Sailing by the braille method!

Yesterday I took my 19 year old daughter and her boyfriend sailing. His first time on a big boat.
I was blowing a steady 20 kts with gusts to 25. We spend some time charging and bouncing around the ‘fun zone’ of Haro Strait where the strong ebb tide was against the wind. We had the #3 up and a reef in the main. All was well and they had a great time taking turns and the helm and grinding in the jib.
Wanting to have smoother water to each lunch we headed up into Garrison Bay near English Camp National Historic Park, short tacking around the anchored boats. During the run down into and Wescott Bay we broke out the french bread, salami and manchego cheese. As we were rounding Bell Pt the boat slowly came to a stop, almost like a car at a stop sign. What?! We should have plenty of water here. We pivoted toward the shore, beam on to the wind and stuck fast in the mud.

  • Engine in reverse – no.
  • Sheet in the sails to heel over and slide off – nope
  • Everybody on leeward side – nada.
  • Combination of all the above – zip

It was low tide and the mud was soft so I figured just we’d just have lunch and wait for the tide to come up in an hour of so.

Before we could take our first bites a yachtsman anchored nearby came to try to pull us off in his dinghy. He couldn’t really develop much uumph with his 9.9 HP outboard. I give him my spare spinnaker halyard to try to pull the mast over. Still not enough. I dug out our fortress anchor and 40′ of chain and 250′ of rode, attached the bitter end to the halyard and he motored it downwind and set it. We pulled it in but there was so much slack and stretch in the line that we got to the halyard’s shackle before we could exert any real force. We disconnected the halyard and put the anchor rode on the winch. This was starting to work! Everybody on the low side.

A crowd had gathered to watch on the shore while several other people showed up, a woman in her dinghy who had run aground in this same spot the day before, an older gentleman who had drug anchor that morning in Garrison bay, a tender with guys, wives and kids with a 90 on the back. With their help we spun the boat toward deep water and suddenly popped off!

Now the fun begins! Sails and up and sheeted hard with took off with the bow line still connected to the tender and the anchor rode still on the genoa winch. We quickly started dragging the tender backwards and quickly  burning through the anchor line. We finally untie the bow line and just as the last few feet of anchor line slipped over the side the gentleman in the dinghy grabs our grabs it to prevent our losing the whole kit to the deep.   We drop the jib, and motor into the wind as the kind gentleman brings back our anchor, chain and line.

Profuse thank you ensue.

Then my baseball cap then blows off and the kind gentleman retrieves that also.

With everything except my dignity back on board we motor-sail back to the dock.

In review here are the lessons learned:

  • Review the chart – even though you’ve been here before things are different at low tide.
  • Don’t relax just cause you’re out of the ‘fun zone’.
  • We did the right things trying to heel the boat over and slide off. Waiting an hour for the tide to come up would have helped. We could have also had lunch and skipped the fire drill.
  • Have a plan for when you come off.
  • Tie a fender to the anchor line. That way you can just throw it over and pick it up at your leisure.
  • The kindness and willingness of fellow sailors to help never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to all!

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