Leaving Kutz Inlet Waterfall Earlier than Anticipated only to Tackle the Scary Watts Narrows by Day’s End
As previously written, Dauntless got underway earlier than I. I woke up a little after 6 a.m. only to discover that we were about a ¼ mile from our anchoring spot We were a ¼ mile from where we were the previous night. I can determine from the Coastal Explorer track that we started drifting about 02:00, so in 4 hours we drifted a quarter of a mile down the inlet about ¼ mile from shore with depth now more than 200’.
I started the engine and we got underway.
It was a typical summer day in the Inside Passage, cloudy with rain showers on and off all day. Once we got into the main channel, we had a quiet day moving north. About midafternoon, we were passed by a humpback whale heading south.
Three hours later, we were approaching Watts Narrows, which we needed to pass thru to enter Baker Inlet, where we would anchor for the night near yet another waterfall.
There are hundreds of passages called “narrow” in S.E. Alaska and British Columbia. Watts Narrows was the narrowest and scariest that I have encountered since Northern Europe!
I’ll let the two videos speak for themselves. I made videos from inside the pilot house showing the Coastal Explorer chart and the Raymarine radar, while also taking GO Pro video from outside.
Have you ever had to try to comfort a terrified pet? Maybe they were terrified of being in the car? Or of thunder? Going to the vet? It’s not a situation of safety nor even of any risk, the fear is totally unjustified with the reality. But you know that no amount of words can really help.
But it still hurts you anyway because you know you are powerless to do anything to stop this unfounded terror. The only cure will be some minutes or hours later when whatever caused this is past and your cat or dog realized they have survived.
I’m not talking about “voicing annoyance” for example when you pack the cats into the car for the drive from New York to Los Angeles in roughly four days. Four days of a penetrating meow, that is anything but a “meow” even after the poor thing became hoarse.
To this day, I’m convinced that cat still thinks the only reason the trip ended was because he continually expressed his displeasure.
I’m not talking about that. I’m talking that paralyzing fear when the dog is hiding under the table because of thunder or something like that. No amount of talk is going to change his mind that he is actually safe.
And that’s the kind of fear I saw in Tee on our first trip on Dauntless.
Knowing they were new to boats, having just arrived in America from Vietnam only a couple of days earlier, I planned what I thought was a short trip out of Ketchikan to Prince of Wales Island. A little orientation trip. It was only 15 miles across Clarence Strait, but the winds were a little stronger than anticipated, which produced seas of 1-2 feet. Not terrible, in fact, having beat up the west coast, I hardly noticed these waves.
Not Tee. She was terrified in a way the was beyond words and reason. She wouldn’t leave my side in the pilot house, admittedly the worse ride location in the entire boat, but she sat on the bench and just whimpered (literally).
Luckily, Thien, her 16 yo son, knew his mother well and knew when best to just ignore her. I just felt sick for her, not being able to comfort her.
When we anchored, she was fine, though like me the first days/months anchoring, slept poorly.
The next day, I decided to cut our return trip in half, just going to the next fjord to the north on Prince of Wales Island. This worked well, until our windlass stopped working with 80 feet of chain out in 30 feet of water.
For weeks when Tee wanted a laugh, she would mimic the three of us heaving on the anchor chain pulling it up by hand and saying, “my dream, my dream”.
As time went on and she saw that we didn’t die each time we left the dock, her fears subsided. It helped that Thien explained to her one evening how the roll of the boat is a natural process, as it allows the boat the go with the seas and not fight it. That we, being inside the boat (like two hands cupped together) are safe.
Tee was also eager to learn how to drive the boat and she was at the helm for the entire Rocky Pass transit as we came south from Juneau in August.
There have been dozens of friends/familiy who have been at the help of Dauntless over the last 7 years. Tee has shown an exceptionally sharp attentiveness while at the helm. She looks and sees everything. No inadvertent running aground (like yours truly) on her watch.
She has made a video of her running the boat in the past weeks. It called Sailor Woman and is up on YouTube. She has asked me to share the link.
