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Old 14-12-2010, 17:12   #1
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Too Much Excitement

Well, I headed out for a sail today. There was some blue sky, the fog of the last couple of days was gone and the bouys showing decent wind so, despite the cool temperature, I headed to the boat.

I keep Honeysuckle on a mooring ring in Degnan Bay, Gabriola Island (aprox. 49 08.072 N 123 42.831W). Degnan is south facing on the eastern end of the island and opens onto Gabriola Passage, a short but fiesty piece of water. West through the passage takes you into Pylades Channel and east gives a choice of two passages both of which lead to the Strait of Georgia.

I headed for the strait where there is a wide open space and good winds. Winds were from the south and the current through the passage east to west but fairly light since we were at high tide. I got to the point between Valdes Island and Breakwater Island with my main out and under power and got into the chop, which is what I expected.

A couple of hobby horses and my engine died. Using wisdom I'd borrowed from this forum I came to the conclusion some dirt had gotten into the fuel line. My mind at this point was going into full adrenaline overdrive. I was facing a head wind, against the current and the chop in a passage way that gave me 200 meters at best. My location was about 49 07.433 N 123 40.973.

I went below and tried the engine but it was clear it wasn't starting. I got the head sail out as quickly as possible, all the while wondering what the best course of action would be. If I were able to sail out of the passage I would have to sail some distance into the strait to get off the lee shore, heave to and try to work it out. On the other hand Gabriola Passage is 100 meters wide at her entrance and full of the most magical currents. The passage between Breakwater and Gabriola would see me in a narrow waterway in the shadow of an island. I didn't have a lot of confidence in my ability to get the engine started.

As it happens my forward progress was halted and Honeysuckle swung to her port and I knew the only way to get control was to sail either into the passage or the lee of Breakwater Island. At this point I was wondering if a pan pan would be wise but I figured I was going to have to sail out of this anyway since it I had no room to sit and wait for help to arrive.

I decide to take my best shot at getting back into Degnan. While Gabriola Passage was running the direction I wanted to go I knew full well that right at the mouth of Degnan the current curls back against the shore and the whirl pools that occur can almost spin a boat under power when the current was up. Fortunately it was just beginning to run. I knew that I would have to fight the current into Degnan, if I could get past the narrow opening of the pasage, and wasn't sure I'd be able to but if I couldn't I thought I'd head into Pylades where the water would be quieter.

I had now started to rain pretty hard but I can't say as I noticed it very much as I began my run at the Passage. The winds were dropping considerably as I got closer and I was seeing between 3 and 5 knots as I entered the passage but the current was moving. It drew me closer to the shore and with such a slow speed my rudder was doing very little. I worked the head sail and rudder as best I could trying to avoid the current that curled back nearest the shore but I found myself being pushed closer to the rocks. The wind swung and backed my sail and I had to ease it and trust the current.

The shoreline drops fairly steeply into the passage. At the worst moment I could have touched shore with my boat hook but I still had 18 feet of water; my draft is 6'7". Just when I was running plans through my mind for when I hit, the current veered and carried me off the shore. The wind grabbed my sail again and I was steering into Degnan.

As soon as I was far enough from the rocks to feel comfortable I furled the mainsail, put the wind a bit to port of the stern and eased the sheet to get a much of it as I could. I was now sailing into the bay with 4-5 knots wind and making headway. I was slipping a bit to port because of the current in the passage but knew I would quickly break free of that then I would only have the running tide to deal with, which at that point was very light.

On to the next issue. I had never sailed to anchor or a mooring ring. With only my headsail up and the winds so light I was moving slowly. I decide to try for my mooring bouy. I turned on power to the anchor windlass, got a line ready for the bouy and extended the boat hook and then got busy working the sail and wheel.

I wa moving a nice slow pace and waited until I was quite close before releasing the sheet and allowing the sheet to luff. I headed for the bow with the boat hook, reached over and snagged the ring. I realised I was moving faster then usual for this operation but I got the ring in hand and pulled as hard as I could. I have a hundred feet of very heavy chain below my bouy. It felt initially like I could get a rope through the ring but the force was too great for me to release with one hand to guide the line through and I had to let go. The chain immediately pulled the bouy back and way from the boat. Time for plan B!!!!

I quickly dropped the anchor, watching as I got closer to other boats around me. The anchor bit and with a hundred feet of chain Honeysuckle stopped up. What a relief!

I had come to a stop over someones bouy and in a spot I didn't want to leave Honeysuckle. So I started working out how to get her back on the bouy where I would be sure she would be safe. Initially I tried kedging with my second anchor but there is a lot of sandstone in Degnan and where I was it wouldn't bite. So, I took a reel of quarter inch poly, rowed to the float and back and then proceeded to pull the boat to the float. I wasn't sure I wouold get it all the way but thought if I got cloe I could release the windlass and get her the rest of the way, dealing with the anchor once I was secure.

