Unstuck – Banda Pt 2

Yep, we were stuck. Elysium wasn’t going anywhere. Mike on Natsumi stopped by and we connected an extra line to a winch. With him cranking and me using the windlass all we did was pull the bow down. We wouldn’t pull the bow under but we would at some point break the chain. Time for more help.

I hopped in the dinghy and headed to shore. There I found Nellow (A dive master and guide in Banda) and hired him to dive the anchor and free us. I was thinking tomorrow, he was thinking right now. Not to put off what needed. I said… OK.

Nellow slipped into his wet suit, grabbed his BC, tank, regulator, weights, and his dive computer. We hopped into the dinghy and off we went. On the way over he said he wouldn’t dive below 35 meters. Our anchor is close to that limit. . There is no Nitrox on Banda and no decompression chambers. We arrived at the boat and he was the show. Like a fish returning to the water he was in and heading down before I even tied the dinghy up. Like ghosts, the bubble from his regulator floated to the surface. Undulating and creating etherial shapes. He was down for a bit and we could see the chain being pushed and shoved. Five minutes and he came to the surface, said we could pull in some and he needed a hammer. We had snagged and globbed onto a sunken steel ship. Working back and forth the chain cut into part of it and that is what now lies free. We pulled in a bit more. He told me that we had also wrapped the chain around the wreck’s bow a few times. He would need to use the hammer to knock it off and free it. He went back down and we could hear the pounding on the chain. We were not free yet. We could see him rising to the surface following the bubble trail. He made a safety stop and we waited. At the surface he told us his computer was beeping at him and time to head up. He needed another tank. Back in the dinghy, back to the dive shop, he grabbed another tank and we sped back to the boat. There he rested.

At 30 meters or so one can’t work without decompressing. Luckily we were less than the 35 meters, not much and he was an excellent diver. Thirty minutes later he was heading down again. He asked us to ease the chain out so he would have more to work with. Banging away seemed to work. A few minutes later he was again at his safety stop and when he popped to the surface he said we were free. We hauled the chain and anchor in. Whew!

We wanted to pull it up so we could move to the Maulana Hotel. We still planned to do that as the wx seems to have moderated in expectation of the SE trades beginning. We headed across the harbor, dropped the hook and passed lines ashore. Nellow again dove to check the anchor. He made sure it was clear and sat point down on the bottom. You’re good; he said. Lines tied ashore we adjusted Elysium’s stern and settled in.

I loved being here. We could enjoy the waterfront activity, have easy access to the hotel restaurant, and not worry about swinging around on the anchor and snagging on other trash on the bottom. I marked in Zulu Waterways exactly where the sunk boat was. No need for other cruisers to snag the same thing. If someone wants to attach a chain mooring line to it; well, it will be solid and better than the concrete moorings that are used throughout Indonesia.

Elysium with Volcano Ipe in Background

On the Spice Island town side there was a constant parade of Indonesian ferries. Additionally two cruise ships came through. Thus the tourist board in Banda put on a show. Kora-koras went out with their 20 odd crew dressed in full regalia from the time of Dutch colonialism. They sang and created quite a show. We watched as the tourists were brought ashore next to us and were herded like cattle towards various tours. A quick trip to the forts (there are two here), the church, the museum, and maybe some went across to the plantations. It was like watching Disney at work, keeping them hydrated, fed and entertained.

The week went by without incident, the wx benign. The greatest effect was from tidal current. One night the winds blew from the N; not strong but pushing us back into the little wood dock. I checked the anchor and made sure we had some tension thus keeping our stern away from the dock. All looked good. Until it wasn’t. Around 4 am I woke up. I went up on deck and saw that we were about 1 foot from the dock. We ought to have been about 10’. The boat was bouncing from the small chop off our starboard beam and we kept inching closer and closer. I started the engine which got W/ up immediately.

