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“Outbound tanker approaching Boliver Channel, be advised we have lost engine power and are under headsail power only.  We are getting out of your way best speed.”

“Sailboat, we see you.  Be advised we are ocean going and must stay in the channel.”

“Understood.”

__________

Last Tuesday, my husband and I spent the afternoon provisioning and packing our sailboat for a five day cruise down the Texas coast.  I spent most of last Monday precooking as much of our food as we could, and shopping for the other provisions.  The weather was set to be a bit dicey Wednesday morning, clearing in the afternoon, continuing clear and sunny through Easter Sunday…no chance of rain and the high in the low 80s.

Wednesday morning we were up, breakfasted, and outbound by 7:30.  As we exited Clear Lake, Galveston Bay was quite choppy and the wind was right on our nose at 20 knots, gusting to 25…a good ten knots higher than forecast; there were thunderstorms all around us.  My husband and I joked to each other about how if the area wanted bad weather all they had to do was send he and I sailing.  We settled in for the ninety minute motor across the bay to the Houston Ship Channel (HSC) in a light but steady rain and three foot pounding chop…hoping to avoid a lightning strike.

By the time we made the HSC it appeared we had missed the worst of the weather.  We continued down the channel uneventfully, enjoying being out on the water once again.  At the entrance to Boliver Roads and the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) we headed west in the ICW, a few miles further we crossed under the Galveston Causeway Railroad Bridge.  Thunderstorms continued to surround us but we enjoyed sunshine in our immediate area.  We had slip reservations at Harborwalk Yacht Club, an upscale marina four or five miles past the railroad bridge and safely arrived mid afternoon.

After checking into the marina and mooring our boat, we had a sandwich at the marina ship’s store.  Just as we finished eating, the marina was pounded by what both me and my husband commented was the worst thunderstorm either of us had ever seen.  Though it only lasted a few brief minutes, the lightning was incessant, dime size hail, and rain that plunged the day into a whiteout condition.  Thankfully, our boat, once again, managed to avoid a lightning strike.

That afternoon we had the entire resort to ourselves; it was a weekday, after all We settled into the place’s Jacuzzi under the palm trees and remarked how lucky we were to avoid the bad weather.  Later we grilled steaks before sacking out.  So far, so good…the week promised to be a good one.

Thursday we awoke to clear and sunny skies.  After breakfast, we pumped out the head and topped off our fuel tank.  By 9:30 we were checked out and westbound on the ICW.  It was a beautiful day…I turned over the helm to the Captain, shed my shoes and settled into a book.  When the Freeport, Texas bridge came into view I took the helm back, looking forward to entering Freeport in daylight.  Our last trip down, I had made this exact same approach…but at night.  It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  We had slip reservations at the Freeport Municipal Marina…by 4:00 we were settled in.

Friday had been planned as a “free day” for us to do whatever we felt we wanted to do.  Initially, we thought we might motor on down the ICW to Port Oconnor, Texas.  And, then, on Saturday, leave, pulling an all nighter offshore arriving back home in Kemah on Sunday afternoon.  But, PO was 71 nautical miles away…a ten or eleven hour trip.  Considering we would have arrived late and then had to wake early and sail offshore for twenty four hours straight to get back by Sunday, we decided to just go offshore of Freeport and spend a leisurely afternoon sailing in the Gulf.  We’d then come back in and berth at Surfside Marina (still in Freeport) Friday night before going back offshore Saturday for the sail back to Galveston.  And, that is exactly what we did.

We motored out of the Freeport jetties into the Gulf just after noon on Friday and had a blast sailing with moderate winds and in moderate, but building, seas.  Around three or four, we dropped the sails and headed back into the jetties. 

At the helm, and just inside the Freeport jetty bar, I brought the boat, under power, into the wind so that my husband could drop the mainsail (the headsail was already down, it is on a roller furler and is furled from the cockpit).  I kept her just above idle so that we were into the wind, but making no headway.  Once the sails were down and secured, I eased in more power and swung the boat around.  Once about, I increased power…

And, it was at this exact point that the first ominous chord was struck.

As I increased power, I noticed black soot in the exhaust stream of the wake and a small amount of black smoke coming from the exhaust proper.  I pointed this out to my Captain…he took a look.  While we both observed, I reduced to one half power and the black soot and smoke went away.  When I increased power the smoke and soot appeared; when I backed off he power, it went away.  The power responded; there was no lack of power from the engine…only black soot in the wake’s exhaust stream and a slight, but noticeable amount of black diesel smoke from the exhaust proper.  We speculated it was most probably a fouled injector that was causing the engine to run very rich.  I cut power to one half and we motored on in, not really giving the issue much more thought.

