Monday, December 1, 2008

Small Craft Advisory

After a great Thanksgiving with friends at our house, we packed up the next day for our now traditional day-after trip to Kingston to go crabbing with the Carlson's. Like all great boat adventures, this one started with a Small Craft Advisory! We knew we shouldn't have left the barn Friday, but we were so ready to get out of town for some R&R and with a promise of great weather for the rest of the weekend, we were willing to risk it.

Once we got through the backup at the locks, we headed north northwest for Kingston and the going was rough, but not bad. 3 foot swells and some heavy wind from the south. That didn't last. Once we were in the shipping lanes the swells were building to 4 feet with some periodically larger waves that slowly rolled past us. We were going about 8 knots, the swells about 9 or 10. A tug boat pulling a cargo barge south sent us off course a bit. After he passed, trying to get diagonally across to Kingston was getting tough. Due north was the easiest course but if we missed Kingston we'd be crashing back against the waves and did NOT want to miss our cove.

The video above was taken when it was still kind of fun, before we were really out in it. Then it got scary as the waves were building. One big roller pushed us sideways to the west. I tried to fight it with the rudder, tried to turn to get us back on course and felt a pop in the steering gear. That was that, we just lost steering in 4 and 5 foot swells in the southbound shipping lane off President Point. Immediately we were beam-to in the swells getting rocked ferociously side to side. Ginger threw life vests on me and Lola as I radioed the Coast Guard. Pan Pan! Things were flying all over the boat as we rocked. After getting a position and stats radioed in, a Coast Guard cutter was dispatched, but still 20 minutes out! No one else was on the water. The Carlson's were an hour behind us.

We were alone, but within view of the shore and drifting towards it quickly. I got my wits about me and realized that I could move the rudder post with my foot, so Ginger took the throttle and I stood in the lazerette and moved the rudder manually. We were able to get the boat out of the trough and headed north again, zigzagging into Appletree Cove. Once I got the hang of it and we were closer to shore the waves subsided a bit. Finally we were in the cove. I called off the Coast Guard. Our next hurdle was avoiding the minefield of crab bouys in the cove without being able to see them. Ginger pointed left and right and we managed to miss them and the debris in the water.

Once deep in the cove and close to our destination, I was feeling pretty good about the new steering system! I decided we could make it to the dock (the dock never looked so safe!). So we slowed to idle and headed for the easiest spot on the end. The wind was blowing us off the dock so I came in steep and wasn't able to recover the turn with my foot steering system in time, and srape! But we were on the dock - sort of. "NEUTRAL! NEUTRAL!." Ginger almost left me shouting from the dock as she headed off solo towards million dollar yachts with no steering, but she fought it into reverse and we got her shut down finally. Adventure over. Whew.

I said, "Now that you've docked the boat without steering, how 'bout you try it with steering sometime?" Maybe.

After that, it was a pretty typical trip to Kingston. Crab city (mmm!), cool temperatures and some good relax-time with the wood stove. Lola played stick on the beach and ate too much sand. Mark and Ginger slept in.

We repaired the steering with a piece of exhaust hose. Should be fine until we can replace the entire rod from console to rudder post. A fun winter project.

So our good weather never materialized. Sunday we awoke to fog that never lifted. Finally at 1:00 with only 3 hours of daylight left, we decided we had to leave no matter what. We followed the Carlson's south and then radioed Seattle Traffic to see what cargo vessel might be screaming towards us at 30 kts. All clear, so we made due east and crossed the shipping lanes as quickly as possible. Completely blind really, but blowing the horn as we went. We made it to Shilshole without incident and then again waited impatiently for the locks. After losing steering in a storm, the fog just seems like a minor inconvenience! I asked Ginger if she still liked boating. She said yes. Whew!

The last thing this crab ever saw.

Cook 'em on the dock so they don't stink up the boat.

I ate this guy for real about two hours later. 7.5"!

A big starfish will spoil the whole pot. Once they're in, the crab steer clear. This beast had 20 legs!

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