Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ann on a hill in Nuka Hiva Grounding in Fatu Hiva

This is a sailor’s worst nightmare. We were sleeping and were woken up with a mighty bang. We had no idea what was going on, just that something was terribly wrong. We had anchored at the island of Fatu Hiva, an absolutely gorgeous spot. The anchorage is fairly deep so we had gone close to shore and anchored in 35 feet of water, we had over 200 feet of chain out. We made sure we gave a really good pull on the anchor and we figured we were set. The first night there were not problems even though there were big gusts, we were set very well. Everyone was anchored rather close together and the night before the boat behind us had been touched by the fellow beside him. We went to talk to him about it and he said he thought we were too close and asked us to re-anchor. We quite liked where we were so instead of re-anchoring we pulled up 25 feet of chain, still a very acceptable ratio of chain to depth. Well I guess we should have re-anchored because that night we dragged.
Barry went up on deck to see what was going on and came down to inform me we were on the rocks. Oh my gosh, holy crap, what a horrible feeling. At that point I was on the floor, not sure if I had been thrown off the bed there, but I got up and found my glasses and raced upstairs. Barry was worried about the anchor and what it was doing, all I wanted to do was to start the engine and get away from the rocks. We could see the rocks sticking up right beside the boat, VERY UGLY. We got the motor started and as we were sideways and facing the shore I told Barry to try and back off. We went backwards and the swell caught us and mashed us down on the rocks again. When I looked again we were now backing towards the rocks, so I yelled for Barry to go forwards. We managed to motor right off, Barry had to get the anchor up, thankfully it was still there, and we had not lost it, only dragged. We motored around the area for about an hour. We had figured out that we did not want to re-anchor in the dark and after we had checked out the steering to make sure everything was working and figured out that we were not taking on any water, we decided to sail away to another anchorage about 6 hours away. We had been at that the anchorage we were headed for twice, knew the holding was good as well as the visibility, so we could dive the bottom and look at the damage.
We had no problems sailing to the other anchorage and the next morning we checked out the bottom. The keel has a chunk bit out of it, the fiberglass is ground up but it doesn’t look major. The skeg which holds the rudder is in worse shape. It has a crack in it ¾ of the way up and also the bronze boot which the skeg sits in has a crack all the way around it. This good cause the rudder to fall off and we would have no steering at all.
Yesterday we called a boat yard in Tahiti and we able to get a haul out date of May 20, 2 weeks from today. That will give us time to sail the 800 nm to get there and perhaps even stop at one of the atolls in the Tuamotos. Barry has decreed that we are going to sail very conservatively, not put any stress on the steering, reefing the sails so we never have any weather helm. Another Canadian boat, Tarun, friends from Vancouver Island have agreed to sail with us to Tahiti, so we will have help if something goes wrong. Our spirits are a little low at the moment but we could have lost the boat and been on our way home by now so there always is a bright side. We are at Nuka Hiva at the moment and will head to the north side today to the safest, calmest anchorage in the Marquesas to look at the bottom again and try and regain some semblance of balance and calm. We hope to leave for the Tuamotos is a couple of days, it will take us about 5 days to get there. We will keep in touch by sat phone. Barry slurping coconut milk that he had hacked open when we walked up to the waterfall.