channel was real narrow. Was in what seemed to be mid channel lined up to go between the next bouys to deeper water, when you guessed it I went aground on a sand bar. Managed to get off, but made the wrong choice afterwards on direction and went aground again. So for my first time moving the boat I'm aground stuck on a sand bar (could have been worst as the tide went out later I found that there were rocks 30 feet away). This time I couldn't get off and was sitting in tight on my wing keel. In the end had to call for a tow. But by the time they got to me it was almost low tide and they couldn't pull me off (if they had gotten to me in the time frame they said they would be there probably would have been able to). So had to wait 3 hours for the tide to come back in to get pulled off and back into the marina, all the time while watching the hul flex from the boat motion while sitting on the wing. So after 6 hours or so had already spent a lot of boat bucks and didn't even get to do the handling practice. Learned later that 2 marker bouys in the channel had been removed so they could dedge it and were not put back. So I didn't feel real stupid for going aground as I didn't do anything that I would have looked back at and said I shouldn't have done that. One of the marina guys told me later that I needed to be 20 feet over in the channel closer to the jetty from where I grounded. Finished loading the boat and tried to sleep, but didn't sleep well as I knew we were leaving at low tide the next morning and would face that channel again.

Next morning (Friday) cast off and started first day of a 3 day planned trip. Was low tide and I of course was in a high state fear of the channel since I had already been aground and now knew it was missing markers. Was going though it at idle in neutral, basically just letting the slow tide current take me. I draw 5'4" and my depth meter reads from the keel bottom and I figured I needed 2.5'. Was over to where I figured was the middle of the channel based on the jetty and the 20' the marina guy told me, lined up with the next bouys etc, and you know it, went aground at a depth reading of 2.3'. Quickly revesred and got off and since I was on the jetty side of the channel decided the 20' I was told was too much and moved over toward where I was aground the day before. Watched in fear as the depth reading stayed at about 2.5' for the next 30' feet or so till it finally went to 3' and stayed there for the next 40-50'. Was never so happy to past a couple of bouys and see 10' in my life. I of course will never visit Westbrook CT again in my life. I figure that the channel is only about 6' deep at a width of maybe 10' in the middle which isn't even marked. So headed out into Long Island Sound where the current soon was on my nose without any wind, motoring along. Was kind of foggy so went to put up the radar reflector. Found that the lines for this didn't really allow it to spin as it should, but it seemed to be OK for the trip and I would just work on that later. I had read about the current at the end of the Race out of the Sound and got to it just before stack current and this became something that I was worried about, which became a non event. On the way the autopliot, a Raymarine ST6000 that we now call Ray, was doing weird things. I had tried it at the dock and it seemed to work so was really counting on Ray. But Ray sometimes would just decide to go crazy and turn the boat sharply and we would end up turning it off and doing a full 360 around to get back on course. After a while of this we finally found out that the clutch wasn't engaged properly and after correcting this we started praising Ray for the good crew member he was. Continued to motor past Block island where we finally got some wind and got to sail our sailboat and was making 5 knots with just the genny on a close reach. Decided to pull into Newport RI for the night hoping to get a mooring. But the marinas weren't open yet for the season so couldn't get a hold of anyone. Tried to just tie up to a mooring but they didn't have lines on them so finally just anchored. While anchoring found that what looked like a nice coiled rode wasn't. There turned out to be a marker float under the line that became a mess while letting out the rode, but in the end was able to get out a 5:1 scope that I hoped would hold and not swing me into the balls in the field (CQR with about 30' chain). So day 1 ended and overall didn't seem to be too many real problems. Took the chance to put out the dingy and tie to the side and put on the new boat name (was time lost from the grounding the day before) and blessed the boat hoping that this was why the gods were messing with me!

