Sunday, July 17, 2016

We have a Better Solution for You

With my rudder jammed and the clock ticking, sleep didn't come easy for my skipper- Corleto

After a tasty and somewhat relaxing supper on the waterfront, we walked back to Corleto. She was tied up at the very end of the dock, to the stern of a massive power cruiser. She was the smallest craft along S Dock.

With a full belly and a tired and fatigued body, I thought sleep would come easy. But with the events of the day, the log strike images swirling around in my head, it would not. Again I tried to think of solutions. All of them seemed too complicated, too physical, too wet. I don't know when I finally dozed off, but at around 1 am I woke up with a start and a solution in my head. I checked my iPhone for messages as I always do when I wake up in the middle of the night.

My man Kinc had sent me a message and strangely enough he had thought of a solution as well. As I read his suggestion, it was evident that we both thought of the same thing. It would involve a half haul and a cutting tool to remove about a centimetre of the top of the rudder. It made perfect sense at 1 in the morning and with that thought I quickly went back to sleep and slept well.

Waking up, I was excited and nervous about what had to be done. I told Charlene what my plan was. She was not convinced that cutting was the answer. But she patiently listened to me explain the rational behind my idea.

When the boat yard finally opened, around 8 am, I made the call. I spoke to a man who had heard the rather lengthy message I had left after closing last evening. I explained my predicament. I asked if I could get Corleto on the travel lift and if he could rent me a cutting tool. I explained what I planed to do.

The voice on the other end of the phone said: "I think we may have a better solution for you sir."

He did not explain any further and told me he could get me on the travel lift as soon as I could get the boat over to the boat yard.

Corleto still could not steer. So I got in touch with the folks at Sea Tow Nanaimo. It was not long before their vessel pulled alongside Corleto and tied up.

A serious looking skipper as the Sea Tow Boat comes along side
With care and expertise, the crew from Sea Tow guided Corleto off the slip and into the channel. In the conversation with one of the crew, he had told us that they had heard my call to Victoria Coast Guard the previous afternoon and they were loading up to head out to us when the call came that we had accepted a tow from a "vessel passing by". He also told me the area that we had our misfortune was notorious for disabling boats as they navigated either to or from Dodds Narrows. Oddly that did not make me feel any better about my situation, but it did take the sting out of the experience.

With skillful pilotage the tow skipper brought us into Stones Boat Yard dock. Its very narrow and there are plenty of large expensive boats to potentially crash with. But with the confidence of Capt. Highliner, the skipper brought us in gently. And with my thanks and my credit card slip he was on his way.

Corleto patiently waits her turn for the travel lift at Stones Boat Yard

The Boatyard foreman told me that he had 3 other boats before me to haul out, so if we wanted to go for a bite he recommended two nearby establishments. I felt much better now as I knew that the worst case, the boat would stay on the hard and we could take the nearby ferry back to Horseshoe Bay. We decided to go for a meal. It was just about 11 am as we ordered food and watched the goings on next door at the boat yard. Just as I finished my meal, I noticed that the Yard Crew were positioning the travel lift to Corleto. I jumped up and asked Charlene to tell the waitress that I wasn't dining and dashing, but wanted to supervise the lift.

Secure in the travel lift and being moved in the yard to get the rudder free
They moved Corleto into the work area and a man who was the shipwright came over to have a look. He asks me if this is my boat and then tells me what his plan of action is.
"We are going to bend your rudder pin by using a strap and a "come-a-long" anchored to the yard's fork lift."
I answer: "You sound like you know what you're doing sir."
He answers : "This is not my first rodeo,,,, I do about three of these a week"

This man goes on to explain to me the risks involved in such an operation. Things like breakages and hull damage. I said well if theres breakages, then at least she's on the hard. So lets get 'er done.

It might be hard to see in this picture, but the rudder is pinched into the back of the hull

With his watchful eye, his crew positions the forklift and come a long strap. Another climbs a ladder and boards Corleto.

"Tell me if you hear or feel anything on the tiller." Says the Shipwright. His crew very attentive to his instructions.

One of the workers begins to tension the strap.

"OK! Give me three clicks." The Shipwright commands. "Two more,,,,,, hows the tiller?"
"Good" Replies the lad on the tiller. "Tiller's free!"

