Warren’s World: Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will

By Beacon Staff

We left our island home for a short cruise in the Canadian Gulf Islands. Before gas costs were $7 a gallon we would push the throttle, headed for similar islands a couple of hundred miles further north or sometimes as far north as Glacier Bay in Alaska. This time we stopped at Saturna Island, which is only about 35 square miles with 342 residents. It also boasts a vineyard that is gaining status among people who favor wine that is grown on a small island in the Northwest.

In Winter Cove we tied up to our friend Pete’s 78-foot yacht and after dinner discovered that the battery to start our generator was out of whatever batteries needed to start an engine. So Pete helped us solve the first of approximately 14,843 things that can go wrong on a boat our size on a cruise of any length. He plugged his battery charger into one of his boat’s electrical outlets and the generator started almost instantly.

With 14,843 potential problems, they still usually happen one at a time. However, we have never taken a cruise without more than one arising.

We had easily dropped our anchor in a deserted part of the anchorage only to find out later why it was deserted. We had anchored right on top of the underwater electrical cable that joined the two islands. I tried not to worry about it until it came time to haul up the anchor and hope it had not snagged the high-voltage line. More about that later. We spent a great evening with good company.

The next morning, when I lowered the dinghy, the hoist even worked after being unused for two years and the engine miraculously started. We climbed in and went ashore. Later, while walking along a narrow path through the woods, Laurie and I were talking about how few disasters we were having on this trip when a woman stopped us and asked, “Is your last name Miller?”

She then said, “We have seen every movie you ever showed in Vancouver (B.C.), and I recognized your voice. Can you join us for dinner on our boat?” That evening, I found out the good and bad at Whistler as the resort prepares for 2010 Olympics and got to listen to everyone’s best ski story. The party broke up when the wine bottles emptied and it was such a calm night that we could see the stars reflected in the water as we sat in dinghy.

The engine on our dinghy started right up, but after traveling about 100 yards it stopped. After troubleshooting it for 15 minutes with a flashlight, a screwdriver and an owner’s manual, Laurie asked, “Is there any gas in the tank?”

There wasn’t.

The paddle I had kept aboard the dinghy had floated away three years ago and all we had on board was a long-handled scrub brush. You can do anything when you have the option of a warm bed in a big boat or a cold seat in a small boat. Of course, I had forgotten to turn on our anchor lights so we hoped we were paddling in the right direction.

One-hundred yards, and an hour-and-a-half later, after sweating and pulling the scrub brush through the water on one side of the dinghy and then the other, we finally made contact with the bigger of our two boats. A hot shower, a good night’s sleep and the first words I heard when I got up the next morning were, “Warren, don’t forget that we anchored on top of the power cable that runs between the islands.” Something this dumb can have serious consequences if the wind blows hard, the anchor drags and it hooks under the cable. I had chosen to ignore the problem until the last possible moment.

I held my breath as the winch was hauling in the anchor until it finally appeared above the surface. With the anchor and the dinghy back on board, and as we headed for home, I once again was reminded that no matter how prepared you are for a journey of any length in a boat, that something can and will always go wrong.

This is why my definition of a boat is: A boat is the perfect mistress; it takes all of your money, doesn’t love you and enjoys the company of anyone who can afford to be with her at the time.

For more Warren Miller stories and stuff log onto: Warrenmiller.net