Friday, December 24, 2010

The Long Awaited Day!

Time to catch up on three months of back posting...

The house finally sold, what a long strange trip that was.  After a few weeks of schedulling with Doug (Kwaietek's previous owner) I managed to arrange a date to deliver the boat to Bellingham.  Chris and Juliet were going to stay behind as they had a highschool group cruise onboard Zodiac.  I lined up our friends Rory and Barney to go with me and headed north to deliver our new home.

We arrived at Tom-Mac Shipyard on the North Fork of the Fraser River aound 1300 on Friday, Sept 24, to meet Doug.  He was going to show us how to start the engine and a few other systems we needed to be aware of.  Unfortunately, the batteries were dead, but we did a dry run and Doug caught his ferry home to Campbell River.  We went out for dinner and planned our trip south.  That evening, the folks on the boat next to us were having a party and grilling some halibut they had just caught.  Interesting conversation, good beer and the best halibut I've ever had!  The batteries had charged long enough while we ate that we were able to start the engine that night.

Saturday, 24 September 2010

0800 high slack tide (the shipyard docks are well within the tidal range on the Fraser).  Having looked over the charts and talked with a few locals, we decidied to go out the North Arm rather than upriver to the South Arm and then out.  The plan was to clear the Fraser, run south the Pt. Roberts and then race Zodiac to the Bellingham dock, the winner buying beer.  All was proceeding according to plan as we cleared the river mouth at 0917.

The weather was clear and beautiful, a light south wind 10-15 kts, 0-1 ft waves.  Dodged plenty of crab and prawn pots on the way to Tswassen but the engine and boat were running perfectly.  At 1126 we entred US waters at 48 00.00. N Lat, 123 11.12 W Long, making 9 kts SOG.  I unfurled the flag that had been presented to us by the Air Force at Dad's funeral, having saved this flag for 12 years specifically to fly on our boat.

Customs at Pt. Roberts wanted us to clear inbound in Bellingham, a few phone calls had them lined up to clear us at the cruise terminal docks and it looked like we had a fighting chance at beating Zodiac in.  A phone call to Chris put the Z near Suicia Island under sail.  They have to take the long way south aroung Lummi Island, but we can take the shortcut through Hale Pass into Bellingham Bay.

By 1300 we were over Alden Bank making good time.  Updated ETA's were showing it was going to be a close race and we were determined to buy beer.  I called Juliet and updated their postion and speed.  About 1330 we heard Seattle Traffic hail Zodiac on VHF 5A to no response.  After the second failed hail, I picked up the phone to call Chris and let her know they should monitor their radio a little closer.  No response , followed by no response from Tim Mehrer's phone left me a little confused.

By this time radio traffic had visual sightings of Zodiac, but a tug captain kept announcing it appeared the Z was dismasted and adrtift.  Rory, Barney and I kept trying to parse out at what angle the tug was viewing Zodiac from to be make it look like the ship had been dismasted.  A few minutes later I got through to Chris on her cell phone.  We were absolutely shocked to hear that in fact Zodiac's mainmast had carried away shortly after 1330.  Only two minor injuries and they were cutting away the rig.  Unfortunately, with the mess in the water Tim couldn't start the engine, for fear of wrapping trailing lines around the propshaft.  This left Zodiac drifting NNE on the incoming flood tide.

We changed course 5 degrees to starboard, giving us the option of rendering assistance or cutting back to Hale Pass at the last minute.  Being 12 nm away I was sure that in the next hour and a half, someone else would be there first.  Imagine my surprise as we listened to the Coast Guard send away the other vessels in the area, opting to wait.  By 1500 we were tied alongside the Coasrt Guard rigid inflateable.  Chris, Juliet, Tim and the rest of the crew were busy cleaning up the mess but everyone stopped for a good chat.  Ninteen passengers and Juliet were transfered to Kwaietek, we cast off lines and motored off to Bellingham, while the Coast Guard and Zodiac set for a tow from the cutter Terrapin.

We ran south down Hale Pass, turned into Bellingham Bay and received the last big surprise of the day.  While it was calm and beautiful everywhere else, Bellingham Bay was blowing 25 kts from the south with 4-5 ft seas running.  We rounded Portage Island and caught this on the beam.  Kwaietek has a reputation as being a boat that rolls, and she lived up to stories we heard.  At no time did she seem unsafe, and would alwways come back up but we we rolling 20 deg. port to 20 deg stbd on the wave cycle.  We secured the kids who were on deck and then when we had the room, tacked through the waves to take them on the quarters.  Handled appropriately, Kwaietek behaved herself and took the waves beautifully.

The kids were returned to port, Customs cleared us inbound with an imported boat in ten minutes and we waited.  At 2300, Zodiac was towed in and dropped her hook.  We waited for the initial Coast Guard investigation to be completed and thaen rowed out with pizza and beer.  It was not how we wanted to win, but for Zodiac the passengers, crew and vessel were safe and Kwaietek had proven herself a very efficient and capable vessel.

This photo was the next morning with Zodiac at anchor in Bellingham Bay.

The next installment will be posted shortly and include planty of photos of Kwaietek.