Day 2 (Sat) started with light seas, no wind, and heavy fog. Got the radar running, pulled anchor and motored out of Newport putting faith in the GPS for the track to follow (I have full set of charts, I'm not that stupid). Got out of the channel and could now only see about 100-150 feet. Was motoring along and everything was fine; Ray was doing a great job of taking us to bouys and staying on course and we were adjusting as needed based on the how the track looked on the GPS and watching the seas like hawks (seems we were the only idiots to be out). Suddeny out of the fog I see a floating drum and then a string of line bouys and determine it is a fishing net. I take course action and miss it, but then another comes out of the fog. This goes on a while till we seem clear. But of course now I have no idea were I am and we aren't showing on the GPS screen. I finally find us on the screen and find we have made almost a circle and are heading back into shore (and the nets again) and determine a new course and tell Ray to make it so and we head out. Things quiet next 3 hours while tracking from bouy to bouy using GPS for heading and Ray steering while we watched the radar and seas for those things that like to stick up out of ther ocean to get boats. Was concerned about having to go though the Cape Cod canal this way aganist the current (the current was always against us on this trip), but just as we got to the begainning of the run to the canal in Buzzards Bay the fog lifted. Made it though the canal aganist current making 3-5 knots and this became another part of the trip I had worried about that became a non event (had never been though the canal). The day before the weather forecast for Sunday was saying 10' seas with wind of 25-30 knots and gusts of 50. This later Sat had changed to 6-10' foot seas and wind of 20-25 knots and gusts of 35. So we decided to across to Provincetown MA on tip of Cape Cod as a protected habour in case. Got a great dolphin show as we made the way along the point heading in (a highlight on the trip). Since the forecast was bad I wanted a mooring as the guide said the holding was hard in the marina. But again it was off season and no one answered at the marina. Finally got the habormaster and got a spot at the end of the dock for $39. Only problem was the wind was 25 knots on the beam of the dock, but after 2 tries and some help from people on the dock got the boat tried up. Went ashore and had an overpriced meal, came back to the boat and tried to sleep while the wind grew and we wondered what we would find for conditions the next morning.

Day 3 (Sunday) up early for a 5am departure. Forecast says 20 knot wind, 6 foot seas, and calming later in the day so we decide to cast off and head home. Motor out of Provincetown seeing some whales along the way. Seas and wind don't seen too bad, but we know it is going to be a wet and rough trip heading into the seas and wind all the way. I start to worry about our fuel level (in hindsight should have tried to fuel up the night before but we had 1/2 tank). So decide to put out the sail. Let out the genny and furl it in a couple of times till be are making 5-6 knots on a close reach/close hauled with only a little weather helm, crashing into the seas and Ray doing a great job and not seeming to be working too hard. I start notice that everytime Ray adjusts wheel that the mounting bracket moves and start to check it out. Find that the screws are just sheet metal screws and they are backing out. Screw them back in (not an easy task as the wheel is in the way and we can of course not take it off), but they are stripped and keep backing out so I duck tape over them to hold them in as they only need to act as sheer pins. Feeling good, making 5-6 knots on furled genny, new school of dolphins swining next to us and jumping out of water, new school of whales off the bow also jumpin out of sea. Getting pretty wet from the pounding and beat, but overall having a good time and seeing a great show. Of cousre this is not to last; suddenly there is a load pop and the genny furls out all the way. Boat control goes crazy and Ray starts to greatly complain and try to react. Our furling line for the genny had broken and we have way too much sail for the wind conditions. Line has broken in the middle and have to make way to bow in the seas (about 6-10') and wind and furl it up using the line that is still wrapped around the drum. Was a wild and wet ride but we get it furled up and are back on the engine (note to self to rig jacklines). We motor a couple of hours into rough seas, but I'm worried about of fuel level and getting into Salem habour aganist a high wind without engine. So back out to the bow to tie the furling line to the rails so it will only unfurl part way. We let out the genny and turn off the engine and sail along with seas a little calmer. Remember that radar reflector line that I said could wait till later? It breaks and the reflector is now laying on the deck and threating to roll off and get wrapped. So back out to it in the wind and waves to untie it with cold hands and a nice tight knot (didn't take a knife, but might have been more dangerous to have had one) to get it (got to rig those jacklines). Sea calms down, wind calms down to about 15-20 knots, Ray seems happy and we are making 5 knots close hauled on furled genny. Things all happy again for next hour, till the screws for Rays' bracket finally just fall out (maybe I wasn't watching them close enough anymore). So we are sailing for real now, maintaining course as well as possible by compass and track showing on the GPS, but it isn't too bad and is a fairly nice sail making way at 20 degrees of heel. Things become kind of normal and we start to get close and sight Boston in distance and know it should only be a few more hours till a hot shower awaits. But we aren't as good as Ray and we get to the turn for Salem channel farther away than hoped for the wind direction and face having to tickly tack though the channel. I know the area pretty well from last year and even though it is high tide at full moon giving us about 10' extra depth I'm still stressed from the grounding a few days earlier and have no intention to repeat it again this time on a rock! So I think we have about 2 miles to travel and decide to go back out to the bow and furl the genny in and start the engine. Don't know where my mooring is so call the marina and let them know I'm heading in so they can show it to me. About 1/2 way you guess it, we run out of fuel. So back out to the bow (at least sea is only 1-2' now), tie the furling line to the bow and let out the genny. Short tacking into a 28-30 knot wind at a 30 degree heel using all the channel plus more hoping I remenber where the rocks are! No way am I going to be able get though the mooring field and catch ours under the conditions and am trying to decide what to do (like dropping the anchor). Call in to marina and explain and they say they can meet me and tow me into the mooring. So there isn't many boats in the mooring field and they don't seem to have lines attached to them and we short tack though them to within about 50 yards of a daymark that we are told our mooring is at. The marina meets us, ties up, and takes us to the mooring. We have made it!!!!!

