We’ve heard it said that the definition of cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations. We had a taste of this on our first day away from the dock. However, as luck (or Murphy) would have it, the timing of our first challenge couldn’t have been better; in a calm anchorage instead of some narrow rapids in Alaska!
We pushed off the dock last Thursday afternoon under sunny skies and calm winds, headed for Lopez Island. We have always started and ended our previous adventures in Hunter Bay, so we decided it was only appropriate to start the GRAND adventure there too! Happy Dance motored along nicely as we happily danced our way down Guemes Channel, across Rosario Strait and down into Lopez Sound. It was just a beautiful day to be out on the water, getting our sea legs back under us after so many weeks at the dock.
All was operating perfectly as we slowed down in preparation of dropping the anchor. There were many more crab pots than when we’d stayed here in the past, so we found a good spot to anchor that gave us plenty of room between the pots. I was holding the boat in place as Marty got the
anchor ready to drop. As he gave the signal that he was ready, I needed to give the engine one short burst to get the boat back on the line that I wanted to back down as we let out the chain. It was at that moment that I realized that there was no response to the throttle! I could get the boat into gear, but there wasn’t any response when I gave it additional gas…..RUT-RO!!!
Knowing that we had no propulsion, my first thought was to get the anchor set and get it set right away! I signaled to Marty to go ahead and drop, and let him know that we’d need to use our drift in order to let out the 100′ of rode. There was enough breeze to back down using the wind as our propulsion and within a few minutes we had the anchor set. Phew! I was worried about drifting into the crab pots and adding an additional problem to the one we already had.
Next step was to figure out what the heck had happened! Our first thought was that we’d either lost the transmission or possibly the propeller. Marty checked the transmission oil and thought it might be low, but of course we hadn’t brought transmission oil because that was one thing that rarely if ever needs to be refilled! I started taking photos of the hull (with our handy dandy underwater camera with extender pole…thanks Ron, Cindy, Doris, Kacie and Ross!!!) to see if we still had a propeller. It took a few tries, but we finally verified that we did indeed have a propeller..yipppeee!
After doing what investigating we could, we gave Marine Service Center a call. We got lots of great help from Jim and Jeremy, who helped us to ascertain that it looked like we had a broken throttle cable. Since by now it was Friday afternoon and we couldn’t even begin to get the fix going until Monday we decided to stay put in Hunter Bay and enjoy the weekend! And what a gorgeous weekend it was…sunny and warm, and we had the bay nearly to ourselves…perfect!
Saturday we woke to fog and glassy calm, a total silence around us. We enjoyed our coffee in the cockpit while waiting for the sun. When blue skies broke through we made a picnic lunch and jumped in the kayaks to go explore. We paddled around the rocks in the bay, checking out the purple and orange starfish, the herons and even a sea otter. Great fun. We made a quick stop at “HB Beach” (aptly named for our first landing on our first cruise on Escapade). The clams were performing “dancing waters” so we sat and watched them for awhile, and I of course had to join in to lead the dance (for you landlubbers, clams shoot streams of water up from the sand, especially if you step near their location).
After a nice paddle we headed back to the boat to read and relax in the sun…ahhhhhh….just another day in paradise! A few eagles flew by, some very noisy Canadian geese, and our friend Sam the seal.
We decided to head back to the dock on Easter Sunday, so that we could use the current and calm weather conditions to our advantage. Marty rigged up a way to hold the throttle open so that we’d have enough engine power to get us across the strait and by timing our entrance into Guemes Channel we shot right along at 6 knots. The only problem was not being able to easily control our speed. Once we got closer to the channel leading into the marina there were so many boats that it made me a bit nervous not to be able to slow down when I needed to, so we dropped the throttle back to idle and limped in at 2 knots. Of course Murphy popped up right then and threw some wind off the beam at us which meant we were being pushed sideways into the very shallow area at the edge of the channel. I had a few heart palpitations as the depth meter went to 8 feet (we draw 6.5 feet), but was able to adjust in time to get back into deeper water. We coasted into a slip very slowly since we didn’t have the ability to stop easily, and all went just perfectly. So, we are back in Anacortes again, and will be here for a few more days until the throttle cable is replaced….then we’ll be off again!
And one more boat quote for you….
“The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use.”
– Dom Degnon