Post 17: Our Steering Wheel Almost Fell Off! And More.

We had our first dinner* guests, Cap'n Mark & Admiral Melissa.
We had our first dinner guests, Cap’n Mark & Admiral Melissa.


So, a lot more has been going on beyond emptying holding tanks and bird watching. We had our first dinner guests over to the boat, did some more interior finish work, moved a LOT of stuff on board and went out for our first true sail/overnight trip to Angel Island.

Rollin' Ruby in her plush new ride.
Rollin’ Ruby in her plush new ride.

With all of the things we had going on over the last several months we’d neglected some friendships far too long. It was time to catch up, regardless of the condition of our boat. Having guests over was actually a huge motivator to propel us into clean up and organize mode. So clean up and organize we did; all night the night before and all day up until the time they were supposed to arrive. Luckily, Mark and Melissa were an hour or so behind schedule, which helped a lot. They’re both so kind and in tune that I wouldn’t put it past them to have planned to give us extra time, knowing we had a lot to do. When they did show up they actually brought along a most thoughtful gift that blew us away! A collapsible wagon which is absolutely perfect for the boat dweller. We are constantly hauling groceries, clothes, tools, supplies and Ruby, back and forth along our dock to and from the boat. Score!It was a great night of catching up and it felt so nice to host people in our new home. To this day, it hasn’t fully set in that we own this wonderful floating home yet. Loving it.

The next days and week were full of more boat work, cutting out the panels for the aft cabin walls, trip to West Marine for supplies and organizing to prepare for the next weekends sailing adventure with another family who stay just down the dock from us.Interior work on the dock.     Sh--ing at West Marine

Duncan, Tatanya and little Jasmine were headed out for an overnight and asked us if we’d like to join them. They know right were we are in regard to our sailing experience and have been influential and very helpful in getting us into the lifestyle. Duncan has been sailing for 30-40 years and they’re prepping their sailboat for a circumnavigation; slated to shove off in July.

Rafted Up
Rafted Up
Mis Amores
Mis Amores

We had a great trip but it was not without incident.  We were just pulling up to the island to hook up to the mooring ball and I was feeling good with our approach.  Ayala Cove is in a deep part of the bay, entered through a channel known as Raccoon Straight.  The cliffs are steep and the current can be pretty strong.  We were headed toward the Western most perimeter of the cove which was made up by a sheer rock face.  My plan was to head slowly toward the wall until I was around 20 yards out where I would make an abrupt turn to port. All was going as planned until I got to the 20 yard mark.  Suddenly, I realized my wheel was completely locked up and we were headed for certain doom! Of course this had to happen in this exact spot, less than a school bus length away from sending our boat to the bottom of the cove!  I don’t remember my exact words to Jen but it got her attention.  She jumped over to the wheel and we realized that the autopilot mechanism had let loose and was blocking the wheel from turning.  Meanwhile, I had put the transmission in reverse and slowed our progress toward the imposing rocks.  It was nuts.  But we were handling it.  We were actually handling it really well together.  Jen held one part of the hardware while I held the other, both rotating our hands as the wheel turned.  I steered the wheel with one hand as we assessed the issue.  Duncan and Tatanya were finishing up their tie off so we went back out where there was more room and perfected our makeshift steering technique.  It turned out that we were able to pull right up to them without issue.  Yikes!  There was too much to do that evening for me to check into the issue and I knew our departure was not until the afternoon of the next day, so I decided to fix the problem in the morning.

That night, rafted up in the middle of two other sailboats was a fairly sleepless night.  We didn’t have the proper fenders tied to the sides of our boats and the wind, currents and wakes of passing ferry’s all took their turns rolling in on us, making our boats crash up and down onto one another’s decks.  It was a terrible feeling.  I was up at 1am, 3am, 5am in response to some crashing to adjust the fenders as the current had moved us around, making them ineffective. Uhg.  I’ve ordered new fenders and you can bet I’ll research better ways to raft up before I do that again!

I slept in while everyone else made coffee and hung around a bit with the kids the next morning.  They also went for a short hike on the island and I decided to stay back and work out the autopilot issue.  I found that the large nut holding our steering wheel on was missing!  The whole wheel was within a half an inch from falling off.  Holy shit man.  I’ve got a lot to learn.  I found the nut in a grate underneath the wheel, remounted it and removed the offending autopilot hardware.  Everyone else came back, we untied the boats from one another and off we sailed, back toward Loch Lomond.

Duncan at Sunset.
Duncan at Sunset.



Jen, bringing us back in from Angel Island.
Jen, bringing us back in from Angel Island.

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