Friday July 19th, 2002
Boats Honking, Boats Dragging and Pirates! Oh My!
My watch tells me it's the 19th, but I had
to count the days from Curt's birthday on my fingers to try
to calculate the day of the week (Friday, I think). Curt's
below whipping up a snack while I sit in the cockpit with
a booklight attached to my journal watching the goings-on
of this neat little community of an anchorage. I'm surprised
how safe we feel here... given the events of the past twenty
four hours. It began last night as we watched a boat drag
about half a mile onto a reef.
Force Five left Petite Saint Vincent yesterday
morning in a light rainfall, bound of Admiralty Bay, Bequia.
You'll remember how much we (or at least I) fancied this little
anchorage when we were here about two weeks ago. True Blue
needed to run to Grenada for some customs business and we
weren't ready to leave the Grenadines. We had completely drained
our water supply and needed to do laundry. We opted to get
a nice sail in and return to see more of Bequia and take care
of business. We'd visit some missed islands on the way south
again and meet up with True Blue one week later in Carriacou.
The plan was clear.
As Force Five buzzed north toward Admiralty
Bay, the flat seas were welcome for our beat (sailing up into
the wind- normally quite rough on both crew and vessel). Somewhere
along the way we opted to go to Friendship Bay first rather
than in a few days. On the opposite side of Bequia, it as
supposed to be "a gorgeous bay with a beautiful white
sand beach," resort, and some small markets. We thought
we could get by one more night without water, jerry can some
onto the boat in the morning, and spend the day exploring
this small little anchorage.
We had settled into our peaceful little
sail, opting to listen to the wind and seas rather than the
stereo on what turned out to be a crystal clear afternoon.
We had made our second to last tack toward our revised destination...
somewhat absentmindedly as we had such a peaceful sail. Once
the lines were neatly put away, Curt and I resumed playing
with the GPS and I stuck my nose back in my book. Force Five
just quietly sailed along all on her own.
A freighter or commercial fishing boat probably 100' feet
from our beam (middle of the boat) was bearing down on us.
Yet another scene form an enormous movie screen... if I had
time, I would've snapped a picture. Imagine you're looking
at the scene from the windows of my head. The boat is heeled
over. Curt and I on the windward side (high side of the boat
as it's tipped from the wind), with our feet stretched in
front of us, the sun cover blocking the a good part of the
horizon. Out of nowhere (that is if you weren't paying proper
attention), an enormous freighter fills the skyline and is
about to crush your and your home! Ironically, Curt and I
barely flinched... but we peeked up at their wheelhouse and
could almost see the Captain laughing at us. You see, technically
boats driven under power must five way to those powered by
wind- so we had the right of way. Granted, we should've been
keeping better watch and, moreover, who cares who has the
right of way if it means your boat has been squished to bits?
In the end, we had a good chuckle imagining how much it must've
been for their skipper to scare the heck out of us. No harm
We pulled into Friendship Bay and once again
found ourselves with on one other cruising boat. a catamaran
flying a French flag. Her name was, "Happy Sea"
I noticed. We dropped our hook off the main dock and agreed
perhaps the bay would be prettier in the bright light of a
sunny morning. We sat outside in our cockpit and enjoyed a
no-cooking, no-water meal of salami and cheese while we watched
the sunset and our neighbors on the catamaran settle in for
Our anchor doesn't apparently set well in
grass, which was exactly what were sitting in, so we were
carefully watching markers around us to see if we were moving
or not. It seemed almost silly really. The bay was large and
open. With the wind direction, if we had dragged, we had almost
a mile before we hit anything... in this case, a reef leading
to a soupy channel.
While our anchor seemed to be holding fine,
Happy Seas' almost seemed to have moved. Over and over, we
tried to assess if it was us or them changing our juxtaposition
in the anchorage. Or perhaps the wind direction has placed
us in a weird way that was playing tricks with our perspective?
Eventually, they moved so far in the bay it was obvious to
us their anchor had dragged. We could see a man on the decks,
in and out of the cockpit. Surely he must notice? He didn't
seem to, so eventually I coerced Curt to having a dingy ride
over to point it out to them. But the dinghy wouldn't start.
