At the end of our last episode, we left you thinking we ran aground. Yeah, we did. Though in all fairness, it was more of a “nudge the bottom” situation. The question was, how did we manage to run aground in 8 feet of water, when we only draft 4?
Turns out we were drafting much more. Unbeknownst to us, the line we had strung under the hull between the midship cleats had slipped off turning our several mile journey from the yard to our first marina. Believing our board was still up (we draft 4’ 2” with it up), we thought we’d just squeak into a slip with 5 feet of depth.
Nope. We hit bottom about ten feet before reaching the dock.
Now what? This turned into quite the drama for our first days on the river. We started with staying overnight at a lock, which you generally aren’t supposed to do — especially without permission; fortunately the lock operator on duty was sympathetic to our situation, as the lock itself was the only area in this part of the river with enough depth for our boat in its current state.
The next morning, we backtracked six miles, first to Crowley’s Yacht Yard to procure some hardware for a new mast plug. The plug needed to bear the weight of the 200 lb. centerboard (via the pennant running from the board up through the partners and to the rope clutch on deck). This was our other problem: The first version of the mast plug we had fabricated didn’t work; we needed to make a new one.
The rigging master at Crowley’s was incredibly helpful, and even gave us a couple blocks for free. We headed back to Skyway where they had dock space for us to start building the new mast plug. We were hoping that with a new plug we’d be able to pull the board up. Alas, no dice… We had to haul out.
Three hundred and seventy-five dollars later, our board was back in its trunk, and our boat was again drafting 4’ 2”. We found out the centerboard had swung forward of 90 degrees, and the pennant had become jammed between the board and the trunk. Once we had the boat out of the water, we were easily able to free the pennant, and winch the board back up.
Hope you enjoy,
Lauren & Kirk
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So we are back at Skyway Yacht Works. Moment of truth right here.
[Kirk] I wonder if we broke the line.
[Lauren] Okay, let’s back up here. How did our boat end up in slings back at the same yard we just left when we were supposed to be on our way down the river? Here we are in our last episode, getting through our first slack on the Calumet river. And then, with only a few feet to go to reach the marina where we planned to spend the night, the boat just stopped. Hey love.
[Lauren] What the heck is happening at the moment?
We’re having our first boat moment. I don’t know, is that what you call it?
[Lauren] Just breaking out a boat moment?
Yeah. Intro to cruising life, here.
We unstuffed our mast yesterday, and our centerboard line runs through the mast. So we read that you have to wrap a liner out on the hull of the boat to hold the centerboard up, which we did, and snugged it up. But we didn’t leave any of the centerboard down, so we started motoring again and the line just slipped off and our centerboard went down.
[Lauren] So last night when we hit bottom, we had an inkling this is what happened. We tried to do some recon to confirm the board was down. It was incredibly murky, and the light we were shining was just reflecting off debris in the water. On our second try, we got wise, putting the light on one side of the boat and the GoPro on the other. Instead of drafting four feet and a few inches, we were drafting almost eight. Before continuing down the river, we had to get the board back up.
[Kirk] This was the mast plug we created to run the centerboard pennant back up to the deck. This piece of crap that didn’t fit was Jerry-rigged, was held together with PBC cement and Life Calk. In a rush to prep the boat for the mast unstuffing, when it came time to finish this thing and try it out, it didn’t work. The plug was too small, and the weight of the centerboard kept popping it out of the partners. Because we had already stayed as long as we could at the yard, we decided to tackle rebuilding the mast plug at our next stop. We thought we’d be fine, but clearly not.
[Lauren] Okay, so the other thing you might be wondering is, if you know the board is down, why don’t you just pull it up? We tried. The pennant wasn’t budging.
We’re less than 24 hours into our motor south and we have already run aground, we already stayed overnight at a lock we weren’t supposed to, we’re already backtracking, and we have to go and find ways to get to get all of the parts that we need without a car, without transportation, and beg, borrow, and… Well, we probably won’t steal stuff, but… Get everything we need to fix everything and start heading south again. So, we are now headed north, which is the wrong way. But, thankfully last night, we tied up to the lock, we met a very nice lock tender at the Thomas O’Brien lock, named Andy, who allowed us to stay at the very very end of the… I don’t know what this is, the pier here?
[Lauren] Don’t worry, Andy, we’ll bleep your name.
Yeah Andy, we will bleep your name, Andy. Don’t worry, we won’t ever say Andy. But there was absolutely no boat traffic and dead calm all night, so we actually got some sleep. But the lock’s opening now.
[Lauren] I got a really nice seven hours, I think.
[Kirk] Look at the water come rushing out of there. Do you see the difference in height? It’s kinda crazy. I can see about a foot difference in height where it’s rushing down.
[Lauren] I don’t have the telephoto on. It’s pretty hard to see.
[Kirk] Yeah. Alright, we should get ready though.
Can you switch us over to two?
And take that?
[Kirk] We’re gonna do both. Sorry I’m gonna have to do…
[Kirk] We’re in both?
[Lauren] We’re on both.
That’s always a nice sound.
[Kirk] Are you gonna do the lines or am I?
[Kirk] Do you have shoes on?
I have moccasins.
[Kirk] So do I.
We motored right past Skyway over to Crowley’s, to see if we could get some hardware for our new mast plug. It’s not raining or snowing. Bigger or anything that I can buy or borrow? Can I get a two by sixer too? A little short piece? Well I just… So my mast is… Just to cover the mast face. So it doesn’t need to be long. Our center barge fell down, and then our line got snagged and now we can’t move it. So it’s stuck all the way down and we’re drafting like eight feet. ‘Cause we only draft four foot with it up.
