Sea Otter Inlet to Shearwater (again). Osprey to the Rescue. August 21, 2019
31 August 2019 | Posted at Port McNeill
Photo: The motorboat Sea Fever under tow.
We were listening to the weather after the third of three gales since leaving Prince Rupert, wondering if it was safe to leave, when the Coast Guard interrupted the forecast to announce a Request for Marine Assistance: A powerboat named Sea Fever in Sea Otter Cove was broken down and requesting a tow to Shearwater Marina. Our first reaction was, "Sea Otter Cove, that's on the west coast of Vancouver Island, why would anyone there request a tow to Shearwater?" Then we realized "Cove" must be a mistake, they must mean Sea Otter Inlet. Then, "Oh No! That's where we are and the powerboat must be the one just behind us."
A quick call to the Coast Guard confirmed our assumption: they meant Sea Otter Inlet. Steve called Sea Fever and learned their starter motor had failed and no other boaters had answered their call for help. Then, to my horror, I heard Steve say, "I don't have a spare starter motor that would work on your boat, but we could give a tow."
"No," I said to Steve, "We're going south. How can we give them a tow to Shearwater." (Shearwater was a day's travel north. We had just come from there two days before.)
But Steve was adamant, "Someday we'll need a tow ourselves." He also pointed out that once we got out into Fitz Hugh Sound, we might be able to flag down a northbound boat to take over. I could see I wasn't going to win that argument.
We pulled up our anchor and motored over to Sea Fever. Preparing for the tow, we set up a bridle on Osprey's stern while Sea Fever set up a 200 foot one inch diameter rope tow line over their bow roller and put a buoy on their anchor so they could leave it behind and recover it later (they couldn't lift the anchor without an engine to operate the anchor winch). Having the towline be theirs meant when we arrived, we could throw it off and let Sea Fever drift to the dock.
Our first attempts to start towing were frustrating. We had to first go south before turning north because it took a long distance to turn and we needed boat speed to let our rudder push our stern around. Then, Sea Fever's crew helped by steering as well. Our next problem was that our dinghy, which we were towing just a few feet off our stern, became wrapped in the tow line and we had to straighten that out. Finally, we were out in the open Sound. The wind still blew from the south, setting up a short chop but it was with us. Still, instead of our usual 6 knots, we were doing only 4.2. That's when we realized we could roll out the jib and give us another 0.3 knots.
I looked at the chart plotter, hoping to see AIS symbols for northbound boats. Instead, I saw a screen cluttered with southbound boats. Everybody heading home.
We settled in for a day of towing, rolling out the jib when the wind came up, rolling it back in when the wind died or changed direction. At about 4:00 pm, I called Shearwater Marina on the radio and informed them we were a 44 ft sailboat towing a powerboat. Did they have space for us that night?
The reply: they would make space and to call when we had the marina in sight.
As we turned the last corner, I called and asked where they wanted us to go. The harbour master told me that they had cleared the entire north side of the main dock for us so we could swing wide and let the powerboat drift in. I looked ahead through the mist and saw a long empty dock, more space than I'd ever seen there before.
As we neared the marina, someone shouted, "We've got a Zodiac coming to help." A gray Zodiac came around the corner and as we released the tow line, nudged Sea Fever into the dock. Two men on the dock reached out to take Sea Fever's lines, and two others reached out for Osprey's lines.
We sometimes complain about Shearwater. It has a monopoly on boating services on the Central Coast and its moorage rates are high. But I had to admit they'd come through for us this time and they'd done it in a very seamanlike and professional manner.
That evening as we shared a pizza with Sea Fever's owner and crew in Shearwater's Fishermens Pub, we learned they were from Wrangell, Alaska and were returning to Wrangell after a trip up the Columbia River. They still had a long trip ahead of them.
Later, Steve commented to me that it might be a week before Sea Fever could leave Shearwater because of the time to get parts delivered. And they had to return to Sea Otter Inlet to get their anchor
The next morning after the fog cleared we headed back out Lama Passage. We were only a day behind where we'd planned to be.
We'd made a 32 mile tow from Sea Otter Inlet to Shearwater and another 43 mile trip back to Green Island Anchorage.
To see the area I'm talking about, search for Shearwater Marina in Google Maps and expand south to Hakai Passage. Sea Otter Inlet is just north of Hakai Passage.