Tuesday May 2nd 2017
I damaged Sonas, and it could have been a lot, lot worse!
We had pulled into the Exuma Yacht Club in Georgetown to take on water and to pick up my brother and sister-in-law who had just flown in.
We were tucked into the fuel dock, squeezed between two other vessels – see photo below from a similar set up at the same fuel dock the last time we were in there.
After we had the water and our guests on board we were ready for the off. I turned on the engines and all of the instruments. Then stepped off the boat to pay for the water. After paying I went back on board and as I entered the pilothouse I called to the two dock hands to go ahead and free the lines.
I walked up the six steps to the flybridge, had a look to make sure that the lines were clear, and put the starboard engine into reverse to take my starboard stern out first to go around the boat behind me.
And nothing happened.
I looked down and realized that I had not turned on the engine controls – which are on a separate switch on the pilot house panel. No real panic, the boat wasn’t moving. I put the control back into neutral and stepped back into the pilot house and switched on the controls. The controls in the pilot house blinked on as active.
I quickly went back to the flybridge and pressed “active” twice on the controls and “warm sync” once to give me control, and immediately put the starboard engine into reverse, and the stern started moving out. I then put the starboard engine back into neutral so as to slow the maneuver down – and the starboard engine kept right on going! I quickly tried again with the control, into reverse and back to neutral, no good.
Sian then told me through our headsets that we had cleared the boat behind us, I could now straighten up so the bow wouldn’t hit that boat. She of course wasn’t aware of the issue. I decided to go ahead and put the port engine into reverse and goose it a bit and that would straighten the boat up so that I could at least avoid the boat behind us. Then we could exit the marina, turn off the engines and sort out the issue.
Except the port engine would not respond to the controls either and stayed in neutral! Sonas was going astern and pulling to the left and the bow was swinging to the right towards the boat behind us. So I quickly hit the bow thruster taking the bow to the left and straightened her out that way. That took us past the other vessel but still yawing to the left going astern. I put as much urgency into my voice as I could and told Sian to drop the anchor quickly. Without as much as a comment she ran to the bow and did that. I ran to the pilothouse to kill the engines, just as she told me that we were about to hit the dock behind us, and a second or two later we did, striking our swim platform against a piling, where my brother stuck on a fender and line. With that, the engines off and the anchor out we were stopped, albeit it at an angle across the marina fairway.
I then went to start the engines again to see if I still had an issue, and the starboard engine would not start.
With all of the controls in neutral and the engines off I went into the engine room to see what was going on. I immediately saw that the starboard engine transmission was in reverse (why the engine would not start) and the port in neutral. Yet the controls were both set to neutral.
I then realized what I had done.
I went back to the pilothouse and turned off the power switch to the controls, waited about twenty seconds, and turned them back on. I went back into the engine room and both transmissions were now in neutral and responding to the controls. I went back up top and reassured everyone that I had identified what had both caused the issue and the resolution.
I started both engines, give them a little bump in gear to confirm all was well. We raised the anchor, released the stern and left the marina. Sian went back and checked the swim platform and reported damage, though pretty cosmetic along the stern rub rail.
Thinking over it afterwards I realized how fortunate we were that the dock to our left side was completely empty due to damage last year from Hurricane Matthew, and that no other boat or dinghy was coming up the fairway at the time, though I wouldn’t have started leaving if that were the case. I was also relieved that no one on board our vessel had tried to get between the boat and dock.
I also thought about what I could have done differently to avoid this (apart from the obvious of making sure that the controls were switched on along with the other electronics). Should I have waited until at the flybridge controls before calling for the lines to be released? I don’t think that would have helped because I would not have looked to engage the engine until after the lines were free, so I would have had the same result.
So what caused this issue?
When I ran down and turned on the power switch for the controls in the pilothouse, the controls in the pilothouse are activated. I then went quickly up top and activated the upper control and at the same time threw the starboard engine into reverse. The engine responded, but because I did not wait for even a second after activating to sending an order, I believe I confused the electronic Glendinning control system. Either it was caught between the two sets of controls or somehow, after I gave the reverse order, it reverted to the pilothouse controls. The fact that the starboard engine transmission stayed in reverse after I had the engines off and both sets of controls in neutral seems to indicate that I confused the electronics by not waiting a couple of seconds for the upper station to pair with the units in the engine room.
So now I make sure to check the power is turned on along with the other electronics AND I wait a few seconds after transferring the controls before I change gear. I have no issues with the controls since.
Reading the Glendinning manual it does not mention a wait period, though it does say that you can have the gears for the set you are transferring to already in the position you want before activating so as not to lose RPMs.