Last week I purchased my first sailboat, a Tophat 25-foot Mk1 that was built in 1988. She cost me A$4500, plus lift-out, inspection fees
and having her bottom cleaned and anti-fouled. She is on a temporary mooring
until the end of the month, and by then I will need to move her.
I bought a tiny fiberglass tender
off a fella who was selling it for A$450, complete with an electric
and a huge and heavy 12v sealed lead-acid deep-cycle battery
, rated 125 Amp/hours. And the seller included a smart battery charger
, two oars, two steel
oarlocks and, wait-for-it, a bimini-like sunshade arrangement. The mini-tender is only 2x1m (6ft x 3 ft), and really only good for one person.
I carted all this back home on my tiny biscuit-tin-sized van (a 1999 Suzuki Carry) and left the baby bimini
in my garage. Then on Tuesday, I loaded up some tools and supplies to take out to the sailboat, which is a 2-hour drive away.
My wife wanted to come along and see the sailboat, which she keeps telling me is my folly and something I will tire of soon. Stupidly I thought this was great that she was showing an interest, so I took her with me in my faithful liddle van. In any case, I would need another person to help me lift
the tiny tender
off the roofrack and carry it to the boat ramp
Once we arrived, the tiny boat was eventually put into the water
, the electric motor
clamped to the stern and the battery hooked up. A quick test proved that the motor
worked fine. The propellor spun happily, and I had fully charged the battery overnight.
I had planned on motoring to the nearby dock
, so wifey could step from there into the little tub, but she insisted on getting in there. So waded into the water
and turned the boat around and got in myself. We were dragging the bottom now on the sand and pebbles, but I was able to push us clear with one of the oars. My wife looked at me and said, "I see now why you wanted to have me board from the dock
She was a bit nervous as we slowly powered our way past the berthed yachts at the nearby marina. My Tophat was on a swing mooring
, and that was a few hundred meters further out. The weather
was sunny and the waters of Lake Macquarie were nice and smooth, otherwise the trip would have been impossible.
We got to the sailboat and I tied a line from the tender to the Tophat. My wife freaked out when I reached up and let down the steel
ladder at the boat's stern. "I can't go up there," she said. I already knew of her fear of crossing high bridges, but this was a new one on me. "Don't worry, darling," I said. "You can do it. And I'll help you. You'll be fine."
Well, with heaps of coaxing I got her to climb a few steps, but then she wanted to stick her head
and climb through the lower rails of the pushpit.
"No, sweetie," I said to her. You're going to break something." She was squashing the bendable plastic protector which covered the the electric
wires to the stern navigation
light. With lots more directing and coaxing, including grabbing her foot and moving it to a better place to stand on, I eventually got her over the rail.
I passed up three bags to her, and then climbed into the vessel with her. She looked around to see where the nice young men
with the champagne were, and I had to explain that small sailboats were somewhat different to cruise
liners. She swallowed her disappointment and settled for reading her emails and looking at Facebook on her iPhone
. She can't get enough of the baby videos.
I unlocked the hatch
to the companionway
and climber inside the vessel. It had two radios and one of them had a broken fuseholder in the positive 12v wire. I shorted the wire and tested the radio
, and it appeared to be receiving okay. I asked for a radio
check on 27.880 (the Aussie boating
band) and received no reply. However my antenna
analyser proved to me the antenna
was fine. I didn't do a test on the marine VHF
radio, because I need to pay at least $280 to do a course to get a licence to use one. The fact I have been a licensed amateur radio (ham) operator since 1978, is irrelevant.
Then I go to work cleaning
(yuk!). It's a pump-in, pump out, but the hand pump isn't working. It seems the two cocks (tap, valve, faucet) going through the hull
into the seawater outside the hull
a jammed. I hurt my hands each time I strained to move them. Maybe I can free them next trip out.
My wife is lying on the seat/locker on the port side of the cockpit
. She is dozing away contentedly, catching the weak winter sun. (Our weather
has been unseasonably warm this year. We also had one heck of a lot of rain, too.)
So I check out the cushions/mattress in the bow A-shaped berth, and they are pretty dirty. I try to unzip the covers so I can take them home and wash them, but all the zippers are seized. They won't move a millimeter. If I pull harder, they will surely break off. Another item for the todo list.
I add some non-perishable food
to the galley
, and store some jeans, shorts, tee-shirts etc in a clothes locker.
