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Adventures in Goergia: sank the boat and slept on a pile of shells in a military security zone…

April 3, 2011

April 1, North side of Ste-Catherine Sound on a pile of shells.

The wind was blowing from the north or north west at 20 mph with long and frequent gusts of 39 mph according to NOA, actually it was more like 39 mph with some lulls in the 20s. It made for some fast sailing but the stress level was high. I spent the day with 4 to 6 wraps on my sail. This means that I was using was barely half the sail or less. While crossing the first sound I seriously thought about bare poling it: meaning rolling the sail entirely and using only the pressure of the wind on the mast to get me going.

Going against the wind was almost impossible and I had to choose my route accordingly. It worked out all right and I probably saved a few miles. Taking those smaller waterways, streams really, I was worried about alligators since I was in close proximity with the mud banks and these streams had a lot less boat traffic than the intracoastal. Perfect conditions to meet some gators.

In this crazy wind I came up with a new wind level system. The Beaufort system is nice and all but mine is much better. It goes from zero which means flat calm to 12 when you end up swimming. In between I’ll calculate the power of the wind in number of wraps on my sail. I’ll also include the “baseball cap between teeth so you don’t lose it” level. That’s going to be somewhere after five wraps. It’s going to pick up I’m sure.

Crossing the Sapello sound was sporty but I managed to do it safely. The annoyance in exiting that sound is the never ending marsh that you have to go around to go further north. You almost have to go all the way to Ste-Catherine island to finally turn left.

I emptied the boat since I had over an inch of water after the crossing. I moved on thinking of stopping on the south side of Ste-Catherine sound. That would have been a terrible idea since it’s much better to cross it higher up the sound well away from its entrance. To even get to then entrance I had to go through the old Adventure Island pitching into every wave and almost stalling thing. The novelty was that this time I was pitching into the waves coming at me and not while going down wind.

When I got to the sound I could see that crossing to a mid channel island would be quite easy and that the wave were not incredibly big although the wind had be fierce all day. I still had 5 wraps on my sail but it was manageable.

Passing the island I was still left with the brunt of the crossing but I was far from the mouth of the sound and I felt confident. The waves were big now, some of them really big. I crossed slowly and headed as directly as possible to land.

My boat got sluggish because of all the water in it. By that time I had made it to the other side. I could not land in marsh to empty my boat so I headed west towards the intracoastal lights. I had the waves at my back and it became apparent that now the boat was filling fast. The back and middle hatches were permanently underwater. Only the front hatch was still afloat, barely.

Pretty soon my boat felt like a low rider and the waves were breaking on my bags and on my back. I’m sitting in a tub. The only thing keeping me afloat were the outriggers. I finally made it to some calm water and managed to open my front hatch. The boat was filled to the water line. It confirmed that it was the outriggers that were now doing all the floating. I took some dry bags out and started bailing with the hand pump. I pumped like a mad man for about 30 minutes. I still did not take all the water out but I was sure that I was floating enough to get to a beach half a mile away.

When I got to the beach I found that it was made of shells. Behind the shell piles was all marsh, meaning a wet field full of snakes and gators. The sun was coming down. By the time I finished emptying the boat it was almost dark and the tide was turning against me, so I had to pitch my tent on a narrow pile of shells. I had no idea if such a place was safe or not. Perhaps it was some gator or crocodile hangout. It sure promised to be a tense night of me wondering if I was going to be dragged to my death during the night. The other small detail was that I knew that the island beyond the marsh was a military security zone. Somehow at this point it did not matter that much to me.

  1. paul witort permalink

    why was the kayak taking on water…. where was it leaking in? what conditions caused that? How can you control that for the future?

    paul AI owner in the SF bay area

    • Hey Paul, for a while I had the normal leaks from the hatches and lines. That was under control with a little sponging. Later I cracked the hull and that didn’t go so well. I had to change the hull. Fortunately it was still under warranty and Hobie sent me a new hull.

  2. paul witort permalink

    Its comforting to hear that, short of having a crack, big waves wont sink an AI. I go out on SF bay and the chop can get significant.

    What can you say about performance and handling of the AI in big wind and or current? I think you made a statement somewhere that above 25knts wind, the AI cannot sail. Please explain.
    In an excursion from Berkeley to the Golden Gate Bridge, I found that as I approached the bridge with winds upward of 20knts I couldnt turn into the wind. I later found that I should be reefing down considerably. Apparently though, there is a limit even with reefing.

    There is an interesting video from Hobie that you may want to watch- it shows how to deal with a couple of problems on AI’s and AI tandems.:

    Apparently in high wind conditions the rudder has been coming up partially…I wonder if this is what you (and I) experienced in high winds without knowing that was going on. I think the several issues noted in the video are on all AI models before (and possibly after) manufacture date of sept 2010.

    I am interested in any insight from you and other AI owners on handling the AI in high wind and current conditions. Maybe the Columbia River AI folks can chime in? I’m in Portland for the summer.

    Sail safe!

    • I found that after a certain point, the mast starts to wobble and you stall. Reefing helps delay that moment. It’s probably not has bad when you are not loaded with food, water and gear but you’ll find that going anywhere near the wind direction gets impossible when you reach a certain wind level. I have used the old and the new rudder on the AI. The new rudder helps but it does not settle that particular limitation.

  3. paul witort permalink

    … you can add big wave conditions to the request too 🙂


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