After docking at Surfside Marina, we found they didn’t have a 50A-30A adapter for our shore power…we undocked and went to Bridge Harbor Yacht club.  We settled in for a beautiful afternoon…grilled steaks and had a few drinks.  Our plan was to awake early, go offshore and sail back to Galveston.  We researched a few marinas before making reservations at a new place at Offets Bayou called Pelican Rest.  We slept like rocks.

Saturday, we were up and motoring out of the jetties into the Gulf of Mexico at Freeport by around 8:30.  The engine was running great.  On the way to the jetties, while in the ICW, I had goosed it up to 3400 RPMs with no soot or smoke.  She seemed to be running fine.  The building seas the day before had built overnight…and were running 4-6 feet with chop.  Just as we reached the outer bar of the Freeport Channel, I experienced a sudden 1000 RPM drop in power…it was immediate.  Attempting to increase RPMs was fruitless.  Assuming we had the same issue as the day before, I cut power…again, the exhaust smoke and soot stream stopped.  However, as the helmsman of our yacht, instinctively, I knew that our engine was behaving quite differently than the day before.  On this morning, unlike the day before, I could not increase power, only decrease it. 

It was time for a serious pow wow with Captain Husband.

Prior to leaving Bridge Harbor Marina, I had already plotted our course from the Freeport jetties to those at Boliver Roads in Galveston.  There were several issues at hand…I referred to this in one of my past post as smart people stuff.  One issue was what if we lost power completely.  Another issue was the time it would take to make the passage from the Freeport jetties to the ones at Galveston.  And, lastly, there was the tide…as not wanting to enter Boliver Roads when the tide was going out.  All of these were pretty much worst case scenarios…but each is, even individually, well…serious as shit.

Our electronic Chartplotter put us at Boliver Road’s South jetty at almost exactly 5:30 in the afternoon…that was a good thing for two reasons.  First, we would arrive still having two and a half hours of daylight to negotiate the Boliver Roads Ship Channel.  As a reminder, and I’ve mentioned this before in my posts on previous sailing trips, Boliver Roads Ship Channel is one of the busiest ship channels in the world.  Panamax and Suezmax supertankers are continuously going in and out of the Boliver Roads shipping channel on their way up the HSC to Houston.  The channel itself is only five or six miles long, but it is extremely, EXTREMELY busy as it connects to the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston Ship Channel, Texas City Ship Channel, and the ICW.  The second thing that made our arrival late afternoon a good thing was that high tide last Saturday was at 4:30…essentially we would be arriving at the mouth of Boliver at a slack tide, going neither in or out.  Low tide, however, was at 11:30 that night, at which time we’d have an hellacious current to fight starting around 8:30 or 9:00 as low tide approached.  We should have had at least a couple of hours before the tide would be against us if we arrived at 5:30.  Regarding losing power completely, we had favorable winds…not the greatest, but favorable…we would have to close haul the entire way in 18-20 knot winds and 4 – 6 foot choppy seas…it would be, as they say, a spirited day of sailing.  But, with any kind of luck whatsoever, we should have been able to make our boat’s hull speed the entire way…6.7 knots.  Again, with any kind of luck, we could even improve our arrival time.  Having some power, though we obviously were having engine issues, limited us to only using our sails, saving our engine power for emergencies and for docking.  When all of the variables were considered, the decision was made to sail on.  The distance was just over 41 nautical miles.

For the first ten miles or so things looked good.  It was rough, but our boat was taking the seas quite well.  It appeared we would not have to tack more than once or twice the whole way.  But, then our boat developed a leak and we began taking on a bit of water.  Ummm…definitely, not good.

We have bilge pumps…they are electric and automatic…they run on the ship’s battery power…three banks of 12 volt, deep cycle marine batteries…but they could not keep up with the leak.  The batteries were fully charged due to both our motor sailing and being hooked up to shore power for the previous few days.  Our batteries were good.  The issue was we initially could not find the source of the leak.  Captain Husband spent the better part of two hours being thrown around below decks alternately using an auxiliary pump to remove the excess sea water and looking for the leak.  The situation was serious, but by no means an emergency.  Sailboats only have so many places that can leak, barring a split in the hull; we were almost certain the hull, though it was taking a pretty good beating, had not been breached.  There are through hull sea cocks for the head, head sink, galley sink, AC cooling system, and engine cooling system…and then the packing of the engine shaft as the goes through hull to the prop.  Taking and eliminating them one by one, the leak was in the shaft packing.  Captain Husband, engineer par excellent, succeeded in repairing the small, but steady leak.

