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Adventures in Boating
Lurching from one near disaster to another...
About a half mile away from our house on our island is a very treacherous rock, which at low tide is about six inches out of the water and the rest of the time lurks just under the surface, waiting to rip the bottom out of any boat that goes over it. This particular rock removes part of the bottom of four or five boats every year.

There is a myth in this area that if a private party puts a warning sign of any kind on it then they will be responsible if someone hits the rock.

Yesterday, the local whale watching boat captain, with 12 passengers on board, changed his course at the last minute and drove over that rock. No one was hurt, but the captain had to sit there until the wee hours of the morning when the tide got high enough again in order to get his boat hauled off.

Two years ago, a Coast Guard boat raced by our dock at about 50 miles an hour chasing a cigarette-style boat in an exercise of some kind. Through my binoculars I watched the cigarette boat driver suddenly jam his throttles forward and by the time the boat hit the rock it was going fast enough to rip off the lower unit off one of the outboard motors. This was a very expensive mistake. When a neighbor of mine on Crane Island jumped in his boat to go and help, the Coast Guard officer in charge said, “Don’t worry we just hit a log.” A few hours later at low tide, our neighbor went out to the rock and retrieved the lower unit and a very large stainless steel prop.

The next day there was a knock on his door. It was the same Coast Guard officer, who said, “I understand you are in illegal possession of government property. If you don’t turn it over to me immediately I will have to place you under arrest.”
On another morning I was headed for Friday Harbor in my small boat when the driver of a tugboat headed right for the Crane Island rock. I tried to wave him off but he just kept on coming and waving back until he hit the rock and ripped off a propeller and a shaft and completely ruined his weekend.

Hitting a rock can be very expensive for a boat owner and hitting a log is not cheap either. On one of our 1,000-mile round trips to Glacier Bay in Alaska a few years ago I hit a log. We limped five hours back south on one engine to Campbell River to assess the damage. By the time everything from the log wreck was fixed, we had spent over $4,000 and were five days behind schedule. A schedule is something you should never have on a boat trip of any length.

Going aground is not always expensive if you don’t mind getting wet. Years ago, our boat was anchored in a bay on Sucia Island when I woke up in the wee hours of a rainy morning and I could feel that the tide had gone out and we were aground. I slipped out of a warm sleeping bag and into 46-degree water. Shivering, I shoved our boat out into deeper water. It worked, and in the morning another boat anchored nearby was high and dry on the beach almost 300 feet from the water. High tides can make you look really dumb if you are not careful.

Boats are not like a motorhome. You can’t call AAA and have them come help you. You are on your own, but we like it that way. Every time we leave the dock, it is a new adventure for us.
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