28 Dec 2010

[Captains Blog] Grenada

I had thought of telling you about the flying fish that we see on our sailing trips, but that will have to wait until another time.

A more striking event to talk about, (and I use this term literally) on Christmas Day in the evening, we had anchored in 6 metres of water at the Tobago Cays, had just eaten our Christmas fare and were clearing up when a squall swept through the anchorage at Beaufort Force 8 (that's in excess of 35 knots which is a lot more wind than you get from your average can of beans).

By the time I had gone below to put the navigation instruments on to check the wind speed and to turn off the aerogenerator which sounded as though it was an aeroplane about to take off, we had yanked out our anchor and were heading rapidly towards the boat anchored behind us. As I re-emerged into the cockpit, we were just about on the point of impact, a sickening crunch, a scrape, and we were still moving backwards at a rate of knots.

We started the engine and tried to get the anchor up to regain control, but unfortunately, we had locked anchors and chain with the boat we hit and we were dragging them with us, pirouetting around each other, trying to avoid hitting any other craft in the pitch darkness with the wind still pushing 40 knots in a very crowded anchorage. We nearly succeeded in this, but scrape an MOD training vessel on one of our rotations when our anchor rode up their chain catching their paintwork as it came free. Once we had got our anchor back and on board, we decided that the safest thing to do was vacate the anchorage and move to a harbour in the lee of the land. The obvious choice for this was Saline Bay in the nearby island of Mayreau. We navigated our way out of the Cays past the reefs and around the island into Saline Bay where there was one other boat at anchor. Once safely hooked to the seabed, we radioed back to the Cays to contact the boats we had hit. Typically, none of them had their radios switched on, but we managed to raise someone on a boat called Badgers Sett who said they would relay the message for us that we would be back in the morning to sort out insurance details.

In the morning, we checked our damage properly - fortunately it was superficial and the boat was seaworthy, and we returned to the Cays to exchange insurance details. However, the boat we had collided with wasn't there - they had left at first light. We can only assume that either they hadn't suffered any damage or that they hadn't checked in through the customs and immigration channels, and was there illegally. Typical of the French! 

We are now back in Grenada having had the assessor out this morning to look at Pandora and write his damage report so that we can organise repairs. I have had a real maintenance day today, scrubbed the topsides, checked the engine, topped up the oil, cleaned the filters, and made some temporary fixes to the safety rails that will allow us to continue sailing safely until the proper repairs can be done, otherwise we would be tied to Grenadan soil again! At the moment, finding boat repair people who work between Christmas and New Year is our next challenge. Let's hope that the new year will bring us good news of a timely repair.