Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What if the Boat Engine fails?

Planning for an Engine Failure

We rely upon our engine to get us from the Dock out to where we sail or to another dock or anchorage. Because we keep our boat over an hour from the Ocean, it's typical for our trips to start under power and navigating the New River in Fort Lauderdale, but what happens if the engine quits as we are transiting the river, passing under bridges or heading in or out of the Port Everglades inlet?

Sadly, it's from experience that we have figured out how to deal with this situation safely, so, to save you from having to make the same mistakes, here's what we have learnt.

Be prepared to tie up alongside anything! The river we transit has sides that vary in structure from home docks, other boats, concrete riversides and empty dock poles. Some of them are unsuitable for tying up just because there's nothing to tie to!

Being prepared means having lines ready to deploy, already on a cleat and Fenders ready to flip over the side in an emergency - there's no time to dig a fender out from a locker and get it secured to a cleat or line where it's needed.

So, we have a Midships Dock line setup on each side of the boat when we are transiting. The Line is coiled and laid over the Dorade in front of the Dodger. Those lines are at least 30' long.

We keep a 40 foot dockline on the cleat at the bow with the line running from the cleat, under the bow rails and back over the top. The line is secured with a slip clove hitch so that it can be quickly released and is ready to toss ashore and there is someone to grab it.

At the stern, we have another 40 foot docking line ready to deploy with a loop that we can quickly put over a cleat on either side. Again, it's secured so that it doesn't fall into the water and cause a problem by tying itself around the prop!

We have a fender on each side at the widest point of the boat (just in front of our Midships Cleat) secured in place and flipped over the lifelines so all we need do is flip it over the top and it's deployed, we have a 3rd fender jammed in place on the Port Side of the Dodger that we can quickly grab and move to anywhere it's needed. (The port side because our preferred choice is to tie up Port Side to. Of course, if we have no engine, then any side will do, but at least we know where the fender is so that we don't have to hunt for it.

We also keep a couple of older throwable cushions in the cockpit ready to use as fenders when a round cylindrical fender just won't do the job.

For those occasions when a tie up is not practical, that's happened a few times, we'll have to drop anchor. This is where local knowledge comes in. We know all of the places where we are not allowed to drop anchor due to under water lines or pipes. 

We lock all top side lockers when the boat is left at a dock, but when we are preparing to depart the dock, we unlock all of them, especially the Anchor Locker! We learn't that early on! I had gone forward to deploy the anchor and the locker was padlocked! I had to rush back, down to the cabin, get the spare locker keys and then back forwards to unlock the anchor locker! Lesson learnt! 

For the same reason, I also make sure that the tethers on the anchor are removed before we set off from the dock. 

We have our Main VHF radio on Channel #9 when transiting the river and our Hand Held VHF on Channel #16 at the same time. If we have an engine failure e call out a quick Security call on #9 in the river or #16 in the Inlet. 
eg. ""Security, Security, Security. this is the Sailing vessel Eximius, We are inbound on the New River at [Location]. We have an engine failure and are anchoring at [Location] any concerned vessels respond on Channel 9 or Channel 16."" 

We did have an engine failure as we were inbound to the 3rd Avenue bridge. Because they were opening for us, we called them on #9 and advised them that we had an engine failure and would not be able to make the opening. We tied up alongside a concrete side while we fixed the problem.

At the helm we have our Rechargeable Air Horn and pump charged and ready to sound to alert any really close vessels. 5 short blasts tends to get peoples attention even if they don't know the meaning of the Sound Signal.

Of course, we also have unlimited towing from BoatUS in case we cannot fix the problem quickly. Luckily, we have only had to use them once in 15 years, but that's another story - it's a good one.

So, be prepared and have a plan - your crew will thank you!

See you on the water.

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