Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gulf Islands Trip Pt. 2 - Gabriola Passage

" I had thrown him a curve and he worked around it, but I knew it would bother him to the point he would have to act"- Corleto

As darkness fell on Silva Bay, we enjoyed the company of Hank and Caroline, the crew of Tarka our crossing mate. The conversation was all about what lay ahead around the Gulf Islands. What was not lost on us was the timing of the slack at Gabriola Pass.

Gabriola Pass is a narrow stretch of water  between Gabriola Island and Valdes Island and it links the Straight of Georgia to the protected waters inside the so called barrier islands of Valdes, Galiano, Mayne and Saturna. At a high tide the currents are too strong for Corleto's mighty 11 HP. The same for a low tide. So there is an ideal time that of course varies each day when the currents are such that they effectively cancel each other out, this is known as "slack" or the "turn".

Caroline, Charlene and Hank aboard Tarka for the post crossing debrief

Hank and I had both agreed that the best time to hit the pass was at 08:00 which meant an early morning cast off to get there. We said our good nights and retired to Corleto's warm and comfy confines. I went to turn on the 12 volt lights and nothing. Darkness. Other 12v systems worked, so it wasn't a battery. I cursed as this was the second electrical failure of this short trip. We relied on head lamps for our light and made ready for sleep. I closed my eyes with much on my mind, not the least of which was transiting my first narrow pass and whether I had an electrical fault that would somehow affect my starting battery. It was beginning to sound like I was about to repeat the Bellingham experience of multiple failures. I would have to draw on those lessons learned and deal with these nuisance problems.

During the night I figured what I would do to solve the 12v problem but it could wait till our next port of call. The main thing was to concentrate on piloting the transit through the pass safely and efficiently.

What I woke up to- anticipating the day to come

I woke to an amazing predawn sky. I was filled with anticipation and a bit of nerves. We had a breakfast of fruit and cereal. The excitement was palpable with Charlene eagerly going through our pre trip routine. Oil - Check. AC Electrical Breaker - OFF. DC Switch to Battery 1. Glow Plug count to 25. and IGNITION. My earlier fear of the engine not starting was for not.

The next thing I know we are headed out the channel toward Gabriola Passage. Hank calling on the radio asking if everything was OK.
"Yes we're good, over."
It is agreed that Tarka will lead as I figure experience out front is a good thing.
"Corleto, this is Tarka, is this speed OK for you, Over."
I looked at our speed, we were doing 5 kn and keeping up.
"Tarka, speed is good I am at about two thirds power, over."

We progressed into the pass. My smile was large and my confidence was high. I increased speed to keep up with Tarka. This was going smoothly.

Tarka off my port bow, just as we approach Gabriola Pass

That is precisely when Corleto decided to make the skippers heart beat just a bit faster.
I went to reduce RPM's on the throttle and nothing. That's strange, I thought. I turned the leaver the other way and Corleto's engine increased speed. Now she was running full on. My speed increased. I tried in vain to throttle down, but was unsuccessful. F bombs could now be heard on the deck.
Moments before F-Bombs
Just then Hank calls on the radio.
"Corleto, hows everything going, over."
Hank has impeccable timing.
"Tarka, we have developed a run a way engine, I cannot throttle down and I am increasing speed. I will have to figure something out when we get to open water at the end of the pass, Over."
"OK, we'll stay to starboard so you can overtake on our port, Over.
"Afirm Hank. Corleto Standing by, Out."

I quickly watched the temp readings on the panel. They were normal, so far so good. My mind began to race as to what could be the problem. Charlene who was remarkable, calm while her skippers heart was about to explode, said- "It's got to be something simple. Start with that."

Calm and helpful Charlene 
I explained to her that we would deal with the engine throttle when we exited the pass. There would be open water and room to make mistakes.
I smiled and accepted that Corleto was up to her old tricks and she would need attention.

We exited the pass and the first place I began to look was the linkage. I grabbed and held the cable and moved the throttle with my hand. The engine responded. Then I could see what had happened. A clip had come loose and the linkage cable had no leverage when it was being adjusted from the helm. It was a quick fix and it made for happy smiles.

The culprit clasp

All fixed and working A-OK.

All the while Corleto, smiled at her skipper. I hope she was proud.

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