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Author Topic: Hard aground, on your own  (Read 1227 times)

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  • tough men are pussys
« on: September 15, 2008, 19:04 »
Hi everybody, been a while since I checked in, Here's a little adventure thats been published in a sailing rag,  this is the condensed version.  su amigo, Ian

Hard Aground, On Your Own

Murphy's law, as I've found works both on land and on sea.

Single handing and leaving Mazatlan to go back to La Paz across the Sea of Cortez, I'd changed fuel filters, oil, tightened all belts, I had 1/2 tank of fuel, so I felt confident I could make the 220 nm to Los Muertos, then up the Cerralvos Channel and into La Paz. But let me back up a little and start this story properly.

I'd received word by single side band that a friend of mine had found a ''Bloom" of scallops on one of the islands off the eastern coast of Baja. Being quite partial to these tasty sea creatures, I decided I'd head there before my friend ate the 500 lbs or so in the bloom. In Mazatlan, I'd re-propped following a dive of the bottom and finding a nick in the prop and a fair amount of electrolysis.  Helices Kelly in Mazatlan, supplied me with a new blank, cut it for the correct shaft size, pitch, and key way, and I went from a LH 18X12 to a LH 20X18.

Theoretically the new prop will produce an increase in speed with less RPM's. Why was there a 12" inch pitch in the first place, I don't know. By the way, this brand new prop cost $330.00. In the states, it would have been $1,500. If in Mazatlan, Kelly is highly recommended, it was ready in one day.

50 miles out of Mazatlan, with a northwest wind on the nose, 5 foot seas, wind at around 35, problems began. Engine died, but with the reefed main, staysail, mizzen, I could back off the wind and still make VMG to La Paz. Long story short, 5 bleeds later, 3 days and nights at sea and still 85 miles from safe harbor, I finally figured out the problem. My fault.

Whenever something goes wrong, I usually fault something in the system, but looking at it realistically, it was running good, til I did something to it. What did I do? Changed fuel filters. Pulling off the monster Dahl filter I noticed that I had used an OEM fiter, and had omitted the gasket which is integral in the Dahl filters. Dumb, yes, let's just mark this up to fatigue. Changes made, works fine. Safe harbor was made at the end of the third day just before sunset.

Anchoring in Bahia Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead), 4 beers on board, then a fantastic meal of fresh caught Dorado, michalatas, and then with a great bottle of wine from my stock, a chilean Santa Ema cabernet, 2003. I tucked myself in for a 4 am departure. Figured I'd beat the gale force winds that run between the mainland and Isla Cervallos, laying off the island and catching the downdraft from the the mountains on the island.

With a ketch behind me, I pulled anchor and steered to the right in able to clear the ketch, and the reef off to the left. I'd notice the hydraulic helm had little response when clearing the ketch, and with a flashlight saw that the steering pedistal and deck was wet with oil.

Turning right for open sea after clearing the ketch, and continueing  to turn left, no response to the helm. I immeditely put the engine in reverse, stopped all forward movement, then in neutral, big heavy boats don't stop, there's the momentum, current and wind.

The autopilot is a separtate system so I went below to steer by pilot. The pilot searching for the shortest route to the heading I'd set, couldn't make up it's mind to go left or right, it went left.

I knew I was in trouble when the bow lifted 5 feet in the air with a loud crash and bang, followed by crunches, bangs and whangs. The boat laid on it's side to it's cap rail.  A quick look into the interior showed all the plates, pans, books etc, on the cabin floor.   Done and done. High on a reef and seemingly hopeless.

Both sides of the Baja are unforgiving areas. No Coast Guard, Vessel Assist, and the Mexican Navy isn't interested. You're on your own, what you do is the only thing you can rely upon.

Jumping over the side with a high intensity light, I saw that the rocks were more round and worn lava than jagged coral. Swimming out from the stern, I saw the rock that I had rode over, 3 feet below the surface, 6 feet from the bottom. I figured if I could start the boat backward, I should be able to jump the rock again, and move into deeper water.

In low idle reverse, I jumped from port to starboard trying to rock this 40,000 boat, and noticed a few feet movement to stern. Waiting for the screech of the new prop on rock . . . it never came. Putting a bit more pressure on the throttle, a few more feet, then up over a rock, dipped to the other side, then freedom!

Anchor was dropped, and another trip over the side showed that there was a few scratches on the 18" wide full keel, and some of the bottom paint was missing from the starboard side.

Two things saved my bacon. A fully enclased keel, and a 6" thick hull. Hardin made a solid boat!

65 nm later, 8 hours, I dropped the hook in Bahia de la Paz, the bilge pump didn't go off once, and the fuel problems were fixed.  What did I learn from this experience? First of all, sh*t  happens. You can't prepare for everything. Second, if something goes wrong, look at what you did to it to make it go wrong. Third, there's only you, the boat, and the sea. If you get into it, it's up to you to get out of it.

Now, safely tucked to anchor, I'm looking forward to the 70 nm or so til I get to those scallops.

Ian, lucky as hell sailor,
S/V Blythe Spirit
 La Paz Mexico.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2008, 19:12 by ianhlnd »


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