Sunday, February 22, 2015

Birthday's Can Be A Drag - Literally

Blue boat with blue sail cover, furthest back in the pic- original anchor position

Febuary 22, 2015
Fort de France Martinique
Warning -  The below is told in real's long but least we thought so and therefore real time is the only way I know how to tell it.  Deal with it!

We were headed ashore at 14:00 yesterday to have a few birthday beers for Tom's birthday at our favorite place, Hotel L'Impeatrice.  There were some really strong gusts blowing through the anchorage.  I commented to Tom how close these two boats (s/v Gin Rummy and s/v Cluck) looked as we dinghied past.  But then I always think boats are too close and that everyone is dragging anchor when it's super wind.  Worry wort type stuff.  I know it, Tom knows it.  That is just how I am.  As we were tying up the dinghy to the worlds best dinghy dock (stainless steel face plate with big SS rings to chain your dinghy to) Tom commented "Man, it's gusty today."  I turned once more to look at s/v Honey Ryder in the anchoring field before we headed down the street to the hotel.  "Tom, that blue boat that was really close to s/v Cluck is now behind it!"  Tom looked.  Omg!  The boat was dragging and the next target was s/v Honey Ryder.  Of course we unchained the dinghy and zoomed out to the blue boat - s/v Gin Rummy, a camper Nicholson 35.  There was no one aboard so Tom climbed aboard.  Luckily their windlass was still switched on so he let out all the chain he could which really wasn't that much maybe 20 or 30 ft.  We hoped that would catch and hold.  Tom did take note that the key was in the ignition if needed but the boat was locked up otherwise.  

We headed to s/v Honey Ryder to just watch and wait.  Slowly s/v Gin Rummy continued to drag towards us.  I suggested powering up and motoring off to starboard slightly - hopefully enough to get out of the way but keep our anchor in place.  Not really a great idea but something.  But Cap10 Tom was patient and wanted to wait and see.  We got all our fenders out and tied them on the port side and Tom moved our dinghy over there to act as a fender as well.  I put out a general announcement on the VHF for the anchorage.  A few people popped their heads up but most were ashore or didn't have their VHF radios on.  *In fairness....there were a couple of big tankers using the frequency as a working channel and the crews were speaking Russian throughout the day on and off.  Additionally there are about 5 cruising boats here in Martinique that seem to hail each other a minimum of 6 times a day  and that gets really old really fast and therefore some people turn down their VHF radios or off completely.  
Way too close

Anyway.....s/v Gin Rummy slowly inched closer and closer to s/v Honey Ryder.  Bruce off s/v Wild Matilda zoomed over with two big fenders from his boat so we added them to our port rail.  Then I had him go over to the Norwegian boat astern to port of us and warn that captain.  He was on deck but facing aft reading and I knew he had not heard my radio announcement about the dragging boat.  After Bruce told him, he took a great interest of course and sat watching.  He was next should this boat miss us.
After fending off

So close

What to do?  Raft her up next to us?  We worried that might cause our anchor to drag and then we would be two boats rafted up dragging.  The same was true for tying a line to her off our stern.  I thought it still might cause both boats to drag down on the next boat.  Or climb aboard and try to re-anchor a boat that is not yours?  Or fend her off and let her go?  No way we were going to let her go on to hit someone else - there was another boat astern to starboard and that crew was ashore.  Additionally, we were not going to just let her drag out into the bay to hit one of the four tankers anchored out there.  
Tom manually setting the fortress anchor

French captain lending a hand by securing the fortress anchor line to the dragging boat

Tom got the idea of getting out our folding Fortress aluminum anchor.  He put it together while I grabbed a long line we had handy - old halyard.  We keep it ready to go for anchoring stern to shore or emergencies.   He had to stop once to fend off the bow of s/v Gin Rummy from hitting our port stern.  I was on the swim ladder with the boat hook doing the same.  She was slowly passing us but still causing issues as both boats swung this way and that with winds gusts.  The Captain of a French boat on the other side rowed over.  I told him we were going to try to deploy our Fortress to stop her dragging.  "You don't have chain on it?  Only rope?" he asked.  "Ah,'s our third anchor and a backup so at this point we don't have chain on it  but it will just have to do won't it!"  He shrugged.  I asked him to help.  Tom took the anchor out in our dinghy and tossed it out, testing that it was hooked on the bottom.   The French captain tied the line to the bow of the dragging boat and then rowed back to his boat.  Tom then climbed aboard the dragging boat and tightened up the line, tugging to test that it was set.  It was.  Bruce came over again during this to help and agree that it was set as best Tom could given the situation.  Tom came back to our boat and we just waited.  S/v Gin Rummy was still very close and in the wind gusts it was nerve racking.  
Fortress anchor line attached

Tom securing the fortress and testing the holding

Bruce and Tom - "Best we can do for now"
In the anchorage more and more crews were returned to their boats from shore but not this crew.  Where were they?  It was 15:30 on Saturday afternoon and everything ashore is closed for the most part.  "Where are they?"  We could see the dinghy dock.  I watched through the binocs for the crew to arrive.  Finally, I spotted someone running along the shore.  It turned out to be the captain of the dragging boat.  He and his wife dinghied up and asked what happened and if their boat had hit ours.  Tom calmly told them what happened.  "That is our Fortress anchor and line on her.  Take your time getting re-anchored and settled in.  No rush to get those back to us."  They had been anchored for 3 days with no issues.  They had gone ashore to shops and such but the one day they were gone all day, the winds pipped up and the boat drug.  One of a captain's nightmare come true.  Seems they were across the bay hiking and only spotted their dragging boat as the ferry was passing the anchorage to return them to this side of the bay.  
Crew back aboard
They got re-anchored in the corner and then Philip (Captain of s/v Gin Rummy) came over to return our anchor and line as well as say thank you again and give us a bottle of wine in gratitude.  We chatted a bit and then he left.  Nice guy.  Soon Bruce and Carol off s/v Wild Matilda showed up for Tom's planned happy hour  birthday celebration and things were back to normal. 

I am very proud of the way Tom handled the situation.  He was cool and calm, thinking things through.  It reconfirmed some things for us.  1.)  Leaving the windlass power on when anchored is a very good thing.  2.)  We either leave our key in the ignition or we have it in the cockpit pocket right next to the ignition.  This is good as well.  The chances are much, much, much greater that there will be an emergency and someone other than us may need to move our boat in a hurry than the chances of someone stealing her.  3.)  Daily checks of the anchor and snubber are wise.  4.)  Stuff happens.  Even the best captain will drag anchor at some point.  5.)  Cruisers take care of cruisers.  6.)  The Fortress performed well in a pinch.  When s/v Gin Rummy pulled it up, the entire anchor was caked in mud - it went deep and was holding.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This post gave me goosebumps. Scary situation but sounds like you and Cap10 Tom handled it very well indeed. Hope he was able to relax and enjoy his birthday celebration afterwards!