My last blog was about hiring Captain Roy to help us take the boat from Anacortes to Seattle where we had moorage until July 15th on Lake Union. This entry will share what happened the day we had to get the boat out of our moorage and back to Anacortes by ourselves. Hope you enjoy the read!
I knew it would be a long day getting the boat back up to Anacortes, so I needed to take Nori, our dog, on a good long walk to let her do her thing before casting off. We got everything stowed away in the cabin, and agreed it was time to try and maneuver the boat out of our narrow alley way and out on to the Lake. We decided that I would hold the boat from the dock with the lines until Bill was able to get Ephiphany’s butt around the house boat behind us. Looking back, we never had a plan for how I was going to get on the boat once he did that. Nonetheless, I stayed intent on my assignment. Bill decided to check the transmission throttle, forward and reverse, before backing out because we had recently changed the steering and throttle cables ourselves, and thought a quick kick into reverse and forward may not be a bad idea. He put it into gear, and I swear I saw the boat go backwards. I said, “Baby, I think the boat just went backwards.” He assured me he was looking at the gears with the engine cover off, and it indeed went forward. My confidence was waning because I knew what I saw, but at that moment I remembered the agony of dismanteling the steering pedestal 3 different times to finally getting it correct. During that three week time period cotter pins became the bain of my existence, so I decided to ignore what I saw, and stay focused on the task at hand.
Bill tried maneuvering the boat slowly out, but was really struggling. At one point Epiphany almost turned completely perpendicular in our very narrow channel between 2 house boats and the College Club. I was running up and down the dock to save the boat from crashing into the window of the house boat in front of us and the railing of the houseboat behind us, trying to keep a catastrophe from happening. Bill finally got the butt around the house boat behind us and started backing out. I quickly realized that I had to get on the boat somehow. I jumped on our neighbors house boat and dove for Epiphany. Once I was actually on the boat I had no way of stopping us from hitting anything.I felt so out of control not having the lines to hang on to and not being on the dock. As we continued to back up slowly, the boat started to veer towards the College Club’s dock. I yelled for help to a couple guys, and threw them our bow and stern lines. They were able to walk us to the end of the pier and we took over from there. We finally made it, only a couple hundred feet, and only to the edge of Lake Union, but we were not in that alley anymore!
Our nerves and blood pressure were extremely high at this point. I was on the bow retrieving and rolling up the lines when I noticed 2 kayakers that we seem to be headed straight towards. I yelled to Bill. Watch out for the kayakers on our starboard side. Right after I said that he turned directly towards them. I looked back at him and was about to ask what the **** are you doing, but instead he said, “I need you to come back here, I think we have a problem.” After I was sure we weren’t going to hit the kayakers I came back to the cockpit. Bill informed me that everything on our transmission was reversed. Forward was backwards, backwards was forward, left was right and right was left. My heart just sank. I played in my head, how were we ever going to get this boat to Anacortes with everything backwards. We had to go through the locks, under bridges, and lord knows what else on the trip up there. But all I knew, over my dead body, I was NOT going back into that alley.
So, with right being left, left being right, forward being reverse, and reverse being forward we valiantly kept heading towards the Fremont bridge. After realizing that Bill was able to drive the boat carefully enough we decided to keep going, and committed to getting to Anacortes today. It was already around 2:00pm. which was a very late start to be going that many miles. As we motored across the lake we laughed nervously and came up with the term “tiller rigged” our boat was accidently rigged like a tiller, which steers the opposite of a steering wheel. Now, whenever we see anything that is screwed up, backwards or “fubar” we call it “Tiller Rigged.”
To our amazement we made it under 2 bridges and into the Ballard Locks without any major mishaps. Bill did an amazing job driving the boat and remembering that everything was backwards before he made any moves. The Ballard Locks, officially named the Hiram M. Chittended Locks, is a complex of locks at the west end of Salmon Bay, in Seattle, Washington’s Lake Washington ship canal, between the neighborhoods of Ballard to the north and Magnolia to the south. The Ballard locks carry more boat traffic then any other lock in the U.S. so getting through them in a boat can be harrowing at times. We were relieved to have made it in with out any major mishaps, and got so excited that we were almost to salt water.
There are attendants that direct all the traffic in the locks. You have to throw them your lines, and usually tie up alongside other boats all while being watched from over head by all the on lookers visiting the Locks and fish ladder. The Locks and fish ladder, along with surrounding Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens, attract more than one million visitors annually, making it one of Seattle’s top tourist attractions.
Once we were all secure in the locks we noticed another sailboat in front of us named Coquette. They made us feel a little inadequate at the time. The owners were wearing matching khaki shorts , tee shirts and life jackets. I looked around to try to imagine how we appeared to others. I had a bathing suit top on, no life jacket, jean shorts and looked very frazzled after our day already. Bill was looking a little disheveled himself. We had the best time laughing at ourselves and were truly in awe that we decided to keep going.
