Before I tell you our tale I want to say that no one was injured and the boat is in good shape.
On March 17th after our usual radio sked with Ontario , we climbed into bed to settled down for the night. Lightning was flashing in the sky on all sides but other squalls had passed over us during the day with little increase in wind. I was unable to close my eyes and got up to watch the storm approach. The wind hit us suddenly from the side and was clocked at 67 knots. That is almost hurricane strength. The GPS drag alarm started to beep and I saw that we were moving through the water at 1.3 knots. The anchor was not holding. The rain was being driven by the high winds and it was impossible to see what was happening. Murray dashed into the cockpit and started the engine to help the anchor hold against the wind. By the flashes of lightning, we could see a cliff of rock behind us. But, how close was it? It was very difficult to tell. Murray realized that it was just a few feet away and told me make a radio call. “Mayday, mayday, mayday” I called, giving our position and the fact that we were close to going onto the rocks. BASRA ( Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association ) answered and took the info. We donned lifejackets and Murray jumped into the dinghy to take a second anchor out. I turned on the running lights and deck lights so that we could be seen and also the strobe at the masthead which signifies a visual mayday.
By this time, the slashing rain had passed and we were able to see that we were sitting 30 feet off of the razor rock cliff. It also appeared that we were aground. Murray took the second anchor out to the bitter end and I payed out the line for him. We hauled as hard as we could with the windlass and pulled that line as tight as we could possibly get it. Looking around we could see that the other two sailing vessels that were anchored nearby had also been blown ashore and had landed on different beach on their sides. A dinghy from a powerboat anchored nearby came out in the storm and helped each vessel deploy anchors. They hauled our primary anchor and took it out as far as they could to windward. We tightened that rode as well using a 2-speed winch on the cabin top. As we were in no immediate danger, we canceled the mayday call. From the dinghy, Murray could see that the water was 18 inches below normal waterline at the bow. At the stern, the rudder was digging a hole in the sand. Radio calls informed us that low tide was still two hours away. Would we remain upright on our wing keel or would we topple over?
I gathered up the ship’s papers, our passports and money in case it was necessary to abandon ship. We tried to rest but another storm cell approached. The wind howled again, this time hitting us on the side. The boat remained upright even in the force of this gale. After its passage, we watched the hours tick away and tried to rest waiting for enough water to return to float us off.
At 4:30 am, we started to haul on the anchor rodes, going to first one and then the other. Finally, she swung free! We started the engine and re-anchored in deep water. We could see by the dawn light that the other boats had also managed to pull themselves off the beach.
Murray dove on the rudder to check for damage. Thank you C & C for building strong boats. No visual damage seen, but we will check closer when we haul out. On the wing keel, he could see 8 inches of sand and grass piled on the flat surfaces.
For a time, we will be very nervous of approaching thunderstorms but nothing can prepare your boat for a sudden, unexpected violent wind. This was the first time we both realized that we could lose our boat in just one instant. We were lucky.
Now, we are anchored near Marsh Harbour to relax a bit, check out the underbody more closely for damage and to meet with friends.
Hugs to all,
Murray & Heather