Wildie bobbed in the water, stern to the wind. The mooring ball bumped around underneath us. I sighed and picked up the phone. The only words I managed to text Serena were, “A little pickle.” Then I called Towboat U.S.
It was was November. I was single handing (solo sailing) for the day while Serena and the kids were with my parents. Sunshine with a north wind blowing about 20 knots and a moderate chop on the ICW. I made great time motorsailing, arriving at Titusville Municipal Marina an hour early.
After locating our mooring ball, I took a first pass. I turned upwind to pick up the pendant (the line attached to the mooring ball that ties off to our boat). I put the engine in neutral, grabbed the boat hook, and ran up to the bow but the pendant was just out of reach. By the time I went back to the cockpit to give the engine some more juice the wind had already started to turn the boat.
Second pass. This time I grabbed the pendant, but found a big plastic eye at the end of the line. Puzzled, I tried putting it on one of my cleats, before realizing that 1) it wouldn’t hold our boat and 2) the wind was turning the boat again. I let go of the pendant, headed back into the cockpit to try again.
On the third approach I realized that the plastic eye was for threading our line through and attaching that to the cleats, forming a bridle. I kept the engine in gear a little longer past the mooring ball, so that I would have a little extra time to grab my own line in the forward anchor locker. The mooring ball was about midship. I grabbed the pendant line and my anchor snubber line with pre-tied loops to go around my cleats. The knot in my line prevented it from threading through the eye. Ugh.
The wind blew the boat back, and I tried to keep Wildie from being turned. Soon, the boat went over the mooring ball. I put the engine in neutral so the pendant wouldn’t get wrapped on our prop. Thud. The mooring ball banged against our hull. Then we stopped dead. It was still blowing 20 knots, and we were in line with all the other boats on moorings…backwards.
I couldn’t even see the ball under us. I could only reach the end of the pendant with the boat hook, but I couldn’t pull it loose.
Some neighbors dinghied over. They were Spaniards with limited English. I gestured and managed to say “pelota” and he said he saw it on the starboard side. We tried to pull it loose, but no go. I was prepared to dive down but who would man the helm?
I called the marina, and they referred me to TowboatUS. Time to play the unlimited towing card. In the meantime, I texted Serena.
The TowboatUS guy came and tied up to our boat and rotated Wildie around the mooring to try and free us. Still stuck. He tried the other direction. Still stuck.
I donned a wetsuit and a snorkel mask. After a brief gameplan and safety discussion I jumped in.
A little pickle…
Under water I saw the shackle that attaches the chain to the mooring ball was stuck in the joint between the skeg and hull. The buoyancy of the mooring ball and the wind held that shackle jammed in place. I relayed this to the TowboatUS driver. He then pushed the boat into the wind to relieve the tension while I pulled down on the shackle. We were free within 10 seconds.
A bruised ego, a few cuts on my hands (from grabbing the chain and shackle underwater), and 2 hours after my estimated arrival time, I was finally settled.
Fast forward to Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. We were having dinner with a new friend, George. We exchanged horror stories and I shared my Titusville mooring ball drama. He had a good chuckle. George said he was warning some guys about trying to pick up a mooring ball from the side of the boat next to the cockpit. There’s the prop and all the moving parts to get tangled up in the lines. “I told them, ‘Don’t be that guy in Titusville!'”
Yep. I’m that guy.