We all know how dangerous marine litter can be for wildlife. Being accountable for countless deaths of marine life and sea birds every year. But a few weeks ago, I got a lesson in how dangerous it can be for boat users.
The afternoon started off well enough, if you like having to pump about 2ft of water from the bilge. Seriously, I don’t actually remember it raining *that* much.
I’m not sure what made me follow the channel for once, I don’t usually. We’re of a shallow enough draft not to have to at high tide. Not quite out of the harbour and I pulled over to the side of the channel to make room for an approaching yacht coming the other way, when the outboard cut out. The middle of the channel on a fast incoming tide with no power and large approaching vessels is not a comfortable place to be, especially not with children on board.
It turned out we had a badly fouled prop, which despite my best hacking efforts with a knife remained stubbornly bound. So after rowing to a buoy (not myself you understand, I’m the skipper – the crew were instructed to deploy the oars!) we had that conversation that goes along the lines of “WTF do we do now?”
It’s slightly disconcerting to be sitting in a powerless vessel by the outer harbour, looking at the lifeboat station and wondering what the next course of action is going to be. That will teach me to break the rudder while sailing and decide to go motoring about instead.
Thankfully Wells is a busy harbour and it was only a matter of time before we managed fo flag down the harbour master and request a tow. Not that he looked slightly nervous at all, but the last time he gave us a tow, I did try to skewer his boat on the end of my bowsprit! 😉
By this time I’ve got two seriously grumpy children onboard. One of which is on the verge of having a full on autistic meltdown as we’re not going fishing and one of which is absolutely livid we didn’t call the lifeboat out and weren’t going to be on the next series of “Saving Lives At Sea”! (Thankfully!)
So the very lovely, helpful and tolerant harbour master gave us a tow back. In the course of a month I’d managed to break the rudder and the outboard! (Are Clipper really sure about letting me anywhere near one of their 70ft racing yachts?!)
So how do you get back on a running mooring behind the pontoon while being towed? I can tell you how *not* to do it. What you don’t do, is when your mooring line is released and with the tide you find yourself broadside on to the mooring is to decide the best course of action is to get out.
OK so it looked like the water was maybe knee deep at worst. I’m used to that. The problem came when I found myself with both legs outside the boat holding onto the gunwales thinking “hold on, why can’t I touch the bottom”. The next step you really don’t want to do is just let go. Yes, it may be the easy way to find out how deep the water is, but you have to be pretty confident in your assessment otherwise you’ve got a man overboard to deal with too.
It turned out the water level was just over my waist. It made for a slightly uncomfortable journey home and some very odd looks from people on the way back to the car. Seriously, what do they think I’ve been doing? I’m wearing a life jacket and I’m a bit wet?
After having to take apart the prop, we eventually managed to clear a load of blue parcel strapping from it with no permanent damage. The saving grace being that it was my outboard that found it and not some marine life or seabird that got tangled in it. No-one got hurt and we didn’t have to call the lifeboat (I would never have lived that one down) but one piece of litter can cause a big problem.
Please, please take your rubbish home with you. We need to preserve our marine environment for everyone to enjoy. Parcel strapping should not be in the sea, it’s just another piece of plastic that shouldn’t be there. We got away lightly and learnt a lot, like that I just don’t *do* panicking. The boys however did learn a whole new vocabulary to impress their teachers.