Keep in mind that it’s made for her Vietnamese audience. Also, I did some of the English captions not really knowing what she was saying, but making it fit what she was showing.
Now on our most recent trip (not the one in the video which was a week before) the winds were coming right up Zimovia Strait which separates Wrangell and Woronofski islands, at 18 knots producing a sea of 1 to 3 feet and Tee didn’t even notice.
Saturday was supposed to be a respite between the storm systems that roll over the North Pacific and into the Gulf of Alaska. Light winds, periods of no rain. That’s great.
It wasn’t to be.
Since the beginning, I’ve told anyone who would listen to never bet your safety on a weather forecast. And in my hay day, I was a very good weather forecaster. The WSFO in Juneau writes a great weather discussion and does a great job overall in a very difficult environment, where local effects significantly affect the local weather.
Saturday looked to be the best day of the week, so I planned on an overnight. We would go to Woronofski Island and leave our crab pot that in the past has been very good. Then we would head south along Zimovia Strait about 8 miles and drop a shrimp pot on each side of the strait in about 300 and 180 feet of water respectively. Then, instead of heading another hour south to anchor in a more protected bay, I decided we could anchor just off Wrangell Island, in a little channel, with a little island to the west.
Untying the lines Saturday noon, the winds were light, but there was light rain. As we motored out of the harbor, the winds picked up significantly. They were southerly at 17 knots!
Now that’s normally a showstopper. But being in Southeast Alaska, even though in this case the winds are channeled down the strait, the seas these winds produced were only about one foot. I’ll take it. I’m guessing the winds just picked up and had been light overnight.
As we headed south, winds continued about 15 knots on our bow, but again no real waves. We dropped the first shrimp pot and headed to drop the second.
All went well. The little channel was just as it looked on the charts. We anchored in 30 feet of water. The anchor dragged about 30 feet before it set, I could hear/feel it being pulled over rocks. I decided to put the snubber on, since the winds had not let up and were in the mid-teens coming up the strait.
This Kadey Krogen is more reactive to the current than winds. So, I knew we would sit parallel to shore facing south until the current turned and then we would turn around. We’ve done this many times and my Delta anchor has never dragged.
I could hear the snubber rubbing as we changed direction a couple of times that night (night for me starts when the sun goes down, 16:00 to 08:00), but that’s not what got me up.
For the last few months, my batteries have been acting sulfated, in spite of being equalized a few times. I have four 8D batteries, each with 230 amp-hours. They are four years old and I had already separated them then checked the individual voltages after some time. They were all within 0.01v; that’s very good.
If the load on the fully charged batteries is 20 amps, then the voltage plummets quickly. In three and a half hours, the voltage was 12.51 at minus 56 amp-hours. Not terrible
I decided we would run the generator for an hour, to renew our hot water and batteries for the evening before bed. The Genny started after a minute of coaxing. When I turned it off an hour and quarter later, with the voltage 13.14v and the batteries at -26 amp-hrs. OK
An hour later, it was 12.73v and -44 amp-hr. Great, but as expected, only 4 hours later, I got up to check and the voltage was 10.50v at only -82 amp-hrs., that’s an SOC of 91%. I started the gen and went back to sleep. Nicely, I can hardly hear the gen in my cabin. I woke up again at 04:00, three hours later, and turned it off.
At 06:15 I got up for good and the voltage was still 12.77v at -47 amp-hrs.
At 07:00 I turned on the gen, just to help facilitate the hot water kettle and rice cooker. I left the gen on as I pulled up the anchor also.
Now, the last little hiccup.
Since the gen was running, I wanted to see how well the windlass worked on gen power versus engine power, so I started pulling up the anchor. I had already taken the snubber off earlier that morning.
I was so enthralled with how vigorous the windlass was on the generator that it wasn’t until the anchor was off the bottom that I realized I had not started the engine.
Ooops – Welcome to my world
Start the engine and within a minute it is running very rough. Oh no, what now. I run down to the engine room and the engine sounds terrible. All kinds of wild thoughts ran thru my mind in seconds. All of them expensive.
