10 December 2011

Ground to a Halt

Oh, we had plans, big, big plans.  We were gonna make 52 nautical miles and end up in Georgetown, SC last night, slip right past Charleston a day and a half later and wait for our weather window somewhere just above Savannah.  We like to do that sometimes, make plans, that is.  It gives us the impression, however fleeting, that we’re in charge, that things will go the way we intend.

Captain Tom to the rescue
…But Fate knows better.  Fate knew, for instance, that what we really wanted was not to make any actual progress toward our goal of getting to The Bahamas before Christmas or old age, whichever comes first, but rather to meet new people, like Captain Thomas, the very nice captain from TowBoat US who pulled us off a ledge when guess who had been at the helm again for not more than 20 minutes.  In my own defense, I will say that our depthsounder registered over 10 feet this time.  (Clearly, indications of depth on only one pontoon are utterly useless since I insist on treating them as reliable.)  Jane tried to twist us off using the port engine, but to no avail.  Also, to no avail was our 2nd attempt at kedging.  Fortunately, at the rate things are going, we’ll get a lot more practice at it.  All was not lost, however, only delayed, thanks to BoatUS’s towing service and the impulse of good sense that inspired us to become members the time before last that we were sans an engine. 

Captain Tom rigged up a bridle by attaching a line to our two forward cleats and pulled us off the (we presumed) sandy ledge by attaching a tow line to the bridle and fishtailing his boat in the middle of the channel a few times.  A few minutes later, we were off.  It was less bad than my first grounding for a whole host of reasons: it wasn’t as hard, so nothing broke; it wasn’t the first time, so we didn’t have to figure out what to do on the spot; the weather was considerably nicer; we knew help was a call away should we not be able to rescue  ourselves.  Since our Boat US membership includes towing to the nearest marina or boatyard if need be, Captain Tom stayed with us after we were free to make sure there was no damage.  I didn’t think there was.  Water was swirling behind the swim platforms on both hulls at the same rate and spewing out with the exhaust, so I couldn’t determine by sight if there was a problem.  From the helm, though, Jane could tell that the engines weren’t behaving the same; she couldn’t feel any load on starboard.  To confirm, albeit reluctantly, we put the port engine in neutral and ran on the starboard engine alone.  If the propeller were malfunctioning, there’d be no pushing of water and if there’s no pushing water, there’s no speed.  With the engine at about 1500 rpm we went from 1.5 knots down to .8 knots.  And that was that.

Propellers, as may be obvious, live in the water.  Things that live in the water are more difficult to fix in their natural habitats.  So sometimes they have to be hauled out of the water along with the rest of the boat.  Fixing props, we’ve been told more than once, is one such thing.  It’s very difficult to install a prop—especially a feathering prop, which of course we have— underwater.  So nothing left to do but call ahead to a boatyard in Georgetown to see if they, or anyone in town, could hall us out.  This is always iffy for us.  As a catamaran, we are wider at 23ft. than the haul out capacity of most boatyards…such as the one in Georgetown…anyone in Georgetown.  They suggested Charleston, or put another way, 100 miles on one engine.  Alrighty then.  I called the marina in Charleston they suggested.  No dice.  They suggested either Savannah (if we were headed south) or Beaufort, NC (remember Beaufort?) if north.  Savannah?  Savannah as in 215 miles on one engine, Savannah?  Unbelievable! 
There was one other possibility, small, but worth a try.  It might be that the propeller isn’t propelling because it’s got something wrapped around it, not because it’s broken.  The only way to know is to go down and take a look.  I can’t cause of that whole not a swimmer thing and Jane won’t because the water is about 60 degrees, not to mention really foul.  “You’d rather pay someone over a hundred bucks just to go down and take a look,” asks I. 

“Aye,” she replies.

Another  call to the same boatyard in Georgetown to see if they can dive down to inspect the prop or if they can recommend someone.  They were very nice , did know someone, gave me the person’s phone number and assured me that he was very good.  So today we get to meet Ted.  Ted will meet us at Hazard Marine (what’s in a name, right?), dive down to take a look at our prop.  If we’re lucky, relatively speaking, he’ll unwind whatever got wrapped around it and off we’ll go.  Joyous day.  More likely, it’ll need to be removed and repaired.  We have a spare, fixed (as in both non-feathering and non-broken), propeller, but it may be too difficult to swap them underwater.  If that’s the case, then on, slowly, to Savannah where, we hope, there’ll be a boatyard with a Travelift wide enough to haul us.

I’m refired from helming, of course which has made Jane none too happy.  It means she has to “drive” the rest of the way to Savannah down this stupid channel.  It’s simultaneously stressful and boring, exhausting, all in all.  If on the off-chance that our prop situation can be remedied, we thought to go offshore for a few hundred miles.  Even if we needed to wait for a window to cross the gulfstream, at least we’d be making some southerly progress and, 20 or so miles out, wouldn’t have to worry about going aground.  But, we are thwarted, alas, even in this.  The winds are too fast, the waves are too high.  We are doomed, it seems, to an interminable slide down this miserable waterway.     

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