Sunday, April 6, 2014

Adventures in yachting, fucking up, and lessons learned.

As I thought about posting this, I thought of a talk by Brene.

Brene Brown on critics and the arena.


I fucked up yesterday. It was a small fuckup that was compounded by another wholly preventable fuckup, which then made Kerry and me tackle the whole mess together.

The good news is that no one got hurt, we didn't damage Brigadoon or any other boats, we didn't fight; we solved the problem.

We had been invited to a party at the Tyee Yacht Club, here on Lake Union. We had the bright idea of taking Brigadoon over to the party -- arrive at fancy theater fund raiser in our yacht. Wonderful idea, actually.  Life and been busy and we had not been off the dock in pretty much months.

So we prepared for the short journey. We cleaned the boat up a little and, while Kerry showered, I started stowing the dock lines, checked the fuel level, stowed various things and got her ready for departure.  When Kerry arrived, everything was ready. I wanted to leave by 6:00 before it got dark. I didn't want to dock at an unfamiliar marina at night. This turned out to be a good idea.

So, with the wind blowing 10-15 from the south, we started the engine for the first time in weeks. Everything seemed fine (it wasn't as we will find out shortly) as I slowly worked Brigadoon backwards along the dock -- the wind holding us pretty firm against the fenders. This technique works because, was we move backwards, our stern hangs off the point of the dock, balanced on a nice set of fenders and, at one point, the bow points out in the lake and we can leave. It worked great. With a close pass to the boat in front of us we were finally under way out into Lake Union.  Whew!

We steadied up into the headwinds and I took a minute to look around. That's when I yelled "Fuck!"

Trailing behind us was an anchor rode. Remember the cool storm anchor I have set our into the lake? Well, I didn't take it off the starboard side of Brigadoon. I forgot it and Kerry didn't double check our readiness to leave the dock, because I didn't ask her to.  So I pulled the boat into neutral before we hit the end of the line. At that moment Brigadoon started drifting back towards the shipyards, pushed by the wind. The anchor rode is led through our midships starboard fairlead.  It was trailing out and away from that side of the boat. I made a decision to put us back in gear with enough power to hold station while I headed to the bow to get a bouy.  I was going to toss the bouy on the anchor rode and retrieve it later. As I pulled the line to me to attach the bouy Kerry yelled out, "The engine has stopped."

Yes, you know what happened.  Brigadoon pulled too hard, drawing the line along the hull and into the prop.  We had sails stowed, were on a lee shore (that being some very large drydocks about 50 yards off our stern) with no engine. Fortunately we had fouled on the end of the line, not 10 feet from where it was secured to the boat. We had rode to work with.

I was not happy. However, we had a problem to solve. 

The anchor is well set, about 200 feet from the dock, in 40' of water. That gives us a 5:1 scope usually. Well, I was now about 50 yards out so, with a 4:1 scope on an anchor that has been well set for a year. Thank god the rode didn't fail or part at a shackle but that's another thing to check. So I started winching the rode in until we were about 60 yards off the beam of a very expensive motor yacht located near our dock.  We were about 75 feet from our dock.

So, this is what I did, besides cursing a lot. We considered calling vessel assist but, I thought we could self rescue from this stupid and avoidable mistake on my part.

Get the boat stable on the anchor. We did that. We were dead with no engine and our prop fouled but, we were riding on the anchor well.

Get the Portland Pudgy into the water. NOW. I was able to do this in about five minutes, even though she was completely stowed, with davit harness, spring lines and all.

Deploy the stern tie line fROM the Quickreel we recently spent a lot of money on and tie it to the dingy. As I looked at that reel, and the 400 yards of line it contained, I knew this would work.

I then rowed to our Dock, trailing the floating webbing behind me.  Soon I was at the dock. I secured the line to a strong cleat and rowed back to Brigadoon.  We were now riding on the storm anchor from our stern and had a line to our dock.  I secured the Pudgy to the stern with the painter and concentrated on getting our disabled boat home.

Haul Brigadoon back to the dock. We hauled on the webbing, pulling us slowly back to the dock while we slowly let out the anchor rode. It took a little while but we took our time. We got there. Kerry was letting the rode out while hauling on the webbing as I stood on the bowsprit. As we got within ten feet of the dock, I was standing in the pulpit, ready to step off. It worked like a charm.

Soon we had the bow secured and, with a little effort, swung the stern around and had Brigadoon tied up securely.

I then struggled with the fouled line for about an hour. To her credit, though we were now late for the big gala, where she was going to show off her new dress and dance with me, she said, "it's OK, we have to learn to fix things like this for ourselves."

So she stood by while I cursed, struggled and, eventually, got the line cut free. I wasn't able to get it all off. There is still some part wrapped around the shaft between the prop and the cutlass bearing.

We did get out last night. We had a great time at the party. I made her smile by dancing with her a lot. 

This morning, we are dealing with finishing the job. I could go back into the dinghy and try to cut the rest off, but I broke off the tine on the knife by using it wrong, so all I have is a sawing blade and it's not very effective. I've since ordered two new knives as replacements and will know not to put side loads on it in the future.

We have called our brother in law, who is a diver. He is coming over to dive on the boat and free the remainder and inspect the prop and shaft for me. He should arrive shortly.

Lessons learned:

1) check the boat properly for departure -- both of us. 
2) recognize the situation and the options I have.
3) make a plan and execute on those options with the primary goal of the safety of us and the boat in mind.
4) recognize that cursing and yelling happen and not to take it personal.
5) Fix the problem now -- beat yourself up for the mistake later, when you have time.

I hope this was useful to you.

Since all of you are in the arena with me, you may now point and laugh. 



2 comments:

  1. Dang! Big boats are hard to recover! I have a bad habit of forgetting about a secondary spring-line on the starboard side. Usually, I don't notice until I'm hand pushing it out of the slip. But at 3000#, it's pretty easy to recover and I just pull it back. Can't imagine a ~25000# boat with all that freeboard!

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    1. The trick was to have the anchor and shore lines secured well and just slowly pull her into the dock -- a little at a time.

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