Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ship Happens

Uno departing Thorne Bay
Departed lovely Thorne Bay at 7:30am and made our way around the shoals at low tide with a slight current; the charts indicated a least depth of 3 feet over the shoal.  Our Depth Sounder never showed anything below 36 feet.  We surmised that the current may have scoured out the bottom over the years and that the charts for the area have not been updated, or perhaps the channel is wider than the charts indicate.  As we exited the channel, a tug with barge in tow was getting ready to enter the passage; glad we didn’t meet up with him as we were negotiating around the shoals!  We continued north up Clarence Sound; seas were mostly light chop to flat calm for the entire 11 plus hour cruise to Petersburg.  We passed by Key Reef, then the Kashevaro Islands, some of which have cute names like Shrubby Island and Bushy Island – perhaps they ran out of Explorers, Admirals, or names of Ships to honor.  
Channel Markers, Wrangell Narrows
Next came Sumner Strait formed by Zarembo, Kupreanof, and Mitkof Islands; at the north end we entered Snow Passage encountering small, but very swirly whirlpools created by a 2 knot current; nevertheless, it was an easy transit with hand-steering and auto-pilot turned off.  
Mountain Views in Wrangell Narrows
We entered the much anticipated Wrangell Narrows around 3pm, a 21-mile passage with clearly visible channel markers throughout the entire length of the passage; Petersburg is situated at the north end of the Narrows surrounded by stupendous mountain scenery.  
Barge in Wrangell Narrows
There are only a few places in Wrangell Narrows where you have lots of room to pull over when meeting a tug and barge.  Sure enough, a tug with a fully loaded barge was heading towards us; we were at one of those convenient places and pulled over with Uno close behind.  We were still 4 miles from Petersburg and we were approaching dusk when Uno contacted us on the radio, “my oil filter came off and oil is leaking out” said Phil.  
Towing Uno
We put Got d’ Fever in neutral and hung-out while Phil assessed the situation offering him a tow if needed.  Soon another radio contact, “the engine has stopped running, I’ll take that tow,” Phil said.  Fortunately a tow-line is part of the equipment we carry onboard should we ever need a tow or need to tow someone else.  Leonard got out our long tow-line and attached it to the hawse cleats on the stern of our boat, creating a bridle.  I stood on our boat deck, bundled up the line and tossed it over to Uno after Leonard had our boat in position.  Phil attached the line to their bow hawse cleats and bridle.  I powered Got d’ Fever slowly forward as Leonard let out the line so as not to get caught in our prop.  
Passing Net Sheds with Uno in Tow
The process worked well and we can now add another skill to our resume; of course we felt so bad for our friends and the unfortunate event.  As the saying goes, “ship happens,” doesn’t matter what size, type, or age of boat.  We motored the next 4 miles into Petersburg towing Uno at 3 knots.  Phil phoned Petersburg Harbor who said they would send out a skiff once we arrived in front of the docks; their skiff would take Uno the rest of the way into a moorage slip. 

Approaching Petersburg
After releasing the tow-line, it was time to reset lines and fenders for Got d’ Fever and tie-up at our assigned slip.  Despite all the activity that had gone on, I still managed to get some photos of the beautiful mountains high above Petersburg, just too grand to pass up the opportunity.  After a challenging end to a beautiful day, the four of us relaxed over dinner at a nearby Café and discussed the day’s events.  We believe that the wrong oil filter with incompatible threading had been installed on Phil's boat; we just hope that Uno’s engine has not been compromised or damaged.    
Beautiful Petersburg

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