Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Memory Test

Calm first nite of the year, at anchor in Blind Bay

Operating any boat requires that you have a good memory.  Just think about all the things and procedures that you have to keep in mind just to get off the dock.  The bigger the boat, the more systems.  The more systems, the more that needs to be kept in mind.

So here's a partial list from Eolian's "ready for sea" list:
  • Forward head items stowed or put in sink
  • Pictures laid flat in safe locations
  • Refrigerator door pinned
  • Galley counter cleared of loose items
  • Wine glass rack closed
  • Aft head items stowed or put in sink
  • [...]
 And for the first time off the dock for the year, those lists held in memory might be a little fuzzy.  And they are longer... because the boat is still in "winter configuration".

When we first got Eolian we had an actual written checklist that we used when getting ready to leave the dock.  And we used it religiously for a long time, years in fact.  But after more than a decade moored in the same place, the list became, well, a hassle.  We remembered everything, right?

Fast forward to the first time off the dock in the first spring in Cap Sante marina.  We went thru the normal "first time off the dock" list that starts with:
  • Take off the winter fenders and take them up the dock to the Suburban
  • Take off the winter-doubled docklines
  • Check the water tanks for water sufficient for the planned trip (Eolian holds 300 gallons - trips less than a couple of weeks don't require full tanks)
  • Check the fuel tanks (as above)
  • [...]
 And then we started the engine, checked for water discharge, discussed what strategy to use when backing out of the slip given the current wind, checked for traffic in the waterway, and removed all but the bow and stern lines.  I released the stern line, got aboard and put the transmission in reverse.  At the same time Jane released the bow line and also climbed aboard.

I have learned that the best strategy to use when backing out of the slip is to advance the throttle "with authority" (as Art of Phoenix Rising used to say) - it minimizes the prop walk - and then put the transmission in neutral.  All went as planned.  For about a half a second.  And then the bow swung wildly to starboard, heading for the other boat that shares our slip.  As soon as this happened, I switched the transmission to forward and cranked the wheel to stop the boat's movement.  Thankfully, there was no contact with anything.

Then a brief burst in reverse to correct for my panicked over-correction.   Another half second of reflection brought home the conclusion:  we still had a dockline on somewhere.  And at that same moment, Jane spotted the offending line - led from the starboard bow.

With that line removed the rest of our undocking was uneventful, albeit drenched with adrenaline.  

What happened?

Here's the deconstruction of the event.  In all the years we were at Shilshole, our slip opened to the south - the direction the prevailing winter storms come from.  Of course we had a line led from the boat to the end of the finger slip, but there was no way to run a line from the other side of the boat to anything.  But at Cap Sante, our slip opens to the north.  This means that we can have two lines running upwind from the bow to the dock - one to our finger pier and one to a cleat on the dock proper

Guess which line we missed.

Yeah, that one.

So we failed the memory test, both of us did.  Or I should say that we passed the memory test with flying colors, but memory alone was insufficient.  An alert, conscious, complete final check would have revealed that we had left a line on, a line that we had never used in any previous year.  So, now there is a final item on the checklist, right before "release the docklines and engage the transmission":
  • Be present in this moment, not thinking about 30 seconds down the line.  Make a final, calm, complete check of everything, uncolored by the excitement of getting off the dock.
Will we remember this new item?  And not let it become so routine that we are just going thru the motions?

I hope so.

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)


1 comment:

Traveller said...

I remember that column as well. It was one of the first that I would read each issue.

Thanks for sharing.

Fair winds,

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