February 14, 2013

There's bad luck . . . and bad luck

OKAY, WE’RE BACK IN BUSINESS. The flu doctor knew his business and the computer is sputtering along nicely again.  I’ve been looking at pictures of that monster of a cruise ship that was adrift in the Gulf, and thinking what a scandal it is that the engineering crew didn’t have the skills and/or resources to get her engines going again after the breakdown. Shame on them.

The rescue tugs seem to have had a time of it, too, what with the tow line breaking and all. One begins to wonder what has happened to the art of seamanship in these days when cruise ships are shaped like gigantic apartment blocks and the air-conditioned bridge stands a hundred feet up in the air, remote and isolated from that nasty old sea.

It all reminded me of the only time so far I have needed a tow into port.  I was singlehanding back from Canada on a dead calm day when the Westerbeke’s water pump quit and I had to shut it down.  It took me six hours to sail the four miles to the nearest marina at Chemainus, on Vancouver Island.

I dropped the sails about a quarter mile outside the harbor entrance, hopped into my 10-foot fiberglass dinghy, and attached a tow line to the thwart.  I sculled with one oar over the stern, and noted how little power it took to move the boat, a Cape Dory 27-footer displacing between 7,500 and 9,000 pounds, depending on which marina crane driver you believed.  I waggled the oar back and forth, keeping a nice steady pressure on the tow line, and the boat followed obediently at perhaps a knot or so in the calm water. I didn’t even raise a sweat.

A couple of kind Canadians came running when I entered the marina on a shortened tow line, probably more concerned about the damage I could do to their boats, but I managed to nudge the Cape Dory sideways into a vacant berth and they helped me make fast.

A kind skipper of a 50-footer from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club invited me to supper aboard his boat with friends, and also gave me a 10-mile tow to Maple Bay next day, after I discovered there was no marine mechanic available in Chemainus.

I found one in Maple Bay all right, but he discovered that the water pump was beyond repair, so I had to order a new one from Seattle, which meant a wait of four days. I couldn’t complain, though.  Maple Bay was a good place for an enforced stay.  It had a pub and restaurant just a few steps away from my berth.  It wasn’t a totally luxurious holiday, but it was heaven compared with what the thousands of passengers on that cruise ship have had to put up with. At least I didn’t have to eat raw onion sandwiches or dodge streams of sewage coursing through my cabin.

Today’s Thought
What evil luck soever
For me remains in store,
’Tis sure much finer felows
Have fared much worse before.
— A. E. Houseman, Last Poems

“Did you see the doctor?”
“Yeah, he said I had water on the knee.”
“Did he fix it?”
“Yeah, he gave me a tap on the leg.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


The Unlikely Boatbuilder said...

Interesting. I discovered how easy it is to tow a boat from a dinghy last summer when my engine died a few hundred yards from my mooring. I anchored, tried to get the engine running again without success, wondered if I could get a tow to my mooring from someone, but then had the crazy idea of trying the dinghy. But it worked, and there was even a bit of wind and current to deal with.

Its amazing what you can do yourself if you try.

Bob and Vivian said...

All's well that ends well--- but what would happen to these obviously ill prepared cruise ships if the same thing happened in bad weather

Anonymous said...

We use a 6hp outboard on our CD27 and it pushes it along pretty well, surprisingly enough. We were shocked, even in moderate currents, it keeps her pushing along with less than 25% throttle.