04 April 2014

The Tides & Dinghy Misadventures

One of Scott's favorite movies is Captain Ron, which I have now seen one too many times. And when you see a movie one too many times, certain lines get stuck in your head, like the one that goes, "It's the tides, I tell you. They're either with you or against you." You would think that if you have a line like that constantly running through your head, you might actually pay attention to the tides. And while I'm sure you pay careful attention to your tide tables and think through the implications, we've kind of slipped up in this department in the past week resulting in three dinghy misadventures. One even required the first aid kit. I think I'm going to get a tattoo on my hand which says, "Don't forget about the tides, dummy!" That way, every morning when I brush my teeth, I'll look at my hand and remember to check the tide tables. 

Dinghy Misadventure #1 - Coromandel Harbour

We've anchored in Coromandel Harbour a few times and are aware of the fact that it is very tidal. You have to anchor a ways out and dinghy in - either to the wharf or through a channel to a river which runs to the town center. So, as usual, we anchored a ways out and got into the dinghy to head into town. For some reason, we assumed the channel was deep enough at low tide. This was a bad assumption. We realized how bad of an assumption it was when the outboard prop touched bottom. "Hmm," we thought, "maybe we just need to get a little closer to the entrance of the channel and it will be clear." Nope, not the case. The prop still touched bottom. So Scott got out the oars and started to row us in. Then the oars touched bottom. This is when we started paying attention and looked around us. And what we saw wasn't the normal channel filled with water that your dinghy floats on top of. Instead, we saw a channel quickly drying out while the outgoing tide continued to carry the water out of the harbour. 

What the channel looks like when it has water in it.
So at this point, we had two choices: (1) head back to the boat or (2) try to get to the wharf. The boat was much further away than the wharf and I was hungry for some Coro Pies, so we decided to head to the wharf. This was stupid. Very stupid. The tide continued to go out and the bottom of the dinghy touched the bottom. Scott valiantly tried to push the dinghy forward with one leg in the dinghy and one pushing off the bottom. The end result was Scott had a really muddy leg and the dinghy wasn't moving forward. So I hopped out of the dinghy. Once I was out of the dinghy I realized why Scott was covered in mud. The bottom of the harbour consists of some sort of "quick mud" which sucks you down until you are standing in mud up to your knees. It is basically impossible to walk through the mud while pushing your dinghy. You pull one leg out of the mud only to have it sink in again. Good times.

Skipper Scott is a persistent fellow though and we eventually made it to the wharf. By this point, the ground around the wharf was completely dried out and full of sharp rocks, shells and broken beer bottles which we had to walk across in our bare feet. On the bright side, trying to dodge the sharp objects and not cut my feet was a good distraction from thinking about the mud coating my legs. We tied up our dinghy, climbed up the steps to the wharf and tried to wash off as much mud as we could. We then proceeded to walk into the town center, get some Coro Pies, some coffee and then we killed a few hours poking in the various shops while we waited for the tide to change. Eventually it did and we made our way back to the boat with our little dinghy floating on top of the water and being propelled along by our outboard. You know, the way a dinghy should work.

So after that incident, you would think we would pay more attention to the tides wouldn't you? We didn't. Two days later, this happened...

Dinghy Misadventure #2 - Rocky Bay, Waiheke Island

Rocky Bay at low tide
Rocky Bay is a great place to anchor, take your dinghy to the beach and explore the Whakanewha Regional Park on Waiheke Island. The first day we were at Rocky Bay, we did just that. I think Scott is turning into a real Kiwi as he forgot his shoes, but happily went on a short hike barefoot. Not something I would do, but I think the soles of his feet are a bit tougher than mine. No problems on this particular day - dinghied in and dinghied out using our outboard motor. 