The hotel night security came out and helped to push / keep Elysium off the dock. W/ put the boat in gear but the lines ashore were holding us. Unfortunately we had coiled the lines on the boat and that created an issue casting them off. It took me a minute to free our port line and in that time we “tapped” the dock. Just tapped it, Once free I cast off the starboard line and we motored away from the dock. Next step pull in the anchor. Once up it was decision time. Stubborn me, I wanted to stay. W/ wanted to return to the other side. I didn’t want to get anywhere near that underwater wreck. We tried once to drop the anchor off the hotel and once the wx abated we would again connect to the shore. We dropped it in 90’ of water and all it did was slide around. We weren’t holding. We picked it up again and headed across the bay. With navigation lights on, our deck light on and the AIS on we idled across the bay. We were waiting for enough light, waiting to choose a better spot.

A couple days earlier True Blue V had left. I was hoping to get close to their spot. They didn’t wrap any coral nor a wreck. As the sky lightened up we dropped the hook in 25 m of water. If we needed Nellow again at least he could dive that. Anchor down and we’re secure. I had charted where the wreck was and we were closer than I wished. Mike on Natsumi told us TrueBlue V was over a bit farther and N some. We discussed it (W/ and I), she wanted to stay and I was afraid of swinging around and connecting with the wreck again. The safest thing was to move. We did. The anchor came up fine and we dropped it where we thought True Blue V was. There we sat for a couple of weeks.

It wasn’t perfect. We had more wx events. Nothing huge, just uncomfortable. I had our AIS on anchor watch, had our chart plotter map the paths we took as we swung back and forth on the anchor. At night it would look like we were close to one of the local fishing boats or close to shore. I watched the depth sounder and we were never in less than 50’. Although 50’ from shore it was still 35’ deep.

The winds in Banda harbor are often fluky to say the least. We were on the lee side of the volcano. One day / evening the winds were blowing strong out of the W. But, on the lee side of the volcano the winds reversed. As they blew over the volcano they came down to the water and back filled.

After a couple of days in a better spot but not exactly where I wanted to be we moved the boat. Farther away from the wreck but closer to shore and the fishing boats. On anchor we swung up and down the shore and stayed away from the local boats. We also varnished.

Signature Finish Over Epoxy

For the last 9 months we’d been sick of our epoxy / varnish job. It was smooth but the epoxy which we had been told would last 5 years and look beautiful didn’t. There were places where the bare wood was showing through. That and seeing that the white epoxy (people call it blush), we weren’t happy. Actually, we were really, really upset by it. As an experiment we tried the Signature Finish top clear coat. W/ was leery. As a test we only coated one item. A dorade box. We first washed with soapy water, rinsed and dried. Then we used denatured Alcohol to prepare the surface. Tape the areas we didn’t want varnish on and used the Signature Finish top coat. It looks fantastic! We watched for a few days and everything still looked great. Even after rain, it still looked great. That gave us a new lease on our teak coatings. We began to coat the rest of the boat with what we had left of the Signature Finish.

In the midst of this I had volunteered to read at Mita and Alisa’s home school. I was reading aloud children’s books in English. The four children from 3- 6 years old were already bi-lingual. Unfortunately, my 3rd time I had to cancel. Somehow, I came down with a cold, flu, or allergy. In the am I had a fever. Not a high but enough to know I did not wish to risk others getting sick. I hit the meds we have on board. Hit them hard. When I was feeling like doing something; anything, it was varnishing or prepping to varnish. I could tape and apply. W/ could wash, rinse and clean with Alcohol. It worked, while I recovered we were able to varnish the rest of the teak on the deck. And finally, FINALLY, Elysium looked good again!

It is amazing how when the boat looks good we feel good. My temporary respite from being healthy was over. However for my mom it was just beginning. She; at 97 years old went to the hospital. In Critical Care. Things weren’t looking good. There are times when cruising isn’t anywhere near to what the magazines tell you. This looked to be one of those times.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long


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.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long