3rd/4th March 2019 - Portsmouth, Dominica "great sail there but disaster at night!"

s/v Safena's blog
Simon Ashley
Sat 9 Mar 2019 14:24
Pos: 15 34.8 N, 61 27.8 W

We set off from Grande Anse just after 0700 heading for Portsmouth, Dominica.  What an absolutely fantastic sail!  With the wind slightly south of east it was a perfect angle, essentially on the beam the whole way.  We had reefed main and staysail.  With 18-22 kts in the channel between Martinique and Dominica we were doing 8.5-9.5 kts.  Unfortunately, the new wind transducer stopped working mid-trip!

In the lee of Dominica with a flatter sea and slightly less wind, with reefed main and full Genoa we were doing 9-10 kts with speeds consistently around 10 kts and up to 10.9 kts max!  With a clean bottom Safena has come alive. This is the first time we have really been able to experience her performance in a range of conditions and she is stunning!  This 70 mile passage only took about 9 hours.

We anchored in Portsmouth. It was a national holiday and carnival for the next few days.  We noticed several American cruisers heading into town in their dinghys and decided to join them.  We met several people at Christoph’s beach bar for a beer and enjoyed an incredible sunset (photo below).  We then moved on for a Texas Style Hoe-Down with the SSCA group at Smithy’s.  The food was excellent (Jerk Chicken).  We then went in search of the carnival but clearly it wasn’t going to start until around midnight.  So we finished up with another drink at Christoph’s before retiring.  We did walk along some interesting streets and the damage from hurricane Maria was still very evident.

When we got back to Safena it was windy - 25 kts plus and remained so overnight, probably gusting 30 plus.  We were secure with about 60-70m chain out, anchored in about 12m depth. I woke and checked things every hour or so.  I was getting back into bed having been in the cockpit just after 0200 when Nina and I were confronted with a loud bang/crunch.  To our horror another French yacht (Beneteau 473) had dragged anchor and had collided with us.  Their anchor had become hooked under our chain which prevented them from motoring clear ahead.  Consequently they slammed into our port side twice.  We tried to protect ourselves with fenders but considerable damage was done to our topsides, pulpit, stanchions, stem head, pushpit etc.  Eventually they dropped back behind us (subsequently it became apparent that they spent the whole night effectively anchored to our chain!  Therefore, our anchor held two fifty foot yachts all night in 30kts wind!).  This was extremely unlucky but very traumatic for Nina and I. But, the damage could have been so much worse.

In the morning Cyrille came over to apologise.  He accepted full liability obviously.  The next issue was getting his anchor unhooked from our chain. He free-dived over our chain and eventually disconnected his bitter end and marked it with a fender which allowed his anchor to drop away.  He then picked up a mooring.  We swapped details.  He is outside the area covered by his insurance and it is likely that he will have to pay for the damage to our yacht himself.  I will leave this in the hands of our insurer but in all likelihood our repairs will have to wait until Safena is laid up in Curacao for the hurricane season.  My main concern is how our vinyl wrap will be repaired as to do this properly, it will probably require the entire port side to be re-wrapped by the Dutch team = expensive!

On 4th March Nina and I didn’t really feel up to doing much having been up most of the night.  I cleared in through customs with the help of Martin (Providence) the local OCC port officer.  Our plans to do some internal island tours were put on hold until another time.

I did manage to fix the wind transducer though!  I chased this to some poor connections within a junction box at the base of the mast!