Passage to France then Cassis
05 July 2012 | Cassis
We left Mahon on Minorca at 9:45am for our 220 mile passage to Marseilles. Nick took the helm as we left the dock and went to the fuel dock. He did an awesome job of maneuvering Palarran through the harbor. The wind was blowing from astern at 12 knots so we raised the spinnaker and sailed all day at between 7 and 10 knots until the wind increased to 16 knots. At that point we doused the chute and went to a single reefed main and full jib. Unfortunately that only lasted a few hours before the wind died and we motored the rest of the way.
It’s funny how plans change when you really don’t have any set in stone. When we were sailing the rhum line led straight to the island of Porquerolles, one of the Ises d’Hyeres. I decided we might as well head there instead of being stuck in Marseille for 5 days waiting for Susie, Mark, and Lindy. We arrived at 1:30pm in a near dead calm and anchored outside of the main port along with about 60 other boats. We went ashore, walked around, and had dinner. Upon leaving we found the wind had changed and was coming directly from the north at about 20 knots. It was 8:00pm at this point.
In an earlier post I had quoted Skinny’s saying of “Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” and our boat motto of “Ever Vigilant”. Before leaving St. Maarten I had a new electronic device called an AIS Transponder installed. This allowed us to see most vessels near us and whether we were on a collision course. One of the separate functions is that it can act as an anchor alarm. I had only played with this function up to this point but decided we needed to set it that night. We did, and then went to sleep as we had not fully recovered from the passage.
I usually sleep with a hatch open above my bed, right above my head. This provides nice cool air and also allows me to better sense what is going on outside. As I tried to get to sleep I felt a strong burst of wind hit Palarran and she started to rock sideways. At the same time the anchor alarm went off, shrieking us into action. All hands ran to deck to find out Palarran’s anchor had pulled out of the mud/weed and we were one minute away from colliding with another sailboat and about 3 minutes away from being on shore. It’s amazing how long one minute can last when you need every second.
I started both motors immediately then jumped down on the stern and grabbed the dingy which had drifted across the stern. Nick pulled the dingy in tight on the other side in order to keep its tether line from fowling one of our propellers. At this point, nothing could go wrong. Then I engaged both motors and rotated Palarran into the wind and held her there. We were about 50’ away from the other sailboat at this time. The wind was howling and the waves had built up quickly to about four foot rollers. At this point we had a minute to decide a course of action.
First we needed to get the dingy on it’s davits. This didn’t go very smoothly as Nick had to do most of the work, from attaching the lines to cranking it up. I couldn’t leave the helm as we needed to maintain our position. Then we raised the anchor which wasn’t difficult as it was just drifting along the seabed. The wind was blowing at about 25 knots at this time and there were few options for us at 11:00pm. So we decided we would stay offshore for the night and started to motor across the bay. In two hours the wind died down to 15/20 knots and we returned to our previous anchor location and relayed the anchor, adding much more chain to the scope. I do want to note that we were not alone in our troubles. During this whole period the bay lit up with running lights and motors. Fifteen boats were anchored when we went to sleep and three where left when we woke the next day.
In retrospect, we did one thing right and many wrong in this incident. The right was setting the anchor alarm. The wrongs start with not having enough scope on the anchor from the beginning. Then Nick jumped on the dingy to attach the lifting lines without a life jacket on. If he had fallen off – not good. We also didn’t have a safe harbor to escape to once the wind hit. We learned a lot and will not forget the lessons. The next day we moved to another harbor and set the anchor. We dove on it and checked it twice during the day. We have become near masters of the anchor alarm system and feel we will be warned well ahead of danger in the future.
From the Porquerolles we motored to Cassis. The wind was as usual on the nose and it would have taken 10 hours plus to sail instead of 5 hours to motor. We couldn’t get a spot in the marina that night so we set the anchor offshore in 45’ of water. No problems. Yesterday was the Fourth of July and I begged the marina into letting us have a slip and we tied Palarran off at the end of a pier at 1:00pm yesterday. It is an unbelievable location in a beautiful setting. Mark, Susie, and Lindy arrived a few hours ago and I’ll let Mark finish the description of our situation.