Saturday, February 2, 2008

Boat eating Reefs

There are advantages to living on an island without roads: quieter, less pollution, natural beauty, access to areas may be difficult but it forces one to use their legs, and it restricts building in many areas because of inaccesability. Of course, the downside: one must travel from one place to the other in a boat, in all kinds of weather.

One of the main reasons we decided to settle on Guanaja was because of the lack of roads. Over the 10 1/2 years we have been here a road down the length of the island has been discussed and, at one time, was a hot debate as it seemed that the Government was close to arriving at an agreement without outside help to build a road. It seemed, at least to me, that those who wanted the road wanted it for monetary gain more than anything else. Most of us accept the island as it is and despite the inconveniences of travel, we wanted it to remain "pristine". Unfortunately, the money that was proposed (and we felt it fell far short of what it would actually cost) appeared, however, there was only enough to build a road from Savannah Bight to Mangrove Bight.....well, almost. The road was cut and packed down but the finishing product, the concrete, was never laid. We think that the majority of that money was pocketed and when it came time to finish the road with a hard, durable surface, there was no more money. That would not be all bad, but now the road running between the two towns is dirt and when one has a dirt road it spells trouble when it meets with water in the form of rain. Well, we all know what happens....and it did.

Anyway, I stray from my original purpose for posting. Running boats on the sea.

Guanaja is surround by lovely reefs, great for diving and protecting the shores of the island. However, one must be aware of where these outcroppings are when transversing between Point A and Point B. The Islanders, and those of us who came to live here, have learned where the reefs and dangerous outcrops are and can travel without incident. Well, unless it is dark, you've had too much to drink or you are in unfamiliar territority - and that I can cover in another blog.

We have many sailboats that come to the island and they usually anchor at one of three places: Sandy Bight, Josh Cay (a/k/a Graham's Cay) or near Michael's Rock. Leaving the island to head towards the mainland or Panama requires knowledge of the area and where the reefs are located as some channels are rather narrow to pass through. Such is the case between Josh Cay and Half Moon Cay.

Last week, a sailor by the name of Henri, left Josh Cay early in the morning headed to the coast of Central America. He felt confident that he could pass through the narrow channel near Half Moon Cay as he had done it before. Unfortunately, this time he was either lax in his judgment or fell asleep at the wheel or was not paying attention and he ran aground.

There are not a lot of resources around for getting a boat off a reef but it is possible. This was a difficult situation, however, because he was in a shallow area. The owner of Clark Cay, who was not here at the time, allowed his barge to be used with a Track Hoe to, hopefully, facilitate the operation.

As you can see by the photo, this is not exactly the best device to use to lift a boat, but it was the only thing, at the time, that could go into the shallow area and reach the boat.

The boat, from reports, had several holes in the hull from constant scrapping on the reef and had taken on a lot of water. It is hazy at this point whether the boat was lifted and the water allowed to drain out completely (as should have been done), or whether water was still in the boat and they managed to get it on the barge. The ideal situation would have been to pump all the water out of the boat but, I don't believe, a pump was available at this point. Or, if there was a pump on board the damaged vessel (which there should have been) and whether it was operational.

Anyway, they got the boat up and took it over the Brick Point Marina. The reason I say that the boat still had water on board is because people taking the photos claimed to have seen water pouring out of some of the holes in the boat. Oh, by the way, these photos are not mine, I must credit them to the people on Half Moon Cay and individuals who live near Brick Point Marina. Anyway that was one problem. The second was the track hoe is not built to lift a boat and third, there was no spacing in the strapping used to lift the boat. Results: disaster as the following photos will show.

The straps broke and the boat was a gonner.

It ended up in the shallow water but now completely filled with water. Nothing to do but try and bring her up again. In the process the hull was crushed and the holes in the boat enlarged. Result: disaster.

It was not a pretty sight, especially for the owner. The boat was damaged to the point of costing more to repair it and Henri now must deal with his insurance agent. Another nightmare most likely.

The moral (if there is one), utmost caution must be practiced when boating in unfamiliar territority. Several deaths have been attritubed to lack of knowledge, drunkness while driving, speeding, traveling without proper lights, and plain stupidity by being on the water when the weather is not condusive to boating. Thankfully no one was hurt in this accident and Henri managed to get some of his possessions off the boat before the whole process started of getting it off the reef.

1 comment:

  1. What an awful situation. I feel so sorry for Henri. How could he have known that the people "rescuing" him would ultimately be responsible for his boat's demise? "Uh sir, we can get your boat off the reef, but we'll have to destroy it in the process." "Go right ahead!" Guanaja really needs drydock space for sailboats; it's a shame there isn't any.

    But what about the rest of the story? Sailors generally live on their boats; where is Henri living now? What's he going to do?

    Interesting story. Paradise does have its downfalls and risks...