The Problem

I sail and motored through the opening into Medusa Bay, also known as Port Manvers, having completed a long run down wind with heavy following seas all the way from abeam the Mugford Tickle. The predicted 25 knot N wind built to 35 with a 4 meter following sea. What a ride! But the CAP’N LEM, being a better boat than I am sailor, saw me through. With such strong winds astern she often reached 15 knots over the ground when the seas pick up her stern for the race. Even at that, though, the seas moved faster than the vessel and would roll out from under her breaking of both sides.

The Raymarine ST4000 Autopilot did a yeoman’s work of steering down wind for most of the two days I was off the coast in the Sea of Labrador, but when we made our way in toward shore and the seas grew steeper and deeper due to the shallower bottom, I manned the helm down past the Willis Rocks and into the mouth of the bay and a most welcome calm. The track required I come back into the wind putting the boat on a tack with accelerated speed way above my comfort level and abeam seas of 2 to 3 meters just as I came into the lee of the small rocky island awash with breakers. I formulated a back up plan should the entrance be breaking of turning down wind once again and going farther into the many islands and shoals that would help me make it to the channel to Nain. Not my first choice as it was still another 25 miles in heavy wind and it was not needed. As I reached my go/no-go point, I could see the shoals to the northwest of the rocks had already taken the edge off the swell so, with the sail in a partial “fisherman’s reef’ and the little engine that could pushing just above idle, I made the ground I needed and entered the beautiful calm and safe harbor.

A mile or so into the harbor the wind died to near nothing. I made prep to go to anchorage between Challenger Point and Hare Point in a cove of splendor like I have rarely seen anywhere on earth. Water falls, Cascades, high mountain crags, seal playing in the water. I checked my reverse gear before going into any tight quarter and then it happened. Oh, she went into reverse alright but did not come out. The throttle and shift lever word differently. Much too…smoothly. Something has happened and it’s not good.

Contingency plans, contingency plans, make your plans… what if.

What if I can’t fix it? I can’t, not now anyway. What if the tide sucks me back out into the opening while still in the calm? Get the anchor ready. What if there is not way to fix it. E-m Ken for help! What if my batteries die? Formulate everything you need to say before you turn on the sat-system. What if I need to tow in? Have Ken get a hold of Roy in Goose Bay who can then get a hold of Joe in Nain or Jim in Hopedale and … on and on, all the while watching for a puff of wind to get me farther and farther into the bay.

And it comes, not strong but steady for about 10 minutes before heading me and dying just as I tack. I wait and another, each moving me closer and closer to the cove of my sanctuary. Two hours later I clear Point Challenger and ghost into 35 feet of water and drop the hook at 56° 56′ 31.1″ N ~ 061° 31′ 07.6″ W

Willis Rocks

Willis Rocks

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