The Impromptu Shore Lunch
There’s a bridge ahead, but when we call for an opening, we’re told that we’ll have to wait for a half-hour. We can make circles, which is a pain, or anchor, which will take about 30 minutes to do right. So I try an old tugboat trick. While waiting to pick up barges, tugs often nudge up to the shore. I’ve seen them parked bow first, right into the trees, with their engine just ticking over to hold them in place.
The bank here is a muddy beach, and the chart shows a sharp drop-off . I slowly head in, using the boathook as a sounding pole. I poke the bottom as we go in, watching what the hook brings in. Muck, sand or grass is fine. If we hit something hard with the tip, like rocks or tree stumps, we’ll back away. Once on the beach, I leave the engine running a notch above idle, to pin us to the bank, and turned slightly, to counter the gentle current. The problem with this technique is that you can’t use it where there are waves or wakes. But it’s dead-calm here so we’re fine.
Once secure, we sit back in the sun to have a quiet lunch while listening to the birds. I can only imagine the lunch john and Mark are having.
We back off the beach, get under the bridge and enter another bay. It is here that I’m reminded about how much navigating is involved when going inside. You need to stay on top of where you are at all times. Off shore, john is just setting courses from one sea buoy or waypoint to the next, so it’s tough to get into trouble. It’s different here. I’m traveling chart-in-hand, or eyes on the chart plotter, all the time.
A break in concentration almost puts us on a sandbar. It’s easy to do on large, shallow bays where markers are widely spaced and the tight channels make unexpected doglegs. I’m at one buoy, see what I think is the next, head for it and then watch the depth sounder go into single digits. I’d inadvertently cut a corner by not passing the next marker in the numbered series. The best way to avoid this is to locate the next one by using a compass bearing. This way, anything too far off to one side will be obvious. And always keep track of the marker numbers.
So, we’re plotting our track and counting marker numbers until the next one looks to be two miles away. Between it and us is a nasty shoal to port — along with this stiff crosswind. To stay off the rocks, I do some chart work.
I draw a line from the buoy along the outer edge of the shoal and write down its bearing. This is my “danger bearing,” a safety barrier over which I must not cross. I then draw a second line that will be my “safety bearing.” This stands off from the hazard by a good margin and will be the course I try to steer. While under way I watch to see how my bearings change toward the marker, telling me if I should be steering higher or lower to remain safe.
Day and Night
I like to be in early to make sure I have daylight to anchor or tie up for the night. But this day is going a little longer.
We finally see the outer day-marker for the channel that leads into the marina. As we approach, it’s tempting to start turning in when our bow is even with the pole, but that shortcut can often lead to a grounding. The safest bet is to wait until you can look down the channel and see the buoys line up on both sides, then make the turn and call the dockmaster for an assigned slip.
A little later john and Mark, who have been in for a few hours, come over for an unpleasant dinner over their not-so-subtle jabs about me going inside and my wife’s undercooked pasta. After they leave, she gives me this look.
“You worked your butt off all day,” she says. “All they did was drive in a straight line ... and you’re the weenie?”
“It’s a guy thing,” I tell her. “You wouldn’t understand.” But then again, neither do I.