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Engine Died in 20kn of Wind

We had a wonderful day sailing. The winds had picked up from a calm and topped 18 knots by the time we made our last tack behind the mountain to the entrance of the bay. We dropped the head sail and mainsail and started up the Honda 25 hp outboard to motor back to thie mooring. In the lee of the mountain the wind was calm but as we motored farther into into the bay we could see white caps and chop from the wind being funneled and forced through the valleys. The wind indicator hit 20 knots as we slipped past the last calm water into the bay.

Our boat is very light and with the drop keels up only draws 18″ from the waterline. The outbord does a fine job onf pushing the boat. Ours is the last year the outboard was a standard option before they started outfitting the Gemini’s with stiletto leg drives with a diesel. For coastal cruising it’s not too much of a worry but I can understand going to a diesel for some offshore sailing. You wouldn’t want the outboard to get soaked from a following wave.

We motored fine through the 20 knots of wind in the channel and turned into to the wind towards the mooring ball. We tied off our portabote, rowing dinghy, and kayak onto the mooring ball like a little train of boats. The mooring field is pretty full this time of year with new boats coming into the bay every day. Most of the moorings are closer to the marina and the other folks anchor out in the middle or on the other side of the bay.

As we approached the mooring, I grabbed the hook and Hil took over thie helm as I head to the bow to grab the two heavy mooring lines. I have the hook out ready to grab the line as we creep closer when we suddenly strt slipping backward. I give Hil the universal more power sign and when we still are slipping I look back and she’s yelling, “The engine died!”

I ran back to the cockpit and check the fuel, choke, neutral, and try to start the outboard. Nothing, no power, nothing. “I’m dropping the anchor!”, I yelled to Hilary and raced back to the bow and dropped the fortress we had at the ready. Luckily we drifted straight back missing the boats on either side but we were getting close to the marina breakwater floating dock. The fortress wasn’t digging in so I dropped our secondary CQR and paid out the rode.

Hilary got on the VHF and was calling our neighbors in the bay for assistance. Captain Bob next to us in the Valiant 40 is in his early 70’s and was the first one to help out. He got in his rowing dinghy and rowed over to the breakwater. Dale in his portabote came over about the time we slipped within 5 feet of the breakwater and the anchors started to dig in and hold. Captain Bob was on the breakwater taking the bitter end of the anchor rode and hand over hand pulling our 8,000 pound boat closer to the dock to tie it off.

Two more dinghies came over from Serenity and Tao to help and we tied them off on each side and used their outboards to push the Catamaran off the breakwater dock and back up safely to the mooring ball.

Bob from Serenity, marine electrician, offered to come over the next day and take a look at the problem.

Our Gemini is an 18 year old boat and we knew when we bought her there were deferred maintenance issues. Sometimes things just pop up after some use. In this case, chances are good it’s an electrical issues from corrosion.

We’re very thankful that we are part of a community of people that will come out to help at the drop of the hat. By and large I’m proud to say this is the norm not the exception among sailors we’ve met both here and on the east coast.

Due to this experience, we have changed our procedure for picking up the mooring. Now we leave the main sail up and motor in, catch the mooring, then drop the mainsail- just in case I need some steerage in an emergency! It’s experiences like this that shape and build your standard operating procedures that will save your from a real disaster some day.

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