Saving a Boat from the Rocks!
This is more of a Mike story. He was front and centre as the events unfolded last week. One of three sailors who jumped into their dinghies to save a 41-foot unmanned sailboat drifting through our anchorage towards a rocky shore. While this stunning boat rescue took place, Ocean and I waited on Wild Horses, eyes and binoculars glued to it all.
I will back up a bit. Mike, Ocean and I were enjoying a lazy, sunny afternoon on Wild Horses. The wind had been strong and gusty the night before, with lots of direction changes, keeping us more alert than we care to be in the wee hours of the night 😊. We don’t particularly worry about our anchor dragging – we have excellent ground tackle (oversized Rocna and all-chain rode) and we are meticulous about our anchoring technique (anchor well set in the lake bed and enough chain out for the worst weather of our stay). That being said, blips can happen, including other boats becoming unanchored. So, when the weather picks up, we don’t assume all is okay. We check. Hence, some nights we get a little less sleep than we prefer.
The next day, the wind had calmed down a bit but the gustiness and wind shifts continued. There were only a few boats in our anchorage, most had been there for several days, a few for over a week. Two large sailboats, familiar to us from other anchorages, were rafted together the previous night. That morning they separated the boats and we watched as both crew climbed aboard one of the boats and headed out of the anchorage for a day of sailing. This left one of their boats anchored and empty. Not unusual. We do it all the time when we take Ocean to shore, or when we do a dinghy run to get provisions.
But later that morning, the situation changed.
Mike did his regular scan of the anchorage (Anyone arrive? Anyone leave? Anything we need to be aware of?) and, lo and behold, the boat that had stayed behind was no longer in the spot where it was left anchored that morning. It was drifting with no one aboard…and was headed for one of the islands nearby. It’s eventual resting stop? A very rocky shoreline (!) or a boat house with a low roof that clearly would not support a large sailboat mast (!!). Significant damage was going to occur.
Mike turned on our VHF, ready to hail the buddy boat that had left to go sailing earlier that day. To our relief, another boat in the anchorage was already making the hail call. We had help. Mike and the other sailor got in their dinghies and rushed over to the unmanned boat. A third sailor joined within a few minutes. VHF hails to the buddy boat continued.
Mike used our dinghy to keep the boat off the rocks while one of the other sailors boarded the boat. Plan A was to start the engine, move the boat to safety and re-secure the anchor. The unmanned boat was easily boarded and the boat keys were in the ignition (yes!). The engine started up right away but…the boat had no forward propulsion. Weird. Okay so perhaps there will be more success with the anchor. Nope. The electric anchor winch (aka the windlass) was turned off at the breaker…inside the boat. Sorry, inside the locked boat. Not good. Ground tackle on big boats is heavy, far too heavy to lift manually. Without the windlass, the anchor could not be lifted. Without forward propulsion, the boat could not be moved. On to Plan B.
The alternate plan was to use the dinghies to guide the boat to a wooden dock adjacent to the boat house. A difficult maneuver in a strong current and with a dragging anchor, but all three sailors were keen to try. They were not going to let any damage happen to the boat. They treated it like it was their own.
Just then, thankfully, mercilessly, wonderfully, the boat that had left in the morning came around the corner. The captain of our drifting boat had returned. There was definite shock on their faces as they realized the situation. The crew hadn’t heard the VHF hails.
But there was still a drifting boat to secure. Mike went up alongside the returning boat and collected our missing captain. He was quickly shuttled to his drifting boat. But there was indeed a problem with the boat’s forward propulsion. Wildly enough, his boat propeller had actually fallen off the day before. Umm, no propeller is kind of a big deal. It means no propulsion and no steerage. Losing your propeller is not a common occurrence…but there you have it. No propeller. This was new information to Mike and the other sailors but our captain had been working around this problem for at least 24 hours, aided by his buddy boat of course. They secured a tow rope to the drifting boat and readied the boats.
The anchor was then lifted and the now-not-drifting boat was towed back to its original spot in the anchorage. As a thank you, the captain gave a bottle of wine to each of the three sailors. Nice!
Boat secured. Issue resolved. Just another day in paradise. 😊
Side note: All involved wore masks during the rescue. It is also interesting that there were two boats self-isolating in our anchorage that day. Both had returned from the United States (and Bahamas before that) and were at various stages of their 14-day quarantine. Neither left their boat during their quarantine period, not even to go ashore for a quick stretch of their legs. No one was policing their actions, checking that they abided by Covid restrictions. They did it because they were asked to. And by doing so they did their part to limit the spread of Covid 19. Part of the solution. Yeah Canada!
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Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.