Finding the leak was the good news, but the leak had other consequences.

When close hauled, sailing as close to the wind as possible, the boat is heeled over on its side quite a bit…about 30 degrees, in our case.  When we discovered the leak was bad enough that it had to be repaired or we would have to turn back, the decision was made to tack (in this case, turn further out to sea) and “stand the boat up”, in other words, eliminate as much of the heel as possible.  The result of this tack, which amounted to about six nautical miles, was that our arrival time at Boliver Roads, based on our current heading and speed, was pushed back to around 7:00 or so.  Seven was not nearly as good as the original ETA of 5:30.  It was decision time again.  More smart people stuff.  I’ll save the you the analysis…suffice to say we decided to sail on.  We’d still arrive at Boliver with daylight, and still at a slack tide.

The best laid plans of mice and men…

As the morning disappeared and afternoon dragged on, more and more it became certain we were not going to make Boliver Roads in daylight and would have to negotiate one of the worlds busiest shipping channels both at night, under sail power alone, and against a strong 3 – 4 knot outgoing tidal current.  I stayed at the helm all day long, only turning it over to Captain Husband long enough for me to use the head.  Around 3:00 or so the wind dropped from 15 -20 knots down to 9 – 12…our speed dropped.  By 5:30 our GPS Charplotter had us entering the Boliver Channel at 8:30 or so.  By 8:00, the wind was down to a quite moderate but consistent 8 knots.  When we turned the channel marker to enter Boliver it was 8:30 on the nose…winds were still 8 knots, gusting on occasion to 10 or eleven.  The tide was already starting to ebb…

And, it was as dark as the ace of spades.  Let the games begin…

I knew hours before we arrived at the jetties, just because it’s the way we run our boat, that I would be at the helm when we entered Boliver Roads from the Gulf of Mexico.  When I first came to the realization that I would have to negotiate this channel in the dark it was a bit depressing.  But, as we neared the channel marker I came to look forward to the excitement.  Just four weeks ago I had been at this exact same place at 2:30 or so in the afternoon…with an incoming flood tide; we had flown down the channel on a beam reach showing an almost 10 knot GPS speed.  It took us just over half hour to cover the distance from the jetty tips to the ICW.  So, when we turned into the channel, I was as ready as I could have been.  For a couple of hours we had watched the supertanker traffic through our binoculars as we approached the jetties, and to our amazement there had been not one tanker to have exited the channel.  We wrote it off to being Easter weekend.

But, we were not to be so lucky last Saturday night.

As we entered the jetties, essentially a 90 degree turn to port, the wind simultaneously switched and we found ourselves with a following wind.  The tide was starting to ebb and we were at the outer bar…so the waves stood up in a 3 – 4 foot chop…and the wind dropped to a consistent 6 knots.  The boat came almost to a stop, being tossed around like a rubber duck.  The boat being tossed cause my Chartplotter to spin…kind of like when you see the compass on a ship spin in a B Grade sci fi film…and, worst of all, I became almost completely disoriented.  Our light on our compass had been jarred loose so my only judgement of orientation was from the digital read out on the Chartplotter.  Instinctively, I brought the boat around into a beam reach to make headway…the Chartplotter quit spinning, I isolated the channel markers on the Chartplotter, and within a minute or two had my wits about me.

There were two distinct duties to be fulfilled while we in the channel…Captain Husband and I were of one accord in fulfilling them.  He was to keep a look out for the ships and handle the sails…and I was to navigate and steer the boat.

Our headway against the current was agonizingly slow…2.5 to 3.5 knots.  As we made the first beam reach North to cross the ship channel, I realized it was going to take me forever to get across the shipping lane at the outer bar.  The entire width of Boliver Roads is perhaps a mile or so…but the shipping channel/lane itself is perhaps a 1000 feet or less.  The ships/supertankers are going to be in those lanes and no where else.  The channels are 45-50 feet deep…if the supertankers get outside the channel they will run aground in the much shallower water outside of them. 

