Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Back in Business

Oops! I've had this slip for a dozen years and I had never overshot it before.

It had been four months since the last time I had approached my slip. That was Aug. 4, the day my 39-year-old Albin two-cylinder gasoline engine broke its innards and had to be put to rest. That incident was the first time I had entered my slip under sail. I did it single-handed and it went perfectly.

Since then I had worked out of state for three months and then installed a new Tohatsu 9.8 hp outboard to replace the Albin. The outboard promised to be nearly as easy to use as the inboard, since it was mounted on a hydraulic mount on the transom and had remote control and electric start operated from the cockpit.

It was December 6. Christmas lights were strung fore and aft from my masthead, forming the outlines of imaginary sails. The real sails, however, were furled and snugly covered in Royal Blue Sunbrella. The genoa sheets were securely coiled and hanked at the bow. The coiled mainsheet hung from a cleat at the back of the cockpit.

During the hour and a half I motored at low throttle settings, it did occur to me that I was placing supreme confidence in a brand new engine. Not just in Tohatsu's quality control, either. I also was relying on the quality of my installation including control cables, electrical connections an a custom fuel system to feed the engine from the inboard fuel tank. I had previously run the new engine a total of 1.2 hours while tied up in the slip. And prudence dictated having the standard Tohatsu fuel tank and hose at the ready in the cockpit.

It wasn't engine failure that plagued me that afternoon, however. What failed was my judgement. Returning, I cut the power too soon heading down the channel to my slip. And I wasn't paying attention to the tide, which had just turned, flooding the basin with a discernible current. Too late to recover with throttle, I shoved the tiller over and hoped for the best.

I quickly saw that my turn wasn't going to carry me into my slip and ran forward to fend myself off my neighbor's stern, if it came to that. The boat seemed to slide sideways as much as it crept forward, but at last the bow was close enough to my dock finger for me to swing around from the pulpit and land on the wobbly planks. A couple more minutes of tugging and pushing had me tied securely in the slip. Whew!