Thursday, 24 September 2015

Murphy Strikes Again

A wise man once said “If anything’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there.”  Truer words have never been spoken when it comes to the day we experienced yesterday.  After spending a month in Venice where Darryl accomplished a great deal of work on the boat in both maintenance and improvements, we needed to leave to start our trip back south.  We left Venice on Tuesday with the plan to sail overnight to Zadar, Croatia arriving Wednesday around noon.  Well best laid plans and all….

By Wednesday morning we were experiencing horrible swells and 20 knot winds.  To put it simply it was miserable.  However, my seasickness was not to be the worst of the day.  It started when the port engine shut down.  It didn’t take long for us to realize what had happened.  The halyard (in non-fancy sailing language that is a rope) for the main sail had been swept off the front deck, had made its way to the back of the boat and had cleverly wrapped itself around our port propeller.  Lovely.  Okay…interesting.  (Although stronger language was used.)  They don’t teach you this in sailing school, although they do strongly suggest you avoid running over stuff that can result in this exact scenario. 

This meant Darryl had to get into the water and attempt to cut the rope free.  After much diving down, he managed to at least cut the rope off, but couldn’t get the tightest wrap off.  Darryl is such a rock star, coming out of the water bleeding from a ton of barnacle cuts on his hands and legs without a complaint.  Now with the halyard cut, it meant we could no longer lower the main sail.  So we are now down an engine and limited use of a sail.

But hey, the beauty of catamarans is they are equipped with two engines.  No one I am sure in the history of sailing has ever managed to knock out two engines and a sail in one passage, right?!  Well look at us, we like to set a new standard for screwing things up while sailing.  So basically as soon as we have come to terms that we are down an engine and sail, we notice white smoke being emitted from our starboard engine.  (Insert more expletives here.)  Huh, interesting, what does that mean?  Referring to our trusty diesel mechanics bible, we eliminated the two problems it suggested.  So with me throwing up over the side of the boat, I managed to still keep us sailing using only our jib (the sail on the front for you non-sailors), while Darryl is being bashed around in the starboard engine room (“room” is generous, it is really a space that is only large enough for the engine), trying to source the problem.

An example of Darryl's work space in the engine rooms from a different passage.  See how spacious they are, especially with the rudder post hitting him while underway?!?

So here we are off the coast of Croatia, down two engines and a sail.  The smart decision is made to head to the closest port where we can check into the country and hopefully find a marina where we can pull the boat out of the water and sort out the port prop and figure out what the problem is with the starboard engine.  Mali Losinj was the closest harbour.  We manage to sail there and only turned on the starboard engine to get us docked at the customs dock.

We have already been in Croatia so we still have a valid 90 day cruising permit, so we figured checking in would be a breeze.  Well the shitty day is not quite done.  Turns out our newly installed AIS, a device that allows us to see other boats on our chart and for us to be seen, was to be turned against us.  Some hardworking Croatian port police supervisor was diligently doing their job and saw us on AIS a while ago in Croatian waters.  So when we showed up hours later in Mali Losinj, he felt we took too long to get there so it must mean we stopped somewhere else before checking into the country.  This is obviously a big no-no, which we fully understand and comply with.  Fortunately this supervisor was only on the phone and we dealt with a lovely port police officer in person who after 3 separate phone calls with her supervisor, made the independent decision to not charge us the penalty the supervisor wanted her to charge us.  A penalty?!!?!  For taking too long to arrive???  That really would have been the icing on the cake if we had been levied a fine upon our arrival in Croatia. 

The girls were so amazing for the entire day!  They kept to themselves (thank goodness for movies) even though they basically only had dry cereal to eat for the entire day and I will have to chalk this day up as a Pro D Day as no schoolwork was completed.  Ella even steered the boat while I watched Darryl in the water.  We all kept our heads on and there was no drama outside of what was happening with the boat itself.  So I call that a win in teamwork.

