Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ladybug Goes For a Sail - On Her Own

The wind has been consistently high for days, now - 20 knots with gusts into the 30s all day and night. Two days ago, we re-anchored off the town of Fare at the edge of a large sand and coral shelf. On our passage between anchorages, along the west side of Huahine, the wind blasted down off the hills and through the gaps over the bays. With only 30 or 40 square feet of sail up (out of our normal 650), we still made rapid progress, heeling at times to 20 degrees in the stronger blasts.

The dinghy on a too short painter gave us some trouble when a short but steep overtaking wave lapped in over the transom. The wave partially filled her with a dozen gallons of water. I pulled her up on the transom to empty her, stretching my arms a foot or so with the strain, but could not empty her completely this way. Eventually, we had to reduce sail, tie her tightly alongside. and bail her by hand as we continued downwind.

In the anchorage at Fare were more than 20 boats, bound here by the high winds. We saw one boat try to re-anchor four times and remembered that our cruising guide cautions that the anchorage is loose coral rubble with patches of sand and holding is not great. Despite this, we found a place near to where the re-anchoring yacht had previously set and managed to set our 45 lb CQR in about 23 feet of water with 125 feet of chain out (nearly 6 to 1 scope). We remained on board that day and watched our GPS screen, which shows our track, to make sure we were not dragging.

Late the next morning we went ashore to find out what sort of celebrations were going on for Bastille Day (the French equivalent of Canada Day or July 4 in the US). We wandered through town finding a huge supermarket (surprising for such a small town) and then hiked out to a stadium on the outskirts of town where we learned of a dance that evening and another on Monday. On our way back we located the Gendarmerie, where we will check out of French Polynesia, and explored a couple of side roads that looked interesting. As we returned to the beach, we looked for Ladybug in the anchorage and saw that there were people on her bow and dinghies alongside. A man at a beachside cafe handed us a portable VHF and said that if we were Ladybug, we were needed on board. We talked with Deb on Buena Vista who told us that her husband Don, Bob from Charisma, and Mike from Astarte were on board our boat after seeing her start to drag.

We dashed back along the beach and jumped in our dinghy, rowing quickly back to our boat where we were greeted by Ladybug's rescuers. They had managed to get the engine started and pulled up the anchor, but were waiting for us to return before attempting to re-anchor. With four captains on board, we were able to get a set in two attempts, but only after letting out almost all our chain (about 10 to 1 scope) and dragging back through the loose sand for 100 feet.

Apparently Bob on Charisma (anchored just to our starboard) had noticed that Ladybug had changed position and had asked for assistance from other nearby boats because he did not have a dinghy in the water. When they boarded her, ladybug was still in deep water (55 feet), but would likely have dragged out the pass and out to sea or possibly ended her days on the reef had our friends not come to our rescue. We were lucky that we had left her unlocked, with the key in the engine and Bob, Don, and Mike had been able to figure out how to turn on her instruments, start the diesel, and work the windlass to pull in the chain.

This was a humbling experience. Once set, we have rarely had a problem with dragging and have only dragged anchor a few times in all the time we have owned the boat. We dragged on two separate occasions in Honeymoon cove near Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Here there was a rocky bottom and I probably did not set the anchor properly on the first occasion. The other time was in nearby Nopolo where the bottom was also covered in head-sized rocks and the anchor was most likely not properly set.

We are grateful and very lucky to have good and watchful friends out here who are willing to risk life and limb to help a fellow cruiser.  Check out Charisma's blog for their perspective on this event.

1 comment:

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Over and over, the kindness of fellow boaters just slays me. I can't imagine the racing heart & sudden concern you must have been hit with as you returned to shore. Great story.