Realizing that I might get caught in the channel if a ship appeared, I called for a tack to get back outside of it.  As soon as we came around, the boat was lit up by a huge spot light from a tug accompanying a super huge car carrier barreling down the center of the sea lane…this monster had appeared as if from out of nowhere…neither me nor my husband had spotted it.  It was maybe a half a mile away.  Simultaneously, the car carrier started setting on his horn.  I pointed the boat for best speed, hoping like hell we could get out of the way.  The accompanying tug sped out in front of the ship, keeping his spot light on us the entire time.  The tug passed us on our starboard side and then spun around, putting his boat between us and the ship.  The ship was sitting on his horn.  Our boat just crawled along…the ship missed us by less than a 100 feet.

And…THAT…scared the living shit out of me…and, Captain Husband.  Though not so much at the time, in hindsight, it was the start of the most frightening four hours I have ever spent in my life.  Last Saturday night between 8:00 at night and 1:00 in the morning was absolutely terrifying for me…two days later I’m still not sure I’m over it.  I have not been able to get the ordeal out of my mind…I think about it constantly.

It took us from 8:30 to 12:30, four solid agonizing hours to travel the four miles or so from the tip of the Boliver Roads jetties to the Galveston Channel.  The outgoing current was formidable…the wind maintained a more or less consistent 6 knots…with the occasional gust up to nine or ten…directly on our tail.  The headsail, blocking our view of the ships, was dropped almost immediately.  Mainsail alone, we jibed more times than we could remember, each time wrecking havoc on our rigging as the boom caught the wind and swung violently over to leeward.  Only once did our speed go over 4 knots…there were times our GPS showed a 2.5 knot crawl…as we “dashed” across the shipping lane.  Many times we would jibe only to spot a tanker we’d not previously seen, and have to come back about.  Spotting the ships was incredibly hard.  Often they would loom out of the darkness, again, as if they instantly appeared.  Several times I would spot a ship and point it out to Captain only to hear him say, “Where?”, to which I’d reply “Right there, in front of us.”  Often it would be him that spotted the ship…and even though it had been right before me, I would have been the one who didn’t see it.  It was terrifying, absolutely, no bullshit, terrifying.

Around 12:30 in the morning, when the wind died down to barely a measurable breeze on our weather station, we risked starting the engine to make it the mile or so into and then up Galveston Channel to the Galveston Yacht Basin…our plans for Pelican Rest at Offets Bayou long since trashed.  I started the engine and put us under way.  Barely ten minutes later the engine quit completely.  With barely a breeze we were forced to sail the last couple of hundred yards on wind power alone.  The wind was so light we barely had enough headway to tack.  It took us almost an hour to sail that last hundred and fifty yards, under wind alone, into the Yacht Basin.  When we finally got tied up, we realized that somewhere in the marathon channel jibing nightmare we had shredded our mainsail…we had been too busy to notice.  I was exhausted…I’d been at the helm for almost sixteen straight hours.  I had a beer but was so shook I couldn’t even think straight.  We both sat in the cockpit saying not a word.  The moon was out, there wasn’t even a breeze, and the water was like glass…it was stiller than still.  I finally just got up and said I was going to bed…when I went to sleep Captain Husband was still in the cockpit saying nothing.  As soon as my head hit the pillow I was asleep.

I awoke the next morning to Captain Husband being awake.  I got dressed and joined him in the cockpit for morning coffee…which he makes so good on the boat.  The weather called for ESE winds 5 – 10 knots.  Such weather would have put us on a leisurely beam reach almost all the way up the Houston Ship Channel…if, we could get to the HSC from where we were.  As we listened to the weather it was dead calm.  Captain Husband indicated he felt like he could repair our engine…was going to give it a shot.  He went below, returning later declaring he felt he’d pulled it off.  I cranked the engine…no smoke or soot.  After five minutes…I revved it up…no smoke or soot.  I was heartened…so was he.  We untied immediately and headed out.  The engine seemed to be performing admirably as we once again entered Boliver Roads Channel, a mile or so from the intersection of the ICW and the Texas City Channel.  The wind had picked up to a blistering 2 knots…the water was almost like glass.  But, we had power…and, then, just as suddenly, we didn’t have power…the engine failed again.

