Running Aground

Rainbow over the Bay of Nouméa

It’s dead calm at anchor in the Bay of Noumea but two days ago, a south-westerly was blowing hard at the exposed anchorage of Îlot Maître two miles out of Nouméa. Before nightfall, Romain motored in on his steel ketch and tied up to a mooring buoy next to me. In the middle of the night, his mooring line chafed through, the boat broke loose and started drifting towards the reef. All I heard was the sound of the steel hull, scraping against the coral reef. What with the lack of visibility and high waves, there was nothing I could do.

As soon as it got light, I scooted over in my dinghy to eyeball the situation. I asked captain Romain to lower the two uphauls from the two masts. I tied one uphaul to my dinghy, while my neighbor tied the second one to his dinghy. My plan was to pull on the two uphauls laterally to tilt the ketch far enough to dislodge the keel from the reef. Nothing doing. The ketch was made of heavy steel and didn’t budge. Plan B. The tide was coming in, so we tied two mooring lines to the boat’s stern and started pulling the ketch to deeper waters, while Romain put the engine in reverse. Inch by inch the boat was released from the watery embrace and was refloated. Romain dropped anchor and we all went to my boat for a nice beer breakfast.

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