Let me start out by saying that this was a mildly bad end to what would have otherwise been an absolutely wonderful and problem free vacation. The purpose was originally to leave Muskegon on Lake Michigan, travel North to visit friends in Ludington, a short stopover in Pentwater, and then back to Muskegon to meet friends for Independence Day. With random side trips, all told about 100 nautical miles or so. However, the end of the trip didn't go nearly as smoothly as the first 4 days.
After entering my harbor on Lake Muskegon, since we had been away for a few days i figured it would be prudent to pump out the holding tanks since we had friends coming soon. As I very slowly approached the fuel dock on my starboard side, I shifted into reverse to halt progress as we had come alongside the dock and the lines we're almost being tossed. And thats when something went "BANG!" in the pedestal.
Suddenly the shifting control which had worked so smoothly all week, no longer worked at all. We we're stuck in reverse. Not thinking that it was that big of a problem at that time, I reached for the throttle control and pulled it back to kill the engine, and yet another "BANG!" echos out from the pedestal, and my throttle control no longer works either.
By this time I should mention that we're spinning circles around the basin in a 37' sailboat, and the basin is only about 70'-80' across in any direction. It was only a matter of time before we hit something, and sure enough we we're headed for the concrete pier.
I tried to give it one last save and spun the wheel hard to port and this is when we realized that the throttle cable had become jammed into the chain drive for the steering system. And as I spun the wheel, the throttle rev'd up to the maximum. Fortunately this was enough to spin the stern free from directly ramming the concrete pier, but not enough to miss the rock break wall right next to it. (This is the moment where your entire boating life flashes before your eyes, where you know your baby is about to crash, and there's nothing you can do about it)
Those three words will probably forever haunt me from that moment, "EVERYONE BRACE YOURSELF!" We rammed the break wall doing roughly 5 knots in reverse. It was the most devastating feeling to hear the "CRACK!!!" of the fiberglass on the rudder as it snapped and twisted around. I should mention that no one seems to remember at exactly what point the engine shut off. Which leads me to believe that there's going to be quite a bit more wrong than just the rudder. We we're stopped stern first up on the rocks. This is when i first climbed onto the ladder and looked into the water and the carnage that lay just below.
At any rate, nobody got hurt, which is the most important thing that could have came out of this situation. And fortunately I was in my home port and the Harbor master was right there, and ran quick to get the marina's tender. In a matter of minutes, with help from several bystanders, we had her secure to the dock. While we were doing that, several crew were searching through aft compartments and the bilge to make sure that we weren't taking on water. Which, fortunately, we weren't.
Amazingly, I had purchased a brand new insurance policy only days earlier and hadn't even paid my premium yet, though I was assured by my insurance agent that i was not only covered for the entire extent of the damage, but that they would cover the tow crew and handle the whole repair. (If anyone is ever interested in a top notch insurance agent/agency i would be more than happy to recommend my agent to anyone. Just write me an e-mail and i'll send you his information.)
Of course, what would an accident be without retrospect.
Killing the engine via throttle control, this is a procedure that is listed in the Yanmar service manual, and was told to me by the previous owner. Hindsight being 20/20, there obviously needs to be another way to kill the engine in an emergency, which will be addressed before it goes back in the water
Words cannot describe how wonderful it is that among all of the chaos nobody got hurt. Nobody jumped to put themselves in between a pier and a boat that they couldn't stop. And when the order to brace yourself came out, everyone did just exactly that. It scares me to think what would have happened in the same situation if I had been out singlehanding the boat in the middle of the week when there was nobody around.
I cannot exactly imagine how the pedestal fell apart. I re-built and upgraded it last spring with new clamps, hardware, shackles, and retainers. Unfortunately until they have had a chance to inspect it, I'm not going to pull anything apart to see what happened. I feel this is best left to the professionals, especially since the insurance agency is paying for it.
Most certainly, more than anything I should emphasize safety in this situation. Numerous times passengers and crew could have easily been severely injured or even killed by impact injury, crushing, falling, overstressed lines, a spinning prop or in so many other ways. Cooler heads prevailed, and because of continually hammering the importance of safety through drills, books, discussions and practice (though redundant, annoying, and boring at times for the crew) it pays off in these types of situations. I can't say that I did everything right, at the minimum I should have had the foresight to anticipate an engine problem and install an emergency kill switch long before any of this ever happened.
Hopefully you can learn from my unfortunate incident somehow, or at least use it as a good example of why you should never try to stop a boat with your body.
I'll post photos when they pull it out early next week.