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Harborless 05-19-2013 10:58 AM

My Horror Story
I am so anxious. I feel as though a panic attack could happen at any moment.. I have never had a panic attack. I was less anxious after fighting off a home intruder who came into my house with a pistol and tried to execute me in the back room by the closet when he told me to get on my knees... Its that bad.

It started when I attempted to move my 1979 27' AMF PY26 from the Ortega Yacht Club Marina In Jacksonville to New Smyrna Beach FL.

I left on a nice breezy day early in the morning. I cut out under the Ortega draw bridge and headed toward the I-95 interstate bride overpass.
First off I ran aground for going on the outside of the channel marker. I have to spend an hour trying to get off before I hail a boat to pull me off. My boat is a centerboard and as I try to lift the board in the cabin with all my might the shackle breaks on the post leaving the only way to pull up the centerboard being direct up vertical. Wasn't going to happen. Great start.
I sail about a few hundred yards from under the I-95 bridge and cannot make any more forward progress. I have never tired to sail this route and so did not realize the strength of the incoming tide through the bridge. I could make no headway. I decided to try to motor through. Well folks let me tell you that a 1979 YSM8 is worthless. Especially when it RUNS AWAY AT CATASTROPHIC MOMENTS.
So there I am direct under the bridge at 3000 RPM NOT MOVING. sitting still. I see other boats motoring through all around me, sailing included. I call a sail boat on channel 9 and find out the current is 1.5 knots at least and I will not make it through the bridge until the tide falls.
Great. So I sail a few more circles then decide to move over towards shore and drop anchor a few hours.
Eventually the tide changes and I raise anchor and try again. I aim for the middle passage under the bridge and start a tack so that I enter the bridge on the port and come out on the starboard. Well I start sailing under with motor and I am being pushed by a lee current towards the bridge wall. Im making it making it and I am coming out of the other side when a jib line catches on the very most aft light on the bridge walls side. Immediately I undo that jib lines bitter end knot so that the line rips out but then the spreaders catch and I round up into the bridge and begin banging on pilings.
Thank god a boat had came though right before me and I hailed them down. The immediately came to my aid and helped me hold the boat so I could climb on the bridge and untangle the rigging before backing out.
So now I am under the I-95 bridge in that little lagoon before the old railroad bridge and main street bridge.
I am already stressed to hell and beat to hell. I do not really remember why, perhaps it was still so early in the day I do not know, but I decided to proceed down river with the tide.
The route through the railroad bridge takes you right by the shore through the opening. You are supposed to sort of loop around the side of the lagoon and ride through the opening. Well apparently I did not angle my approach right. Also, again, I got to close to the bridge and the water current begin sucking me towards the bridge. I was guaranteed to slam on the bridge on my present course, though it would take a few minutes. My only scary ass option was to gybe directly into the bridge and hope the engine and wind would push me out of the currents. Let me freaking tell you people I came within 10 feet of the bridge after the gybe. So there I am water sucking me back and my 8 HP engine freaking gunning harder than I ever pushed it.. the boat was in immediate danger of being lost. I am motoring so hard core I make it about 75 feet off the bridge when without warning the engine runs away.
Tiller left unattended, I jump into the cabin and cover the compression hole with my palm. Takes at least 15 seconds for the engine to die. I jump back on deck and have about 20 ft again.
God saved me.
He sent me a sustained gust of wind that allowed me to pull away from the current. He saved my boat. It was lost.
Man i feel so anxious writing this, my eye just misted.
So I make it away and attempt to drop anchor. the water is too deep. The anchor begins to drag back toward the bridge. I cannot pull the anchor up. My muscles give out. It takes every thing I have, I almost throw up from exertion.
I somehow get the anchor up, those it gets incredible tangled and is now useless if I need it again. I sail directly for the closest dock. I miss the first dock but make the second, slight collision.
I tie up for the night and collapse on the boat.
About an hour goes by a knock on the boat. Some guy tells me this is a private dock and I must move. I explain the situation and tell him I plan on leaving at first light, he doesn't care. Move or the cops are called and they will tow the boat, i cannot afford that.
I have no energy to sail. I tied three lines together and try to 'walk' the boat to the other dock climbing over the rocky shoreline. Of course the boat gets stuck. Bystanders help. Another hour passes. I have to stay in the water pushing the boat off rocks toward the other dock while another guy tows the line.
Eventually we make it and I tie up for the night and go to sleep.

I cannot stay here. Have to keep moving. So new day and I again head out this time making sure I follow the correct path to the bridge opening. I make it 2 times and each time I am lined up to go through, a train comes and they lower the bridge. The third time, 2 hours later, I start to go through and even on a low tide it seems like I am being pushed back. I motor out of the two bridges so that now I am by the Landing facing the main street bridge. The bridge operators tell me I am moving too slow for them to shut the bridge traffic, my mast height is 36, bridge clearance is 39', Ive got to run it or stay inside.
I tack towards the bridge and set a tack so that I cross under the bridge direct under center. It works, the top of my antenna bent under the bridge. Two feet or less to spare, less as I fall off the center.