The engine failed while I was at the helm and just about to cross the Boliver sea lane.  We unfurled our headsail (at this point our only sail)…it barely inflated, even with the wind dead abeam.  Our GPS speed read 1.5 knots…we were barely making any headway.  Thankfully, the ship channels were absent of the rate of ship traffic from the night before.  I eased us over out of the sea lane…already worried about how we were going to negotiate the Boliver Roads, ICW, Texas City, HSC intersection that was directly off our starboard bow a mile or so away…at 1.5 knots of headway, I had at least an hour before I’d even have to think about it.  With my nerves at wits end…I had to pee.  I turned the helm over to Captain, went to the head and then brushed my teeth.

When I came back above deck, I was startled to see Captain Husband had turned back into the sea lane…and even more startled to see a huge outbound supertanker just approaching the intersection I mention above…in seven or eight minutes he would be right on us…and here we are absolutely crawling right in the middle of the channel…with no power…and moving at a knot and a half of speed.  I got on the horn…Channel 13, to be more specific…

“Outbound tanker approaching Boliver Channel, be advised we have lost engine power and are under headsail power only.  We are getting out of your way as fast as possible.”

“Sailboat, we see you.  Be advised we are ocean going and must stay in the channel.”

“Understood.”

I knew the tanker would give me the response he did.  It was the only response he could give me.  At several hundred thousand tons of displacement, he couldn’t stop even if he wanted to.  The fact is, he could barely even turn.  But, at least I knew that he knew that we were there and just couldn’t do anything about it.  I was not real happy with Captain Husband at that point.  We made it out of the tanker’s way just in time…he passed a hundred feet or so off of our port beam.

The wind increased a slight bit…to four knots or so…we were making 3 knots GPS speed.  I dreaded the day.  The weather report was once again not accurate with winds four knots out of the NNE…instead of the 5 – 10 out of the ESE.  A quick calculation on my part yielded that at the very, very best we would be out on the water for 10 – 12 hours…the wind would be right on our nose once we enter the HSC.  We would be tacking constantly all day long.

It was Easter Sunday…and ahead of us I noticed sailboat after sailboat in the ICW…turning North and heading back up the HSC toward our home port of Kemah.  They, just like us, were heading home after the long Easter Sunday weekend.  I decided to get on the horn again…Channel 16 specifically…

“To all sailboats approaching or inbound up the Houston Ship Channel.  We are just South of the ICW in Boliver.  We have lost engine power and blew out our mainsail last night…under headsail power only.  We’re trying to limp back to Kemah…would appreciate a tow if you’re heading North to Clear Lake.”

I really didn’t expect anyone to bite…but felt we had nothing to lose.  To my surprise, almost immediately the radio squawked and a sailboat just a few hundred yards off our port bow answered the call and offered to tow us back.  I came back on deck and told Captain Husband we had a tow…he was excited as I was.  We arranged the tow over the radio…the other boat came alone side, tossed us a line, and towed us all the way back to Clear Lake…by 3:00 we were home, trying to unwind.

 

Post Script:

I suppose one could ask why we would allow ourselves to be in a very dangerous shipping channel such as Boliver Roads in the first place…particularly at night…with unfavorable winds…without mechanical engine power…fighting an ebb tide.  If one did ask, it’d be a good question.  That question does have an answer…even a rational one, at least to us.

First, from the Freeport jetties to the those at Boliver Roads there is no other passage from the Gulf of Mexico to inland waters.  We made the decision to continue on to Galveston, based on an arrival time of 5:30 PM.  Once we saw we would not make Galveston until well after dark we were too far from Freeport to turn back…we were too far to abort our passage without having to sail all night back.

Secondly, we are sailors, not weekend boaters.  Both me and my husband have a wealth of sailing experience going back individually thirty years or so.  We are not experts, but we’re not novices either.  Sometimes shit happens.  And, when it does, real sailors adjust and make the best of bad, and yes, sometimes even dangerous situations.  Doing that makes us better sailors.  As my husband said upon reflecting on the situation we faced, “we have whole volumes of experience and information about Boliver Roads that we didn’t have before Saturday night.”  And, that is true.

And, lastly, as terrifying as the ordeal was, in hindsight, we actually worked excellently as a team.  We are better sailors for the challenge, as deadly serious as it was.  We did make a couple of critical mistakes I will mention in the following paragraphs or so.  But, overall, we used our sailing skills to take on a very serious passage…and we defeated it.  Sailing Boliver Channel last Saturday night was four hours of intense and focused sailing in way less than favorable conditions, but we did it. 

