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Old 17-01-2016, 20:08   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Wandering the US Gulf Coast
Boat: 78 Pearson323 Four Winds
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One of Those Days

Actually it was last night. You know, one of those "sailing ain't always a slick magazine cover" things.

We had some serious wind last night and today. Everyone knew it was coming and prepared. All the boats spaced well and on long equal rodes. Maybe fifteen boats with only a few unattended.

Wind from the south and breezy, clocking to the west and building to extremely breezy, like 50+ knots breezy. Then clocking on around to the north today. My spot was good for the coming north wind and nowhere is protected for the strong westerlies anyway so I stayed put.

Suprisingly one of the little used boats was out for a sail just before dark with the wind building from the south first, as predicted. Unfortunately, this boat didn't park it back in the same spot. Instead anchoring between me and the next boat to the west. Totally messing up the spacing and long rode plan everyone had set out.

I had just returned in my dinghy from trying to help a single hander with no engine, that had already found the bottom near the beach north of me. He tried to leave the dock to anchor even though the south wind had him pinned. And he had his mother and aunt onboard for their first visit to the boat to anchor out. With a fifty knot storm coming?

Well, I was tired, wet, and cold as I climbed aboard and saw the little used boat close on my beam. Well crap, when the wind goes west he'll be all up in my grill, and of course he is gone now. So that's four unattended boats to windward, and a beached Kid No Engine behind me that will blow back out in the morning north wind.

My little corner of this plan had gone bad quick and I needed to move. But I was hungry from not eating all day. The wind was still from the south and I had time. I thought.

As I finished my grilled ham and cheese I heard the wind change in the rigging. I hadn't even emptied the dinghy and removed the engine. Wind was almost westerly and the little used boat was on top of my anchor. I was stuck, and thinking now what.

I was getting that sinking feeling as the wind started piping up. Glanced back at my partially swamped dinghy, from the earlier pathetic tow attempt of Kid No Engine, and headed to the bow to bouy the bitter end of my chain. The steps; crank the engine, run foreward, cast off the bridle lines, toss the bouy over and haul ass. Should I do it now,... it was just starting to rain and hail was predicted.

Went below and grabbed my foulie jacket to return topside to the full force of the storm, that was a mere sprinkle one minute earlier. Thinking, man I'm behind the curve on this one.

The wind was WSW so the most immediate threat was off my starboard bow and sailing back and forth, as was I. The arc of our sailing clearly overlapping. The wind was 30+ and building.

I wanted to cut and run but no boats were dragging and I had a whole anchorage of boats behind me to negotiate, in deteriorating conditions, if I did. And the docks and concrete fishing pier, too. Not yet I thought.

I was wet, cold, and my legs were shaking from that and my nerves. Calm down, breath, nothing's even going wrong yet, but that feeling persisted.

Glanced back at my prancing dinghy as the winds topped 50+ (my estimate) and it was game on. A boat farther to windward was dragging to me, no, two boats ahead were coming. Time to go. But there was no time to go to the bow as the threat dead ahead started to move. Crap, it's going to drag alongside and we are going to sail together, repeatedly.

Went to the wheel with the only plan I could muster. The engine was already running, put it in forward and steered to port. Increased throttle until the boat held on the port side of my sailing at anchor arc.

Blinding rain, breaking waves over the bow, and the threat boat tacking backwards down my starboard side. Slowly, dragging past me. Seemed like an hour but was probably twenty minutes of holding the boat to port.

Many boats were dragging. Another on the beach, I didn't even see where it came from. Two pairs of boats tangled up together. All the offending boats were unattended. All were attempting to, or did, gather up a single handed cruiser.

Luckily the two boats ahead, that were first to move, had reset. And my dance partner had stopped off my starboard quarter about two boat lengths away.

The wind was slowing and I eased the throttle to match and looked back at my poor little dinghy. It's buoyant bow was pointing straight up and bobbing with the waves in a serene slow motion. As my new oars, life jacket, and gas can floated eastward.

I new the outboard was still there or it would float at angle instead of straight up. Wanted to attempt retrieval as the whole thing is only about eighty pounds with the motor. Even lighter since it's buoyant.

Winds were now back down to 20+ and still choppy. The rain had stopped. Locking the throttle allowed my prop walk to hold me off the other boat. I wanted to get a line around my outboard before it fell off the rotting transom of my little bastard boat.

But there was to much wave action for presice actions. Several attempts to control it. Hanging off the back of the boat and exhausted. Dropped the line in the cockpit. And just grabbed the gunnel with both hands and lifted the whole mess up and out draining the boat as it came. Dropping back onto it's bottom, the motor caught the swim ladder and it popped off the transom and did a perfect sideways dive into the water.

Five minutes later the wind was almost calm and that damn boat was directly abeam to starboard again. Even though the wind had shifted ninety degrees. And at daybreak the whole process was due to repeat itself as the wind shifted to the north. And blow like stink again.

That's exactly what it did, too. Only this time I was out in the middle of the bay cooking another grilled ham and cheese.

Wish I had skipped that one last night.
Life begins at the waters edge.
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Old 17-01-2016, 20:23   #2
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Join Date: Jun 2009
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Re: One of Those Days

Bad days! Glad you came through it in one piece!
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Old 17-01-2016, 20:47   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Grenada
Boat: Fortuna Island Spirit 40
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Re: One of Those Days

Sucks.. Sorry to hear you lost the dinghy motor...
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