Friday, August 8, 2014
When things don't go as planned...
First time I couldn't get the boat back to our port on our own power.
The fog dissipated before we were ready to leave on our afternoon trip. There were whales... oh, they weren't close by, but not as far as yesterday. And, there were options: transients to the north, residents to the west. Discussing it with another of our captains, we decided to both go west.
The boat was running good, the water was pleasant. It was a little chillier than it has been, but the water conditions were better than forecast.
Only two other boats when we got to the whales. A nice big male was showing off that big ol' dorsal fin. Everyone on the boat was happy. It had all the makings of an easy day.
When it was about time to head for home, I let the guests know this would be our "last looks," then rotated the boat and shut down the engine (standard procedure when we're viewing whales). I had time to take one photo...
The first mate came up to the helm and said, "There is a strange noise down there - I don't know if it is us, but I think it is."
I came down from the helm and could hear the starter engaged... no, not turning over the engine - the starter was running. I got inside the engine compartment and shut off the batteries. The noise stopped. I was hoping the starter would disengage after cutting the power... nope. I disconnected a ground wire to the starter relay and the starter... nope. I went back to the helm to see if the engine would fire up... nope.
The other company boat we came over with wasn't far - I turned on the batteries long enough to call them and have them stand by. I knew I was going to have to get guests off this boat and that we would need to be towed. I checked with our Roche Harbor boat to see who had the most capacity. We contacted the owner and formulated a plan.
I got to tell the guests that they were going to have a little adventure: time to put on the life jackets and gather their belongings. Not an emergency - just want to get them back to Friday Harbor on schedule.
We put out fenders and had our other boat come alongside... rafted up, lined up our boarding gate with their side gate (they board at the stern), and helped guests make the small step from our boat to the other. With everyone safely aboard the other boat, we untied and pushed our boat away... there they go.
I got a message that Vessel Assist would be there in 45 minutes. The water is too deep to put down an anchor, but the really good news is: we are in open water, not drifting near shore or anything hazardous. I let them know we would drift about 3 to 4 miles in that time frame and would not have phone coverage and could only power up radios for a short time. Nothing to do but wait.
My first mate did a fine job, and I told her so. We made conversation to pass the time. When Vessel Assist got there, I set up a bridle on our forward sampson post and they started the tow in to Roche Harbor (we have a dock there, and it is a LOT closer than Friday Harbor)...
It wasn't far, but at 4 1/2 knots, it took a while. The tow boat is a former Coast Guard small boat... and it looked quite small from our helm. When we got close to the marina, we disconnected the tow line and they hip tied to our boat - better for maneuvering us in the close quarters in the marina.
We tied off to the dock, did as much diagnosing as we could; the starter was replaced a couple weeks ago... looks like we'll be doing that again tomorrow.
For today, we've done our job. Everyone was safe; no damage; no emergency. Hardly any inconvenience for the guests. Oh, and it was a very nice whale viewing.
How's that for a positive slant? ;-)