As a lot of you will already have heard, disaster struck in the form of a stuck rudder, a fast flowing tide and a bridge that failed to raise!!
We were gilling around, waiting for the construction workers to return from lunch before the bridge could be raised. All was going well until, suddenly, the rudder got stuck to port and we had to steer in circles with the tide dragging us steadily, but surely towards the bridge.
Within minutes we were in trouble and, thanks to a tow by a small power boat, we managed to get into a position to power ourselves, grinding against the bridge span, to the bridge support and make fast to it. Just then a tow boat from Sea Tow arrived next to us and asked if we wanted a tow to the nearby derelict sea wall……..of course we said yes, but it’s a bit like the AA and the RAC………We belong to Tow Boat US, so accepting a tow from their competitors we knew would incur a fee, but with enough drama for the time being we threw him a line and cast ourselves off from the bridge. After about 200 metres he towed us close enough to the wall for Marcus to steer the bow against the wall and for me to scramble ashore and tie us up……….phew!
As you can see, it was quite a climb to get up onto the wall, but all those years of gymnastics and rock climbing came in handy!! I think we used almost every rope we have to run doubled up bow, aft, breast and spring lines. There was no way we were going anywhere!!
In the cool light of day, we were able to assess the damage.
As part of the cover we have with Tow Boat, we arranged for a diver to come the following morning to dive on the rudder. Marcus set off in the dinghy at 8.45 to pick him up from just beyond the bridge. It was then that the next episode of bad luck struck…….
The dinghy engine cut out and Marcus made a grab for the boat, however, the tide was running so fast that the dinghy got swept out from under him and he was left hanging for a brief moment, before he dropped into the water for an unscheduled early morning dip!! Luckily, having had to rootle through all the lines we needed the day before, I knew exactly where I could lay my hands on a suitable rope and lept ashore to the rescue.
Marcus had managed to make his way to the sea wall and was clinging on by his finger tips to some mussels on one of the supports. I dropped him a noose that he put under his arms and then, with him on the end of a leash, we made our way down stream for about 400m to a low pontoon where we managed to haul him out, complete with shoes, hat and scarf. The only casualty was his phone, which despite several baggings in rice, sadly didn’t make it!!
Just as Marcus was slithering ‘walrus-like’ onto the pontoon, a policeman arrived. He had been parked close by and was halfway through his breakfast bagel, when a passer by told him there was someone in the water. He had scaled a chain link fence to get to us, after calling the incident in. I left Marcus in the safe hands of the policeman and set off jogging down the river side to let the diver know what was happening. I was just climbing round the construction fence, when three rescue men from a fire truck arrived and were peering over the wall into the river……..surely there couldn’t be two people who’d gone for an early Sunday morning dip!!? I stopped for a quick chat and they headed for the boat while I continued on my mission. Marcus was on board, warming up in the shower when one of the first responders surprised him by coming into the saloon to check that he was alright!
The following morning the Tow Boat diver, Chase, arrived by boat and dived on the rudder. He found that there was nothing caught on it, but there was a something amiss with the bottom of the rudder support and hinge.
We arranged for him to come back and tow us 5 miles to the Ortega river and to Sadler Point Marina…..a boat yard that could lift us out onto the hard, but we had to arrange the tow to fit in with the lifting of the bridge at 12noon or 4pm AND to coincide with high tide at the boat yard. So, we had two more nights on the wall before all the stars were aligned for a tow on Wednesday afternoon.
Needless to say we made the most of being in the city ………..
……….and made some new friends!
Bruce and Bob, on TWIGHLIGHT and EZPZ, were moored at the Landing and paid us several visits just to check that we were all right and to offer moral support. We spent one evening with Jim and Barb, from JIMMY’S JUNK, who were moored for a night on the pontoon that Marcus had clambered out on, before they headed south to St Augustine.
We made good use of the wifi at the Hyatt Hotel which was just to the left of the picture below. We had the whole river walk to ourselves, as it is fenced off and is apparently crumbling away!
Wednesday arrived and we were glad to see Chase arrive with his colleague…..Marcus! They soon had us ‘on the hip’ and we moved gingerly out into the stream, just as the bridge was lifting. With some trepidation, we negotiated all three bridges in the pictures above, and then switched to a bridle tow. You can see how far off straight they had to tow us to negate the effect of our port lock!
We made it to the travel lift bay at Sadler Point just before high tide and after a little slithering over mud we tied up for the night, ready for a 6 o’clock lift on high tide in the morning. True to their word, Joe, David, David and RJ arrived at ‘crack of sparrow’s’ and got us lifted safely and chocked on the hard.
The rudder failure was quickly diagnosed and mended by early afternoon. We were so fortunate to have pulled into this friendly and extremely professional boat yard. They have the added attraction of having the Gandalf of all things nautical in residence! Chip has a lifetime’s experience of working on boats and it took him no time to remove the stubs of the four bolts, that had all failed on the bracket at the back of the rudder post fixing, and to bolt in four new ones.
Chip has found his own way to continue working into his seventies by traveling around the yard on a tricycle and towing his work bench and tools behind him. He also takes a siesta every afternoon, something that my 97yr old mum has done for years!! The boat yard now make sure there is an ‘apprentice’ at his elbow every time a new problem arrives, as his knowledge is priceless.
As we arrived the day before Thanksgiving everything stopped until Monday for the holidays, so we had time to get ourselves sorted out for living on land. Because we have water cooled compressors on the fidges, we can’t run them when we’re out of the water. We have to get ice and carry it up the ladder in boxes and put into the two fridges, to keep the food and beer cold!
On Thanksgiving Thursday, Jan and Norman came to collect us and take us to a restaurant for our Thanksgiving Feast before taking us off to the beach area in search of a Pool Hall bar.
We spent the weekend getting to know the area by bike and foot and arranging a berth at the Marina next door. Everything we need is within walking distance and Norman very generously lent us his car, so we can get around further afield.
On Saturday the rigger, Julian, arrived to work on another boat and came early to take a look at our mast. After just a couple of minutes, he hit us with the next blow………. the lower spreader had been pushed into the mast when we hit the bridge and staved in the mast, hence the kink! The upshot is that we have got to have a new mast……a very costly outcome of an easily remedied rudder failure
After swallowing the news, we decided to use our time out of the water cleaning and polishing the hull. After some early morning tuition from David, we spent a whole day using our buffing machine to get our battered boat clean and tidy.
After just a few passes with the buffer, it was clear that there was no way Marcus could operate the thing above his head for the whole boat, but where there’s a will there’s a way! We tied a rope and a bungee to the handle and I acted like a marionette puppeteer, shadowing Marcus’ movements taking the weight of the buffer. Again all those hockey player’s muscles came into their own and we both ended the day with surprisingly few aches and pains and having given the boat yard a new approach to polishing!
By Wednesday the tide was right for us to be lifted back into the water and motor the 50m to the T dock of The Ortega River Marina. We are now securely tied up and taking advantage of the monthly rates and enjoying having electricity, water, showers and a postal address for the next couple of months.
Things could be worse!!