Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Near maydays, mooring from hell and a great holiday

Yesterday as JW and I stood on the bow of Shiloh, discussing the disaster that was our attempt at picking up a mooring ball at Sandy Island, we heard a faint but strained call,
JW’s sister, hubby and kids, visiting for a week, were piled in the dinghy, looking a bit lost as it drifted quickly backward with the wind and current.
“We can’t get the motor down”
They had decided to head in to the beach at this gorgeous deserted island, after our angst ridden arrival with the mooring ball incident, and most likely they thought they’d leave us to our ‘after lesson in what-not-to-do in a mooring situation’.
JW looked at the situation with the dinghy blowing further and further out of reach, muttered “sh*t” under his breath, and jumped in the water. He struggled to catch up but managed to swim out to the dinghy and heave himself up. All the while, I stood at the back step biting my nails and knowing there wasn’t much I could do. Here we were on a deserted island, our visitors being blown swiftly out to sea.
JW got the motor down and it started after a few revs and all was well. He motored back to the boat and I reached out to grab the dinghy painter (rope). But just short of the boat he cut the engine and I missed the rope. And they started floating backward again. But this time JW pulled the choke over and over and it wouldn’t start. It had flooded.
Now I stood once again watching them all drift away, but this time JW, my all-knowing captain was with them.
Luckily for us, there was one other little sail boat at Sandy Island and I ran to the front of our boat, waving my hands wildly in their general direction, hoping they’d see me and then see the dinghy as it disappeared.
The man jumped in his tiny dinghy and headed toward them. But his motor was very small, and in the endless time it took for him to reach them and grab a rope to tow them back, they discovered he couldn’t pull the weight of the bigger dinghy and group of ‘flounderlings’.
I felt a pit in my stomach, stabbing now. What could I do? In this boating life, I’m finding that I really struggle with the sense of helplessness. Mostly it is my lack of knowledge that renders me useless in critical situations. But this time it was the fact that there was nothing I could do, barring calling out a mayday on the radio. And I had to decide at what moment that should be done?
Just then, JW pulled the choke for the umpteenth time, and this time it worked! They let go of the struggling man in his well-meaning little would-be rescue boat, waved a big thanks and headed back finally to Shiloh.
Crisis averted. Again.
JW the ever calm and able captain of SV Shiloh
 Just an hour before, I had been up at the bow of the boat trying to catch a mooring ball and feed two ropes through it, pulling them each back to a hull and tying them off. After a few tries, where JW motored forward and his brother-in-law and I directed him, got hold of the mooring ball and then failed dismally to get the ropes the right way round, eventually Shiloh was blown back by the strong winds and the ropes came flinging along, as we let go. But in my panic-mode, during one attempt, I tried to hold one of the ropes so we wouldn’t drift away from it. I, me, tried to hold a 20 ton boat, against 20knt winds, with a little rope. Not smart. I ended up almost losing my legs as the rope pulled swiftly, and I was trapped between it and the front stay. JW was livid. I was shaken by the experience and hotly embarrassed by my inadequacy, not to mention the burning on my thighs where the rope had whipped past. It was ‘all bad’, especially with our guests as the innocent victims, just trying to have a relaxing holiday.
We did eventually get ourselves hooked on the mooring ball. They did eventually have a great swim over the corals and with all the multicoloured reef fish. And hopefully all was forgotten.
They had all survived the day before, as we made the 6 hour journey from St. Georges in Grenada, up to Carriacou, with the wind on our nose and 12 ft (4m) swells. We had at least one seasick moment, with breakfast being offered up to the sea below, but all in all, the crew handled all those salty, shaking, jarring, jolting hours quite well.
We spent the night in a deserted anchorage on the north coast of Carriacou, called Anse La Roche, which only attracted a single sentence in the most popular guide book. It advised that the place was great for a lunch break but not for an overnight due to the big northerly swells. We stayed anyway. Right about now, you are thinking,
‘That probably wasn’t a good idea.’
Well, after putting out a second anchor manually from the side of the boat (a first for us), we did have a great swim and a walk on the beach, a peaceful supper and cocktails, then retired early. All good, right?
Forward to 3am when we awoke to our anchor drag alarm, and realised that the second anchor had come slack and the current was busy trying to beach us completely. The back of the boat was swinging toward the shallow sand at a fast pace. JW had to use the winch and bring the second anchor in, then heave the rusted chain and anchor up by hand. That done, we motored forward, lifted anchor and tried again further out in the bay.
It held, though the northerly swell had us in a rolling stomach churning motion pattern for the rest of the night, and though my eyes did close, I didn’t manage to get any more actual sleep. Luckily, the kids, exhausted from swimming, diving and snorkeling, slept through it all.
We were all good and ready to up anchor at 8am and head toward Union Island of the Grenadines.
After a peaceful stroll through the sleepy dusty main road and immigration sorted, nurse sharks visited by the dinghy dock, we headed out to our main destination – Tobago Cays.
And we did arrive alive, but not before we encountered some 15ft (5m) waves that lifted and dropped us, toying with the 20 ton boat like a mouse in the paws of a cruel giant cat.
I braced myself in those moments and apparently I made ‘the face’ – which is the face of panic and terror that JW claims he sees wash across my face when I sense danger (real or because of my lack of experience).
In response, I got The Look, and that one says,
‘Holdsworth, don’t you dare go into panic mode, we have guests and if you look all worried, they will get worried and it’s our job to be the calm and controlled, gracious hosts.’
Just then a wave blindsided us and all the wine, whisky, rum and vodka bottles on display went flying with an ear jarring slam and resounding clangs.
Luckily they all made it through in tact. Less cleaning for me on arrival, and more for us to ingest later. In fact, there’s a party on the beach, the kids are swimming happily around the boat, the afternoon sun is coming down to a burnt orange warm, I’ve got butternut and broccoli with chicken ready to bake, and it’s time for a rum n’ coke now.


  1. Thank God the bottles didn't break!
    I love The Face and The Look ...

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  3. Jiangsu yaxing anchor chain co., LTD. (AsAc) is a professional engaged in Marine cable and Marine mooring chain production enterprise, and it is China's Marine cable and Marine mooring chain production and export base, is the world's one of the largest in the industry, the most has the comprehensive strength of the modern enterprise.