The boat ride…

Yesterday I was asked to crew on a boat that was going to the yard to be lifted. In order protect the identities of all involved I will change the names. The boat, let’s call it ‘Small Fur Bearing Animal’ has been cruising the Americas and needs to come out for some maintenance. SFBA (Small Fur Bearing Animal) needs about 5 foot 6 inches to float properly. The narrow entrance channel to the South Gulf Port Lock is shallow and especially so at low tide and or the wind is blowing from the North. Lets call SFBA’s captain Ralph and the crew Jammie and Gorg.

We arrived at the entrance to the lock channel at about 16:00 and the tide should have been plus 1 foot. The latest instructions to enter say to stay on the green side of the channel for the first few markers then favor the red side. We were discussing these instructions when the SFBA ground to a stop. We were hard aground. All three of us were captains of our own boats and no one panicked, outwardly. We all had visions of being that boat obviously grounded, for hours waiting for enough tide, wake or Tow boat to set them free.

A picture from the web, not the SFBA or the actual motley crew.

As it turned out, panic might have been a better course of action. Jammie was at the helm, Ralph was straddling the boom out at the end 90 degrees to the boat and Gorg (which you have all guessed is me) was in the dinghy. We are not sure what actually worked but the boat began to move. At first just turning a bit then gaining momentum. Remember where we all were. We were a picture if only I had a camera at the time. I like to think we all contributed to the floating of SFBA.

With Ralph still on the boom and I in the dinghy we were moving nicely when the tell tale signs of grounding came again and again and again. We managed to get through. As we approached the lock the combined years of experience we all had kicked in. “Perhaps Ralph should get back in the boat” opined Jammie. “Can I get out of the dinghy now” queried Gorg. With everyone back in the boat we proceeded to the lock.

Luckily, the lock is still being manned by a person, not the chains and confusing instructions etc.. The lock master had a distinctive Boston accent and said “there would only be 3 feet of water in places out there”. We managed to get through the lock and to the boat lift without much further trauma.

While we were underway, Ralph was concerned about his depth sounder and what it actually relayed to him. His boat needs 5′ 6″ and he usually ran aground at 4 feet on the depth sounder. “A simple adjustment of the offset is all you need” I offered. This kept me/us busy for the next half hour. Ralph offered that the depth sensor was about 18 inches below the water line and we adjusted to that. Jammie likes to use water under the keel as the displayed information. That means you would run aground when the depth display reads 0. Ralph and I like to use actual depth of the water, so it would read 5.5 feet when you run aground.

I could see it in Jammie and Ralphs eyes that they thought the lack of water and our grounding was directly related to my adjusting of the depth sounder settings. If I hadn’t changed the settings we wouldn’t have grounded until 4 feet…