At the time, neither of us gave a whole lot of thought to the danger we were in…there was no panic…no “oh shit, we are majorly fucked” moments.  We both appreciated the seriousness of the situation; we didn’t talk about it, we just knew.  We each did our job.  I kept the helm and navigated…my husband handled the sails and tacked when I commanded…we both spotted the ships between tacks, the most daunting of the tasks. 

One would think that it would be easy to spot a 500 foot long (or longer), 100 foot high (or higher) ship at night.  Believe me, it’s not.  Sure, they have the standard navigation lights and they absolutely work…so does our boat, and they work too.  But their navigation lights are incredibly hard to see against the background of both the cities of Galveston and Boliver proper…not to mention more channel buoys and range marker lights than one could shake a stick at…all blinking at different periods.  In reality, it became easier to spot the ships by the light that was not present rather than what was…similar to how astronomers have isolated black holes.  Both of us were absolutely amazed at how quickly these huge ships could appear and bear down on us.  We were both also amazed at the sheer quantity of the ship traffic in general last Saturday.  As mentioned, in the two hours we were approaching this channel we knew exactly where the jetties were and both of us could easily spot the tankers that were moored just offshore.  We did not see even one ship enter or exit the channel in those two hours.  Nonetheless, we estimated we passed 18 – 20 ocean going ships over the four hours it took for the channel passage…all but three or four of them outbound…one ship, on average, every ten to fifteen minutes.  As a comparison, on any given sail down the Houston Ship channel one might meet or pass four or five ocean going tankers over the same four hours.

Sure, we could have called Sea Tow, a private towing contractor that would have been more than happy to send out a skiff and tow us in.  The price would have been three or four hundred bucks but, honestly, we could have afforded that.  And, if the wind had calmed even an hour earlier than it did, that is exactly what we would have had to do because at that point we wouldn’t have been able to make any headway at all…it would have been either call for a tow or drift into the shallows and drop anchor.  But, bailing to Sea Tow every time things get spooky is just not our way.  Without even discussing the situation, we both knew when we entered Boliver Roads that as long as we had sail power we would work the situation out…no matter how long or how dicey things got.  And, again, we did.

Quite similar to getting caught in Tropical Storm Ike, over Labor Day last year, it was only after the fact that the seriousness of our situation set in.  And, like last Labor Day, I’m sure it will take a few days to get over the rush.  All day yesterday and today it’s been on my mind constantly.  Over and over I’ve rehashed what we did right and wrong and what we could have done differently.  Though we prevailed, there was really only one thing we could have done that would have made the channel passage less intense.

Both of us realized, as any sailor should, that unless a weather front is scheduled to come through, the wind will steadily decline as evening progresses.  We both discussed this prior to entering the channel.  Less wind generally equates to less speed and maneuverability…particularly if the winds go very light.  Knowing this, and knowing we would enter the channel after dark, we should have plotted our course through the channel before we entered it with that in mind. This would have been particularly helpful once the wind shifted such that it was following.  If we would have plotted our course into the channel beforehand, the near miss encounter with the car carrier freighter shortly after we first entered Boliver Roads would have been avoided. (As a side note, we are both eternally grateful to the tug captain who got between us and this freighter.  It was apparent to him, and us, that we were way, way too close to this ship and though traveling at best speed, were quite possibly in harms way.  It was also apparent that the tug captain, if he did see imminent danger of a collision, was quite prepared to do his dead level best to push his ship away from us if at all possible.  It’s also worth noting that the car carriers are one of the only ocean going ships who are flagged with their own tug while navigating Boliver.  The reason for this is that these car carrier ships simply can’t turn as well in the channel as the other tankers and such can…they need a tug to assist them.  I’m sure both the car carrier and the tug captain were hailing us on the radio, but both me and my husband were just too busy manning our vessel to go below decks and respond…there was nothing we could have done anyway.  Either way, the tug captain was absolutely fantastic at handling his vessel.  And, though we’re sure both he and the ship captain cursed us, all turned out well.  We did make it out of the ship’s way and out of his sea lane without assistance.  But, it was way, way, way too close.)  But, we didn’t plot our course through the channel before entering it.  Instead, when approaching the jetties and entry into Boliver Roads we were way more focused on making sure we would enter the channel well past the jetty tips, rightfully concerned about running head on into the jetty rocks should we have missed.  Not plotting our course prior to entering the channel was a mistake we won’t make again…but, other than that error, everything else we did was appropriate.

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