Sunday, September 13, 2009


This is what happens when 370hp of irrestistable force meets immovable rock through a bronze interface.

I'm writing this sat on my bed in my house in Redwood Shores, CA. We've been home for about 10 days catching up on mail, friends and cats. It's been a nice trip. The house is fine, all the toys work and we managed to catch up with almost everyone. I should have written this blog last week as I've quite the 'splaining to do, but I've been putting it off. Stephanie has finally kicked me in the rear enough times that here it is.

Those of you on Facebook already know and the picture above might clue you in, but the day before I flew out of Florida I managed to run aground. There's a first time for everything and it happens to every boater eventually. Ten days ago it was my turn.

It was Wednesday afternoon, two weeks ago. The mechanics had put all the engines and drives back together and we were going out on a sea trial. As you may remember from the last time, this involves going down The New River to the Intercoastal and then taking the Intercoastal south to the Port Everglades cut and then out to sea. No problem. We'd done this a few weeks earlier. Despite meeting The Jungle Queen, a large Mississippi style paddle steamer at the tightest bend in the river, we negotiated the trip down river without stress. It was merging into the ICW (Intercoastal Waterway) where the problems occur.

When negotiating the waterways, there are marker posts showing the places to go. While there are many different kinds of signs on the marker posts, the two predominant and most important are red triangles and green squares. The red and green markers show the location of the deep water - the channel. The reds marks one side of the channel, the green the other. To stay safe, you travel between the two colors. Pretty straight forward, really. The complications start to arise when there's only one colored marker visible. You need to go on one side or the other, but which one? As you'd expect, there's a convention followed and a simple mnemonic to remember it.

"Red, Right, Return".

When you are "returning", keep the red markers to your right (and by implication, the green markers to your left). You are "returning" when you are entering inland waterways from the sea or going upstream. You are returning home. The ICW is a special case as it winds it's way along the eastern seaboard. Sometimes downstream, sometimes upstream, sometimes "on the outside". As "Red, Right, Return" has little bearing and even less consistency, the convention is that going southbound, red is right. It's pretty straight forward. The confusion arises where the ICW crosses or joins a river or cut. At this point there's a profusion of markers, some marking the ICW and some marking the river and the two conventions collide. If you're traveling downstream and make a left to go south down the ICW, or are heading north up the ICW and make a left to go upstream, the conventions switch and you have to pass between two markers of the same color. Better make sure you know which two to pass between, right?

So here's a link to the official NOAA chart for Ft Lauderdale

and here's a link to a Google Map, where I've superimposed both the red and green markers, along with my fateful track.

You can see from the satellite photo, that there are two very obvious shallow spots where the New River joins the ICW. Groundings are so frequent here that Towboat US hang out here waiting. In fact, we didn't need to wait at all and were pulled off the rocks within 30 minutes of hitting them.

I can't excuse what happened. As pilot I should have been aware of our route the whole time. Unfortunately for me, we were at low tide. Another 30 minutes and a foot of water and we would have sailed clear over them, probably none the wiser.

I spoke to the mechanic on Friday. In the end we need 4 new props, 2 new prop shafts, seals and 2 new clutch packs. Add in the labor and I be lucky to get change out of $10,000.


We fly back to Florida tomorrow afternoon. I have the boat lift scheduled for Tuesday morning and the mechanic will be on hand. Once we're back in the water we go out for a sea trial again. Hopefully we'll not hit anything and the engines and drives will operate as we hope - no overheating and reach full RPM of 3600 - and Steph and I can resume our journey.

1 comment:

Louise said...

Oh, Martin! What a shame. We completely understand that $10K sinking feeling...not to mention having to explain it all on one's blog.

At least no one was hurt and it CAN be fixed with an infusion of cash. Tragedy + time = comedy. I'm guessing not enough time has passed yet for the belly laughs about this...