Saturday, August 13, 2016

2016-22 Ketchikan to Shearwater

When the Windlass Fails

On Tuesday morning, August 9th at Captains Cove on Pitt Island, BC, the anchor was set in 40 feet with 175 feet of rode deployed.  While raising the anchor with 30 feet to go, and the hook off bottom, the windlass abruptly failed.  With the wheel stop paw not engaged, the chain wheel spun rapidly, dumping chain.  This is a noisy and dangerous time, as chain spills uncontrollably into the deep.  It's a time when fingers, hands, arms, feet and legs should be well clear of the windlass.  With heavy chain spilling overboard rapidly, the force would part the safety line tied to the bitter end, and Wild Blue's primary anchor would be lost.  Alex carefully reacted, slowly setting the brake on the unused, locked port chain wheel, binding the winch shaft, and eventually the chain wheel slowed then stopped.  Unfortunately about 300 feet of chain had escaped overboard, and the windlass was broken.

On boats cruising in remote areas, it's always a good idea to carry spares.  Most boats stock spare filters, lubricants, critical parts, and even backup auxiliary engines. Some even have a second generator.  

On Wild Blue the anchor is set and retrieved maybe 75 times a year.  The anchor winch, or windlass, is a large electric motor, gearbox and dual chain wheels in a heavy package, over 100 pounds.  The boat doesn't carry a spare so when the anchor windlass breaks, a backup retrieval method is needed.  

The Maxwell Model HWC2500 windlass provides manual retrieval using a breaker bar.  The bar fits in a slot next to the chain wheel.  Each pull on the bar rotates the wheel a bit.  The anchor is retrieved s-l-o-w-l-y, just one chain link at a time.  300 feet of chain requires about 2,400 pulls on the breaker bar, making for a very long day.  However, in remote BC with 7 more days of anchoring ahead, the Wild Blue crew needed and found a faster, if back-breaking, method to raise the anchor.

How did we get here......

Saturday, August 6, 2016:  New Crew Arrives in Ketchikan

We have a new crew arriving from Central California and Utah.  It's the Gray family with brothers Gene and Al, and cousin Phil.  These guys have crewed Wild Blue several times with this their first time fishing.  Once in K-town over-flowing with passengers off five cruise ships, taxis were scarce.  It took an hour to get the two miles from the airport ferry to downtown's City Float. It didn't help that the Grays were inadvertently offloaded at Bar Harbor first, complicating and delaying there arrival at the boat.  Gene made it clear to the taxi folks that their service sucked!  After a beer or two, all crew calmed down.

We enjoyed a fine dinner at the new Bar Harbor Restaurant, next to City Float, then Al and Phil headed to Safeway for provisions while Gene and Alex readied the boat. Soon the boat was replenished, and ready for an early morning departure.
Gene, brother Al and Cousin Phil of the Gray Clan

Sunday, August 7, 2016:  Ketchikan to Prince Rupert

We were free of City Float by 6:15 on the way to Petro Marine for fuel.  The fuel station wasn't open so we tied up and waited.  The hose was transferring fuel at 7AM and in forty minutes we loaded 800 gallons.  The ocean and wind forecast looked good until late afternoon.  We could bail out at Pond Bay at Duke Island if needed.

Once settled onto course, the wind stayed light.  We transited Dixon Entrance with a 1 knot push in generously-spaced small ocean swell.  It was one of our Top Three Most Comfortable crossings.  We pulled into Prince Rupert via Venn Passage, clearing Canadian Customs at the government dock.  Then we moved over to the new city operated Cow Bay Marina for the night.  After purchasing fishing licences for the Grays, we had an excellent dinner at the Crest Hotel on the waterfront.

The 130 foot sailing yacht "Janice of Wyoming"
moored at Cow Bay Marina, Prince Rupert

Monday, August 8, 2016:  Captains Cove

We departed Prince Rupert well ahead of the afternoon  westerlies.  We headed south towards the bottom of Chatham Sound, pointing towards the north end of the Grenville Channel.  There we bore right into Ogden then Petrel Channel, settling on the "outside" Inside Passage route.  Eventually we fished off every trawler skipper's namesake, Captain Cove.  Unfortunately our Captain rank was somewhat diminished as the crew didn't hook anything.  We set the anchor in 48 feet at the SW bay inside the Cove.  It seemed like a normal set.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016: Busted Windless to Patterson Inlet

It took us about an hour of figuring to devise a method to raise chain and anchor.  3/8 inch chain weighs about 1.5 pounds per foot.  So at this morning's low tide, there would only be about 60 pounds of chain.  The last 40 feet would add 190 pounds of anchor, not including the mud.  With gloves and 4 somewhat beefy older men, we handled the chain fairly easily.  Using the boat's anchor bridle as a come-a-long, the last 40 feet caused some grunting and groaning.  We pulled about 10 feet at a time, setting the loaded-up chain into the braked chain wheel, as we re-rigged the come-a-long.  After securing the anchor aboard, there was encouragement from the crew to navigate to the most shallow of anchorages.

