Monday, January 03, 2011

Captain's Log: The first misadventure of 2011

Due to the overheating incident that cracked my heat exchanger and an ever-increasing end-of-year rush at work, the boat had been sitting unloved since the week of Thanksgiving. I finally had time over the break to make it down to the marina to re-install the JB Welded heat exchanger and do some maintenance.

Gusting palms

Thursday was overcast but in the mid-70s and was perfect for working on the boat. The water was up in the marina, and I really wanted to take her for a spin once the diesel was up-and-running, but we were having short rain showers, and another storm seemed imminent.

I returned Saturday ready to start the new year off with a cruise around the bay. It had seemed warm at the house, but the wind coming off the water shot a chill through my fleece pullover. I wasn't especially excited about a shivery trip with snot incessantly dripping from my nose and flipping across my face in the wind, but we'd driven an hour down to the marina. I wasn't going to waste the effort.

I knew the water level dropped in the winter and several friends with bigger boats had mentioned that they couldn't get out of the marina at certain times of the year, but I thought with our 4' draft, it didn't matter too much. I should have checked the depth of the water in our slip. I should have also checked the tide charts.

When I started reversing out of the slip, the boat wouldn't back up to the left. No matter which way I turned the wheel, we were backing to the right. This seemed rather strange since the Starwind usually steers very well backwards. No worries, though. We just backed into the channel, kicked the transmission over in forward and steered right.

We made it past the dock at the entrance to the marina and almost to the second channel marker when the boat just inexplicably stopped. I pushed the throttle lever forward as far as it would go ... nothing. I turned the motor off ... nothing. We weren't moving at all. We weren't rocking with the waves. I had lodged our keel in the mud.

Waiting on the storm

As I looked out onto Clear Lake, I noticed there was not a boat to be seen on the water.

My brother blamed my piloting as he was sure the left side of the channel (which is only two boat-widths wide) was deeper than the right side, and I had obviously strayed too far to the right. I blamed myself as well, but for not checking the tide charts. I pulled them up on my phone, and sure enough, low tide was at 1:07 p.m. A look at my watch confirmed it was 1:15 p.m.

Everyone moved to the starboard side of the boat and leaned with the wind out against the railing. The boat leaned and bounced. I kicked the engine back on and coaxed it in a slow half-circle. We watched mud stir up in the water around us. A minute later, we were moving again back into the marina.

Wind from starboard

Ben voted to turn around again but stay left this time. I voted to call it a day because it wasn't getting any warmer, and even if we got out it didn't mean we'd be able to make it back in.

We grabbed a long lunch and checked the water depth again at 3 p.m. in hopes of a short cruise before it started getting dark, but the water was only an inch deeper. With that, we re-packed the sails and called it a day.

Thankfully, the days are getting longer. Hopefully it won't be too long before the water is high enough to cruise again.

Battened down
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