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Forums / Cruising / A three hour cruise...  
The discussions for this thread include the following:

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 at 11:43pm
A three hour cruise...

This barely counts as a cruise, except to those of us who have to resort to rivers for our adventures, but I thought I'd relate my first longer sail in Yanqui.

My daughter and I loaded up for a cruise to Government Island, just up the Columbia River from Portland. Because we take such short trips, I'm intentional about packing as much sailing mishap into them as I can. Carmen needs to know what sailing is all about, after all.

While running before the wind, upriver, with Carmen at the helm, I realized I'd never hooked up the batteries on the boat to get the depth sounder working. I went down below, dug under the settee berth, and found the loose wire. I slid the wire on the empty post of one of the batteries. Little did I know I had put the negative wire disconnected from one battery onto the positive post of the other battery. The batteries had been installed exactly opposite each other, so one positive was the other's negative.

The result was immediate, hot, and smoking. Like, really, really smoking. I tried to pull the wire off, but it was starting to burn through my gloves and the smoke was more than I could stand. We were towing an 8 foot dinghy and I though about telling Carmen to haul it in just in case. I was afraid she'd jump into it just for fun. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and emptied it into the battery compartment. The fun ended then, less because of my extinguishing and more because the wire burned through. I can only imagine what we looked like to other boats.

We sailed on, not on fire but with the depth sounding issue unresolved. I remembered the hand held AA battery unit I had down below. Braved the horrible smell down below, found it and... No batteries!

That's okay, we'd do it the old fashioned way! Navigate by Braille! With a gathering wind, we made Government Island shortly after. It was a truly beautiful day. Smelled a little like burning, but still, a nice day.

After furling the sails and going under power, I edged my way into the small bay between Government and Lemon islands. There was a line of piers sticking a few feet out of the water to starboard, and for the life of me I couldn't recall how far out they went. Not wanting to hole myself on the submerged end, I kept towards what I knew to be a sandbar to port. Even with Yanqui's relatively deep draft, I knew I was well inside the channel. Much like I knew which wire I was disconnecting. Wham! There's the sandbar.

Carmen almost took a header, but we still had our rigging and the Columbia's unseasonably powerful current pushed us back off with little difficulty.

We anchored outside the little cove instead and rowed across (well, I did it twice, having forgotten something aboard). I hadn't remembered to plug the dinghy's daggerboard well, so I was rowing with a couple inches of water around my tows. Boat stilled rowed like a champ, though!

Ashore we explored the island and buried our pirate treasure, to be dug up next summer. It was mid week, so we had the place to ourselves. Carmen sacrificed historical accuracy by not killing me and burying my body with the treasure. Happily.

We rowed back to the boat and had dinner, but with a fire extinguished cabin it was time to head home. With a west wind and an east current, the apparent wind going back was 15 or so. We made it back in just a few screaming tacks. Flying our new 135 genoa, Yanqui heels much more quickly than our M-17 did, but firms up and has none of the beamier boat's slapping.

The dinghy, screaming along behind us, was taking water through the unplugged well at an alarming rate, but wasn't slowing us down much.

We turned up into the marina, which was when the trouble began. Unable to steer the motor in the well, I slowed too much before the port turn into our slip. Without enough headway, the tiller was dead and the boat fell off the current until she was broadside to it. It was over. We drifted ten feet into a line of boats and were immediately pinned there, unable to move. The bows were against the massive bronze stem fitting of a Peason and doing okay, but the stern was against the transom mounted outboard of a San Juan and I was afraid I would mangle the poor guy's motor.

To make matters worse, the dinghy had become stuck against the dock, with one oar levering under the dock on one end and under the transom seat on the other. With all the accumulated water pooling in one corner, I immediately wrote it off as sinking.

Thank heavens passing bystanders. Two came to my rescue, taking a line to the dock of my slip and pulling me in while I fended off the San Juan. Safely tied up, I thanked them profusely. The oar had sacrificed itself and the dinghy was unharmed. It was almost dark, so we put the boat to bed and went home.

A couple years ago in the Monty, betrayed by a lousy motor, I had sailed into a slip even further into that very same marina. Carmen was with me that voyage too and thought I was a hero. I'm already devising the next sailing crisis that I can overcome so as to get myself in the black again...

Yanqui #197

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 at 6:01pm
Murphy's law.

Glad you survived. Wink
Erik Evens
Los Angeles, CA
"Robin Lee", Yankee Dolphin #118

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 at 8:25pm

It is one of the benefits of river sailing that, worse comes to worst, you can jump off the boat and swim to shore with little difficulty. And, truth be told, fleeing a burning sailboat in a dinghy would have been very memorable.

I found a new slip that's vastly easier to get in and out of, I fixed the wiring and everything works, I put batteries in the back up depth sounder, and the dinghy is little worse for wear.


Posted: 29 May 2014 at 8:04pm
Hi Harvey
I was just checking the cruising forum and noted this forum has not been very active. Then, I saw your story from Aug, 2011 and did not remember seeing it. That August I was up in Maine and probably it slipped by me. Anyway, is it true time heals all wounds?
Marionette, #12

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 at 1:01pm
Enjoyed this one. Joe's total lack of ego is refreshing and cracked me up!

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