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Old 12-05-2009, 07:28   #1
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The Captain Dashed Below ...

Or: why I hate wheel steering unless your boat has a real wheelhouse, and is longer than a few bathtub lengths.

The setting: San Diego Bay, Sunday noonish, after a typical weekend touring the many assorted officers clubs in the city.

The Players: US Navy nurses met the night before somewhere at the above storied locations, 3 young Navy Pilots.

The Boat: Old, shortened rig sailboat about 33 feet LOA, average condition. A wide and commodious interior suitable for our live aboard captain.

We set sail on the slack tide (motored away from the dock), retired the anchor detail (stowed the cooler) and dipped the colors rounding the Admirals sendoff party (mooned and heckled the black shoe training facility at the Amphibious Base) as we headed out of Glorietta bay (across from the Hotel Del Coronado) heading windward to pass underneath the Coronado Bay bridge, towards Point Loma. We raised the sails, the ladies found seating in the cockpit, while we moved about smartly, stowing things that didn't need to be stowed and making small sail trimming changes. Boy, the nurses must have been impressed! We were on starboard tack and about pass to leeward of one of the major bridge pilings of the famous Coronado Bay Bridge...

We began to head up; the bow swinging towards the piling! Our friend and captain muttered something then dashed below! Should we finish our beer or rag the jenny? The nurses exchanged looks. The piling loomed larger...we began to count the barnacles just visible under the low mean tide mark...jeez, there is a small ladder right there....

Yes, the chain had broke from the wheel to the steering and we did some quick problem solving. Things were dire. We lacked an emergency tiller. The nurses were very quiet.

We put our friend with the largest guns (biceps) down below. He muscled the rudder post to and fro while we relayed steering commands from the cockpit. Once tied to the dock, the nurses beat a hasty retreat and mumbled words under their breath. We repaired to a bar, drank some black and tans and mourned the loss of potential dating opportunities.

Not sure if the my dislike for wheel steering is a rational one or just one derived from missed oppurtunities....

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Old 12-05-2009, 07:39   #2
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Well-written, funny story scotsailor. Thanks for putting it up.

Oh, by the way, welcome to Cruisers Forum!


"Your vision becomes clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakens."
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
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Old 12-05-2009, 10:26   #3
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Whatta ya expect? You guys had two things going against you. First and formost, you were flyboys, a close second, you were comissioned.

You see if you don't have an engineer to maintain the mechanics and a BM3 or better to run the boat, (coxin), you fall apart. I have found that officers do real good at saying, Fix It Chief, or right full rudder come to course 050 helmsman.

And I was real good at saying, "Right full rudder, aye Sir, coming to course 050, steady on course 050, Sir. And, Yes Sir, problem solved and all is fully operational, Sir.

The above is why I will not take my wife on a cruise, the Captain said when the boat (Ship) was leaving, and I never missed the boat. Now I charter and I am the Captain, and it goes when I say so, or in reality, when the wife and I agree, and I am very agreeable. Hope to give the party barge to the kids and upgrade soon, or not?

But at least you were not Marines! Or worse Army or Air Force.

Thanks for the story, I think all of us have had the best laid (no pun intended) plans go to hell in a handbasket. I will look forward to more sea, (or air) stories from you. Thanks for posting here, Sir. (2nd out of 3 generations of USN enlisted, MM3, Dad, BM3 me and TM2 Son) + one stinking Marine, son.
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Old 11-06-2009, 09:25   #4
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I spent 11 years in San Diego during my 20 yrs in the conoe club and yes the coronado bridge will make you pucker a bit when the stearing goes out. We started our sailing adventures at the amphib base sailing class with a 18ft rebel w/o an motor and I can't even tell you the number of times someone taking lessons ramed the pier coming in under sail. Oh, thoes were the days. My wife came within a foot of T-boning a 30 footer, this was her 2nd class and what she did still gives me a chuckle, she just shut her eyes and pushed the tiller over all the way and prayed. Well thoes prayers were heard and she just missed the boat, thank God, but she came back the the next weekend and went out by herself and learned to handle the little sailboat, now I can't get her away from the stearing wheel of our Irwin 37CC.
Hope you guys don't take too much kidding from the GOAT LOCKER.

Best of Luck,

retired senior chief petty officer
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Old 11-06-2009, 17:26   #5
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You mean this bridge and pilons

Pics of Coronada Island bridge
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Old 11-06-2009, 18:34   #6
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My first experience on a yacht was coming out through the harbour in Townsville,Australia when we went aground on a mud bar. (The weather was calm) The skipper asked me to get below.
I did what I was told ( expecting some sort of emergency)when I asked what he wanted me to do, he said get out two cold beers, because we are going to be here awhile. That was my first experience of yachting and I thought, this is Ok, I can handle this.
Since then I have owned 12 different boats and currently live on one.
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Old 11-06-2009, 19:55   #7
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Went through a similar fun experience with wheel steering going under the Golden Gate. Conditions were probably a bit more 'interesting' than the calm waters of SD bay. The quadrant elected to lose it's key and flop over to one side. Could turn starboard to straight ahead but no more. Figured I'd just pull out the Etiller and all would be fine. Problem was the steering was still connected and the quadrant clamped on the rudder stock and wouldn't move from its new orientation. putting all my weight on the Etiller only got the boat to turn slightly to port. We were surfing down 8' rollers at the time and needed full rudder throw in both directions to control the boat. Of course it happened just as we were approaching one of the bridge abutments passing it to starboard. The boat surfed down a wave and took off to stbd right for the abutment. Fortunately the boat has a cutaway forefoot so the little left rudder I had got it turning and the next wave pushed the bow over and the flooding current carried us forward just enough to surf past close enough to spit on the riprap.

Yeah, I just love wheel steering. Bunch of damned Yuppies foisting the abomination on us.

Peter O.
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Old 11-06-2009, 21:20   #8
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Great story scot!

Wheels were never meant for small sail boats. No offense meant to anyone but they look ridiculous on boats under about 30 feet. I visualize Napoleon standing there in his uniform barking out commands with his nose barely poking over the wheel.


Life begins where land ends.
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