Brazil to Grenada - Day 1

Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Sun 10 Mar 2013 06:49
00:39S 041:55W  290 miles covered
The fleet left Fortaleza at 12:00 yesterday on our final competitive leg of the World ARC.  The wind and current look good for the crossing and we are hoping to complete the 1700 miles in around 8 days.  Finding the areas of good current is crucial for this leg.  It should be possible to find 2 to 3 knots of current at the right distance from the Brazilian coast.
The start was quite exciting because the planned committee vessel was unavailable, so Paul an Suzana headed out in an inflatable to do the start.  Their outboard broke down half way out and Paul asked for a volunteer to act as committee vessel, which we did.  We picked them up from the inflatable and got to the start line with 15 minutes to spare, time for us to anchor and for Paul to start the race on time.
All we had to do after the start was pull up our anchor, take Paul and Suzana back to the marina and set off ourselves.  That was when the fun began.  Our anchor would not come up.  In fact, whenever the chain started to get tight then the swell just pulled it back out of the windlass, threatening to either destroy the windlass it or rip it out of its  mounting.  We had no option but to dive to try and release the anchor.  It was only about 10 metres deep but unfortunately most of the air in our dive tank had been used for hull cleaning and we only had a quarter of a tank left, which was a worry because we would be helpless if the air ran out.
I went down to assess the situation.  The swell and current made it difficult to hold a position in the water and visibility was only a couple of metres, so I had to keep hold of the chain or I would probably not find it again if I dropped it.  Anastasia was pulling the chain quite hard, so at the start it was swinging around by a metre or so, which meant I had to keep it close or it would be wrenched from my hands.  Of course, keeping close to a heavy chain that is leaping around has its own problems and I got whacked a couple of times, but managed to hold on.
As I approached the bottom it became darker and I went slowly because the chain was getting scraped back and forth over the coral.  I did not want my hands to get trapped and mangled.  Finally I found the anchor, which was lodged under two big boulders with the chain running through a gap between them.  There was no way I could release it by hand, but it looked like if we could pull the chain forwards through the gap should release it.  Back to Anastasia to try raising the anchor again.
We motored forward, pulling the chain as we went but it did not work.  I dived again, this time with a rope to attach to the anchor.  I found that in our previous attempt at freeing the anchor we had missed the gap, instead looping the chain around the left side of one boulder and then back down the right side of the other, making the shape of an “e”.  All I could do was tie the rope onto the chain and hope we could unwind the loop.
Back to Anastasia for another go.  This time we were motoring forward with a fairly loose anchor chain, trying to lift the chain with the rope.  It did not seem to be working, the rope was as tight as we could get it and straining, but not releasing the anchor.  I set a waypoint where the rope seemed to be most vertical and tried motoring around that area, trying to pull the anchor chain at various points.  Just when it seemed like we would have to abandon the anchor, the rope came loose and we could haul the anchor up, to the point where the rope was attached.  At this stage we had about 9 metres of chain dangling in 10 meters of water, so while Daniel was trying to untie the rope from the chain Anastasia was drifting around and we snagged another rock and out the chain went again.
This time the anchor was not stuck fast so we could pull the chain in again and use the engines to hold Anastasia stationary while we untied the rope and finally stowed the anchor.  We finally crossed the start line at 13:50, a couple of hours after the others.
The wind was good last night and so we could make up ground.  We have overtaken most of the fleet and moved into second place.  The wind died today so I guess we are now about 30 miles behind Gunvor, but it is predicted to gradually increase from now until we get to Grenada so hopefully we can make up the gap.