Wednesday, November 7

A Lesson Learned

As we made our way south from DC, we unfortunately did not have the wind direction in our favor.  Our progress down the Potomac was slow, at best, with the use of only one engine, wind on the nose and a reverse current.  It was painful to motor along at 4 - 4.5 knots!  Finally, we rounded the bend, put the sails up and increased our speed as the tide started changing  We found a spot to anchor for the night, almost in the same place we anchored on the trip north. 

We woke up to a thunderstorm and had to wait for it to pass before getting underway.  The wind was again on our nose and we were headed for another slow day.  We kept going even after the sun went down.  We planned our night stop in an anchorage where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake River.  There was a narrow inlet, with a dredged channel, navigational markers with lights for a nighttime approach.  It seemed straight forward enough.  How bad could it be, right?

It was about 8pm when we started our approach toward the inlet.  It was really shallow on either side of the entrance.  We approached slowly and cautiously, as we should, looking for the navigation lights.  I had the binoculars standing on the bow,  looking for the lights/markers when Craig said he had a feeling we were going to run into something.  I could see something in the dark, but couldn’t make it out.  I quickly grabbed the spotlight and turned it on, only to see the green marker about 200 feet in front of us.  Craig put the boat in reverse as we adjusted to the light and noticed that the marker was sitting on a pile of rocks!  We narrowly missed running into them.

With our hearts in our throats, we slowly turned around and decided we would continue south to find another, safer location to stop for the night.   Lesson number one:  Don’t enter a new anchorage, harbor, marina etc. at night. 

As we slowly made our way back out to deeper waters, unbeknownst to us, we were gliding through a crab pot mine field.  I was down below when I heard a weird thump, thump, thump echo through the hull with a loud winding down sound.  I shouted, to no one in particular, “what was that?”  I raced up asking if that was our engine quitting.  Nope, we snagged a crab pot!  Fricka, fracka… could that happen?  We made it all the way to Maine and back without hitting a lobster pot, thank you very much.  Something we are quite proud of.   We thought we were in the clear.  You just can’t let your guard down.  We had grown complacent I guess.  That and it was pitch dark and we couldn't see them.  Let me reiterate....don't enter an unfamiliar anchorage, harbor or marina AT NIGHT!

What to do now, what to do??  We, unfortunately, wrapped the crab pot around the one working engine, so now we were down two engines.  This was not a good thing.  I had that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, in my throat and a burning sensation in my ears!  I immediately instructed Maggie to help me check the engine compartment and bilges to make sure we weren't taking on water (which we were not).  We spent the next 30 minutes going over our options; 1.)  Drag the crab pot with us to a safe place to anchor.  This was not a good option because we could snag more crab pots and damage our sail drive and the nearest place to stop was at least 8 miles away.  2.)  Anchor in the shallow waters and dive down to untangle the line.  This wouldn’t work because there were a slew of crab pots and we would have surely been in a spider web of crab pot lines.  3.) Go to deeper water, anchor and dive down.  This was Craig’s first choice and my “over my dead body” choice.  It was dark, blowing 20-25 knots, waves too big for swimming, the current was too strong and how would he keep from being swept away.

Reluctantly, for Craig, and happily, for me, I called the coast guard on the VHF asking for assistance.  This was the only logical choice with all that was at stake.  I am quite certain we could have ‘rescued’ ourselves had it been daylight and less wind!  The coast guard put us in touch with BoatUS, which is a towboat company.  By the time they found us, it was midnight and we had drifted 3 miles out into the Chesapeake River.  We had to contact several tugs and ships passing by and let them know we were adrift and could they please try not to hit us!

Well to make a long story a little bit shorter….the husband and wife duo from BoatUS was able to cut the line loose from our prop after an hour and a half of diligence.  Afterwards, they told us where to find a sheltered, easy to approach anchorage 8 miles south.  They followed us for a while and then called several times to make sure we were okay, with a final call the following day.  Now that’s customer service!  Craig dove down the next morning and there was no damage to our sail drive.

While Craig and I were a little preoccupied to take any pictures or press our spot tracker...Maggie wasn't.  She caught a few minutes of the nightmare on video!

....And a few pleasant shots of our trip down the Potomac to Hayes, VA.

Potomac River trees changing color

Thunderstorm moving out

A bald eagle in flight

A barge completely covered with pelicans the morning after our crab pot ordeal

Dolphins again!

1 comment:

  1. Scary! So glad you seem to have made the right decision to call for help and that you suffered no damage.