While Darryl was dealing with the port police, I was lying down feeling completely physically and emotionally drained and feeling quite sorry for our circumstances.  It was at this time I had this image come to mind of people in this world, and at that quite close to where we currently are, taking grave risks to seek safety for themselves and their families.  And despite how disastrous of a day this was in relation to our personal life experiences, our safety was never at risk.  Although Darryl might feel differently when he was diving under the boat trying to avoid the boat from slamming onto his head in the swells.  Sure this is a huge inconvenience and we still don’t know how much this is going to cost us, but if this is the worst day we experience, we are still far better off than others in this world. 

We are certainly experiencing that life is about the journey and not the destination; I just would like it if the journey could come with two functional engines.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

What a Drag

Re-anchoring, post drag.

I read somewhere that there are 2 kinds of cruisers.  Those who have dragged and those who are going to drag.  Any guesses which group we fit into?  Scroll down to find out, or read through the whole post. 

As I mentioned in our CroatianRetrospective Light, Cavtat was a town that we thoroughly enjoyed.  We met some fellow Canadians there (hello Quickbeam!) who not only were generous with their time but also with some hard won information about cruising in the Med.  They’ve been at it for 8 years and so have loads of great inside info.  Cavtat was also close enough to Dubrovnik to go for a day trip – a win all around given the cost of marinas in Dubrovnik and the lack of anchorages near the city. 

Fortunately, the anchorage at Cavtat was also picturesque and quiet enough that we chose to spend some of our time just relaxing at anchor.  It was while we were hanging around doing not much at all that we heard the noise – a faint beep, beep, beep.  It was rather insistent, but not coming from our boat so we ignored it.  

A little while later we looked out at the anchorage and Janet said simply; “is that boat getting closer?”  A moments glance and we both knew the answer.  “That boat” was a large (by our standards) catamaran and it was heading straight for us.

You could almost see us connecting the dots, the beeping was an anchor alarm.  There was no one on the other boat.  If we didn’t do anything, it would hit us.  





Janet raced to grab a boat hook and fenders to try to fend off the other boat while I lowered our dinghy from the davits.  We didn’t have time to start our engines or try to move out of its path and at the last possible moment I was able to jam the dinghy between Maple and the crewless catamaran fending it off.  

With a little time successfully bought, I climbed aboard, leaving our dinghy tied to Maple and grabbed a mooring line thinking I could raft the heavy boat up to us until its owner returned but it was dragging by too quickly.  I jumped into the water to take the line to Janet so she could tie it off, but it was not to be.  Back to the dragging cat I went where I climbed out and made my way, dripping, to the helm station.

Fortunately, the engines did not require a key and I was able to start them both, tuning an anchorage missile into a reasonably controllable sea going vessel once more.  While I was doing this, another cruiser had come by in their dinghy to lend a hand and they started to raise the anchor.  We were making our way back into the anchorage to try to re-set the anchor when the owners of the vessel came racing out to us.

The rest of the event was a tad less dramatic, with 4 of us on board we reset the anchor and amid the thanks from our fellow travellers I learned that this had happened to them once before.  In spite of it all, they seemed rather non-plussed by the events and the knowledge that without intervention, their home would have ended up on the rocks. 

Turns out that they were in the habit of only setting a scope of 3:1, meaning they had let out 3 times as much chain as the depth of the water.  We had always been taught to work with 5:1 minimum which is what we had out, as did the other cruiser who had come to the rescue.  What’s more, the anchorage was known to have a weedy bottom suggesting a greater degree of caution when anchoring. 

Overall, I’m pretty proud of how Janet and I acted when we needed to.  When this all went down we’d been cruising for grand total of 1 month and yet we didn’t react like amateurs (at least I don’t think we did).  That said, there are some lesson to be learned here both from what we did right and what we did wrong:
  • Don’t ignore strange noises, even if they don’t come from your boat.
  • Anchor cautiously – nobody ever regretted being too conservative with their scope or size of ground tackle.  When you are placing the fate of your home on your anchor you need to be able to trust it
  • Act quickly, whether you do the right thing or the wrong thing, just do something.  Catastrophe won’t wait for you to make up your mind about the right course of actio
And oh yeah - we're the second kind of cruiser still (touch wood) but we're also cautious so here's hoping we can disprove the adage.