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post #433 of Old 03-14-2013
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Re: What's your biggest bonehead move sailing?

What's really great about this thread is the number of years it has been going for. I've made a few really dumb mistakes in the year that I have been frequently sailing. They have all related to not paying attention to tides and winds (particularly before attempting to sail keelboats with no motors). I've started paying attention to both. I've been reading this thread in the hopes that it will help me to not mess up as I take my first trip in my recently acquired boat. Thanks everyone for the great stories on here and the wisdom that can be gleaned from them.


A friend and I had been fixing up his boat for a couple of months to get it seaworthy. We fitted new spreaders for it, inventing tools for guessing the curve of the mast (which we cut into them with a jigsaw).

We finally had the mast up, and the boat was ready to sail. We got two cute girls onboard for the glorious maiden voyage to be. We brought a picnic, knowing that we would be out all day. We started the outboard and triumphantly began raising the sails as we motored out.

We paid no attention to the wind. We did not check the tide.

(We had always sailed dinghies together, and the dinghy dock is not inside the marina. You just sort of push off the dock and sail whichever way you want.) Seeing that we were under sail, we cut the motor. We went out the upwind, up-current entrance to the marina. There, it quickly became apparent that we could make no headway. It also became apparent that we could not come up through the wind to tack. There was no room to gybe. My friend tried to restart the outboard to no avail. I started to fall off, pointing straight at the rocks in order to gain speed for a second tack attempt. No dice. We were fighting to sail away as we drifted toward the rocks. He took the helm and I tried to start the motor. Neither of us had better luck than the other had had. We were frantically trying to fix this before we hit the rocks.

At this point, we ran into the rocks.

His fridge door opened, spilling the pool of condensation that was under the freezer. We thought we were taking on water.

I jumped on the radio, with no idea of how to call for help. I believe I said:

"Ship in distress. Ship in distress. Coast guard, do you copy?"

Keep in mind, we are still essentially inside of the marina.

Coast guard asked whether we were injured, how many were on board, location, etc. They asked for a description of the boat. I thought this was a very stupid question. I thought this because it had not occurred to me that there were boats other than 30ft sailboats, all of which are essentially white with white sails. I was at a loss for how to describe the darn thing. It had not occurred to me to use the vessel's name. I said:

"Describe? Uh... we are... white with white sails."

CG - "White with white sails?"

Me- "Yeah, but if you come to the south marina entrance, you'll know which one we are."

Right? The only white sailboat with white sails ON THE ROCKS.

At this point there was a crowd watching. People taking pictures. An ambulance. Two firetrucks.

The Coast Guard said:

"White ship with white sails, white ship with white sails. This is the Coast Guard."

Me - "This is ... white ship with white sails. We're still here."

CG - "The harbor patrol is on it's way."

Harbor patrol showed up in about 30 seconds. The guy threw us a line and insisted that we tie it to the bow. (We had gone bow-first onto the rocks.) We argued. He insisted. We thought the ship was sinking, so we did what he said.

He pulled us up onto the keel which dragged over the rocks, spilling the boat sideways as we hung on for dear life. The (spade) rudder twisted sideways and broke. He towed us, commenting "Cant you turn the rudder straight? You keep turning."

It was another 6 weeks before we had the rudder fixed and attempted the second maiden voyage. We left the motor running even as we sailed until we were well clear of shore, a habit we have maintained ever since.
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