Monday, April 11, 2016

The Knot that Binds

On April 11th we were packed up and ready to depart The Marquesas, with a stop over at Ua Pou along the way. We’d saved the best for last, as all our fellow cruisers said Ua Pou was one of their favorite islands. Leaving Taiohae Bay was difficult. While most of our friends from the last six months had already left or were on their way, it was hard leaving your home for the past half year. We knew we would miss the the friendly people, the baguettes, the somewhat workable Internet, and the ambiance of the village.
The spires of Ua Pou form a spectacular backdrop for boats at the inner harbor.
With a bright blue sky and 13 to 15 knots of wind on the port beam, we had an exhilarating 27 mile sail southeast to Ua Pou, one of the nicer day sails of our entire trip. 

We are in the center of the photo near the white fishing boat. With the wind blowing from the left of the picture to the right, we were just feet from the white boat until we could free enough chain to drop back. 
Unfortunately, our euphoria was soon to end. While the harbor is a good size, the area behind the breakwater is much smaller, meaning you have to use stern anchor so more boats can fit in the tighter space. We tried a new anchoring technique where we approached the beach as shallow as we dared, dropped the stern anchor, and then did a tight 180 degree turn out towards the harbor entrance. As Meryl let out the stern line and steered (no easy task), I got the bow anchor ready to drop. It wasn’t super windy, but with a moored fishing boat just to left of us and a 42 ft. Beneteau to the right, we were trying to shoehorn ourselves into a tight space. Everything was going well until disaster stuck!  The outgoing anchor chain had jammed itself in the vertical tube that guides the chain from the anchor locker and up through to the deck. I knew immediately what the issue was, I told Meryl to try and not hit the fishing boat that was precariously close to our port side, and ran down below and started moving tons of stuff that we store on top of the forward anchor locker.  

The Knot from Hell.
Normally the chain would fall back into the lower anchor locker. Here I've got the knot on top of the aft anchor locker but I can't get enough slack to actually work on the knot.
When I finally got the doors off I was staring at my worse nightmare, a knot of chain about the size of a large softball jammed at the base of the vertical tube.  When we had brought up the anchor chain at Taiohae Bay it piled up like a big mountain in the anchor locker. Normally most of it would fall down into the lower aft locker, but the top of the mountain essentially fell along the sides and new chain went over the top of that creating the iron knot. And that knot was now jammed as tight as (insert your favorite Southern homily here) possible in the vertical tube.

I had Meryl lower the chain a bit so I could see what the problem was, and kneeling over with my head down in the anchor locker (and trying not to fall in as the boat pitched in the waves) I started attacking the knot. After an hour of incredible frustration I had made little progress.  I could tell their were three double loops of chain, all of which were twisted around each other, making up the knot, which weighed about 25 pounds. I could barely lift it up before it’s weigh would pull me off balance. 

Plan Two was to try and get enough slack (again, incredibly hard to do) lift the knot through the forward hatch and get it up on deck where it would support it’s own weight and I could see what was going on. After another hour I was able to pull it apart enough to understand the knot, then it was simply identifying the three loops and passing everything through itself and then untwisting the mess.

I was completely exhausted and my arms were trembling with fatigue from dealing with the heavy 3/8” chain. Meryl was spent from trying to keep us from hitting the fishing boat on port and maneuvering the boat back and forth. Amazingly we weren’t yelling at each other and had worked well together throughout this mess.

With the chain now freely running we could slowing tighten the aft anchor while letting out the forward anchor. On top of everything else the anchor chain had been down on the bottom of Taiohae Bay for over two months and was covered with mud and sharp barnacles. My hands, even with gloves on, were like mincemeat and everything on the deck and the anchor locker was covered with stinky, gooey mud with occasional drops of blood.

After such a nice start of the day, and then dealing with the anchor mess, we looked at each other’s weary faces and said “screw it” and left the mess on deck and went down below to take a long nap -- we were both that exhausted. 

Such was the unexpected beginning of our rather weird stay at Ua Pou.

1 comment:

  1. Holy cow, what a bummer! But you got through it and no one died. That's always our test of how well we do in a challenge. Looking forward to more posts on Ua Pou.