Thank God for Small Favors

Bringing Cari, a KK42,from Bodega Bay CA to Gig Harbor, WA Part II

Cari docked in her slip (second boat from right). the finger is on the starboard side, with a sailboat on the port side.

 

After that first 24 hours, winds and seas became more southerly and lessened in strength. So, the rolling slowly subsided over the next four days until we rounded the corner for the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We have about 15 hours left to Gig Harbor, but this would be our last night out. It did cause a little excitement for me.

On Dauntless, I understand my Raymarine E-80 radar very well. Since the first day, back in March 2013, when I turn on the engine, I also turn on:

  1. Radar,
  2. Navigation lights,
  3. VHF radio,
  4. AIS transponder,
  5. Horn,
  6. Auto pilot,

I’ve just found it best practice to always have all equipment powered and running when underway, day or night. This precludes forgetting to turn on Navigation Lights when it gets dark and most importantly, allows me to always see what the radar sees in good visibility and even more critical, to investigate items it’s not seeing (no returns), but are obvious enough looking out the pilot house windows that there is an object I certainly want to avoid.

When that happens, I just re-adjust the radar’s gain and filter, so that it shows me what it should for the current sea state.

This allows me to have total confidence at night and in poor visibility situations. Obviously, on a different boat, with a different radar, that is not the case.

So far on this trip, I found the radar somewhat typical, in that it seemed to work pretty well, but at times, it either showed too much sea clutter or not enough.  Something to keep in mind.

Thus, that last night, being off the ocean and now in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there was other traffic, navigation markers, etc. to deal with.

As we passed as few miles off of Port Angeles at Oh-Dark-Thirty, I saw a white light ahead, seemingly very close. I checked the chart, there should be nothing ahead for three miles, more than 30 minutes away. But there was a note about log booms in the Port Angeles harbor. We were near the harbor entrance, could this light denote a log boom?

Looking at the radar, I saw nothing, but as I said, I did not trust this particular radar that much to rely on it. That left my eyes and brain. As we know, our eyes and brain coupled with a vivid imagination, can do wonders at night. In particular, almost everything looks closer.

My brain was telling me that this flashing white light was close, almost too close. 

Being responsible for someone else’ boat, made me even more cautious than usual. I decided that caution was called for and turned the boat 90° to the north. At worst, I’d waste a little time, but at best I would avoid imminent disaster.

After turning and heading north for 5 minutes, as I watched the light (that I had turned to avoid), its bearing had hardly changed.  Umm, that meant that this light was not close at all but far way. Confirming what the radar had been telling me all along. I felt a bit embarrassed, but there were no witnesses and I felt good that I had chosen the safer choice, even if I wasted some time.

The rest of the morning was uneventful. Our ETA to Gig Harbor was about 13:00 and we decided that I would pilot the boat into the harbor and dock her, since I had a few dockings under my belt.

I decided that this was not the moment to recount the story of my first docking in Poland, where after docked, my friend said to me, “It’s a rub rail, not a crash rail”.

I was a bit nervous, never having seen the slip before and knowing it would be very narrow, at the almost end of the channel, leaving one with few options in case of a missed approach.

As you can see from the attached pictures, one from land looking at Cari in her slip, with a sailboat on her port side, the finger pier being on the right or starboard side and the overhead google shot, it is a narrow fairway.

Overhead Google view of Gig Harbor and I have put pin over the spot we would dock in

In spite of my nervousness, I decided I just had to dock as if it was Dauntless. I stayed to the right as we entered the fairway, trying to give myself as much room as possible for the left turn into the slip. I knew there was a sailboat docked on the left, with the narrow finger on the right.

With the Kadey Krogen’s high bow rise blocking the near forward view, I knew I had to trust my instincts. As I turned sharply left, I put her in neutral to reduce our forward speed of 3 knots. Seems fast, but steerage below two knots becomes problematic. The KK will turn very sharply, with a single screw and even without bow thruster. At full left rudder the bow pulpit was swinging over the finger. I knew to let it go well over the dock, in spite of appearances. Finally, with about 10 feet to spare forward to the dock, I put her in reverse and gave her a shot of power to kill our forward momentum. This also adds a kick to the stern to the right. The KK42 has a left-handed prop, so the stern is always trying to walk to the starboard, whether going forward or reverse.

Normally, I would have the person on the lines, put a line on the first cleat possible, then tie off at the midships cleat on the boat. Then use that with full left rudder and forward gear to push the stern against the dock finger. But in this case, it wasn’t needed. The surge of reverse, put the stern again the finger, stopped our forward way and the boat was perfectly parallel to the dock as it came to a stop, with the bow 6 feet from the forward dock.  We hadn’t touched the sailboat to the left, only a few feet away and we hadn’t bounced off the finger.

I was a bit astonished. As it was by far one of my best dockings ever.

Thank God for small favors.

I could finally relax for the first time in the days and weeks leading up to this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Richard on Dauntless

I’m an eclectic person, who grew up in New York, lived overseas for many years and have a boat, Dauntless, a 42 foot Kadey Krogen trawler yacht. Dauntless enables me to not only live in many different parts of the world, but to do it in a way that is interesting, affordable, with the added spice of a challenge. Dauntless also allows me to be in touch with nature. As the boat glides through the ocean, you have a sense of being part of a living organism. When dolphins come to frolic, they stay longer if you are out there talking to them, watching them. Birds come by, sometimes looking for a handout; sometimes grateful to find a respite from their long journey. I grew up on the New York waterfront, in the West Village, when everything west of Hudson St. was related to shipping and cargo from around the world. For a kid, it was an exciting place of warehouses, trucks, and working boats of all kinds: tugs and the barges and ships, cargo and passenger, they were pushing around. My father was an electrical engineer, my mother an intellectual, I fell in between. I have always been attracted to Earth’s natural processes, the physical sciences. I was in 8th grade when I decided to be a Meteorologist. After my career in meteorology, my natural interest in earth sciences: geology, astronomy, geography, earth history, made it a natural for me to become a science teacher in New York City, when I moved back to the Big Apple. Teaching led to becoming a high school principal to have the power to truly help kids learn and to be successful not only in school but in life. Dauntless is in western Europe now. In May and June, I will be wrapping up the last two years in northern Europe, heading south to spend the rest of the year in Spain & Portugal. Long term, I’m planning on returning to North American in the fall of 2017 and from there continuing to head west until we’re in Northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea, where we will settle for a bit. But now, my future lies not in NY or even Europe, but back to the water, where at night, when the winds die down, there is no noise, only the silence of the universe. I feel like I am at home, finally.

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