A third engine would have been nice.
If, while on final approach to a dock, your starboard engine shifter cable fails and your port engine stalls, you will not likely win any awards for smooth docking. Unfortunately that exact situation happened to us yesterday.
Because of the previous day’s prep work, we were able to leave the Hog Island anchorage promptly at 8:00 AM, making way to St. George’s. The weather, at that time, was clear but we had heard that some rain was in the forecast and we were eager to get our anchor down and do some shopping before the weather turned. The trip around Point Salines to St. George’s was uneventful and we were settled in by 10:00 AM. The anchorage was pretty rolly but because we were booked into the marina for the following day, we figured that we could suck it up for one night.
With Carnival in full swing beginning today, we knew that any shopping we needed to do had to be done right away as the stores would all be closing until Wednesday. We needed to pick up some food but even higher on our priority list was to purchase a new shifter/throttle cable from Island Water World. While doing a bit of engine maintenance, getting ready for this trip, I noticed that one of the cables to our starboard engine had a large split in it and was extremely corroded. This was not cool and even worse so because I installed brand new cables almost exactly a year ago today. Although the cable was still functioning, this is not the kind of thing that you want to fail at an inopportune moment (hint, hint — approaching a dock).
For people in the Port Louis Marina area, the trip to Island Water World is quite convenient as their store has its own dock right in the lagoon. As luck would have it, they had just the cable that we needed and even luckier, we made it there just before they closed early for Carnival (they locked the store’s doors as we were standing in line to pay).
With shopping completed, we decided to visit the marina office in the hopes that we could come in a day early rather than spend it outside at anchor. Many of our friends were already on the docks and we were not looking forward to a rolly night in what is not our favorite anchorage. The marina staff was accommodating and even said that we could slide into the spot right behind Ainulindale on one of the mega yacht docks (we like to pretend we’re on a big boat).
We returned to ZTC, rigged lines and fenders and after waiting out a huge rain downpour (we were told it was coming!), made our way into the marina. As requested, we radioed the staff as we made our way towards the docks. We were told by the guy on the other end of the radio to “stand by” but as we had already been told where to go, and our friends were on the dock waiting to take our lines, we assumed he was only saying that because he was not there and ready to assist.
To dock the boat in this particular spot required us to bring it in between two large fingers, do a 180 degree turn and bring the boat alongside port-side-to. With no wind to mess with us and plenty of room to maneuver, this should have been easy. And it was, right up until the point where I shifted the starboard engine into reverse to bring the stern around. Although the engine revved up, nothing happened. I throttled up more and still the boat didn’t react. By this time I knew things were going bad and thus shifted the port engine into reverse. Here’s where the next bad thing occurred… that engine stalled. By the time I got it restarted, we were mere feet away from impacting the dock. Our friends tried their best to fend the boat off but it still hit the protective wooden dock edge with a thud, a sound that no mariner likes to hear.
While all this was going on the dockmaster, the same one who told me to stand by, was now on the dock telling me, pre-impact, to put the starboard engine in reverse (duh… thanks for that advice… I didn’t think of that!), and then after we secured ourselves, that we couldn’t stay there and that we’d have to move to a different dock. Was I happy at this point? Not so much.
Minutes after this fiasco, we were pushed away from the dock, still only with one (semi?) functioning engine. Back in the channel and away from the other boats, I confirmed that the starboard engine was definitely not responding so knowing that we’d only have our port engine to play with, we switched all of our lines and fenders to the starboard side of the boat so that we could dock with more control. With the knowledge of what we now had to work with, we docked infinitely more smoothly the second time around. Damage to the boat and dock from attempt 1: zero. Damage to pride and positive attitude: significant, although temporary.
Today’s task: replace the $#%#^ shifter cable so that we don’t run into (no pun intended) similar problems again, or at least, not in the near future.
- Why did the shifter cable split and rust like that? I don’t know.
- Why did the port engine stall? That is a product of not moving the boat for 2 months. Things that move like to move, they do not like to remain stationary.