All Fouled Up

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 8 Apr 2011 06:27
At anchor off Reporepo Island, Rangiroa Atoll
Wind: East, F3 gentle breeze
Weather: mostly sunny, warm

This morning I rowed ashore, having stowed the outboard last night preparatory to getting underway this morning, collected my bread order then went to the dive shop to meet for a morning dive. I was there a little early but by 7.30 still no one had turned up so I assumed that there had been a change in arrangements. As I wanted to get some sailing in today I rowed back to Sylph via Keld's boat to drop off his bread. Knocking on his hull I got no response so I left his loaf at his companionway and returned to Sylph. I secured the oars in the dinghy, tied the dinghy up astern, secured Sylph below, got the mainsail ready and started to weigh. I got only 10 meters of cable in when it came up short and no more would come in. Bother! We were obviously foul of a bit of coral or rock. It was ironic that I had only had a conversation with Keld two days prior about the need for carrying dive gear on board for such an occasion. Being unable to afford one nor having the space I was obviously against it, Keld on the other hand does carry dive gear so he argued the pro case. It seems I had just lost the debate. But not yet. 12 meters is a little beyond my free diving ability so initially I tried to motor it free, going this way and that hoping to unhook the fouled cable but to no avail. After pondering options I came to the conclusion I was going to have to dive down and at least see if I could work out what was wrong. I hauled the anchor in short so it was straight up and down, donned snorkel gear, jumped over the side, took a few deep breaths and pulled myself down the chain. I reckon I got down to about 10 meters where I was running short of breath and unable to compensate for the pressure anymore, but I could clearly see the foul. The anchor cable was hooked under a rock and it needed to come out to the right to free it. I returned to the surface, climbed back on board, let out some anchor chain and attempted to gradually motor the chain free in the right direction but after several attempts it was obvious this was not going to work. I went over to Keld's boat to take my medicine, which I duly received, and to brainstorm a solution. Keld's tank was in the dive shop for some maintenance but he came up with the idea of lowering a chain strop down the anchor cable with a line attached, then to use his dinghy to pull the chain sideways out of the crevice. It was definitely worth a try.  I went back to Sylph, set everything up and then called Keld over. He took the line from the chain strop to his dinghy and as I let some slack out on the anchor cable so there would be no load on it he pulled with his dinghy. Once I thought he had pulled enough I started hauling in the anchor cable again.

It worked!

By this time it was around midday and too late to get anywhere for the day, nonetheless I continued to weigh and subsequently moved Sylph to a different location so she would at least not foul the same piece of rock again. Then Keld and I went ashore for a beer. Thank you Keld.

I also spoke with Olivier and it turned out the morning dive had indeed been postponed due to a delayed flight of one of the divers.

Tomorrow we will try again.

All is well.