An even greater threat ?
South Pacific Familyadventure 2008
Thu 15 Sep 2022 18:31
Another well known risk in these waters since many years are all fishing equipment launched by fishingboats in great numbers along both the Spanish and the Portoguese Atlantic coast.
According to most pilotbooks though,a safe margin to the coast in this perspective is more than 5 nautical miles (some say 10).
Passing Malpica 5 Nm from the coast we suddenly heard a strong mechanical sound appearing to come from the propellershaft. Immidiately going in to neutral the sound disappeared but trying to engage the gear the sound came back. Mercedes saw pieces of broken fishinggear in our wake and we realised we were trapped in some sort of fishingequipment.
With wind of 20-24kts and quite disturbing seaway the question was wether to go on the VHF with pan-pan to ask for assistance or try to sort it out ourselfes.
With both headsail and mainsail up we managed to heave to partly stopping our drift towards land and then decided to dive and have a look.
Starting with snorkelgear I found a long rope with loads of floats on it trapped in the propeller and the shaft. From that gear went a rope down in the depth that I easily could cut.
Putting scubagear on I then spent half an our cutting away everything trapped in the propeller and allthough some uncomfortable seaway I managed to hold myself with one hand on the propellershaft while working (the stainless diving knife with sawing blade was a joke not managing to cut through anything-switching over to our ordinary emergency knife and sawing blade did it).
Once free from fishinggear all was working well but twice during the passage we were again trapped by fishinggear (once in the prop shaft disappearing when trying reverse gear,and once trapped in starboard paravane making landfall in Cascais) and for this reason we changed route and placed our waypoints 25Nm offshore.
We never saw any orcas during our 5 passages of Costa da Morte but last trip again overheard an attack outside Vigo on the VHF.
We are of course only 1 boat not creating any big statistical numbers but to our experience fishinggear dropped in the sea along the coastline is an even greater threat to mariners incapacitating the boat by being entangled into the propellershaft and /or the rudder. Without scubagear onboard we would have had to ask for assistance being towed to port.
Our advise now to mariners passing the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal is stay offshore with an even bigger margin than advised in the pilotbooks.