I do make it and continue sailing two miles to a very nice anchorage behind a small island.
I have left the boat there 4 days. It is behind the little island right by the Mathews bridge. I am expected to sail this thing out of the river to st Augustine then to new Smyrna beach. I am freaking out because the engine is unreliable and too weak for snuff. The currents in the river constantly work against me as well as the wind. I also have no idea where to anchor once I leave this spot and head towards the beach. Im like 4-5 miles out and no idea where to stop or anchor or what. I have to plan my coming in to st aug on an incoming tide bc my engine will not motor through an outgoing tide.
Im really just feeling scared and anxious and so stressed out. This is not usually my character. I grew up in a very violent area and have been in dangerous situation numerous times without such feelings of panic as I feel now. I do not know what to do. I live on the boat and I have to make New Smyrna because thats where my family lives and my job is. I would love to just go down the ICW but with my engine motor sailing is not an option so how would I make it down? Everyone also tells me i would run aground at least once- that makes me feel no better.
Then the though of sailing offshore is not so bad until the afternoon thunderstorms and my lack of any jib besides a 98% hank on and one reefed main, doesn't have a second reefing point. Jib has no reefing point. Winds out of South, current out of south, so I would have to beat upwind the whole time. I feel safer in open water. If a storm was approaching I think I would bare poles it and float with the current bc motor sailing is not an option.

Basically guys I am feeling so stressed out and feel like I have no options because I have a time set to get to where I need to be.. about 10 days. I planned on going out to the boat in a few hours and attempting to sail down river to someplace near the beaches. Does anyone have recommendations?

This experience has been enough to make me want to not sail. I think the engine is the main culprit. I have put 2 grand into the engine and it stills runs away. nothing shore of a complete rebuild will fix the problem, though it will not add HP. It freaking almost kills me on a regular basis and as a single handler not having a reliable engine is terrible. Even if it worked its so weak its almost worthless besides getting in and out of a slip. Lawn mowers have more powerful engines then my 8000 pound boat does.

The boat is rigged strong and true, but the captain is not feeling up to snuff and really needs some support to make it through this. Right now this sucks. I feel like a coward and want to hide somewhere. The boat wont moves its self, and do not even think about telling me to hire a skipper on my budget.

Ive got 5 miles between me and the beaches and 80 miles to New Smryna. I have brand new north sail made sails but as I said, only one reef on the main and one 98% jib.

A part of me feels like this is not going to me for me, this stressful existence. I own the boat and love living on it but sailing the damn thing seems to always have a hitch. I think when I make New Smyrna I will just keep the boat moored and live on it until I sell it. I mean if I do go that route at least I did it. bought a boat, rebuilt a boat, learned to sail a boat, and sailed that trip-- that might be enough for me if this stressful existence continues.

Also, I feel like my knowledge of sailing is adequate. These experiences are causing me to have self-doubts EVEN THOUGH when emergencies have happened I have responded in the correct, and sometimes only fashion, that would save me and my boat. This is especially true when I made the decision to gybe in to the bridge and risk hitting it, or holding my course and "hoping for the best,' which would have resulted in catastrophe as I slid farther and farther. I do act, inaction is not my problem. This means I know what the right decisions to make are, but the boat will not cooperate.

Help me regain my confidence sailnet.

FSMike 05-19-2013 11:28 AM

Re: My Horror Story
There are a lot of things that could be said, but the important part is you're alive and well (albeit stressed) and you've still got your boat.
And the sun will still come up tomorrow.

One thing that puzzles me is the lack of performance under power, disregarding the running away. How long has it been since your bottom was cleaned, particularly the prop? It doesn't take long to foul the bottom in those waters, and it doesn't take much fouling to ruin the boat's performance. Just a little bit of growth on the prop can affect the performance under power.

Good luck to you.

SlowButSteady 05-19-2013 11:33 AM

Re: My Horror Story
As Nietzsche said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." It also makes for great stories down the road.

Roger Long 05-19-2013 11:40 AM

Re: My Horror Story
You are doing just fine for your level of experience. Knowledge comes from experience. Mistakes are the raw material for experience.

The knowledge you have now is that you have zero business attempting an 80 mile outside solo passage and then trying to navigate an inlet that may be breaking just outside the channel, or even in it, by the time you get there.

Your engine has 85% of the power, based on displacement to horsepower ratio, of what I use in cruise. You should be getting better performance. Something is wrong, possibly the wrong prop. Have you checked to be sure the prop isn't fouled or covered with barnacles?

A diesel that is running away is very dangerous. You must find the cause before proceeding. Yanmars are very good engines. Unless it is worn out, it should be possible to make that engine right.

