1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: No Skill Required

Sunday, April 7, 2013

No Skill Required

I’ve often said I’d rather be lucky than good - because you can learn to be good, you can’t learn to be lucky.
That was proven in spades the other evening as I prepared to leave the dock at the Charleston Maritime Center. The winds, at 17 knots were blowing Gypsy Wind off the dock, and the outgoing tide was heading in the opposite direction. Standing by to assist were Joe and James, two friends from Georgia, and Tony, a local boater docked beside them.
At Jame’s urging, I put the boat into forward and reverse to check the transmission, something I rarely do. There was no problem, so I began to back out, with James keeping a line cleated to the dock. The plan was to let the wind push the boat into position facing the harbour entrance so I could simple drive out without a lot of drama. Good plan. Lousy execution on my part...
I was a bit too far over so I put the boat into reverse, initiating a prop walk that took me in the wrong direction. I had anticipated that, and once far enough back, put the boat into forward to turn the bow, then reverse again to move back a bit further, then forward again.....oh oh....was that ‘snap’ I heard the cable linkage breaking?
It was. The transmission was now in neutral and I was floating 20 feet off the dock with the wind set to blow me into Joe’s boat - or worse yet, Tony's even more expensive boat beside it.
Everyone scrambled to Joe’s boat to bring out fenders and prepare to catch me with a minimum of fibreglass crunching. Things were as under control as they could be given the situation - the military refers to this sort of situaton as FUBAR.
Then - inexplicably - Gypsy Wind slowly started to move, not towards Joe’s boat, the logical place to go given the strong winds but....towards the dock we had just left. Against the wind.
Joe and James hustled back to their original positions, Tony stayed by his boat just in case.
I stood at the helm, not sure whether to try and guide the boat or just let the fates take her as they wished. And ever so slowly, Gypsy Wind drifted close enough that I was able to throw bow and stern lines to the guys standing, jaws hanging as they watched, on the dock.
Now, if you think that was lucky, consider this...had I not checked the transmission as I usually don’t, I would have gotten out of the harbour with just two more ‘shifts’ left on that transmission cable. The winds were quite strong. When I got to the anchorage I was heading for, the cable would have snapped while I was backing down and left me unable to anchor properly, likely to go aground on a falling tide.
Or, had I managed to get past that one and the cable not failed until the next day’s anchorage, I would have been miles from any assistance, out in the marshes and rivers of South Carolina.
So folks, when I’ve furled my last sail and you put me in the ground, let my headstone read “I’d rather be lucky than good”.

Somedays you simply might as well sleep in. Today would have been a good day for that, and when the alarm went off at half past six, I thought about it. Today appears to be the last day of the winter that just won’t end - cold, dreary, drizzley with a cold and biting wind out of the north. Tomorrow’s forecast is sunny and high 60s. I headed out for Elliot Cut, naturally at the very height of the ebbtide. Elliot Cut is a difficult cut at the best of times if the current isn’t with you, and the current today was between 3.5 and four knots. My boat speed was down to .9 knots at one point - and hovered between 1 and 1.4 knots for almost the entire cut.
Waiting till the tide switched wasn’t really an option if I wanted to make any distance, as it didn’t reverse itself until nearly 1 pm. I’d lose half the day, so onward I struggled, making three boat lengths a minute. To put that into perspective, normal would be 15 to 18 boat lengths per minute.
Slowly, oh so slowly, Gypsy Wind struggled...I was grateful that this cut is fairly short, less than a half mile...and finally, we came through into the Stono River. Now the wind that I hadn’t felt inside the cut bore down. It was brisk - a Canadian word meaning ‘really damn cold!’
The tide was still against me but less strong so I was now making about 4.5 knots while watching the wind push mist along the water. This wasn’t fun. Then I noticed poor Aduana shivering and that decided me - I turned around, the speed shot up to 6 knots even as I dropped the engine speed to idle, and we returned to the anchorage to spend the day sensibly, rather than struggle in the cold and wet.
Cruising is supposed to be fun, and sometimes we forget that in the rush to get somewhere. So, excuse me while I take the pup ashore and we play ball and she chases some squirrels. After that, I’m going to put together a video about what an average day cruising the ICW is like, so those of you who haven’t done this yet can get an idea of how good it can be.
Do I know how to have fun or what?