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A very bad night

Anchoring is a perilous exercise when there is a lot of boats around : as proof, our adventure in this post.

 

This evening, comes a big storm. Normal, given the stifling temperature and the overcast sky since two days. The wind in this cirque surrounded by mountains is surprising: sometimes the boats are pointing in opposite directions.


Just in time, we close the portholes and put in the fenders: the music of the rain on the roof and the frantic dance of the boats begins.

Under a storm, the wind changes directions, a lot, and boats too.: the problem is that the anchoring circles are intersecting... Obviously, all the crews are on deck, each one monitoring the movements of the other boats to avoid them. Everyone adapts as he can, shortening the chain, lengthening it, relieving the anchor with the engine or even leaving. Lightning and torrents of water are falling and we see with concern a steel ketch of at least 15m, named Creo, which must weigh 30 tonnes, approaching and banging against the dinghy, without doing any damage. We decide to shorten the chain to avoid it next time. 30m should be enough, as the weather forecast predicts gusts to 25 in the night between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.


At 10 p.m., we have gusts to 21/22 knots: consistent with forecasts. We fall asleep, peacefully.


1h45: gusts to 30 knots from the mountain. A foghorn sounded to our starboard side. Is this our 30 ton neighbor? We rush out: no! A sailboat is ramming another neighbor. As far as we are concerned, the anchor is holding and we now remain at a constant distance from Creo.


2:05 a.m.: Gusts at 32. Screams all over the water: many boats shift and leave their place by moving away from their anchorage, some try to maintain their area under motor, or even leave the basin. There is breaking and shouting towards the rocks.


2:36 a.m.: Gusts to 41. The number of boats at anchor is decreasing visibly. Some boats make circles in the water while waiting for a lull: at night and with all these boats trying to escape, it is more and more risky to weigh anchor... We took an alignment between our neighbor's mast and 2 light points on land to check the position of the boat, which for the moment is stable.


3h: Gusts at 45. We're still holding on. 5 hours since the gale started. Who told us that this type of unforeseen gale wouldn't last?

I shift with the captain. In bed I get used to the little quiver of the boat when it pulls to the limit of the chain and the sound of the chain being abused.


3:30 a.m. the anchor alert screams. I hear our engines start but I still have some hope: the captain must want to relieve the chain. And then there is banging on the hull and shouting outside... I rush out of the cabin: a large ketch is approaching from our front and its crew, from the rear deck, is waving at us, screaming over the wind. What are they doing here so close to us?


But behind us, a few meters away, there is now a pontoon and the light of a military zone sign : we have crossed half of the port basin: our anchor has unhooked and we are getting closer to the ketch, and very quickly ! With engines at full throttle, I manage to avoid the military pontoon on one side and the ketch on the other. The captain has to raise the anchor while I try to negotiate with the gusts, the neighboring boats and the pontoon. The ketch screams at us that our chain is tangled with theirs: we have two minutes to sacrifice it : we need to undid the chain on the boat side, place a rope to be able to recover it later and cut the mooring lines. The boat is now free ! I manage to get out of the dangerous zone and to avoid the many sailboats that make circles, trying to maintain a position despite the incessant gusts: the effort of concentration will be difficult to maintain in the long term.


We decide to leave the shelter and head out to sea. The wind is from the south: it comes from the mountains and will not have had time to create swell: a catamaran has too much wind resistance in this overcrowded basin: it is too dangerous to stay.

The boat, without sails or engine, passes the course at 8 knots. No swell outside, great! But just behind the cape a large orange glow: lightning falt on the forest : it is burning!


Still without sails and engine, we maintain an average speed of 8 knots, with a route perpendicular to the coast: sufficiently far from the coast, the wind gradually drops from 4:30 a.m.: 25, 20, 16 and 11 knots. : calm.

In 2 hours it will be daylight. In the meantime, we let ourselves drift away from the coast, dozing, relieved.

In the early morning, we turn around. We savor the sunrise like a big reward.

On the way back, we come across two lonely motor boats adrift off the coast: the night was bad for everyone !

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2 Comments


christine9383
Apr 05

Hello Alison, it was two years ago, in Majorca. Well I had promised to post some "real" troubles.

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Alison Bouhmid
Alison Bouhmid
Mar 29

Goodness me, this sounds absolutely terrifying. Enough to put off a non-sailor like myself for life. I'm sure you did appreciate the sunrise. What a relief. Where did this all take place?

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