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Rebecca Ann goes over - Part 2 - by Dale Davenport

Dale Davenport Dale (left) and Jay were off on their fourth annual cruise in Rebecca Ann (a CY) and Sara (a NY). With crew Doug, and Emma the dog. They planned to head out from Beaufort, North Carolina.

But things hadn't started off too well. First Jay's reservation to use the real Sara's fine Ford super truck was cancelled at the last minute due to a distant horse event. So Jay had changed the oil in the '87 F-150 and followed on in that.

Then at the launch ramp before Sara even got wet, her mainmast met a pine tree between the rigging area and the ramp. The jolt tore out and destroyed the pin that held the gate. Jay figured out a way to lash the mast in tight as Dale towed Sara down the creek to open water.

Later that day six foot waves on a bar gave them a fright and a typhoon warning as they camped that night seemed par for the course. Could things get any worse? Yes.

The next day didn't start off too badly. In the morning they sailed about nine miles around the shoals in a strong but steady sou'wester, and along the southeast end of Core Banks into the protected water behind Cape Lookout. They anchored along the beach next to the Cape Lookout Light, for a tour of the light house keeper's house and lunch.

After eating they planned to sail across the channel, about a mile, to the western edge of the cape where it would be more sheltered to camp. It would be a beat all the way, and now the wind was pushing over 25 knots... Dale takes up the story:

Rebecca Ann shortly before heading off after lunchDoug and I had a hard time getting off the anchor. We had put in to shore pretty close to the ferry pier and then had to figure out how to get away from it. Again, the wind and tide were opposing. As a result, Jay got out in front, but not as much as he might, because he stopped soon to put in a third reef. Then as Doug and I got to about a half mile out we saw a shoal blocking our path. We learned later that Jay, not being able to get Sara through the wind, had just plowed across it. His boat's draft is a bit less than mine, especially when Rebecca Ann is loaded, and Doug and I both thought then and still think we couldn't have crossed it.

My memory of what happened in the next few moments is jumbled and although Doug and I have tried to sort it out blow by blow, we just can't put it all together.

We tried to go onto starboard tack and we missed it. We tried again and failed, moving closer to the shoal but still maybe fifty feet away. I tried to paddle the boat through the eye of the wind. I had Doug try to do a pry stroke at the bow and push it around. We backed the main. We reversed the rudder. Nothing worked.

I told Doug to drop the Danforth off the bow and he did, with about fifty feet of chain and line. I may have been trying to uncleat the main halyard, or maybe not. I have had a horrible suspicion that after anchoring, I forgot we were tethered and tried to jibe. Doug's memory doesn't support that guilt-ridden confabulation. But somehow, the boat turned north and went over on the port side.

We both hit the water, Doug at the bow and me nearer the stern. Forgetting that there was no point in righting the boat with the main still up, I told him to go around to the hull, planning to climb on and try to pull the boat up.

No problem; the boat decided to come up by itself. And it kept going over onto the starboard side. It went back to port at least once, and probably twice more given what Jay remembers seeing once he noticed that we were down.

At some point near the beginning of the sequence, Doug and I were both at the stern being swept aft by a strong current. We both recall grabbing the boomkin, which started pulling out, and then grabbing lines to stay with the boat. Also early on, I bumped into the loose, floating rudder and got it inside the boat.

At some point in the middle of the gyrations, Doug and I were both on the port side of the boat with our feet in a spaghetti tangle of lines. I pulled the ripcord on my inflatable vest and did the same for him.

I remember the mainsail downhaul toggle breaking off its lanyard with a loud bang, which really caught Doug's attention. I think that happened just before I cut the halyard, because I saw the boom kiting up.

And then the boat was along the bar, swept there by the current since the sail was no longer powering here and the anchor was holding her against the current. To starboard the water was too deep to stand while to port it was only up to our knees.

About this time Jay appeared on the scene, having anchored nearby at the edge of the bar. He swam my anchor out to a different position. He saw my rudder was missing and asked where it was. We realised it had somehow got washed away.

Jay and Doug took off with Emma in Sara to look for Rebecca Ann's rudder. Floating nearby they found my bibs, tiller and anchor basket, but no rudder. While they were gone I tried to sort out the halyards, sheets, dock lines, and anchor lines. I got the gear boxes up on thwarts and poured the water out of them. I turned off the faithful Garmin GPS, under a foot of water, since it said it wasn't getting good reception anyway. I thought a lot about my Mercury in its case lying on the floorboards under two feet of salt water. I tried to move the boat back and forth to slosh some water out. The boat wasn't interested in moving much. The water was being driven over the starboard gunwale by the waves.

When Jay and Doug returned we bailed out the boat. We were curious, to understate the case, to see if we could bail faster than the water would both slop over the gunwale and come up through the centerboard trunk and the motor well. If we couldn't, we were going to need some serious third-party assistance, which might or might not do any good. We rested the keel on the bar, held her level, and pumped and bailed with a five gallon bucket and another smaller bucket. We moved water as quickly as three scared men can move water, but in retrospect I believe it was easy to bail the water down below the top of the trunk. Nobody had a heart attack. I think it took less than five minutes. Once we reduced the level to where it wasn't pouring in, we slowed down and bailed and pumped her fairly dry.

Jay pointed out that if we just rowed east, we would eventually find land. The wind might take us north, or the current might take us south, but we still would move east and eventually hit the beach, somewhere near the lighthouse. Not only did it seem like a good idea, it seemed like the only idea other than spending the night on the bar.

Doug took the starboard oar in both hands and I took the oar to port. The boat turned immediately to starboard. Emma resting. Enough excitment for one day.I looked to see if Doug was alive and rowing, because the boat was behaving as if I was the only one rowing. I am not a strong oarsman; something strange was going on. I moved to the starboard side with my eleven foot oar, near the mainmast. I tied a cord to the forward knee and used it as a thole, rowing against it. With the two of us rowing for all we were worth on the same side the boat went straight. Strong current and wind were out there.

Jay was right; we finally made it to the beach and so did he and Sara. We anchored in the shallows, with the boats bucking high in the wind and waves, we laboriously offloaded the gear to the sand. We found a hollow in between the dunes where some debris indicated previous camps. We put up the tents and rested.

In Part 3 Dale will tell how the bad luck stuck with them until even Emma voted they call it a day. But what really went wrong and how did Rebecca Ann cope? Dale follows the story with a full analysis and many lessons. Coming soon.
Rebecca Ann's hull was built by Geoff Kerr. Dale Davenport fitted her out and did all the finishing work. You can learn all about her here.
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