Saturday, February 10, 2007

February 11, 2007 Boynton Beach, FL (south of Palm Beach)

Well, this is one blog entry we wish we didn’t have to make. I guess everyone has a bad day now and then and we had one on Friday. We were going down the ICW from Lake Worth to Pompano. It was a beautiful day and we were looking forward to being in a marina and getting our mail. About halfway there we were in the center of the ICW following in the wake of another large boat going our usual 8-9 miles an hour. We heard a loud, awful bang and the boat shuddered.

Rick ran down to check on the engine room and saw that we had water coming in. He came back up to try and determine what had happened. When he checked the engine room a second time he realized that we were in big trouble as the water was coming in fast. We put our life jackets on and Rick immediately radioed the Coast Guard with our position and told them we were taking on water. We were very, very lucky as we were about ¼ mile from a boat yard. Had there not been a boat yard close by (we learned the next closest one is about 1 ½ miles away) Rick was prepared to ground the boat in shallow water to avoid sinking. I’m so proud of him!!!

The Palm Beach Yacht Center, who had been listening, got on the radio and told us to try to make it in and that they would have a sling ready to get the boat out of the water. About 50 yards from the sling we realized we had no port propulsion but the port engine was still running. The boat yard guys were just great and jumped on boats near us, I threw them lines and they walked us in. They immediately got the boat out of the water and let it drain. We could then see that the entire shaft holding the propeller had been pulled out of the boat (which is where the water was getting in), the two struts holding it had been sheared off and the entire mechanism was hanging behind the boat. The rudder and post are also bent up about 30 degrees from vertical. The whole episode took about 15 minutes so the water, while it was frightening, didn’t get up to the engines or any other important operating parts and the there is no hull damage at all which is a wonderful thing.

Tomorrow, Monday, a surveyor will examine the boat and we’ll know better what the deal is. The yard manager estimated it could take 2-3 weeks to repair the old girl. In the meantime, the Coast Guard sent vessels searching for the obstruction. We don’t yet have their report. We were in 10 feet of water, right in the center of the channel where we were supposed to be. Our boat has a 4’7” draft which means it was a fairly sizable obstruction. Everyone figures it had to be something made of metal vs. a log, as it did such damage. One theory is a boat on the bottom from the many storms. Another is a channel marker that went down and was never removed (they have steel I-beams on the bottom holding them in place). We have also learned that in the last few months two other vessels have had their running gear damaged in the same vicinity.

In the grand scheme of things, we thank our lucky stars that no one was hurt and that the boat didn’t sink!! We lucked into a boat yard full of caring, helpful people. They couldn’t have been nicer to us.

As we post this, the boat is on the hard and plugged into power. We (Rick) spent the last 2 days cleaning the salt water out of the bilges and coating all metal surfaces with anti-corrosive spray. All in all, Rickshaw came out of this with a few dings but generally in good shape. We have a rental car and are staying in a Comfort Inn. We’ll figure out what we are going to do next after tomorrow, but one thing is for sure; we will ‘get back on that horse again’!! More later.

Rickshaw in the sling. Notice water draining from the port side.
Guys pulling the propeller and shaft out of the front strut where it was dangling.

The shaft with the sheared two aft struts (which hold it on the boat).

Putting Rickshaw on the hard. No damage to hull!!

Travel lift and operator which is operated by wireless remote control!

This is what the propeller and shaft are supposed to look like.

This is the damaged port side with no shaft or propeller. You can see the bent rudder post in the foreground.

Below is the prop and shaft assembly and then a close up of where it was snagged and peeled the metal back.

A look at the port rudder. You can see the starboard rudder behind it in its 'natural' state!!

Finally, here is a tired Captain washing down the bilges with a smile on his face.