Posted by: powellpjc | November 15, 2012

A Night of Terror.

As my good friend, Fred Bates, once told me, a good sea story always starts with ‘and this is no shit’. Ok, this is no shit.
After being kicked out of the ‘zone militaire’—welcome to Madagascar—I re-anchored in the designated zone. It is tiny. Makes the Thunder Bay yacht basin look like Lac de Miles Lac, for those who know this stuff.
There were two boats already anchored when I arrived after a 20 minute motor: a clapped-out foreign ketch with a caretaker aboard. He had the prime location; next to him was this converted sea tug with two anchors out. My style is to cruise around the neighborhood, looking around. Make a circuit or two, check the depths, clearances and then drop the hook. As I slowly motored by the clapped-out ketch, the local caretaker gave me a wave. Ok. Be nice to get some information but he was not interested. I was between the ketch and the ‘tug’ when a brown Doberman went ballistic. Running up and down the deck, yapping as only a vicious and unhappy Doberman can do and making me nervous. I hate dangerous dogs. However, his actions brought out a fine-looking young lady who welcomed me to Antsiranana. She saw my Canadian flag and we exchanged some shouted greetings (in French.) Then she ran to the bow of her boat and started waving frantically. I was headed for a wreck, about 1 foot underwater at high tide and showing its jagged edges at low. It was invisible with no markings. I couldn’t see it. I got the gist of her concerns and adjusted course. There was not much room in this damn tiny basin so I gave the tug a wide berth and dropped anchor well clear of him and the cement quay. Dodged one wreck/bullet.
Next day I met the owner of the tug, a fine chap by the name of Carl from Czech Republic. He told me I should be in closer (to him) but I told him if we swing differently I am the one who is going to suffer so I’ll stay where I am. He’s bigger and more dangerous, especially with that damn dog.
First night passes fine and I consider Carl’s advice but decide, hell, we’re close to shore, ‘what could go wrong?’ and I leave my anchor where it is.
Second night the clouds gather. By sunset the lightning is flashing. Wind is ok, but gusting. I go to sleep. I’ve been at sea for 53 days, ok? The gusts increase.
I wake up with the sound of my anchor making noises. That should never happen. Anchors are meant to sleep deeply in the mud or sand and shut the hell up.
I knew the wind was up so I came up on deck (1 a.m.) and I shone my high beam searchlight around, looking for Carl’s boat and the ketch. Can’t find them. Rain is horizontal and wind is over 25 knots so I get the binoculars out and start gazing about. Can’t see anyone. The lights of the shore look to be far away and the boat is going sideways. At anchor the boat faces the wind. What’s up? Is the tide going out? No, it wasn’t. Whoa.
I turn on my navigation station (chartplotter) and wait 1 minute while it picks up the satellites and I can’t believe my eyes. I have left my anchorage and am drifting with the wind. I am 300 metres from the shoreline on the opposite side of the bay. I have dragged/drifted about 2 km. The noise I heard from my anchor was it clicking over a submerged wreck. My anchor is hanging 20 metres down. Thank the stars it did not hook in. When I got my wits about me I threw out about a mile of chain (exaggeration) but almost all I had.
The anchor held. I knew there were other wrecks about but I could not pick them up with my searchlight, in the driving rain and strong winds.
I was holding. I was wet. I was cold but mostly I was scared. If the anchor lets go again I will be ashore and the boat will be lost. It is 3 a.m. when I finish setting the bridles on the anchor so I dry off and lie down. I have a small stroke, a pedestrian nervous breakdown and a mild heart attack. I don’t sleep but I do have a pull on the nearest whisky bottle. What the hell, already.
At false dawn (5 a.m.) I am on deck with the binos, looking around. I am 100 metres from a 700 foot ship wreck. I have drifted/dragged over 2 other huge wrecks with no damage. The anchor has held. I am floating. Why have I had such luck? Good and bad. No answer.
It is still blowing hard but I up-anchor and return to my place of designated ‘peace anchorage’ and drop anchor again. I put out 20 metres of chain and put the engine in full reverse until there is no more backwards movement. Then I put out 60 more metres of chain and plot various landmarks to see if I’m moving again. I am not. I lie down again and this time sleep comes in spite of driving rain and 25 knot winds. I am safe.
The book describing the Titanic was called, ‘A Night to Remember’, but my book will be titled, ‘A Night to Forget’.
I don’t like sailing. I often hate sailing. I always hate anchoring and I know why. Maybe now, you understand as well.
I have no pictures. You will have to let your imagination run. Perhaps keep this image in your mind. A bony, old, skinny bugger, naked except for his raincoat and headlamp running up and down the wet deck in a flashing thunderstorm. Eyeballs out on stalks and nerves shot to hell. I know, it’s a tough image. Should have been there if you want tough.
As always, click on pic to enlarge.

After leaving N. Madagascar this will be my intended route. Hope to make Richard’s Bay as my first stop in South Africa.



  1. I used to follow your blog because of the sailing. I am a bit of a sailing junkie. I now follow it because of the writing. I am a bit of a sailing reading junkie. In relation to this particular entry – holy shit. From a sailing and reading perspective.

  2. bloody hell Pete ——I burn’t the eggs.They’ve recovered but I’m now on my third java.
    Lois says it all.

  3. Pedro
    You one lucky sumbitch! All I can think about is “why didn’t the anchor hook on a wreck?” That would have caused some real problems!
    Fucking Doberman!

  4. The experts all say you would’ve made Whitefish Bay if you had put 15,000 more miles behind you…lucky lucky ducky. Mind the Great Whites off the Cape.

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