Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Dinghy Lesson

I'll get right to the lesson. If you're near your dinghy and you don't have a pocket knife tucked away somewhere inside, stop reading this and go put a knife onboard now.

We have unlimited Tow Boat US membership. It costs $149 per year (minus MTOA discounts!) and insures me on whatever boat I'm on for full towing expenses. You gotta know that any blog entry that starts off talking about knives and Tow Boat US is going to be a good one...

So we pulled into Fernandina and there were no moorings available. We anchored instead on the Amelia River in a beautiful spot - beautiful as long as you didn't see the paper mills which are incredibly ugly. Still, it was one of the nicest nights at anchor yet. In the morning a municipal mooring freed up so we grabbed it - we thought we'd take the dogs into town, do some shopping, and just walk around. On our way to town, Dylan decided to make his move and dive in after a sea bird swimming near the dinghy. Unfortunately for Dylan, he was leashed into the dinghy. So he's flailing around the water, Dyna is trying to jump in after him, and we're moving forward. It was a wonderful time.

The dogs walked all around town and it was time to head back so we piled into the dinghy once again and headed back to the boat. As we approached the boat, I put the dinghy into reverse to slow our motion toward the mother ship. As soon as I did this, the engine stalled. Karen reached out for the boat but was about 2 inches too short. With 7 foot tides, there's good current in the harbor and it was now taking us for a lovely ride down the Amelia River. No amount of rowing could counteract the current - we were only able to steer the boat toward the far weeds. The engine would start but as soon as it went into gear it stalled.

We drifted for about 20 minutes and grounded on the far uninhabited side of the river. Tilting the engine to keep it from digging into the sand revealed the problem - we had wrapped our own stern line around the prop. What a bone-headed thing to do.

We always have communications capabilities onboard - even on the dinghy. So we called the marina and asked if someone could come and help. They promised to send out their boat immediately. It was about 45 minutes later when we realized that no one was coming.

We tried to cut the line with things we had onboard but nothing would do it. I guess in a real emergency we could have used a flare to burn through the line carefully but we weren't at that point yet.

Although the dogs loved the idea of being surrounded by the tall weeds on the river's edge, it was getting a bit annoying. I pulled out my iPhone, looked up Tow Boat US, and called. Within 5 minutes they were there and handed me the biggest knife I've ever seen. One slice cut the line and allowed it to be unwrapped. They pulled us out from the weeds, the engine started, and went into gear just perfectly.  All was well.

The towing and rescue service total came to $165. My bill - $0. For once, my Tow Boat US membership paid for itself. This was the first time I've ever called them.

So the lesson here is to keep a knife onboard. I put a nice combination pocket knife in a sealed baggy and placed it under the seat. While I was at it, I threw in some hose clamps in case a fuel line ever breaks.

Of course, there's another lesson here too. Call the Pro's if you need help. Anything less is just a waste of 45 minutes.


Douglas Gould said...

Lesson #3 - Throw the anchor when the engine dies.

Lesson #4 - Be fastidious about keeping the lines inside the boat.

Lesson #5 - Cruising is an adventure, you never know what might happen!

MV Red Head said...

You're absolutely right - we should have thrown out the anchor right away. We were only in 14 feet of water and have more than 100' of line. I didn't even think about the anchor on the dinghy...

Unknown said...

My son and his wife had a similar experience in Nantucket Harbor, but it was the bow line wrapped around the prop. Therefore, the engine could not be tilted up to gain access. My son always carries a pocket knife so the tool was available, but the access was poor and the water was cold. He did free the prop. Lesson: Always tie the lines inside the dinghy even on a short trip.

Celeste Yost said...

Boy there's never a dull moment with the two of you! You might consider keeping a Swiss Army Knife aboard your dinghy. That way should you get stuck, you'll be able to open your beverage of choice as well as enjoy a delicious Spam snack with the fork till Tow Boat US arrives...that part about using a flare to burn through the line was a little disconcerting! Glad your adventure ended on a happy note and I agree, Tow Boat US is very worthwhile -- we've used them too. Best regards to Karen and pats for Dylan and Dyna.

Ruth Anne II said...

The wisdom of the old timers is born out once again! Back when we were trying to start a schoolship, Susan and I went to call on Capt. Irving Johnson for advice. (He grew up in square-riggers, and together with his wife sailed the brigantine YANKEE around the world with kids maybe a dozen times.) He had many valuable bits of advice for us, but none sticks in my mind more than a comment he made to me - only barely out of earshot of the ladies - and I quote: "A sailor without a knife is like a whore without cunt!" Better keep one on you!

Summer Wind said...

It's always good to learn a lesson from other people's experiences. Note to self, pocket knife, beverage of choice, but maybe not canned spam! Definitely be careful with the lines. We always wondered what if!! Now we know. Safe travels.

MV Red Head said...

One of the best things about cruising is learning, especially from others. Show me a cruiser who isn't learning something new about boating, places to go, safety, things to do, etc., and I'll show you someone who isn't really out cruising.

I'm a long way from knowing everything there is about it and I surely doubt I'll ever get there!

I learned to have a knife handy. The anchor suggestion is stellar in this type of situation though. I just didn't think of it. I even had a blog entry just last month all about a new way to anchor the dinghy!