Updated: Mar 1
The year was 2012. Barack Obama was running for a second term as President of the United States of America and many believed that the world was going to end on December 12th. As we all know, President Obama did win that election, and well, most of us made it out of that day.
As for me, I was still exploring Puget Sound with the Old Town kayak every chance I got, and (in case the world WAS going to end) then some. For work, I was tending bar at a neighborhood tavern in West Olympia. One particular slow Sunday night, the cook came out of the kitchen and asked me if I wouldn't mind proofreading his craigslist ad. His name is Noah, and he was selling his sailboat. My initial reaction was one of surprise. For some reason, I never pictured Noah as having a sailboat. Now that I look back, I'm not quite sure that I have an idea what the stereotypical sailboat owner should look like, or would look like. Although, his name alone should have been a dead giveaway.
I looked over the ad. The boat looked nice actually, and me having an eye for these kind of things (not really) told him that I couldn't believe he'd sell this boat for only $2000. I quickly racked my brain to come up with that kind of cash, had said thoughts temporarily interrupted by those visions of Blake Island three years ago, half-gathered myself, and when I was close told him that I'd buy his vessel. On the spot, I told him to take down the ad. He once again shocked me when he said he'd sell it to me for what he paid for it,... $1000! Do you believe it?! I couldn't. Too good to be true! I had to call and tell Reth that I had just bought us a sailboat, and it was a steal! I won't quote her exact response, and will leave it at this; Reth is a very supportive wife, as well as my best friend, and I love her very much for it. Even if she doesn't understand why I do what I do, she still stands behind me , and is always alongside for the ride <3
So, we bought the boat!
First thing to do was to give her a good scrubbing. Dylan did a great job. I may have helped him, but could not find any evidence. Either way, everything above the waterline shined, as well as it could anyways, for 1977 and very little attention in recent years.
You didn't know Chrysler made sailboats?! Me neither, until we owned one. Designed by Halsey Herreshoff, these boats were built for a very short time (1975-1978). Although the C22 was also available in a fixed keel model, our was equipped with a 725 lb solid cast iron swing keel. The swing keel requires a way to retract the keel, for shallow water navigating as well as for most times moving under motor. Noah had informed me, prior to purchase, that the keel was seized in the down position. The cable that ran from the winch, down through a "thru-hull" fitting, and to the bottom of the keel was broken, in addition to the seized keel.
This project would be my introduction into boat repair, boat maintenance, and overall boat ownership. While this was a project that would require my attention sooner rather than later, it was not something I could undertake until the boat was out of the water. In all reality, had I known the actual condition of "everything below the waterline", I could have replaced the cable without hauling out, but there would be no point with a seized keel. So, in the meantime, we're going to go out and make some adventurous memories. Keep in mind, I had not sailed a day in my life at that time. The 9.9 Mercury outboard motor that came with the boat was actually worth more than what we paid for the whole package. That said, we spent our first couple of weeks on the water motoring around between Boston Harbor Marina, Hope Island State Park, and downtown Olympia. On the water with the whole family was a good feeling!
As much as I wanted to pretend that a haul out wasn't imminent, I had to face reality once I made a trip to the marina and had my first lesson in low, LOW tides.
With problems come solutions. The challenge of owning an old boat I was learning, was that those solutions often took some creative ingenuity. My first plan looked something like this, in theory; take the boat to a sandy beach, at or near high tide, and set anchor until the tide goes out, leaving the hull and the keel exposed. This, I theorized, would allow me to not only assess the hull and the keel itself, but possibly I'd be able to attach a new cable while I had access. I recruited my good friend Ben, and we headed for the north side of Hope Island, where I knew there was a perfect sandy beach for our endeavor. To keep the story palatable, I'll cut out the details of the trip because it didn't work. We had a great time on the water though, and an even greater time laughing at ourselves (mostly at me) because we did get her beached just enough to not be able to perform the job that needed to be done, and just enough to where we had to wait several hours before we could leave.
That's how the tide works though, and I was ultimately able to have eyes on the keel itself. We also had a good time walking around Hope Island after tying the bowline to a tree.
We made it safely back to Boston Harbor Marina that day, concluding that hauling out was the best way to assess and attack. The marina also put us in a deeper slip until I could make the repairs. With a 5' draft, I knew that as long as I stayed in deep enough water, we could still have a couple of adventures before hauling out. No sailing yet, but on the water.
Ben and I took off from Boston Harbor Marina on August 27th, headed for Gig Harbor. This was only a week removed from Hope Island fun. The plan initially was to just go up there and come back in the same day, approximately 23nm each way. There was the possibility of staying overnight on the boat, and I expressed that to Ben a couple of days prior, while planning. He either did not remember me mentioning the possibility, or thought me not truly serious about it. When I declared it as a probability now, he wasn't too thrilled, and immediately began making arrangements for his pregnant wife to drive from Olympia to Gig Harbor to pick him up, not very long after we arrived. I felt bad, but I also did not. In that moment of watching Ben walk to his car, I remember thinking that maybe we wouldn't be friends any more. I'm happy to say that Ben and I are much better friends today than we were that day, and have had several adventures together since.
We made it to the public dock, and Jessica arrived shortly thereafter and swept Ben away, leaving me to figure some things out. What to eat; I brought no food. Also, I had somewhere to sleep, on the boat. What I did not have was any blankets or jackets or ANYTHING to stay warm. I was able to find food, as downtown Gig Harbor is busy with business and with people. I ate at The Tides Tavern for the first of many times, but was cold all night. There wasn't much wiring in the boat, and definitely no outlets. Barely a dim light, that was wired straight to the battery, courtesy of Noah, the cook. This was an early lesson in planning. Never again would I be left in the cold. As it was, I made it through the night.
Morning arrived, and I knew I was looking at about a 4+ hr trip back to home. I had breakfast and a cup of coffee in town, before heading out at noon. Never once did I consult the tides, nor even know anything about the currents involved with the tides. Kayaking around Ketron Island and Hope Island never really required this. Life was a whirlwind with this new contraption, and the learning curve was steep. I thought nothing about tides & currents. I only knew I had to be back by a certain time. My first thoughts aimed at tide & current planning occured while I sat still for close to 2 hours looking at the same piece of shore, keeping the bow pointed straight into the current with that little 9.9 Mercury pegged, just praying that it didn't run out of fuel before I could make some headway. Afterall, I was sitting right in the middle of one of the strongest tidal currents in the entire Salish Sea, The Tacoma Narrows. Whirlpools thrive there. Here, check it out for yourself...
I made it. But, damn. Never again would I go anywhere without proper planning. If only I knew what all that meant. I was learning though, and living.
Reth's and my 8th wedding anniversary was coming up in a couple of weeks. While waiting out the easing of the current, I came up with the perfect idea. I'd bring her back up to Gig Harbor for the weekend, and we would have our first trip together on the boat, better prepared of course. However, all the planning in the world won't prepare you for what lies just beneath the surface.
Find out here... Disaster Averted, Happy Anniversary, Disaster Averted Again