Propless in Seattle
I recently took advantage of a wonderful opportunity to spend 9 nights with Mahina Expeditions sailing a 2015 v1 Garcia 45 North of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. During this time expedition leaders Amanda and John of Mahina, plus 6 other crew members including myself got to experience a diversity of sailing conditions and locations. The trip involved cruising the beautiful San Juan islands, some night-time sailing in the choppy waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a further passage out into the Pacific, and the loss of our propeller at midnight as we sailed into a reasonably unknown anchorage…more on that later.
Version 1 Obelix shares most of the specifications that the version 2 Scout will have. One of the biggest differences however, is the cockpit watch area. The v2 Garcia has had a shelf added either side of the companionway and, with more hatches and portholes, the space is definitely more open, offering better visibility forward from the helm. Another main difference is the floorplan. The standard layout on Obelix is designed for a larger crew and can squeeze in—I mean, accommodate—8 people, not including the table conversion in the saloon. We deliberated over the floor plan and concluded that, for much of the time it would just be between 2-4 crew on Scout at any one time, and an aft technical/storage room and a separate shower would be more practical in the long run.
Anyway, back to the startling realization that we had no propulsion at midnight and 5 miles away from the nearest marina at Port Angeles to the East of us. I had just come on my watch and the light, Westerly wind had dropped to the point that a spot of downwind motor sailing might be needed to keep us above an acceptable speed of 5 knots. It became clear that the engine was doing its job, the transmission was engaged, the prop shaft was rotating and doing its job, but we weren’t really moving. Plus, the situation just didn’t sound right. After some troubleshooting from John and Amanda as well as a Securite call, it was safe to assume that the propeller had probably previously abandoned ship in favour of the bottom of the Fuca. Traitor! What to do when you have no propulsion while night time sailing in light air? We sailed in—albeit slowly—of course!
Our closest marina was Port Angeles, but it was too late to secure a slip. Looking at the chart plotter, there did not appear to be a legitimate anchorage in the area around the marina, but we had no choice but to target a reasonably protected 40-50ft depth area in front of the marina entrance, and head towards it. After a change of course towards Port Angeles, the Westerly wind was now on our nose, so after a series of slow tacks (as well as inadvertently avoiding an oil slick boom) we finally made it to the area of our targeted anchorage. Our obedient Obelix had finally run out of speed and steerage, so we finished off our heading with a burst of the bow thruster to starboard to get us pointing into the wind and allow us to drop the mainsail and anchor. And that was that. Anchor light - check. Bed - check.
The next morning we got a tow to the Port Angeles Travelift to have Obelix hauled out and checked out. Sure enough - no prop. Fortunately there was a spare prop on hand. Note to myself - always carry a spare prop as well as the spare prop nut and cotter pin. After 24 hours we were back in the Straits and heading to the beautiful Watmough Bay anchorage off Lopez island.
Over the 9 days, Obelix was tested in so many ways, from the different points of sail, sea states, conditions and depths. We actively raised and lowered the centreboard for flexibility, and I found this a great feature of the Garcia 45. Plus, the extra thick insulation in the hull softened any exterior sounds of the sea while under way at night. Suffice to say, sleep was not a problem on such a solid boat.
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