In the engine room, a quick glance shows no obvious problems. That tank feed is open, as is the return. Then I see that the vacuum gauge on the Racors is showing 12 inches of Hg. That means the engine has been starved of fuel because…
I check the fuel valves again. An added factor is the additional three valves on the aux fuel pump. I use this pump to fill the filters and bleed the system when I change fuel filters.
I notice that the gravity feed valve is closed. Oops, I close it when I fill the 10-liter Wallas Heater fuel tank.
Opening that valve, allows the vacuum gauge to go to zero. Good. We start the engine again and after about a minute, it is running like normal.
Now, back under power and underway, we got to our shrimp pot and haul it in to discover all of two shrimp and a spider crab on the outside. The spider crab went back to the sea.
The second shrimp pot was empty and the crab pot, which previously had 10 crab, now had two.
6 hours of engine time, plus 6 hours of Gen time means 6×1.4+6.1=14.4 gallons of fuel @$3.52 here =$50 for 2 shrimp and 2 Dungeness crabs. Not Bad.
Never complain about the boat or weather, because it can always get worse.
All in all, 24 hours later, we were back to the dock; an interesting day.
Three years ago, when I met Tee and her son Thien, in the hot, humid climate of SaiGon, it was far from Alaska as
one could get, mentally and physically. But as I got to know the Vietnamese in general, and Tee in particular, it became clear to me that while her dream of America had no snow, sea nor glaciers in it, it was more a matter of not knowing the possibilities, than not wanting the opportunity.
Wrangell Alaska ended up being our home port for now because I wanted a small community that was close-knit and friendly, without the drama and BS that so often happens in the Outside (Lower 48). I also selected Wrangell after the high school principal spent 45 minutes with the three of us, talking about his school, his vision and how Thien would fit it.
He was the kind of school leader that I was, and I liked that. It was truly children first.
Of course, having a good harbor for Dauntless was important and that the Harbor Master could get us a spot within walking distance of downtown was the icing on the cake.
Tom, who I met on Trawler Forum helped guide me to Wrangell and his help and advice was so helpful when I knew almost nothing about Southeast Alaska and even know don’t know much more. And extra bonus was having Rod & Becky and Bob & Char, fellow boaters, who have been helping us fish, crab and shrimp. It was Bob’s shrimp pot that I had abandoned a couple of weeks ago, which added to my stress of getting it back.
And Rod & Becky it turns out have been to all the places I wasn’t to go in the coming years, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Of all the places I have been in the last few years, who knew that here in Wrangell I would find someone who has been on my path and could give much needed advice. (No need to check in there, but do this…)
But the real story is about Tee and how she has made her Alaskan and American life the best it can be. Thien also does his part; mostly be studying, wither schoolwork or for the SAT.
For Tee the idea of free protein overwhelms all other senses. She has spent hours trying to catch fish in the rain with no luck. At least we can fall back on crabbing. We have found a good spot, only 3 miles west of Wrangell, 30 minutes on Dauntless, to drop our pot in about 35 feet of water.
So, when Tee complains about the lack of a broadband connection or cooking in a small kitchen. I know it time to go crabbing.
As we returned to Wrangell Harbor after a day of fruitless fishing, but with 5 Dungeness crabs at least, I thought about how I was now an “old pro” returning to this harbor and dock.
What made me think that? This was only my 7th time returning to this harbor and docking on this dock!
Seven times! WTF. Virtually everyone reading this who has a boat has docked at their home harbor more than that, hundreds, even thousands of times more!!
But if you have been reading this blog and following my travels for any length of time, you know I’m all about travelling. Even when Dauntless was ported in Waterford, Ireland, Huatulco, Mexico or Vallejo, California and spent most of a year or more in those places, I wasn’t cruising. I’d leave the boat for weeks or months at a time flying to New York, California, Texas, Italy, Holland, Germany, Japan and Vietnam.
Even when we were home ported in Providence, Rhode Island, our trips were big ones, lasting the season, to Nova Scotia, then the Bahamas.
Therefore, since arriving in Wrangell at the end of August and the summer, we’ve done a half dozen day trips, which again is the most ever for any one port!