Wifey stirs and asks what we’re doing for lunch. I’m normally the first to feel hungry, but I hadn’t noticed the time since I’d been busy working on the boat. Okay. Time to go back. I go to lock up the boat and find the padlock has done a runner. It had been on the bunch of keys she handed to me a few minutes before. No sign of it now. Surely we could have heard it it it had dropped down the little well at the back of the cockpit
, where the 8hp outboard
motor can drop down? Wherever it is, I can’t find it, so I borrow another padlock and use that instead. Make a note to buy a new padlock…
I haul in the little tender, climb down into it and wifey passes me the bags. She has a change of clothes in one, I have my toolbox inside the second bag, a battery-powered antenna analyser and I have a small canvas
satchel containing a handheld dual-band (ham) walkie talkie, my digital camera
, my smartphone and my car keys. Then it’s time for wifey to climb down the latter. I’m standing in the little tender at the bottom of the ladder so I can help her.
I know we’re in trouble when she can’t get her foot over the top of the pushpin. Again she wants to climb through it, but the backstay and the electrics are in the lay, and on the other side there are two deck-mounted antennas. “Pull yourself up and place out other foot on the lower rail,” I say.
We go through the whole rigmarole again after I explain that unless she wants to do a swan dive over the side of the sailboat, she is going to have to use the ladder to get down to the tender. We spend maybe half an hour as I coax her step by step. I am standing in the tiny tender and it’s trying to move. At first I thought it was the water current
, but it turned out to be the control handle wasn’t in the “off” position. So I disconnect one of the clips from the battery. My wife is again frozen with fear.
I’m standing on the right hand side of the tender, and the battery is over on the right with me. It’s heavy as anything. So I tell wifey, “Come on, darling. You can do it.” And I repeat several times and point, she needs to get in towards the bow of the tender, so we can keep the little tub balanced.
She lets go and lands on the overloaded right side…
The tiny tub turns turtle.
Now wifey is a non-swimmer, but she is wearing the life-jacket I gave her. I guide her to the ladder and she hold on for dear life, literally. So she’s frozen and nothing is going to get her up the ladder to safety
. I can’t climb past or over her. There’s a working VHF
radio in there and I could call for help, except the boat is all locked up anyway. So I start shouting for help at the top of my lungs. I also start gathering the bags that are floating away. It’s lucky the wind
is being gentle. Every two of three strokes as I swim, I shout “HELP!” at the top of my lungs.
The marina walkway and the furthest boats are about 200 meters (250 yards) away from us. After gathering the bags as best I can I duck under the dinghy
and manage to flip it back right side up. It is full of water and listing to one side but the one flotation chamber running down the centre of her floor, from stem to stern, is doing its job. I retrieve the oars as they too try to float off, and I also grab one of my wife’s pink thongs (rubber sandal, flip-flops).
I can see that people at the marina have heard me, and I wave to them and I keep shouting shout “Help, help!”
After a while, two men
in an outboard
come into view. They haven’t yet worked out where the emergency
is, so I wave my yellow safety
vest again. It catches their eyes, and the boat immediately heads straight for us. As the power boat
draws close, a man reaches for me, but I tell him to take my wife. So they move to the ladder and pull her into their boat, then I start passing the waterlogged bags to our rescuers, and they stow them in the middle. A few moments later, a second power boat
from the marina appears, and the man who pulled me out transfers across to their craft of we’re not overloaded. The other man in our rescue
boat is a teenaged schoolboy, complete with his school
uniform blazer. He takes us back to the shore while the second boat recovers my tiny dinghy
and tows it in.
We step ashore just as a police cruiser comes to a halt in the marina car park. It is followed moments later by an ambulance. I assure the officer that there were only two people in the water, and that we have been rescued and are not injured. He gets on his walkie-talkie to tell police command that there is no further need for further rescue
vehicles. It was two people only and both are found and safe. Some of the 000 calls to the police made them believe there had been a boating collision
and they were expecting a sinking yacht or something worse.
I tell the ambulance paramedics that my wife and I are both okay, but wifey insists on allowing them to check her. They give her towels and a blanket and they check her blood sugar because she is diabetic. When I told her later that we will now be billed by the ambulance service
, she was shocked. That hadn’t occurred to her. And we’re not in a health
fund either. It was just too expensive. Sigh.
We drove home after a quick emergency
feed of some fast food
at Maccas at around 4.30 pm, and were home by around 7pm. Wednesday was spent resting, laundering clothing
and figuring out that our smartphones were both cactus. She bought a new iPhone
yesterday, I resurrected a previous smartphone of mine, but it needs a different size sim card. So that’s another thing I have to organize.
Today I checked the trolling motor and connected it to another 12v battery. The propellor turned okay. I hadn’t rinsed it in fresh water after its dunking. The control head and throttle handle were submerged for quite some time. I rinsed it in fresh water today and the motor is drying out in my back yard right now. We lost
one of the two uniquely-crafted steel rowlocks (oar locks) off the tiny tender, so I cannot row her now, and the you-beaut 125 A/h 12v battery is sitting on the sea bed
. I would be tempted to free-dive for it, but I’m 68 years old and unfit, and to do it without a buddy to watch for me would be pretty stupid.
Davy Jones can do whatever he wants with my lost