Friday, January 2, 2015

Things that go BUMP in the night

We had a moonlight collision. With an old 100 foot steel car ferry called 'Idlewild'.  At Colison aka 'Collision' Point. Unbelievably, we sustained no damage to our boat. Do things like this really happen to other cruisers?
We are heading tomorrow to Monkeytown, on Guana Island, which is apt, because I felt like a monkey running around on deck just now, with nothing on; we were trying to push the ferry's stern off our front end, at 10 pm, with the nearly full moon over us and the wind blowing hard.
We needed to keep our wits; the wind kept shifting us around.  Fortunately we acted quickly and, I believe, saved our boat from sinking.
Bob says I am being overdramatic, but it isn't everyday you can say that you got crashed into by a tanker and survived.
We had just come back from dinner at Little Dix Bay Resort, the most beautiful place we have seen so far, and before that saw a gorgeous sunset nearly atop Gorda Peak, which had a view across the entire Sir Francis Drake Channel and Gorda Sound. 
Bob was almost asleep on the starboard settee, and I was reading in the v-berth, about the Resort's development by Rockefeller, when there was a double crashing sound right up hard against the front where I was, inside. It wasn't the usual tossing and anchor banging or dinghy crunching noises.  I thought someone had run into us. It was a freakout moment, the type where you know that what happens in the next few minutes will determine the level of crisis you will be dealing with.
I came on deck and Bob was already out there, trying to keep the  ferry off our bow with a fender. 'Idlewild' was moored further out than us, closer to Colison Point.  We saw it clearly, tonight, due to the bright moonlight. 
It was strange that we had any contact with it at all.  When we originally came into St. Thomas Bay, in Spanishtown, this afternoon, we gave ourselves extra rode on the anchor: at 35 feet depth, we put out 175 feet of chain. We were a long distance from the ferry, which was on a mooring.  It didn't look like they could swing around anywhere near us. Best to be safe, we reasoned.
We may have dragged anchor closer to them, and when they swung around, they hit us with their back end. They were resting on our anchor chain, so I ran to get the windlass control by the nav desk inside, and Bob's glasses. Then I took the fender from him as he ran back to the cockpit to put us into reverse. Before he did that I got the anchor snubber off the chain and once we were clear we brought up the anchor. 
We moved closer into the harbor area and re-anchored behind some catamarans and a monohull, but we are now wide awake and not at all clear that we aren't dragging. 
We inspected the starboard side and there is some blue paint on the toe rail, but there does not appear to be any damage to the wood. We were both drifting, not moving under power, so I guess that explains why we don't have a gash on the side of our boat.
Bob says he was afraid of the big car gate, sticking off the back of the ferry; he says that if we had caught the corner of that, it would definitely have caused some damage. Luckily we were hit by their port quarter and not the protruding ramp. 
It was a moment,  when I first came on deck and saw the dark shape looming in front of us. I had night vision difficulty, and I couldn't make out what the hulk was before the boat, but it looked like something sinking--that's how your imagination runs.  
Now we have moved to the new spot. We have tried to carefully gauge our distance to the boat in front of us, so we don't swing into it if the wind shifts around, which it is doing, but there is nothing for it but to stay awake and watch whether we are dragging or not. This place isn't called Pull and be Damn Point for nothing.  
The funny part of it is that we had told Rick Smith, captain of Cimarron, that we were going to play it safe and not try to enter the small bay in front of Little Dix Resort, because it appeared too shallow and too close to the reefs at the entrance. 
After successfully navigating around Anegada Island on New Year's Day (being chaperoned there by a large friendly dolphin) and its deadly reefs and 300 shipwrecks, we had some confidence in our anchoring in treacherous areas.
We are near the reefs fronting Spanishtown's bay, but the depths are all visible on our echo sounder's readings, although we are getting tired after a nice meal and a great sail from Anegada to here. The anchor appears to be holding.  Bob is asking me to check the radar screen down here at the nav desk as he makes a valiant effort not to appear worried.  I just read this to him and he said, of course, that he isn't really worried because he isn't sleeping and the boat is running so if something happens, he's (we're) ready. We probably won't rest much tonight after all the excitement. 
I am looking forward to being back on a mooring. This much adventure is a lot for just being two days into the new year!
Yes, I did look overhead to thank our lucky stars, which are brightly shining down on us.


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