Later in the clubhouse a women starts telling my wife about this Cal 39 they watched from the marina deck short sailed and short tacking into the marina at a impressive heel. She tells her that was our boat and we are gald they got to enjoy the show. Lets hope the remainder of the year is more enjoyable, but overall had a good time with a feeling of accomplishing something even though all I wanted was to get our boat home. And did I memtion that I only learned to sail last year? Book knowledge will help you when crap starts to happen!

Happy sea!
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:03   #2
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Thanks for a very entertaining tale, Don. It brought back memories of some of my early sailing exploits! Your candor and aplomb under pressure are admirable.
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:25   #3
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My first big sail was only 7-8 hours long but I did manage to lose the hand held GPS overboard. It didn't float.....Allan
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:34   #4
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Great story Don. I always say that I learn something new every time I go out (been sailing 30 years). Sounds like you learned a lot of lessons that will make future sail easier.
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:46   #5
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Wow - Great story. Lot's of experience packed into the bag in a short 3 days.

Our first year of boat ownership saw lots of running rigging replaced.

It would be nice if you did a summary of "things I did right" and "things I coulda done better" like they do in the Sail articles.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:03   #6
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They call this fun? hahahaha

If my wife were on board after that the boat would be up for sale not another sail!
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:31   #7
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Nice story. Funny how those thoughts of, "I should do this or that" come back to bite us when ignored.
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Old 12-05-2009, 15:27   #8
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I think the "things right"/"things wrong" list was an excellent suggestion for at min my own learning curve so:

Things we did right
1 - Filled the fuel tank before leaving
2 - Planned and studied the expected course for the trip identifing expected problem areas and knowing options
3 - Stayed current of the weather forecast and adjusted waypoints as needed to be able to have a safe habour available
4 - Didn't panic when problems happened and worked solutions
5 - Were aware of fuel level and when noted to be becoming low and adjusted operations
6 - When fuel ran out determined options for continued safe approach to moorings, including considering dropping anchor till conditions improved
7 - called marina to let them know of problem and obtain their help to the mooring

Things we did wrong
1 - Motored into a known shallow narrow channel without getting better local knowledge help. If we had asked the locals we probably would have prevented the grounding
2 - While being pulled off grounding and heeled over not considering that the sink drains would go below the water line and boat would take on water because we didn't shut the though valves (forgot to note this on the write up, was good thing we noticed the water coming in fairly early as we were over so far we could have taken on a lot of water prior to seeing)
3 - Not rigging the radar reflector prior to leaving dock, which would have allowed the problem to be corrected before hand.
4 - Not reading the full manual for the autopilot prior to departure
5 - Not flaking out the anchor rode prior to departure and instead relaying on a "visual" of the locker, which would have prevented the line fouling later while anchoring.
6 - Not having a spare furling line as backup
7 - Not refueling before the final day as we were expecting to have to motor. Could have fueled at the end of the Cape Cod canal with less than 30 minutes travel time lost.
8 - Once the fuel level was noted to be low, we never checked to see if there was a closer port we could have headed to instead of continuing on course. Turning around was proably the best answer.
9 - Not sailing as close to final mooring as possible before starting engine, which would have allowed us to motor to the mooring.
10 - Leaving the 3rd day all when we come have waited out the weather
11 - Not having jacklines rigged
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Old 12-05-2009, 22:55   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Lucas View Post
........ Was never so happy to past a couple of bouys and see 10' in my life. I of course will never visit Westbrook CT again in my life.........!
This was my favorite part of your story, made me laugh out loud. I bet lots can relate to that certain evil port in their past. Thanks for sharing!!

