Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Three Hour Tour... (Insert Gilligans Island theme music here)

   I got to the Bremerton Marina about seven o'clock at night with a couple hours of daylight left to work. I started by setting the boom on the mast, hooking it to the topping lift, and going below for the main sail. Having never raised a sail before, It took a few minutes before I had it attached to the halyard and raised, lightly lufting in the still air. I then  rigged the main sheet (On sailboats, ropes are called sheets.. I know, counter intuitive. Unless they are attached to the anchor, then it is called "line" or "rhode") to the boom and smiled, quite pleased with myself, and went below and grabbed the Genoa, and did the same. Content that all was well I smiled and started going over the smaller details of the boat, and the morning tides for my departure the following day.  Just as I was starting to bask in the feeling of contentment, Rocky, the previous owner, walked by on the way to his new boat. He started laughing as he looked at my rigging job, and told me that might work fine for a dinghy, but I needed to use the pulleys if I planned to handle a sail of the size I had. He spent an hour going over the rigging with me, and told me to leave the Genoa for after I had some time under my belt because it was a bit more complicated, and tangled easily.
   A friend stopped by to see the boat and made me dinner, and we enjoyed a nice meal that night before she left. I lay down that night in my bunk with dreams of full sails, knowing the sail home was going to be challenging, but that I had the 8 horse outboard if things got too confusing.
   The next morning I was up promptly at six, making my morning coffee and munching on some peanut butter crackers for breakfast, waiting for the tide. I walked to the end of the dock to look at the entrance of the marina and the current. It is a narrow opening, and a couple tight turns to get to it. The current can be very strong there, so I wanted to be sure I hit the slack tide. I noticed the current had shifted, the tide was going out an hour earlier than my table indicated. No problem I thought. I was prepared to leave early. I went back to my boat and got ready to depart. My plan was to motor out of the marina, quickly cross the ferry lanes, then stay close to shore through the twisting Rich Passage until I emerged near Blake Island and was clear of the ferry traffic. Then I would raise the main sail (leaving the genoa for later once I was familiar with the boat) and finally be traveling by wind power!
    I made it out of the marina uneventfully, and looking to make sure there was not a ferry coming, and turned sharply to cross the ferry traffic lanes. This is when things started to unravel... I got halfway through the ferry lanes, and the motor died. I tried to pull the starter rope and it would not budge. It was seized up. A moment of panic started to creep in. I was stuck in a dangerous position, and while there was no ferry in sight, I could see one at the ferry docks getting ready to leave. I thought of calling the Coast Guard... then took a deep breath. People have sailed boats for two thousand years without a motor I reasoned... Columbus didn't need an outboard! Then I remembered Columbus lost two of his three ships... ok, Magellan didn't need a motor!
    I took a deep breath, raised the main sail, held the tiller, and felt the boat move. I pointed the bow directly across the ferry lanes, and thirty minutes later was safely across the traffic area. I then aimed for Rich passage. By the time I got there the current had changed, and I was fighting both current and sailing up wind. I made several runs at it, each time I would get to the first bend, the wind would die, and the current would push me back and in to traffic. Finally I realized the point was blocking the wind, and the current seemed strongest on the south side where I was trying to punch through. I sailed back, completely around the bay, and came at it from the other side.. it worked. There was just enough wind on the other side to push me through. (Although at one time I almost went up against the rocks when the wind died and the current pushed me to shore. With the help of a long paddle and a boat hook to push off I avoided them and got back to deep water) By the time I got through Rich Passage it had been six hours of constant running without time to so much as think. I aimed my boat at Blake Island, a state park where I could see several boats moored in the afternoon sun. Then the wind died... Completely. Every once in a while the slightest breeze would come along, and almost fill the sails, then die out again. I was in danger of drifting back in to the ferry lanes from the current, so I would paddle for twenty minutes, and rest. Rinse and repeat. By eight o'clock that night it was quite clear I was not going to make it to Blake Island, so I pointed toward shore and put my paddling efforts toward anchoring anywhere. Finally, around midnight, a slight breeze came up. It was only a half knot or so, but after the day I had it was a God send. I finally got to water shallow enough to anchor around 2 am. Exhausted, I tossed out my anchor, and dropped my sails. I stayed up for another hour, watching my anchor and making some desperately needed food before turning in. I set my phone alarm to wake me every hour so I could check on the anchor, and make sure I was not dragging.
    The next morning I slept late, waking up around 10 am. I decided I would fix my outboard regardless of how much time it took. By about six pm I had the problem solved. The thermostat had been corroded shut with salt. I simply removed it, put everything back together, and ran it in neutral at anchor for 45 minutes to make sure all was good. I pointed the bow south down Colvos Passage, and motored to Gig Harbor, arriving around ten pm. A call to Amanda brought food, water, and companionship to the dock. I was sore, crusty, and tired but in good spirits as the motor seemed to have all the kinks worked out of it.
    The next morning was an uneventful motor trip through the Tacoma Narrows, around the back of Fox Island, and down Carr Inlet where I moor the boat.

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