Ocean City, Md.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 13th, 2019

According to my log, I left the marina in Portsmouth on the Elizabeth River at 9.30 on Friday July 26th. I motored most of the way against a Northerly. I was out in the Atlantic by late afternoon. This was the same route I took on June 22nd, 2017, which ended up in a shipwreck at 03.00 on June 23rd on Godwin Island in the Barrier Islands. The details of this shipwreck can be found in my blog for that period. This time I had left earlier and was able to put plenty of distance between the coast before dark. I motorsailed in a light Northerly. The excitement of being on the ocean again kept me awake most of the night. A large pod of porpoises kept me company for a while. The promised southerly never materialized, but the in last hours of Saturday afternoon the wind eased to the East and I had a great fast reach on still smooth seas.

I knew from the charts that the entrance to Ocean City was a challenge. The setting sun was making it difficult to recognize the channel markers’ color and shape. The channel is in a zigzag pattern in the entrance. The sport fishing boats, with their 1000 plus HP and speeds of 25 plus knots, have absolutely no concern for my 14 HP and 5 knots of speed and nearly swamp my boat with their wakes. Once inside, the harbor crawls with all sorts of water crafts. I try the one deep spot for anchorage but my knot-meter goes to zero. (I found out since that the transducer was all fouled by the wrong antifouling I had applied in June.) A helpful outboard boater offers to show me where I can anchor. I follow him and he leads me right over a shallow spot. I’m stuck and can’t back off. He keeps trying to pull me off but instead gets me even worse aground. He is determined but I worry he is going to quarter the boat. The marine police boat suggests to call Tow Boat US. He has me off in no time and $390. Because of the force on the keel, I checked for leaks and it looks like a small amount had entered through the forward keel bolts. Rob, the tow operator took me to the Sunset Marina and had me set up for a haul out the next day, Sunday. Once tied up for the night, $90, I checked for leaks again and found that the water had sloshed from the engine bilge, from the packing gland. I cancelled the haul out. At least I learned, the hard way, that the two years shipwreck repair had stood the destruction derby test. As a coincidence, Rob the towboat man, was part of the posse from Ocean City that hauled “Fleetwood” off Godwin Island in 2017. That had to be one of the easiest hauls for the crew. Greg, who passed away last year at 77, had learned from my liability insurance that I was insured for $19,450. Jake, who worked for Cape Charles Yacht Center, had attempted to bring the boat to the Yacht Center, on his weekend off, but gave up close to sundown on Sunday when he was running out of fuel for the pumps. He had managed to reduce the opening in the hull and had the boat floating. The next morning the Ocean City crew had an easy haul.   

I blamed my misfortune for leaving on a Friday. A maritime no-no. For those who have followed me over the years, you will know that many of my departures for a new destination started after Sunday morning service. I headed out of Ocean City shortly after I had attended 10 am service at Saint Mary of the Seas church.

Rev. John T. SoloMon

I filled the diesel tank, with plans to continue northward to New York City and beyond. The inner harbor of Ocean City was another spectacle of all sort of water crafts and between the jetties the same rough water from the speeding sport fishermen coming and going. The wind was seaward but the tide was coming in strong. I had to accelerate to make headway in the narrow harbor entrance against the current. All of a sudden, the engine stopped. It could not have happened in the worse moment and time. The cover was off the main sail but I would not have been able to raise the sail fast enough. The current pushed me back between the jetties and I was only 150 feet from the rocks. I called a mayday. I had to repeat my location several times because the coastie wanted a coordinate. How much clearer could I have been with being between the end of the jetties at Ocean City? Beach goers started to gather. There is an amusement park right at the North jetty. The boat hit the rocks and started bouncing. I figured that it would be a matter of minutes before the boat would start breaking up. I had to get off the boat. The crowd suggested I stay with the boat. The rocks were slippery. I found one ledge with a flat foothold with barnacles to keep me from slipping. A retired fireman got on his belly and helped me up. Now I am looking at the boat bouncing like a rodeo bronco. This time I was unable to grab anything off the boat, like laptop, camera, wallet. The coast guard came and attempted to pull the boat off the rocks. No luck. Then the same Tow Boat US showed up. He had me off within 5 minutes and the actual damage turned out to be much less than those violent 10 to 15 minutes could have inflicted. The same police officer who had assisted the day before, Corporal John Bunting of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, came to pick me up from the spot where I had watched from shore. He took me to the travel-lift at the Sunset Marina where the boat was towed. There I discovered what stopped the engine. The long tow rope, I had used to have the good Samaritan attempt to pull me off the shallow the day before, had become my bow line for the night and when I left the gas dock, I had brought it inside the life lines on deck. I should have taken it off the bow before reaching the harbor entrance. The traffic distracted me. If I had used a regular bowline it would have never reached the propeller, this tow line was a much longer genoa sheet. John Bunting, the police officer, came to check on me and offer any help, on Monday.

