An Long And Stressful Night

After the squall passed through, the winds went calm for a few hours. They picked up significantly at sunset, as predicted, and Scott decided to spend the night on anchor watch in the pilot house. We were confident in the Hulk, but wanted to keep an eye out for others who may come our way overnight.

I checked on Scott a little after midnight, and all was well. Just before 4am, the movement of the boat in stronger winds woke me up, and I went to check on Scott. He’d dozed off, so I woke him to ask how things were going. He said that our anchor was fine, and things seemed to be good. I saw something out of the corner of my eye, on our starboard side. It was the white hull of a catamaran, just off of our paravanes…not good! Scott looked to the port side, and there was a catamaran there as well! What are the chances that two boats began to drag at the same time, and came down either side of us?!? Thankfully, both had missed hitting us.

The catamaran off of our port side immediately started their engines, and began to move off….whew. The one off of our starboard, however, was not as quick to respond. Their anchor had caught, and they seemed content to try and stay there until it was light, which did not make Scott happy. We went out onto the cockpit, and saw them putting fenders out alongside their boat. I guess they were preparing for possible impact. Scott shouted for them to start their motors, and re anchor. We got a response in frenzied French…great.

Our paravanes were still out, and the French couple kept gesturing at them, and then talking to each other. We hoped that the threat of contact with the paravanes would urge them to start up and move away. Suddenly, their anchor let loose, and they were adrift again, heading quickly for our neighbor behind us.

We hailed Barry, on Sea Swift, to let him know about the possible threat. The catamaran didn’t have an anchor light on, so it was nearly impossible to see them coming (an even bigger pet peeve for Scott). Scott hesitated for a second, in case we’d wake him, but Barry instantly responded to our vhf call, and I realized that no one in the anchorage was sleeping at this point. Finally, the catamaran started their motors and moved to re-anchor. Both boats ended up ahead of us, but stayed put for the rest of the night.

I was now continually scanning our area of the anchorage through binoculars, for any boats that had come loose. Not long after the catamarans cleared out, I spotted a sailboat coming through the anchorage beam-to (sideways) at a fast clip. It’s scary to see a boat coming through at a fast pace, with those aboard scrambling like mad to raise anchor and regain control before hitting someone or running aground. The boat was headed for another one of our neighbors, and Scott hailed Lucky Seven to warn them. Again, we received an immediate response; everyone was definitely awake and on high alert. The people aboard the moving boat regained control, and headed off to another part of the anchorage.

By now, it was nearly dawn, and we were thankful that the coming daylight would make it easier for us to see anyone drifting our way. Just as the skies were becoming light, our “friend” from the squall appeared, dragging beam-to through the anchorage. They’d been anchored up ahead of us, and held all night in the strong winds, but had now let loose and were heading for our friends on Skylark.

They missed hitting Skylark, thankfully, but snagged their anchor. Reacting in a flash, Ed tied a buoy to his anchor line,  so that he could locate it later, and then cut it loose. The dragging boat, which now had Ed’s anchor and the cut line tangled with it, moved past Skylark without further incident. Having to go back for an anchor later is much better than colliding with a boat, or being drug along with it; incredibly fast thinking on Ed’s part!

Unfortunately, our next neighbor was not so lucky. The boat was still moving along, beam-to (again, sideways) and was headed right for Calcutta. Igor is alone on the boat, and had gone down to try and sleep, after having been up all night. He was awakened by a jolt from the impact of the dragging boat. The couple on board had been asleep as well. They were now awake, but doing nothing to help the situation. Calcutta is much smaller, and the two boats were now tangled together. Igor went below, and appeared again with a sizeable board, that he used to try and dislodge himself from the lumbering boat that was now caught on his bow pulpit. I was in too much shock as to what was happening to poor Igor to take any photos, so I’m borrowing one that Skylark took. It’s a bit blurry, as she snapped it in haste during the may lay, but you get the idea.

Ed, from Skylark, got into his dinghy and went to help. He ended up pulling the man from the dragging boat out of the water, who had jumped in for God knows what reason, and could not get back on his boat. Still caught, Calcutta was now dragged along with the larger boat into a third boat on a nearby mooring. The two slid along the third boat, and with the help of Ed, and Kevin, from Lucky Seven, Calcutta finally managed to free itself. The dragging boat had finally started their motors, and again raised their anchor to relocate.

The winds were still whipping, and now poor Igor had a mess to deal with. He’d cut his second anchor line, in an attempt to get free of the dragging boat, but his primary anchor ended up tangled around the line of the moored boat. By now, our neighbor Rick, from Angel Eyes, had come to help as well. He got on board with Igor, and Kevin stayed in his dinghy, and they finally managed to get the anchor free, up, and back down again in a new spot.

It upset Scott that he was not able to go and help Igor. We’d loaded the Aluminum Princess onto the flybridge for the coming weather, in case we had to move quickly or pull the anchor. The motor for our inflatable dinghy is not nearly powerful enough to maneuver in the strong winds. However, since our pilot house sits higher above the water, and we look through glass rather than canvass, we hoped that it helped to be able to warn others.

As all of this was going on, another boat was dealing with a medical emergency. There was confusion on the radio as to how serious it was, but eventually it was understood that the man was having a heart attack. The dinghies nearby were helping Igor on Calcutta, and were unaware of the situation. Another cruiser, at a marina in the lagoon, lowered his dingy and sped toward the anchorage. In the meantime, Elizabeth on Skylark alerted one of the dinghies with Calcutta, and Kevin sped over to assist. After a trip to the local clinic, and then a transport by ferry and ambulance to the hospital in Cancun, it was determined that Harold had experienced angina. He was back aboard his boat and doing well later that afternoon.

It was by far our most stressful evening yet. We finally have confidence in our anchor, and Scott’s placement of it and of our chain, but in a crowded anchorage, we are always worried of others dragging. It is maddening to strain through binoculars into the blackness, constantly scanning for each anchor light, making sure that everyone is still in place.

By the next evening, the winds had subsided a bit, and everyone’s anchor had stayed put for the day, so Scott abandoned the pilot house for our bed. We brought the iPad with us. Scott uses it to plot our anchor and it’s swing. It has become his “wooby” at night. We checked it several times throughout the night, and I did a few quick scans in the pilot house, but all was quiet. We, and the rest of the fleet, enjoyed a good night’s sleep. I think we’ve all earned some flat-calm!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

3 thoughts on “An Long And Stressful Night

  1. I hope somebody now gets on the VHF or visits the new arrivals to alert them about the soft bottom issues! Scott seems like the perfect man for that job. 😉

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  2. Great post, Caroline. Your video clip gives a good picture of what it’s like when a boat bears down on you. Scott’s vhf radio warnings to the other boats in the fleet during the squall and approaching cold front were invaluable…at least to those of us who were alert and listening.

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