Tuesday 7 August 2012

I Remain, Sadly, An Idiot.

     "...everything isn't meant to be okay..."
                               -Green Day

             Sometimes, you just gotta acknowledge the ugly truth when it bites you in the ass.
             This is my turn.
             Don't go getting all smug, though, gentle reader...
             It might be your turn tomorrow.

             A funny thing happens when one endeavours to fill a blog with their exploits, opinions and adventures read by thousands hundreds scores a bored handful.  Some begin to think that, you know, the author might actually know what he is talking about, could be considered an expert of sorts, or at least more expert than some readers.


            Just in case any of you are so incredibly naive as to think that I indeed might actually know anything about this whole boating business, let me clarify my position.  Last year I divulged that yes, I am an idiot .
             A year, and 200+ blog posts later,
             I am still an idiot.
             A big, fat, happy, idiot.... but an idiot nonetheless.
             However, I am not a complete moron- I endeavour never to make the same mistake twice, but to always find new ways to screw up.
              This season has been rife with stupid sailor tricks.
             Enjoy the tales of my idiocy, and maybe you can learn something from my experiences.  I did.

                    I built Chirp in 2009, and she has weathered storms, been hauled onto and off docks, cartops, dock carts...

              and now the breakwall.

                         When I first launched her that first season, I tied the painter to the boweye and forgot about it.  Three seasons later, on a mild day with little wind, while tied on the lee side of the Dock,  while I was running errands ashore,  the knot finally worked free, and Chirp quietly, slowly floated across  and gently bumped against the rocks.
                        I got a text message from Ralph that she was adrift, 20th Hole Rick was kind enough to snap the photo above, and within the half hour it took me to return to the Dock, Jack and Melanie had snagged the wayward dinghy and returned her to her rightful place.

                   Lesson learned:  Check all knots daily- you never know when you might need something to stop you when you hit the end of your rope.

                People with too much time on their hands Faithful readers may remember the Solar Shower swan dive covered here last week.

               Lesson learned:  Stow it, or secure it, even if it seems like it doesn't need stowing or securing .  It does.

               Last weekend, SWMBO and I and the compact sportsdawg anchored off the beach for a swim.  When we prepared to return to the Dock, the standard protocol is that I put my bulging biceps and six pack abs to work retrieving the anchor while SWMBO (wo)mans the wheel and guides us toward deeper water and home.  We've never had a problem.

              Until last weekend.

              As I am hauling on the anchor rode, I notice that the anchor chain is no longer ahead of the boat. Rather, the boat seems to be circling the chain.  I yell request that the helmswoman straighten us out, then turn my attention back to getting the ground tackle off the ground and onto the boat.  I  make my way back to the cockpit, observing SWMBO spinning the wheel.  The helm on Whiskeyjack goes lock-to-lock in three turns.  In the time it took me to clamber from the bow back to the cockpit, I watched SWMBO turn the wheel approximately 347 times.

          Obviously, something is amiss.

           Sidling up the SWMBO at the pedestal, I chauvinistically muttered, "Let me try."
           I spun the wheel just as well as she did.

           In technical terms, we have no connection from the spinny wheel thingy on the deck of the boat to the flappy rudder thingy on the underside of the boat,
            In other words, we have no steering.

            On a beach.
            With wind and waves picking up.
             And a depth finder reading of 2.9 feet.
             We draw 3 feet.
             Us short fat guys can move when our ass is on the line.  I raced to the bow, tossed the anchor toward deeper water and  hoped it set, then raced back to the cockpit, urged SWMBO to kill the engine, fell into the cabin to grab my tool bag and proceeded to trouble-shoot the problem. Jack, seeing our distress, clambered aboard and we worked it through, with only occasional disconcerting bumps as we bounced off the bottom with the deeper troughs between swells.Starting aft we determined that the rudder was still attached to the boat, the rudder shaft was still attached to the quadrant, the steering cables were still attached to the quadrant, so, for the first time since SWMBO and I became the boat's stewards, (bolding intentional- learn from my ignorance)  we took the compass off the top of the pedestal, and turned the wheel and saw that the wheel was the only thing turning.

          The wheel is secured to the shaft with two set screws.  One was missing and one was a turn or two from being missing.

     I tightened the remaining set screw and carefully nursed Whiskeyjack back to the Dock.

