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Old 03-31-2011
tdlpps tdlpps is offline
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San Diego Harbor is really, really big

I motored out of Chula Vista Marina and began my turn to the right to stay in the deep channel. I didn't turn sharp enough. 100 yards out of the marina, I ran aground. I felt the sand and silt begin to grab at the keel, turned the tiller sharply and put the engine in reverse. It wasn't enough, soon enough, though, and I was stuck.

I put the Tohatsu in reverse and rocked the hull from side to side. I could move the hull and felt a little free movement but did not break free. I put the engine in neutral and walked forward onto the cabin top and raised the main sail. I held onto the mast and leaned out as far as I could and was able to rock the boat but not free it.

I finally realized that I may not be able to free myself without help, and called for Vessel Assist and felt guilty of the ultimate in stupidity as two boats with fishermen motored past me; at least one person in each boat shook his head in disbelief. Vessel Assist would not be available to come down to the southern end of the harbor for 45 minutes to an hour so I watched the tide creep up the channel marker posts.

Vessel Assist: Sailing vessel making assistance call, are you or your boat in imminent danger?

Me: Negative, Vessel Assist.

Vessel Assist: What is the nature of your call, sailing vessel?

Me: I'm on the shoal.

Vessel Assist: Oooooohhhhh.

When several inches had been gained, I tried again. After a few minutes I was able to free the boat and moved over a few feet into the deep channel and began my trip. Again.

Just before I got to the Coronado Bridge, Vessel Assist caught up with me. The agent asked if I was the blue sailing vessel that was on the shoal near Chula Vista but he already knew the answer. I answered and told him how as the tide came up I was able to break free on my own. Rather than treat me like a loser, he was really helpful. He pointed out several other areas to be cautious of and said he had gotten caught down in Chula Vista during some really negative low tides like we had that Wednesday morning.

He left me to help a cabin cruiser whose engine shut off and would not restart.

I fought the current around the corner and at 60 - 70% throttle was only able to move about 4 knots.

The rest of the trip through the harbor was uneventful and I exited at about 1030. It seemed to take forever to get out of the harbor and it was a relief to spot open water in front of me.

I noticed two sail boats behind me. One didn't make any ground on me and eventually turned south towards Coronado Islands. The other was much larger, a 45 - 50 feet racer with poles bare and the motor pushing it along at 8 - 10 knots so it didn't take long for it to overtake me. At the time, i was managing about five knots under the main and outboard.

As they passed me, closely on the starboard side, I nodded and waved. They returned the wave and looked the part in matching racing gear and jackets. I, on the other hand, looked pretty funny in my straw hat, large life preserver, shorts and running shoes. It wasn't the last time I'd see them up close.
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