Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Running Aground!

A wise man once told me if you haven't run aground you either haven't sailed, or you're a liar. Well, I guess you can call me a sailor. Sophi and I planed on sailing to Portland in much the same manor that we sailed to Peaks, in fact the only real difference is that we would sail a little bit to the Southwest, as Peaks Island is about 3 miles East of Portland. In case you have a nautical chart in front of you, we motored out of the Harrasseeket River then raised the sails into some rolling seas. It was here where I learned why they call a dodger a dodger... when some spray comes flying at your face you can choose to dodge behind it and stay dry. Although it isn't in the best shape it still managed to stop the spray. When we crested Mosher Island and aimed our bow toward the southwest, it was then that the sea calmed down. The plan was to try to stay on one tack for almost the entire trip just scraping by Little John Island and straight into Portland's east end. Our only tricky spot would be where Little John Island and Chebeague Island almost meet. It is here that you have to keep a red buoy to your port as Chebeague Island has large and nasty rocks protruding out all evil-like.

Little John is close to your starboard, and as we found out, has a muddy area at the water's thinnest point. The channel is tight, the tide was about to be low and the wind was from the south. The trifecta effectively pushed Neptune toward Little John's mud. Sophi was captain at the time and asked me if I would start the outboard, little did I know but it was already too late. After a few pulls I had gotten our motor running. I remember looking at the tiller, which was pointing into Little John Island... but so were we. Somehow we had gotten into enough mud to stop our momentum. The area we ran aground on is pictured below. After a little spat we decided to take down the sails then put the motor into reverse. What was it Chapman's says about this? I know I read it but didn't want to waste time reading when I could be getting my boat out of the mud. (Note to self... read Chapman's.) If I had read it, it would tell me that a 4-horse-power motor is in no way strong enough to help in this situation, but at least we felt like we were doing all we could, kind of. After a few frivolous twists of the throttle, I thought why not try setting the anchor so we could at least stop getting pushed further toward land and heck, maybe we could even heave our way out of this mess. I had the anchor in the dingy when a small fishing boat with really large twin outboards came by. I used the VHF to ask for help and the reply made me happy, "do you have any rope?" came across the radio. We did, and after a few attempts each of us had an end of the same rope. For those who don't know, you have to coil the rope just right. Please hold the end you plan on keeping in your left hand while adding loops from right to left. Throw the rope with your right hand and DO NOT let go with the left, you will know if you have coiled correctly as soon as you throw it. If you didn't do it right, you will tie a knot in ten feet or less. If you did it correctly, your rope will unwind while traveling really far. The very nice man whose name I never got held up his arms as if to say the field goal was good, giving me as large a target as he could. I hit him right in the head. He cleated his end as I did to mine and started driving off... nothing happened. Sophi and I got into the dingy to lighten Neptune, and again nothing happened. "You might be here a while!" came from the fishing boat. In my head I was was thinking "NOOOOOOO." This brings me to the last ditch effort... the all-out, balls-to-the-wall, do-or-die effort. This try MUST free us from mud-hell. If not, we were digging for clams. "The Fisherman" suggested hanging off the main sheet to try to heel the boat over while they pulled. I grabbed a glove and hung off the main sheet. It wasn't really working so I started jumping off to get that extra leverage, after about three jumps I hear Sophi yell, "we're moving!" It was true, we had control of our destiny again, free to do as we please, free to not watch the tide around us. In case you ever read this, thank you soo much "fisherman" on Why Knot for dragging us out of the mud. You really took care of us, you even asked if Neptune was our dad's boat. Good thing for us she isn't, because it would be hard to tell him about it, especially if I was 17 haha.

After getting out of mud-hell we decided to motor until we could catch our breath. I went to the Bow to tidy up the main sheet when I heard Sophi ask where the dingy was. The mere fact that she had to ask meant it wasn't where it was supposed to be and was probbly trying to find rocks somewhere. A quick look back confirmed that Triton was not attached to any of the stern cleats and was in fact bobbing happily a hundred yards behind us. It was clear, the time for a U-turn was upon us. Sophi's first attempt at collecting our dingy ended when she smacked into it, I tried to hook the seat but it just came off under the stress. I let go of the hook, allowing the seat to return unsecured to the dingy. It is apparent that we have bad luck with boat hooks. On her second attempt Sophi kept the dingy just off to starboard and I used our deck brush, aka backup boat hook, to get a hand on the dingy painter. Mission complete! Gosh, we need practice.

After about 6 miles of great sailing we were between Mackworth and Great Diamond Island and things were going great, the sun was out, the wind was good and wait... what the heck... some wahoo in a power boat was flying around us like a maniac. It was our chauffeur, aka Sophi's dad. We had called him earlier and realized that he wanted dinner. I was going to make him work for it. I called him up alongside of us to give him a camera, the pictures he took are what you have been looking at. Off to our port was a vintage sailing vessel Bagheera, she is a wooden sloop and she is big! We tacked all around each other for about an hour, it was really incredible just to be in her company. Sophi's dad found us the scummiest mooring pennant, in hopes that its user would not be around. It was here that we spent the night.

On Sunday, we listened to some great local music at Portland's Old Port Fest (thank you Pete Kilpatrick!) When he was done, we thought we should be going back to Freeport. We were able to sail off our mooring taking advantage of the tide and running downwind toward Freeport. Running has to be the hardest way to sail because you are in the wind so you don't actually feel like any wind is present. All you can do is keep the sails full and think, "I will get there soon." I had Sophi take us home while I wired our brand new fresh-water pump for our galley. When I was done, I tried fishing. I had a feathery-looking lure that I'm told stripers just cant get enough of. I would cast in front of the boat and reel in the line to keep the lure in about the same place, instead of letting it skip across the surface. Still no fish, but before the summer is over, I vow to catch one. We sailed almost right up to the entrance of the Harrasseeket before the rain started to drop and the outboard was kicked over. We motored over to Brewer's dock to unload some gear and take showers. We also decided to test our new water pump by filling the holding tank and after a few minutes worth of filling, we could pump water into our sink! Cross it off the list.

When the summer is over, I bet I will be amazed to look at where we started: a couple of kids in love with each other, sailing and with a boat that needs a lot of love. To where the summer ends... with who knows` how many experiences. Some may be good some may be bad, but all will be remembered fondly.

No comments:

Post a Comment