Monday, July 16, 2012

Tripple Trouble

Otter Creek
44 13.18 N 073 18.94 W

Man oh man, things went wrong quickly today.

Yesterday we had a lazy day watching the osprey and the bald eagles doing aerial combat in Porter Bay.   This time it was the osprey that was attacking the eagle.  It seemed that it was trying to drive him away.

This morning our plan was to make the short (1 mile) trip to Otter Creek, and then motor up the creek to Vergennes.  We didn't get very far.

Just 100 yards short of the creek entrance, the engine sputtered and died.  Uh oh.  Yesterday I had changed the engine oil, tranny oil, and the primary and secondary fuel filters.  I must have done something wrong, starving the engine for fuel.  Diesel engines need only fuel and air, they are simpler than gasoline engines.

I dropped the Danforth anchor (Bonnie).  The water was 50 feet deep, normally much too deep for anchoring, but there was no wind so we didn't need much holding.

I soon found that sure enough, I left the fuel feed valve and the return valve on OFF.  I checked the primary and secondary filters.  Both had plenty of fuel.  Therefore, I opened the valves and went up to crank the engine.  After only 5 seconds, it started right up.  It must have stopped because the return valve was closed causing so much back pressure that the fuel pump couldn't pump.  Oh well, I tediously hauled the anchor back up and we were away again.

We didn't get very far a second time.  In fact we moved less than 300 yards before we ran aground.  Oh no!!!   The entrance to Otter Creek is tricky. I have a saved GPS track to show me where to go, but I allowed myself to be fooled by two buoys that I remember being in the middle of the channel.  They weren't.   When I got an alarm warning from the depth sounder, I committed a second mistake.  I turned right rather than left, misjudging where we were.  That put us high and dry.

Well, we knew what to do.  Launch the dinghy, put the Danforth anchor and 250 feet of rode in the dinghy, row it out at a 90 degree angle, and drop it.  Then, we used the windlass in stump pulling gear to kedge us off.  It works almost always.  But this time was one of the times it didn't work.

A nice man in a motor boat tried to help us.  That did no good.  Then a State Trooper in a marine patrol boat came to help.  His boat couldn't pull us off either.  Small fiberglass boats don't have sufficiently strong cleats to pull really hard.

We called Tow Boat US, being very glad that we pay $150/year for unlimited towing.  Their closest tow boat was in Rouses Point, 70 miles away.  So they contacted Westport, NY Marina, about 5 miles away.  Westport came in about 90 minutes, and after 15 minutes of strong tugging one way and the other, we finally floated free.  

Our kedging method would have worked eventually, but it might have taken us 24 hours of maintaining tension on that line to let the boat slide off the mud.

We paid Westport by CC, and Tow Boat US will reimburse us.

So what score do I give myself for this morning.  I made bad mistakes twice, but we didn't get upset or panicked, and we managed to rescue ourselves (with a little help) both times.   I would say that the moral of today's story is that experience is very valuable, but even experienced skippers commit stupid errors from time to time.

FLASH: After posting the first version of this blog with the title "Double Trouble", we had a third mishap.   Libby dropped a fender overboard.  We had to double back to rescue it.   That's pretty minor compared to the other two.  I wonder if she did it just to make me feel better after my two stupid mistakes.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Dick, for your generous spirit when admitting blunders. Makes the rest of us feel normal with our goofs.


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