Join Date: May 2003
Location: Southold, NY
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was it worth it?
Autopilot failed ? Seems like it was working just fine and it was the two men at the helm who failed.
This brings back a very embarrassing event in my early sailing carreer, which I am ashamed to even admit too , but heck, we are all just human after all ands perhaps my experience will help someone else from making the same mistake.
It was a clear, sunny,morning early in the sailing season. I was taking my new girlfriend out on my Ranger 23 for her first sail. Being new to sailing, Suzy was eager to learn things the "right way" so I started by teaching her some basic knots (bowline, figure 8, stopper, etc.) We left the Nissequoge River on the North shore of Long Island and headed across Long Island Sound toward Connecticut. It was a great sail all the way there. The wind was perfect for a close reach, with the 150 genoa and a full main. We flew across the sound with my trusty autohelm holding a perfect course as I went about tweaking the sails, putting on the "good tunes", fixing us cold drinks, and basically doing alll I could to make this an enjoyable and memorable first sail for Suz.
When we got close to Connecticut I punched the autohelm to put us about on the reciprocul course back to the Nissequogue River. I also checked the chart to make sure the course back would not bring us near the offshore Oil platform near the Northport LIPA (electric company)generatingh plant.
All was going well as before and we were having a terrific time. I then got a call from Susy, who had gone belowminutes earlier, for me to come down below to help her with some"new knots" she was trying to learn. Of course, eager to oblige I made my first mistake and left the deck and went below. I thought it would be for just a second, that was mistake #2, as the knot tying lesson progressed from those first basic knots to more complicated and certainly more fun knot tying combinations. Before I knew it I had completely lost track of time and all other considerations. Completely tangled up and lost in passionate knot tying, we were suddenly thrown from one end of the boat to the other, with the sound of a cannon going off the boat had come to a dead stop. Fully back in contact with all my senses, I shot out the companionway and into the cockpit. At first my eyes couldn't quite make out what I was seeing as this giant steel wall confronted me, but I quickly realized I had sailed directly into the side of the aformentioned LIPA platform. Horrified, I glanced up to see the mast gyrating wildly, but fortuneately still standing. The bow of the boat was less fortunate as the first 18 inches or so were completely compacted. The headstay flew in long arcs across the foredeck. Quickly I grabbed the spare jib halyard and led it to the aluminum toerail near what was left of the bow and winched it tight to stabilize the mast, I then dropped the main and genoa, pulled them aboard and started the 15hp evinrude on the stern and motored us away form the towering sides of the platform. Only then was I able to look below and search for any signs of water entering the hull. Forunately, she was dry, the crushed bow ending just about a foot above the waterline and there were no cracks running below the waterline.
Slowly, I was able to carefully motor back to my slip on the river and tie up. The greeting I got from my fellow dock mates, as I arrived with a now substantially smaller boat than I left with, changed from heartfelt sympathy, curious astonishment, to bemused wisecracks as they saw SUZY emerge from the cabin, a popular one being "well was she worth it?"
So what went wrong, besides the obvious, that caused me to crash into the side of a giant offshore platform in bright clear, weather? In one word...the tide. I had forgotten that the tide on the sound was about to change and a strong current develop which would carry me miles off course. A tough way to learn, but I assure you, the lesson was learned. Eventually the boat was repaired better than new, wish I could say the same about my relationship with Susy!