A Lucky Boat

┬áBefore I bought Galatea, she was owned by my sailing buddy Mike. I did a lot of sailing with Mike in the 1990’s. Anyway’s, Mike and I would get into jams from time to time out on the water. Every sailor knows what I’m talking about. There’s so many things that can wrong or mistakes that can be made. Given enough time, it’s a wonder any of us survive at all.

Well, one of the things that Mike use to say every time we made it through one situation or another was, “She’s a lucky boat!”.

Time after time over the years that I’ve owned Galatea, she’s proven Mike right. Maybe over the winter time when things are slow I can write some blog entries about some of those adventures I lived to tell about.

To get back to the topic, this past weekend Galatea proved herself once again to be a lucky boat.


My friend Rafi (pictured above sailing home) and I took Friday off from work to go sailing for three days. Actually, we decided to sail to Martha’s Vineyard, hang out for a couple of days, and then sail home. Our destination was Oak Bluffs because the forecast called for northeast winds that night. Vineyard Haven is open to the NE. We knew we could never stay there under those condition.

Well, that Friday was an adventure to say the least. We sailed over in stormy conditions: heavy rains, heavy winds, heavy seas. Rafi and I loved the sail across Buzzards Bay. We’d joke from time to time that it didn’t get any better than this. And we were right, it was a fantastic sail. Times like those are what it’s all about.

Until you’ve had too much. By the time we got past Woods Hole the rain intensified and we were soaked to the bone. The water somehow flowed through our foul weather gear. The cold 60 degree August day began to turn our hands numb. The course to Oak Bluffs had us beating against an easterly headwind. The seas were three to four feet in height. And to top everything off, we had a three to a three and a half knot current running against us. In short, we were sailing in heavy weather and making almost no headway. My GPS reporting a speed of 1.5 knots.

We slugged it out for about an hour and were were only a little ways past the first red buoy (#26 if I remember correctly). Rafi manned the helm. I navigated. We were both tired. I turned the motor on and motorsailed for another 45 minutes and yet my GPS was reporting that the entrance buoy to Vineyard Haven was still one hours destination. Oak Bluffs was an additional hour after that. I felt we had enough. I decided we’d make for the harbor at Lake Tashmoo on the western side of the Island. I’d never been there, and heard from a sailing couple just that morning that the channel to Tashmoo was too shallow for a boat my size.

I didn’t worry about that at the time I made the decision to sail to the south. I had a bigger problem on my hands. We were going to run the shoals of Middle Ground. I had never crossed these shoals before. My charts called out 6 feet at low water. But shoals are notorious for shifting. Nobody ever knows from year to year how deep the shoals will be.

I decided to go for it. With the strong winds directly on our beam we flew in the direction of the sandy shoals. I decided not to inform Rafi of the danger before us. I told him of the approaching shoal but I didn’t have time to explain that if we hit, the boat would probably break up from the seas smashing the boat up and down against the bottom. I needed Rafi to be 100% and not worried of what could happen.

We reached the shoals within minutes, approaching them at an angle. I could make out the churning waters ahead. I could see areas where the water wasn’t as choppy. I picked one of them and directed Rafi to set his course for the middle of it. Then I sheeted in the mainsail and the genoa to put Galatea on her side as far as she could go.

With our angle of heel we went over the shoal probably drawing four feet of water. The boat draws 5 and 1/2 feet normally. As we passed, I looked down over the edge of the boat to see the sandy bottom, claim shells and all. I estimated we had six feet at the shallowest point.

When we were safely past the last sand bar, I yelled out to Rafi, “She’s a lucky boat!”. That was the most dangerous moment I ever had with Galatea in the 8 years I’ve owned her. When I talked to Richard (from the Vineyard) afterwards, he told me where I went over the shoals in Middle ground were the shallowest part. At low tide there’s only 4 feet of water at that location.

Getting into Lake Tashmoo was a bit of an adventure in itself. It’s a narrow channel and very shallow as the sailors in Mattapoisett had warned me that day. But it wasn’t that bad. The trick is to stay to the eastern side of the channel as you enter the jetty. And you stay right in the middle of the marked channel as you make your way into the harbor.

What a beautiful harbor it is. In the end, our adventures that day were so worth it. I’ll write all about Lake Tashmoo in an up coming blog.

One last comment. Though, Galatea is a lucky boat. One thing I will not forget: Luck always runs out sooner or later!


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