Sunday, January 11, 2009

Careening Part 2 - How to Keep the Mast in the Air

Finding ourselves solidly aground at the mouth of the Pablo River near Isle of Palms Florida we had been unable to extricate ourselves using the high tide water at 3:00 p.m.

Stuck in 4 feet of water with a 5 foot draft Meredith faced an outgoing tide of about 4 feet.

The math here is simple. Meredith was going to be careened, ie. her entire hull was going to be out of the water at low tide.

This is not normal for a sailboat which is designed to float in the water, not sit on the ground. There is history to suggest the British Navy used to careen their boats regularly so the crew could scrape off all the barnacles and sea life that clung to the hulls.

Meredith is a modern boat and certainly not British. We have a head for God's sake. And running water.

Faced with Careening we turned to our first source of emergency information: Nigel Calder's Cruising Guide. Then we argued about whether to implement Mr. Calder's excellent suggestions.

Connie wanted to use all effort to try to persuade Meredith to lie down on her port side, the side closest to shore. Bob thought the effort, which was significant, a waste and that it might be better to careen on the starboard or "water" side.

Connie started to take action: draining the 150 gallon water tanks, moving all the movables to the port side of the boat, circling the deck watching the bottom as the tide receded.

Bob read a book.

As more of the bottom became visible Connie spied a line of concrete blocks and construction debris submerged on the starboard or "water" side of the boat. Someone had dumped unwanted construction fill in the entrance and if Meredith careened on that side she would suffer grievous injury and perhaps be holed.

Bob put his book down and rose, galvanized into action or at least turgidity.

Together we fell into frenzied action. Fenders were rigged to give protection from the concrete blocks. Blankets, our best and only blankets and our new and coveted duvet, were hung strategically over the side to further protect gelcoat and fibreglass from the protuding petards.

On the port side the mud bottom was above water to about 6 feet from Meredith. The boat was heeled about 5 degrees to Starboard - the wrong way.

Now came one of the tricky bits. We wanted to rig a kedge off the port side, an anchor with a halyard attached to help pull Meredith over to port.

Our trusty Fortress anchor was readied for action. Stringing a line on the Fortress Bob tried to throw it over the side with predictable results. It fell well short. We needed to have the anchor several meters off the side if the halyard were to have any effect.

Looking at the mud Bob started to remove his pants.

This did not impress Connie. Her look alone caused Bob to explain "I'm not walking through that mud with my clothes on".

Bob lowered himself an inch or two at a time into the cold, wet, stinking ooze searching with his toes for a firm bottom on which to stand. When his foot stopped sinking the mud was halfway up his thigh. He took the anchor from Connie and clutched it to his chest afraid of losing balance in the mud. Connie took hold of the halyard to guide it clear of shrouds.

So it is broad daylight. A naked fat man is standing in mud flats clutching an anchor to his bosom, appearing to illicitly board a boat occupied by a Rapunzel like girl who is trying to repel the boarder.

This is the middle of the bible belt.

Maybe God does live here because no boater passed Meredith the entire time.

Returning to the boat Bob saw a foot and half of Meredith's waterline already out of the water.

Back on Meredith, Connie had sat herself on the mainsail boom and swung herself out on the port side of the boat. She was hanging directly over the 3 feet of muck on a boom which was 4 inches wide.

It was agreed that Bob, who has considerably greater mass than Connie, should act as the weight on the end of the boom.

So with one of us on the boom sitting over a mud bath and other sitting as far outboard as possible on the port side we settled in for the hours it would take the tide to finish its outbound journey before it would return to save our poor Meredith.

We had done what we could and now we had to wait for our boat and home to fall over.

It was looking like a long night.

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