Find a place to keep the boat for a while there in JAX and get the engine and centerboard straightened out. Then go down the ditch until you have more experience. If you can't afford to do that, you probably can't afford all the other stuff that lies ahead of you as a boat owner. Sell it or, if necessary, give it away, and chalk it up to experience.

Get TowboatUS towing insurance. It will be the best $125 you ever spend. I even carry it with nearly half a century of sailing and cruising experience and four ICW transits. It's saved me thousands of dollars.

capta 05-19-2013 11:51 AM

Re: My Horror Story
This may be a really stupid question, but are your bottom and running gear clean? If your prop is badly fouled, it wouldn't matter if you had 80 hp and a foul bottom would cause the boat to sail very poorly as well.
If your bottom is fouled, you will have to dive down and scrub it clean with hard bristled brushes and scrapers, a tedious job.
As I said previously, if you wait for westerly or the more common easterly winds you would have an easier time sailing south.
After cleaning the bottom, if needed, you might make a plea on the site for some kind soul with more experience to help you sail your boat to NSB for free, just supplying food, grog and transportation for them.
Another option would be to put an outboard bracket on the stern and use an outboard motor to motor the boat, though that isn't a cheap option.
Good luck.

SlowButSteady 05-19-2013 11:58 AM

Re: My Horror Story
Not being able to buck a 1.5 kt current is a bit suspicious. Even with a fouled bottom and prop I would expect an 8 hp engine to be able to do 3 or 4 kts.

deniseO30 05-19-2013 12:08 PM

Re: My Horror Story
wow.. what a horror story! but you did survive! Sailing doesn't seem to be the problem. Negotiating channels, bridges, current, tides and flow do seem to be a problem. First suggestion, don't try to do what others are doing. Depth finder is a must, charts also, gps too, if affordable. Local knowledge can be a big help because charts are not always up to date. Bridges create their own wind anomalies, even small bridges. slack tide is always a good time to do things. Don't know about your area, but winds die down around sunset here, also a good time to negotiate a bridge.

Knowing about range makers, buoys, and channels are important on rivers too.
Timing that is right for you and your boat is more important then just going from point a to b. also. Like here where I live. To get to the C &D canal area on the upper part of Delaware Bay, I have leave my YC 2 hrs before high tide, ride the tide all the way down river and with luck be at the C&D at dead low tide and ride the upcoming tide into the canal. (I've yet to make it on time LOL and wind up dilly dallying) One bridge is 47ft I always call and tell them I'm at 50ft and not taking any chances and will wait if necessary, they always lift the bridge.

Your boats sluggishness seems to say it's bottom is badly fouled. When motoring into strong current if you motor diagonal to the flow, the current will actually help your boat when going forward. Using current instead of fighting it is always best

steel 05-19-2013 12:13 PM

Re: My Horror Story
Something is wrong. An engine should not be able to run away while in gear. The prop must be completely fouled or slipping on the shaft.

eherlihy 05-19-2013 12:14 PM

Re: My Horror Story

Originally Posted by Harborless (Post 1032445)
My boat is a centerboard and as I try to lift the board in the cabin with all my might the shackle breaks on the post leaving the only way to pull up the centerboard being direct up vertical. Wasn't going to happen. Great start.


So there I am direct under the bridge at 3000 RPM NOT MOVING. sitting still. I see other boats motoring through all around me, sailing included. I call a sail boat on channel 9 and find out the current is 1.5 knots at least and I will not make it through the bridge until the tide falls.

First off, fix your centerboard shackle. This could possibly easily be fixed by you, with a wrench, a mask, fins and a snorkle.

Second, are you saying that your engine will not power you against a 1.5kt current? :eek: Your bottom must look like a welcome mat. While you're in the water, after you fix the centerboard, scrub the bottom and the prop with a putty knife, and then a stiff nylon brush. You should be able to make headway of at least 4 kts with the motor.

The vessel should be in the best operating condition that you can get it in before making any passage. The sails, the engine, the centerboard, the steering, and the rigging should all work reliably. Otherwise, you are risking your life, and the vessel.

geehaw 05-19-2013 12:19 PM

Re: My Horror Story
Well the way I see it you made 2 mistakes. 1) lack of planning and 2) lack of knowledge of your boats performance in certain conditions. Now the second one you gained a whole lot of knowledge in. So now do a little more planning. Wait for favorable tides and winds. You are traveling 80 miles so you need at least 20 hours of sailing, so you need to plan on at least 1 anchorage maybe 2 if your beating the whole way. And maybe a couple back-ups in case the weather was not what forecast. A good plan will help alleviate a lot of the anxiety. Maybe have a mechanic look at the motor. I am new to sailing myself and I have scared myself a few times. But I get back on the horse and think about what went wrong, what I did wrong and keep on trucking. It only gets better as you learn your abilities and the boats. Greg.

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