January 14, 2011.
I just realized that my brother Mike and our dog Tucker share the same birthday. Different litters, years apart but Happy Birthday to you both.
There have been a few days of feisty easterlies blowing. Here behind Hog Cay we have excellent protection from about NNE down to SSE. We can get close enough to the cay to allow only a tiny wind chop and virtually no roll. Several of the boats in the Jumentos are hiding here with us. About a dozen boats in all with one notable exception….
Early yesterday morning we heard the captain of Jubilee announcing that he had a bit of a problem. They had decided to stay up in Double Breasted Cay during this spat of 20 to 25 knot northeast breeze. On their third night something went terribly wrong. Their anchor broke free during the night and as they slept they dragged over a quarter of a mile and ended up in the shallows along Big Pigeon Cay.
The captain deployed 2 anchors in an effort to keep his boat from being swept even further towards the rocky shoreline. He was looking for a little help from Dyad. Dyad is a HUGE aluminum powercat that spends a good portion of the winter in these parts. The thing looks like a giant grey sinister vessel of some type of military group. The tide was due to be high at 1600 hours and Dyad agreed to make the 2 hour trip to Double Breasted Cay to help in time for the high tide.
The captain of Jubilee sounded as if he had things under control as he was peppered with questions from several boats in the area. A little later while he was busy trying to save his boat his wife got on the radio and her voice told a different story. She was composed but there was a little angst in her voice. She said they were heeled over at a 45 degree angle towards the iron shore. She said that she could reach out and actually touch the iron shore from her cockpit as the boat sat there firmly on the bottom at low tide. I figured that as the tide came in things were going to get worse for them so I decided that I had to try and help.
We were due south with the wind honking out of the northeast. By dinghy it was about a 4 mile blast. As I loaded our big Fortress FX-37 anchor and a 200 foot anchor rode into the dinghy Mike from Sapphire and Klaus from Lucky Touch hailed Jubilee and told them that they were on their way to help. They were anchored up at Raccoon Cay and were faced with the prospect of a 2 mile dinghy ride south through unprotected, very rough water. I put my wetsuit on and headed north with Steve from Fine Lion close behind me.
As I got close enough to actually see the situation I almost cried. The boat was within 6 inches of the unforgiving iron shore. She was laying on her port side with the masts both looming over the cay and a nasty wind driven chop pounding at her starboard side trying to drive her to certain destruction. Ten minutes against that shoreline was sure to reduce Jubilee to a shipwreck.
Jubilee only draws 3 feet and when I arrived at dead low tide I could see the entire propeller and at least half of the rudder as she lay on her side. I tossed the bitter end of my anchor rode to the guys up on the bow and then took my Fortress FX-37 out as far as I could about 20 degrees off the starboard bow.
After anchoring my dink in the lee of the cay I approached Jubilee and saw just how close they were to disaster. Jubilee had come to rest in a perfect right angle area of the shoreline. Two thirds of the entire port side of the vessel was within a foot of the ironshore with some protrusions being less than 6 inches away. The first thing I did was to move along the length of the boat with a hammer and pound the iron shore to break off chunks in an effort to get us a little extra wiggle room.
After that we went about securing the boat as best we could so she wouldn’t slide either aft or to port as the tide came back. The anchor off the bow was run back to the port side winch. The anchor off the starboard bow was run to the windlass while the remaining anchor went straight into the starboard side winch. All three rodes were piano wire tight and a spring line was tied to the iron shore in an effort to keep the swim platform and rudder from being destroyed as the elements conspired to drive Jubilee backwards.
As the tide slowly started to fill, the biggest challenge made itself apparent. The full keel was firmly on the bottom but as the water started to slowly rise the entire boat would lift just a wee bit and smash back down on the side of the hull as each wave passed. At first it was just an annoying “bumping” but as each minute passed the bumping became a pounding.
Mike had a brilliant idea and went in search of some lumber. He came back with a 3” x 6” piece of wood that was 6 feet long. I was able to wedge it under the port side transom and up onto the iron shore. As the boat lifted I could shove it under and instead of the boat free falling back onto the bottom as the wave passed the wood flexed and cushioned the boats decent.
As the tide slowly rose I had to add more and more pieces of wood that the guys had gathered. I spent more than an hour juggling pieces of wood that tried to float away every time the swirling waters surged in and out from under the boat. Fortunately, by the time that the large plank broke, the water under the hull was deep enough that the hull wasn’t pounding on the bottom with each swell. All the while the other guys had been patiently working the windlass and winches in an effort to keep the anchor rodes tight as the boat started to stand back up.
Unfortunately, as the water rose the boat started to get a bit livelier and it became apparent that we had to flop the boat onto her starboard side to get her away from the iron shore. We were also hoping that once she was on her starboard side we would be able to winch her to deeper water while dragging her keel across the bottom. We accomplished this by using 2 of the remaining boards. We wedged the upper ends under the port side rub rail and as the boat swayed away from us we would work the low end of the board across the rough shorelines surface. While the winches were kept tight we inched the boat upright as the tide rose steadily higher. Finally when she was about 15 degrees port of upright we managed to flop her away from the iron shore. It was a huge step forward for us. Now we had close to 8 feet between the port side and the rocky shoreline. We were still only 8 inches away at the stern but it was the best we could hope for. As if on cue, Dyad appeared around the corner…….
Klaus had brought 300 foot of 1” towline with them so Mike and Steve tied it to a bridle on the bow and started to tow it in the dinghy out towards Dyad where she sat out in deeper water. I went out to Dyad and took a 1” inch line from them and dragged it in to meet Mike & Steve. Once we tied the lines together Dyad went to work.
Back on board we tightened anchor lines as Dyad dialed up the power in an effort to pull Jubilee to safety. After 4 minutes of tugging the towline parted. It had chaffed through where it came through Dyads hawse hole. As we rerigged the towline to try again the water was approaching high tide. It was now or never.
As Dyad again took up the slack in the line we all started to crank down on the anchor rodes. Suddenly Jubilee spun on her keel about 30 degrees to starboard. While her bow swung away from the shore her stern swept instantly in towards shore. The eight feet of space we had earned by flopping the boat was now reduced to a few measly inches. The port stern quarter was so close to the rocks that it made me sick to look at the tiny gap. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t hit the rocks but miraculously we hadn’t.
We resumed cranking with renewed vigor and WHOA, Jubilee lurched forward about 8 feet before grinding to a halt again. Two minutes later the bottom finally released its grip and we floated free. It quickly turned into a Chinese fire drill as everyone released their anchor rodes and threw the bitter ends overboard as Dyad towed us to deeper water.
Once Jubilee was running we dropped the towline and headed back across the bay to anchor. After the hook was dropped and set we headed out in the dinks to retrieve the spring line and the 3 anchors we had left behind. Then it was a long dinghy ride home followed by a huge plate of lobster lasagna.
If not for the timely appearance of Dyad I don’t think that we would have gotten Jubilee out of her predicament. I was tired and mentally exhausted, I can’t begin to imagine the range of feelings that Dave & Pam of Jubilee went through…..