Today we’re taking our friends Scot and Kimmy and heading for Anacortes to see the Anacortes Street Art Fair. They didn't show up at the house until about 11:00 AM. "Before Protector," B.P. (that's what we've been joking calling "before Protector"), we’d never think to leave that late to head off somewhere for the day but with this boat it's so easy and possible.
We all walked down to Snug Harbor and piled in to Knotty Dog. We’re still green about figuring out where to stow our gear and don’t really have a regular routine about docking and undocking but Larry did make a center line finally for me and I think it’s going to work very well for docking.
A HEARTY BUNCH!
Off we go, out and around Henry Island and past the entrance to Roche Harbor. There were a gazillion boats out today especially in Spieden Channel. Everyone was going fast and the wakes were many and very strange, all working off each other in odd unpredictable directions. We took a couple hard smacks on a couple and we all sheepishly turned to look at each other wide eyed like kids that had done something wrong. Scott and Kim were sitting on the back settee. The whites of their eyes were pretty well defined and they admitted their bottoms were air borne for a few moments but they were enjoying the excitement of it all. Ah, that’s what I like a hearty bunch!
As we neared the end of Spieden Channel where there is a three way conversion with Presidents Channel and San Juan Channel, it was like a "potato patch". The odd currents mixing with all the wakes from all these boats created some pretty choppy water. It was quite a bumpy ride there for a few moments but soon it leveled out as we headed down between San Juan Island and by the sprinkling of little islands at the south end of Orcas, namely Jones Island and others so small I don't even see a name for them on the charts. The waters smoothed out into a nice scenic ride. Scott pointed out a few spots along the way, places he frequented as a kid, and where his parent’s old house used to be and other secret places like where his one brother likes to catch fish. We turned to our port past Jones Island and then to starboard through Wasp Passage just below Crane Island. It’s a beautiful passage, narrow and picturesque between the islands. The small scattering of islands nearby is a nature preserve so there are lots of birds and wildlife to see and probably a great place to kayak. I think this area is perhaps one of the most scenic of all the islands.
IN VIEW OF ANACORTES
We come out of the narrow passage and open into West Sound the wide small crotch of Orcas and continue on through Harney Channel into East Sound the other crotch of Orcas, the long and narrow one. To the south of us is Lopez Island. We make a turn to our right and head south between Lopez Island and Blakeley Island and then turn port through Thatcher Pass which then plops us right out into Rosario Strait. By now we can see the ferries coming and going from the ferry hub at Anacortes and the scattering of houses and buildings that line the shore from the ferry landing to Anacortes. We head across choppy Rosario Strait and into Guemes Channel and around Cape Sante Point into the harbor of Anacortes. Off our bow are March Point and the big oil refineries and the big muddy stretch of Fidalgo Bay at low tide. This is where so many of those oil freighters are heading that come into Juan de Fuca from the Pacific Ocean. They are bringing in oil from Hawaii and Alaska to be processed here. Hope they stay safe as they are entering a fragile and beautiful life filled environment here in the Salish Sea.
There’s a tall rock breakwater that cradles and protects Anacortes Harbor and the multitude of boats inside. We head in through the small opening between the rock walls and Larry hails the Harbor Master on the radio. They directed us to a spot by the “pump out” dock (yuck) where we could tie up for a couple of hours.
The Street Fair was fun and there were booths, more than I could count, that were stretched out the whole length of lower Main Street in Anacortes. Artists from all over come to sell and display their wares here each year I'm told. And there were food booths too, lots of them....no one mentioned the food booths. Oh my gosh, what a gastronomic extravaganza they were! There was all had all kinds of food, grilled meets, falafel, ice cream, BBQ, Greek, well, whatever you can think of, they had it. After being on the island for months now, it looked like a gold mine of food! We tried everything and belched and more all the rest of the afternoon. It was lots of fun.
Anacortes is a great town, and we have really enjoyed watching it change over the years. They are lovingly restoring all their great old buildings, and painting them with colors detailing their old architectural trims, and we especially enjoy the large personal murals painted on the sides of the old buildings depicting old timers, settlers, and people that reflected the town's maritime history. The town sure has shared a lot of seafaring history and economic ups and downs over the years trying to plant some roots. We just love the place! Someone came up with the bright idea of lining the street with these great little city trash cans decorated with large scale old canning labels. They are to die for. I'd love to take one home. Wonder if they thought of marketing them? Hmm.
TIME TO GO
After stuffing ourselves silly with all sorts of food that didn't go together in our stomachs and taking in all the art and festivities that we could, ooing and aahing, it was finally time to head back. We didn’t leave though until we all made just a few purchases, a couple things that would serve as good mementos and well, we just couldn’t resist them.