The Shipwright answers and then eyeballs the gap between the rudder and the hull. He carefully checks all sides. "One more click" he asks

The come a long makes the distinctive click sound- "Good!" says and then asks the lad up top to run the tiller through the entire arc of travel. "Any obstructions?" The tiller man says no.

The Shipwright looks at me and says "Thats it, you're done."
I thank him and the rest of the crew for looking after me so quickly and professionally. And since Corleto is in the sling, I ask for the bottom to get an unexpected power wash.

"No problem sir."

With a clean bottom and a rudder thats now free, Corleto is returned to the water
As I turn around to go and settle up my bill, a man whom I had not noticed during the "fix" was standing behind me.
The man says "You don't recognize me do you? "
All at once I realize this is the man who came to our aid less than 24 hours ago.
I said "Forgive me, I did not see you there as I was zeroed in on the crew fixing the rudder."
"I went down to the dock where we left you guys yesterday, to see if there was anything you needed and I saw you were gone. So I thought I might check the boatyard and here you are."

I again thanked him for his kindness and for coming down to see that we were ok. The kindness and willingness to help from this stranger was deeply moving to both me and for Charlene. Again he would not accept payment for his troubles.
We had a short conversation and I wrote his name and phone number as well as the names of the rest of his crew. He told me they were from the Nanaimo Sailing Co-op and that they sail weekly at the club. I asked him where they go after their sailing evenings to sit down and have a drink. He pointed to an establishment that was right beside the Boatyard and adjacent to the Sailing Club.

I went over to that establishment after the man left and bought a gift tab for him and his crew. "A Thank you to the Crew of Santa Serena from the crew of Corleto Murray and Charlene."

I left him a voice message that there was a gift card in his name for he and his crew and " They could enjoy some libations and tell the bar of their daring High Seas rescue. And to embellish the story as he saw fit and that the crew of the Corleto would back up every word."

Charlene happy that we are finally on our way home

By the time I returned from the the bar, the boat was back in the water and we were soon on our way. It was just after 1 in the afternoon and we set out for our home port of Horseshoe Bay. It was a long passage and as we left Nanaimo, we both knew that we had been very fortunate to have had our troubles where we did.

I couldn't help feel that we were richer for the experience and the wonderful helpful people that we had met.

From Charlene and Murray -Thank You SV SANTA SERENA and her crew

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Tow of Shame

"It seems that every sailing vacation I have taken aboard Corleto has an "Oh Shit" factor.  This one was to be no different." -Skipper Murman as he began to regale his latest adventure to his work colleagues.

"Victoria Coast Guard Radio, Victoria Coast Guard Radio, this is the Sailing Vessel Corleto,,,,,, we are at position,,,,,,,, and have struck a log and are disabled, Over"-Thats a radio call you don't want to make.

Yes I know, its been a while since putting thoughts to words and words to blog, but this is a story that needs telling. 

This sailing season began early for me and involved a few "Firsts". First solo, first encounters with dolphin riding bow waves, and first use of my gerry rigged headsail downhaul of which I am particularly proud. But it will be the First Vacation Cruise of the 2016 that will define this sailing season for me. 

It began simply enough, the usual packing, repacking of supplies and provisions for what we hoped would be a week of trouble free sailing in and around the waters of the Straight of Georgia. Our confidence with anchorages and mooring balls, with passages and passes was high. We had decided we would let the "wind take us in whatever direction it happened to be blowing".  It was blowing from the NW, so south we would go to some of our favourite places. Gabriola Passage, Montague Harbour, and Thetis Island. We like to always experience something new or go to somewhere we haven't been before so I thought we would add Newcastle Island off Nanaimo to the list of places to go. This would take us through the fabled Dodd's Narrows, somewhere Corleto had been before, but instead of Kinc and his brother this time it would be with her Skipper and Mate. Two Dodd's newbies.

It all began, after a two night stay in Plumper Cove we had set out to cross the Straight and hit Gabriola Pass during the slack. That in itself can be a tricky piece of water to time, to hit it at the "sweet spot",  from that distance (24NM). Usually when travelling that way we spend a night at Silva Bay and then hit the Pass on the early slack the following day. On this occasion however, the slack was to come just before the noon hour. So we wanted to hit the slack and time our departure from Plumper to be no later than 07:00.

