Anchor and Chain….Found!

It was the third or fourth time we’ve looked for Elysium’s anchor system. The final two times I was invited out to look. I brought my tablet so we wouldn’t repeat any areas we had dragged in. The Royal Suva Yacht Club and Charlie’s Divers have been instrumental in removing the 5 lost anchors. Ours was the last and we were getting worried that it might not be found.
 
One huge issue is that I didn’t have the location where I dropped it. If you read the previous post you know that we had moved an hour before the storm arrived, it was calm and I wasn’t a bit concerned about where were were lat / long wise. Lesson Learned. When moving the boat and anchoring; have the charting program on!
 
So what I had been using was some common sense and the coordinates of other boats effected. What I was missing a bit was that we never dragged anchor. Princess Civa never forced the anchor out while pushing us downwind. I’m not sure the anchor would have come out considering how difficult it was to get out once found. I have a difficult time imagining the damage that might have occurred then!
 
It had been a week and with only one anchor left to be found there didn’t appear to be much impetus in locating it. But like the Bull Dog W/ sometimes becomes, I kept visiting them and asking when they would go looking…again.
 
Finally Friday pm Charlie (the owner) said we would go and I could come. I brought along my tablet with iSailor installed. Based on where the other anchors were found I thought we would be in that area. We dragged for about an hour picking up a another nice mooring line, a fishing net and lots of plastic. Charlie had another dive to do so we headed back and he said about 10 tomorrow we would look again.
 
That evening I sat and thought about where we were. I looked at where we had dragged already. Considering where I now thought it might be we never covered the correct area. It must be about where we anchored. Knowing where I thought we were and where we saw Princess Civa ram right into Sahula I put a new anchor on the chart. You can see it in the image posted.
 
Ten in the morning I was at the Yacht Club and no Charlie. Luckily I found someone that had his personal cell number and called. I didn’t get a hold of him but got his wife who would pass the message on to him. Thankfully he received the message and called back. He suggested a new time 3 pm same day. Ok. I’ll be here and back to the boat I went a little disappointed but glad he called and I wasn’t “stood up”.
 

iSailor instrumental in locating the anchor.

Three o’clock came and he showed up! I was ready. We headed out and I explained my new thinking. I showed Charlie where I thought I was anchored and the way we were when the wind was blowing. We started dragging the grapnel. Overboard the grapnel went and line paid out. We towed it from the bow, slowly moving backwards while iSailor charted where we were. Charlie watched the display and we picked up a couple of chunks of plastic. Stop, haul in the grapnel, clear the flukes and keep going. After we were far enough away we picked it up and moved again to where we could drag across the expected lay of the chain. Our main anchor system has 300’ of 3/8” High Test chain.

 
We’re going along and snag something… again. Stop the boat and haul it in. Francis (a friend of Charlies) was along to help. He’s pulling and it’s not easy. Charlie and I join him and we can’t get it up! Maybe? As we are lifting what ever it is higher and higher it is getting heavier and heavier; like chain would. Charlie decides to buoy it and get his dive gear. Back we go to the shop and 15 minutes later we return to the spot.
 
We pull it up as far as we can on the boat and cleat it off. Charlie is in the water to check. Yep, it’s chain and he’s concerned it’s not shiny. Nope; we don’t have SS chain but galvanized. Ok. He moves the line with the grapnel to the end of the chain and we haul it aboard. It looks like ours.
 
As we pull it aboard I see the white paint I have signaling the end of the chain. I see the line that blew apart when I let it go. I see the markers we added to know how much chain is out. Oh happy day! It’s ours!
 
We get all 260’ aboard and are stuck, the anchor is still set in the bottom. Charlie cleats it off on the work boat and pulls. We almost pull the bow of the boat under trying to break the anchor free. There is the possibility we might have to put the chain back in the water and bring Elysium over to retrieve it. He decided to reverse directions and pull from the opposite side we set the hook. Getting a bit of way on and giving it some hp, before the bow of the workboat swamped, the anchor broke free. Yippee!
 
The three of us haul the rest of the chain and anchor aboard. Luckily as we lift it off the bottom and get more chain in the boat the system gets lighter. We secure the anchor on the bow and the entire setup delivered to Elysium.
 