Over and over, Curt pulled the engine to no avail as we watched
their cabin lights slip further and further away. If there
had been any doubt to their dragging before, there wasn't
anymore as their boat was starting to grown smaller before
our very eyes. Now, we had two thoughts, one being frustration
that our outboard engine's on the blink, the other was really
beginning to fret over Happy Seas. The sun was slipping further
past the horizon and the sky grew darker. I got on the VHF,
hoping I read their boat name correctly. "Happy Seas,
Happy Seas. Force Five." "Happy Seas, Happy Seas.
Force Five." Nothing. No answer. I tried twice more with
no response. "Catamaran in Friendship Bay. Force Five."
Their VHF must be off. I duly noted that yet another reason
we should leave our VHF on even if weren't expecting a call.
Now feeling a bit sick to my stomach, I
could no longer make out the details of their boat and it
was growing darker. Curt suggested we try to get their attention
with a floodlight. We flashed and flashed with no response
and no apparent change in their direction. But the man had
been on deck? Their cabin lights seemed to be on? How could
they not know?! I got back on the VHF hoping to hail any boat
in the vicinity with a working tender (dinghy). No answer.
It was almost 9 o'clock now and their boat must surely have
reached the reef. As we watched, it seemed their cabin lights
had moved in an easterly direction... that would be up current.
Slowly we were assured that they were moving back into the
harbor. They must've finally figured it out. Half an hour
later, they were anchored to our starboard once again.
I was left feeling completely unsettled.
In the span of an hour and a half, they'd dragged somewhere
between a half to three quarters of a mile. I didn't ever
imagine one would drag that fast and that far. Why didn't
their anchor ever catch onto anything? And why didn't they
notice? That's a huge change in scenery not to notice something
different around you. And what more could we have done? Rather
than worry about insulting them or embarrassing or inconveniencing
ourselves, we should've acted more quickly.
Is it any doubt I didn't sleep last night?
Every time I'd begin to nod off, I'd jerk myself awake to
pop my head out and assess if my landmarks had moved. In my
sleepy daze, I remember thinking if I looked every half hour,
I'd catch us dragging before danger. Finally, Curt retired
out on the couch saying my tousling was keeping him awake.
With the first sign of light, I was finally able to sleep.
But, a creature of habit, I found myself rousing myself for
the "Safety and Security Net" at 8:15am followed
by weather at 8:30. Without water for coffee, it was just
that much more brutal of a wake-up.
You may assume that by the small allotment
of time for the security net, there are relatively few incident
of risk to yachties safety and security. You would be correct.
Most reports are of dinghy thefts, fishing poles being swiped
overnight and of local kids heckling the yachties. On this
particular puffy eyed morning however, the boat Sea Eagle
reported a more hair raising tale. Calling in from Admiralty
Bay (where we should've been last night had we stuck to our
original plan), they reported a boat was attempted to be boarded
by armed pirates. at 1am last night. Apparently, the boat
pulled in to anchor quite late the night before and dropped
their hook on the outskirts between the anchorage and the
shipping channel. At 1am, a group of armed men began repeatedly
trying to board their boat. They called for help on the VHF
and put our a distress signal hoping to be picked up the coast
guard or local police. No one answered their hail. No one
came. The attempt continued for half an hour as the yachties
began screaming for help. The man reporting the incident (not
the victim) heard their cries, but didn't feel he was able
to leave his family. Eventually, the boat that had been targeted
began shooting their distress horns in an attempt to scare
off the pirates and rouse help from ANYone! Apparently, then
other yachties and water taxis showed up to help and were
able to fend off the perpetrators and help the targeted boat
to re-anchor amongst the other boats in the harbor. By now
everyone in the anchorage was awake and on deck to see what
was going on. No Coast Guard or police ever answered their
pleas for help.
As you know, we'd been at anchor here before
and could imagine the scene precisely. We still aren't clear
why the armed bandits weren't able to board the targeted vessel
After some discussion, we really both
believe the boat was chosen for it's relative remoteness in
this busy and bustling anchorage. Overall, Bequia is well
known more than any other Caribbean island for it's respect
and reverence for the yachting community and the income it
brings to its population.