Day's log for Sunday, August 19th, 2001 - Venice, FL

0930 - ran engine at idle for 5 min to warm up. I then allowed the engine to cool while I had breakfast. Then I changed the oil. I got only a half gallon of oil this time - which seems kind'a low.

Then I took the old oil to the dockmaster and asked where to put it. He didn't have a waste oil collection but he said to put it near a gate so that someone could pick it up.

Then I checked email and got information about my next destination, St. Pete.

Once I got back to the boat, I realized that my dinghy was stuck under the dock and the tide was not going down soon. Oops! I could stand on the end of the dinghy and not push it down at all - though with effort, I could push it sideways a bit. How to get out of this pickle? Well, I put a siphon tube in, then got lunch. Then I bailed some water into it. Finally, I could push it down enough to pull it out of underneath the dock. I bailed it out, then I was ready to go.


1255 - left dock. There was a thunder cloud almost overhead.

1302 - raised main and jib - no wind

1317 - Alternator output 1.2A 14V

1320 - steering course 321

1332 - changed course to 326

You can't see these banners very well but one is the South Carolina State flag. I was born in Charleston. The other one is the NSS banner from my friends Carol and Roger. A good round of thanks to them. I proudly display this one to show that I am a caver.

1400 - position N 27 deg 10' 49.8" W 082 deg 32' 18.3"

1500 - position N 27 deg 15' 18.4" W 082 deg 36' 1.5" GPS 5.2 knotmeter 5.82

1541 - thunderstorms near by

This is a typical Gulf of Mexico day. Here I'm approaching a cloud which turned into a thunderstorm. I don't particularly like these.

1600 - position N 27 deg 19' 40.5" W 082 deg 39' 51.2" GPS 5.4 knotmeter 6.0

Around this time the cloud I was approaching got bigger and bigger, then it started raining really hard and some lightning flashed but there was very little wind.

1610 - changed course to 334

1700 - position N 27 deg 24' 13.2" W 082 deg 42' 31.2" GPS 5.1 knot 5.87

1710 - this thunderstorm has completely evaporated.

1810 - changed course to 000

1820 - position N 27 deg 30' 20.1" W 082 deg 46' 38.6"

1900 - position N 27 deg 33' 40.1" W 082 deg 49' 4.1"

1917 - approaching Egmont channel. Reduced speed for 5 minutes to insure I was giving wide berth to a cruise liner "Sensation"

1935 - completed passing Egmont channel

1940 - changed c ourse to 045

1941 - position N 27 deg 37' 18.3" W 082 deg 49' 38.2"

2005 - position N 27 deg 38' 49.0" W 082 deg 47' 43.0"

2050 - ran aground. I was trying to go in North Pass to Pass A Grille Channel. There were some breakers present - but not severe - but the boat would bang on the bottom. I tried to back off. The ever present waves would not let me make any headway. I would back off an inch and the wave would put me back up that inch. I called Towboat/US. It was getting dark quickly. They had someone come out. They approached from the Gulf side. I stepped on the VHF mike and counted 1 to 10 then back to one so he could get an RDF bearing. I then waved my searchlight as instructed so he could locate me. Then another boat put up their searchlight. I told the guy about him and that I was the one on the left so there wouldn't be any confusion. Then I kept trying to back down, then go forward with the rudder hard over to turn around. I could not even turn around. The Towboat/US guy approached, dropped anchor, and the guy dropped in the water to walk the line to me. I picked it up and tied it off to the samson post. Next I put it in forward, the rudder in center, waited for the guy to walk and swim back to his boat. He put it in gear and pulled me past the shallows back into the channel. Then I started motoring and following him as instructed. After that he told me to slow down to avoid running over him. His wife started frantically pulling in the tow line. I put the engine in neutral, fearing a possible repeat of my episode in Lake Okeechobee. Somehow the line got wrapped around the back of my boat and my boat got turned around. She thought it was "on the wheel". Not real good. I did not dare to use the engine. Then Andrea Lynn turned around to the right and the line came up out of the water - good. They towed me into Pass A Grille Channel with my motor in neutral and I steered to follow them. I got anchored and we did the paperwork. It is very fortunate that I bought the unlimited towing - I was afraid something like this might happen.

While cooking dinner, I thought about about why this happened. How was this allowed to happen? This type of grounding is very serious as there are waves involved. Apparently there was sloppy judgment when I approached the channel. I had the sails up and was lowering them while using the autohelm to keep in the channel. I got the jib down and noticed the boat had wandered out of the channel. I reset the autohelm, then went to get the main down and check for more daymarkers as it was now getting too dark to see them. Then I went back. The depth sounder showed 0.9. Then, with no time to react, I hit.

The good thing is it's a steel boat with the keel embedded in 3/8" steel. That is so massive that anything it hits except for solid rock would have give. The stem curves down gently so there is no vertical surface to abruptly impact something. Also the hull is very strong so it can take some serious pounding. But irregardles, this must not happen again.

New operating rules come out of this:

  1. Always have the sails down before entering a channel.
  2. Never trust the Autohelm. It has a nasty tendency to surprise you with doing what it feels like doing. Steer by hand or stop the boat. Use the autohelm only in the open water and when raising or dropping sails. This is where an aberation of the autohelm will be noticed before it leads to any consequence.
  3. Commit the area of the chart to memory.
  4. Never attempt to enter an unfamiliar channel after dark. Put down the anchor in a clear spot before the channel but out of the way.

I was also thinking that in lieu of the Towboat/US I could have run my anchor line out as far as possible in the dinghy, then winched my way off. The nylon line under tension has different pulling characteristics than the engine and probably would have worked.

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