My brother and sister in laws, Mark and Mary, came to visit us at the beginning of September. We hadn't seen them since last Thanksgiving. We used to be neighbors and I miss them a lot. It was fun to hang out together.
We wanted to take them sailing. At first we thought we'd take them to Scituate or Boston, but the Marine forecast on Friday called for gusty winds and 3-5 foot seas on Massachusetts Bay, so we decided that wasn't such a good idea. Instead we would spend the night on the boat on Wednesday in Salem Harbor, go to Marblehead on Thursday and then hightail it home on Friday. They had never been to Salem MA or Marblehead so this sounded fine to them.
On Wednesday it was hot for New England, high 80's, maybe even low nineties. It wasn't very pleasant bobbing around on a mooring in the heat so we went for a short sail instead. It was nice being out on the water. We put up the sails, went out to the islands and picked up a breeze here and there. It's been awhile since we just went sailing, instead of cruising with a destination. It was fun.
That evening we went to 62 Wine Bar in Salem for dinner and then slept comfortably on the boat. The next morning I went for a run in Salem and then we took off. Marblehead is close and we couldn't pick up our mooring there until 3, so we weren't in any hurry. We decided we would go out to Great Misery Island, pick up a mooring and have lunch, then sail around the islands out into the Bay a little and then head to Marblehead. It sounded like a good plan!
There wasn't much wind so we kept the motor on; the sea looked like glass and it was very calm. We were almost to Great Misery when we heard a loud CLUNK and a scrappy sound. The engine stopped, and so did we. "Lee I think we hit something" Mark said. We looked over the back of the boat. About 10 feet down we could see some rather large long yellow thing drifting behind the boat. "It's wrapped around the prop," Lee said grimly. This could be very bad.
Lee looked at me sternly. "Panicking is not going to help." Okay I thought, no panicking, I can do that. I wasn't sure what else I could do though. Fortunately Lee quickly took charge.
"First we need to drop an anchor" he said and proceeded to do just that, not bothering to mention that we had never had the anchor out on this boat. Fortunately it came out of its container on the prow of the boat without incident and held without any trouble.
"Now I need to go look and see how bad it is" he said. He doesn't like getting in the ocean up here. The water is cold. Fortunately it was very calm, it was pretty hot out, and the water was as warm as it ever gets here, almost 70F.
We used the dinghy as a diving platform. Mark got in the dinghy to keep it steady and over the side went Lee. Shortly afterwards up he came. "It's really wrapped around tight, " he said. "Get me a knife". Gingerly Mary and I handed Lee a knife and under the surface he went again.
The next time he came up he said he was starting to free the prop, but there was a lot more work to do. He could only stay under for 10-15 seconds before he had to stop and come up for air. Mark wanted to spell him, but Lee was determined.
Finally the prop was free. Lee was tired and there were large black splotches on top of his head, from bumping it against the bottom of the boat. After he had rinsed away the salt water and dried off it was time to see if the engine would start. It's not good to stall an engine by the transmission being yanked out of gear by a rope!
But the engine started right back up. We couldn't be sure that there wasn't ANY damage to the boat but we seemed to be functional. We pulled up the anchor and headed the rest of the way to the day moorings at Great Misery.
Here we were in for another surprise. These moorings don't have any lines attached! But there were a couple of other boats moored there; how did they do it? They must have used their own lines. But how did they get their lines attached to the moorings? On a motor boat they could just reach over the side and grab the mooring, but we are much higher above the water than a motor boat.
I tried hooking the mooring with the boat hook. It was a good idea, but it took more coordination than I possess. Finally Mark was able to hook it and then Lee looped the line though the ring on the mooring ball and we were set.
We had a nice lunch relaxing next to the island. If it had been cooler we might have taken the dinghy and gone ashore. The island is supposed to be nice for hiking but it was too hot and everyone didn't have a bathing suit so swimming was out as well. Eventually we decided to head to Marblehead.
We were motor boat sailing along and all of a sudden Lee noticed that we were only making 2.5 knots with the sails up and the motor going. That's not right! Maybe there WAS something wrong with the boat! Lee had us lower the sails, and he revved the engine up to 2200 rpms. After a minute or two we started going faster again. We decided that the boat was okay after all. We must have gotten caught in a current between the islands. Weird!
Once in Marblehead we went ashore and walked around a bit with the dogs and then went to dinner at Maddie's Sailloft again. Lee and I both wanted one of their strong cocktails again! I was impressed that Mark could drink two of their gin and tonics. Those things are powerful!
Back to the boat, and before too long everyone was asleep. But not for long. Around 2 am, right on time, the front blew in. It rained steadily for about 20 minutes and stopped. And then the wind started. Sailboats in the wind are not a quiet place to try to sleep, and Marblehead is not a well protected harbor. Things banged and clanged. The boat rocked and rolled. The wind whistled and sang. The water slapped against the hull. I don't think anyone slept much that night after 3 am.
Around 6 I gave up. I made myself a cup of coffee and looked at the rolling seas outside the boat. The water was dashing up against the dinghy dock. I needed to run but I sure didn't like the idea of riding ashore in a dinghy! But Lee said it was fine and in fact he said it was "not that bad". I didn't want to find out was bad looked like but if my captain said it was okay I was game.
And it was! I wore my windbreaker so I didn't mind too much getting wet in the dinghy. With Mark's help we lashed the dinghy sideways to the dock and clambered out. Not so bad after all!
Once a I had done my run, taken my shower, and braved the journey back to the boat, it was time to make our way back to Salem. There was a small craft warning out and it was very choppy and windy, but in Salem Sound there were not any significant swells. There were waves breaking over the bow of the boat, but we had all the portholes and hatches shut tight and of course the sails weren't up! There were a few other boats out, mostly fishing boats, but a few sailboats too. One large sailboat headed out into Mass Bay. They were braver than we were! We assumed they were also more experienced than we and knew what they were doing. I hope so anyway. They didn't have their sails up. And there was another sailboat in Salem Sound out by the islands with their sails up! We watched them with a bit of anxiety. At first they had their jib up as well as a reefed main, but after a bit they took their jib in and just sailed with their mainsail. Frankly we thought they were foolish, but maybe they were experts, who knows. Better safe than sorry, especially in a sailboat on a windy day!
We made it back to our mooring in Salem Harbor without further mishap. In spite of the prop incident and the crazy weather we had fun. Mark and Mary are good sailing partners. I hope it's not too long before they come out on a boat with us again!