Tuesday, January 12, 2016

El Derecho

Been here in Georgetown for about a week and half now.  Some of it due to weather, some of it due to procrastinating the things we need to do while we are here (fuel, water, groceries, etc)…some of it just from being boaters.  I'm getting anxious to move on to the next place, because to be honest, Georgetown is one of my least favorite parts of the Bahamas.  With the exception of availability of goods, like awesome groceries and other needed amenities, there really is not much to do here in terms of spearfishing or underwater activities.  The sailing community here is large, with the anchorages full of other cruisers, which to me poses a deep love-hate relationship.  I hate how many people there are here; zipping by on dinghies, anchoring way too close, yapping on the VHF.  Sorry for sounding crotchety, perhaps I'm just getting used to being in less inhabited islands?  That being said though, what I do love is the how cruisers come together in a time of need and once again, how they abide by philosophy of communal living.  

About a week ago, a weather system technically known as a "derecho" hit the Exumas.  A derecho, according to google, is "a widespread, long-lived straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms.  Derechos can cause hurricane force winds, tornados, heavy rains, and flash floods..."  This particular one hit us unexpectedly, with winds reported at 70-100kts in some of the anchorage, I personally only noticed a sustained wind between 30-40 for a couple of hours on our anemometer.  Regardless, it was a bit of a shit show.  At the time, Nico and Lindsay were on our boat just hanging out, making dinner with us, when out of nowhere within minutes, the winds go from 15 kts to 50 kts.  Frank and Nico were in the cockpit, and Lindsay and I were down below preparing dinner.  Of course we stopped what we were doing to check on what was happening, and next thing you know, we notice that Nico and Lindsay's boat dragging.  The waves in Elizabeth Harbor were large and violent, and there was no way that anyone could safely get in a dinghy and drive over to his boat, which was a half a mile away.  The waves were so strong that we were getting soaked just from them crashing over the bow, and into our cockpit.  So there we were sitting helplessly watching their boat drag clear across the anchorage, while monitoring the VHF and the anemometer.  At this point, I'm at the helm putting the boat into the wind and driving forward so as to take some strain off the anchor and keeping an eye on our neighboring boats.  Frank was forward checking on the anchor and letting out more scope.  Next thing you know, our friends' dinghy starts to blow vertically and the point on which their line was attached at the bow rips off their dinghy.   Luckily, there was an aft line holding it as well, and Nico was standing close by, and able to catch it.  There he was holding onto his inflatable, which at this point is behaving much like a flapping sail, You never realize how much windage those things have until they start flopping around the side of the boat like a dying fish.  I call Lindsay who is down below to help because he was struggling to hold it.  Frank rushes back, grabs a line, and they both struggle and tie the line to the dinghy.  

Their boat continues to drag across the anchorage, and with every boat Vida del Sol (name of their boat) passes, we cringe hoping that they don't get closer. We watch helplessly as the boat slowly passes a couple other boats unscathed.  We keep an eye on the anchor light at their masthead, and hope that it's still bobbing, indicating they haven't run aground.  Eventually, Vida del Sol starts to get pretty close to another boat which at this point is now in our anchorage, half a mile later.  We see spotlights illuminating their boat as it starts to inch closer to another boat.  The owners of the said boat start yelling at Nico on the VHF shouting that he needs to get on his boat and drive away.  Nico replies that he can't because it was unsafe for him to get in the dinghy.  The woman on the other boat starts panicking and wailing like a banshee at Nico to get his ass to his boat now, which then ended with Nico calmly replying in broken english, "Look, be sure as soon as the weather is nice and it is safe for me get in my dinghy for go my boat, I will.  But be sure I will make a stop to your fucking boat first."   Nice...

 This situation was rather infuriating as number 1, why would anyone WANT to sit and watch their boat drag clear across an anchorage with the possibility of it running aground and sinking...idiots. Number 2, the other boat was  perfectly capable at that point to start their engines, hoist anchor, and drive away, why the hell didn't they?  I know damn well if I saw a boat coming even close to us, that I'd be ready to get the hell out of its way, regardless of whether or not there was someone helming it.  That to me was simply poor seamanship, not taking responsibilty for their own boat and leaving it to someone else to take care of it.  Anyhow, luckily, there was no such collision, and Vida del Sol continued to merrily drift on by, naive to any potential danger.  Shortly after, the winds die down to the 30s and Nico takes the opportunity to get in the dinghy and to his boat.  He gets to his boat safely and turns on the engine, and pretty much drives it into the wind for the next hour or so until Frank deemed it safe to leave Moitessier and go over and help him re-anchor.  All said and done, the only major loss was their solar panel, which decided to take flight and seek shelter elsewhere during the derecho.  Very lucky considering all the close calls.  

The next day, getting on the cruisers' net and seeing if anyone needed help, we re-discover just how amazing cruisers truly are.  People, ourselves included, were offering help to whomever needed it as well as loaning supplies and offering what we could to each any boat that needed it.  One woman lost one of her stays, and immediately 5 other boaters offered what they could to help her replace it,  another ran aground and were on the rocks and cruisers came together on their dinghies to get it off.  Some lost their dinghies, some floating away completely,  while others flipped over, ruining their outboards.  It was really touching to see people so selflessly come together.  Georgetown wasn't the only one affected by this...it was as far north as Warderick Wells which had reported winds of 110kts.  A lot of yachts, I hear, at Staniel Cay were found aground and on the rocks.  I am so grateful that nothing happened to Moitessier, considering the conditions.  We had seen worse in terms of wind and waves in both Miami and Long Island, but this system posed the greatest threat simply due to the crowded anchorage.   I hope to not see one of those again anytime soon. 

Anchorage from above

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