I was embarrassed and did not have the courage to fess up until now. Between Saturday’s tow and this repair, tow, haul out car rentals I spent a little over $ 2,000. Ouch!!

The pictures show the damage and repair

Keel damage   

Hull damage    

Rudder  

Rudder repair   

Done

 

 

 

Again, this was an even more severe test on the integrity of the 2017 shipwreck repair. The main damage was to the rudder. Worse than the 2017 shipwreck. The shaft was twisted fore and aft and to one side. Lou Negretti, who straightened the shaft in 2017, managed to get it straightened again. The test will come tomorrow back in the water. It took two trips, first on Monday a week ago and a second one last Wednesday. I rented a car to drive to Exmore, about 80 miles to the south from here. I was counting on getting professional help to repair the torn bottom of the rudder. John Bunting recommended a fiberglass expert. But all the marine pros were spoken for by the crowd that showed up for the annual White Marlin Open sport fishing event. I have little or no experience with fiberglass. I called Todd Dhabolt who put this boat together and custom built the rudder with foam steel frame and fiberglass cover. He walked me through the process. He had used hard foam, I decided to use a spray can as used in insulating and gap filling. By trial and error, I used left-over Formica from my galley and bunk leeboard make over, to shape the foam and then covered it with epoxied fiberglass cloth. There was some deep damage above the waterline on port. Luckily it struck the rocks where there is the companion way bulkhead and the galley counter. It took many layers of epoxy putty. Fortunately, I carry a supply of epoxy, anti-fouling, brushes, rollers, barrier coat, hull paint and all the tools.  The keel took quite a bit of gouges and scratches, as the pictures show. As I write, on Tuesday evening, I am hanging in the travellift slings to dry the anti-fouling paint on the bottom of the keel, where it was blocked off on. I shall be off in the morning. I have decided to make a right turn towards Cape Charles. The wind and distance though the Chesapeake-Delaware canal and south on the Chesapeake does not look for the southerly winds this weekend. I should be in Cape Charles by late Thursday unless I anchor that night south of CC. Hopefully, I’ll have some decent sailing. Winds look mild to weak for the next days. Watch for a good full moon rise picture and possibly a moon set in the Chesapeake.

A disappointment and an expensive outing. I had wanted to get up to NYC, Mystic Seaport in Connecticut and possibly up to Newport, Nantucket, etc. I need to get some of my administration in order for the books, appointments for the Europe visit, etc.  

Ocean City was an experience, very nice and helpful people at the marina, yard and store. But it is not typical Americana. Apparently black Americans avoid the place. In the three services I attended at the large Ocean City Saint Mary of the Seas church, there was not even a token African American in attendance. The sport fishermen here are a special breed. Note the Trump flags, horse power in their boats and pick up trucks. My new folding bike came in well, for grocery, hardware and the main town across the long bridge.   

Trump country  

1600 Horses  

You don’t dare show up in a puny sedan or older model p.u. truck

 

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