Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Outboard Trouble, Part II

"Don't dwell on it," Alisa said as I paddled away from Pelagic late this morning.


Last night was the rowdiest night we've yet had on the boat. For a full-time sailor I still know shockingly little about meteorology, so I can't tell you how the blow developed, but it apparently had something to do with a low pressure system in the Tasman Sea.

Yesterday the rain was biblical. Alisa and Elias came over to my office after visiting a friend and I expected to see the various beasts of the world following them through my office door, two by two. It was raining hard enough to impress a Kodiaker. But then the rain eased and we made it back home for dinner and tied the dinghy off on the stern of Pelagic.

After we went to bed the wind began. It started off blowing in the mid-20 knot range. I stuck my head out of the companionway to check on things and thought how unimpressive a 20-something knot wind sounds in the telling, but how impressed most non-sailors would be to experience that much wind on a boat.

I went back to bed, and was again stirred by the building wind. Now it was blowing a steady 30 knots. Both of our headsails are off the boat for repairs and the empty roller-furling foils were vibrating so hard in the wind that we could feel it through the cushion of our bunk. I checked on things again and went back to bed.

When it started blowing a steady 40 knots I got up and stayed up. Pelagic pitched and yawed and swung. The rigging moaned. I looked out the companionway again and saw that two other sailboats had dragged. Alisa joined me and we watched one boat's lights turn this way and that as the owner apparently tried to motor into the wind and back into the anchorage. The rain came back to biblical strength. The dinghy filled with water and our flipflops and gas can began floating around in the full boat. I thought about bailing the dinghy out, but the way it was bucking against the waves made me think that the flipflops and gas can would have to look out for themselves.

Our anchor held firm.

At dawn it was still gusting into the 40s and we watched the water smoking with the violence of the wind. The two dragging boats were down at the far end of the harbor, past the moored boats, but they weren't side-on to the wind and hopelessly beached. Their bows were still pointed towards the wind, which was a good sign. The wind died quickly. After coffee and yoghurt I went down in the dinghy to see if I could lend a hand.

The two dragging boats had fouled each other's anchors, then stopped when a moored trimaran caught the tangled gear. The runaway yachts ended up on either side of the trimaran, and behind it, with their keels touching the sand bottom. I helped John, the single-hander on a beautiful wooden ketch, to get off, a process that involved another collision with the moored motor boat that he had mauled on the way in. We eventually buoyed and cast off his fouled anchor, and got him resettled on his second anchor.

I took John ashore in the dinghy and was very pleased to find the two flipflops, one mine and the other Alisa's, that had gone missing from the dinghy during the night.

Then, at my suggestion, we tried to retrieve John's anchor and chain.

We ended up swamping the boat. And submerging the outboard.

Our brand-new outboard, that replaced the stolen one.

Our brand-new outboard with less than a week of use on it.

When the dinghy went under, done in by the combined weight of chain and two men and too much water slopping over the sides, John and I ended up overboard, hanging on to the gunwhales.

All I could say, over and over, was "goddammit!".

I was mad at myself for letting it happen, of course, but what really ticked me off was that if I had been trying to retrieve the anchor with Alisa, or alone, it never would have happened. There was something about being in the boat with someone else, and somehow deferring to the judgement of our little group, that made me much less decisive than I normally am on the water. Something about hesitating, at various junctures, to do things the way I wanted to, and waiting for and considering John's opinion.

And that's what really got me - that I didn't just act on my own instinct, that I let the presence of someone else change my approach to the situation.


The outboard, meanwhile, is in the shop.

1 comment:

  1. Hi gang,
    Have sent an email but in case it doesn't reach you. ab2russell@gmail.com
    We're in Coffs.
    Ashley & Brenda.