     Lesson learned:     If it worked last year, last month, last week, or in the last hour is no guarantee it will continue to work- inspect moving parts more often.  Ignorance is not bliss.  There should be no "first times" when it comes to systems inpsection, after five seasons of boat ownership

    Earlier that day, Gavin has asked me to take a look at his jib furler, which had decided to puke it's halyard.    The plan was to determine whether we could bring the mast down at the dock and solve the issue, so when Marco asked if we could use another pair of hands, I took him up on the offer.  We loaded into Quack and motored over to the Dock Six Annex.  The Yamaha OB banged and sputtered and quit a couple of times, but I figured it was just weeds hung up in the prop.  After sagely examining the mast, the forestay, the furler, the boat across the dock from Sol Antics, wind direction and intensity and Gavin's insurance policy, the decision was made to find another solution.  With that decision made, Marco and I embarked on the return trip.

    Which sputtered to a halt as we entered the main fairway.  Weeds around the prop?  Nope, no weeds around the prop.
Also no gas.

    Quack  is a small lightweight inflatable that is easy to tow and easy to row...by one person.

     With two aboard it is comedy and humiliation.

     Marco bent to the oars,as I tried to stay out of the way, (only because he was already facing aft- I'm not making the newbie a galley slave.  beside, he volunteered.) hauled us across the fairway, and into an empty slip on the Dock, at which point I urged him to flee while I flapped and splashed Quack the rest of the way home...
     But not before Julie managed to get a picture.

     On the bright side, here is photographic proof  I own more than one shirt!

    Lesson learned:  Always top up tank before departure- I'm less likely to get in trouble with a full tank than an empty one.

     Which brings us to yesterday, another day at the beach.  When we anchored the water was calm, but as the afternoon progressed, the wind picked up and the waves followed suit.  By mid-afternoon it was distinctly choppy, with waves of  3-5'.  Most of the boats around us decided to pack it in and head for the safety of sheltered slips.  We, on the other hand, decided that it made more sense to wait it out- usually the wind dies by 6 o'clock, making for a less harried departure, and more relaxed foredeck work.  No point in leaving a secure anchorage if you don't have to, we figured.  We retired to the v-berth to read, and I listened to the reassuring gentle groaning and squeaking  of the anchor rode, pulling against the cleat over my head.

     A few minutes later, the deck noises ceased.

     A quick glance through the forward hatch confirmed the bad news.

     Our anchor rode had snapped.

     Before I went below, I had checked the rode for fraying and chafe where it passed through the cleat, and it was fine.  Now, it quite clearly, emphatically, was not.


     On the upside, this makes our get-the-hell-off-the-beach-right-now procedure much simpler. None of that anchor hauling stuff needed.   Start engine, point offshore, go.

      Except the engine won't start.


     Okay, diagnose it later, let's move to Plan B.  We quickly unfurled the genoa, and sailed ourselves out of trouble.  For now.
      See, we're now off the beach, but to get back to the Dock the wind is going to be on our bow.  Not good. Whiskeyjack is a solid, steadfast, comfortable boat, but she's more of a setter than a pointer.  Getting into the marina is going to mean several tacks across a busy channel. Not a great plan.  Better get the engine running.  A quick seat-of-the-pants diagnosis is lack of fuel.  I usually change the fuel filter every spring, but had put it off this season for no good reason.  It appears that that decision has now come back to haunt me.  With some cranking and cracking the fuel filter bowl to drain the crap in there and more cranking we managed to convince our little Yanmar to run, and we returned to the Dock with no further excitement.

     Lessons learned:  Oversized rode is better than rode that is just big enough, chafe gear is a good idea even if you are anchoring on a sunny day for an afternoon swim, and maintenance deferred is disaster awaiting.

   Tomorrow is my day off, and rather than sailing, I am declaring a maintenance day.  Whiskeyjack and Chirp and Quack and Legacy deserve some attention.  My barrel of luck might be running dry, and my cup of experience is nowhere near filled yet.

"Talk the Dock!"


  1. It must have some comfort that that you weren't the only idiot yesterday after the mishap I had earlier with my cheap dutchman motor mount.

    Lucky our sails spared us of giving a packed beach the excitement of some idiots beaching there boats.

  2. You had quite a busy weekend ... ;)

  3. It seems to be "learn more about sailing August". As far as those set screws on the steering rig, I have one work........LOCKTITE! I am going to check out all the lines shrouds, ropes and other flexible attaching devices on Solantics on my next trip down. Looking forward to your tale of riding the big waves last Saturday night.