On this voyage we find Captain Crunch not as Captain, but as mate! What a
Once again, Bob and I find ourselves on the “Pondo May”. This particular
voyage will take the us from Tacoma, in the Puget Sound, to Port Angeles. The
sail started normal enough on a Friday morning. The skies were clear and the
sun was shining. We even put up the sails for a few hours. As the morning wore
on however, we decided that we didn’t have time for sailing along at 3 knots.
Bob had bought the ‘Pondo May” from me and we were delivering it to
Portland. The trip was going to be broken up into two week ends. The first step
was to get her from Tacoma to Port Angeles. This would take two full days of
sailing. The forecast was for great weather. Our first night was going to be in
Port Hadlock, just on the other side of the bridge that crossed the Port
Townsend canal. It was a tricky passage at night, but we had made it trough
much more difficult situations in the past. This was nothing.
As darkness fell, we found ourselves motoring along on calm seas. There was
so much growth on the bottom that the boat could only do about 4 knots. And to
top that off, the knot meter didn’t work. We slowly passed under the bridge and
into the darkened bay around midnight. It was time to hit the sack and get ready
for the open water part of our trip. We laid in our bunks and drank a few beers
and slipped into a restful night.
The next morning we woke up to fog. This was some thick stuff. We were
undeterred however because we had charts and our hand held GPS. We were
ready. We had plotted all the waypoints, and agreed to go slow.
After a few minutes hanging over the side with a broom handle trying to
dislodge whatever was keeping the knot meter impeller from spinning, we gave
up and raised anchor. Bob was steering and I went below to start the coffee.
Now, a couple of things happen next that would turn this easy 6 hour passage
into a very long day.
The depth sounder froze at 29 feet. We didn’t know until later that is had frozen.
We were puttering along at 4 knots on a straight line from Port Hadlock to Point
Wilson. The first mistake that we made was that this route crossed over two
charts on two pages. We didn’t quite see that the line we draw on the chart and
plotted into our GPS took us though a point of land. This normally would have
been no problem had we been able to see, but we couldn’t see past the bow.
Also we could have noticed the rising bottom if the depth sounder had not been
frozen on 29 feet! As I said, I was below fixing up a pot of coffee, and Bob was
at the helm.
I heard Bob say, “I can see the shoreline over there on the starboard side”
I said, “great! The visibility is improving”. Bob wasn’t feeling too warm and
fuzzy how ever. He started a slow turn out away from the shoreline. It was a
turn that would keep us from a really bad situation.
“Hey! There is the big bouy that the navy uses” I said. A funny look on my face I
am sure. Because it was suppose to be on our other side.
Just then, as I was stepping up the steps with a pot of coffee in one hand and a
cup of coffee in the other, we came to a heart stopping halt!
All we could say was” OH MY GOD!!” We had run aground. We could look over
the side and see bottom.
“WHAT!!” Bob yelled! “The depth sounder says 29 feet”!
I jumped to the helm to see for myself, and sure enough, it said 29 feet. I turned
it off, then on, and it blinked to life showing 3 feet.
I dove below and once again I pulled up the floor boards expecting to see water
pouring into the hull, and once again all was well. The amazing thing that had
happened though was that we had run aground into the hulk of an old sunken
vessel! Meanwhile, Bob realized that we had driven into the rusted out hull as
she lay on her side. We slide right in between two ribs. We didn’t come to a
“jarring” stop or anything, and nothing seemed broken. The engine was even still
running. We put her in reverse and tried to pull ourselves off the man made reef.
This old sunken ship was on the charts and we looked around at the shoreline,
still visible behind us, and the bouys floating on the other side of us, and it
dawned on us that we ha not aligned the charts properly when we drew our
“Now what are we gonna do” I said. We hadn’t even though about the tides. We
were still in shock. We did know how ever that we needed to get off the sunken
I walked forward and looked into the water. Amazingly it was only about 12
inches deep around our hull. The rudder, and prop were hanging into deeper
water. I decided that I might be able to step off the “Pondo May” onto the rusted
hull and “wiggle” us back off into the deeper water.
Bob put the little diesel into reverse and I stepped down onto the underwater
hull. That water was cold! I pushed up and back, and slowly progress was made
and we were able to back into deeper water and get out onto the channel we
were suppose to be.
Not once did it dawn on us to take a picture of this misadventure. After all it only
lasted about 10 minutes.
“No one is going to believe this”, I said. “Coffee?”
I had not spilled a drop of the coffee in the pot or in the cup I was holding.
You might think that this was enough to make an easy sailing day seem long,
but this was just the start.
