Potter 19....rocks 20

Eric Johnson (etj@nwlink.com)
Sun, 15 Aug 1999 08:35:18 -0700

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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I'm more than a little embarrassed to tell you all this story, but everyone
else has come forth with their stupid potter tricks and hopefully some can
learn from this.

I was out Thursday on Flathead Lake, coming home under motor power from
Wildhorse Island to our cabin near Hughes bay. My first mate was at the
helm. Depths were a pretty constant 160' or so.

The shortest way home involves going through a channel between Cedar Island
and Shelter island, a few hundred yards apart. Between the two is Rock
Island. The much-preferred channel is the one between Rock and Cedar - the
other is just way too shallow.

First mate is driving, and wasn't quit aiming in the direction I would have,
but i didn't want to be a backseat driver, so I turned on the depth sounder
as a hint, since i knew from experience (there are no good charts of the
lake) that there were shoals around Shelter Island.

"Didn't your dad bend a prop around here somewhere?" asks my first mate.
"Yeah, it was a little further up" I say, relieved that she is apparently
aware of the shallows.

I watch the depthsounder quickly go from 160 to about 30. I say "are you
watching your depth?". She says "yes". But there was no change in heading or
speed. So I ask again "did you hear me correctly? are you watching your
depth?" (as the sounder reads about 15). She says "yes i heard you, why?". I
point at the sounder "Its getting really !@#$%^ shallow."

My shallow water alarm finally went off at 7 feet. We're still on the same
heading, still at nearly full speed. She asks "What do i do now?". Before I
could belt something obvious out like "slow down, head for deeper water"
(does it take a navy captain to figure that out?) we hit.


Boat came to an immediate stop. I killed the motor. I didn't have the depth
to keel-haul the helmsperson. I pulled the rudder off the transom, and
tossed it on the starboard seat. I think this is the maneuver that smashed
the solar panel on my starboard bulkhead, but I'm not certain since i didn't
notice it till later.

The keel had pivoted in the trunk, literally slicing the front of the trunk
from the top down about 4 inches.

I was able to crank up the daggerboard and get us off the rocks. I fired up
the motor and started high-tailing it for home, about 5 miles out.

I instructed first mate to get out the radios (we had cell, VHF, and CB with
us), don lifejackets, and start bailing. We weren't taking much water when
standing still, but since the P19 isn't real long on internal freeboard
anyways, every little wave we encountered sent a few cups of water inside.

I can't describe how angry I was at this point. I'm recently unemployed and
was looking forward to spending lots of time sailing throughout the rest of
the sailing season before finding work.

I cell-phoned some cabinmates to get my car and trailer ready and meet me at
the state park ramp. They couldn't find the key to unlock my trailer (I had
it with me) so plan B was to head back to the cabin and go from there.

Once at the cabin I got out the snorkeling gear and went for an inspection
underneath. As I feared the lower rear of the daggerboard slot was crushed
pretty badly too. I had thought I might repair myself the damage if the
extent of it was only the upper front of the trunk, since its easy to get to
and usually above-the-waterline, but this damage underneath would be tricky
to fix correctly and being always underwater, I'll feel better if pros do

Naturally, we took down the mast and motored back over to the ramp to pull
her out.

I dont want to over-analyze this... but I think I did everything right,
EXCEPT take the helm myself when I realized things were getting unsafe. I
didn't want to be a jerk by taking over or being too much of a backseat
driver, but now I'm a jerk with a broken boat, and I'd rather just be a