We walked back down to the harbor and piled into the boat. Larry wanted to head over to the full dock for a fill up. After a fill up of $350 later we were ready to go. Wow, that fuel bill sure packs a punch for a little boat!
LARRY LETS ME TAKE HER BACK
Larry decided to let me take her back. A fateful decision, I can now look back to say. We head back out over choppy Rosario Strait but though it is choppy she's riding smoothly. We're going about 20 plus knots and glides into Thatcher Pass. There are quite a few boats out and we're becoming more aware of the wakes that some of the bigger boats are making. They definitely are an item to deal with on this boat compared to the big Nordhavn. We're small and the wakes are big to us now.
A TRICK TO DEALING WITH THE WAKES
Mark, from Protector, showed us how to cut down on the discomfort of riding over the wakes. Basically you slow down a bit, turn the bow a quarter into it, trim the engines down accordingly and the trim tabs appropriately and just as you head into the wake give it some gas and power. I had been doing this and it was working nicely. Following all those instructions, I'm feeling pretty confident about the whole thing and really thinking I'm getting the hang of it. Larry is nodding approvingly too.
Well, everything is going fine that is until this particular boat heads our way. She must be about 75 feet long and looks like she's cutting a deep wedge into the water which in retrospect created a much bigger wake behind here than we expected. Actually, it was more like a humongous wake! As we got nearer the bigger it appeared but there was no escaping it, we were near and committed now. As the wake approached, I did all the right things. I turned the boat into it and began to feel the rise of the wake and gave it the power to cut into it. It cut into it for sure but the trough on the other side was so deep and steep that we still shot out over it and came down hard on the other side.
The second we slapped the water it was like an explosion went off. Literally! The windshield just exploded in our faces! I backed off on the speed immediately and brought her to a stop. I looked down at Zig, poor guy, who was nestled between my legs, shivering, scared and covered in shattered glass! Larry and I looked at each other in dumb founded disbelief! I turned and looked back at Kimmy and Scott and there were wide eyed and speechless.
No one, not one of us, could say a thing. We were in shock!
None of us could comprehend what had happened. There was shattered glass everywhere and on everything. It literally covered the floor, the seats, the dash board and it was even on the pontoons on the side of the boat. Hints of blood droplets began showing up here and there. We weren't sure who or what was cut at first but then discovered some small cuts. I had glass lodged between my fingers and toes and blood was using from there. I had to walk across the glass to get my flip flops on to protect my feet. Kimmy immediately grabbed Ziggy and put him on her lap to keep him out of the glass.
Fortunately no one was hurt
We just didn't know what had happened, we couldn't explain it. I asked Larry if I had done something wrong but he insisted "NO!" "You did everything right!" We couldn't really clean the glass up because when you tried, it would cut your hands if you just touched it. We were just flopping around in the wake filled seas of this area where boats from the busy weekend were going back and forth. None of them knew we had a problem as they sped by creating more wakes to rock us. We began picking bits of glass out of our skin, and small amounts of blood were getting smeared here and there.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
"How did this happen?" is all we could keep saying to each other. This boat is supposed to be safe and indestructible. They use this boat for rescues by the New Zealand Coast Guard in all kinds of sea conditions. How could this one wake, with me driving, "break the boat"? I must admit, I immediately felt a pang of guilt, thinking maybe I was too over confident and was just too rough with the boat. No, Larry said, this boat should take that. I mean really, it wasn't that bad, how could I a middle aged woman going over a wake "break this boat"? We were totally shocked and confused for days.
15 MILES TO GET HOME
Larry took the wheel and slowly moved her out of the way of boat traffic. We tried to remove the glass but there was too much and it cut our hands if we touched it. Once we got over the shock of the explosion, we didn't quite know what to do but Larry decided we slowly make our way back home. We had about 15 more miles to go. I was still concerned though about glass flying into our eyes and face as we moved forward as much of it was laying on the dash where the shield was broken.
Larry slowly headed home. We rode as slow as we could up and down the wakes. We must have looked like a wounded bird with a broken wing limping home. Some of the glass was dislodging due to the force of moving up and down. Some glass slid down the dash and some more fell on the floor. Some dislodged from its resting place as the wind blew in at us now since the wind shield was gone. Scott and Kimmy said they were OK where they were. Kim was still holding Zig and keeping him off the floor where his paws could get cut. I looked down at my feet and blood was leaking from between my toes, I reached down and took a piece of glass out that was lodged between them.