We showed up right as the shipping company, Albert Logistics, was loading up all the masts. Believe it or not, at that very moment, our mast was being lifted onto the truck. It made me really happy to be able to see our mast being loaded. You could tell they were taking good care of our precious cargo. That’s our mast! Awesome. Cool! I’m meeting Albert from Albert Logistics! Nice to meet you.
There you go.
Thank you so much, I appreciate your care.
[Albert] Take care.
So we are back at Skyway Yacht Works, after thinking we were on our way south. We’re back at this yard because they were the only place that had a deep enough depth next to their dock that we could get our boat in with our centerboard being down. Um, yes. I don’t know where to start with these guys. They have been absolutely wonderful. They let us stay overnight at their dock while we prepped our mast ourselves, they let us hook up to their electricity, they let us change the day that we were arriving. We called them up again this morning, telling them about our problem. The guy, I think Mark was his name? He’s like, oh yeah, come on up, we’ll let Steve know that you’re coming and we’ll have space for you. Like it’s the busiest time of the season and they’re pulling like, a dozen boats out of the water a day, and we got a little spot on the dock here so that we can try to fix this problem with our centerboard. We went up to Crowley’s. The rigging master there, I don’t know his name, but we told him our problem and he’s like, oh yeah, I think I’ve got some blocks for you. And we’re like, we need some wood too, and he’s like, oh yeah, I got some wood for you. Just gave us all the stuff, and it’s been going pretty well so far.
This is a really nice saw. Let’s hope that fits in there almost perfectly. It’ll be close. Okay, we’re gonna sand these if this doesn’t work now.
We’re very close. You wanna go down there and catch ’em?
[Lauren] Yes. Okay.
[Kirk] You gotta be kidding!
[Lauren] Still not?
It seems like it fits worse and worse each time.
And then we’re gonna line up the next one, okay? Okay, can you go down and trace that? Oh, look at that! That is perfect. Exactly where we want it. So we’ve got two pieces of, I don’t know what this is, three quarter inch ply, to go inside the mast plug. One that sits on top, we’ve cut a hole through the center. We cut a little penis thing here, so that our wheel can go spin freely. The centerboard pennant will come up through here, go over this exit sheave, and then out to our deck organizers and to our centerboard winch. And we’re hoping that this crappy worthless screws we’ve got here are gonna hold it. And our free, new to us exit sheave is not too janky.
[Lauren] Because it needs to pull up a 200 pound centerboard from the middle.
Yes. I only have five screws, is there one in the…
Let’s hope so.
[Kirk] I hope this works.
Moment of truth, right here. We were really hoping that with a more robust mast plug fitted with an exit sheave, we would be able to pull the board up. This wasn’t a good sign. The line wasn’t lifting the board, it was only getting more taught. Kirk proposed one last-ditch effort.
Let’s take these lines off again,
And let’s run it back from the bow, and just make sure we’re on the board, and then let’s just try and give it a little jiggle.
[Lauren] Okay. But the line didn’t appear to be moving and we couldn’t see anything underwater. At this point, we didn’t have much choice other than to haul out.
Yeah, you see it? We’re pulling it forward, yeah.
[Lauren] Oh my God.
I think it’s pinched up, up front here.
It looks terrible.
When we were cranking on it, we were pulling the board forward. God, that’s our hull hanging 20 feet in the air. So that’s why pulling on the rope backwards, it was just going up into it. It wasn’t coming…
Yeah, you know what? I think if we get up there and loosen that, so we can pull it out a little bit so it’s not on a hose, it’s just the line.
Yes. Yes, yes, yes, alright.
[Kirk] Alright Lauren, tell me when you’re on the ridge.
[Lauren] Oh, there goes the ladder.
[Kirk] We’re gonna lose the ladder. Re-loosen it.
[Kirk] Alright, I’m gonna keep coming. Alright, pull tight! Keep going! Alright, so… We are underway through the industrial… I don’t know, armpit of America. Really terrible smells every 10 minutes. Something new, electric, chemical, just garbage, all sorts of nasty stuff. And we spent the last, I don’t know, four days here? We spent all day building this. This is version one, and this bad boy is version two. So hopefully that gets us all the way down to Mobile. So we spent all day building that and we rigged it all up, and the board was still stuck. So we got the boat in the air, saw the centerboard was hanging forward at about 45 degrees, and it ended up being a very easy fix. It wasn’t stuck in there very hard at all. We pulled the centerboard forward a little bit and then we could easily get the line back up, and all was set. We were in the air for about five minutes and it was fixed. So here’s hoping we don’t have to deal with that again, but, I think if we do I’ve got a better idea of how we can fix things now. I think if it gets stuck, and we can figure out if it’s all the way forward, we actually just need to loosen everything up, and if we’re in a spot that we can get in the water it’s a very easy fix. If we can’t get in the water, it’s a little bit more tricky, but we might be able to get a boat hook on it and pull the line back or something, and get us re-sorted. So we’ll see. Fingers crossed we don’t have to go through that again, though. Well, 24 hours later, we’re back, 10 feet closer to the dock, tied to the dock than we got last night. Another beautiful night with a beautiful sunset, and hopefully this time we can continue south. But check this out. It’s gonna be hard to see, but there’s about a 1,000-foot long barge and tow that are pulling into the lock right now, and if we were docked there like we were last night, we would’ve been absolutely crushed. We were so lucky last night that it was dead calm and nobody came by. Thank our lucky stars.