Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Messing About in Boats

At some point we become so accustomed to winter it loses its bite and 45 degrees seems warm. Too warm for snow and ice sport, at least, if not warm enough for lawn chairs. We've spent too much time in the house, whatever task were assigned are either finished or won't be. Sunday was such a day. The wind had blown 30-50 knots from the northwest for days and there wasn't likely to be much water in the Bay. Never mind. It was time to get out of the house.

It was still cold mid-morning and the water was very low, but I was unconcerned; the sun would warm the deck, the heater would warm the cabin and the water would come back by noon since the wind had stopped. I had a few lazy things to do.
  • Fit a new chain hook design, fabricated while bored in mid winter. I didn't like it so well as this one: Chain Hook For Catamarans
  • Measure the holding tank vent and ruminated on changes. I'm doing a new bit for Practical Sailor on the subject and one's own boat is always the primary test bed, the experience best understood.
  • Bum some Phifertex and Sta-Glas scraps from the local canvas shop. They often have mercy on those with tiny repair needs.
  • Uncover the tender. Heavy snow seems unlikely (we got a few inches 2 days later, of course)
Those things didn't take so long. I started the engines, allowed them the the long warm-up winter requires, threw off the lines... and went 3 feet before the mud grabbed the keel. Well, no surprise, really; I brought a book and lunch and would make use of them. No hurry.

I decided to poke around in the tender, having fabricated a few reasons: it needed air, which can only be added when floating; I like to run some gas through it on a regular basis; I'd seen a sailboat aground in the harbor entrance which I might visit.

The boat was still there, aground for at least 5 hours, much of that with sails up. I don't know why he left the sails up, as they were only driving him further on. His first question to me, after a greeting, was about the location of the channel and when had it moved. The neat double row of red and green day marks 20 feet to his north didn't register, for some reason. He was well and completely stuck, though not leaning. His boat was also in such repair that calling Seatow seemed unlikely.

Having nothing to do, it seemed only proper to give what help I could. I've never had a serious grounding of my own nor any opportunity for real practice, and learning is always worthwhile. After many years of paying for towing insurance I let it go this year; I've never used it and likely never will. With 2 engines, sails, anchors, and a tender, I can't foresee many situations I can't work out that would be still be considered simple tows. I would also, right or wrong, consider a tow embarrassing.

I ran out an anchor for him (note: a 25-pound CQR is a heavy kedge; a Fortress is MUCH better) without any difficulty. Good practice. But it didn't help. I took his jib halyard, tied an additional 75 feet of line to it, and hauled that to one side to heel the boat. She leaned nearly to the rail did turn in the direction of the anchor, toward the channel, but didn't move far. We didn't break anything, but neither did we free the boat. Still, the tide was rising quickly and within an hour she lifted just enough to winch herself free, just as the tide reversed. A few hours later, my new friend was over the horizon.

Shoal Survivor too, had floated free. There's not much to tell about a quiet afternoon on the Bay. I shared my bit of the horizon with only 3 boats. I read a few chapters of fiction, walked the deck listening to the whisper of the water, and enjoyed a cold beer. There would be no crowd at the marina to nod approvingly if I docked well in the cross tide, or to empathize if I didn't.

I tucked her back into bed for a few more weeks of rest. Summer's coming.

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