Sunday, September 11, 2005

That’s it young lady…YOU’RE GROUNDED!

Anchored in Great Kills, Statin Island waiting for a clue about weather around here! NOAA radio reports winds around 5 knots from the west and a small craft advisory! What? How can those two go together? After some attempts to have our land bound advisors (Leah and Barry) check the NOAA website we are sort of convinced that we should stay put. The weather is beautiful though! On Thursday we call our broker friend Andy who is going to show us a Globe 41 that we are interested in (stay tuned!). He is at the Atlantic City boat show and says that the seas are running 6 feet or so but they are very gentle large humps and very little wind so come on down! He suggests making the entire run from Sandy Hook to Atlantic City and not even mess with the little inlets at Barnegat Light or Masaquan Inlet. These inlets shoal and are small and if there is anchoring it is not clear where it is.

We agree but are bored staying at Great Kills so we opt to go for a little 5 mile sail and drop the anchor in Horseshoe Bay about half way along the western coast of Sandy Hook. We talked about this bay with another sailor a few weeks ago and remembered he said to go way wide of the northern tip to avoid the shoals as they’re not marked. Fine. (Do you see bad things about to happen? Foreshadowing!)

Another beautiful day. Light wind but then it picked up and we had to tack our way in toward Horseshoe Bay. Fun and we could use some honing of our sailing skills since we have not been doing a whole lot lately. We dropped the sails and approached the bay from the west going straight in way south of the shoal area. But not south enough! The depth sounder went 20’…14…7.BAM! Hard aground in sand! Shit. Some good news: it was nearly low low tide so maybe we can just wait and float off. There is a 5 foot tide differential here and that would be plenty. The bad news: The wind and waves are up and pushing us in toward the shoal area. We are not moving but we’re thinking that as soon as we begin to float again we’ll just get pushed back into a new shallow place. We decide to kedge out an anchor to do two things. 1. Keep the above from happening. We don’t like being grounded but we don’t want to move from here either out of control. 2. It can’t be far to the deep water. If we can set the anchor way out in deep water and then put the rode on a winch we may be able to drag ourselves off.

I put the anchor and chain in the dingy while Sue paid out rode as I rowed (Ha! synonym? Homonym?) the dingy out astern. Tough rowing an inflatable into the wind but lots of swearing and steady strokes got me out there. I sounded the bottom with my lead and it was plenty deep! I threw the anchor over the side (making sure it was in no way attached to me!) and Sue hauled in to set it. Perfect.

Back on board I sound the bottom abeam and it is 4 feet. I only need 5.5 feet to float. This could work! I begin to crank on the winch hauling on the anchor rode. I pull in maybe 10 or 20 feet of rode. Is the boat moving or am I dragging the anchor across the bottom? I can’t tell. Hard to believe I could drag the big Bruce anchor with 100’ of rode out. I pull some more and then sound the bottom. Now it’s 3.5 feet! Either I’ve pulled us into even shallower water or more tide has gone down. That’s possible because we are still and hour from low low tide. Now I’m worried that if I keep cranking I’ll just pull the anchor and have to start the laborious process all over again. If we wait we may still have the problem of Enee swinging on the anchor I’ve set and re setting herself on the shoal before we can back off. Also, to wait for high tide is to wait for about 10 o’clock at night. Then I’ve have to retrieve my anchor at night AND stay off the shoal.

We call Tow Boat US! Luckily I had just upgraded my towing insurance to UNLIMITED. This is NOT a reflection of my piloting skills. It’s just cheap! Unlimited towing for $105 a YEAR. Everyone should buy this.

It took two boats! The first tow boat couldn’t get in to me because it was even too shallow for him. He sent for the ‘jet boat’. Yes we can saved by a jet boat! It took forever. He turned us and then drug us south about 100 yards through the sand to find deep water. Communication was impossible in the wind and waves so I never figured out why he didn’t turn me more and drag me back west to the nearby deep water. Anyway we finally saw the depth sounder go to 4, 5, 6, 10 feet and could see the mast finally straighten up and we were free. They towed us out a ways and then cut us loose. The first boat stayed with us as we motored 2 miles to Atlantic Highlands Marina. They do this because often sailors will unknowingly run their engine to get off and suck sand up into the water intake. Then they need another tow when their engine overheats! Jesus I’m glad that didn’t happen to us even though I did run the engine a couple of times in vain attempts to back off (the deep water was soooooo close!)

We are so glad we upgraded our insurance. Amount billed to Boat US: $615!! My charge: $0.00. Wow, a smart financial move? I NEVER do that!

We took a mooring ball from the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club even though there is a nice anchorage at the mouth of this harbor. We just were all in and didn’t want to fool with anchors looked forward to a peaceful nights sleep. What a day. Just a nice little sail over to Horseshoe Bay my ass!

Epilogue: We come back to the boat after going out to dinner in town and find that our holding tank is full. No head on board and we are out on a mooring ball. What a day…

Addendum: Some other things that didn’t work

Just running the engine in reverse. This can work if your quick about it and not too stuck but you have to give it up quickly. You can just burn up the engine and you can suck sand into the water intake. We tried a little and then gave this up mostly.

Me hanging outboard pulling on the upper shroud in a vain attempt to tip the keel or rock the boat out of the sand. (If I’d thought to swing the boom out and hang on the end that may have worked but I didn’t think of it.)

Now as you read the following failed attempt remember the idea came from a professional physicist. I wanted to get more leverage to try to tip the boat and pop the keel out of the bottom. So I took the main halyard and some extra line and rowed the inflatable dingy out about 50 ‘ to the side of the boat. Now I have some angle and can pull on the halyard and maybe tip the boat. Do you all see why this is not going to work? I pulled really hard on the halyard and what happens? I simply pull the dingy back to the ship and fast too! Yeah this could only work if I had the power to suspend Newton’s third law briefly. A law that I spent the better part of my life teaching. I laughed and laughed at how physics can still come around and bite me in the ass! I guess that’s why I enjoyed teaching it so much in my previous life!


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