This is what used to be known as a pickle. These days we are more likely to call it a shitshow. I’m writing this moored in Selby Cove, Prevost Island, with dead batteries and unable to start the engine. It’s completely my fault that I’m in this mess, but assigning responsibility doesn’t change the situation.
I have two options: C-tow will come boost me at the cost of $200. Although they are only a few miles away, the cost of fuel and staff means the price is reasonable. But it’s still $200.00.
My second option is to try and struggle 100 feet of chain and a 40lb anchor aboard, a chore I know my back will hate me for, and drift downwind into Ganges harbour. I figure it’s blowing about 7 knots in the anchorage, which isn’t too bad, but as anyone who has sailed knows, a sailboat has no brakes. I know there is a long public dock which is open to the south, and if unoccupied, would be directly downwind of me.
The theory is I could sail downwind to Ganges and drift right against the dock, just like they have been doing for centuries.
What could go wrong?
The dock is essential because I need to charge my batteries; dropping the hook at the entrance to the harbour gets me closer to help, but somehow I doubt that would change the price much; at some point it just isn’t worth their trouble. I also don’t know if the dock is clear. Being mid-winter, there simply isn’t any other vessels out who could help me if I got into trouble. I’m completely on my own in this manoeuvre.
I’ve done this (in the same location, oddly enough) once before when we had a prop wrap; I drifted right into harbour. But then at least I had an (anxious) crew in Tracy. If I do this, I do it on my own.
Did I mention I’m also delivering the vessel to my friend who has bought it? The fault for this shitshow is mine so the cost is as well. If something goes wrong, it could make things complicated.
It’s not like I don’t have options. If I didn’t, I would go ahead and sail into harbour and take what comes. But I all I have to do is sit tight and pay a fee.
What to do?
Go sailing of course. I realized that there was no correct answer; both options have positive and negative aspects and one was really no better than the other. Without thinking more about it, I went forward and hauled up the anchor by hand, piling the chain into the anchor locker. The boat came about and slowly began to drift out of the anchorage.
It was a long downwind drift, and the current ebbing through Captain Passage, across my direction of travel, threatened to shove me sideways onto Horda Shoal. The breeze couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 knots out there, and had a hard time deciding if it would puff from the southeast or the southwest. Most of the time my speed varied between .5 to 1.5 knots. At least nothing happens fast at that pace.
I was in cell contact with C-tow, and if I had gotten into trouble they would send someone out, but I had just enough way to skirt past the shoal and eventually enter Long Harbour south of Ganges. As expected the wind strengthened and settled into the southeast, and at long last I hit a blazing 2.5 knots.
The harbour came up with disconcerting speed, the wind increasing as I approached. But when I could finally see the dock, the wind started misbehaving again, veering and backing as it eddied at the end of the inlet. I eventually had to gybe, keeping my genoa out as long as possible. As I went for my final approach, I quickly pulled it in. By now only the wind against the hull was giving me way, but I was almost broad to it by then, attempting a starboard landing. At this point control was minimal, and I was drifting sideways as much as my intended direction of travel. Fortunately, because of the ugly winds that blow up here, nobody ties up on the outside of the dock. I had the whole length to slide into. It was the best I could have hoped for.
I came in hotter than I like, and 16,000 lbs hitting the dock more or less broadside is a lot of inertia, and I’m surprised a fender didn’t burst. But it was done. No scratches and I had power at hand to charge my batteries.
On one hand it was a very simple, easy operation; one that sailors do all the time. But that doesn’t make it fun or something you want to do. A boat without power, even a sailboat, is a proverbial loose cannon and trying to manoeuvre into a dock space on sail alone is looking for trouble. When it works, it’s no big deal, but when it doesn’t, man, the consequences can be enormous; all you can do is watch in horror as the shit slowly hits the fan. I took that chance today and like I said, it was no problem. But it’s sure not something I want to try very often.
After a couple of hours of slow drifting, Ganges Harbour at last in sight.
Getting closer. Wind starting to bounce around.
I can see the dock. Nobody there. I tried calling long beforehand, but of course no one was answering the phone.
Okay, now I’m committed!
Here we gooooo!
What a relief. As easy as I could have hoped for. Anything could have happened, but it didn’t.
I considered staying for the night, but I want to get to Vancouver. So after recharging batteries for awhile, I fired up the engine and headed out to Wallace Island. I was surprised to find this intrepid fellow out along with me. The sailing is poor and the weather crummy. I’m not surprised that it’s a sailboat.
I’m now drinking beer and trying to stay awake long enough to write this. Sailing just takes it out of you! Hopefully no more excitement until after I deliver Fainleog to her new owner.