Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Troubadour "on the rocks"

Looks can be deceiving: Troubadour is hard aground on the reef between Hartman Bay and Hog Island, Grenada.
(Rescue photos courtesy of Lilly and Tom, S/V Tiger Lilly.)
We plan to enter any anchorage by early afternoon, but this day we left Port Louis Marina an hour and a half later than planned while waiting for assistance to depart, and had to wait for our turn to fuel at Grenada Yacht Club. We were familiar with the deep channel having been on the hook at Hog Island in June. This time we chose to anchor in Hartman Bay requiring us to turn west directly into the 4 pm setting sun. Admittedly, a poor decision.
Troubadour was on the reef in seconds; Scull and crossbones marks the spot - obviously not 5 fathoms there. Harrowing reminder on chartplotter reliance.
The afternoon sun made the water look white and the red reef buoy "disappeared" from our view, even with polarized lenses. As we motored along, the chart plotter showed we were in 40 feet of water, we could see the reef to starboard, but not until we were on it did we realize our mistake.
Dinghies from nearby rushed to our aide.
Chris made a "Securite" call on VHF Channel 68 to any nearby vessels for assistance. When it was clear we weren't going to wiggle off with a few dinghies, I attempted to hail the Grenada Coast Guard. With no luck, another vessel reached me and offered to do a relay and a "Pan Pan" urgent call for assistance.

Familiar faces and new faces arrive and begin the process of kedging us off the reef.
We deployed our 80lb Manson anchor as the bow kedge, and our secondary 66lb Bruce anchor as the stern kedge, leading the aft line to the port jib winch. We also deployed two halyards for a pull to heel the boat. A diver, borrowing mask and snorkel, took a look at the situation below, stating that he felt we were wedged into a crevasse, possibly by the weight of our boat. 
Pulling on the halyards begins to heel Troubadour, while the kedges and dinghies help pull/push her to deeper water.
The only way off the reef is to heel Troubadour far onto her port side to tilt the keel above the reef. I opened all the fresh water faucets to begin to lighten our load by emptying our water tanks; three 6 gallon jerry jugs of water were secured to the end of the boom and it was eased to the port side to add even more weight for heeling.
In addition to helping hands, horsepower was critical.
The assistance of this power boat with big engines made all the difference in pulling our halyards to heel us over. Despite lots of effort, the first few attempts with dinghies resulted in them being blown downwind, where the pull didn't help.

Troubadour heels nearly to the toe rail and floats clear of the bottom.
(Notice the red buoy on the far right in this picture.)
  Once off the reef we were immediately back into 40 ft of water. Unfortunately, as we move into deeper water, damage to the rudder is evident. With on-deck help of Barb from La Luna and Stephen from Blue Pelican, we slowly entered Hartman Bay, maintaining steering control despite the damage, and anchored without incident.  Once moored, Chris and I snorkeled on the rudder and saw first hand the damage. While we lost one section of the rudder, we lashed the remainder to reinforce it. There was no damage to the keel. We stayed at anchor until we could arrange for a haul out day with calm weather at Spice Island Marine.
Troubadour awaits her turn on the "gurney" aka Travelift.
 We arranged for three extra dinghies, and extra hands on deck, for the short journey from Hartman Bay to Spice Island Marine. We made it under our own power at 3 kts in flat seas and less than 5 kts of wind. Maybe it was overkill to have so much help, but it was good to know we had capable people ready to help if the rudder fell off on the way. 
The starboard side of the rudder, showing the "chewing" damage one would expect after encountering bottom.
A chunk of the rudder cracked away as we emerged from the reef (and we thank whoever it was that brought it back for us). In car speak, the rudder is "totalled".
 Our rudder was trashed, but now it also appears that the rudder has had a number of repairs prior to us purchasing the boat, none of which were revealed by the purchase survey. Truthfully, once faired and painted, short of seller disclosure or an x-ray, I’m not sure it could have been discovered until being stressed. Basically, once the fiberglass skin cracked off, we could see lots of bondo/filler, "Great Stuff" type foam, what appears to be a missing section of shaft, and balsa core in the bottom half of the rudder. As several people have told us, perhaps it’s good it was stressed on the reef here, two miles from a boatyard, rather than in heavy seas in a storm far from land.
Good night Troubadour. Tomorrow's another day.
Chris and I are renting an apartment while we go through the process of repairs and research on rebuilding or buying a new rudder. Before our "visit" to the reef we were going to take care of planned maintenance and bottom painting in Trinidad in October & November at Peake Yacht Services.  But as cruisers know, all plans are in sand, and those were washed away.

Sailors say: there are those who have gone aground and those who are going to. We are grateful to all who showed up to help a stranger, and went off quietly into the sunset. Count on us to pay it forward.

A heartfelt thank you to the captains and crew of the following vessels who helped us off the reef and to the boat yard. Please let us know if we have missed anyone, it is not intentional.

Bella Blue
Blue Pelican
Celtic Rover

Cool Change
Elephant's Child
La Luna
Le Phar Blue
San Syl

Yellow Shoes
Zero to Cruising

For other blog articles on our story, please check out
Zero to Cruising:

 Elephants Child


  1. Great article, Linda. We often say, "At least it happened here." Cheers!

    Barb and Stew from La Luna

  2. "The keel was not damaged." <---This is great news.

    Now go heal yourself with a few drinks, before all the beer money goes toward repairs ;-)

  3. @Barb "If anything's going to happen, it's going to happen out there!" -Capt Ron


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...