Friday, August 4, 2017

Run Aground

I'm rigging a crab trap on the top deck when Connie rings out with, "Twenty Feet!"  I knew the little pass into Waiatt Bay was somewhat shallow, so... not to worry.  "Nineteen, fifteen, ten, nine" This is when she started to freak out.  "Seven... F***" I told her to put it in neutral but she already had.  "Five and a half" and then that crunching sound and the deck canted underfoot.  Connie put her in reverse.  Traveler rotated a little then came to a standstill, stuck.  Run aground. High and dry.

I looked overboard, port and starboard and checked the steering.  When I dove down below I saw that Connie had already opened up the floorboards to check for incoming water.  The bilges were dry.  The GPS showed that we were right at the edge of a shallow area with a cute little X of a rock in the center.  That little X was in the center of the entrance to Waiatt Bay and I had failed to see it on the chart. 
Our GPS track.......oops
"What do we do?", she says.  I looked winward and sure enough the wind was pushing us onto the rocks.  I looked at the dinghy and could see by the way she was drifting that the current was pushing us in the same direction.  Our saving grace was that we'd chosen to make our run today on a rising tide, but we sure didn't want the current and wind to keep pushing us onto the rocks as the tide rose.

"Let's get the motor on the dink and I'll take a stern anchor out."  I jumped into the dinghy and Connie lowered the outboad engine onto the transom.  She tossed me the hand held depth sounder and I circled the boat taking depth measurements.  2.5 feet at the bow. 3 feet on the port side.  5 feet on starboard.  7 feet on the stern. I could tell by the waterline that she was sitting a couple of inches high on the port side. That's it, we'll get the anchor out behind us. 

We manhandled the big aluminum danforth anchor into the dinghy and piled in the 30 feet of chain.  As I drove to windward through the little pass Connie payed out the line.  Checking the depth, I waited until I was in deep water before running out the chain and tipping the anchor out of the boat.  When I returned to Traveler Connie had already taken the anchor rode to the stern winch and was busily cranking away.  The line stiffened and the anchor held.   We looked at each other with big bug eyes then rechecked the bilges. Dry.

Connie grinds the winch, easing us off the rocks
"Gimme the camera." I took some pictures while a fellow sailor in a dinghy came by to help.  "I've got a 15 horsepower motor.  Want me to try to pull her off?", he said.  Since we had a rising tide and a good anchor to windward it was only a matter of time til she came off on her own.  There was no need to scrape any more fiberglass.

Sooner that we thought, the anchor rode went a little slack and we cranked her off the reef and towards the wind.  The decks became level. Our blood pressure dropped, and our eyes popped back into our heads.  While Connie drove the boat, I hauled in the rode, chain, and anchor by hand.  She circled the boat around and we took our second attempt to enter the bay, this time even slower and more to port.  I stayed down below with the GPS.  "A little to port.  A little more.  That's good. Now to starboard."  Up top Connie announced, "12 feet, 20 feet, 25 feet."  We were through.

The big Danforth anchor
After a shock like that, much like getting thrown off a horse, they say you should get right back in the saddle.  So I got the bait into the crab trap and we found a nice spot in 65 feet of water, not 50 yards west of that evil entrance rock.  The trap went down and off we went to the anchorage to find a nice flat spot in 35 feet.  Anchor down, engine off, don't you know we decided to have cocktails even though it was only 4:30 in the afternoon?   

Lessons learned:  When transiting a tight entrance or any place with hazards keep your eyes on the GPS and paper charts.  Use the zoom on the GPS.  Don't let other things distract you at these times.  The crab trap can wait.  I like having the chart plotter at the navigation station down below but if I'm going to have it there then we should mount a second unit right there at the helm.  If we'd had that, I am sure that Connie would have seen that little X and would have stopped the boat in time.

What we did right:  We were going pretty slow.  Connie had her in neutral as soon as the depth got shallow.  We didn't panic but checked the bilge and the rudder right away. We took soundings and quickly deployed a stern anchor to kedge her off. 

What the heck?



  1. Thanks for the write-up and valuable lessons shared.

  2. I'm really having a vicarious adventure through your blog. If I had known you would be gone so long I would have hung out with you before you left!