After we worked ourselves off of the wreck, and got on a course that didn’t take
us through a land mass, we set up a system. I would stand on the bow and
watch for the ferries.
It was still foggy. We could hear the fog horns from other boats. Even see the
wakes as they passed. They could probably see us with there radar, but we
We were keeping a close eye on the GPS and were well aware of our progress.
Our goal at the moment was Point Wilson. This was the mark at which point we
could turn west and head in a straight line more or less to Port Angeles.
It was a miracle, but we found the Point Wilson bouy in the fog, and turned to a
westerly heading. The tide was with usand the seas were calm. Except for
having zero visibility, life was great!
Occasionally we would look at each other and shake our heads trying to figure
out how we were going to explain how we ran aground on top of an old sunken
As the day passed we relaxed, and started to enjoy the day non the water. At
one point we found ourselves bow to bow with a tug. We are not sure how we
missed each other, but we really didn’t see the tug until he was almost passed.
After we saw the tug, the fog started to break up and we could start to see
ahead of us. The first thing we saw was the Dungeness Spit light house. It was
easy to see and it was our next fix. The time was around noon. Angela was on
her way to the marina in Port Angeles to pick us up. We had planned to be in
the slip by 5PM. We had plenty of time.
We started to notice that we were not making much headway. It seamed that
the tide had turned and we were starting to have problems with the current.
3 hours later we hadn’t moved! “Let’s put up the sails and motor sail”. I said.
So we put up the sail. The wind had come in. It was right on the bow. The seas
were building too. We were actually having a ball. We were sailing, and finally
making head way towards the light house again.
Finally, we passed the light house that we had been looking act all afternoon.
We had to head out into the Straight, then back into shore, but we were making
ground. It was the most wind and seas that I had ever sailed in. The “Pondo
May” was getting pounded. I thought on more than one occasion that if the hull
had been compromised by running it into the rusted hulk, it would be really
testing it now.
We were heeled over about 15 degrees, on a close reach, headed for the
shoreline. With the motor running, we could point another 10 degrees into the
wind. We needed every bit we could get. We could now see Port Angeles
ahead, and the light house that we worked so hard to pass was only a speck
behind us. Things were not too bad. We didn’t know of course that we were
about to starve the engine of fuel. We had plenty, but with the heal we were
porting the tank. As soon as it started loosing power, I knew what was wrong. I
also knew what it meant. We were going to have to pour our two jerry cans of
fuel into the tank and then purge the fuel system. Did I say we? Well, Bob didn’t
know how to do this. It was up to me. I knew I was going to get very sick with
my head stuck into the engine compartment full of diesel fumes as I followed
the step by step procedure in the manual for purging the fuel system. Ok, I
sucked it up and took one for the team. After all, we were not going to give up
now! We had worked so hard for the past 6 hours to get these few miles.
I was having a hell of a time. I was doing everything I could to keep from puking.
I also wanted to get this job done as fast as I could. In order for me to have a
more comfortable time of it, Bob turned us top run down wind for a bit while I
was below. This really helped. I had to use the starter to turn the motor over to
get the fuel to squirt where it should, but finally I got it running again. How ever
now we were worried about the fuel supply. Would we have enough, would the
heel port the fuel line again. We decided to bring the sails down and point the
bow to Port Angeles and just take the beating.
“But wait” I said. “What is that light house doing right next to us again?”
Yes, we gave up every inch we had made so I could work on the motor in
somewhat comfortable seas. Now we couldn’t see Port Angeles at all.
The GPS said Zero. That means no speed. We were getting pounded by waves
and wind and we were not going every where. This was also compounded by
the fact that we had no reserve fuel. Our day had really turned for the worse. It
was no 7PM, Angela was way past her time limit with a screaming baby in a car
that had been there all day! We just didn’t know what we were going to do. At
one point we thought about turning around and heading to another destination.
This would have meant that we would have an extra long push next week end
when we wanted to go from Port Angeles to Neah Bay.
Remarkably we stuck it out and the knot meter finally showed one knot. Then
another. Then finally it made it to 3 knots! We were heading in the right
direction. We were wet, cold, and tired. And just when we had been beaten, a
cruise ship passed us to drop off the Pilot before heading out to sea. Bob and I
looked at each other and laughed at the people all warm and cozy, sitting in
there stateroom looking out at us, thinking we were on our way to some grand
We coasted into a transient slip in the Port Angeles marina after midnight. We
were so exhausted and still had a 4 hour drive back to Seattle. It to this day was
one of the hardest days I have ever spent on the water.