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Gnarly days and the lesson(s) learned

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    Gnarly days and the lesson(s) learned

    I don't want to appear to be one-upping Ken's "I almost died" thread but everyone has a gnarliest day story they'd love to tell so the only twist I'm asking is don't just tell the war story, tell us what you learned.

    Two years into big boat ownership, getting ready for our first haulout, we booked it at Platypus in Port Angeles. The boat was moored in Cowichan Bay and we generally spent from 5 to 7 months onboard starting around Christmas and ending when the radio got too noisy in the spring. One of the women at the yacht club convinced my wife she needed to attend a 3 day sewing conference at the Empress in Victoria on the weekend preceding our haulout. Great we thought, we'll spend the weekend docked in the inner harbour, Marilyn will do her sewing thing and then on Monday we'll hop over to P.A. for a Tuesday haulout. So here begins the lesson - the most dangerous thing you can have on a boat is an agenda. All the preceding week I kept checking the weather and they kept telling me about this monster storm that was going to hit the coast soon but we got moved to Victoria on Wed or Thursday, can't remember exactly when, and all was good. If you've ever stayed in the inner harbour at Victoria its a really special spot. You come by the Coast Guard dock and the harbour narrows up and then you make the final turn to the east and the old CN hotel appears as the basin opens up in front of the hotel and legislature. Its about as protected a spot as you could ever find and there's everything you might want within walking distance from restaurants to chandlers.

    Monday morning we woke up to gentle rocking in the inner harbour but we went anyway. The island got absolutely slammed that day. I think it was worse further north. One news report said every street in Campbell River had a tree down on it. By the time we got past the cruise dock things were getting lumpy and it got steadily worse. At one point out in Juan de Fuca we were showing a steady 35 degree heel with regular knockdowns well past that. The cat shat himself, buried his head under a pillow and never emerged until we tied up. Marilyn was hanging out the port cabin access most of the trip. I justified carrying on by telling myself that the boat could take more than I could and I was still OK, more or less. We regularly took green water over the bow. About 2/3 of the way across you hit Constance Bank and the waves were really piling up there. There was a big ocean goer anchored there running the engines to maintain station. Once you get across the bank it always gets a little better and eventually we got behind the breakwater and headed into P.A. Marilyn managed to rally enough to get us tied up but then she went below and pulled the covers over her head. The US customs guy came and did his thing and then said "I have to at least SEE everyone" so she poked her head out briefly and waved at him. That was apparently all he needed. As it turned out it was still so lumpy on Tuesday that Platypus didn't even try to haul us.

    And the lesson learned is: Don't put the schedule in charge. We could have holed up in Victoria and phoned Platypus. Nobody would have cared.

    Several years later, again on our way to a haulout but this time we had a good crossing to P.A. We left P.A. in the morning with a south wind blowing, making for Port Townsend. I knew we'd have some lumps once we rounded the head at Pt. Wilson but I figured we'd be OK and at most it would be an hour or so. Everything went good until we got about 2 miles west of Pt. Wilson when we encountered the famous Pt. Wilson rip. It was like being in a Maytag on agitate. I've never seen the like before or since. I knew the rip was there but the charts said it was only a problem on an ebb and we were about an hour after the turn to flood. Evidently that was too soon and if its worse on a full ebb I don't ever want to see it. To make matters worse there was a big fisherman on our port so we should have been standon but he was getting it every bit as bad as we were and those guys have their own interpretation of the colregs - IOW we gave way. The most impressive part of that rip is how fast it came on. One minute we had a few lumps, the next we buried the bow so deep it lifted the anchor clean off the roller and left it hanging loose.

    When we finally got around the head and could see Port Townsend Sea Tow was there with a big Bayliner tied on the hip. He was frantically calling on the radio for someone to give him an opening to get into the harbour and everyone was ignoring him. I called him and said we'd stand off and wait for him which worked out well because the surf was breaking so bad on the breakwater it was hard to figure out where to head for.

    Lesson learned? Sometimes there's no substitute for local knowledge.
    R.J.(Bob) Evans
    Buchanan, SK
    Cierra 2755
    Previously 43 Defever, Response LX
    Various runabouts, canoes & kayaks

    Your comment about throwing out the schedule due to conditions when on the boat is right on. It’s also true of most travel. Flights get cancelled, roads get closed, everything takes a time out.
    The Salish Sea is notorious for being a difficult place to forecast. If a weather event comes in as the jet stream changes just a few degrees everything changes because of the mountains. My great-uncle, a ships master for Union Steamships serving the BC Coast before radar, gps or even radio beacons, taught me to look and listen to the weather reports then go take a look yourself and always have a place to get out of the weather.
    P/C Pete
    Edmonds Yacht Club (Commodore 1993)
    1988 3818 "GLAUBEN”
    Hino EH700 175 Onan MDKD Genset
    1980 Encounter Sunbridge "Misty Blue" (Sold)
    MMSI 367770440
    1972 Chevrolet Nova Frame off Resto-mod in the garage
    Boating on the Salish Sea since 1948


      I was helping to build a small house in Mcgrath, Alaska for the weather service, one of the things they are required to do after fore casting the weather is: Go outside and look up.

      Bayliner 3870 "ALASKA33)
      Twin 350 GM power
      Located in Seward, AK
      Retired marine surveyor


        Back in Navy flying days, we had a small card that had a condensed version of weather requirements to legally go fly.
        The card was colored blue.
        A hole was punched at the bottom of the card.
        Further instructions stated, “Hold the card to the sky and look through the hole.
        If the color of the hole matches the color of this card, you are good to go.”
        "Impasse". 2001 3988
        Cummins 330's
        Puget Sound

        "You don't want to be the richest guy in the nursing home..."


          Something learned in almost 55 years of boat ownership:
          "automatic XXXX" usually is not to be relied on.
          When getting dock space at a marina, taste the water before filling the boats water tank.
          The published photos/internet description/ and/or telephone contacts info about the marina may not necessarily be true. Particularly smaller ones. ---
          As far as: WIFI, cable or head end antenna TV, approach and slip water depths, condition of docks, electrical service, access to
          mechanical service, nearness of shopping,
          (try using Marina users comments usually very accurate)
          Weather: I use the Weather channel in my laptop. You can look at the map and out-guess the weather dummies on local TV stations.
          I worked in a TV station as an engineer. The "NWS" certification is given as to the DELIVERY of the weather; not to its accuracy.

          Whenever I do any service on the boat, I always take it out on the big lake and run it before scheduling a cruise/. I go ballistic when something don't work, after repairing it.

          Captharv 2001 2452
          "When the draft of your boat exceeds the depth of water, you are aground"