I miss Waterford. Still probably the best place Dauntless and I have ever lived. Great place for both the boat and me. We’ll return one day.
I regret not cruising more while in Vallejo. That was my original plan, but it was not to be. In part because Dauntless was under a roof, the mast was down. This allowed me to do a lot of overdue maintenance on the mast fittings but precluded taking Dauntless out for a spin.
While I have substituted taught here in the elementary and high schools, I’m pretty much doing nothing. So, taking the boat out for a few hours (we only have 7 hours of weak daylight this time of year) is a treat for me.
I am in the process of organizing a YouTube channel, in which I will have all of my cruising videos of the last 6 years, but that will be a work in progress. I will start with Dauntless leaving San Francisco and coming up the coast to the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and finally Southeast Alaska.
That evening, I told my crew, Tee and Thien, that they could sleep late. I could get off on my own, but they needed to be ready for action by 09:00 sharp and they needed to be prepared to spend two hours out on deck in the cold and wind without complaint. That was a deal they loved to accept because both like sleeping in on weekends.
We had the coldest weather of the year in these days, the temperatures being in the high 20’s in the mornings. I had already filled the water tanks of the boat just in case we lost the dock water.
I also made one of my brighter decisions. I disconnected the water hose from the boat Friday evening. It took me almost 20 minutes to do so because it was almost frozen, so I was so glad i had not waited until the morning. I then decided that with the light winds we were having, there was no reason to keep all 7 lines on Dauntless.
One of my better decisions. As it was the lines were frozen and it took me a while to get the lines off the cleats. I left only two lines: a short stern line and a line that was tied my mid-dock to the bow cleat.
Saturday morning was dark and cold, 25°F, the coldest Dauntless has ever seen. The night before I had done my engine room checks, including turning on the engine water intake. I had also checked the oil and set the fuel feed.
My alarm was set for 06:30, but of course on all days of departure, I woke early and was up at 06:15. Time enough to make my usual cup of Vietnamese coffee.
Engine start was at 06:36. After last weeks’ mistake of not opening the engine water intake, I am back in the habit of immediately checking for water in the exhaust and I also ran down into the engine room to make sure there were no bad noises, smells or visuals.
Even with only two lines, it still took me 10 minutes to get the frozen lines off. I had to get some cups of hot water for the line on the bow cleat. But I was underway to Mahan Bay at 06:50, 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
I had two hours to think about the plan once we got there. I had thought that if for whatever reason, the shrimp pot floats were underwater, for instance if the pot had got dragged to deeper water, what would we do? I figured we would put out a fishing line without big halibut jig (a big hook with a 12 oz or 16 oz weight). We would troll back an over the probable areas. It turned out that I’m glad I had thought of this.
It was cold and dark, but we were on the way back to collect our gear. Just before 09:00 we were approaching Mahan Bay. It was a beautiful morning, just some middle broken clouds and light winds (see picture above). Tee and Thien were suited up and ready to go. I aimed Dauntless for the spot that we left the first pot and spotted the float right away, about 100 feet away.
Getting the boat hook ready, the boat was a bit too far away, so I turned to make another pass. This was seeming to be as easy as I had hoped in my wildest dreams.
As I approached the float the second time, I realized we were not as straight as we should be and at that instant, I realized that I could only screw up my perfect day if I ran over the thing and got the line stuck in the prop.
As I was having that thought, the float was along the port side hull, I kicked the stern to the right and put the gear in neutral, but it was too late.
Just alike that I had screwed up my perfect day by running over the float and getting the line stuck in the prop.
Fuck me. More appropriate words were never spoke. How could I have been so stupid. I ran to both sides of the boat hoping to see the float, but nothing. Nowhere, no how.
I put the boat into reverse gently, hoping to unwind it. I immediately heard the float hit the hull and seconds later it was floating along the boat, the line still around the prop and ripped out of the float.
The line had been ripped from the float. Then we saw a little piece of the float, about the size of a tangerine, floating away. I went to get the boat underway to try to catch it, with hopefully the shrimp pot line still attached, but we lost sight of it.
