If its Going to Happen…

To introduce the cruising lifestyle to landlubbers, we often recommend the film documentary that best describes the experiences, challenges and joys of such a life. The film accurately delves into the peculiarities of living aboard a sailboat that is capable of self-sufficient life and travel around the world. It touches on the many characters that you meet and the problems that arise. The basic personal requirements that are needed to survive in such a sea environment for a family are clearly demonstrated.

The film documents a family of four with an experienced captain sailing in the Caribbean. It is filmed aboard a Formosa 51 sailboat. The boat is in the familiar William Garden full keel clipper bow “pirate stern” design, much like Kalunamoo. We first saw a Formosa 51 a number of years ago in the Bahamas in Green Turtle Cay and had an afternoon aboard with its owner (the founder of Filter Boss, the marine fuel filter company).

One of the Salty Dawg Rally Boats that came down this year from Virginia, Moondance, is here in Falmouth and so we got a chance to see another Formosa 51 up close. A pleasant sundowner evening was spent with Carl and Shanna on Moondance which they have owned for about 15 years.

Here are some pictures from the documentary to get an idea what these boats look like. The first picture shows the condition of that boat, Wanderer, when the family first purchased it. Obviously, it need some  sprucing up. The second picture is the hired professional captain they hired to help them sail the boat to Florida. The third is the vessel underway after being spruced up and taking on some friends for a sail.

The second set of pictures shows the beautiful local and empty anchorages one finds in the Islands, a shot of the engine room and finally, a picture showing how to use the confined spaces on these boats to best advantage.

  Here are some pictures of Moondance:

Moondance at anchor
Maureen and Carl

All this came to mind, yesterday when we were ashore and Diane from the sailboat Tiki Tour ran to us, bare foot, and reported that Kalunamoo went walkabout! In other words, it apparently dragged its anchor and was on its way to sea. What came to mind was “If its going to happen, its going to happen out there”, the sage advice of the professional captain of that documentary! It did happen “out there” but not with us aboard! Diane and her husband Dave quickly dinghied ashore to look for us, saw our dinghy at the dinghy dock and took a guess at where we were”: down the road at a market for their free WiFi.

Diane said not to worry but a pan-pan call on the VHF radio alerted other cruisers in the anchorage of the wayward Kalunamoo. A number of them went out and lassoed Kalunamoo and pulled it a mooring ball to secure it to end its wayward wanderings. We quickly went to our dinghy, put the key into the lock that chained us to the dock, broke the key in the lock and couldn’t use the dinghy. We jumped into Tiki Tour’s dingy and went out to Kalunamoo which still had a few of the dinghies around her that had helped her.

The first thing I noted is that there was no anchor chain hanging off the bow. Usually if a boat drags it just means the anchor lost holding and the boat just drags it along the bottom. Kalunamoo didn’t have the chain or the anchor!

The first thing I needed to do was go back to the dinghy dock and hacksaw the expensive stainless steel lock to release our dinghy. After that we needed to retrieve the 200 feet of anchor chain and an anchor that was somewhere in the harbor. Since I was sure the anchor didn’t drag it must be where Kalunamoo was when it lost the ground tackle. A call on the VHF to other cruisers was made as the more divers and snorkelers involved the more chance of locating the anchor.

Unfortunately, we anchored in a “hole” over 20 feet deep in the harbor where the water is not clear. This made “free diving” very difficult to search for the anchor or chain. I made a few attempts and barely made it to the bottom. Visibility was only about 3 feet. I quickly lost hold of a gaff, I was going to use to snag the chain, if I located it, so now that was lost to the bay. Fortunately, Dave on Tiki Tour had a small hooker so he could dive and Matt on Amajen had a scuba tank that he used to search the bottom. It didn’t take too long for Dave to locate the anchor after I estimated where it should be. He attached a marker buoy as Matt tracked the chain to its bitter end. I then went back to Kalunamoo and brought the boat back to the “scene of the crime”. A line from the end of the chain was brought to the anchor windlass to haul the chain back on board. All was squared away and Kalunamoo was again safely anchored.

Many thanks to the cruisers that answered the call for “all hands” to help in this situation. It is comforting to know that when help is needed fellow cruises come running! This included the cruisers from Tiki Tour, Numada, Roxy, Moondance, Amajen and other cruisers I never met.

How did this happen? Well, the anchor chain hook that the snubber line is attached to fell off the chain. This occasionally happens when the wind dies and there is no strain on the anchor chain. It has happened in the past. The snubber takes the strain of the chain to cleats, relieving the anchor windlass, which is not designed to take that much strain. The problem was that I did not tighten the brake on the windlass or have another chain stopper to stop the chain from running out if the hook failed. My error!

After a very still period a squall came thru while we were ashore. Without a chain stopper the 200’ anchor chain ran out. The bitter end of the chain was married to 100 feet of 3 strand rope. Unfortunately, the splice to connect the two was done quickly when we replaced the chain in Guadeloupe last January. It was on the list to be redone in Trinidad when the boat was on the hard. Of course, we never made Trinidad this year and so I never thought about it. So human errors (me) have to take the blame.

It all turned out OK despite the fact that Kalunamoo was surround by shoals. It was heading toward the reefs at the harbor entrance. The quick action of fellow cruisers saved the day. We will go to BB’s today and invied all who helped to drinks on Kalunamoo’s tab.

At the end of the documentary, it was learned that these experiences add to the learning curve of cruising. And yes, it always happens “out there”. Oh, the name of the documentary? Capt’n Ron.

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