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Old 25-11-2007, 18:20   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: 35 mi. north of Seattle
Boat: Building a 65' catamaran at moment
Posts: 78
pirate Various misadventures in the 70s

We sailed from Honolulu to Seattle in October in 1971 on our Ericson 35 sloop, the "Artful Dodger." Sailing in the north Pacific in a gale had was rather too exciting, as our boat was not responsive to the helm when surfing down the big 25' rollers. We had the whole mainsail up, as I didn't reef soon enough-the gale came up in the dark. The builder hadn't gotten two track sections aligned just right, and you had to point into the wind to drop the main, or it would jam. I didn't dare to try to turn towards the sea and swell, as the waves were much too large, with breaking crests. - The boat would round up and up, starting down the waves at 90 degrees to them, and ending up maybe 45 degrees from them. We had a tiller, and I soon discovered why Ericson 35s usually had wheel steering. My wife wasn't strong enough to steer down those rollers, and our wimpy windvane wouldn't do the job, either. So, I steered for 24 hours non-stop, battling the boat's very heavy weather helm. - We had also wrapped a jib sheet around the prop during that gale.- Naturally, the seas went from being huge (25') to dead calm with the winds dropping from force 7 or 8 to one or two. We didn't bring charts for as much of the coast as we should have, and didn't recognize the lights or landmarks. We didn't know if we were north or south of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and we chose to turn south. (This was before fancy electronic navigation electronics were found on small yachts, in 1971. We hadn't been able to take a sight with the sextant for days, due to heavy overcast.) When we spotted Destruction Island we figured out that we had gone the wrong way. So, we turned north and sailed in very light winds towards the straits. My wife said that she should try to cut the line free from the prop, as she didn't think she could haul me back aboard if necessary. Her muscles froze the instant she got in the water, so I hauled her out. We still had a wrap around our prop shaft. When we got into the straits, container ships were coming out about every 20 minutes. We were tacking against a very light east wind. One was headed straight for us, and not so far away. I tried to tack, and just lost way completely. Fortunately, that and subsequent ships saw us and avoided us. Fortunately Neah Bay has a big, easy entrance, so we finally sailed in and anchored there in the continuing light winds. We borrowed a wetsuit, and soon could motor again. - The next summer, we decided to go for a sail, leaving Lake Union for Puget Sound via the locks. Ericson didn't attach the prop shaft with a key and keyway. Instead, they just used set screws and drilled dimples in the shaft. So, where did the shaft come uncoupled? In the big locks in Seattle, immediately after I was cast off. The locks had just been opened, and there was a strong current still from the opening of the lock doors. That is when the shaft pulled out from the coupling. People were screaming at me, "Put it in gear!" Well, it was in gear, for all of the good it did. I was screaming at them to get out of the way, as they were placing themselves between my boat and theirs. It was obvious to me that they would get maimed if they didn't, as the current was very strong, and my boat was out of control. Well, nobody got hurt, and somebody gave me a tow to a boat yard. They just wired it back together with the setscrews, and I was too much of a newbie to realize what a lousy idea that was. If Ericson hadn't learned to attach a prop shaft properly, at least they knew enough to put a hose clamp around the shaft to keep it from pulling out of the boat. - The next time it came uncoupled, I was sailing downwind in the bight north of the Tomales Peninsula, north of San Francisco, in a gale. I put it back together, by dint of hanging upside down in the cockpit locker and tugging against the shaft while simultaneously screwing the *&^%$^! setscrews back in. - On that trip, my deck stepped mast also had had a lower shroud come unscrewed. The *^&%$#@^%#! turnbuckle had come undone--again. The boatbuilder had used sleek looking turnbuckles that had lock nuts that were supposed to prevent loosening, instead of cotter keys. They didn't work worth a damn. I had a crew of college students with me, and one woke me up, saying, "Tim, the mast is lifting, and I can see under it." I stared at her blankly. I looked at the mast. I could see it lifting about half an inch on one side, as we rolled in the (of course) gale force winds, in the same gale north of the Tomales Peninsula, north of San Francisco. She said, helpfully, shall I screw it back on? "Yes", I said, and she did. Problem solved. - Things went very much better on my next boat. We knew more, we finished it out ourselves, and we did some very unusual things that worked out very nicely, such as giving the boat a pilot house, and a junk rig.
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