I apologize in advance for this lengthy post. It is a sad tale of our first sailing experience in case you don't want to read it.
I felt I should chime in here for severall reasons:
I am a self-styled wannabe
Furthermore, my wife and I recently went out sailing for the first time in a late 1970s model Ranger
It was not the greatest experience, in terms of enjoyment, because we ran into sooo many problems in our little "3 hour Tour"
We got to the slip near Annapolis
around 11a.m. after driving for 2.5 hrs. Did'nt stop for food
, so we had empty stomachs... We were assured that once we shoved off there would be opportunities to stop for lunch dockside somewhere, so we did not push the issue of food
The boat seemed to be in good shape, but the headliner
bulkheads were spotted with mold
. No biggie for the daysail we had planned, but an issue I took note of, and my wife pointed out several times.
As we were making ready, the Captain
checked weather on the VHF
and let us know that the steady 25 knot
South Westerly winds were going to give us a great day on the water. That sounded a little on the high side to me, but what do I know?
Pulling out of the slip was interesting... the engine
linkage was really sloppy/loose, and when it finally engaged in reverse, the boat moved at a snails pace. You could tell by the engine noise
that the RPM's were revved pretty high, and the output should have been significantly better. The Captain
made a comment that he thought the boat was underpowered. It was only his second time sailing this boat.
We motored out between a maze of pylons, and the Captain gave us a crash course on "Right of Way", nomenclature of various equipment
...etc. Everything was going great! We reached the bay outer marker pylon (?) and raised sails
The boat sped off at a great clip (In my wannabe opinion), it seemed to be literally skipping across the surface of the water from swell to swell...pretty rough handling too as we were headed into the wind
from the North, and the wind
created three to four foot, white-capped, rapidly occurring swells.
We turned to port and headed for the Bay Bridge, and everything smoothed out, it was awesome! I remember looking at my wife and smiling in this "see I told you this would be incredible" kind of knowing grin.
As we neared the bridge, I asked the Captain if there was a place nearby we could put in for a bite to eat. He said we would have to go inland toward a huge cluster of sailboats nearer to Annapolis
proper...and then told us what we would have to do to get the boat turned around under sail.
We tacked to port again...and came around 180 degrees. All hell broke loose with the sails, and my buddy and I were furiously hauling on lines and winches to get it back under "control"...
There was a sudden CRACK!!! that came from the keel
, and we were launched forward in the cockpit! The wind was hitting us full on the Port side and the Captain yelled "Get the sails down!" or something like that, and tried to get the engine in full reverse.
We were run aground with 6 foot of keel
in 3 feet of water and deep mud beneath that. Probably a full 1/4 mile from shore. The depth
went from 12' to 3' in a heartbeat.
As if this was'nt bad enough, the engine was leaking heavy exhaust
fumes into the cabin, which was pumping out of the hatch
right into the cockpit
. My wife and I were so nauseated from the fumes, we could'nt get away from it. Add to this the relentless pounding of the 25kt wind and swells hammering the boat, and you got a recipe for vomit
We were stuck fast in the mud. The Captain had 30 years of experience, and he never ran aground before. He said something about using the anchor
to pull us off, so my buddy and I worked our way forward and wrestled the anchor
, and it's heavy chain aft to the cockpit
We tied floats to it and the Captain said he was going to swim it out and drop it. At this point I was paralyzed by nausia, but deep down I knew I should have been the one to try to swim it out. I am a very strong swimmer and probably 20 years younger and 100 lbs. lighter than the Captain.
To my infinite shame, I did'nt speak up, and we failed to get the anchor set far enough or effectively enough away to make a difference.
We had to call for Sea Tow. 2 hours and $950.00 later, with much emptier stomachs we were putting along at 3kts into the wind...then, just as we were nearing the pylons, the engine started smoking huge billowing clouds of white smoke! We cut the engine and came in under the Jib
only(?) (front sail).
(I suspect the water cooling
intakes were clogged with mud)
That was the best part! The winds died down drastically, and I had both lines semi-wrapped around the winches. As we turned through the pylons I would play out one line and draw in the other to maximize motive force to the boat.
To have the wind blowing past your ears and filling the sails was well worth the 3 hour fiasco beforehand. I had a vomit-encrusted permagrin the whole way to the slip.
My wife and I needed hours to recover from the severe carbon monoxide poisoning and seasickness, and we really did'nt feel better until we had a good nights sleep.
Despite all that happened, I would'nt trade
the experience for anything. We learned so much in such a short time...mistakes have a way of being a great teachers, especially ones everybody can walk away from!