Arriving at Stuart and taking another swim

Stuart Island is about as far West as we can go before entering Canada and the furthest from mainland Washington as we can get. With the Fourth of July holiday coming we thought an early arrival to the island would ensure we have a place to hunker down for the big weekend. The State Park portion of the island is not all that large. Just 3.5 miles of hiking trails span the area, but it is the two anchorages that make this place so popular. Both are extremely well protected from wind and waves in just about all directions, and as scenic as they come with craggy shorelines and thick forest above the water line, so this was our destination of choice for the upcoming week.

As luck would have it – once again – there was no wind to be had for the entire weekend. Showing our experience however, we chose to make the voyage to Staurt Island during a time of the day that the current would give us a push. Motoring Meriwether is a slow process, made slower by a not so trustworthy temperature gauge which is either lying or we are having some overheating issues (could be either, or both). We had 15 miles or so to travel, so any assistance from the wind or current was welcomed. Instead what we found was that the current doesn’t follow the book. It does it’s own thing, completely ignoring what all the apps were telling us. The current surrounding Waldron Island – which we motored past – was so severe, that we had to turn 90 degrees to it and throttle up just to skirt by. The majority of the trip was peaceful though, with calm waters and relaxation the soup of the day.


We arrived to Prevost Harbor – the northern anchorage – well before lunch. Puttering about in between the few dozen other boats already anchored, we settled on a spot to anchor ourselves. We are feeling more and more confident about the act of anchoring, and maybe it was that confidence that convinced me to drop my guard. See, during the motor over the dinghy was in tow behind Meriwether. To reduce some of the noise it makes I let the tow rope all the way out – about 30 feet. This didn’t help much with the noise but I returned to my piloting duties and forgot all about it. Readers of this story with any boating experience already know what is going to happen, right?

During the process of anchoring I back up our boat a significant amount. It depends on the depth of the water, but from the point we drop our anchor to the point I stop backing is 100 feet or more. It is during these 100 feet of reverse movement that a 30 foot tow rope may find it’s way under the surface of the water and giving a big hug to the ever spinning propeller. Everyone eventually makes this mistake, and it was my turn this day. We got only 50 feet before the motor shut down – stalled from the rope stopping the prop – and the squeal of our low oil pressure alarm (since the motor stopped and all). I quickly realized what happened and understood the precarious situation we were in, which was between a lot of very expensive boats without any means of propulsion. The only lucky part was that we already had 50 feet of anchor chain out so I quickly instructed Kerri to release out to 75 feet, which would keep us from hitting anyone nearby.

The tow line was properly wrapped around out propeller, ugh. I did try to restart the motor and tap it in forward gear for a split second, hoping that by some lottery-winning-luck it would uncoil itself, but it did not. I really didn’t expect it too, but I had to give it a try. I was left with no choice, I was going in the water again. This is the second time in our four weeks at sea that I have been in these damn-cold waters. With the anchor holding us, I stripped down, put my snorkeling gear on, and jumped in where I spent the next 15 minutes diving down and unwrapping the tow rope. I could only accomplish a single wrap at a time as the waters were so cold I could not slow my heart rate to hold my breath more than just a few seconds at a time. Moose, of course, freaked the fuck out. Thinking I was in danger he went as far to jump off Meriwether and into the dinghy! Crazy dog… he hates the water. Kerri sat back and filmed the whole ordeal while laughing at me… I’m sure I heard laughing.

Eventually I got the rope free, tied up the dinghy to the side of the boat, climbed back aboard (with Moose), dried and changed clothes, then set about finishing the task of properly anchoring. Only then could we finally relax enough to start thinking about the week ahead. We planned to stay the work week here where we can explore Stuart Island. It would have been a great plan too, but once we started settling in it became apparent that the cellular-gods were not on our side. The small island between us and Orcas Island 10-miles away was doing a very thorough job of blocking the signal. Kerri tried or an hour, but couldn’t get a usable signal. After all that drama, we would be picking up anchor and moving the following day.

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3 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    Way back when my cold water survivalnsuit (Coast Guard helicopters out of Port Angles) was a wet suit that went on loose & when you zipped it up it was a lot tighter. It worked ok in the water, way better than none. That was a long time ago but maybe something like that is available at a surplus store?

    For just doing what you had to do with the anchor line or to untangle the prop any wet suit would be better than none. For $100-150 you can get one made to fit you. That is less money than a survival suit but I’ll bet you’ll use it more often.

    Actually a survival suit for each of you could be a good investment, that cold water can kill you… you both need a suit for the worst day of your life if that happens to come while you’re on the boat.

    I have to say “thanks” for sharing your education with the rest of us! I appreciate it…

    • Tim says:

      I’ve been keeping my eye out for some second hand wet suits but hadn’t thought of a survival suit, thanks.

  2. Michele Overacker says:

    Great suggestion, Rob.

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