|Pura Vida in 2012|
The morning after that nightmare of a blow, things were pretty bleak.
We were still having a hell of a time with the fetch but the wind finally began to die off.
A few hours later, the sky broke open and things calmed down and it turned into one of the most beautiful days we have seen here in Anse Amyot. One look at the horizon, though, and you could see this was just a lull and mother nature might not be quite finished with us yet.
We hadn't slept in days but were too wired to do that now, so while I hung our sopping wet stuff out to dry in the sun, Jon went and made us two stiff, Vodka Ceasars. Captain and first mate shambled forward to bask our weary bones in the warm sun and mull over what the hell we were going to do about this mess.
In the morning light and dead tired, things looked pretty bad.
We were both a little shell-shocked, I think, but as we talked it though, we started to see how we could sort it out and pretty soon we were getting the second wind we so badly needed. Our first issue was, getting those mooring lines off of the bowroller and back through the deck chalks. Our anchor was still deployed and the weight of the chain was putting strain on what was left of our sprit (still hanging on by a few twisted screws) and the spinnaker halyard that was now holding the whole sha-bang up. If we got another round of wind and fetch (it was still blowing from the West) we would lose all of it--this was task Numero Uno.
There were several other brand new catamarans in the anchorage with us during the storm, thankfully no one else had any problems at all. (Luck-of-the-draw had put us in the worst spot during the blow.) We heard on the radio that next day, that the big million dollar boat with all the fancy instruments, had clocked 56 knots during the storm (I guess we were too busy on deck fighting to stay off the reef to notice!). Everyone was happy to have their exotic vacations back on track again and they all smiled and waved cheerfully at us, as they wake boarded behind their super-dinghies, while their crews cooked them breakfast.
I looked at Jon's face and my heart crumpled.
He never whines or complains about anything and very rarely gets blue and is usually a reserve of good attitude, but that morning was a hard one for him.
After everything we had been through lately, we needed a little fun and just when it looked like things were going that way for us--we had another major issue to deal with.
I leaned overboard and noticed that the tide was flooding. It was crystal clear and with blue skies above, this was the perfect time to go for a dive. I suggested we all take an hour off of worrying, to get in the water, for the sake of crew morale, and that's exactly what we did. We followed some giant wrasse and a baby blacktip, two beautiful leopard morays, Jon shot a parrot fish for breakfast and everyone felt a lot better.
Afterwards, Jon dove down to the anchor, unshackled it from the chain and tied a buoy to it so we could retrieve it at a later date. We pulled up our chain, Jon re-routed all our lines and for the first time ever, we had our primary anchor siting on the bottom-unattached to us!
Its a very unpleasant feeling.
Your anchor is your last line of defense and our biggest security blanket.
In fact, in hindsight, it was this feeling that contributed to our pulpit taking the hit that it did. Talking over what we could have done differently, what factors contributed to what damages we incurred and what we learned, we feel that several factors were in play that caused things to go from bad to worse:
#1) LEE SHORE
We have never been on a lee shore in a blow before because we do everything in our power to make sure we don't end up there. Paying close attention to the weather, looking at the sky, anchoring in the best spot possible and not hesitating to move to safety if we even think something nasty might be coming. Better to be safe than sorry, no matter if its a pain in the ass.
This time, we just got caught. We had been here before in a blow and the weather was calling for the exact same kind of conditions as the first time. The wind had indeed clocked around to the North West during the last event but it did not linger there--it was only on its way to the Southern quarter where it hung out for a much longer time.
This "local" knowledge, led us to believe we would experience the same thing and so that's what we prepared for. We carefully added extra lines and snubbers (the forecast was for 25-30 knots) and did what we thought would be over-kill for what they were expecting. What ended up coming at us was both unexpected in velocity, (35-60 knots, for 48 hours) and highly unusual in its pattern.
#2)PREVIOUS STRUCTURAL DAMAGE
When we bought Pura Vida, it was obvious there had been something of this sort before. The pulpit showed signs of being re-glued, our bowroller was slightly warped and the bob-stay or dolphin-striker had a slight bend in it. She is an older, blue-water girl, with plenty of serious cruising in her past,so there was nothing unusual about her having issues like this. In normal-rough circumstances, there was nothing to worry about and we have never had any problems at all. Under these forces, however, 6 foot waves on the bow and our anchor wrapped and 50+ winds, with all that stress--it was too much and the "weak" point was exactly where she went. Right down to the glue-lines in the teak pulpit and the small bend in the stainless bob-stay (now a 90% angle!).
Here is what we might have done differently;
Once we realized we were going to be on a lee shore, we should have gotten rid of that anchor rather than deploy it.
As I said before, we had to re-route our lines as they were chaffing faster than we could manage--this is where I believe the 65 knot claim that one of the boats in this anchorage said they saw. We have never before experienced that much wind, anywhere, never mind on a mooring, on a lee shore, twenty feet from a reef! It was totally nuts.
