Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I am a wreck now, captain without seas; I am just a man, nursing my pride. The waters would take from me, and I have merely let them wound, my ship is a wreck, and so am I. It is not a total loss, of course. I exaggerate a lot about the totality of it, but when I went aground yesterday at about noon, I thought that this was indeed the end of it all for me. I was sailing along the eastern side of the Lynn Canal, since I’d been feeling better from the sickness a little bit, and wanted to journey further north, up to Skagway, and I was close to shore to try to look for bears. Up ahead was a small point, so I turned out to the deeper parts to go around it, but I neglected to check the area closely with my chart. I thought the point stuck out underwater a ways, but deep, so I would be fine the distance I was, but soon the depth came up, and then rapidly, and before I could do anything about it, the depths came up and hit my boat. It shook me, from the blow of coming to a halt so quickly, and the crunching noise. I hit hard, going about 5 knots to zero in a thud. But the waves and wind weren’t done, I was bounced along a little further, and soon I came to a bit of a halt heeled way over to port, with rocks 100 ft all around me. The tide was at its highest, coming back to this height only at midnight that night, but not even this high, so I couldn’t wait it out, but would have to try to unstick myself. I put up more sail, because the wind would heel me over more, and put less pressure on the keel, which was on the rocks (in about 2 ft of water) but the boat would float away if I could lift it. I put up the mainsail, then back the jib, which is to run it on the wrong side, which makes it fight the main, and heel the boat a lot. Then I run up the spritsail, so I have all my canvas flying, except the spinnaker, which would have been a mess, but I was thinking I would have to try it next. I put the motor on and push around a bit, and “Bump, Crunch, crack, thud…” I slowly creep along over the rocks, for about 20 minutes, until I make the 100 ft and get into deeper waters. I made it, right? No problems now, right? No. I have a leak. Its coming from the bottom, and I need to patch it, and also I need to look at the bottom to see what needs to be done. Then I run out of fuel. So, anchored, I make my fateful (and stupid) choice. I will beach the boat on this rocky shore and look at the bottom. I go into shallow water, careful to find a spot where the rocks are the smallest, but still large, grapefruit or watermelon sized (BAD, I know) and where the tide will lift me at dusk. I spend the time while the tide is dropping making sure I will heel to the Starboard side this time, so I can look at the port, and the wind wanted otherwise, but I managed to get it done. Now the water is going down quickly and I settle on a rock, and I try to put things under the boat to make her sit happily, but I missed. Its not easy to do, and I need to make absolutely sure that next time I do this right, but I learn the hard way, everytime. One large rock, of course, is all that I am sitting on, about the size of a grapefruit on top, but standing above the others by a foot. When the waters go away, I see a big dent in the hull there.
The coast guard comes to check on me after 3 hours on the beach, I cleaned off the port side and patched some holes in the bottom of the keel, which will need to be looked at further and more professionally later. Finally, the time comes, the water is rising, and I am ready to get out of there.
But the story is not over. Now it is just beginning to get exciting. I put a big hole in the side when I lay her over, so now water is coming in the boat instead of going around it, and I am not floating! Terrible news! I wonder if I have just lost my boat, but I turn on all my pumps and pump with the hand pump and try and try to make the water level go down. Slowly the boat rights herself (which is a good sign) and then slowly the water level goes down. Then I’m free!
I go anchor at the cove, checking through the night to see if my bilge is filling full of water, which it is, and I don’t sleep much from the leaks. Then I notice my phone got wet, so its dead now. Also my inverter got wet, so I think I need a new one, so no computer on the boat so easily.
I still don’t have enough fuel to get to Juneau, and Haines is the closest (25 miles away) so I head there, because its down wind. I sail under the Spinnaker mostly, shortening to the jib when it starts to blow hard, and make it in to Haines around 4. That is where I am now. I will try to patch the side tomorrow, then fill up with fuel and drive to Juneau, where I will lift out and do a professional repair job on everything. Don’t run into rocks. You will note, that one year ago I lost the White Knight, in a scary at-sea battle against the environment. Here is another lesson that I can’t seem to learn in books.
I have since come from Haines, after fixing up a patch on the inside of the starboard hole on the boat, and now have "almost" no leaks in the hull, which is to say they are slow. I drove from Haines to Juneau today, and now am sitting at anchor in Juneau. I will try to get hauled out tomorrow and then work on the boat while it is sitting on land, and hopefully all will be well in a few days (and a few hundred dollars).
This kind of thing really shakes my confidence, but I am feeling better now than I was before, and hopefully after everything is fixed I'll feel great about sailing again.


runningrandall said...

Nooooo! Not the boat. It's good to hear that you're okay. Good luck fixing it.

Aimee said...

Hey Christian, I send my regards to you and Altair. Hope everything works out and you can continue on your adventures.