The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Foul-lowing the Leader

Don Chandler

Martin 32
September 19th, 2021

As we followed Counting Stars into Malaspina Inlet this summer, we ended up counting our lucky stars.  The flood was favourable with 1-1/2 knots pushing us along the entrance, Counting Stars leading the way and Antares next.  Saracen brought up the rear as we headed into another joyous night rafted to BCA boats, of which we had encountered many over the past two months from Vancouver to the mid-coast and back.  It had been an otherwise uneventful trip.  I had noticed a couple of prawn trap buoys to port ahead at the edge of the fairway and left them some distance to port.  Almost past them I heard a sudden clunk-clunk under the boat and on reflex kicked the engine gear shift into neutral .

Saracen and Antares merrily sailing up Malaspina Inlet

Looking behind, I noticed some chopped up Styrofoam and a red shadow a half meter under the surface.  I drifted for a while to assess and could not see anything floating out astern other than the Styrofoam bits.  Eventually, I gently shifted into reverse to back off anything that might have been tied to the foam.  Then after a length or so, I shifted into forward at an idle for a few seconds before drifting again, watching carefully on all sides.  Seeing nothing, I contemplated having a cup of tea, but when another sailboat came up astern, I waved them over and asked if they could carefully drift past and see what they could see that might have gone clunk-clunk.  Sure enough, they saw a line pulling down from behind our keel and into the deep.  There was no sign of anything else.  I tried backing up a few seconds and drifting, then forward a couple of seconds to drift and suddenly the engine stopped.  OK, let’s try a very brief reverse to untangle anything that might have caught the prop.  The engine was even faster to stop this time.

We had radioed ahead to our leader in the distance that we would be delayed; they turned back to offer help, but were a fair distance in front.  Then we called out to the sailboat that was about to pass to port between us and the two prawn trap buoys, to ask if they might pass us a line so the current would not pull us onto the nearby lee shore on the other side of the buoys.  Instead, Atalanta rafted alongside as we sorted out what foul fisher might have dropped traps in the middle of a narrow throughway.

Saracen and Atalanta rafter together and Mike freeing Saracen‘s prop.

Thankfully, it was a warm day for swimming and we debated playing rock-paper-scissors to see who would go swimming with the scissors.  Although I have scuba dived for many years,  I’m not a strong swimmer, but I reluctantly offered to jump in.  Leslie was keen to get wet and started going for her mask and fins.  Mike from Atalanta said, “Wait,  I just did this four days ago.” Now that’s a fine sailor who will offer to dive your boat to untangle your foul mishap.  Some people just love to swim in the brine.  We cut our engines and drifted in the current as he made numerous breath hold dives under us.  Just as he came up the fourth time, we noticed we were drifting close to shore and would have to start the engines soon.  He announced he had it clear and jumped back on his boat.  I hauled in the line, which should have been attached to the buoy but wasn’t, and then thought we might get lucky with lots of prawns for dinner.

Unfortunately after hauling in over 100 meters of foul rope, including about 40 feet of a hitch to shorten the line and an extra 30 meters of yacht braid tied at the end, I found a ratty rip at the end of the line with no trap or shrimp or any buoy at all, not even floating in the current.  Quickly I started the engine and backed off the shore a distance.  We exchanged thanks and contact info with our new friends Mike and Gail from Atalanta, promising to reconnect back at home.  Parting company, we continued on to follow our leader, who had come back to take pictures and observe the un-fouling and pleasantries.

Later that evening, with Saracen and Counting Stars comfortably rafted together, we were comparing  thoughts on the day’s adventures and planning dinner when a boat came out of the rainy mist into our bay.  It was Atalanta!  We quickly called them over,  and 30 minutes later Gail and Mike joined us for dinner,  bringing along (you guessed it!)  prawns from their own trap, and a foul souvenir!

After thirty some years of sailing, there are still new experiences to encounter, and this year I found strings in my prop and stringy stuff in my head (but that’s a story for another time).


  1. Shawn Wright says:

    Great story! We were fortunate to enjoy a few BCA gatherings this summer as well – it was great to meet so many members in person after a year of Zooms…

  2. Gail Lichtensteiger says:

    Thankfully you sailed onwards so we could have dinner with you ♥️🙏

  3. Gail, dinner was so much fun! and we were so luck to have met you and Mike!
    We really enjoyed your company in beautiful Isabel Bay!

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