I rode in the other pilot seat with my back to the front in case some glass flew my way. Larry had no choice though and had to face forward to drive the boat. He had his sunglasses on which protected his eyes but finally asked for a towel to wrap across his face just below his glasses to get protection from more flying glass. I know it odd but I couldn't help but laugh in this terrible situation as he reminded me of "The Shadow" with that towel across his face.
HOBBLED HOME LIKE A WOUNDED BIRD
Amazingly we made it all the way back to Snug Harbor and our slip without any other mishaps or cuts. It was a slow careful ride. I guess we could've reported the incident to the Coast Guard and they could've helped us back but we managed just fine.
We must have been a sorry sight though as we crawled back into our slip. Larry sent me immediately up to the house to bring back the Shop Vac, whisk broom, bucket and whatever else he hadn't thought of to get the boat cleaned up.
It took hours to clean up all the glass. I should say days, really, as bits and pieces kept surfacing out of cracks and crannies. Our neighbor in the slip next door just stepped right in helping Larry. He was a life saver, literally, as that is what he actually does. We found out Tim is a Fire Chief from LA County (and we know they have a lot of life saving down there with all the terrible fires). When I came back down the down with all the stuff to clean up the mess, his wife who I had never met, came running up the dock and gave me a big hug. She said when they came back from being out on their boat and when they returned and saw our boat a wreck they got so worried. She said they thought surely someone had been hurt. She was so glad to see we were OK. It's amazing how a tragedy can bring strangers together in such amazing ways.
Tim just chipped in immediately and began to help Larry. They worked literally for hours meticulously getting all the glass they could see and find out of the boat. Tim also made a good suggestion suggesting we should tape over all the rough sharp edges of glass that were still lodged in the metal window channel so they would not be able to cut someone, nor fall out. Once thy got the window channel taped they covered the opening left by the missing wind shield with black plastic trash bags. It was all we had that was water proof. They stretched it over the opening and taped the ends with duct tape. This they hoped would protect the now exposed electronics from the weather.
Our new boat was a sad sorry sight. It seemed like everyone in the little marina of Snug Harbor came by to see it. The gel coat was damaged too. It was nicked and scratched almost every where, even part of the racing strip was sheared off by some flying pieces of sharp glass. It was a depressing thing to see our brand new boat now a mess, missing windshield covered over in tape and trash bags, and cuts and bruises on the new gel coat.
SAFE BUT NOT SOUND
It's amazing when you see the damage on the boat, to think that none of us got seriously hurt by any bits of flying glass on our eyes. We were safe but not sound.
Larry of course put a call into Mark at Protector but he wasn't around. It was on the weekend. It was frustrating having this happen and no one to talk to about why and what might have happened. We needed an explanation. We were really anxious to hear his response and to find out if this has happened before.
We both thought, if this was all it would take to shatter the window then this boat is not safe! We lost all confidence in its safety. How could this happen? We spent a troubling, unsettled night, going over and over in our minds the incident and trying to figure out what went wrong.
"BROKE THE BOAT"
I kept some how feeling guilty like I did something wrong. I kept asking Larry over and over if I did. He firmly said "No, you did absolutely everything right. That boat should not do that." Right, I mean, how could I, a middle aged woman, break a New Zealand Coast Guard boat designed for safety, rescues, captures and all kinds of seas by going over a wake from another boat. When it happened, we were enjoying "no seas" and maneuvering a typical wake from a medium to large size pleasure boat. It was baffling, shocking and definitely disappointing. We had waited, boat less, all summer, patiently through all the delays, meanwhile watching the short boating season here swiftly go by, our days of using the boat in nice weather dwindling rapidly before our eyes and now, without even having anytime to really use or get used to the boat, "I broke it" as Larry began to jokingly say. Yes, we were able at some point to have a sense of humor about it.
When Mark and Larry finally connected, Mark was even more shocked than we were and was very concerned first that we could've been hurt. He was glad to hear we were OK. Next, he couldn't understand how this could have happened. He was as dumbfounded as we were. He said they've never had something like this, ever, happen before. He said they've used these boats in all kinds of seas, even took it across the Tasman Sea, in terrible stormy conditions, so bad that they had to ride on the back bench and run it by auto pilot.
CONFUSED AND CONCERNED AS WE
Needless to say, they were as confused as we were. No one knew how to proceed really. We would go back and forth, between us, not wanting the boat anymore, but then we'd ask, what boat would we get? And when? The thought of starting the process all over again was energy draining and depressing. One reason we got the Protector besides all the obvious fun good things was that we could get it in time for the "season" which of course turned out to be the "tail end of the season". Now that we had a taste of it we were already hooked on its adrenalin driven high that you get when you ride in it. We seriously wondered though, is it a lemon? I personally wondered if these boats were not safe for common boaters, those like us out for pleasure cruising. I wondered if they were only suitable for Navy Seal types, trained in a different type of boat handling. I know it sounds silly and laughable but it was what I was wondering.
