Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

The Worst Mistakes Make the Best Stories

I needed to clean the bottom of my boat. I could see the green slime on it as it sat there in the water. And the prop was getting sluggish, so I knew it was getting covered in barnacles. But there’s several problems with trying to get the bottom clean: the marina is out of the way and I have yet to find a licensed, bonded diver willing to come there to do the work. I had an unlicensed friend who did it once for me, as a favor, and the owner threw a hissy fit. He said that, even though I wasn’t paying the person, he had to use a tank (he was using one of those shore air pumps) and there had to be a dive flag. Mind you, I’d seen folks do their boats before a race and no one seemed to be following those rules. But my friend was unwilling to take a chance after that.

There was the option of having the boat ‘quick pulled’, pulled out of the water long enough for me to clean it, then dropping it back in. But that was going to cost $145. If it’s not cold enough to warrant that (too cold to get in the water), I didn’t want the expense.

A friend at work suggested that what he’d done before was to beach his boat – purposely run it aground – west of the channel where it was sandy, then you could walk around the boat and clean it. That sounded like a splendid idea!

My daughter and son-in-law have just moved back to the area. And my son-in-law, anxious to get in the water around here, offered to give me a hand.

The smart way to do this, I figured, was to beach the boat during a rising tide. That way, there was more water when you were done, making it easier to leave.

There was a small problem with all of this: the kids had church in the morning, and high tide was at 2 p.m. No problem, I figured. We wouldn’t be in the water long enough to lose too much depth, so it should be ok.

So this afternoon, we headed out in the boat. I took a left turn out of the channel, as suggested, then went forward until I felt the keel stop us. Then we put out the anchor, just to be safe, put the swimming ladder on the back, and climbed out.

We used some lufas for the slime and scrapers for the barnacles. The paint is still working well and there wasn’t too much slime. But the prop was just as bad as I suspected it would be. We scraped and cleaned and I headed back on the boat. Junior, my son-in-law, wanted to swim a bit longer, so he did which I went aboard and changed out of my swimsuit. He followed shortly afterwards, we pulled up anchor and tried to move off the sand.

We seemed to be making progress. I could see us moving closer to the crab pots we’d passed on the way to our grounding. Then we stuck. The ground must have risen a bit, because we got to the point where we stopped moving. I had everyone move to one side of the boat and we tried again. We moved a bit, but not far. So we tried it on the other side. No good. After about 1/2 an hour of this, I gave up and called Tow Boat US.

Luckily, after my last experience of needing to be towed, which cost me about twice as much as the insurance would, I had towing insurance. So this was not going to cost me a thing.

The tow boat arrived about 45 minutes – 1 hour later. We tied on his line and he started pulling. At one point, the boat started to heel over a bit and I got nervous. But it didn’t go over too far, so no problem, I thought. Then there was a jerk! We were so stuck that the clean broke off the boat!

At that point, we gave up. The tow boat operator took us all back over to the marina.

We talked abou the next step. Next high tide is tomorrow at 2:30 a.m., meaning the following one will be tomorrow afternoon.

I’m home right now. I’m writing this, trying to stay awake until 12:30 a.m. At that point, I’ll drive back over to the marina. I’ll meet the tow boat operator, who’ll motor with me back over to my boat and we’ll try again.

Pictures to follow.

Deconstructing the Race

We corrected to 4th on last week’s race and 4-1/5 minutes behind the guy ahead of us. We coulda’ been a contender. It was an interesting race.

We were behind the crowd after rounding the first mark. We flew double headsails towards the second and reached that mark with the rest of the crowd. We were port; they were starboard. But we were ahead enough of the other boats I thought the mark distance rules applied and we went around first. One boat called me on it. I wasn’t sure I’d done right. So when we were the starboard boat, I ‘kindly’ got out of everyone’s way and lost time.

Ah well!

Then everyone headed towards the channel and we kept to the more shallow water. They lost wind and the tide was against them, too, so we caught up again. Then the wind changed. Winds were taking us across the river, then switched and we were moving more southerly. The other boats made the correction for the mark better than we did and made up their time.

