Sometimes I really don’t know why we bother checking the forecast. It was Sunday, October 16th – haul out day. The predicted 5-10 knot overnight winds had, in reality, been 15-20 knots and when we woke up in the morning they had increased to a steady 20+. We literally had whitecaps in the mooring field.
Earlier in the week I had been thinking about launch day. All I had wanted was for decent weather with light winds, and for Pegu Club to be facing bow out when she was splashed. We went zero for three that day. I knew that this time I would be motoring her into the liftout well, so I didn’t need to worry about backing her out, but I was still hoping for decent weather and light winds. Well, it was going to be sixty degrees and sunny, but we had white caps in the mooring field. The winds were worse than launch day and we were going to have to dock. I was not happy.
But before we get to the adventures of the day, check out the school of fish that were swimming around our boat the day before:
I don’t know what kind they were (and Jeff missed it because he was sailing in Pegu-teeny), but it was very cool. They swam around in a large circle for a few minutes before heading off.
So back to haul-out day, otherwise known around our house as the day that Kimberly gained an additional 150 gray hairs. We were scheduled to haul out at 3:00 p.m. and we had no idea what the weather would be like. After all, it was currently blowing a steady 20+ with higher gusts, and a quick look at NOAA’s website still had them predicting 10-12 knots that day. I won’t repeat my comments when I saw that. Would the wind die down? Would it increase? Who knew?
By 11:30 a.m. the winds were showing no signs of abating. It would have been extremely difficult to remove our furling headsail in those winds (can’t wait until we switch to hank-ons!), so we decided that we might as well head into the wash-down dock. At least we wouldn’t be bobbing around in 2-3 foot waves, and our friend James would be arriving in a few hours so he could help us remove the sail.
I was VERY nervous. Remember, we’re mooring people, not dock people, and now I was going to have to dock with 20+ knot winds blowing away from the dock. We strategized about which way we would go once Jeff removed the mooring lines, fired up Thumper, and we were off.
Right away I needed to improvise. Our original plan was that Jeff would release the lines when we were pointed to starboard, and then we would bang a left in front of Fantaseas (the boat next to us), but between the winds and the waves, Pegu Club didn’t initially want to go to the left so rather than t-bone Fantaseas I went around behind her. No problem.
Motoring into the fairway, the waves were gone but the wind was still blowing. The wash down dock is positioned horizontally to the fairway (like the top of a T), and the wind was blowing down the fairway, so this was going to be interesting.
As I made the turn the wind started blowing us off of the dock. The wind was hitting Pegu Club right on the beam (her side for the landlubbers that are reading), so that was a fair amount of windage. I had gotten us close enough so that Jeff was able to hop off of the boat with the dock line, but I was having trouble backing us up in the right direction in an attempt to keep us close to the dock. Jeff was trying to get us in a better position when the dock line popped off of the cleat on the boat. I watched the line flutter towards him and he raised his arms to signal that he didn’t have the boat anymore. I was on my own.
It’s amazing how quickly the mind works when it has to. Literally in the span of about half of a second, I had three thoughts: (1) This isn’t how I intended to start single handing; (2) I can motor down the fairway back into the mooring field, turn around and try again – but it’s really windy and I’m by myself for the first time so I don’t want to do that; and (3) I don’t care what I have to do, I’m not leaving this damn dock!
Not caring what I hit or how hard I hit it, I threw Pegu Club into reverse, determined to keep her close to the dock. Doing this moved her around so that now her stern was against the dock, greatly reducing the windage. As luck would have it, I had backed right into a fender that was tied to the dock, so this maneuver hadn’t caused any damage to either the boat or the dock. With the stern pinned against the dock, I was able to toss Jeff the stern dock line, and as he tied it off another Shenny member came along. He tossed me the line that had previously popped off the cleat, and I scampered to the bow to tie it off the bow cleat and toss it to him. He and Jeff were able to pull Pegu Club perpendicular to the dock, and we were all set.
I was pouring with sweat and shaking like a leaf, but there was no damage. Well, except for when I noticed a few hours later that my shin was really sore, and I lifted my pants leg to discover that I had gouged it (probably as I went up to tie the bow line off). I offered a beer to the guy who had helped to save us, exchanged cheers with the two guys who had been watching all of this from their boat (of course we had an audience), and sat down in the cockpit with a big “Whew!”.
Later that night Jeff and I reflected on what we could have done differently, as we try to do when things like this happen. Jeff had realized later that we had a smaller dock line he could have used for the midships cleat which would have kept the line from popping off. We dock so infrequently that we had forgotten we had a smaller line. We also agreed that next time the top priority will be to cleat her off first, rather than try to maneuver her into a better position before cleating the line. At least that way she’s tied to the dock, and then we can move her around. We also really need to practice docking more, although those conditions would have been challenging for anyone.
After that big adventure, breaking Pegu Club down to prepare her for hauling out was a snap. We were joined by our friend James which really made the process speedier and more efficient. Between Jeff, James, Mark (another club member), and me at the clutch, unfurling the jib and quickly dousing the sail in those winds was no problem.
Before we knew it, it was time to put-put across to the lift well and Pegu Club was coming out of the water.
As the travel lift brought her to the power-wash area, Jeff and I were finally going to get an answer to the question we had asked ourselves intermittently all season: Did we successfully put on the barrier coat, or is all of the paint going to slough off?
James helped Jeff move the mast to the racks while I scurried back and forth loading sails and the anchor into the car. Eventually we walked over to her new home for the next six months to check her out. All looked good, with the exception of some damage that clearly occurred when we ran aground:
She must have scraped against some rocks that were buried in the mud. It appears that project number one is going to be epoxy work.
The three of us wrapped up a busy day with a beer in the cockpit (cider for me!), hanging out, talking about boats and life. With the exception of the fact that we were sitting on land instead of bobbing on the water, it really doesn’t get any better than that.
Next up: 6 months for boat and house projects.