You know that guy? The guy they tell you "don't be"? Well, I'm that guy. I present this for your own edification and information, and you are free to deride my intelligence and judgement based on what you read below. I'm still a bit shook up.
Yesterday in more or less calm seas (a touch of swell with no wind), at the back of a shallow bay deep in Harris bay, I nosed the boat in to deposit passengers who wanted to lay eyes on some large buoys we spotted while fishing. Things went south in a hurry and I made two grave errors:
1. I didn't watch the shore long enough before nosing in to see that there was a bit of surge (I wouldn't call it surf)
2. After beaching, I left the helm and went briefly up to the bow to assist folks in disembarking.
This is where you might want to get a pencil, paper and protractor to follow along.
The boat pivoted a bit, and before I knew it, a wave picked us up gently and plopped us on the beach, with the boat sitting about 30 degrees from parallel to shore, port/nose toward shore.
There was water still under the boat, but the tilted-up outdrive that still sticks down proud of the keel by about 3" caught in the mixed sand/gravel and buried small boulder beach. Another wave came and picked us up higher onto shore, and we started to "heel on the keel", tilting back and forth alarmingly. No amount of human muscle would budge the boat. This was early afternoon at the tail end of a slow flood. Based on how the boat inched up the shore with the light surf prior to high slack, I knew that the late evening flood would simply pick us up higher and higher onto shore and deposit us at the high water mark unless we did something.
We contacted the Coast Guard, but our heeling over from left to right gave our VHF antenna a hard time transmitting, and the walls of the cove are steep. We had to relay info to the Coast Guard via an offshore sailboat who could hear us clearly. While this was happening, the good ship Miss Conduct was listening in a few miles away. Once they'd heard all of the details of our situation, they notified us and the CG that they were going to haul anchor and check things out. We were still bobbing a bit at the time, so hope was they'd be able to nose in, drop a line to us, and do some pulling. Right as they came around the corner, the last wave of high slack picked us way up and left us high and dry and heeled toward shore.
There would be no pulling at that point. The Miss Conduct crewmembers dinghy'd in and we talked a bit. My trusty companion noted that they'd been able to pivot a similarly stuck boat off shore by hauling the anchor out with the dinghy, making sure it hangs hard, and pulling it TIGHT while the water rises. The Miss Conduct representatives had similar experience. So, they took our 10kilo Bruce and chain out about 400 feet and dropped it. They dropped it off our stbd stern quarter a bit, maybe 15-20 degrees from perpendicular to shore, the idea being we'd gain on the rope as water lifted us and we'd back out stern first.
We evacuated women and children to head back to Seward with the Miss Conduct, leaving Rich and I to fight it out once the water started to rise. They motored off to where they could clearly contact the CG and we all settled on a plan: if we weren't heard from by high slack that night, it could be inferred that we were holed up in the high/dry boat or on shore watching the waves fill the boat with gravel. Rich had a SPOT with and we were going to activate SOS if we found ourselves in that situation.
The anchor hung hard and we pulled all of the stretch out of the twisted rode, maybe 250-300lbs worth of tension. We arranged the rode so that I would pull in slack toward the stbd stern cleat, and Rich would take up slack from the line that was wrapped over/around the cleat in such a way that Rich wouldn't have to pull to hard to maintain tension. Then I'd dart across to the port stern cleat and secure the slack behind Rich. Once we started to bob, we did not lose any more ground, but it became apparent that the pulling angle of slightly starboard had us walking down along the beach and not progressing out. The outdrive was still hanging hard, and when we'd bob with the surge, it would lift and plop down where it was.
The boat slowly walked aft about 15-20 feet parallel to shore as we pulled in inches of rope at a time. We walked toward some larger rocks that could be trouble if we keeled on one and heeled toward the water (might roll over). We noticed that with some of the larger surges, the bow was lifting and pivoting on the outdrive. We decided to act. We moved our second tie-off spot from the port aft cleat to the starboard bow cleat. I freed the rode from the aft stbd cleat and fought forward to the stbd cleat about 8' aft of the bow, trying to maintain tension. We recovered the bit of tension I lost, and then fought a bit to reposition the rode in the cleats under heavy tension. We were getting tired. We ended up pulling from the bow stbd cleat with Rich holding tension behind without any benefit of a second cleat. But, it wasn't long before the bow started to pivot out. A few surges later and we had the bow floating. A few more and we'd freed the stern and were floating.
Rich slowly pulled in rode and I popped the engine hatch and checked the bilge (again - we'd been monitoring it once we were bobbing again). No leakage.
When we first stuck, we tried to reverse out and likely ingested some fine rocks into the raw water system as the pickup on teh outdrive was jammed hard into the beach a couple times. So, with that in mind, we started up and motored slowly out to where we could contact CG. No abnormal behavior from the drive - full tilt up/down, full steer port/stbd resulted in no strange movement, noise, or leakage. We notified CG that to diagnose the raw water system, we'd have to get on step so the engine could make some cooling load. We slowly ran up the RPMs and were able to cruise with no abnormal noises or behavior. We notified CG and made our way back to Seward.
Lessons are obvious. If you plan to go ashore where there's mild surge, it's best done by dinghy. The dinghy solves a lot of problems. We would have had to assemble a raft of sorts out of some huge styrofoam floats and a couple of big buoys in order to get the anchor out to where it would hold, were it not for the Miss Conduct. Our "dinghy", my pro pioneer, was back at the Holgate Arm cabin where we were staying...We had a heavy anchor and about 30' of very heavy chain, and by the grace of God it stuck hard. I'll be getting a redundant anchor of another type (probably delta/plow) to store below decks.
So, our hats are off to the Miss Conduct for cutting short their day trip and helping us out. Also to the various vessels who helped us relay info to the CG, and the CG themselves. We got pretty lucky that A.) the Miss Conduct was near and listening, B.) the anchor held, and C.) our plan worked. Rich is The Guy You Want With when things go south.
It's no fun slowly stranding your own boat. Be careful out there.