As luck would have it I made it all the way and with a little amnipulation had the bridal on the float and secure. As it turned out I had dropped the anchor so quickly that it was right there where I could retrieve it with the manual pawl on the windlass.

Roll up 350 feet of poly, put the second anchor away, refurl the headsail and have a look at the engine. Nope, maybe come back to the engine when the adrenaline has drained away and I've studied the problem a bit.

What an adventure. So many things went right for it to work out as it did. My heart would have broken if Honeysuckle had wound up on the rocks but here I am and all is reasonable well!
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:21   #2
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WHEW!!!
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:25   #3
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Well done Hummingway....
Alls well that ends well... and you've the reassurance to boot, that it can be done... and probably better each time now you've done it for real...
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:26   #4
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Well done Sir! Let us know how the tale finished (the engine) after you clean your drawers!
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:28   #5
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Thanks boatman. I've asked myself so many times what I would do under that circumstance. I can still feel the adrenaline. I'm taking a medicinal beer for it. Maybe two.
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:31   #6
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Well done Sir! Let us know how the tale finished (the engine) after you clean your drawers!
Clean my drawers is right

Seriously though, I didn't feel like I hadn't time to be scared. I was never completely sure what to do next and so any fear was pretty much drowning in adrenaline.
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:31   #7
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Glad it all worked out okay for you. Lesson learned I am sure.

Hey folks, clean your fuel tanks.
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:34   #8
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Glad it all worked out okay for you. Lesson learned I am sure.

Hey folks, clean your fuel tanks.
Really good point. I had cleaned mine about a year ago and was operating on the assumption it was alright but I sail alot in choppy conditions and can't afford to be complacent.
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:34   #9
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Well done!! Thanks for shareing

It's experiences like this that makes us appreciate boredum.

If you have a Racor fuel filter, I'd check it first, The bumpy conditions may have stired up the crud in the bottom of the fuel tank. If this is the case I'd suggest that the fuel tank(s) need cleaning.
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Old 14-12-2010, 17:56   #10
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It's a common experience for fuel problems to emerge in choppy sea because of the disturbance to the crud at the bottom of the tank.

Which reminds me of an approach a local old salt took to the problem years ago and still swears by it. And that is to run the fuel line from the lowest point in the tank. The idea is that the crud doesn't build up but rather comes through all the time. It just means cleaning your fuel filter more often, but that's nothing. And it means you know the tank is clean and that you'll never strike the problem in unusually choppy conditions.

I liked the idea and recently set it up on one of my vessels but haven't had enough time to evaluate yet. But what do you reckon; is it worth some thought Hummingway?
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Old 14-12-2010, 18:02   #11
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Glad to see you faired well. A dip in the sound could have been a chilling experience.

That's one of the down falls of sailing the Sound single-hand, close quarters and current. At sea you could have had time to deal with the motor.

Going through those narrow passages is nerving enough even with a motor running. Fortunately, swift currents run the deepest parts of a passage.

Some would ask; have played the lotto today.

BTW I've been thru Dodd Narrows a couple times and it's a real ride if not on the slack.
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Old 14-12-2010, 18:02   #12
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Stick a push on/pull off car inline filter in the fuel line before the Racor... if the whites gone brown it needs changing... cost a dollar a go.. if that.
Quick fast filter change..
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Old 14-12-2010, 18:17   #13
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Congrats! Gabriola can be a stressful passage to come through with the tide flowing and under power never mind under sail alone, and solo to boot. The entrance to Degnan isn't huge either and last I was there, it's quite crowded with mooring buoys and boats. At least there's not much for commercial traffic through there.

On our trip home from Victoria where we bought the boat we lost our engine for about 15 minutes... just outside of Pt. Grey and conveniently just as we were crossing the shipping lane. We sailed out of it thankfully. We'd been able to empty and clean the main fuel tank, but no way to clean the day tank for the stove. We'd drained it, but the crud after sitting for 3 years was stirred up and passed through the return to clog the main pickup. Lesson learnt: all tanks need to be cleaned, and fuel polished, even if it means adding another inspection port. Stressful indeed!

Congrats again on your quick thinking and seamanship!
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Old 14-12-2010, 18:26   #14
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Wow, good job, I got excited just reading it!
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Old 14-12-2010, 18:39   #15
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I'm glad you made it safely to the point where medicinal beer could be of assistance.

I made the exact same mistake many years ago, waiting to teach myself how to sail up to a mooring at a point when no other option was available. This was on a racing boat where the anchor was stored in a bag in the bilge.

For the sake of solidarity, let's not divulge the secret that people might actually be able to teach themselves to pick up a mooring BEFORE the engine conks out.
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