But it was exciting!

Not only that, the temperature was perfect and, except for that mess at the end, the winds were great, too.


Depth Problems

Last week was a beautiful sail. The fog never did roll in enough to make visibility questionable for the race course.

We did, however, have to deal with depth gauge issues and two large freighters being pushed and pulled by tugs. One freighter/tug passed us, and it was looking like we’d have time to cross over the channel before the second one was upon us. All of the sudden, the depth meter started showing it shallow underneath us. It went quickly from 30-something feet to 6-8′. The maps didn’t show any shoaling there, but we tacked, just to be safe. Then, of course, we had to wait for the other ship to go past before we crossed the channel.

Then there was the mark we were heading to: Godwin Thoroughfare. It’s shallow around it, and gets very shallow near shore. So when we were showing 6′ of water, we tacked to try for a closer approach. This time, we again showed it shallow, but we were closer to the mark, so we took it around, without any problem. Guess the earlier tack, in this case wasn’t warranted.

I talked with someone at work about our first problem. He said that when there was alot of turbulence from big ships, it could change the density of the water and play havoc with depth sounders. So my question to the more experienced on this list: is that true? Have you ever seen that?

On the second point, I did find that the depth near the shore around the Godwin Thoroughfare mark does get down to 3′ quite quickly. So I’m still glad we made the extra tack.


Foggy Mornings

I love sailing. I love the feel of the wind on your face, the silent moving through the water, being outdoors. In fact, there’s little that I don’t love about the whole experience.

I love the fact that I have an electric engine. It’s not completely silent. But it’s quiet enough that you can hear the music on the stereo, or keep up a conversation with the folks on the boat, or just enjoy the feeling of being on the water.

On foggy mornings, I don’t imagine sailing. I imagine heading out, with the electric motor going. The area so quiet it feels like you’re the only one around. Not being able to see the shore, but knowing there are others out there in the mist, on the water, looking out, wondering if there’s someone unseen on the water. Faintly hearing the motor, because sound seems to travel so much better in the fog.

Today was a day like that. I heard the weather report this morning: heavy fog until noon. I dropped by the marina, to put ice in the icebox so that the drinks would be cold this evening when we headed out for the race. The fog was out there, on the river, and I yearned to go out and meet it.

Sigh! I had to go to work, to afford my boat habit, and leave it behind for now.



Five weeks ago, I asked the marina to pull the boat out for spring prep.  It was early enough that I hoped to beat the rush of boats also wanting to get ready for a spring launch.  I had purchased the boat 6 years ago and, according to what I’d read, the bottom should be stripped. So I asked the marina to do that. They told me that the bottom didn’t need to be stripped. Good news!

So I asked the marina to smooth the bottom and check for blisters. I have little upper body strength and I don’t like spending my time with a 30-lb vacuum sander over my head.  I also figured, with the schedule I’ve had lately at work, it would be much faster to have the marina do the work.

That was 5 weeks ago.

We’ve had weather delays. The wife of the guy who was working on it had a baby.

And we had communication errors.

See, when I told them to smooth the bottom, I meant that I thought there were blisters to be taken care of, and the paint was pretty wavy because I’d just been slapping it on. But the head worker thought I meant that I wanted the paint sanded off, so he started to do that.

Now, I don’t know why he did that, especially after he told me that it didn’t need to be stripped. But that’s what he was doing. And that was taking so long, because the paint was on there hard, so they called in someone with – not a sandblaster – but a bead blaster? Anyway, same idea. They stripped the paint.

Well, that did open up any blisters. But it also meant that there would need to be a barrier coat put on. At first I told them I’d take care of that. But as the time went on, I again figured that it would be faster to have them take care of it. But I don’t know. They haven’t even gotten that far.

I stopped by tonight. They have about 2/3rds of the bottom prepped. Meaning that it’s had the filler put on and it’s been sanded smooth. They still have half the keel and all of the rudder to do.

The good news is, I won’t have to have this done for about 10 more years.

Will I have the boat for next week’s race? A week after racing season has started? I hope so!

Stripped boat bottom

Stripped boat bottom