MAYDAY

Position: 45 14.419 N 061 11.324 W
Alongside Whitehead Harbour

Today has been an interesting day. We got away from St Peters this morning
having waited three days at anchor for favorable winds. And today was a
great sailing day. The wind was from the right direction, the sun was
shining and the land was to windward providing us with a lee and flat seas.
We were making excellent time down the south-east coast of Nova Scotia. The
forecast was for the wind to go into the southwest and strengthen overnight
so the plan was to make as much distance as we could before our fair breeze
went foul, then make for one of the many natural harbors which dot the
coastline hereabouts.
We had left St Peters in company with another Australian yacht, Ketchup II,
and this afternoon as they pulled into Whitehead Bay we said farewell to
them on the VHF radio as we continued on our way looking forward to several
more hours of good sailing. A short while later we heard Keith, the skipper
of Ketchup II, putting out a PAN call on the radio. A PAN call is one below
a MAYDAY, i.e. something has gone wrong but loss of life is not imminent.
In this case they had run hard up onto an uncharted rock as they entered
Whitehead Harbour, there hull was seriously damaged and they were taking on
a lot of water. Halifax Coast Guard upgraded the call to a MAYDAY and
sought assistance from boats in the area. It soon became clear that we were
nearest to hand so we reversed course and started to head in their
direction. As we rounded the headland we saw Ketchup bow well out of the
water and the stern looking ominously low, they had obviously hit very hard.
Fortunately by the time we got there a fishing boat was on the scene with a
nice big pump and they were just starting to get the inflow of water under
control. I initially managed to add to the mayhem by promptly running Sylph
aground on the same ledge of rock as Ketchup II was up on but as we were
going very slowly and being made of steel the only thing that was damaged
was the bottom paint and a small prick to my pride. The fishing boat,
Patriot, soon hauled us off and then returned to Ketchup. We quietly went
to anchor, got our dinghy in the water and I went over to see what
assistance I could provide. There were many hands on deck running around
fixing up the pump and other things so I went below to inspect the damage.
It was hard to determine the nature of hole as towels and pillows had been
used in a not very successful attempt to staunch the flow. I decided the
best thing I could do was to try and reduce this rapid influx, so I took my
shoes off, rearranged a few towels and pillows and braced my feet against
them to plug the cracks as best I could.
The pump was now gaining on the flood and Patriot used its powerful engine
to haul Ketchup off the rock then towed us to the nearby harbour. Meanwhile
I had braced some timber against the pillow and piled a heap of chain I
found in the bilge nearby against the sodden towels so as to relieve my feet
from the chilly task of damming the dike.
With Ketchup alongside the wharf in the small fishing village and all seemed
under control so I thought it a good idea to get back to Sylph and Erin. On
my return I found that Erin had thoughtfully prepared a large pot of curry
for the crew of Ketchup so we when we motored Sylph into the fishing harbour
a little while later were gratefully received on board Ketchup who obviously
had been way too anxious and busy to think about food. Stomaches sated we
considered the plan, at midnight when the tide was at its peak we would pull
Ketchup as far as we could into shallow water alongside the wharf she is
tied up to then await for the waters to recede such that we could inspect
the damage to the hull from the outside.
Well in fact it is now just after midnight, I have just returned on board
Sylph having helped Keith and Anne move their boat into the shallows and
lashed her securely to the wharf so that as the tide recedes she does not
topple over. We figure that at 5 a.m. the tide should be low enough for us
to inspect the damage.
So that's all for now, I'm off to catch a few zeds.