Also, another thing that bothered us is that our brand new boat looked like a wreck now, chipped and scratched and who knows (I kept thinking) how many other bits and pieces of invisible slivers of glass were wedged in hidden places, working their way into the soft pontoons for future leaks, leaving the genetics for future leaks and failure. All this stuff went through my head and bothered me.
LARRY WAS HOG TIED
Larry was more frustrated than I've ever seen him. He kind of seemed hog tied. He'd go through fits on the phone with poor Mark saying he "wanted a new boat and now" but Mark having no experience with this situation (thank goodness) didn't know how to respond since no new boats were available. His only course was to have the window replaced and make the boat right. They needed to see if there had been a stress point that caused the window to explode, to see if the windshield had been installed improperly installed where the glass was touching a hard surface. What ever, they needed to discover what caused the perfect situation (I should the most imperfect situation) where the impact caused the window to touch that stressed area from the improper installation and shatter. Everyone at Protector was trying to figure out the problem. Larry was emailing photos of the damage and closes up of the frame and everyone was analyzing them all the way to New Zealand and back.
WHAT TO DO?
One option was to ship the boat back to Alameda Bay, CA and let them take a look at it. They could replace the windshield there they said. That was a disappointing prospect, looking at again another month or two without a boat again.
Larry began calling boat yards in our area, Anacortes, Sidney, etc. to see if we just couldn't have the same thing done here. Frustrating days went by with nothing resolved. Larry was becoming very knowledgeable it seemed to me about just what it involved to fix or examine the cause of the windshield problem. If anyone was capable, he said, Island Glass could replace it right here on our island. Larry talked with Dave, the owner, and they came down to Snug Harbor to examine the situation and felt they could do the job. Mark spoke with them also by phone to confirm that they could handle the replacement. All the parties involved agreed that it could be resolved here.
So, just our odd luck, that Protector just happened to have an extra windshield in Alameda, CA. Why they would have one there by chance, has puzzled us, because they told us the wind shields were installed in New Zealand and the boats are shipped complete. Nevertheless...we want a boat, a running boat, a safe boat too, so...next step, get the shield to Friday Harbor. See what the problem is and get it fixed and the boat running.
Mark had the wind shield shipped up the fastest way, but then we discovered we needed special material (a special caulking material) in order to do the install. Mark had to get that to us too. Somehow it was marked on the package to ship to the wrong address somewhere on the mainland which Larry had to follow through with call after call, tracking the package, making sure it was re-routed to Friday Harbor. Otherwise he was going to have to take the ferry to the mainland and pick it up to where ever it was mistakenly delivered and take the ferry back to the island. That would be a day of messing around on the ferry to retrieve it. Didn't really want to do that.
But finally, all things were coming into place. Dave called, said the wind shield arrived at his shop, then the special caulking material arrived and all was set.
THE DAY OF THE INSTALL
The day came to do the install. Of course Snug Harbor where our slip is has no cell phone range (one of several places on San Juan Island where you can’t use your cell phone). Although a friend of ours swears there are a couple cell bars on one end of one of the docks and she can get a call in and out there, we had no idea where or how she found it. So, the point is, during this install, there would be no cell coverage to ask questions of Protector while they are trying to replace the shield. As it turns out they had nothing but problems and questions. So Larry had to drive back and forth to the house to call Protector to ask this or that question and then drive back down to the boat and walk out on the pier to the slip to continue with the install. It was exhausting, stressful and exasperating, as just as they got an answer for one question that somehow always lead to a follow up question the minute he got back to the boat. He was getting in a terrible mood and I just stayed clear and hoped all would go as planned.
Finally after an hour of running back and forth just to call Alameda, CA, Larry got the two way radios out and got me involved. I was to stay home and “stand by”. If they had a question down at the boat, they’d hail me on the radio and tell me the question, then I’d call Protector by land line to Alameda. I'd get the answer and then radio them back down at the slip. Sometimes Protector wouldn't have an immediate answer and would have to call New Zealand to get it. They'd then call me after getting the answer and then I’d radio down to the slip the info. (Living on an island has its challenges, sometimes new ones that you never expected.)
