1 April 2017
1st April started really well for us.
We had been settled at anchor in the bay at Palma Nova, Mallorca for 3 nights. We had been confident enough that the anchor was holding to sleep well at night and even take a trip into Palma on the bus. (We did leave our friend, John, who lives locally on anchor watch from ashore.) With Stefan enrolled on a 4 day diving course, we had blown up the little tender so I could get to shore if I needed to while he was there.
What could go wrong?!
The forecast told us the wind might get up to 25 knots but we had anchored before in winds like that with no problem. So I took Stefan across to the diving school, no more than 500m from the boat, got back to the boat and set about finishing painting the bits of non-slip deck I hadn’t done in Gibraltar. It was certainly windy but I kept checking and we seemed to be holding fine. At about 11am Stefan called to say the dive school had seen forecasts of up to 35 knots of wind in the bay. I reassured him that Pintail and I were fine.
By this time the wind was really whipping up the water in the bay but Pintail and all the neighbouring boats were holding fast. However, I was a little bit worried that in water like how I was going to be able to get the little tender back across to collect Stefan. At around lunchtime, seeing the conditions, Stefan was a bit worried and asked the dive instructor to bring him out to the boat in their rib to check on us.
We put out some more chain and the anchor seemed to be holding.
While we were both staring down hopefully at the anchor chain we realised we had company – a dolphin so enormous we thought it might be something else altogether. It must had been about 4 metres long and seemed equally preoccupied with the anchor chain, rolling down and around it. Were we superstitious we might have thought it was trying to tell us something. John gave us a more likely explanation when we saw him later – it was probably having a good scratch because it had lice!
Stefan and I talked through what I would need to do if the anchor did start dragging and Stefan left for his afternoon class, taking the big tender with him in case he needed to get back. I got myself some lunch, sitting on deck to watch in case we moved, trying to put my trust in the new anchor and trying to ignore the gusts. I came downstairs to do the washing up. Half way through drying up the anchor alarm sounded and it wasn’t because we were moving around the anchor as sometimes happens. We were definitely moving and quite fast backwards towards the rocky shore.
In a mild panic, having never handled the boat single handed, I put the engine on and flew to the front of the boat to raise the anchor. I tried calling Stefan but couldn’t get through. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to be able to do about it from where he was anyway!
Out of nowhere, just as the anchor appeared on the surface and I was about to head back to the helm, Stefan appeared at the back of the boat. I had no idea how he had got there but was very glad indeed that he was. From the dive school he had been able to see the boat. He had received my aborted call and when he looked up Pintail was no longer where she had been! He abandoned his books and dived into the tender to find us.
In all the drama, when I went up on deck I realised that the little tender, tied alongside, had been blown over by the wind. I saw one of its oars floating off. I decided that saving the big boat was more important!
With about 10 metres before we hit the shore I was able to motor Pintail to safety.
We headed across the bay to better shelter at Punta Negra where we found someone else doing the same. The wind was still quite strong but the sea state calmer and the anchor held well while we sat it out.
In the calmer conditions, we fished the inverted outboard off the back of the little tender, after its submerged journey across the bay and Stefan set about trying to bring it back to life. He joked “You’re like a teenager. You’ve only had your new car five minutes and have rolled it already!” An hour and a half of careful surgery and a petrol and oil change saw it incredibly splutter back to life.
With conditions calming down and an hour to go until sunset we decided to motor back to our original anchorage. This time we stayed just a little further away from rocks just in case!
With the anchor settled, we arranged to meet John ashore for a much needed drink. On our way we wondered whether the little tender’s oars and pump might have washed up on the shore so we went for a quick look. I don’t think either of us thought we would find them but tucked amongst the rocks we had so narrowly avoided was the unmistakeable yellow of the pump. Stefan clambered over the rocks to get it.
So all ended well. Pintail is absolutely fine. Our nerves are only a little frayed. The little outboard lives to pootle about another day and all we need is a new pair of oars.
Just another reminder that life on a sailboat is just slightly more precarious than life ashore. Or was it that dolphin playing an April fool??!