Sapphire Breeze in Port Vila, just to the right of centre.
The shore of Iririki Island just behind is littered with boats wrecked by Cyclone Pam
What an irony it would be , after all the places Ive been and the sailing Ive done in the last 7 years if I was killed trying to help on someone elses boat, in Port ! Yet that’s almost what happened! I am unharmed but it could so easily have been a different story!
Yesterday I came out of the shower by the sea wall and a man was standing there looking at a modern almost new huge (56foot) yacht stern to just in front of him. But the mast was missing. We chatted. The man was Wally, a Kiwi farmer and the boat was his. The mast had been removed to fix a relatively minor breakage of the in-mast furling system and in the morning the Crane would be back to lift it back on. He was going to need a few extra pairs of hands – would I be free?
This morning at 9.30 I turned up, along with a few others and quite a crowd of onlookers as the Crane was attached to the mast with a thick strop. Slowly and carefully the strop took up the strain and then lifted the massive mast up into the air. I was given a thick heavy wire backstay to manage, and followed it slowly onto the boat and down to the stern where Wally attached it. I moved forward to the base of the mast where several men were trying to coax it into position, onto the mast step. I went forward to help Wallys wife and Scot, my American solo sailor friend get the forestay and heavy attached furling gear into its place. It was two inches away when suddenly with a huge crack the strop snapped and all hell broke loose: the bottom of the mast first crashed down onto the deck and then skidded forwards and to port, towards us, like a huge battering ram as the mast toppled backwards and to starboard. Shrouds and stays and sheets went flying and the furler hurtled forward past the three of us as the mast plunged into the water, the crushed lifelines, stanchions and toe rail acting as a sort of fulcrum, flinging two men who had fallen over the mast ten feet into the air. One immediately scrambled to his feet but the other lay motionless on the foredeck, and I ran forward to him. Blood was streaming from his head over the pristine deck, but he was conscious, and I quickly checked him over – the scalp laceration was not huge but as is typical with them, bled profusely. One leg was bruised and his knee was hurting, but luckily no serious damage was done. Miraculously nobody else was hurt. By this time Sirens were wailing in the distance and soon an older English woman came bustling on board, and pushing me aside announced she was a Doctor and then proceeded to ask the guy the same things I had already asked him, and examine him as I had already done, and then announce as I had already done that he was Ok, nothing serious! She ordered me to maintain pressure on the head wound – as I had been doing since before she arrived - and then when someone turned up with some crepe and some bandages she took over and rebandaged it. We stood him up and as a precaution he went off to the Hospital.
Poor Wally was devastated. A little problem with the furler and now his mast and the radar were under water, the deck was gouged, the toe rail buckled and torn, the stanchions bent double and his sailing season and checkbook under serious threat. A little later the mast was pulled out of the water, the broken strop flapping about for all to see - I just hope the Crane operator had paid his insurance premiums!
As for my Plans, well I’ve decided to head back to Australia this month. One thing I’ve had enough of is trying to fix things in developing countries and being at the mercy of the dodgy operators we are forced to deal with. Between Fiji and Tanna one night I broke the 10mm thick Perspex board that closes off the companionway – nothing major, but a local guy quoted me around $200 to replace it – basically all that was needed was to trace round the old one and cut it out, then drill a hole for the lock! Labour was going to be $60! And I just decided to hell with it I will glue it together and bolt some timber across to hold it together till I get back! And yesterday the Inverter stopped working – again not serious or important – I use it to charge this laptop and the Phone and not much else – and unfortunately the Dinghy IS still leaking – not much but I have to pump it up tight every morning before I come ashore – and only one light still works in the Cabin….an accumulation of little things that diminishes my enthusiasm for heading further into the unknown.
But the Solar Controller that I bought and fitted works fine and I was very pleased to have sorted that out.
So I am restocking water and food, and replaced the 6 liters or so of Diesel I used getting here from Fiji, - mostly at Aniwa - and looking for a weather window.
This is a 56ft yacht called Udder Life.
The mast has just crashed into the water after the strop securing it to a crane broke.