The Three Hour Tour

Yesterday I moved my sailboat from Tacoma, Washington to Seattle. It’s about a 30 mile trip at most, and I figured worst case scenario was about a 6 hour trip, but with the wind at our backs and a positive mindset I was hoping for much less.

Wrong.  Here’s what Chris Tremonte and I wrote for our blogs while we were stranded in Elliott Bay waiting for Vessel Assist to tow us the last five miles of our 10 hour tour.


Chris: Rather than just drive back from yesterday’s race in Portland, Ben Collins and I decided to drive to Tacoma and then sail his 27-foot Catalina "yacht" up to its new home in Ballard.  Unfortunately there hasn’t been much wind and the boat only has a 5hp motor.

[Below: Me typing into MS Live Writer on Chris’s laptop. Behind my head is Blake Island.]

image Ben: See, a boat’s speed is a direct function of several things, the length of the boat (larger boats can go faster than smaller boats), plus the amount of power that goes into propelling the boat forward. The problem that Chris is introducing is that an absence of wind has forced us to rely on a one cylinder 35 year old diesel engine that I was unable to start until about a week ago. Well, it starts now, but about a half an hour ago smoke started spewing from the cabin of the boat, and Chris started acting a little loony.

Chris: and that’s why we’re stranded here watching the lights come on in downtown Seattle.  But let me go back to how we’ve been underway for seven hours and have only made it to the middle of Elliott Bay.  You see, when we have run the motor today (sadly, most of the time) we were only running it at about half power.  Ben was concerned about gas mileage and we were a bit short on gas.  But even after stopping to refuel at Des imageMoines, we were still puttering along at maybe 3 or 4 knots.  I made the joke that one of us should get out at Des Moines and walk and we could see who gets to Ballard first.  Sadly it now appears that would have been an easy victory for the walker.

[Left: Blury Seattle skyline. terrible photo]

Ben: I was just explaining to Chris that he should never give up an opportunity for a good story. This, however, is not why we both neglected to charge our cell phones last night, or why I left my GPS in the car, or why around 5pm we decided to say "screw it" and kick this bad boy into gear. No, sadly enough, we set out on our adventure that we would get my new (very used) sailboat from Tacoma to Seattle in under six hours and with as little effort as possible (aside from a few tacks and some sailor lingo). At this point, I’m just thankful it hasn’t been raining yet.

 image Chris: the weather has been so nice today that I’m shocked at how few other boats we’ve seen out here.  We saw maybe ten boats on our way up and now we just see each ferry as it almost runs us over.   I suppose that’s what happens when you’re adrift in the middle of the ferry lane.

[Left: this ferry got REALLY close, but Chris’s cell phone died so this was our last photograph of the day.]

Ben: no seriously though, the last ferry to com by was REALLY close. As in museum voice distance. Wait, Seattle Traffic is calling me on the radio (our cells are dead, did I mention that?)…. brb… ok, the vessel assist is on its way, and now Chris and I are taking turns doing a periodic signal toward the boat, and typing in the blog. OK, my turn.

[Below: We’re the tiny black dot in between the freighter and the two other boats. Since out cell phones were dead my parents went to watch us be rescued from the Magnolia Bluff overlooking the bay.]

2008_09_21_Portland_ITU 021 Chris: neither of has ever gotten Vessel Assist before.  We were wondering whether the Chucklehead Factor of needing Vessel Assist is greater than the comparable factor for roadside assistance.  Vessel Assist is rapidly approaching now.  Gotta go.


So we made it back safely. Chris got to go through the Ballard Locks for his first time (it’s like a boat elevator that goes from the Puget Sound into the Seattle Ship Canal, which connects to Lake Washington.), but it was with the extra fun of being towed through. We were both very tired and hungry by the time we got in, but honestly, Vessel Assist was WAY faster than that Diesel engine anyway. Oh, and it started raining while we were being towed. So much for lucky weather.


[Above: Chris and I, finally in Seattle and docked.]


Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

Join the Conversation


  1. I would assume nothing less from a Ben Collins(TM) adventure. glad to hear you can still keep them fun and exciting. don’t remember how many times we told each other how the situation we were in would be funny to look back on in a week or a year. I think this cements the name Miss Rainer. reminds me of another fated inner tube trip for your birthday one year….


  2. Classic. And I thought the best adventures came on a bike out in the middle of nowhere when shit happens and the cell phone dies.

    this would’ve made a great pilot episode (no pun intended) for “The Adventures of Ben Collins dot Org, guest starring Chris Tremonte!” I would watch it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *