Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dolphins, barges and moorings, "Oh my!"

We had an amazing sail this past Wednesday with a larger group of people than we’d ever had on Tao before; 8 total! Chris’ mom Jane and his Aunt Beth and her family (Uncle Karl who worked as harbor patrol in Newport Beach Harbor for years and their daughters Amy and Dana who also brought her boyfriend Alfie) all made the trip to Newport Harbor to check out the hubbub. (Wonder what they thought?) Anyway, we motored out of the mooring field we’re living in behind Balboa Island and set sails next to the anchorage we stayed at our first couple nights here just east of Lido Island. Wind was very light from directly astern as we slowly made our way the two and a half miles out of the Newport Beach Harbor. It doesn’t get much more exciting on a slow downwind run than safely negotiating a triple ferry crossing only to meet a tug towing a barge at the most constricted turn in the harbor and then another tug pushing and then pulling a barge following us out as we left the harbor for a nice mellow late afternoon sail. It was a great learning wind for those aboard who didn’t much enjoy heeling over and we even got to join a pod of dolphins heading north for a bit. It was a short but fun sail and we re-entered the harbor, motoring toward our mooring as the sun set. It had all gone too smoothly.

We slowly motored down the fairway behind Balboa Island. Imagine a dead end road (the fairway continues, but movement is blocked by a low bridge connecting Balboa Island to mainland) with cars parked on each side as well as in the middle lane, two deep in the center, all parallel parked pointing toward the exit. This is what our current mooring situation is like only with boats attached either to land on the sides or to anchors from the bow and stern in the center. So, we’re motoring our 6 ton boat with our 20hp diesel through this tight area to our spot just before the bridge. Unfortunately there is no nice mooring pendant to grab and rope connecting the two mooring balls. No problem...

We turn to cut between several boats in the “center lane” to get to the other side where our mooring is with Tao pointing toward the exit. And the engine sputters off. We have momentum but no power and are mid turn in the center lane. Chris quickly restarts the engine, it idles a moment and dies again. At this point, Shawn and Karl move forward to fend boats if necessary, but the momentum holds and Chris steers while simultaneously restarting the engine. We continue our tight turn and slowly approach the stern mooring waiting for us. We barely reach it with our “happy hooker” (an amazing device on the end of a long broom handle that allows you to not only hook the bolt eye on the top of the mooring, but pull a line through at the same time) just as the engine sputters off again (why isn’t it holding idle?). But we’re hooked, half way there, just have to hold the line to stop the boats momentum before we run into the boat moored just ahead, and then clip to the bow mooring, phew! Momentum stopped, Shawn jumps into Eeyore and rows to the front of Tao to hook the front mooring ball. All the while Chris is restarting the engine, trying to let out enough of the stern line to get us to the bow mooring and using the cranky engine to get us there. Karl passed Shawn the bow line and clip- we’re home!

But Tao was not lying parallel to the rest. The stern line had slipped free from the mooring while Chris was focused on the engine and he was now trying to keep it going and use reverse to keep the stern from swinging toward the inside of the two rows of moored boats. But the current was sweeping out toward the exit swinging our stern that direction and the prop wash was (unfortunately) urging us the same direction. Shawn’s rowing in Eeyore pulling the stern line was not enough to stop the boat’s swing and get it back up to the stern mooring. To our advantage, everything is moving very slowly, we just need some fenders to ensure no boat damage and we have plenty of hands to fend. So, how do we right this situation? At this point everyone on the boat seemed to have an idea the most prominent of which was to let go the bow mooring, motor out and start the whole process again. The last thing that Shawn wanted to do was be afloat with no engine. Thinking like a river guide she chimed in from Eeyore for Chris to throwbag her and she would row the line to the stern mooring and using the mooring, could pull the boat back into line. With a perfect toss from Chris this trick worked like a charm. The comedy of errors was over and we were safely home with no damage, just a bit of embarrassment at this clumsy entrance. This experience really makes one appreciate the nice mooring pendants found at many rented moorings, but the real issue was that it turns out the kill switch for the engine was out a bit- all the foot traffic from 8 people in the cockpit must have nudged it a little, so the engine was stalling in idle. Live and learn, no harm no foul, it’s all in the recovery, right?


  1. Check facebook...

  2. You bet, the recovery is a great place to mix brains with style- basically what you two have going on every day! Shawn, it was great to talk with you, I love you so much! Thank you for being my mooring from time to time. Warm waters, fresh food, and scurvy be damned for you both!
    xoxoxo maggie

  3. Who knew mooring would be so exciting? Sounds like you guys are ready for anything though -- whether you expect it or not. Great to talk to you the other day Shawn, I'm glad we got a chance to catch up. I can't wait to hear about more of your adventures, both big and little. Love Colleen