Things that Go Bump in the Middle of the Night

Are Never Good.

This was written while recovering from an interesting experience.  One that I would hope not to repeat, but alas, one does not always get what one wants or even deserves!

The following was written July 18th, 2013 off of Jewell Island, Maine.

Just a few posts ago; I made the comment that learning takes work. So I had another learning experience last night.

Jewell Island Overhead July 2013

Jewell Island Overhead July 2013

The scene, I was anchored in the cove west of Jewell Island, there is also a spit of land to the west, making the cove about ½ mile long, but only 400 to 500 ft. wide.  The channel is considerably narrower and is probably less than 120 ft. wide.

This was my second night anchored in the same spot.  I actually stayed at this location because my anchor seemed well anchored.  Winds had been blowing 10 to 20 kts from the south, which is the same as the cove orientation (N –S).  I had about 90 ft. of chain out in about 6 ft. of water on a falling tide at this point.

1st red flag I ignored, about 12 hours earlier, about mid-way between high going to low tide, a sailboat anchored just to the SW of me and I asked him how much water he had where he was and he said, 8 ft., while at that time I only had 5 ft.  (I ignored it because I had been here for almost 24 hours already).

2nd red flag I ignored, there were 6 sailboats anchored in cove, spaced pretty evenly, and in line, but I was actually about one boat length (40 to 50 ft.) east of their anchor line.  But again, I had held well, so decided not to move a little more to the center (I was off center by about 50 ft.)

Line of other boats

Line of other boats

Just after dinner, I noticed a strong line of thunderstorms, associated with a cold front, moving from the WNW to the ESE just west of Portland.  Some spectacular lightning for about an hour.  Not knowing what to expect, but understanding there could be ferocious winds, I decided to start my main engine and stay up for the squall line’s passage.  Winds were strong, 20 kts out of the south and under those conditions, Dauntless seems to like oscillating between SE and SW, with half the time due South.

Much rain, lightning and then clearing skies right after.  The winds went calm. This was only a yellow flag. So about 11:00 p.m. I head for bed.  Anchor alarm set, I had it set for 80 ft., a little less than usual, (I usually use 120 ft.). I’m reading in bed about midnight, when I hear a noise, like a small bang from the deck above me (master cabin is forward).  But there was still some residual thunder around and thought maybe that what I heard.

3rd red flag ignored, Investigate all strange noises, immediately.

4th red flag…About 10 minutes later, my water bottle fell over.  What did I do? NOTHING. I figured I had put it on the counter too precariously.

Within about 5 minutes the boat like just fell over, listing about 25° I almost fell out of bed.  Hooray, I didn’t ignore this one.

I had trouble getting to the pilot house, felt like I was on a sailboat again. Dauntless was tilted to port about 25° increasing to almost 30° within 30 minutes.  I was too panicked to do anything about that though.  When I had grounded before, it was always symmetrical.  Clearly this time, I had some higher, harder ground right under the keel, so the boat flopped over.  I thought about what thru hulls I had on the now underwater port side, only the two head sinks. I went to close them and noticed smoke coming from the 120v outlet on the counter top. I felt the smoke, it was hot. I immediately turned off the inverter and then turned off all the 120v breakers. Smoke stopped and then I realized the outlet was half under water.

Went to other head, but no issues. I closed the thru hulls anyway.  Checked the bilge, thankfully no real water flowing, though some water was coming in seam under sink in midships head.  A trickle that was moving to forward bilge.

Finally, Dauntless seemed not to be increasing its list anymore. A few things in the galley went crashing, including a jar of instant coffee, which turned out to make more of a mess than anything else.

I took off what little clothes I had on and decided to walk around the boat, looking for any damage, on the outside.  Port side, my deck scuppers were just under water, there was only about 2 feet of water. Rudder seemed ok; prop was not in the mud, as I could turn it. (Did notice a nickel sized gouge in one blade), But at least the keel seemed to be protecting the prop and rudder.  Walked around stern, to starboard side, water here was about 4 feet deep.  Decided to use this opportunity to clean out two thru hulls that I thought may have been clogged for the last few weeks.  Felt good about that.

Crawled back into boat, dried myself off and wedged myself onto couch to wait to see what would happen next.  Low tide was just about here at this point, 12:45 a.m. at nearby island.  But now I had time to think. Who should I call, it was after midnight? I could call my wife, but then I would just worry her. I had enough worry for both of us.  I could call some other boat friends, but do they understand rounded full displacement hull shapes? I could call a few people who know Krogen’s, but then why wake them up? The situation was not getting any worse.  I could call BoatUS, but if they send someone out, they’ll just say let’s wait for the tide to return.

So I just worried. I was really calm on the outside, but inside I kept trying to envision the reason the boat was so listed and therefore what would happen as the tide started to come back in.  I remember reading a story of a sail boat in Alaska that was grounded in a similar way, but as the water came back up, the engine room ventilator came under water and the boat filled with water before it could right itself.  I started to worry irrationally that maybe the boat would just roll totally on its side. I realized that that would take some lifting force on the right side to happen and it made more sense that the port side would lift as the water came back and that Jim Krogen actually knew how to design a boat that would not turn turtle at the first opportunity.

I probably feel asleep for 45 minutes, and then when I awoke, I thought the list was the same, it certainly wasn’t worse and the tide had turned.  The beach was only 6 feet from the window at this point so every 5 minutes I tried to look at the same rock to see if there any difference.  About 2 a.m. I thought to download the inclinometer for my phone, did so, and measured a 25° list (I had guessed about that between 20 and 30).

At this point I checked the list about every 5 minutes and it was clearly getting better by about 1° every 5 to 10 min. Sure enough, by about 3 a.m. 2 hours after Low tide, the list was about 10°. By 4 a.m., it was close to normal and I decided to start the engine.  I did and noticed the exhaust was still about a few inches higher than normal, in other words the keel was still resting on something.

About 4:30 a.m. I decided it was time to do something.  I decided to not use the prop, just in case, but to use the windlass to pull me towards center channel. It worked.  Whenever the tension on the chain became a lot, I let it rest as the boat pulled forward. Once I could tell that boat was totally floating and had moved about 30 feet, I used the engine to move mid channel.

But now I had another problem.  I was surrounded on two sides by these dark sail boats that only had small anchor lights 50 ft. in the air.  A number of times as I tried to set my anchor, I was worried about backing into one of these boats. I thought that I better not make a bad situation worse by hitting another boat. So now was not the time to get giddy and make a bad problem far worse by hitting someone.

I took my time, shined my hand held spotlight on other boats a lot and 45 minutes later I finally got my anchor to set where I thought would be good.

I had good water and at 5 a.m. I went to sleep.  Getting up at 9, I noticed one of the sail boats leaving and I spent another 30 minutes moving to a better location where I was clearly in the middle of the channel.

Now, just after low tide, I still have 8 ft. under the boat, not 5.

In hindsight, besides the warning signs I ignored above, I think this occurred because since I had first anchored here, the winds were southerly, sometimes weak, sometimes strong, but pretty consistent, so Dauntless pretty much stayed parallel to the shore and although I was near the side of the channel; I was still in the channel.  Then, after the storm front moved thru, the winds went a little westerly, but then died.  I went to bed thinking that calm was good, but instead, it allowed the boat to move towards shore, without setting off the anchor alarm. The bow was still pointed to the middle of the channel, but my keel was now over the beach essentially.

Now, the boat’s all cleaned up and I’ll go to sleep early tonight.  I love this spot. I soaked in the water off the swim platform after cleaning the boat to cool off.

I think happy hour just started too.

One thought on “Things that Go Bump in the Middle of the Night

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