Hi To Everybody (with a lot of sadness in my hart.).
I have a bit of a Saga to tell you all. There is a lot of stupidity involved on my part in this story, and also a lot of events that individually wouldn't have meant a lot. But, putting them all together equals a disaster.
As you all know from my last blog post, GL, now all fixed and tested, (looking better than she ever has) was ready for my next adventure 'down island', with only one more promise to fulfill.
Sunday 30th October I decided, was a good day for a relaxing sail to Water Island and Honeymoon Bay.
With two Local friends, beautiful weather, and calm seas, we had a really really nice day out.
On our way back beating into the wind, it was a magic sail, GL effortlessly riding the swell, but darkness was beginning and we knew it would be completely dark before our arrival back. With only about a half mile to go to rounding the point to spot the unlit green marker buoy, we decided to stand off, start the engine and drop the sails. With this all done I handed the tiller to one of my guests, an experienced local charter skipper, and went down below to switch on the charging circuit from the engine to the service batteries. What happens next is a bit hard to recall, I might have spent a bit to long down below I just don't know, BUT, I felt a bump on the keel! As I shot out of the cabin with thoughts of what could we have hit out here in deep water, the other skipper jumped on deck to get a better view ahead, as I looked foreward I could see a reef with a line of terrible looking rocks blocking our way, and they were only just about 300 yards ahead. The engine still in gear was just ticking over but the boat was still doing 3.5 knts straight towards these rocks! I grabbed the throttle control and threw it in astern at full speed, the boat began to stop, then, another sickening and heavier bump occurred, GL shuddered, then a large swell wave lifted her stern and broke just behind, at this point with engine at max astern we had little astern speed and the wave pushed GL forward. When we grounded again this time hard, the sound was more like a crunching sound, I was making no way astern and now being on the wave break line of the reef every wave was pushing her further, we heeled over and GL I knew, was hard aground. During all this I was shouting "were the hell are we", "I don't recognise anything" the other skipper said "we are on the reef at False Entrance."
I had heard of this place of course, but didn't know it.
It would take to long to narrate the next half an hour, and I'm sure typing the words used by all would be banned from being posted.
'Mayday-Mayday-Mayday' words I have never wanted to utter. I broadcast these words for the first time in my life, giving all the info as to GL and our position and situation. Each approx 3 to 4 foot breaking wave was pushing GL further and further up on the reef .
The response was quick and the emergency services were soon in contact. Speed was of the essence, this reef has claimed many many boats. I was in shock. I couldn't understand how this had happened. I kept myself detached however and concentrated on calming my guests, and making sure, No One did anything stupid as to endanger themselves any more than that we were already in. GL wasn't leaking, I had the engine running and as I had fitted an engine driven bilge pump, this was on standby in case it was needed.
The small harbour Coast Guard rib arrived and stood by as we waited for the local salvage towing boat to arrive. I was in constant communication with frequnet updates as to our situation, and everyone knew what was going on. The sea was washing over and being night time in only shorts and t shirts we were all getting very cold.
After this tow boat arrived we discussed the options to attempt a tow off the reef. When this had finally been agreed and a rope attached by myself, an attempt was made. The tow only managed to turn the bow a small amount. The second pull managed a full 180 with the bow now pointing out to seaward. The third pull moved GL about 4 foot towards the deep water. Then the bigee pull. GL was scraping with horrible noises coming from below were I was, she was moving a bit then she lifted nearly upright and dropping back, then she lifted again...teetered on her balance point and went over onto her starboard side and crashed down hard on the rocks. I saw and heard wood splinter inside and at that moment a loud crack from up forward some where. When I got there I found the anchor windless, middle one of three tow fixing points had sheared of its mounting feet. As it had pivoted on the one remaining foot it had guillotined the tow rope. The tow boat with this sudden release had catapulted foreward swamping the boat to the gunwales. and also her massive outboard engines. Now with no engines they drifted backwards and ended alongside about 30 feet off are portside, hard aground! Inside GL were I was, the water level was rising so rapidly even with the engine bilge running it was obvious that was that. With the cooling intake above water and overheating I shut the engine off. Two minutes after that the water hit the batteries and switch panel and all lights power and of course radio died. After shouting questions to the tow boat they said they would be getting a tow off attempt when a line could be taken from the coast guard boat. I then told my guys we get off now onto the tow boat and leave GL on the reef. We did this half drowning in the breaking waves and were all aboard when the attempt was made. It was successful and we came off with a lot of scraping banging bouncing cursing and god knows what else. Halfway to Redhook we were transferred to the big Coast Guard boat which had a cabin we could get in to get a bit warm. 20 mins later we were on the ferry dock Safe.
My thanks go to the Purto Rico rescue center...The USVI Coast Guard...St Johns USVI Rescue Service and Sea Tow for their combined efforts in rescuing my crew and myself.
GL now had to survive a night on the reef enduring the crashing waves.
I found shelter from the owners of Custom Canvas and Sails on Fabians Landing.
My crew went to the skippers yacht.
For everyone to note
Imeadiate family know the complete story, but this is my first opertunity to keep my readers informed.
The next blog will be titled
'Sink or Swim' and will describe what happened to GL on Monday 31, Tuesday 1 Nov. and Wednesday 2 Nov..
Still a very sad person