We had moved to another anchorage for the night, but were keen to get back to Rocky Bay the next day to do a longer hike, this time with shoes. So we moved back to the bay in the morning and dinghied in without considering the tides whatsoever or even taking a close look at the chart. If we had done both of these things, then I think we would have timed our trip quite a bit differently. We got to the beach no problem, tied the dinghy up and went for a 8 mile hike. When we got back to the beach, it was pretty obvious we had a problem. The foreshore dries out for quite a long ways and we had a choice of waiting several hours for the tide to change or carry our dinghy out to where there was water. Skipper Scott voted for carrying the dinghy out. So we did. 

One little problem. Scott has big biceps (thanks to all that picking up of our anchor without the assistance of a windlass). I have very small biceps and don't like to carry heavy things. And when I have to carry heavy stuff, I whine. A lot. So Scott took the outboard off the dinghy and left it on shore to make the load a bit lighter. We started to carry the dinghy out and I started whining about how heavy it was, so Scott took the 20 liter jerry can of water (which we had filled up on shore) out of the dinghy and left it on the beach. We then continued to carry the dinghy out for what seemed like miles. Eventually, we got to the water line and put the dinghy down. Scott, being the trooper that he is, made two trips back - one to carry the outboard back and one to carry the jerry can back. I bet you wish he was your skipper too. So strong and he never whines. Me, on the other hand...well that's a different story.

Thankfully, Skipper Scott is strong, because that came in handy just a couple days later...

Dinghy Misadventure #3 - Islington Bay, Rangitoto & Motutapu Islands

The ferry we carried our dinghy over at Islington Bay at low tide.
 I really don't think we can be blamed too much for this one. It is very, very rare to see a ferry come into Islington Bay, let alone two of them on one day. The first ferry came in as we were getting ready to head over to the boat ramp and go for a walk on Motutapu Island. You really couldn't miss the ferry as there were a lot of very excited schoolchildren screaming wildly as they passed by our boat. There are two boat ramps in Islington Bay right next to each other. The ferry pulled up to the one of the left hand side and the kids disembarked and headed off to the Outdoor Education Centre, presumably to do some more screaming and drive their chaperones crazy. We pulled our dinghy up the boat ramp on the right hand side, like we always do, carried it up to the grass and headed off on our hike.

On our way back to the bay, we noticed another ferry pulling in. I thought it was odd, but assumed the Outdoor Education Centre decided the kids were too noisy and decided to ship them back home early to their parents. Turns out I was wrong. Instead, the ferry was transporting what looked to be livestock trucks which promptly headed up to the farm on Motutapu. We continued on our way, but when we got to the boat ramp, we noticed the ferry had pulled up to the boat ramp on the right hand side. And when we looked at the water, it became apparent. Yep, it was low tide which meant the ferry had to pull up at the lower boat ramp. The boat ramp which we use to pull our dinghy in and out of the water. 

We had a wander over to look at the other boat ramp, but unless we wanted to jump about 2 meters into the water with our dinghy, it wasn't going to happen. And as the ferry was due to be there for another 45 minutes, we decided to get creative and carry our dinghy up onto the ferry and lower her down into the water. Will we ever learn? This seemingly sensible plan required two reasonably fit people who can clamber over things while carrying a dinghy with an outboard motor on it. First we tried it with me on the ferry and Scott in the water. That didn't work. So we reversed things and Scott stood on the ferry and lowered the dinghy down to me. It was all going okay (or as okay as lifting a dinghy over a ferry can go) until I slipped off the ramp and into the barnacles on the side of the boat ramp. You'll be proud of me though - I didn't scream and I didn't drop the dinghy. I merely noted that there seemed to be a lot of blood running down my leg and into the water. I don't think Scott heard me when I said I was bleeding, because when we eventually got in the dinghy, he looked at my leg and said, "Oh, geez, Ellen" and then turned on the motor and headed back to the boat. (Scott is from North Dakota, the land of the understatement, so what I think he was really trying to say was, "Oh my goodness!!! You poor, poor thing!!! Look at your leg!!! You are such a trooper!!!")

After this little particular misadventure, I'm pretty sure I'll pay much more attention to the tides going forward. It's the tides, I tell you. They're either with you or against you.


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