There we drop the anchor and chain in the water saving the bitter end for Elysium. Francis hands me the end and I drop it over the windlass making sure it doesn’t end up back in the water. W/ and I are aboard and we haul the rest of the chain and anchor up. Yeah! We can now move to get the rest of Elysium put back in order.
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

A Night to Forget!

Prelude: This post is out of sequence. I want to write it while fresh in my mind. As I add the offshore posts I will date them correctly but post in front of this before correcting the dates.

We arrived in Fiji. The GRIB’s showed off shore winds in the 20-30 kt range and we were happy to be here and anchored in Suva. We arrived in the am and by early afternoon we had received 5 individuals to formally complete the paper work. They were, Health, Biosecuirty, Immigration, Yacht Club launch driver, and what seemed like two trainees. All were very professional and all went well.

Second Wind offered to dinghy me to shore. I bought a small amount of petrol for our dinghy engine and disposed of our garbage. Very little of our trash is tossed overboard and we avoid carrying gasoline on passages. Gasoline is highly flammable and it’s one less safety item to worry about . While in harbors or day sailing we store it in proper plastic fuel containers on the aft deck.

Late afternoon we spent some time with Second Wind. We talked about the passage and discussing Fijian formalities. We talked about our trip around Fiji and what we were going. On our list is attending the wedding of friends, massages at our beloved Una, Kakonda (the best in Fiji) at Surf and Turf in Savu Savu, and completing the varnish.

Some of that has now changed.

We heard some thunder off shore and the breeze had increased a bit. Art from Second Wind returned us to Elysium. W/ was concerned about being to close to the super yacht Encore and with her provications and my acquiescence, we moved deeper into the harbor away from the super yacht. We were also in shallower water which improves our anchor scope. We moved, we got settled in for the evening and then the winds picked up.

And the winds increased more than we expected. It was later revealed to us that even Fiji Meteorological services missed this weather event. (A discussion on the event from an Aussie Meteorologists perspective)  W/ wanted to pull down the forward awning. Up we went to the bow and removed it all the while the winds kept increasing.

I began to untie the bow lines and W/ untied one of the side lines of the forward awning. At that time a gust picked up that side of the awning and knocked W/ on her derriere. Luckily she wasn’t hurt and came forward to assist on removing the awning. As we completed the removal I looked out and a 120’ steel ferry (Princess Civa) was being blown sideways by the wind heading

This vessel rammed our sailing yacht on the bow and then the port side.

right for us. My eyes lit up and a rush of adrenaline surged through me.

Scooping the awning up (no folding now) I dumped it in the cockpit and told W/ to start the engine. While she started the engine I went forward to deal with the anchor. The side of the ship was closing in. For a few seconds I thought the ship would slide off to our stern. It appeared that the stern was moving past us and we would escape in front of it. I let the anchor pendent go and W/ was now powering forward to clear the bow of the steel vessel. I am worried and scared. I saw that I needed our anchor and chain go. I let it go! The chain was flying over the pawls. I had a light safety line on the end of the chain so I would loose it to the bottom. The safety line I had attached blew apart when it reached the bitter end. The anchor and chain were gone taking with it two of the teak slats on the bowsprit. We were free from the bottom but the 150’ by 20’ side of the steel boat was now only meters away. I looked behind as the Princess Civa slammed into the bow of Sahula.

Sahula was another steel sailboat and we heard a huge bang. Seconds later the steel boat collided with us. We were about 30 degrees from perpendicular. First mv Princess Civa hit our bow pulpit bending it then collided with the bow sprit turning us immediately sideways. Next our hull was bouncing on the side of the steel motor vessel. We were now side on being pushed towards the shallows. But; we are still moving forward and I screamed above the wind noise to W/ to keep us going forward as fast as possible. We slid along the

Damage to our new paint on the port side.

steel hull ruining our brand new paint job. But; we were saving our boat and ourselves. As we slid along the side of the steel boat our rigging came in to contact with parts of the steel hull and sparks were flying off. I was concerned that if something sticking out of the ship was secured enough our rigging could catch and pull the mast down. 55’ of Aluminum crashing down on us was nothing we needed right now. Not now! Not ever!

