Disclaimer: The picture is not reflecting the story below, that was another day when the CDI was driving us crazy…
It has been 4 years and a half that I became permanent resident decky on Inara, proudly representing the BenAnna Republic. We had a few scary moments; under sail not so much; but at anchor yes. Like that time when a wild trawler in Tasmania froze our blood by drifting just past us in the middle of the night. We, so rarely drag anchor that I can give you each of the cases that happened to us:
– Once in Shute harbor, I was on the boat for 2 days only and we were having a tropical shower on deck Ben and I, when Inara started dragging like crazy. A big oyster had prevented the anchor to resettle. I was then well informed of the main risk of anchoring practices….
– Once in Narooma, bad holding (hard packed sand) and strong incoming tide almost saw us in the rocks walls surrounding the creek. We started the engines just on time and left.
That’s it. A few times while anchoring the anchor refused to bite and we had to restart several times (especially with the Lewmar that we had… grrr) but we always managed to keep a reasonable holding or at least change place. Ben has always been the one doing the anchoring maneuver. I know well the theory and hoisted the anchor a few times. I can maneuver Inara with the two engines quite ok.
Oh yes, something else: Inara outboards commands have to be operated with the foot. Yes you read well, monkey style: the tiller in one hand, looking over the deck, the anchor switch in the other hand and the left foot has to coordinate the levers: right and left outboards. The right leg is the one left to stand on (no seat). So it’s a bit of a full coordination job and with Inara being very light and swinging like crazy from one side to the other, a bit of patience and skills are required…
So there I was, onboard on a Monday, minding my own business and baking tortillas around 4 pm. Ben called me worried (my skipper has premonition powers when it comes to his boat) but nothing had happened yet. Only ten minutes later, the trawler next to us seems a lot closer. It’s wind (gusts at 15 knts) against tide so I relax and think that they probably have a lot of scope. But they get closer and closer until they are only 5 meters from us and I finally decide that yes, we are definitely dragging very slowly our anchor in the mud. In the next swing we might as well be against their hull!!.
Oh dear, I’m the only one on Earth who can do something.
So there the waltz starts: I lower both the outboards in a hurry, start them (no time for them to warm), switch the battery to anchor winch position, look at the dinghy clipped sideways at the back and think “it’s gonna be ok, wind against tide, it will come back and get in the way if I tow it. Ben does it with the dinghy at the back no worries.”
I start winching the anchor, put the thrust forward alternatively to stop Inara swinging like a mad child from side to side, run on the foredeck to unclip the bridle, and come back finish the winching. Free! A gust comes; I put a bit more thrust on the starboard side and clang! I hear an awful sound. I look over my shoulder and see the dinghy fully sunk with water, the paddle, the fuel container, the bin floating away. It’s hanging itself from the back beam, the outboard half sunk in the water.
Shit! shit ! shit!
I confuse myself in panic and the starboard engine stops. Shit! I try to start it again and I can’t because the battery has to be switched back inside to do so. I only have the port engine left and the gusts are swinging the boat on the side in this tiny creek. Shit!
I manage to put Inara facing the wind far enough from the trawler and drop at once 15 meters of chain, no time to put the bridle on, not time to set the anchor properly. I have to fix the dinghy problem first, I can’t maneuver the boat like this.
I stop the outboards and look at the dinghy. What a mess! 400 liters of water are filling it, the safety bulkhead lids were not on it and are full, the tide is rushing over it, the outboard is half sunk. It’s hanging there just held from the bow and from the outboard handle.
That’s when a bloody horrible sharp pain hits the middle of my left foot. Something is in there and it looks metallic. But no time for that, Inara is dragging still very slowly and I have to somehow fix the dinghy situation.
A burnt smell comes to my nose. Nooo! The tortillas!! I turn off the gas completely to avoid a case of fire adding itself to my disastrous situation.
Ok, to be honest, at that point, I was pretty down. Half crying, half wailing. The boat was slowly but surely going toward the mangroves and the trawler, there was no way I could go pick Ben in less than one hour, I had to find a way to put the dinghy back afloat somehow. There was little chance the outboard would start, there was a very very little fuel left in it and the fuel container could be seen on the shore. Also, I couldn’t free the outboard out of the dinghy or the dinghy would have completely sunk and hang itself from the front clip. And time was running out!! Inara was 50 m away from the trawler
I tried to lift the dinghy out of the water a bit (so the water would stop passing over the sides) but that’s absolutely impossible when 400 liters of water are in it. I am not Superman. I secured a third rope onto the beam and tried to lift it that way. But no. (this would prevent the dinghy to sink if one of the 2 other point broke). I tied up another rope to the handle and used the pulley with a purchase of 3 from the boom. This work well enough (and quick)that I managed to stop the water coming over the sides. I start bailing like crazy with the big bucket. No time.
Inara was 20 meters away from the trawler.
Once the dinghy floated again (half empty), I took off the outboard after quickly testing it. Unbelieveable it started first pull. Yeah! One good thing finally.
I considered letting the dinghy go on the rope but the rope was twisted around the port rudder. And the tide was rushing in, so the dinghy would come back to attack us while I would be re anchoring the boat. For sure it would manage to entangle its rope with the prop and provoke more disasters (our dinghy is pure evil, didn’t you know? Read the article about Palm Island….)
I had no other choice than somehow find a way to pull the dinghy completely out of the water on the back netting. But how to empty it fast enough?? No time no time.
Inara is 10 meters from the trawler
So once again, I use the boom/ pulley lifting system from the middle of the dinghy this time. Sure enough it lifted the dinghy on a vertical plan and emptied most of the water. Still with 30 liters of water under the seats at odd angle, it took me a lot of sweat and cries to finally put the bloody thing secure on the back beam. I even tied it up well to avoid that it decides to escape back into the water because of my brusque maneuvers of the boat.
Inara is 2 meters from the trawler. My hair has more grey in it.
This time, I warm the outboards a little bit, pull up the anchor and go re anchoring properly (with bridle and all) on the complete other side of the creek. Na!
Thirty minutes have passed since the beginning of the drama, my foot is sore like hell. But no time, Ben will be waiting on the shore very soon.
I put back the dinghy in the water, put back the outboard and the second paddle and go fishing our fuel tank and our bin on the shore. I come back to Inara, fill the fuel tank with oil and fuel, go back to the dinghy and go picking Ben at the boat ramp.
Ben is not there. In my confusion, I forgot that he meant the other boat ramp upstream, I also don’t have my phone… Doh!
I go back to Inara, run out of fuel , (haha! Saw that coming!) refill the tank. Phone Ben, turn the anchor light on. Ben has foreseen my confusion and moved onto the fore-mentioned boat ramp… grrr…
We finally go back safe together onto Inara, he doesn’t suspect anything until he sees where the boat is anchored. I extract 1 cm stainless steel wire from my #$%$# foot. We re-anchor Inara safely together.
Once I tell him everything, we find out that a weird burnt smell is present. The stereo. The fuse (from the factory) supposed to protect it hadn’t worked!! So the winch overloaded it (and I also neglected turn it the stereo off…).
How about that?
Even if you get on top of everything, even if you accept that most of the things happen because you are stupid and not prepared / calm enough (like me, like the dinghy), Murphy’s Law still slaps you in the face at the end of some days! Thankfully 99% of the rest of the time is pure bliss.