Friday, August 15, 2014
Shallow minded sailing
The past few days Lillian my daughter and I went out for a few days exploring with our sea dog Bequia on the Hogfish Maximus . The island that we live on is one of 18 in a small bay on the north coast of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. From our house we can see about half of these with the farthest one away being 7 miles. All have good anchorages in their lees depending on the wind direction. The best all weather anchorage being the landlocked harbor on Royal Island. The entrance to Royal Island has a small rock island almost in the third middle of the channel. The entrance for deep draft is to the west side of this rock. But when entering the east third looks so logical that lots of competent and lesser seaman think this is the way to go forgoing the pilot books and guides. Unfortunately just under the water in this part is a nice big shoal that has enough keel grooves in that the guest book it must have is in volumes. I love sailing in and out of here when the harbor is full of newbies at anchor on Hogfish Maximus she looks to have a deep draft which most times is drawing a bit over 7' with her board down. We know the bottom by heart so always go in and out the wrong way with all the crowd giving good advice as to the danger ahead via VHF radio . Reading old sailing yarns like Peter Pyes Moonrakers cruises , it is neat to know that he made the mistake and ran Moonraker up on this ledge too. I like diving along its length feeling the limestone ledge, with its multiple colored scrapes along it and think of old Moonraker here in the 40's stuck with no one to see her embarrassment.
I being a very cautious navigator have never run aground, but there has been multiple times when there has not been enough water to go where I am headed. This is only a temporary setback which we are used to being in the mode of calling out water depths in inches . An inch under our bottom is plenty but it can be slow going as the mass of displacement sucks the water away and we kind of inch worm along stopping and filling back in and going and sucking and stopping with a messing dusty underwater wake. This is not running aground it's just not having enough water. When we do run out of water it's really no big deal as the HFM just sits upright as solid as a concreat parking lot. With a 9' wide bottom you don't lean her over you just climb down aft into the water hopefully with a Sandy bottom with only your shorts gettin wet. If in mud then it's a bit deeper . My usual thing is to wade to the bow squatting down with my back to the boat grabbing the chine with both hands behind me and lifting a bit. By lifting up just a couple of inches the boat rocks aft and with the added displacement of the stern sections an inch of draft is gotten and so with the 32,000 lb boat now floating I spin her around and push her back into deeper water, something like 28". This is why I say we never run aground. The times we are being inconvenienced by not having enough water to go when and where we want I just blame on the moon as not keeping in sync with us.
Don't ever follow us as we take a lot of short cuts . We have found that in a simple breeze pif the seas are not breaking a bit or the swell is not giving a slight hump then there is enough water for us to go. So on we press but only in daylight and not over coral reefs or steel ship wrecks.
When we are sailing with the daggerboard down fully the HFMs draws 7'10"s. We have hit many unmarked sunken boats in far off harbors when tacking into them. This usually stops us dead in our tack- tracks... But only for a moment as we quickly let go the floating daggerboard down line and up pops the board and away we go with one of us quickly cranking the board back down. Most times nobody notices us in our impromptu bottom surveying of this new harbor.
When racing and cutting corners on shoals , cruising and thinking we can make it over some shoal the same drill happens with only a little less glass on the tip of the board, a shagrinned skipper and off we go. That is another reason why we never run aground.
" We have lots of water here, it's just spread out very thin."
Beach coaming treasure ! A free cleat from a wreck.
It sure is nice having a shoal draft vessel but if your draws a bit more then you will be anchored out a bit farther than us. The fun difference between keel and non keel boats is that when you run aground you are aground, no lifting your skirts and moving on. Sorry