Charlene piloted Corleto as we slipped our mooring ball and headed west through Shoal Passage. We were 15 minutes late but underway none the less. 

It was good to be on the move. There was little wind as we left but we could see ahead that darker water and choppy seas as we progressed. Surely the wind would be there. With Corleto's mighty 11 horses pushing us along at 4.5 kts, I figured we would hit the Pass just about at the end of our window of opportunity. I decided to hoist the main as we began to feel the Northwesterly wind. The angle of the wind improved and suddenly we gained a bit of speed. Up went the headsail and it filled with a snap and Corleto came to life. I put the engine in neutral and watched the speed log. She was now going 5-51/2 kts,,,,,,, 6, 6.4,,,,,, We were sailing with speed and right on course for Gabriola Pass. 

Charlene watches ahead as we begin our transit of Gabriola Pass

We hit the pass a few hours later right on the sweet spot. It was a satisfying passage under sail. Quiet and tranquil, not too bumpy, comfortable really. We doused the sails and then transited the pass with little drama and collectively decided to head down Trinomicle Channel to Montague Harbour. It was surprising how the time seemed to fly by. We tied up to a mooring ball in Montague Harbour and we looked at our watches and it was 15:40. We realized we had been on the water for 9 hours and had travelled some 44 NM. It turned out to be a First- Our longest passage and our greatest distance travelled in one shot. I was particularly pleased, and Montague is one of our favourite anchorages. We would stay for two nights. 

Skipper Murman mid transit of the pass.

By the time we headed north to Thetis, the winds and the weather looked like it was gonna change. Rain clouds and South winds. But those south winds pushed us along northward with a following sea and an average speed of 6.2 kts. It was a relatively quick passage to Telegraph Harbour and one that was entirely under sail. The Gulf Islands either have wind or they don't or so I am told. They certainly had it on this day and we and the boat were grateful. 

One of our very favourite anchorages- Montague Harbour
But it was the passage to Dodds Narrows and the route to Newcastle that would define this trip. Once again, neither of us had ever been this way before. So this would be another "First". Again southerly winds would help us as we travelled our 13 NM to Dodds. We had to be there for 15:15 to catch the slack. I would check the plotter every now and again to check our ETA- we seemed to be on target. But the clouds to our west coming off the mountains of Vancouver Island, looked foreboding. 

Charlene heard thunder. A few minutes later I saw a couple of lightning strikes. This would be another "First". First Thunderstorm while underway. I thought for a minute. I was so enjoying the sail aspect of this passage and we were making decent time. But I also knew that this storm cell could create chaotic winds, so I decided to douse sails. We just got them in and it began to rain. But we pushed on. All the while I'm thinking about the lightning rod of a mast sticking up from Corleto's
Bad ass thunder clouds baring down on us

It wasn't long before we found ourselves with a number of other boats headed for Dodd's. Our timing was a bit off as we arrived about 30 minutes early for a boat my size and power to transit. So we began to orbit with a number of other boats as we waited for the tide to slacken the current. Then with navy like precision, the group formed up in single file and began the passage northbound though Dodds Narrows. We followed another Catalina 27 giving her some distance as we entered this very narrow piece of water. Another First--- a successful transit with little drama. Just the kind I like. 

The approach into Dodd's Narrows

Happy Skipper just after the Transit

I was feeling pretty good about our day what with the sailing, the thunder and lightning and now a successful navigation of one of the most legendary pieces of water in the Gulf Islands. It was now just a matter of time before we found ourselves on a mooring ball off Newcastle Island. Charlene had gone forward and made herself comfortable and found herself dosing off after the excitement of the storm and the Pass. I began to set waypoints for our final leg to Newcastle. All was right in the sailing world of Skipper Murman.

Feeling good and looking forward to our next anchorage

I looked ahead when out of the bottom of my vision I catch a glimpse of a log that is so close it is just about to go under my pulpit. It happened so quick, I had zero time to react. Corleto hit it right smack in the middle. Suddenly THUD!

I looked out the back as the torpedo surfaced. It had a rather large blue streak thanks to my bottom paint. Suddenly the Otto (The Autohelm) went crazy trying to regain her course. I disengaged it and tried to turn the tiller. It was jammed. 


I tried to force it, it would not move,,,, shit,,,,, perhaps a piece of wood was jammed and causing my heart rate to climb. 

