Thursday, January 18, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

September 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 







After earning my pleasure craft safety certification, I knew I required current navigational charts for each section of our upcoming boating adventure, so I purchased them along with a cruising guide, a good resource to have aboard. If you’re thinking I sound quite organized, think again. My lack of attention to detail was about to rear its ugly head on this journey.

I somehow forgot to check the publication date of the copy of the guide I purchased. But things couldn’t be that different, could they? And since the weather had been lovely, I guess I figured sunny skies would stick around.

My husband, Capt’n Mike, wanted this to be a wonderful firstvoyage, so keeping me out of the wind was key (that’s not easy on a sailboat).We set the alarm for 5:30 am to ensure that we entered the bay before the afternoon winds picked up. I was nervous as we motored out of the harbor, but somehowthe melody emanating fromthe halyard clanging calmed me, as did the breathtaking view on a perfect June morning. The sun was rising slowly and warmly, emphasizing the water’s long, low ripples, as seagulls loudly called out. My kids were still asleep in their cabins, leaving me time to wonder how this perfect life got to be mine.

A relevant landmark appeared in the north a few hours into our motoring. Capt’nMike steered and followed the chart plotter as I perched at the bow with chart and binoculars in hand. I had calculated the waypoints and knew that, thanks to our guidebook, we’d be safe if we headed through the buoyed channel into the canal.

As we did so, our daughter Brooke, a budding sailor, asked to steer the boat. Happily, Capt’n Miketurned over the helm to her. Ever the proud mom, I got my cell phone out andturned to capture this moment. The wall of black clouds dimmed the brightness of Brooke’s beaming smile. Rats, a storm was imminent — Mother Nature was crowding in on our holiday.

Rain fell hard but we made it safely to the marina that would be our day’s destination.

The next day, with our tummies full of a wonderful breakfast, we continued on our journey.

Once again,Mother Nature popped by for a visit, bringing with her a visibility-obliterating torrential downpour. Capt’n Mike and I looked at our (outdated)book and chose a new, nearby stop for the night. Mindful that the draft of our boat is four feet, we thought ourselves well prepared by the information about shallow areas on page 155 of our guide.

We knew to leave all the red spar buoys to port and not to turn north until we had cleared flashing red buoy number 54. As the rain relentlessly fell, Capt’n Mike navigated with Brooke as his mate, watching the depth sounder. I proudly perched at the bow, clad in my canary yellow rain gear and blue PFD, informing Capt’n Mike aboutthe shallowness of the waters. I yelled, “It is getting really shallow, Mike!” Now, I am not sure what caused Capt’n Mike’s sudden deafness, but he did not hear my “Shallow!” shouts nor respond to Brooke’sinch-by-inch countdown, culminating in a shrill,“Three foot eight! REVERSE!”

He did hear the eerie rubbing sound the rest of us heard. Our keel was mired in the muddy bottom and we’d run aground. Startled, surprised, and shaken, we took a few moments to get our bearing and refocus. We extricated ourselves (we were lucky) and reversed back into five feet of water, our plans dashed.

Turns out, that nearby marina we sought was out of business. Without the right information, we were disgruntled, tired boaters who needed to get our kids to a dock — quick.

Before our next boating excursion, we added things to our planning arsenal:  up-to-date information and a thorough examination of weather predictions along our route. We also learned the importance of staying safe and being well rested; nowadays we’ll change our plans when necessary to get some extra sleep and to wait for the bad weather to pass.

By Colleen Ellison-Wareing

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