15 August 2015 | Ft. Walton Beach Landing
It was the end of a long day, all was going well. Sails down, under power, total control and moving slow, as I made the final approach to gently slide into the docking slip awaiting her next occupant at the Ft. Walton Beach Landing, when total control was lost and emergency procedures were invoked...
The Story: Ft. Walton Beach, FL Landing
Sooner or later, if you sail long enough, you learn to highten your awareness of not only which way the wind blows, but also the quiet, suttle, gentle current flowing in the water below the sailboat; especially when it comes to the final docking manuevers.
A basic principle of sailing: Propulsion is based on what is happens above the water; control is based on what happens below the water. When either of these principles is violated, chaos results.
For a sailboat to maintain control, it must have a minimum flow of water moving from the bow to the stern; a minimum amount of water flowing over keel and rudder. For this reason, a sailboat must keep moving through the water at a minimal speed, or the helm begins to loose control.
As I approached the dock, ready to slide into the slip, the winds were stout over the starboard side. Having accounted for the winds, the speed of my approach would need to be a little faster than normal to maintain control; so far not a problem. All was well on the approach, and it was time to apply some reverse thrust via the engine, to slow the sailboat down as she entered the boat slip.
Just as I applied the reverse thrust, the helm lost total control, and the vessel continued to slide forward and began to rotate.
The issue: there was a current in the water, moving in the same direction as the sailboat. When I applied reverse thrust, the required minimal flow of water over the keel and rudder was zeroed out; gone; nada; nothing.
All control was now lost, as the sailboat continued to wander aimlessly deeper into the boat slip. All expectations of a well managed docking were gone.
I immediately applied full throttle to the reverse thrust, in a vain attempt to regain some aspect of control. However, sailboats are well designed to move forward through the water; they maneuver very poorly in reverse; today was no exception.
Just when I was expecting the worst..., it was liken to the hand of God had come down and grabbed the sailboat, and total control was instantly returned. The sailboat straightened out, slowed, and gently, ever so gracefully, laid herself on the portside of the docking slip.
I had nothing to do with what just happened. All I could do was watch in amazement, and then quickly secure her docking lines before anything else happens.
Seems... The dinghy, which was in tow behind the sailboat, had been blown down wind during the docking approach. This put the dinghy, not behind the sailboat, but behind and off to the portside of the sailboat. As the sailboat entered the docking slip and then proceeded to loose control, the dinghy slid into the next docking slip. The tow line to the dinghy, was now reaching back from the stern and routed around the post between the two docking slips, and over to the dinghy. The dinghy was entering one slip, and the sailboat was entering the next slip over. One end of the tow line was tied to the bow of the dinghy. The other end of the tow line was tied to the portside stern of the sailboat.
When all chaos broke loose at the helm, the dinghy tow line (moments latter) began the sudden miraculous restoration of control on the sailboat. The sailboat straightened, slowed her forward progress, and gently laid her portside along the docking slip. Go figure... :)
Today, I have a Sailing Tour business in Pensacola FL; Daily two hour sail Tours on the Pensacola Bay.
Sinbad Sail Ventures
If you are ever in town, drop by and say hello; we can exchange stories...
Link To: Sinbad Sail Ventures