It wasn’t clear to me if we still had the line on the prop or not. Now was time for Plan B.
Thien got his fishing pole. He let out a few hundred feet of line. Within five minutes we had a catch. Reeling it in like it was the most valuable fish we ever caught, it was our shrimp pot line. It was also clear that the line was still wrapped around the prop.
So, first things first, I wanted to get the pot on the boat. That done, with all of two shrimp inside, I now had to get the line off the prop.
Being able to hold on to one end of the line that is wrapped around the prop and shaft does make the job a bit easier. In this case, I asked Tee to hold tight and tell me if the line was getting tighter or looser, when I put the boat in gear. She couldn’t tell, even when I tried reverse.
I wasn’t sure if it was a language issue or simply she did not have the feel of the problem, so I decided I had to do it myself. But I also didn’t want someone else at the controls if I am holding a line that is around the prop!
So, I got enough slack on the line so that I could stand at the helm, with one hand on the gear shift lever and the other holding the line tightly with the line from the prop thru the salon to the pilot house. I put the boat in forward gear, and I could feel the line getting a bit looser, at the same time, I could feel the prop rubbing against it.
I pulled harder on the line and it parted. I’m guessing the line cutter just in front of the prop on the shaft was able to put enough pressure to cut the line.
We were free and no vibration what’s so ever.
We headed for the second shrimp pot and it was just where I had marked it on the chart. Which does make me think that it was underwater when we were looking for it a week earlier. We snagged it, this time without any drama and it had four shrimp.
Thien ate them with gusto.
The weather was beautiful, so once we grabbed the anchor line, we tied it off and fished for a couple of hours. We caught two flounder. They were dinner.
Pulling the anchor up now worked like a charm and we motored back to Wrangell in a much better mood that the week before.
Yesterday, Saturday was the Debacle, Sunday the Plan was made. That gave me five days to sort out the windlass and get it working again.
First thing I did was get out the Ideal windlass manual for my ACW windlass. I had two issues:
As we were hauling the anchor, it became more and more strained, until finally it just stopped with the current protection breaker activating
The wildcat hits the top of the chain stripper on each revolution.
Now this windlass is 30+ years old but is built like a champ and perhaps if I rad the manual more often, it will outlast me. Because there in ALL CAPS was a warning that the windlass should only be used with a load in the clockwise direction.
Oops. Because I had anchored with my secondary anchor whose rode used the starboard anchor locker, I would wind the rode around the capstan and use the down switch to rotate the windlass counterclockwise. I had worked in the few times in the past I had done so, but the anchor was never very deep. With a little tap on the circuit breaker protection switch, I could reset the circuit breaker button and the windlass worked fine. I even test it, by lowering the primary anchor and letting a couple hundred feet out on the harbor bottom, which is between 10 to 20 feet under the keel.
Hauling it worked fine, except for the chain stripper being hit and therefore bent by the wildcat.
The diagram of the winch also gave me the information that the top of the chain stripper must be exactly 2.5” above the plate of the winch to fit into the groove of the wildcat which is about a half inch wide. Mine was clearly 2 and ¾”.
In the same manual, I found an old picture, which seemed to show that the chain stripper was perfectly straight. That was enough for me.
So, first stop Monday morning was to the big boat yard next to the dock, Superior Marine Services. There, Tyler, who was the bronze and stainless-steel expert, took a few minutes out of his busy to day to help little me (He is one of those big Alaskans that towers over me, like a brown bear!).
He suggested the big press. I mumbled ok since I was clueless. After all of 5 minutes and about a dozen pressings in different angles and parts, my stripper was as straight as new.
And typical of Alaskans, he wouldn’t take any money for his efforts, even coffee money.
I walked back to Dauntless, installed by stripper and it fit perfectly. I then proceeded to pull up the hundred feet of chain I put out as much to clean it an anything else and my little windlass worked like new.
Tides, currents and sunrise were all set. Now, I just needed the weather to cooperate.
While I felt good about having the common sense to abandon the anchor and not try to lift 125 lbs. of anchor chain and anchor more than 150 feet (50 ft of 3/8”bbb chain x 1.65lbs/ft x + 40 lbs. anchor = 122 lbs. plus rode), I had a sleepless night.
