Saturday, March 9, 2013
13 March 2013 | Kemah Marina/Galveston Bay
Skipper Marilyn Reed
And, another fine sailing day on Galveston Bay to record! Wind forecast was 15 – 20 with gusts to 25 and winds out of the South. Reality was sustained 23 as registered by the hand held anemometer, but the gusts had to be 30. Yet, intrepid sailors all, the day was awesome to us. We were out there - 1 of 3 boats on the bay - from about noon to 5; fully reefed, heeling like crazy the entire time, and loving it.
Great day on the water! Unless, of course, you factor in the docking maneuvers.
I must report that I have officially lost any credibility on my docking expertise that I may have gained over these past 4 years! My performance was right up there - No, way worse! - than the time dock-buddy Phillip Bailey on S/V Then Play On kept going backward and forward, forward and backward in our fairway, seeming to have zero recognition of where his slip might be, and grinning and waving like a crazy person at everyone on the dock before finally coming to rest in his very own slip. Or, maybe the time Jim and Meade LeBlanc came to visit on S/V Two Thumbs Up to wish us well as well readied Amore to head out for a GBCA Icicle Race. Oh, the drama they experienced retreating from this narrow fairway, bouncing off this and that before finally executing a safe exit was a sight to behold.
Dang, I guess it could have been possible to screw up worse in that I didn’t do any damage to Amore or any other boats or any of the crew, but the performance was certainly not one of my more stellar moments!
So, here you have the whole story. Crew is in place: one on port bow line, one on port stern line, two on starboard midships ready to do any fending off the piling if assistance is needed, and one in the cockpit with boathook in hand ready to carry out whatever mission arises. We’re good, right? On exit from the slip and just as her stern was headed to port, a sudden and massive gust of wind caught Amore and pushed her straight back. I literally had to turn her around in the fairway and back out. So, what’s the problem, you may ask? Envision a 32’ Catalina. Now, envision the 40’ fairway between C and D dock at Kemah Marina - not much maneuvering room. Usual procedure is prop walk takes stern to port, slip transmission into forward, and motor right on out. Simple! Really! Au contraire on this day, however! Huge SSE gust hit at the most inopportune time preventing the stern from going to port, yet not allowing it to go to starboard, coupled with the unfortunate fact that the transmission would not shift into forward, and when it finally caught I could not get up any steam with nose to wind. I was able to inch forward/backward/forward/backward and, eventually, get Amore turned around, straightened up, and backed right on out of the fairway. The good news is that we did not hit anything, which is a real miracle in those close quarters. I am positive, however, that the entire episode looked a tad awkward. The procedure was simply not your usual cast off the lines, glide right on out uneventfully, head out for a day of sailing. That, it was not!
But, sail we did. And, a very fine day on the water it was. The time finally arrived that our sailing appetites were sated, and we agreed to make our way back into the marina after an incredible afternoon on the Bay. I did my usual nonchalant crew talk concerning what to be prepared for in our docking and assigning various duties. Piece of cake! We’ve done this for 4 years and have been applauded many times for our teamwork, which generally achieves smooth and seemingly effortless dockings. But, you have to know there is way more to this story! Based on this particular return to dock, I now know all sorts of things NOT TO DO in 30 knot gusts from the south. The usual procedure of slipping the transmission into neutral about 5 boat slips short of target and gliding peacefully into place, alternating between forward and reverse from time to time as needed, does not work. It most especially does not work when one is hit with another massive gust of wind just at the start of the turn into the slip. Whoa, doggies, the excitement that ensued! In a split second the stern was being blown backward and quickly toward the boats, pilings, finger piers of D dock. Picture the stalwart crew who had mostly been close to the bow in readiness for the planned entry into the slip, running like crazy to the stern to fend us off of whatever was fast approaching, none of which looked like fun of any sort. Picture me fruitlessly throwing the transmission into forward and goosing the engine in an attempt to get some forward momentum against this horrific sustained gust. Picture Amore being blown backward quickly, with the engine doing not much more than curbing the speed with which we were fast approaching all things ugly. This was not a pretty sight at all! Arrive we did against D Dock in all its glory replete with various solid objects that we wished to avoid. Amazingly, the crew was able to get us stopped and secure with no hard hits against anything. Perhaps we can characterize them as grazings? At any rate, we finally settled solidly against these various items and were held in place by that nice sustained gust, unable to even consider moving. Any attempt at that point would definitely have ended with damage to a variety of boats inclusive of mine. So, we just sat for a few moments, with the crew holding us off this and that, and me gathering my wits about me and wondering how the HELL we could effect enough distance off that dock, so that I could get enough forward motion to get to the other side of the fairway and into the slip. Again, the dang 20 – 30 knot south wind thing kept us firmly planted against all. Crew absolutely could not push hard enough against that wind. We just sat awhile until the wind gods turned in our favor offering up enough of a lull for us to spring into action. On cue, en masse, and with amazing strength and stamina, the crew pushed us free. With about a 3’ gap of free water between us and all those solid objects we’d rather not revisit, and with me praying ardently that the lull would sustain itself optimally, we were able to achieve forward momentum, and make that turn into Amore’s rightful home.
The good news is that although we came to rest against boats, docks, and pilings, we did manage to control the situation and prevent any damage to vessels or people. Plus, we provided much excitement on C dock for the viewing entertainment of the many crews already enjoying their cockpit happy hours.
My heartfelt thanks to my wonderful crew Susan Levy, Belle Mayo, Bonnie McConnell, Ron Rogers, and Jack Kolar, as well as dock buddy Keith Burke who rushed over to assist from the dock. In conclusion, and to borrow fellow Skipper Jim LeBlanc’s phrase, “No worries. You came back with all the same people you left with. You didn’t break anything. You didn’t hurt anyone! It’s all good.” I could not have summed it up any better myself.
Stay tuned for more adventure as it occurs aboard S/V Amore. After all, we surely know, “If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there.”