June 30, 2013

A Mooring Ball Debacle

(post #20)

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.... Albert Einstein

This particular post is out of sequence as it occurred a month ago during the post titled Amy Gets Her Sea Legs... but nonetheless, here 'tis...

Mooring Ball Debacle

Like I said in the earlier post, I was feeling quite confident with my previous experience in securing the boat to the mooring ball.  I mean, after all, how hard can it be?  You motor up, you grab the mooring ring with your boat hook, and you secure to the rope harness you have ready in place.

After all, this one  will be even easier, because I've done it before, and now Amy can steer the boat as I secure the mooring ring.... piece of cake.
Amy at the helm.
At first it seemed like a breeze.  We approached very slowly, and I easily snagged the ring of the mooring ball with my boat hook... so far so good... but as we were moving, the current seemed to pull me away ever so slowly from the mooring ball, and the line of the mooring ball, slowly slipped through my fingers as I as was not strong enough to physically pull the boat into the current to make the connection.... drats.
At least the moon was shining ...
Still so far, it's not a biggie.  Yes, we missed the ball, but now we will just put her in reverse and make a second approach to the ball.  

But suddenly the engine died.  The temperature gauge alarm went off and the engine went totally cold.  Shit.

I dashed to the helm to fire her up... no luck.  We had a dead engine and we were drifting further from the mooring field.  My first response was to drop an anchor.  This worked fine and at least we were stationary now until I could figure out the problem with the dead engine.  I mean really?  The engine had never done this before.  Why in world would the engine suddenly conk out at such a critical time?

Then it hit me.  I noticed the black colored spring line dangling over the side of the boat.  When I went to retrieve it into the boat, it was taunt.... hmmm.... this could only mean one thing, the line must be wrapped around the engine prop!  And so it was... 
Me donning snorkel gear to clear the rope off the propeller.
That explains why the engine had overheated and would no longer crank.... All types of thoughts raced through my mind like... like "oh no, we'll have to be towed... oh no, this is going to be expensive" ... "oh no, all the other boaters are watching us deal with this inept attempt at snagging a mooring line... " ... but that was the least of my worries now.  There was only one solution... Get out the dive gear and swim below to untangle the mess wrapped around the prop.

I dropped the anchor immediately, and soon donned my swim suit and my snorkel gear from the boat.  Here I was about to go underwater in this strong rapid current with a water visibility of only a few inches.  I decided to tether myself to the boat with a line just in case I lost my grip, I wouldn't get washed downward in the current.  So here I am, tying myself in  with two bowline knots on each end of the line and preparing to enter the murky water.

 Rope jammed propeller shaft. Never a good thing. 
The little Yanmar diesel had never let me down, until now... when the spring line jammed line around the prop, it made made the engine overheat.  Thankfully, it shut off before any damages were incurred... we hope.

Suddenly, I noticed a nice looking 50' sailboat, Serenity, moored very near us and a man was sitting outside in its cockpit.  I flagged him down in order to contact him on the VHF radio.  When he responded, I simply told him what I was about to do, go underwater, and wanted to notify him just in case my plan went south.  It seemed like the right thing to do, especially since I was leaving Amy aboard as I went under.

He turned out to be a life saver named Bob.  Long story short, Bob motored over in his dinghy to assist.  It was nice to have another guy nearby as I plunged under the hull to unwrap the rope that was twisted around the prop.  It took about 4 dives but I finally had it all unwrapped.  After that we fought the current until we finally had the mooring ball secured successfully to the bow of Glory Days... aaah... sit back now and relax... another mistake, another learning opportunity.... whew.
Thank you Bob for your help.  Serenity, a Juneau 50... what a beaut.

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