Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beaufort after running aground!

Ann Sherer and Liz Bunch - Smiling on firm ground with the boat afloat!
It dawned a blustery day, windy and raw. We had to leave at first light so we had enough water for the shallow places. So off we went with printed copies of all the cautions along the way where the ICW was not up to snuff for depth, there were about a dozen places to look out for. I was at the helm for the tight spots so if we did run aground, it was the captain’s fault!

Many times we saw the depth sounder dip to 8.0, to 7.0, to 6.0 and at one time to 5.3 getting over a bar (I draw 5.0 feet), all very nervous times. However, that does not compare to the very last shallow spot we had to negotiate. The advisories all said to favor the green side of the channel which we did. We even saw one boat ahead of us on the green side. What we didn’t know at the time was that he was aground! So on we went and pulled out to pass him on the right and suddenly I saw the depth sounder fall off a cliff! It stopped falling and Fleetwing stopped going, we hit bottom! It's a helpless feeling to be aground while other boat pass you by in the channel that you should have been in. As it turned out, I should have been further towards the red buoys, it was deeper there.

Had to wait an hour for this bridge to open!
Back to the grounding. What to do? I tried backing out but the wind and the current was against me and all I was doing was churning up mud that if it got bad enough would have plugged up the engine cooling system completely. When I saw the boats behind me pass by closer to the reds, I decided (foolishly or not) to try powering forward towards where I knew was deeper water. Forward came the throttle and the engine roared and we started to move ever to slightly. There was a grinding sound as the keel slid over the bottom but we kept moving. After forever, we moved far enough to regain our stature as a floating vessel! With far more humility than before, I rejoined the progression southward. The boat that had set as a decoy (like duck decoys to attract more ducks for hunters) was still stuck in the mud when we left. By the time I reached Beaufort, I was spent – rung out. The tension of just watching the depth and channel gets to you after awhile. There was an explanation that this part of the ICW was particularly poorly maintained due to lack of funds due to the recession (where’s the stimulus when you need it? – it’s certainly “shovel ready”!)

The day’s events also bore heavy on the crew so we all went out to eat tonight instead of preparing dinner on the boat. It’s 8:30 now and I’m the only one up, we’re spent. We’ll plan Wednesday’s cruise and anchorage in the morning, not now.