Well, we survived Alaska, as did fellow BYC boaters Bud Swanson and Dick Green. And, just as expected from our previous voyages to and from the 49th state, the challenge was greater in anticipation than it was if reality.
Your esteemed writer had a few, shall we say, "learning experiences": a raw water pump failure on an engine, an anchor windlass motor failure do to a bearing seizing up, and a hailer that crumped out just as the trip began, the latter denying me of automatic foghorn capabilities, but none of the problems turned out to cause significant inconvenience.
One other incident was a lesson, though. As we were entering Thomas Bay, it started to rain, so I put the boat on autopilot and, preparing to move below, began buttoning up the canvas on our flybridge where we had been operating the boat.
Well, there are buoys at the entrance to this bay delineating a reef that extends well out into the bay's opening. I thought I had the pilot on a safe bearing, but while I was distracted by the canvas and rain, "BONG!", we sideswiped a buoy! There was no harm done to boat or buoy, but it sure gave my ego significant damage . . .
Of course, I'd made the dumbest mistake of all, forgetting to follow the rule, "First, take care of running the boat." Believe me, it was several days before I had stopped referring to myself as "Joe Buoybanger". I just couldn't believe I had been so stupid, or so lucky as to not do more damage. Apparently the wind and current had swung the mark a few feet into position about six and a half feet from the centerline of my boat, but the boat, unfortunately, is seven feet on each side of the centerline. We struck the buoy about amidships with a low rub rail near our waterline as we were passing.
Hopefully, I have learned from my mistake, and at risk of my embarrassment now in print, you have, too.
The water pump and windlass problems were taken care of quickly by excellent parts support from their manufacturers. The pump that failed was an old model, and so the replacement pump "kit" included a new-style bracket, different pulley and belt. After a call at 0745 hours Bellingham time to my engine service facility here (Tri County Engine) while I was enroute to Sitka on one engine, I had a new pump in Sitka late that same afternoon, which I easily installed in a couple of hours. The windlass, made by R.C.Plath in Portland, was well-supported, too. I had a motor in Juneau within 48 hours, sent with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of courtesy. Replacement took another hour or two.
One reason the parts came quickly was that I already had addresses, phone numbers, and all the model and part and serial number information on the boat. I'm glad I was well-prepared. But the courtesy of the dealers and suppliers was outstanding, and this leads me to note that all of us usually get great service for our vessels here in our beautiful Bellingham Harbor. Thanks to all the men and women who make it so!
By the way, while the windlass was inoperative, I used a spare anchor with a nylon rode, which I could haul by hand. My regular anchor has 220' of 5/16ths chain, and almost all of it was out when the motor pooped out. Fortunately, there were four of us aboard, and we were able to haul the chain by hand. But I later realized that I could have hauled it with my dinghy davit, or, even more creatively, with a simple block-and-tackle off an appropriate cleat on the boat. Hauling it by hand was the hard way. (Most windlasses have an emergency handle; mine has been missing since I bought the boat in 1989. I think I'll get one now!)
Have wonderful times on the water as our summer winds down, and stay safe.
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Last updated 9/12/97 by SCR