I wave goodbye to Rick and he’s off! Motoring from the marina in Napa, where the boat had been dry docked, to Fortman Marina in the Alameda Island Estuary where our little boat will have its forever home, as they say. It’s about an hour from our office/apartment.
The trip was going to take most of the day, so I drove back home to await Rick’s call when he got close to the Estuary. At that point, I’d drive to the Alameda marina and we’d drive back home.
So here is Rick’s story: (I’ve added little notes here and there)
Took a day off work and we headed up to Napa. Holly dropped me off at the marina in the morning so I’d have all day to get the boat to its new home in Alameda.
Although my son, Austin, had joined me for the trip up the river, he was now out of town and I’d have to go down the river to Alameda on my own.
Our little outboard was running good, had plenty of fuel in the tank and the plan was to motor all the way to the new marina. (Note: in the interest of being frugal, we purchased a second-hand outboard)
The weather forecast was that it would be overcast in the afternoon with winds expected to pick up to about 15 mph.
To be on the safe side, I brought my toolbox and sails on board. (Note: this guy always has his toolbox with him, good thing, too, as you will soon see) I installed the mainsail back on the boom but didn’t hank on the jib as I didn’t have a containment bag for it on deck.
Engine fired up nicely and I headed down the river. I had my Humminbird 5” chart plotter on the steering pedestal working great. I knew I needed the depth sounder as there are lots of shallow spots coming down the Napa River and the channel gets fairly narrow in places.
I used my cell phone to call the Mare Island Causeway bridge operator. He was very polite and opened it for me and another boat.
(Note: This isn’t a photo of the front of our sailboat…I’d kill for roller furling!)
Then I headed down to the Carquinez Straight and took a right turn into San Pablo Bay.
As I motored along at about 5 knots I noticed a sailboat behind me about .5 mile going in the same direction. (Note: I’m not sure why Rick mentions this since the other boat doesn’t figure into the story at all, but whatever, it’s his story) When I was about 4 or 5 miles down the bay, about 1 mile off shore, my little engine began to sputter badly and then just gave up completely. The wind had built and there was now an 18” chop that I had been bouncing through nicely. But what it did was stir up garbage in the old fuel tank. Even though I had a spiffy new spin-on fuel filter, it had clogged the filter enough to starve the engine for fuel. (Note: Rick didn’t say ‘spiffy’ he said ‘nice’ but he’d said ‘nice’ previously so I wanted to use a different word)
I had a spare filter on board so I went down to spin the clogged one off and it would not budge, I pushed, pulled, cajoled but it wouldn’t budge. I went looking for my filter wrench but I realized it was not on board.
I wasn’t interested in hammering a big screwdriver through the filter to use it as a handle to rotate it off (even though this is a trick for oil filters) because I didn’t want gasoline leaking out all over the bilge of the boat!
Realizing this engine wasn’t going to start, I was glad I brought along a sail, after all it is a sailboat. So, as I bounced around in San Pablo Bay, I started bringing up the mainsail. As most sailors know, a sailboat bobbing around like a cork in water always turns beam to the wind. In this position, it’s rather difficult to raise a mainsail. (Note: The pressure from the wind on the sail makes it hard going to crank it up. PLUS Rick is standing on the deck by the mast while the boat is bouncing up and down in the chop.)
When the sail was halfway up I heard a loud bang and realized that I had forgotten to lock the steering well at the pedestal and the boat ‘backed down’, which slammed the rudder all the way to one side and popped the chain off the steering sprocket. (Note: Blankety-blank steering sprocket was installed upside down by previous owner and it’s a blankety-blank to rectify that)
I finished getting the mainsail up and secured it with the main sheet which brought the boat nose to the wind at which point I had no steering whatsoever.
I don’t care how many years you’ve been sailing, you can still be stuck in really stupid situations.
So, the first thing I did was go below to get my emergency tiller.
Guess, what? I forgot to bring the emergency tiller on board. (Note: it’s in our office basement, lovingly given about a hunnerd coats of finish to make it glossy and shiny)
Now what, I’m scratching my head to find something I can use as an emergency tiller.
Looking through my toolbox, the biggest thing I had in there was an 18” crowbar, one of the reasons the darn toolbox is so heavy. (Note: I love a good crowbar, don’t you?)
I was able to hook the edge of the crowbar sort-of into the edge of the emergency rudder post and managed to get some steering. (Note: Think about it…most sailboats have large steering wheels or a 3 foot long tiller. Rick was using an 18” crowbar, so his leverage was minimal and he had to hold on tight and manhandle it.)
One of the things about sailing in the bay area, no matter where you are, north bay, south bay, east bay, the wind is always coming from the Golden Gate, which means I was nose to the wind to slog my way south to Alameda. (Note: Rick used a different word than ‘slog’ but ‘slog’ is so descriptive, don’t you think?)
Sailing a 30’ boat upwind means it won’t point very high. It also means it’s going to take a looong time to go the several miles I needed to go to civilization. (Note: Why didn’t he call the tow company? He doesn’t really know, he just thought he could do it himself)
The nearest port of call to my position was Richmond and the nearest marina was the Richmond Yacht Club. It took all afternoon for me to make it to the yacht club and I got in just before sunset. (Note: I don’t want to contemplate how hard this would have been to do in the dark. In fact, I don’t want to contemplate much of this episode, I can’t imagine being out there like that. I’ve married MacGyver!)
I sailed in past the breakwater past the boat docks to the guest dock at the yacht club where there was a bit more maneuvering space. (Note: not all marinas have this kind of space to maneuver!) When the people on the dock, who were tending to small dinghies saw me coming in they let me know this was a private yacht club. I waved at them with my emergency tiller – a crowbar – and yelled, “I got no steering, guys!”
My first pass, I missed the dock, so I did a 360 in the turning area and came in again letting the mainsail go in time to drift into the dock. Everyone grabbed the boat since I had no fenders or lines out and I jumped up across the cockpit to let the main-sheet go in order to depower the boat.
Ah, safe at last. I picked up my cell phone to have the wife come and rescue me. (Note: I got there way after dark since the car’s nav system didn’t realize the fastest way to the marina was via a tunnel that was closed. Rick immediately fell asleep in the car, he was exhausted)
I realized the boat would have to be there overnight, to which the yacht club was amenable. (Note: In fact, the next day he was a minor celebrity coming into the harbor ‘hot’ like that and not crashing into anything!)
Even though I was able to replace the fuel filter, the motor still refused to start. Evidently the bad fuel had gotten all the way into the engine and clogged things up. I took a look at the steering and realized fixing it would be a chore because I had to release tension in the cable in one of the pulleys to get enough slack to get the chain up and over the sprocket. (Note: this stupid steering issue was a continual problem until we, I mean Rick, figured out how to fix it)
The next morning, after being sufficiently frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to fix it in a couple hours, I called BoatUS and got towed all the way to our Alameda Estuary berth. Evidently an ego adjustment was necessary. (Note: Honestly, this guy has no ego about anything, he’s so laid back about everything! I, on the other hand, tend to get nervous easily, which I hate! And try to fight since I, as you can tell, married MacGyver! If you have to be in an emergency situation, Rick is the guy to be with.)
My triumphant entry into Fortman Marina was at the end of a tow line and I could see my wife standing on the shore taking pictures and having a good laugh. (Note: I wasn’t really laughing that hard, more of a snicker and even then just a little one. If boats are for fun, we’re having some fun now 😉