We were the last boat out of the locks and triumphantly trudged along the canal out into salt water. Hooray! As we were strutting our stuff we happened to notice Coquette off to the side of the locks, for some reason, waiting. We teased, “Coquette in their matching outfits must be practicing going back through the locks again.” We zoomed past them like we were running a a mile race at the finish line, and feeling mighty proud of ourselves. All of a sudden, Bill looked up and asked, “Are we going to clear that lowered train trestle?” I was on the bow at the moment and looked almost straight above me at the trestle. At that moment a thought flashed through my mind of something Captain Roy told us on our way down to Seattle. He said to stay directly in the middle of the canal while going under this train trestle, and that was when it was raised. It was not open at that very moment, my mind processed this quickly yelled, “NO!!!!!! turn as fast as you can!!!!” Literally 10 feet before taking off our mast on the train trestle Bill quickly turned the boat to port, which in our case was really starboard, just in the nick of time. As we were saving our boat from it’s demise, Coquette started motoring towards the trestle because it started to raise open. We turned our boat directly in front of theirs forcing them to have to slow down and avoid us. Both of us foolishly just then figured out what Coquette was waiting off to the side of the locks for.
I waved to them while our boat was spinning in a circle, and said sorry. Once again relieved that we avoided yet another catastrophe, our blood pressures were back on high alert as we trudged out into the Puget Sound. We knew it was very late so we kicked the engine into high gear, sat back and popped open a much needed Coors Light. We definitely are alive, I thought. I looked down at Nori and she smiled at me. Right at that moment I wished I were her, oblivious to all that has happened today.
We motored all the way to the Saratoga Passage on Maximum RPM’s trying to make up for lost time, and I finally started feeling a little more relaxed. It was getting late in the afternoon. We could feel dusk approaching in the air. It was such a beautiful evening, and all the colors were so vivid. The lowering sun shone on the water showing off it’s beautiful slate blue color, and the sky was multiple hues of orange and pink. I realized I had not been able to appreciate all the surrounding beauty for the first half of the day being so caught up in our drama. I was feeling so good at the moment that I thought I would go down below in the cabin and make a batch of oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies. We still had a few hours to go, so I thought that would help me kill some time.
At the exact time I go below and turn the propane knob on our stove, I hear the boat engine power down. Shit, I thought to myself, did I do that? When I turned on the gas did it kill the engine? I look up at Bill in a panic and asked what happened?”
I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t know either. We both looked around quickly to assess our position, and noticed we were a little too close to Camano island for comfort with out any power. Bill quickly said, “We need a sail up now.”I posthaste pulled out our staysail and within a couple minutes we safely moved away from the island. Knowing we were safe at the moment, we then tried to figure out why our engine stopped. Bill said, “Don’t panic,” and tried switching gas tanks. After looking at all the instruments and the engine, we deciphered, by golly, that we ran out of gas. Neither gas tank would make the engine start. Bill looked deflated. We had checked the tank before leaving and thought there was plenty of gas to get us to Anacortes based on our previous trip down.We later learned that because we traveled all day on max RPM’s we used almost twice as much gas as our previous trip.
It was now starting to really feel like evening. We eventually had to come to a decision on how to resolve our situation. There was not enough wind to point us in the direction we needed to go, just enough to keep us safe from land. We looked up the phone number for an emergency boat towing on our cell phone and found one out of Oak Harbor. We reached the captain, and she said she was all the way up in Cornett Bay by Anacortes, and that she would come get us but it was going to take a few hours to get there. We slowly zig zagged across the Saratoga Passage in the beautiful sunset for 2-3 hours waiting on our rescue boat. We were the only boat in the passage for most of the evening. Bill and I laughed about our day. We wondered if other people’s Maiden Voyages were this full of excitement. I looked again at Nori and said, “Sorry girl”. The poor thing had not been able to go to the bathroom all day. I tried to take her up the bow to see if she would go, but being the princess that she is she insisted on waiting.
As we sat waiting for a tow in the glow of the night, my eyes opened wide in excitement because I remembered that some friends recently gave us 4 pot candies to save for a rainy day. I thought to myself, if this wasn’t a rainy day, I don’t know what is. It was pouring rain today! I jumped up and got each of us a candy. Bill and I both will enjoy pot on a rare occasion, keeping it fun and still a novelty for us. Shortly after, two amazing women arrived and safely hooked us up to tow. Bill and I rode out the 3 hour trip to Coopeville laughing our heads off about the day. Impressed that neither one of us blamed each other, or got angry. We were so proud at the abundance of trouble shooting we had to overcome, and thoroughly at peace at that moment being towed to safety, feeling no pain.
We didn’t quite make it to Anacortes that day, but we got closer! We arrived to Coopeville around 11pm. Before we were even tied up, Nori leaped off the boat and took off down the 1/2 mile dock to find any piece of grass that would appease her princess style. She did not wait for me. I slowly followed behind her in the dark, thankful to be on solid ground. I looked around and noticed how peaceful it was, it was very different than the city we just left behind. All I could here was the lapping of the waves, and the creaking of the dock. I stared up at the millions of stars, and thought how happy I was to feel alive!
A quick note: The next day we woke up to low tide and our boat was stuck in the mud. We had to wait for the tide to come in to continue on to Anacortes. We filled up the gas tanks and left with no problem around 11:30am. Sheesh!