I also had to enter an "unfamiliar" harbor at night in an emergent situation recently. Myself and my crew of one were delivering "Dulce Vida" to the haul out
yard near downtown St. Petersburg. The plan was to sail during the day, anchor
by the pier overnight, and motor
the last 1/2 hour to Salt
Creek in the morning. The sail down was great. The forecast
called for a 10 -15 kt. Northeast wind
so we anchored on the Southwest side of the pier for some protection. We had just finished dinner and were enjoying the sunset when the wind
started picking up. In a little over an hour the winds increased from 10 -12 to 25+ and shifted to due East. To make matters worse, the pier, because it is not a solid structure(as compared to a jetty) did not provide the amount of protection I had hoped for. I have a lot of confidence in my ground tackle but not when the boat is bouncing around in 2-3 ft. chop on the windward side of a seawall. And I certainly would not have gotten any sleep that night. So I made the decision and told the crew "we gotta get out of here!" The problems we faced were twofold. I am in the process of renovationg below decks so the 12vt. plug
where the spot light goes was unhooked AND the 150 - 200ft. wide entrance to the Vinoy Basin is marked but not lit. The solution...Maptec and my $100 laptop
. I installed Maptec on a slow and out of date (Win98) laptop
and connected a GPS
to it. When the chart program is running, and the GPS
connected, your vessel's position shows up as a little red boat with a red line extended in the direction you are headed. Even though I could not see the break in the seawall (it was a new moon) I pointed the little red line at the break in the seawall on the chart and went for it. I know better that to rely on the chart program 100% but it worked well enough to get me to where I could see the entrance markers on the end of the seawall. When we were inside the basin my crew turned to me and said "captain, that was a good piece of driving." My response, as I pryed my white knuckled hands from the wheel
, was "I may look calm, cool, and collected but right now I am a little weak in the knees."
I highly recomend the Maptech
program. This was the second time it has safely delivered me to a poorly marked anchorage at night.