Voice of Experience: Heading for the Rocks Page 2

We were halfway into a three-week summer cruise through the San Juan and Gulf islands in the Pacific Northwest. Aboard Hannah, our Hunter 356, were my wife Chantil, my 15-year-old daughter, Sierra, my 11-year-old son, Aaron, and our dog, Jack; also with us were my nephews Andrew and Zack, who are 13 and 12. Our vacation was going so well I jokingly considered calling work and asking for
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

My son proudly reported: “We never hit the rocks! The lowest the depthsounder showed was 13 feet below the keel.”

“Good,” I said. “Aaron and Zack, go check the bilges, make sure we haven’t taken on any water from leaks. Sierra, make sure our running and steaming lights are on. Also, nice job on the radio calls. Well done!”

Hannah was now well into the channel and feeling the full brunt of the chop kicked up by what was now a chilly 25-knot wind. “What are your intentions?” yelled the coastguardsman at the helm of the RIB. “Where are you staying for the night?”

I considered anchoring in another cove, but decided against it when I realized how concerned Sierra was about anchoring again.

voe_crew

“Let’s dock at Port Sidney Marina,” I replied, wondering how on earth I would navigate five miles through the dark to a harbor and marina I had never seen before.

“OK! I’ll go back and get your wife and dinghy and escort you to the marina!” the coastguardsman yelled through the wind. “I’ll leave one of my men on your boat to help you navigate through the island passage. Keep your VHF radio on channel 16.”

I did my best to plot a course on the helm chartplotter to Sidney through the multitude of islands and ferry routes that blocked the way. It was nice having a coastguardsman with some local knowledge of the area on board to help me out. Then, I remembered the two kayaks still attached to our boat. “We had to cut them free,” explained the coastguardsman. “They were recovered on shore by some good Samaritans.”

Soon the coast guard auxiliary RIB returned with Chantil. She came aboard, gave me a relieved hug and went below to check on the kids. The coastguardsman, though, looked concerned. “We have another call, so we’ll have to let you go to Sidney on your own,” he said. “I’ll bring you back your dinghy later tonight.”

“Sounds good, I’ve got it from here. See you in Sidney,” I said, wondering how I was going to make it through the narrow island channels in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, the GPS and chart-plotter were working perfectly. I switched on the radar to make sure its image overlay matched the land I was seeing on the chart. The trip to Port Sidney Marina was stressful, especially one narrow passage between two small islands, but uneventful. Having the chartplotter right at the helm was a great help. After tying up in the marina, Chantil and I sat down and caught our breath. I couldn’t help but be grateful to all the people who helped us, especially the volunteers of the Canadian coast guard auxiliary.

“Well, at least the kids will have something exciting to write about in their journals tomorrow,” we joked.

Hindsight

What We Did Wrong

  • Leaving children on the boat alone could have had much worse consequences. We should have made sure there was some way for them to contact us if necessary. We only had one working cell phone and left our portable VHF radio on the boat.
  • We failed to notice the wind change during our hike. A prudent sailor must always be aware of any change in the weather.
  • If I had left the instruments on, the anchor alarm would have alerted the kids that the boat was dragging much sooner. The boat dragged more than 100 feet before the kids realized how close they were to shore.
  • Transiting the narrow, shallow passage en route to Sidney might not have been the best decision. It would have been safer to take the longer route around the island to the marina.

What We Did Right

  • Teaching our kids how to use a VHF radio, especially how to make a distress call, was crucial. Sierra made a proper call that included GPS information in order to get a quick response.
  • During the cruise everyone wore lifejackets while topside underway. Even our dog, Jack, has his own PFD.
  • I kept my composure and stayed focused on the important issues: the safety of my crew and my vessel. The other issues, my dinghy and kayaks, were secondary. The coast guard returned the dinghy that evening, and we recovered the kayaks the next morning.

Related

01-Hanse_Emotion_6

Hanse’s E-Motion Electric Rudder Drive

When news that Hanse Yachts had launched a new form of electric-powered yacht first broke in the winter of 2016, it was widely reported. After all, Hanse is one of the world’s biggest builders of sailing boats, so this had the feeling of a breakthrough to it.After nearly a year, ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comDefusing the Run It’s been said with justification that gentlemen don’t boast about how windy it was, but the shape of my ensign in the photo will give well-informed readers a fair idea. They will also ...read more

01b-Over-Loch-Scavig

Cruising Across the North Sea

Conventional wisdom says sleeping in the V-berth while offshore is a bad idea. It can be like a diabolical amusement ride that tosses a sailor to and fro, inducing stomach-churning weightlessness. And yet, here I am, nestled in the tilted corner created by my berth and the ...read more

GG17-SAONA47-DX0796

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

Here’s a riddle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cabins and four decks? Answer: The Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five levels if you count the large engine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.DESIGN & ...read more

RichardBennettMIDNIGHT-RAMBLER3249x202

Storm Sails: Do you Need Them?

Many sailors embarking on ocean passages will take along the obligatory storm jib and trysail, with the vague idea that they may come in handy. Few sailors, however, have a real understanding of how and when to set them.It doesn’t help matters when we hear from seasoned sailors ...read more

IntheWater(1)

Boaters University Unveils Rescue Course

Boaters University has just announced its latest online course, Safety & Rescue at Sea, taught by Mario Vittone, whose name you might recognize from the pages of our sister publication, Soundings Magazine and his Lifelines blog.Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue ...read more

IMG_20170920_132819

How to: Installing New Electronics

I had been sailing my Tayana 42, Eclipse, for a few years without any installed electronics on board. I’d gone pretty far up and down the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts with paper charts, the Navionics app on my Android phone, a hand-bearing compass and the ship’s compass. ...read more