Destination: Tiki Bay Island, aka Beer Can Island/Pine Key
Lat/Long: 27.8063 N, -82.4525 W
Event: BCYC Monthly Club Cruise
Wow, what a weekend! It was just a short cruise for BCYC's monthly club cruise that happens on the first weekend of every month. We learned a ton, anchored, and ran aground many times.
I guess it goes to show you that despite your charts and local knowledge, you can still run aground. For this weekend, it happened many times.
So how did it happen? We were in Boca Ciega Bay where we've been sailing for the last couple of years. It was known waters and we stayed inside channels. We even ran aground at the entrance to the basin of our yacht club!
How did this happen? I think that these kind of retrospectives are important - asking yourself how did something happen, what can we learn from it, and what can we do to prevent (as much as you can) it from happening again... in the same way?
** How did this Happen? **
There's this tired old joke that we hear almost all the time: "You've either run aground before, or you're a liar."
And we almost went an entire year sailing Petrichor without getting stuck. Almost... and sure enough, it happened when we least expected it.
Maybe it was overconfidence or complacency, but we only gave ourselves an hour or so to prep Petrichor for the weekend sail. We've done this a few times before, so we thought we had our system down...
Asa preps the boat while I ferry stuff back and forth. By the time I'm done moving things, Asa's gotten far enough along that we'll start up the engine, let it warm up, check the weather, form a quick undocking plan, and then go.
The winds were coming from our starboard bow; and we park our boat head in to her slip. So it was quite easy... I would slowly back her out at idle speed while Asa casts off the lines. She'll toss me the stern line while she runs about making sure we don't hit anything too hard... and I'll let the wind gently push the bow over while I take her stern to starboard. Once we're clear of all piling, I put her in forward, and slowly turn out of the channel and into Boca Ciega Bay where it's a quick 30 minutes to the club's basin.
What went wrong
There are a few things we did wrong in the above. First, we (or maybe me, and I wasn't paying attention to Asa) didn't consider the tides. The moon was full and the tides were really high/low. When we left, the tides were at a low low... probably at -1 feet below it's normal low.
Lesson: Look at the barnacles, oysters, and other low water mark indicators all around you. If you see that the water level is below the bottom of the oysters, you're at a really low tide.
Our depth gauge said that we had plenty of water under us as we were entering Boca Ciega Bay... then... slow, sound of sand running against our keel, then we weren't moving.
We check our depth... 10 feet. But we aren't moving, and we're in the channel!
As it turns out, we believe that undercurrents and high winds from the previous nights had shifted sands so much that a small hill of sand had built up right at where we had made our turn into the bay a hundred times.
Lesson: Don't panic. When you run aground, check the winds and currents, formulate a plan, and execute.
In our case, we were able to get ourselves unstuck each time. In this instance, the wind was blowing 10-12 knots to our bow. So at Asa's suggestion, we rocked forward and back a few times until we got some momentum. When she starts to move, I worked forward and back until I could get the wind to help push the bow to our starboard.
That helped to pivot Petrichor on the sand hill and before we knew it, she was free again. We saw all the sand and sediment churning behind us.
It was then that we recalled a lesson from David, a BCYC sail school instructor whom we had invited aboard t ocome to beer can island with us.
Lesson: The water is deeper near the docks and channel shoreline, but a bit shallower beyond that.
This is because when they use backhoes and other equipment to clear the channels, they can more easily dig near the shore and then just dump the sand out a bit further... creating a small spoil area that should clear itself away with currents. But not always or not everywhere.
Using this lesson, we quickly agreed on a plan to sail closer to shore and take that out to and into the bay. It worked!
This happened a few more times this weekend. Twice at the entrance to the BCYC basin (within the channel); and once again when we were returning to dock.
It was a little bit scary; and we kept Boat.us towing in our back pocket in case we got really stuck (almost did!!); but we made it home on our own, and we unstucked ourselves in plain site of two red boat.us towboats.
Tiki Bay Island
This island is awesome. It was recently bought for about $60k by some young entrepreneurs... a smoking hot deal that nobody knew to simply ask about!
They built themselves a rather huge barge complete with porta-potty, kitchen, and full bar. The owners are awesome and anyone coming to the Tampa Bay area should most definitely give it a visit... we have a feeling that this will turn into the prime party spot this summer.
It's located right off the Apollo Beach Power Plant, near the Tampa Sailing Squadron's marina.
We sailed through Structure E and the Meisner bridge... before heading out to Tampa Bay and sailed pretty much Close Hauled all the way - making 8 knots! We learned that Petrichor is GREAT at all points of sail! Even on a run, we were making 4-5 knots.
We anchored off, figured out how to use our windlass... and that was that. What a great weekend, what an adventure, and what a great lesson. :D