P.S. My wife and I are toolbags and do a little "lessons learned" after underways, similar to the "what went right and wrong" approach. It keeps ya thinking and learning!
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Old 13-05-2009, 05:44   #10
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Don,

Some of the lessons learned sadly should have been learned before you set off. The fuel thing is inexcusable and I am sure that one won't happen again. I try to keep my fuel topped up which gives me days of motoring so I won't find myself adrift or trying to make way in nasty conditions without engine assist.

In fact having the engine assist is something which comes in to play more often than one would think as we use it to ensure we can make daylight landfalls. All this is part of the planning process.

Navigating very narrow channels is always full of anxiety even when well marked. Here is where one might consider setting up a series of waypoints and proceeding slowly from one to another while watching the depth readings to confirm that you are where you think you are. The moment your plan and reality don't coincide, you need to stop and go back and establish a proper fix, perhaps redo the waypoints and then give it another try. Once you are not where you think you are, it's not a good thing. Try to avoid that at all cost!

Having reliable gound tackle (and a spare) and spare lines for your runnng rigging is another must have before departing.

In general I like to have back up for the main system elements before heading out.

One thing you can count on - Is that when one thing goes wrong, it cascades through the boat/plan and sets other things off and the single problem worsens almost exponentially. Example, Engine overheats, then you lose charging, then the autopilot won't work and you are tied to the helm, then you can't do proper navigation and YIKES.
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Old 13-05-2009, 06:59   #11
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I believe I confessed to all my sins and posted story for others amusement and learning. Doubtful if any extra belittlement is of benefit here.

No waypoints possible in a channel that from my now known experience was maybe 10' wide and 200' long for the the one I went aground in. And I with aground in it with a boat that only draws 5'4".

Fuel problem without a doubt my fault and something I could have done something about. Guess I know know the run hours for my tank under hard load. Can not say it will never happen again, but will never happen on one like this one ever again.

My anchor rode issue was preventable had I flaked all of it out before hand. Did have 4:1 out before the line fouling happened. But of course it could have been a big problem under different conditions.

Always knew where I was, even when dodging the fishing nets. Just didn't know how my course related to them afterwards to be sure I didn't head back into that area. if at that moment the GPS had stopped working I would have dropped the anchor till fog lifted.

I don't feel the boat was ever in danger. The only dangerous item was having to go to the bow in the conditions to handle the furling line problem. I considered tieing another line like my dingy painter to the furling line and running it outside the stantions, but was worried about the line getting wrapped this way. But in hindsight wish I had done this.

I'm sure the are lots of new mistakes to make in the future but what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
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Old 13-05-2009, 07:20   #12
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One thought occured to me.

Often in high winds we drop the main and run on the genny. I feel I have complete control of the genny on any point of sail and if I need power off I can let it go. Many folks like to run on the main alone when coming to a mooring but I like the genny.

I wasn't there so just a thought.

Also in higher winds +20kts we will sometimes be totally lazy and run on the genny alone rather than start taking reefs in the main and furling the genny. The "right" answer for us (depending on crew weight) at +20kts is one reef and the genny furled to about 100%. However, with just running on the genny our boat stays fairly balanced and the rudder forces don't get too high.
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Old 13-05-2009, 09:16   #13
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Don,

All of us get through some troubles. You are no exception, and be overjoyed no one was hurt. You are a much smarter person now, and next time you will be better prepared. I think it was big of you to share the information. BEST WISHES in improving your skills, and sticking with this passion called sailing......i2f

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Old 13-05-2009, 10:07   #14
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Hey I'm not really upset by comments and can take my lumps (after all it was only my fault). In the 2 years getting really for sailing prior to my getting a boat I spent a lot of time on this forum reading various stories etc. Whether I agreed with them or not, there was always something to learn from them. In my Navy days we were always training for things that were unlikely to happen, as if they did if was too late to have to come up with a plan. Hopefully no one ever experiences the big problems (none of these were really BIG) so only from having read about it before hand etc is one in a position that is really more than a guess as to actions to take.
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Old 13-05-2009, 10:22   #15
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Quote:
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<snip>
Things we did wrong

1 - Motored into a known shallow narrow channel without getting better local knowledge help. If we had asked the locals we probably would have prevented the grounding. <snip>
I don't think you should beat yourself up on this one, Don. The removal of the two marker buoys without doing "something" to mitigate the problems this could cause is someone else's mistake, in my view. After all, the responsible parties in that harbor must be fully aware that the usable channel is quite narrow and long.

Maybe they're in cahoots with the towing outfit.

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