While I wasn’t sleeping, I came up with the plan for the week:
First, I had to get the windlass working. It had an electrical problem; it had no power and lastly the wildcat was hitting the chain stripper. None of that was good.
Second, Wrangell only has about 7 hours of daylight nowadays. While the sun never gets very high in the sky in any case, I needed to maximize our chances of seeing those stupid little shrimp pot floats. They are only 10” by 5” wide. No easy to see under poor lighting conditions.
Third, even as we abandoned the anchor, I was looking for the shrimp pot float that should have been very near the boat. We spent 10 minutes looking for it with no luck. I was now worried that the reason we couldn’t find, notwithstanding the whitecaps and poor light, was that the float was under water, pulled there by the strong currents in the area. In the upper part of the bay, I didn’t expect the currents to be that strong, but in the opening to the bay, where we left the first shrimp pot, the currents could reach a few knots. In 320’ of water, with a pot on only 400’ of line, a current will drag the float under. Plus, even worse, with such strong currents and a light pot, who knows where the pot would be a week later.
So, first thing Sunday, I went to my navigation chart to check the currents and tides for the coming days. Coastal Explorer does make that easy. I had to find the slack current times that occurred during what daylight there was. I quickly realized that our options were limited. The viable days were today, Sunday Friday and lastly Saturday (7 days away).
Today was out since the windlass problem was not yet solved. Also, we were all tired. I didn’t want to have any more problems or issues, otherwise I may be writing about Mutiny on Dauntless.
Friday was a school day, but push come to shove, it was viable.
Saturday looked ideal with sunrise and tides. Slack time in Mahan Bay would be at 09:50 Saturday morning, sunrise is 08:20. Plus the currents would be with us until it turned just before 10:00 and then we could ride it home also.
With more than $500 of gear waiting for our return, I wanted to maximize our chances of finding it. So I told the crew we needed to be there by 9:15 to 9:30 giving us a good hour of slack or not strong currents to find our shrimp floats (I used the largest white fender I had for the anchor, I knew I would have no trouble finding it).
Subtracting the 2.5-hour cruise from 09:30 meant a 07:00 departure time. Yes, it would be dark, but my goal was to retrieve our gear.
The last part of this plan dealt with the weather. The winds had been strong 12 to 18 knots the entire day when we left the pots. At noon, it was not much of a problem, but as the afternoon, the clouds had increased, the day became even more grey and darker. With a little pickup in the winds, little whitecaps developed, which made it impossible to find any small white floats in a grey sky and sea.
So, we needed a day with light winds and the less clouds the better.
I go to Windy.com for all my long-range weather planning. I still find it easier to use and I use it for the big picture in the long term. The weather models (I use the ECMWF) were consistent for the entire week and showed that Saturday was the best weather day with the lightest winds and the only non-overcast day.
That would work and I planned accordingly.
Next up, I would have to tackle the Ideal Windlass and get it working by the coming Saturday, the best day for daylight, weather, winds, tides and currents.
The week started ominously over some spilled rice. I had dropped about half a cup of rice on the galley floor. I told Tee I would take care of it and then I froze.
Had I been alone, the dustpan would have come out and that little pile of rice would have been over the side before anyone knew what happened. But Tee was staring at me, which I knew not to be good.
The Vietnamese say rice grains are “diamonds from God”. I knew if I even reached for the dustpan, we would be talking disasters on the biblical scale. No. I stayed frozen.
Seeing my inaction, Tee took her two hands and scooped the rice right up, while grumbling in Vietnamese. Just then Thien got back from school and Tee told him the story of how her bright husband, who seems to know so much about everything, can’t seem to do the simplest things.
They laughed all evening at that and later added that reading too much causes stupidity. Now I did see some truth in that, as throughout my life, I have sometimes struggled with the simplest things, always thinking it’s more complicated than it actually is.
That was Friday evening. We would go shrimping for the first time the next day.
Saturday started out unwell. It was a real litany of what not to do.
