Nambawan Port Resolution Anchor Recovery Team!

Tue 8 Sep 2015 23:39
We had a small mishap. There can be quite a bit of swell finding its way into this anchorage and, especially when the wind drops, it makes for rather a rolly time, so we put out a stern anchor to keep us from turning sideways into the swell. This makes things much more comfortable, with Lochmarin simply pitching a little with each rise rather than rolling. This was great until the anchor warp snapped. We have a few meters of chain on our anchor, joined to a long warp that runs from a reel on the stern. We keep the reel covered with canvas to stop any UV damage but… the tail of the rope comes out from under the cover to the chain, which is kept in a bucket besides the anchor. This tail had become UV damaged and that was where it broke. We should have thought of that. 

Now, it wasn’t too deep in the anchorage, we were in maybe 6 meters, which is still a decent distance to dive down to when just snorkelling. The difficulty was that the water was cloudy due to the ash from the volcano and it was black volcanic sand on the bottom, perfect for hiding anchors. Nelson heard of our trouble and offered to come help. He and Phil tried going back and forth with in the dinghy dragging for it with a grappling iron at first, with no joy, so, bringing along a couple of friends, Nelson stated snorkelling and duck diving for it. We dug out all our snorkels and goggles and some of the other boats lent theirs too. 

Nelson and some of the team

The word got out and pretty soon we had a whole collection of outrigger canoes behind Lochmarin as the fishermen diverted from their chores to come help. We had already provided them with a diversion to watch when Phil had climbed the mast to get our second headsail “sausage” down from where it was stuck at the masthead, they were happy to be involved in any new enterprise and rose to the challenge admirably!

They dove, and they dove, and they dove. They got puffed and went and rested on the canoes a while, then they dove, and they dove and they dove. Still no anchor. We have a dive regulator with 50ft of hose between the first and second stage. We use it for cleaning the hull: we can just go over the side with just a weight belt and the second stage, leaving the bottle on deck, no BCD required. Phil set it up in the dinghy and, after a safety talk, Nelson went over with it. He was rather worried at first - I told him he’d love it- being able to breath underwater. Hesitantly he went down… and came up again beaming! His first time being properly underwater without holding his breath. 

Whilst the guys were diving I was busy: there were drinks and biscuits to hand out and we declared a lunch break when everyone came on board to enjoy couscous with tuna, cucumber, tomatoes, and spring onions and a fresh green salad, all the veg was from their gardens except for some herbs in the green salad from mine - the little ‘window box’ herb garden I am still managing to keep alive. We followed this by a ‘Tangkyu’ cake, chocolate sponge filled with canned peaches and cream (Canned New Zealand ‘reduced cream’, strange stuff but it did the trick!). 

Rather noisy lunch break whilst the compressor re-filled the air tank.

Thus fortified the chaps returned to the fray. There was much discussion throughout. No one took an overall lead, the decision as to where to look was taken collectively, with everyone getting a say. The chart, showing our current position and the position the boat had been when the anchor warp snapped was carefully studied. Phil took a back seat during these perambulations, after all they were doing us a massive favour, but did step in to suggest the search would be fruitless when the collective committee decided that looking in front of the boat for the stern anchor was a good idea. 

In the afternoon I found time to go ashore to see the ladies again; they were having a sewing session. One of the sons worked in Port Vila and had sent back a hand cranked sewing machine. The ladies had this out on mats along with bolts of bright cotton fabric and elastic. They were making dresses for the girls and skirts for the ladies. Of course, only one person could use the machine at any time, and maybe two more would be cutting cloth and another hand finishing. The rest were simply chilling in the shade, with babies, chickens, dogs and a kitten crawling over the proceedings. Everyone was eating leaves, wrapped around strips of coconut, with a pinch of salt. They said it was the ladies' alternative to kava. I tried some, it was fine, the leaves didn’t taste good but didn’t taste bad, there was too much salt for my taste. The kitten stole bits of coconut.

One of the chickens with a particularly cool feather style!

When i returned they were still looking. It had been hours. We’d started about 8am so by half three it had been, allowing for breaks, about 5 hours solid looking with up to 10 men in an area not more than 20m by 30m… we were starting to feel that it would never be found. Phil gave a short speech to the tired group, tanking them tumas and saying they could stop now, if they ever found it in the future they should consider it theirs, they could maybe sell it to another cruiser. They still wouldn’t give up. Another group discussion decided they wanted to dive again, they did, then rested, then dived yet again… and found it!!!

We couldn’t believe it and were deeply thankful and pleased - we’d have had to buy a new one in Port Vila as a stern anchor is a bit of essential equipment: not just for stopping us from rolling but stopping us swinging in tight anchorages (when there’s a coral bommie near by instance) and for kedging us off if we got aground anywhere…

What a team! Phil gave them some kava we had left over from Fiji to take back to celebrate with that evening, but they didn’t want anything except for a copy of the celebration photo we had taken and the satisfaction that comes from having succeeded in helping us. For us it was a wonderful day being alongside some very special people. What a privilege. 

Numbawan Port Resolution Anchor Recovery Team!