How not to anchor.
Carnage in Big Majors photos
We had a rough night at Little Bay, Guana Island. We were anchored with our friends on KYA, Bella Jane, and Manatee. They had been anchored at Little Bay for several days, and were going to stay one more night before heading over to us at Big Majors, about 10 miles north.
We wanted to catch up with everyone, so we went over to Little Bay to join the gang.
We had a nice time on KYA, but that night the southerly winds picked up and made the anchorage very rollie. We were happy to pick up and head over to Big Majors, for much better protection from the Southeast.
KYA was concerned about the depths, so we went ahead of them and gave them our soundings. KYA is a 68’ Nordhavn, with 7’2” draft. They settled in inside the southern point of Big Majors in 3 metres of water.
I noticed that we had two ‘super yachts’ anchored in deeper water to the east of KYA. We had seen these large vessels a few days ago when we stopped for the night at Big Majors, before heading over to Little Bay.
Day Break and Le Montrachet were rafted together (150 ft. Feadship and 128 ft. Broward, respectively). This is a bit unusual, two big boats tied together side by side, but they had only one anchor off the larger vessel, Day Break.
They also had 3x 30’+ tenders. Two of these large twin engine go fast boats were tied to the stern platforms, athwart ship (sideways to the mother ship).
As it turned out, this was a BIG problem.
We met up on KYA, the crews from Manatee and Bella Jane, who were anchored about 200-300’ from us. We had a nice meal, watched some movies on KYA, had a few drinks, and went home to our respective boats about 11:00 pm.
I woke at about 1:00 am to the sound of wind, and waves bouncing Southern Star around. We were pitching up and down in some pretty big seas.
I got up and went to the pilot house. I saw a black and white like photo, when the lightening flashed with angry waves with white caps blown off their top, and other vessels rolling madly in the squall. Then it was completely black, only the sound of the wind, and the thunderous roar of thunder.
I started putting instruments on, chart plotter, sounder, auto pilot, VHF radio, radar. I started the engine so that I was prepared if I needed to do anything (e.g. move the boat).
Bella Jane is a 42’ sloop. She was pitching madly ahead of us. But she was holding. I shined the spot light across the anchorage as checked the other surrounding boats. Nothing seemed to be coming our way.
The lightening flashed over and over, the black and white scene flashed with it. The thunder sounded like cannon fire.
Things though, very scary seemed to be okay. No imminent danger existed. I contacted the other boats in the flotilla. JP in Bella Jane reported that his steering cable snapped due to the forces from the rudder moving so extremely in the seas.
Manatee was okay, they had nothing to report.
I called and asked Mike on KYA how he was. He reported, casually, that the two Super Yachts had just untangled from his bow, and were moving away.
Day Break had dragged on his single anchor with the additional weight of the 128’ Broward super yacht, Le Montrachet, and the 3- 30’ tenders. The squall had clocked the wind direction from the normal east, east south east direction (when we anchored) to south, south west, to west.
The Exumas have no protection from winds that come in from the west, and the banks are over 100 miles wide, giving the wind a long time to cause the waves to build. There is a lot of fetch for the waves to form when the wind is from the west.
We had 4-6 foot seas in the anchorage. All of the boats in the anchorage held on their anchors. I watched as boats all around me, switched on lights to try to see what was going on around them.
KYA was down wind of the rafted super yachts when the wind came up with the squall.
Normally should not be a problem. Big boats have big anchors and these boats are large enough to have professional licensed crews on board.
Michael watched as these two massive boats dragged closer and closer to him. He started his engine, his electronics. He sounded his horn, he called the vessels on the VHF, and He shined his spot light on the boats. Finally he spotted crew on the back of the boats, frantically trying to untie the two thirty foot tenders from the back of the swim platform. The tenders making maneuvering the mothership impossible.
Before they could get them loose, Day Breaks stern had collided with KYA’s bow. KYA’s anchor chain was wedged under the bottom of the 150’ boat. Michael was in the wheel house on KYA and saw his chart plotter indicated he was being driven (his anchor was dragging) toward the rocks behind him.
The superyachts were not doing anything to stop the inevitable collision with the rocks off of Big Majors southern point.
Michael realized that they were pinned together in this snarl of disaster, ran up to the bow, to see if he could relieve the pressure on the anchor chain. Katie brought Michael a hack saw, and Michael made several cuts across the nylon rope snubber, which holds the chain and absorbs the loads of the chain from the boat. It exploded with a few cuts and the windlass took on the chain load directly. Michael released the clutch on the windlass and the chain flew out of the locker, due to the pressure on the chain. 40 meters ran out in a few seconds. Luckily this allowed Day Break to get free and drive away from KYA.
The tender had broken free and scraped along the length of KYA’s port side. Katie looked behind KYA and saw their tender on the rocks, still tethered to KYA about 20 feet behind.
Michael turned on the windlass and took up 40 meters of chain, to safely pull them away from the rock shore.
And so the night ended. By 2:00 the anchorage had settled to more normal conditions, although the west wind direction continued for the next few days.
Sunrise brought about scoping out the anchorage. Day Breaks big tender was on the beach or her side at ‘Pigs Beach.’ The second tender we only barely was, was sunk to the west of KYA, only to tip of her bow and the stainless steel bow pulpit above the water.
Michael and I went around his boat on his tender, which was taking on some water. We noticed the broken stainless rub rail on the starboard bow, these in several places. The bow pulpit seems to have a gap between it and the hull. The top of the stainless pulpit rail was bent down significantly.
The real damage was on the port side, with huge scrapes alongside the hull where the tender had scraped along. The scrapes were in a wave shape, up and down as the tender bounced along. It looked like it had been ‘keyed’ by a giant. There were two or three cracks, or puncture marks in the fiberglass hull, very high above the water line. The port side stainless steel staples (removable inverted stainless steel u) were bent forward at 30-45 degrees.
We went over to Day Break, anchored 3-4 miles away to exchange information. The boat that had been on pig beach had been pulled off, but was now beached on another beach nearer to Day Break.
The Captain gave Michael his #’s but was very guarded. He never asked about anyone’s safety, or made any apologies.
We went by the tender on the beach and met the engineer and a mate off Day Break. They were pumping out the tender, trying to discover a hole which nearly sunk it once it was towed off Pig Beach.
And now the pain grows to a new level, as Mike has to deal with insurance companies, and maybe lawyers.
We had another squall the following night, this time at 0400. Manatee’s dinghy was swamped during this one, and they had to drag it out of the water as sunrise with the main halyard. Bella Jane’s emergency tiller snapped that morning as well.
Rob is a good fix it guy, and he had it going that afternoon. Rob also managed to replace the broken steering cable with some stainless steel halyard wire he took of his main halyard.
And so our last night together at Big Majors, we had a survivors beach party, only two working dinghy’s, surprisingly mine was working this time. We shuttled everyone over to the northernmost beach and had drinks and snacks. We talked about the craziness of the last few days, the scares, the stupidity of the professionals, and we watched the sunset.