Baggy Wrinkles

Baggy Wrinkles
S/V Nautica, Hull #614, Built at Whitby Boatworks Ltd., Ontario, Canada 1977, one of the most recognizeable Carl Alberg designs. A masthead sloop displacing 9000 lbs, keel hull, Yanmar 15 hp diesel, LOA 30.27 Beam 8.75, Draft 4.29, roller furling headsail, tiller, berths for 4, interior teak bulkheads, teak cap rail and cockpit teak coamings, 12 volt lighting, aluminum mast support, Harken self tailing winches, in its day was designed for customers as a Cruiser-Racer, the Alberg 30 remains a Classic design of the large Alberg inventory.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Becalmed.  And out of gas.  A crisis turned into training in a perfectly harmless environment.  Better that happen here than in a time of turbulence and chaos!  So here's what happened...

A beautifully warm February day in the Southern US, water as smooth as a mirror.
I'd happily yet mindlessly departed across our large lake on a brilliantly delightful day to run my new motor through its break-in procedure.  There was no wind, and that didn't matter to me, I was on a motor break-in.  I'd left my gas container ashore because I figured I would not need it for this little putz of a motor, thinking it drank so little.  A small assumption.  Perhaps this is where we first encounter danger, in our assumptions!

And I figured that wrong.  After an hour at 3000 rpm,  I ran out of gas.  And did this conveniently in the middle of a very large body of water.  In the photo above you can see the dam on the horizon about 2 miles away.  Temperatures were a balmy 70.  Birds bobbed on the water like aimless corks.  The silence was delightful.  So, I really thought what a great day to be stranded!  The sight reminded me of something from the recent "All is Lost" film as the dory sat becalmed amidst a platinum mirror reflecting the warmth of a winter sun.  I thought to take pictures even!

But then I also thought about the fact that I'd left both my jackets in my car, ashore, and that despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon, this balmy retreat would give in to cool temperatures towards dusk.  And it was too deep in this part of the lake to anchor, so that was not an option.  So as I sat there with my new little motor out of gas, I felt a bit of anxiety being excreted into my veins to which I quickly took a deep breath and thought this would resolve itself one way or another.  Hopefully in a positive fashion! 

Being a Corporate certified Master Trainer, I thought to myself, "Now what do I have here with me and how shall I find my way home?  Call a friend?  Get a network of friends all worked up?"  I laughed, out-loud, I think.  I'm not like Robert Redford in the shipwreck film where he hardly speaks during the entire saga.  I did a slow inventory of everything I had; FM Radio (very proud to have this aboard, wasn't I so clever!), a fully charged cell phone with global access even, water and food, flares, and a strobe lamp, just in case it came to that.  That what, I thought to myself, although fully prepared, I lacked a jacket for warmth if my time ran out.  It was about 3:30pm and I had about 3 hours of sunlight left.

I scanned the horizon for any vessel movement.  Not even ripples crossed the lake today.  The dory sat breathlessly still and quiet.  So this is being stranded, I thought to myself.  And I set forth to do first things first.  Hail on channel 16.  But if no one is listening, my hailing proved it.  Useless.  But a great radio.  On to the cell phone.  Who to call?  A fellow yachtie?  No good numbers for that.  Besides, my position was about 4 miles south of our club and 2 miles west of the Dam.  It would take several hours for a rescue to arrive.  Rats.  I looked about the Dory and admired the new coating of textured Epiphanes paint I'd put on the dory several weeks back.  I liked the grey better than the "original" Cape Dory baby blue.  She looked quite a bit smarter with her new deck paint.

So, staying calm, what else was there to do?  No one was within ear-shot.  I fumbled about to find the phone number for Boat US.  Fortunately the Verizon WIFI was working.  Great!  Found the number, called and an operator responded, validated my account and got right to working the situation.  Like many of us who own vessels, we have this insurance but rarely find occasion to test it out.  Not like my Mother-in-Law's call button which she used to press just to say hello to the Nursing staff!  The Boat US folks replied that help had been notified and would contact me.  Have a nice day they said.  I thanked them happily and disconnected thinking what a smart and savvy guy I was to have this insurance.  Yet not so smart to have not carried gas aboard for the break-in period.  Ok, one cancels out the other.  Silly me.

I had no idea however, that the Boat US Rescue platform had just been put into place 2 weeks previous!  And I was the first customer.  As the red rescue boat sliced through the glassy lake, I marveled at how much we all take for granted.  We assume that if we have the insurance that it will work.  Really?

Captain Hamilton called my cell and asked me to go to FM.  On Channel 16 he calls, "Captain Hamilton, Boat US heading to your position, say again location over,..."  As I identify, another "rescue" source steps on our transmission offering rapid response.  "Where were they an hour ago?" I thought.  I'm feeling pretty silly being rescued by the 300 horsepower red-hulled rapid response boat when Captain Hamilton says to me, "Well, you just ran out of wind!"  I thanked him for that rationale which although true did not address my failure to carry extra fuel.  But it is great to have your rescuer provide you a way to re-frame the event!

The insurance worked.  He trailed me to port while I carried the 5 gallon fuel tank aboard, just in case.  I was happy to tie-up as the purple hues of dusk settled on the glassy lake that evening.  I had had to relearn a lesson (gas, gas, gas) and learned about Boat US as well.  In fact, Captain Hamilton reminded me that if I bumped up my plan from $50 to the next level that there would be no charge for towing or gas at all.  In fact, as many tows as I wanted.  I thought that might be a very optimal idea!

I climbed into my car and turned on the heated seat thinking how cold a night aboard might have been.