The thud had woken Charlene. She immediately came inside the cockpit to see what she could do. I throttled back to slow as suddenly I saw that we were now headed for Gabriola Island and the log booms that were moored there. It was then I knew that Corleto was disabled and I was going to need help. 

"Victoria Coast Guard Radio, Victoria Coast Guard Radio, Victoria Coast Guard Radio, this is the Sailing Vessel Corleto Over,,,,," 

Charlene remarked to me afterwards how calm I sounded on the radio. 

"Victoria CoastGuard Radio, this is the sailing vessel Corleto, I have struck a log and am currently disabled, rudder is jammed and I cannot steer, My current position is,,,,,,,,,"

The CG Radio Op asked " Corleto, how many person's on board and are you in immediate danger. Over" 

"Victoria Coast Guard Radio, I have two persons on board, we are not taking on water so not in immediate danger, we do have an anchor to deploy and are currently drifting towards a large log boom about 300 yards away, standby,,,,,,, have reversed engine and am now drifting away from log boom Over. 

Now before he could get a message to All Stations, another voice cracks over channel 16.

"Victoria Coast Guard Radio, this is the Sailing Vessel Santa Serena, we are about 5 minutes away from the stricken vessel Over." 

CGR Operator relays that message to me that help is on the way and, to stay with him and report when I have made visual contact with the Santa Serena.

Time begins to stand still for a bit as I scan to look for the incoming vessel. Then at once I see the stout 27 for Catalina's bow headed in my direction. Now within a boat length, the skipper yells "We heard your call, we can tow you to Nanaimo,,,"

He organizes his crew and heaves a line to me. I cleat it on Corleto's bow. I toss one of Corleto's lines to him. Before long a second boat, a larger fishing boat speeds into the picture. "Do you need a tow?" I answer that we should be good, now that the Santa Serena has us tied to her and I thank the Fisher skipper for his quick response. He tells me that if either boat needs help as we go he can be reached on Ch 16 and with that he goes back to his business.

Sailing Vessel SANTA SERENA pulling us towards Nanaimo Harbour
Santa Serena now begins the long pull towards Nanaimo. Her skipper and I speak on working Ch 9. He asks if I have any preference to where he will tow us to. He begins calling on his cell phone to see where their might be room for a stricken sailboat with no steering. It turns out the folks at The Nanaimo Harbour Authority would take Corleto for the night. I call Victoria Coast Guard to update them on our situation.

Along the way, all I could think about is how I missed such an object lurking in the water. I was pretty angry at myself. Charlene was doing her best to make the best of the situation and reminded me that we were safe and that it could have been a lot worse. She was right.

I was trying to figure out a "fix" . I figured the rudder was jammed because of a wedged bit of that freakin' wooden torpedo was stuck in the gap between the hull and the rudder. Charlene thought that it might just be bent back into the hull. I decided to rig the GoPro to a boat hook and have a look for myself.

After reviewing the file, Charlene's diagnosis was correct. The rudder had been jammed back into the hull. Fortunately it was almost amidships so we were not causing too much problem for our tow boat.

With us now on the approach to our dock for the night, Santa Serena slowed to a crawl. This docking would be tricky with a number of very large power boats nearby already tied up. But with skill and precision, the skipper gently brought us alongside the dock and we tied up, breathing a sigh of relief and a feeling of overwhelming gratitude to the crew of the Santa Serena.  I offered payment, but the skipper refused.  "That what we sailors do, we help each other out." he said.

After we said our good byes and thank you's, both Charlene and I sat down to decompress. I was overcome with emotion that several strangers had come to our aid, others had offered and none wanted any form of compensation for their trouble. I took a moment to call Victoria Coast Guard to close out our file and to thank them for their assistance.

I was deeply humbled. It had been a hell of an afternoon. As I walked to the Harbour Authority Office, used my "Phone a Friend" option. Dialed up my buddy Kinc. His mind for problem solving would certainly point me in the right direction and at the very least just talking it out would help me work the problem. It did just that and it gave me the confidence that had been so shattered earlier to solve this. Kinc was Houston to my Apollo 13.

Charlene and I decided to get a good meal, purge ourselves of the calamity and begin to think of solutions to get us back on our way. The solutions would wait until morning.