It’s time to get out of your comfort zone. Trying to do more with your boat means that you may run across situations that you haven’t seen before. Perhaps you won’t be running dive expeditions in the Galápagos. Maybe you won’t transit the South Pacific, or attempt to sail around the world alone. But if you push your own envelope properly, like the experts we spoke to here, and learn from the challenges you face, your comfort zone will grow larger each time you cast off.
The Power of Preparation
Tom Zydler is captain of Whale Song, a 94-foot Trinity/Halter expedition yacht owned by Grant Wilson. Zydler and his crew had a problem arise in a tight channel with some commercial traffic.
“Whale Song entered the narrow channel leading between shallows on both sides, into the port of Benoa [in Indonesia],” said Zydler. “On the opposite end of the channel heading directly towards us, an outbound 400-foot Japanese ship was also entering the channel. We would be passing portside to portside within yards of one another. The bow thruster would help to keep a straight course at the edge of the channel and the extremely close quarters. The engineer was sent down to turn on the second generator, dedicated to running the bow thruster. A minute later all electrical power cut out. We lost the steering—an electronic system dependent on 125 V AC supply—and had no bow thruster. Only the engines controls and gear controls, operated off a compressed-air system, could be used to try to prevent a collision.” Zydler’s wife Nancy, the mate, took over the controls while Zydler bounded down to the engineroom and the power distribution board.
While Zydler was effecting a repair of the system, he was unaware that the combination of the current and shoaling water (Whale Song draws 8.5 feet) had swung the vessel to port, across the bow of the oncoming vessel, straight towards the shoal. “Nancy kept going to port, trying to stay in the deeper water of the channel and stay parallel to the Japanese ship,” says Zydler. “But, nearly out of control because of the shallow water, Whale Song crossed the bow of the ship again. When I got back on the bridge to reactivate the steering, Whale Song was heading out and the Japanese ship was passing within a fender diameter on our starboard side. The engineer who had been just recently brought on, was unaware of our distribution board’s whims.”
The Lesson: “Get your necessary systems turned on and tested well before entering confined waters,” says Zydler. “And train the person in charge of the engineroom to deal with all the idiosyncrasies of your vessel.”