Seconds later we cleared the bow of the steel boat. We were lucky they didn’t have a bulbous bow sticking forward underwater that we could run into. We were clear of the worst and now dealing with the winds, waves, and unlit obstructions in the harbor.

This marke passes our stern one to many times.

Attempting to motor into 40 kt winds with gusts of 60 and waves washing over the bow and me, is not an adventure I would wish on anyone. We motored by super yacht Encore who had blown aground by a shallows marker. They had their 800+ hp diesel running in full reverse throwing up water all around and screamed at us to “STAY THE FUCK AWAY’! No duh! Like that was our goal to hang out by them. W/ kept trying to keep our bow pointing in the wind but it would blow off to one side and then the other sometimes pushing her to gybe to gain steerage and the ability to make way. We kept seeing that shallows marker slide by the stern of the boat and we were spending too much time in the same place all the while feeling like we were going forward. I wanted to anchor and W/ wanted to power into the wind until the storm abated. Not knowing how long it would be and fearing that we didn’t have the energy (not accounting for the adrenaline) I wanted to anchor. We tried once to anchor once. I got our secondary anchor to the bottom and we settled down … for a few minutes.

I can’t believe when I see a cursing yacht with only one anchors on the bow. Our primary anchor is a Spade 80 with 300’ of 3/8” HT chain. Our secondary anchor is a 60 lb CQR with 130’ of 3/8” HT chain and 200’ of 3/4” braid on braid line. We were anchored in about 40’ of water and I put out roughly 200 feet of rode.

Our position on the chart plotter didn’t hold. It is still blowing the hair off a dog. I leave the protection of the dodger, W/ takes the helm and I begin the process of retrieving the anchor. 10 minutes later we have it up out of the water and we’re moving again. Not always in a good way. Our new arch and solar was only seconds from being destroyed. I’m trying to watch

In 40 kts of wind at night this is NOT good to run into!

the big picture and W/ is manning the helm. Above the wind I yell “FORWARD AS FAST AS WE CAN”. I see the marker pass feet from our stern. We motor into the wind into deeper water. We pass the bow of another steel vessel anchored and go up wind of Pebbles (the only yacht in our group not effected by the steel ship) We drop the anchor again. After paying out the 200’ of rode I’m afraid we are too close to Pebbles. We watch for a few minutes and I try to gain some rest. In this break from working W/ digs out my foul wx pants. I’m cold. I’m beginning to shiver. Adrenaline is keeping me going. W/ has a moment of being overwhelmed by emotion and starts shaking and crying. We’re safe. I hug her and we’re both thankful that we’re both here and alive; thankful Elysium on the bottom of the bay under the steel hull or pushed way up on the reef. Ten minutes later we decide that we are too close to Pebbles and pick up the anchor again. We’re both frightened enough to keep going.

I have a spot picked out on the charting program we use and we work our way up to it. There I anchor again. We fall back on the anchor, the line stretches and it holds. We begin to swing to the wind. I hide from the wind and rain behind the dodger and watch our track on the electronic chart. Ten minutes or thirty minutes later W/ shuts down the engine. Time hasn’t much meaning here. We go below. I bring up another program on a different device to watch our anchor position. I have two programs running. I watch our track on iSailor and we are filling in an Etch A Sketch area. We are staying in place.

Now almost 4 hours after it all began it appears the winds and seas are slowly abating. The gusts are not coming as frequently nor is the song the rigging is making as high pitched. We seek some solace in the land of dreams. Electrons screaming through our electronics are keeping watch. We sleep the needed sleep from a passage but the uneasy sleep from a night of horrors. Tomorrow we we see the damage not just of us but of our friends who we believe ended up in the shallows on the reef.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Minerva Reef

What a fascinating place. Cruisers everywhere love to talk about it as if they’ve reached Nirvana once there. Nirvana; it is not. Fascinating it is.

We arrived in the early am. The only entrance for boats is on the W side and quite easy to transit. I wouldn’t do it at night, even having a gps track. There are no man made navigational aids in the channel. In daylight you can see the reef shallows. At night not. Further; at night you don’t see any of the eddies from water flowing out of the lagoon.

Waves breaking on the outside of the reef.

