Boatbuilding Blog

November 9, 2010

A Quick Overnight Trip

Filed under: Overnight Trips — tomlarkin @ 1:46 pm

We took the Coot out for a quick overnighter on Saturday night. We got a late start and motored around looking at birds until dusk. It was calm, with a light rain. The marine forecast said we might get south winds at 15 miles per hour overnight. I didn’t feel like going all the way down the lake to the protected moorage at Andrew Bay so I anchored in Juanita Bay, which is wide open to the south. We stern anchor because the pilothouse is so far forward that the boat sails back and forth wildly if we bow-anchor. We anchored near the center of the bay, quite a ways from shore, and let out a lot of line – about a scope of 7: 1. The first few hours were nice – we listened to music and read and watched the lights come on in the houses around the bay.

Around 8PM the breeze came up from the south. Within an hour it was blowing about 15 or 20 MPH and the waves were building in the three and a half mile fetch from the floating bridge.  The stern would raise up on the waves and slam down on the next with a loud noise and making the whole boat tremble. I wasn’t too worried. The boat is solidly built, especially the round stern, but it was pretty uncomfortable. We dozed fitfully until past midnight, with me getting up and checking for movement every half hour or so.

Then the wind got louder, making a wailing sound and the motion of the boat got a lot more extreme as the waves built up short and steep as they entered the shallow bay. Whitecaps rushed past in the dark. We got up and put on clothes and discussed what to do. After an hour of this we realized we were dragging and the decision to raise anchor and leave was taken out of our hands.

Meryll started the motor and I put on the foul-weather gear and went out aft. The anchor line was bar-tight and I waited for a tiny pause to unhook the line from the stern bollard. The boat wheeled around to face into the wind. I went forward and crouched behind the bulwarks as the boat pitched up and down.  Meryll powered forward on my hand signals as I pulled in the anchor line hand over hand.  I pulled up 15 feet of the 20 feet of chain attached to the anchor. And then I couldn’t raise it any more. Looking over the edge I saw a huge ragged black mass, at least four feet in diameter. Our dragging anchor had brought up a couple hundred pounds of weed from the bottom. I couldn’t shake it loose and it was too heavy to lift. Acting as a sea anchor, it kept Meryll from being able to point into the wind. Every time the bow fell off, she ran the boat in a tight 360 degree loop, and into the wind again and tried to make another few feet of gain against the wind. The lee shore got slowly closer as this continued.

I grabbed the boat pole and stood on the bow like Ahab, stabbing the dark mass again and again, breaking off chunks of weed that flew away into the dark. After a very long time of this I tried again to lift the anchor, and with a burst of adrenaline dragged the thing up and over the bow. The green slippery pile completely filled the bow area.

We revved up the motor and, rocking and twisting in the waves, motored out of the bay, across the lake to Pontiac Bay and, finally, tied illegally to a dock in the quiet cove on the lee of Sand Point. We crawled into bed and fell asleep instantly. In the morning the whole boat was littered with scraps of seaweed.

All of this happened just two miles from our house. We probably wouldn’t have even noticed the wind in the trees at home.  I don’t know how big the waves were or how fast the wind blew. I’m guessing by the Beaufort descriptions that it was a sustained Force 6 ‘Strong Breeze’ (25-31MPH) , occasionally gusting to Force 7 ‘Near Gale’ force (32-38 MPH). The lesson to be gained is something I already knew – don’t anchor in a place that’s likely to become a dangerous trap if a storm comes up.

On the other hand, the boat worked perfectly. I felt reasonably safe on deck even as the boat pitched below me. The outboard didn’t cavitate as we went over the waves, and the boat handled well once the anchor was up. We left the propane heater on all night and the cabin stayed dry and warm throughout. Our communication was good. We had enough time to discuss what we planned to do and prepare for the weather. I wore Gore-Tex gloves, rubber boots, rain bibs, and a good parka when I went out. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re cold and wet.

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