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Old 27-10-2007, 17:06   #1
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Location: Queensland, Australia
Boat: Piver Loadstar 12.5 metres
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It was a dark and starless night--

It was a dark and starless night with very little wind. We had sailed until dark to find an anchorage, and in the tropics night comes quickly. The moon was not due to rise for hours and thick cloud obstructed the stars.

We moved towards the shore watching the depth sounder, the chartplotter showing us a hundred metres or more from the shore. Throttling back on the motor, (we had already furled our sails as darkness fell and the wind died)--we slowly crept forwards in the blackness. I slacked off the clutch on the anchor windlass and had my wife stand ready to let it off completely when we reached three fathoms of water chart datum.

OK--let it go--

Nothing happened. Of all the times for an anchor chain to kink! This was the first time it had ever happened. I put the motor into slow astern and released the anchor which disappeared below the hull--we were still moving forwards it seemed. I could not see any lights on land, so I shone the hand held torch ahead of us.

About twenty feet in front of us was an imposing cliff face--a solid rock wall!

I have no idea how long it took me to get back into the wheelhouse and open the throttle to back us out of there. My wife claims she could have reached out with a boathook and pushed against it by the time the boat stopped and began to back away. The sounder still showed deep water--and we dragged the unset anchor as we backed away another two hundred metres or so.

We set two more anchors. Next day after watching all night we found out what went wrong. Somehow the chartplotter had gone off its calibration--we had removed the c-map cartridge and de-powered it for a while earlier. It was in fact about one hundred metres or more out. The GPS position was exact--except the indicator of the boat position shown on the electronic chart was not in that same GPS position.

In the light of day we put ourselves in a known position and adjusted the plotter charts to the correct GPS datum. No further problems.

What was fortunate for us is that in the entire area we had chosen the only place where there was no debris or boulders below the cliff face, or wave cut platform on which to founder. Deep water reached right to the cliff wall. Anywhere else the water became very shallow over rocks. Almost certainly the hull would have been damaged. As it was--a few seconds more might have seen us holed and sinking.

Moral--anchor securely well before dark--or keep sailing with caution. And check your electronic charts occasionally--
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Old 27-10-2007, 20:12   #2
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Aloha Mike,
Very scary. Good Halloween story!! Could you share with us where this occurred?
Kind Regards,
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Old 27-10-2007, 20:40   #3
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It was off the coast of Gloucester Island. This is one of the Whitsunday group.

If you want a haloween story I have a better one--See "Unidintified Lights--"
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