|Elev. ~20ft over low water|
It was a dark and stormy night...
Wait. No. It was bright and balmy day. We had turned the corner from Chatham into Peril Strait, cutting through Morris Reef as we've done a hundred times.
But this time, we were continuing the turn into Sitkoh Bay, intending to skirt the outlying reefs along the inside corner. We'd threaded the reef on the last of the rising tide, and it was now starting to fall. What's worse, it was now past top of springs (tides getting smaller for the next week and wouldn't be this high again for two weeks). Flat seas, that day, but forecast SE 20kts rising to 30kts (from the worst quarter) with seas 4 to 6ft for the next day.
We took bearings from the chart and gave ourselves some extra margin. Not enough as it turns out, and definitely given those italics above.
Anke had the good sense to think one of us should be at the bow (me saying, "Only if you like... we're well clear!"). She wasn't even all the way forward before she called out, "Hard to port!"
I duly put 'er over hard, but too late. We fetched up mid-ships against the only point in the whole durn area that could have caught us, a little 4in pinnacle standing atop a sunken hill.
In 30 years of sailing cheek on jowl with reefs, this is only the second rock I've hit. Ironically, the first was about a hundred yards away (broke my rule about running through unscoped kelp patches) and about a mile from where we spent a few memorable days on the beach.
This one was a doozy!
Initial assessment showed a couple knots of current held us pinned against that toe-stubber at about our Center of Lateral Resistance (side point around which a boat will spin... or not), so we:
- Tried to spin off under sail... not enough wind to overcome current.
- Tried to pole off... not enough strength at a steep angle.
- Stepped onto the rock and tried to push off by hand... we were on a peak and I couldn't step far enough away from the CLR to gain leverage.
By now, we're starting to settle on whats showing as a small, thwartships ridge a foot aft of CLR. It's no longer just current we're fighting, but gravity.
- Tried levering off... ditto.
- Tried lever + handybilly... double ditto.
- Rowed out a kedge... by now, we're settled too hard to shift, even with capstan assist.
|Kinda like yoga.|
Doesn't really catch how high up we were!
|Approximate line of 'our' rock...|
Post and round drawn in brown.
- Always give extra margin on falling tides, especially falling from springs to neaps!!
- Remember that reefs and shorelines are rarely accurately charted!
Pilots advise traffic keep whopping distances off visible landmarks. We run reefs all the time, but when skirting need to be on full alert or follow the pilot. Extra wide margins! Lookout at the bow!
- Set a kedge early!
We dillied and dallied too long, partly as it was a foul spot; easy to lose an anchor. Still, anchors are cheap relative to risking the boat, so delay was a poor choice. For ultra-shoal, it's not usually the first response, but shouldn't be delayed long. It's our heavy lifter.