Wednesday, July 7, 2010

There is the old adage that says there are "those who have and those who will".  Now I know that saying can apply to a lot of circumstances however in the boating world, it concerns running your boat aground.

Up until last week, we were part of the group that "will".  Unfortunately now, we are part of the group that 'have'.  Yes, I am here to say that we ran our boat up onto a sand bar in Saint Augustine harbor.

We were having a wonderful day cruising from Palm Coast northbound towards Saint Augustine.  The plan was to spend a day or so there, taking in the sights and enjoying the oldest city in America.  We made it to the anchorage that is just off the city's sea wall and were looking for a place to drop anchor.  There are a lot of boats parked here as it is a popular place to go.

We found what seemed like a good spot:  not too close to the other boats, but close in enough to the dinghy dock that we didn't have to trek a mile or so to get there.  Anyway, we were getting set to drop the anchor when at the last minute, we had a small problem with the chain tackle.  (one of the bridles was stuck).  I ran down to the engine room to get a tool to fix it and by the time I got back up on deck, the current had moved us a little closer to the boat parked next to us.

Not wanting to be elbow to elbow with our neighbor, we put the boat in gear and swung around to get back to where we were.  Now the navigation instruments told us we were in 13 feet of water, and that is a lot for us.  We have two of these gizmos and they both said the same thing.   However, in the short time we were moving the boat, the depth went from 13 feet to 3 feet and the next thing I knew, we were not moving anymore.

Astonished, I checked out the depth finders and they confirmed my worst fear.  We were stuck.

I am not really sure how we went from 13 feet to 3 in such a short distance, but we did.  Apparently the harbor has a lot of bars hidden here and there and we caught one.  Okay, so it is no big deal.  Besides our pride, there wasn't any damage done.  The key was not to make a bad situation any worse.  How do you do that?  Well, many boat pilots might try to power their way off the sand bar.  Not knowing exactly what you are caught on or how far forward it extends makes this a bad idea.  Other pilots will try and go backwards (from whence they came) and while this is a plausible game plan, you really don't know how far up on the bar you are and you certainly don't want to damage the props or rudders.

The safest and least expensive way to go is to determine if you are at low to mid tide and simply wait for high tide to lift you off the obstruction.  This was certainly an option for us except it was hot out and we wanted to get into town as soon as possible.  Option two is to pick up the radio and call for help.... which is what we did.

In the boating world, there are a couple of "Triple A" type organizations that will come out and help you in these situations.  They are really great to have.  If you run aground, run out of gas or your engines simply quit working, they will come out and tow you back to safety.  One tenth of a boat unit a year is cheap insurance in my mind.  Anyway, we have always subscribed to this service but have never used it.  I thought now might be a good time to cash in on our annual benefit.

So I picked up the radio and gave them a call.  I told them what had happened and where we were located.  They said they would be there in 20 minutes and they were.   After a bit of paperwork and some small talk, the rescue boat operator tied one end of a line to one of Maya's stern cleats and attached the other end to his boat.  A few minutes of soft backwards pulling and we were off the bar.

The guy was very nice and he took great care of our boat and our egos.  Neither was damaged beyond repair.

In some ways this was another rite of passage for us.  No longer newbies, I think we can safely say now that we are part of the ones that 'have'.  

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