Medana Bay, Indonesia
The day started propitiously when after several months of generator starting problems and a week of consultations with the local diesel mechanics and their corrective actions our generator started up for the first time instantly at 0530. You might ask why we were up so early. We are usually awakened by the local mosques call to prayer and are unable to go back to sleep. We haven’t gotten used to this and particularly appreciate deserted anchorages!
It was obviously a great day! We planned to head out for an overnight at noon to our next destination.
We prepared the boat to leave and were waiting for the right time when a fellow cruiser came by to talk through his diesel over-heating problem which has been unsolvable for months. Commiserating is always fun when there’s a chance of solving the issue. We hashed it out and I went over to his boat to better understand his engine and sure enough was able to suggested a different idea that after some disassembly turned out to be THE issue. Another great day!....especially for him.
Just as we started flushing his heat exchanger tube bundle with HCL acid we both heard a mayday call on the VHF radio. It seems a boat in our anchorage broke loose and was dragging towards the beach. We looked out and the wind was blowing about 20 knots onshore and all the boats in the anchorage were pitching like mad with about 2 to 3 foot swells. Some were on moorings and the others on anchors. Many owners and crew were ashore and gone. There was a mad scramble of the few remaining sailors to the dinghies to help the boat in distress and within a few minutes the anchor was reset and holding. Just as this was completed the boat behind and downwind of the distressed yacht was noted to have broken it’s mooring and was heading directly ashore with maybe 20 yards of open water. We all rushed to the second boat that was about 44 feet long, a Hans Christian 44 (I think). By the time we got there the situation was desperate. The owner was gone, no one was on board there were no obvious lines available and it was 5 yards from running aground. We did grab the genoa sheet tied it to the bow cleat and ran the line to an existing line running right by the boat to the beach which was connected to a mooring in deeper water. With a rolling hitch we were able to get control of the bow. The stearn then pivoted and she went aground. With engine in reverse and 3 dinghies pushing from the lee side we tried to move the boat off but she didn’t budge. Subsequently, maybe a half hour later, a local boat with 2 85 HP outboards came to our assistance and with a sturdy line attempted to pull the stearn off unsuccessfully. The line got fouled in the prop of the boat aground, Vellela.
This is when someone told me Nancy was yelling for me. She was on Always Saturday and was alarmed. When I got back to the boat the force on the bowsprit was deforming the sprit as the boat pitched on her mooring. Nancy had put engine in forward to minimize the forces on the mooring and I attached a snubber from the waterline bobstay chainplate to the mooring loop while she released the tension on the pennant thus relieving the forces on the bowsprit. We didn’t have any damage but only because Nancy took all the appropriate actions even before I got back to her.
All the while the swells and waves were building pushing the stricken vessel further ashore. Unfortunately the tide was going out and would be for the next four hours. I quickly got back to the grounded vessel to help. We tried kedging the bow line but the boat wouldn’t move.
All the time (maybe 2 hours) I was in a borrowed inflatable dinghy with a flexible floor trying to maneuver to use the dinghy to push the boat seaward. It was awkward and relatively un-maneuverable compared to Always Saturday’s heavy aluminum dinghy. Since this wasn’t helping I backed away from the boat towards the beach. As I did this I noticed that the boat was now shuddering. Every time she came down on the sand the rigging rattled and the steering wheel lurched on impact as well. A sickening feeling for the people on board. She was beginning to take a pounding. Before I realized what was going on a large almost breaking wave pitched my dinghy up almost vertical throwing me backwards out into the water. As I fell overboard to starboard I grabbed the handles on the dinghy and attempted to control it to stay away from the out of control dinghy as the engine was on full power and turning the boat hard to starboard, At first I focused just on controlling the violent spin on the dinghy and staying clear of the prop. All I could do was to try to stay balanced as the boat almost out of control viciously circled. I immediately noticed that I was in fact in shallow water and I was able to stand up which helped me control the dingy as it circled. Eventually I was able to reach for the fuel line and was able to detach it from the tank. My only option was to wait it out until the engine starved itself as there was no way to safely let go. So for about 5 or 6 minutes we went round and round with the dingy making quite a spectacle for the observers on the beach watching me and the other action! (though no one came to help). With all that spinning I didn’t get dizzy until after we stopped.
I was unhurt. What surprised me was that I had the feeling as if I were a surgeonin charge an operation going downhill fast with the sh*t hitting the fan. There was no hint of panic. From my experience with the man I saved from death in a similar mishap (who was cut up and bleeding), From the start I had a clear plan of what I needed to do and I just worked my way through the steps.
All in all, it was a memorable and lucky day. Needles to say we chose not to leave to do an overnight, but we did immediately leave the anchorage for a calm anchorage and potentially a good night sleep only about 4 miles away.
Hoping for some R and R!
From the Crew of Always Saturday
PS Fortune smiled on the yacht Vallela. Before Nancy and I left, a second line was attached to the stearn to a second mooring a preventing her from going further aground. Amazingly the swell diminished as fast as it occurred, thus avoiding the anticipated pounding against the hard sandy bottom at dead low tide. Even though low tide was 11/2 hours later she was not severely damaged. It remains to be seen if the rudder was bent.