Underway, we moved down Petrel Channel fishing Gibbons Point and Foul Point, eventually ending at the entrance to Patterson Inlet, usually excellent for Coho salmon.  After an hour, we moved to the shallows near the top of the Inlet, setting two crab traps along the way.  We had not bagged a fish yet.

We were hailed by a couple on the Nordhavn 55, anchored in the deeper part of the Inlet.  Having heard about our windlass breakdown, they kindly offered to allow us to side-tie for the evening.  For some unknown reason we declined, dropping the hook in 21 feet, or closer to 30 feet when we planned on hauling chain tomorrow.

Now setting could not be controlled by the broken windless.  Instead the anchor set was accomplished by a "controlled" free fall of anchor and chain.  The manual windlass break on the unused chain wheel was released, then manipulated, slowing the "free fall" descent.  Again, human exposure near the chain-wheels was minimized.  After set and secure for the evening, all crew were allowed extra rations of Wisers whisky!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016:  Patterson to McMicking Inlet

With a huff and a puff, the four of us again hauled the anchor.  Except for the morning's flying insects, it was getting easier.  Exiting Patterson, we pulled the traps to find inside....... emptiness. We fished the northern ocean entrance to Douglass Channel with other boats without success.  In the afternoon the anchor was set at the bitter end of McMicking Inlet in 21 feet for easy hauling.

Sunset over McMicking Inlet

Thursday, August 11, 2016: McMicking to Klemtu

There is a small dock at Klemtu available for transient boats.  If open, we can tie up for the night avoiding anchor duty.  Today's "pull" went OK.  Once outside, we moved to the southern tip of Campania Island and joined 20 other guided sports-fishers trolling there.   After no boats landed a fish in for the hour we spent there, we moved to down to Surf Inlet.  Finally a couple of hookups, but no fish landed.

After 6 hours of "fish" cruising we arrived at Klemtu to see the moorage float stacked high with commercial fishing tackle.  The boat was anchored in the pretty cove about a 1.3 miles south of town, in 40 feet, ugh!
The Boat Bluff Light Station, just north of Klemtu, was
lifting their skiff as we passed.

Friday, August 12, 2016:  Klemtu to Shearwater and Fish in the Box!

Now experts at manual anchor pulling, we efficiently hauled from 40 feet.  Just 5 miles south, on the west edge of Finlayson Channel we trolled up two nice Coho salmon.  Then we moved to the other side fishing up three lingcods at Gaudin Islands. The day turned into a fishing success so we headed into Shearwater, with a float to tie up, and an windlass to disassemble.

Modern channel light.  This one
was near our fishing spot on the
west side of Finlayson Channel.

Ivory Island Light Station at the intersection of
Finlayson and Seaforth Channels, Northern BC.
It's always a plus to have talented crew aboard when needed.  This was exactly the case when it came to diagnosing and repairing the Maxwell HWC 2500 windlass as crew Phil has spent a lifetime in diesel engine repair.  This isn't the first time Wild Blue has had a windlass problem and Alex had an idea this breakdown was related to last year's winch issue.

With anchor chains removed and secured and the circuit breaker off, the winch was unbolted and flipped over.  The problem was obvious: the bolts securing the winch gearbox assembly had vibrated loose, allowing the motor driven worm gear to disengage with the winch drive gear.  This was exactly the same as last year's winch issue.  With Phil's expertise, the gearbox was removed, cleaned, reassembled with red Lock-Tite, and within a  day, the windlass was re-installed and operating again.

We enjoyed fresh lingcod, breaded with Panko, seasoned with Pappy's and lightly cooked with garlic in olive oil.  Gene, Al and Phil had the rest of the fish frozen and packaged for travel.  It was fun again cruising with the Gray Clan.  Next time we look forward to a workout from hauling fish, instead of the anchor!

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