Sunrise is around 08:15, sunset 15:15, remember that for later.
We had just gone thru the coldest days Dauntless has ever seen, with temperatures in the mid to high 20’s. On this Saturday, our dock water hose was frozen. In what turned out to be the only thing I did right in this entire process, I had filled both of the water tanks on Dauntless in case we lose dock water. Now, the Harbor Maser here has his act together, as I noticed they had the end of the water line open during freezing temperatures, thus keeping the water flowing.
So, while water was not a problem, it still took some time to disconnect the frozen hose and put it away. Then, we spent 20 minutes trying to get the frozen lines off the boat. By then everyone was cold and miserable; at least I was. But Tee and Thien get excited about fishing, so our 2-and-a-half-hour cruise to Mahan Bay, on the east side of Wrangell Island, went pretty quickly.
Another boating friend here in Wrangell lent us a shrimp pot. We also bought one while on sale here in town, so we had two shrimp pots and one crab pot.
The plan was to put one shrimp pot in about 320’ of water at the mouth of the bay, the second further up the bay in about 150’ of water; lastly in the crab pot in about 40’ hear the shore. We would then anchor in deeper water, about 200’ and fish for a couple of hours.
All went to plan, but a few yellow flags were already being waived and ignored by yours truly.
First, wanting to not have a departure in the dark, I did not start the engine until 08:45. Then it took 30 minutes just to disconnect the water hose and get the frozen lines undone. So, we were not underway until 09:15.
Running against the current, we did not get to Mahan Bay until 11:35, where we set the first shrimp pot in 320’. This pot only had 400’ of line and in a miscommunication between me and Tee, I wanted to confirm the pot was on the bottom before we released the buoy. Oh well, “the best laid plans of mice and men…”
We motored 30 minutes up the bay and set our second shrimp pot. This one we did confirm that the pot was on the bottom and we had about 50 feet of line remaining to the buoy. We then dropped the crab pot just offshore in about 30’ of water and motored back to deeper water to do some fishing.
In one of my brighter moments, since we were anchoring in 160’ of water, I decided to put our secondary anchor down. It has 50’ of chain and 350’ of rode. My reasoning was why put the windlass thru trying to lift 150 of chain and anchor.
It’s now 12:35. We wanted to let the pots sit and fish for two hours. Which we did, Tee caught two sole or flounder. (we eat everything we catch, even those ugly bullhead (sculpin) fish.
I didn’t even start the engine to retrieve the anchor and get underway until 14:50. Clearly a mistake. The wind had been blowing all day, blowing up the entrance to the bay at 15 to 18 knots. With no real fetch, no real waves, but enough to make little whitecaps. No problem for Dauntless but trying to find a little white pot buoy in a gray sky is another story.
But we were not even there yet. As we wound the anchor rode in, the winch started going slower and slower. Ut Oh. It had done the same thing a couple of months ago. The fix was so simple, I forgot what it was!!
In addition, the wildcat was hitting the chain stripper. That certainly didn’t help. But after pulling in less than 50 feet of line, it totally stopped. I pushed the reset button on the windlass solenoid, to no effect.
I knew we couldn’t pull this much line and anchor in by hand. In August when this happened in 30 feet of water, it was hard enough.
Now, because I read a lot, I had anticipated this for years. Both anchor rodes are connected to short lines in the chain locker so that if all the chain or rode is out, the short line can be untied or cut if need be. That’s what we did. I then tied a large fender to the line and wrote Dauntless on it. I told Tee we would come back next week to get it.
By now, the sun has set, and we could find neither shim pot buoy.
We cruised home in total darkness, getting a few scares as we passed the airport, in that lights look so much closer at night.
I knew we would have no problem finding the anchor, assuming I fixed the winch. But it had also occurred to me that the reason we saw no sign of either shrimp pot was because the current had moved them and therefore, in a strong current, it’s possible the buoy was being pulled underwater! In which case they may never be seen again.
I also felt bad that not only had we left our new shrimp pot; we had left the one we borrowed. I hated to tell Bob that I’d returned without his pot!
Losing $500 of gear the first time out was not my idea of a good time.