Normally, if you are on a mooring, it adds security to drop your ground tackle- everyone else here, in the anchorage also dropped their hooks and some chain. In our case, though, we should have taken the anchor off the chain and buoyed it, at the first sign of trouble. Then we could have rerouted our lines through the roller and we would have been just fine.
Its a hard call to make, when you are scared. Us cruisers do love our anchors and we really really trust them, so to let that go when things were going from bad to worse, was just not something that came naturally. Live and learn.
Every situation is different though, if we didn't have the previous damage, it might have been able to handle the load-but who knows. It would take a very unique situation for us ever to consider dropping our anchor, again...but there you go.
That night, we went to bed in a creepy-calm, no-wind, glass-flat, anchorage.
We fell instantly asleep.
Until 2 am.
I woke up and heard a low, moaning sound.
I barely had time to figure out what it was, before the squall hit us full on.
"Holy..." was all I managed to get out before Pura Vida was laying almost on her side, from the first blast of that wind.
Jon was on deck in a heartbeat.
Thank god he had fallen asleep in his t-shirt and trunks, because the force of the rain would have stripped his skin off! He ran forward to make sure we weren't going to tear off the bow roller and one of our extra security lines had come away from its chaffe guard and was literally sawing itself off before his eyes.
While Jon battled the elements to fix that, I ran on deck to watch our wind meter zoom past 46-47-53...
I ran back down stairs and dug out our shoes, the PFD's, and our dry bag (for our passports and computers). I kissed the kids, who were wimpering in their bunks, told them their shoes and life jackets were nearby and that if I said the word, they must calmly get them on and be ready to do exactly what we said.
They were very cool. "Are we going on the reef?"
"I hope not, babies" I said.
I left them in their bunks and went back into the salon, curled up in a fetal position on the settee and shook like a chihuahua.
The wind howled and howled and howled, I could see Jon's flashlight on deck flashing back and forth across the hatches like lightening. I knew I couldn't help out there, right now--it was too crazy--so I just lay there, in the dark, curled in a ball, thinking "Fuck...this!" and praying.
Twenty minutes later it was over.
Jon came back inside and gave me a huge hug.
"let's go back to bed" he said.
I couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. I watched the lightening though the hatch (the real stuff), my ears were peeled for another horrible moan like the one that had foretold the previous squall...but it never came.
The next morning was so beautiful it was almost comical.
It was like nature was going "What? Me? Do something wicked? Never!"
Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind.
The kids and I were due ashore at 10AM to help Gaston and Valentine prepare for the big party the fancy boats had ordered for that night. We are "staff" here now and there was plenty to do before the big event.
There was a pig to kill and fish to filet and coconuts to be gathered and husked and shredded and turned into coconut milk for the bread and cakes needing baked, flowers to gather and decorations to be made...
Gaston also finished the roof on the new building--in case it rained, the party would still go on.
Jon and a kind skipper of a lovely little boat (also American, also headed for Hawaii) carefully took off our bowpulpit and brought it ashore to begin the process of salvaging.
We had a great, wonderful, day-I will never forget it.
I watched Hunter running through the coconut palms, gathering flowers from Valentine's fallen trees (she lost many, many of her favorite flower trees in the blow), and Kai man-handling the peeling of the coconuts for meat (not an easy task!) and Jon, shirtless and tanned and working away, piecing out how he would salvage our bowsprit out here in the middle of nowhere with no materials but what we have on hand or what could be found washed up on the beach.
No one complained, no one whined, everyone worked hard, side by side with our wonderful our hosts, speaking in Tahitian and French all day. We sang, as we worked and drank a little wine in the kitchen, joked and talked about Jesus (of course!). When Hunter and Kai had finsihed all their work for the day, they zoomed home and got "dressed up" and "brush that hair and use shampoo!". (Valentine had commanded we go home and scrub up--our boss doesn't want us looking natty for the guests!)
Our kids played politely with all the other cruiser children from the fancy boats and in return, Valentine and Gaston loved on us, and fed us (at the "staff" table in another room) and when they (the fancy boats) invited us (the kitchen help) out for a toast of champagne in honor of one of their birthdays...
I was so, so proud of our little family, and grateful that THIS is OUR experience of this place.
Even though, I really, truly, hope that we are not tested again in the next little while, (or too sorely on our way to Hawaii), every bit adds to knowing that we can do more than we ever thought we were capable of...
which is pretty cool, as life experiences go.
Valentine and Gaston did not whine when they lost some of their favorite trees or that a chicken was killed by a flying debris or that they had to finish a roof and get the fish ready for the market boat AND cook for twelve quite particular guests.
They did it cheerfully and smiled and made it lovely for everyone.
This morning we had breakfast ashore.
The other American boat cooked a huge pancake breakfast for Gaston and Valentine and they invited us.
They brought out their saved special chorizo sausages from Mexico (you should have seen Kai's face) and we ate leftovers from the party, fancy mimosa cake and grilled pork and coconut bread...
We listened to music and drank cafe au lait out of bowls.
Jon's wood glue set well and the bowsprit looked save-able.
Fixing the bobstay is still an issue, but we have our fingers crossed.
All things considered...
Life certainly feels "Pura Vida" again. :)