We’ve moved, not far but we’ve moved across the reef. There is a reef dividing Isla Linton and the Isthmus and a small passage with deep enough water through it for us to get to the other side without having to go out and around the island. We moved and within that is the good and bad.
We’re planning on the following am to leave for the San Blas Islands, Kuna Yala and it will be nice to have navigated passed the reef in good light. What we didn’t expect that our cell phone connection there would be so poor we can’t get the internet to get the local radar and wx info. We easily get the off shore information with the Pactor Modem and the Icom 802 SSB radio but the local stuff is what we really need. I did look at it before we moved and all looked good but that is 24 hours out and here in the rainy season local wx is good for about 6 hours.
The next am looks good. That is there is no rain, same wind, and the Sun is out. We leave before any of the am SSB and Ham nets and are passed Isla Grande before 8 am. Not soon after the nets we get a call from Reggie on Runner and he tells us that there was a good squall in Kuna Yala with winds to 45 kits and move E. We’re committed and we’re prepared. So far we’ve had 4-6′ swells and a light wind chop. We fully expected that to change. Less then an hour later we’re motoring into head winds of 20-30 and we’ve slowed down to 3.5 -4.5 kits with the engine ticking along at I’m guessing 1500. Remember we’re out a tac as the last attempt to fix went bust! We watch our course, watch the wind hoping to be able to pull out the headsail but all is like spitting into the wind. No luck on missing the mess. We’re all of a couple of km offshore and we’re still heading E. The wind is slowly abating but not as fast as either of us would like and by 12 we’re putting along at 5-6 kits. By 2 we’re inside the Esconoba Shoals and they’re breaking up the swell quite a bit. The wind chop is back to the 2 foot range and we’re making good time. We expect to be in the West Lemmons before dark. Traveling around in Kuna Yala after dark is much so much like Roulette. Yeah, sometimes you might win, many times you might survive but there is always the possibility of going belly up. We planned on making it in before dark and we will.
Now anchored in the West Lemmons we settle in for a calm evening and a trip to the Hollandaisse Cays in the am. There we’ll see Passsport (IB and Becca) again who we’ve not seen for 6 months, We’ll be near new friends (Hans and Susan on NautiBear) we met in ShelterBay and we’ll eventually run into Mike and Gloria on Respite who we tried to catch leaving ShelterBay a day behind them only to have the Battery and solve our WaterMaker issue.
Safely anchored in about 20 m of water with 60 meters of chain out we’re feeling rather secure for the evening. Another boat is coming in the same pass we did and from my vantage point they’re a little close to the S reef. I see the boat jerk like it was struck in the face and then see it jerk again. It begins a rapid turn; the WRONG way, into the reef. There I see it come to a complete stop like it hit a wall and it did; but the wall wasn’t at the bow of the boat but at the bottom. As the slight swell heading out of the N feels the bottom and creates a surf the boat is being pushed up farther into the shallow water. We don’t have any dinghy in the water so I make a call to the boats in the anchorage telling them there is a boat on the reef in the W. Lemmons on the W side and they could use some serious help now. It doesn’t seem like anyone of the 50 boats in here is responding so put out the call again and see a couple of the larger dinghy’s with larger engines begin to move towards the now fully grounded boat. They arrive and discuss the issue and nothing seems to be happening fast. Fast is what’s needed as the swell is putting her farther and farther up on the reef.
The dinghy’s tried to pull her off from the stern, no good. One runs back into the anchorage and gets more line and then they try to haul her down by attaching the tow line to the mast and pulling her over and dragging her off. But it’s getting late and they get her hauled over and try to pull astern. By this time the engine on the sailboat isn’t working and they’re trying to pull a 10 ton boat with a couple of small dinghies. Some Kuna’s show up in a Panga with a 40 hp engine and they try too. Dark now and they give up. The owners of the boat depart; staying I don’t know where, close up and leave it for the night. I’m not sure what they hope to attempt by doing that, maybe just saving their lives. The boat is left on the reef stern to the seas and there appears to be no anchor out.
The following am I ask Yogi (his name) who is a permeant resident here if the boat has water inside and he says yes. Doesn’t look like it’a coming off the reef anytime soon. I don’t really know if water ingress came from the seas breaking over the stern working their way in the companion way or if the boat is now holed. But it’s not going anywhere soon. We feel like we’ve just watched the slow death of a person. It was torturuous watching the boat grind on the reef and the feeble attempts by those willing to help try to save her. She’s not gone down but she has gone out.
It’s tough wondering how that could happen, a small misjudgment, exhaustion on the part of the owner or bad luck. The reef slowly shoals there where as most of the reef in this area comes up from 4-15 meters of water all the way to the surface and they’re easily visible. Dark blue water good, breaking water, light brown water bad. Stay away from breaking water and light brown water and you’re basically good. Stay away from moving at night and your good. We hope to stay good.