Finally after several frustrating hours of this, Larry came back to the house, frustrated, and mad. He said they sent the wrong damn window. He tried to patiently explain to me that there is a metal channel divider between the left and right window. The shield they sent required a female channel and it didn’t fit with the male center channel. So, now Larry is wondering even more "What window did we get?" How could their technician not know this or know to ask about it? Also, Larry and Island Glass both were convinced that no matter what, even if the channel was right, the shield they sent would never have fit. They were convinced that the original install was not centered and that the window that broke had been so tightly and crookedly wedged in that that is probably the reason the shield exploded on the impact of going over that wake. They also noticed some stress cracks on the roof. That was it! Now either the impact created the cracks or they were there all along. Exasperating! Now what do we do?
Larry again went through some ranting and raving sessions with Mark on the phone. “I want a new boat or my money back!” (etc., etc.)
Larry and I would now go back and forth between us about what we should do. We were frustrated and no matter how much we ranted, nothing could fix or make the situation better immediately. Mark was in the middle we knew between the client (us) and the owner (his boss) of Protector. There was no new boat for immediate delivery. Our quickest solution as hard as it was to believe was to fix this boat.
So---Mark flew up to assess the situation and see what he thought the problem was. He flew to Sidney as he was in a wedding there and took the ferry right after to San Juan. He also brought a truck that he bought from the groom at the wedding in case he needed to haul Knotty Dog back to San Francisco.
Mark arrived at our house about 6:00 PM and he and Larry immediately went down to the slip to see the problem. They were back in about an hour and said the boat would have to go back to San Francisco. I made them both a quick dinner and then he and Larry went back down to the boat and hauled her out. They were worked hard through the evening, getting Knotty Dog ready for the trip south. I could see them out through the woods with flashlights working late into the night as they deflated the pontoons, emptied our personal boat stuff, and secured everything they could for the trip, preparing her for the trailering to San Francisco area. They didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. In fact, dinner was the last I saw of Mark as he was up before the crack of dawn to catch the ferry back to the mainland. It will take him two days to get back to the San Francisco Bay.
WHAT WENT WRONG IS THE BIG QUESTION
What went wrong is the big question that probably none of us will ever know for sure. It’s a consensus now though that something heavy may have impacted the boat in transport; maybe it occurred on the freighter from New Zealand, or who knows where. This “impact” caused the perfect and rare conditions that made the window vulnerable to and eventually lead up to it’s shattering. All the right or wrong conditions eventually came into place. We are lucky we came away with no physical damage.
So, for the next several weeks, Larry was still going back and forth on the phone with Protector. "What is the next step?" he kept asking. At the time we just wanted to make them take the boat back, but no offer was made when we asked, they just merely proceeded with ‘fixing her”. They were sorry, concerned and empathetic but it became clear this was now “our boat”. They’d fix it but it was “our boat”.
FIXED TO LARRY'S SATISFACTION
I guess Larry finally became comfortable with their method of resolution of the problem with the boat. After following it through listening detail by detail, he felt confident that when they were done they would have “the problem” fixed and they would return her back to us good as new. Only problem was, it took a lot of time to fix it. I guess they aren’t used to “fixing” and it seemed like Larry was on the phone constantly demanding a schedule for each process and checking it daily, trying to push them along. They had to fix the "stress" cracks and make sure they were only surface cracks not structural. Larry talked with everyone to make sure every detail was done to his satisfaction and level of comfort for the safety of the boat and it was.
When we finally got the call that she was ready and fixed, Larry flew down for the sea trails. Of course that meant catching the ferry, driving to Seattle the night before, spending the night in a hotel near the airport, flying to SF the next morning, being picked up by Mark at the airport and transported to their location in the old naval yard in Alameda Bay, spending the afternoon doing the sea trails and then pretty much the same routine or should I say, ordeal, to get home. It was a two day adventure no matter how you hurried it.
Mark and Larry took her out past the Golden Gate Bridge looking from some rough seas to test her to the max. The seas were pretty calm though so they zipped over to Tiburon for lunch to wait for the tide to switch so they had some good waves when the current was opposing the afternoon winds. I guess it was a pretty good test because Larry came home feeling satisfactory and confident she would be safe for us and excited again about the boat.
DO I FEEL CONFIDENT FOR OUR NEXT PLANS?
We had plans this winter of having her trailered across the US to Florida and then us taking her across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas for a few months. That is really my whole issue with the boat now, we lost the season to get familiar with her and now I wasn’t sure I thought we had enough experience to take this little boat across the Gulf. Do I really feel safe with her now? Can I get over that flash back of that glass exploding in my face? Do I want to trust her to take us safely in bad seas? I don’t know yet. I guess we’ll just try her out, see if I can get used to her again and hopefully feel comfortable and get our confidence back.
NOW WE WAIT
So now we wait. Gerry will be bringing her up the next week. Mark plans on flying up to help get her launched and set up again. We’ll let you know how it goes.......