The Rock we Touched

Posted Sept. 21, 2008 at 07:50

We had beautiful anchorages in the last couple of days along the eastern shore, but not without a price... We had to sail upwind a lot (which, as I mentioned already in a previous post, is not always pleasant because of the faster, hobby-horse king movement of the boat and the stronger apparent wind) and a couple of times Dora lost her patience. But as soon as the sun came out and we got into a nice anchorage, her mood suddenly improved too... ;-)

One day we moved only about six miles as the crow flies (in a straight line), but did almost twenty, zig-zaging between islands out offshore to run the watermaker, then go back in behind the islands again. To make things more interesting, I decided to explore "The Bawleens", an area between three islands renowned for it wildlife: birds and seals. The really tricky part is getting in and out. Very narrow, winding passage, past rocky outcrops and small islands just between two 2-meter depth contour lines on the chart (we have a just under 2 meter draft - 6.5 feet). And the winds were still calm, we get through all that to the inside and the depth becomes 30ft at this point, the chart goes light blue (which means deeper than 5m (16 ft) on that chart). It is close to low tide and we are going slowly (less than 1 knot), Dora on the bow, me watching the forward sonar... Suddenly, I see something close ahead on the sonar and go reverse/stop and walk forward - lot's of kelp (sea-weed), plus some curious seals quite close. So I back down a bit, change course and resume very-very slowly again forward, watching the sonar and Dora on the bow... The scenario repeats, but Dora now saying: "it's a rock, it's a rock"! By the time I ask: "are you sure it's not kelp? isn't it a seal :-)?", we gently touch, and I walk forward on deck and convince myself, that yes it is quite clearly a rock,long and flat, solid, granite where it is not supposed to be (and a couple of seals around us watching intently, with their dog-like heads out of the water). We were going dead slow (like a quarter of a knot), and with very light winds, so we could slowly back down, but not before we did a slow pirouette around the rudder and floated off... The part about the rudder touching bottom was a scary feeling, but was fortunately relatively gentle.

So now we're floating free ("stopped") and I check our chart and GPS again. There are two rocks indicated on the chart on either side of our narrow path into the deep part, both rocks about 250 ft away from our track. Now, we've come all this way in, past other much closer charted obstructions, so I'm convinced it is not a chart offset, but an uncharted rock or a distorted chart. When I think about it, I wonder how could have they charted every possible rock on a large scale (detailed) chart like this so accurately, without the aid of satellites or GPS... It could be that either one of the rocks is not really where it is shown on the chart or that it is truly uncharted. Anyhow, the chart lost my trust, we did a 180degree turn, followed our GPS track (thanks god for GPS), slowly and closely back outside where we came from, onto our anchorage for the night.

Thus our "exploration" of the Bawleen lasted just over an hour. It was very picturesque and the constant close company of seals was almost zoo-like. With all the excitement of going in, finding a rock where deep water was supposed to have started and then backing out, we did not take a single picture. Sorry. =Z=