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
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
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