Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Trouble in Paradise

April 13-16, White Sound, Green Turtle Cay
Yes, there can be trouble in paradise. We’ve often mentioned the need to seek a sheltered harbor when storms are forecast. High winds produce uncomfortable conditions on unprotected seas, so every boat is looking for safe haven. Unfortunately, the “safe” anchorages become crowded. And even there, anchors can break loose. Sometimes those captains maneuver and reset their anchors without significant problems. Other times, they do everything wrong, to the peril of the other boats in the anchorage.

At 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, that’s what happened. A storm hit our anchorage with winds of 40 miles per hour. Boats started dragging and moving, including a Moorings charter catamaran next to us. They pulled up their anchor and, instead of motoring forward or to their starboard, they drifted back onto us, fouling their rudder in our anchor chain and pulling our anchor out. Entangled, the only thing we could do was fend off and try to separate the two boats. We told them to put out an anchor—now!—but they didn’t.

The events unfolded so quickly, yet they played out like a slow-motion horror movie, scary and surreal. The catamaran was attached to us, and we were both hurtling between boats in the crowded anchorage, very narrowly missing one. Keith released all of our anchor chain, but still entangled, the catamaran rammed us, T-bone style, onto the bowsprit of another sailboat, Samaria II. At this point, Keith cut the anchor completely loose and the catamaran was able to break free. Concerned that we might tangle the anchor chain of Samaria II, which we were now blown hard against stern-to-bow, we put out fenders and rafted together until daylight.

The rest of the story is good news. Andrew and Denise on Samaria II are the nicest people you could ever wish to raft up with, involuntarily or not. They made a harrowing night much more bearable by their kindness and positive attitudes. Andrew’s father invented the CQR anchor, and he enjoyed putting it to the test with two boats hanging on the one anchor in gale-force winds. Denise even thought it was an exciting adventure. (We can’t go quite that far—yet!)

In the morning Claus and Barry Hammerberg spent a long time helping us separate Pelican and Samaria II without any further damage. They set a kedge anchor off the stern to hold the two boats apart. Then Keith dove down to the bottom of the harbor and tied lines to our primary anchor and chain, which they helped us recover before we motored away and re-anchored. We’re so grateful for their time, expertise, and muscle!

And the whole cruising community pulled together around us, surrounding us with concern and support. We feel as though we’ve gained a bunch of new friends.

Pelican did sustain damage which needs to be repaired, but it is mostly cosmetic. She will still be able to soar in a fine breeze. We thank God for being good to us and protecting us in a situation that could have been so much worse.

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