And water is always flowing out of the lagoon. Slower during High Tide and faster during Low Tide. That’s because while the volcano rim acts as a fringing reef it is not high enough above the surf break to keep water out. Twenty four hours per day waves are breaking against and over the reef all the way around.

And for us; anchored anywhere in the lagoon provides plenty of slop. Generally there are 2 High Tides and 2 Low Tides per day. With the low tides the wave breaks on the outer rim of the volcano washing over the top. There is constant flow of water over the top but limited wave action gets through. This flow of water reaches the inside lip and there we have a constant 1-2’ water fall. The sounds of the waves against the reef or the water fall is 24/7. Not what one would think of as … peaceful!

During High Tide the waves and seas break against the outer rim still. The main energy is taken away and spread over a larger area. This energy continues with the smaller waves inside the lagoon. The smallish waves create a constant washing machine. The motion wasn’t bad enough to keep us away but it was down right annoying.

Remember – I complained about no shake downs. Three of our items never checked are; the dinghy, the 15hp engine and the 2 1/2 hp engine. There are more items still not checked but here those are the ones important. Besides that; we prefer to not travel off shore with gasoline on board. This left us at the mercy of other cruisers. Fortunately Art and Nancy from sv Second Wind were kind enough to share their dinghy ride to the top of the volcano rim and to do a day’s snorkeling.

They day after we arrived we were lucky. Those in the lagoon were lucky. The Tongan Navy arrived and said they had planned to do some war games here. Every yacht would need to move to S. Minerva. Yuck! They never told us. South Minerva is 30 nm S of where we are and not as well protected from the seas. Moving there requires motoring into the winds and the seas. I said we were lucky. One of the yachts here was a leader in the rally from New Zealand to Tonga. The rally had planned a stop in North Minerva and they had permission from the Tongan King! Whew. When they informed the Navy of the Kings permission they asked the sailors to clear the change with the Tongan King. Wisely the sailors might be in their interest to play the war games at South Minerva. Sometimes we are lucky. Sometimes.

A wide reef top at N. Minerva

The top of the rim was wider than I would have guessed. We arrived; secured the dinghy and stepped up to a river of ocean water flowing into the lagoon. Depth; about 1-2 feet. In reality Lewis (Quizotic Charters) told me to look for lobsters under the coral bommies on the volcano rim. We all were hoping for a nice haul. All were disappointed. I looked, Art looked, W/ looked. Nancy and Keith (sv Sadiqi) were smart enough to not be too enamored with looking. We were snookered. None, Nada, Zip.

We had always heard how abundant lobsters were here. Ha! You could fool me. I guess it’s like land in Arizona or Florida; how wonderful and “cheap” it is. That is …until you try to live there or build there.

Wendy, Keith, Nancy, and Art

We didn’t find lobsters there. What we found was a world of constant motion. Water flowing over the rim as a stream over shallows. At low tide the waves broke on the outside of the volcano rim and wash atop of it. The flow was continuous to the lagoon. During high tide it was rougher and a bit deeper over the rim. Yet the reef broke up the seas to a barely tolerable action such that one could hide inside in relative safety. We’ve friends that have stayed anchored in winds up to about 40 kts. I wouldn’t want to be there then. That however doesn’t mean it is unsafe. Uncomfortable maybe, not unsafe. The winds were changing to the east so we moved from the S lee to the E lee. There we would spend another couple of days watching the weather and looking for passage N.

After returning to the boats another fellow cruiser stopped by. They gifted a HUGE Lobster each to sv Second Wind and us. How sweet it is. They are lobster fishermen from the S. Island in NZ and I guess they mostly have had enough anyway. That evening everyone arrived at our boat to share in the feast. Yum!

Daily we looked for weather window heading to New Cal but Mother Nature was having none of it. Time and again we would think this was it and prepare to go. Time and again, David from Gulf Harbor Radio and the GRIBS would say “oh-oh”. A Low is forming between New Cal and Fiji or there is a mean frontal system that is arriving there in the next couple of days. We waited.

After being in Minerva for over a week, limited on what we could do, looking for a way out, we made a sacrifice. We decided we would burn the diesel if need be and motor to…. Fiji That opportunity to motor came and we left. Fiji it is.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long