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Monday, May 17, 2010

5/17/2010 - It had to happen

I've often read that there are two kinds of sailors: those who have run aground and those who will run aground. Well, Lulu and I can now count ourselves among the former.

This morning we got up early and got ready to head across the bay to Englund Marine to pick up 200' of anchor chain we had bought. The idea of being out on the ocean doesn't really scare me at all, but docking and undocking gets my anxiety going. Single engine boats with full keels do not back really well to begin with. Or at least they don't until they get some way on. So there's always the very real possibility of hitting another boat either leaving the slip or coming back in. We've had pretty decent luck with Siempre Sabado so far, mostly due to its 27 horsepower engine and 3-bladed prop. But still I worry. So, when I woke up this morning I entertained myself by re-reading a few passages in "Boat Docking" by Charles T. Low. Once we got ready to get underway, I reviewed the plan with Lulu.

The reviews must have helped because we managed to get underway with absolutely no drama. Of course there was no wind, very little current and, most important of all, no audience.

So here we are tooling across the bay feeling pretty cocky. We're almost to the entry into the breakwater that separates Englund and The Embarcadero Marina from the bay when I feel the boat unmistakably lift up a bit. I knew immediately that we had run aground. I shifted into reverse but it was already too late. The momentum of 7 tons of boat had had planted us well and truly in the bottom mud/sand. The tide was going out and indeed there was only another hour and a half until we reached low tide which just happened to be a minus tide (-1.9'). It was now about 8:15 AM and low tide would be at 9:39. There was really nothing to be done but wait for the incoming tide to lift us off the bottom.

How did this happen? I thought I was watching the depth sounder and chart plotter closely. As it turns out, whoever installed the depth sounder must have had it adjusted so it told the water depth instead of the amount of water under the keel. Personally, I'm not particularly concerned with the actual depth except as it relates to me running aground. So, when the depth sounder said 4.5' I assumed there was 4.5' BENEATH the keel. But since the boat draws 4.5'+, we really had ZERO feet below the keel.

Since we were sitting there with nothing to do but wait, I pulled out the book and followed the directions to set the offset so that 4.5' would mean 4.5' beneath the keel. Then, just for good measure, I readjusted it to 5' to give us at least a little bit of slack. Another thing you might notice in looking at the picture of the GPS is that, right next to where the icon for our boat is, is the number "1". Notice how I managed to find the only "1" on that part of the chart? If I'd been a few feet to the left or right we would have floated right on by. This "1" is the depth of the water at mean lower low tide. Having recently been poring over NOAA charts, I was thinking that this number was fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet). So, if the mean low low depth was 1 fathom (6') and the tide was -1.9', the low tide depth should be 4.1'. Obviously this is still not deep enough to float our 4.5' deep boat. But the truth is, I hadn't noticed the "1" until after we ran aground since my sounder kept showing me that I had 4.5' of water (which I almost did, it just wasn't beneath the keel).

Now to compound the screw-up even further, the soundings on this chart are in FEET! NOT FATHOMS!! This makes a huge difference. I may run aground again but I won't make that particular mistake again.

So, the water flowed out and we proceeded to lay over on our side. We were never completely dry so the maximum angle we heeled was about 23 degrees. Felt more like 45. But we never took any water over the downhill side and, although somewhat chagrined, we were never in any danger. In this next picture, I held the camera parallel to the floor. See how the coats and notepad and inclinometer seem to defy gravity? Now tip the photo so the coats are straight up and down and you'll get an idea of how far over 23 degrees is.

Well, by 11:00 we were finally floating enough to back off into deeper water. We then went on in to Englund, got our chain and departed their dock as pretty as you please. However, our docking back at our marina was somewhat less than pretty. Matter of fact it was downright ugly. If I'm not lined up right the first time, it's really hard to get back into position without smacking any other boats. Fortunately we managed to not smack any boats but we did get a nice little rubber abrasion from a dock across the way. We decided we need to get out and practice more.

1 comment:

The Interview With A Cruiser Project said...

I like "there are two types of sailors: those who have run aground and those who lie"

Glad everything is OK.

Canadian charts use lowest low tide for charting and US charts use mean low tide which makes our border crossing sailing a bit confusing as well.