Friday, October 06, 2017

Ngau Island

[Kyle]We left Tapana in a strong breeze for the short sail to Ngau Island. I had been expecting quite a few boats to be there, but we ended up being the only one. It turned out to be a good thing. The anchorage is actually quite small, with shallow coral on three sides. We had to be very careful about laying out our chain to keep it from getting fouled.

We snorkelled to make sure everything was fine and then, of course, decided to have a look around afterwards. The underwater life at Ngau seemed to be struggling more than at our last two stops. The protected nature of the anchorage kept a lot of current from flowing through and there also seemed to be a lot of silt. This makes it hard for the coral and reduces visibility. Once we got fairly far from the boat, things cleared up a bit and we were able to find several spots where swaying anemones protected adorable fish that not to be able to decide between guarding their spots like tough guy bouncers or cowering in the anemone so that only their faces could be seen.

As we were enjoying these antics, a charter catamaran came into the anchorage. They paused for a bit sensibly far behind Begonia before eventually deciding the best spot for their anchor was pretty much right where ours was. This left them at a distance that would have put them two boats away had we been in a marina. That was way too close. Maryanne guessed that they may have been making a lunch stop, so we decided to start off friendly and swam over to introduce ourselves. On the way, we would swim over their anchor to see if it was actually as close as it had looked form where we had seen them drop it.

We found their chain and followed it down to their anchor. It turned out to be a lot shorter trip than we had expected. It ran down from the bows at about a forty-five degree angle until it reached the anchor, only the tip of which was actually touching the bottom, as it skipped along the sea bed. Behind it was a long trough. Maryanne introduced herself. They were very nice. They explained that they were only planning to stay for lunch and a for some of them to take quick trip to the beach. They knew they were dragging, but someone would always be aboard and they wouldn't be long. Fine, we'll go back to our boat and try our best to appear nonchalant about the whole thing as it drifted closer and closer to us.

After a while, we were just starting to think we may need to get out some fenders when they upped anchor and went back to their original spot to repeat the process. Wouldn't it have been a lot easier to put out enough chain to begin with so they wouldn't drag in the first place? By the second time they got too close, lunch was done and they were all back aboard, so they left to resume their vacation elsewhere.

As they were leaving, we could see another boat making a beeline for us from deep water. It turned out to be the same monohull that we had passed the day before. They did the same as the charter cat when they arrived, scouting out a place to drop anchor. After rejecting a couple of spots, they headed ahead of us. There was not much room up there that was deep enough for their keel. We tried again to keep a close eye on things while at the same time appearing unconcerned assuming they were only scouting the area.

At some point, the guy at the helm spotted our anchor float and made a big turn to go see what it was. These floats serve several purposes: they make it clear where our anchor is set, and they connect a line to the forward part of our anchor which we can use as a trip-line, i.e. to recover the anchor if ever it gets stuck or we have to disconnect the boat from the anchor at the other end of the chain. We were worried this other boat would think the floats were a mooring ball, even though we have taken some care to keep it from looking like one. They approached and stopped. The guy on the bow stared at it for a while and then they drove over it and dropped their anchor. I lunged for the radio, but Maryanne beat me to it, which was probably best. They didn't answer, so she went to the bow and shouted that she was trying to call them. I was ready, but she took the microphone and told them they may want to check their prop, because they just ran over our trip line. I thought that was a very diplomatic way of saying they had just put their anchor on top of ours. My version of the transmission was probably going to start with, “Hey, morons...”

We were worried they had pulled our anchor off of the bottom and that we would both be stuck together, unable to manoeuvre and dragging. Our anchor floats popped up and didn't actually seem to be as close to them as I had thought. I watched them for a while and then I realized they were getting closer. Then it dawned on me that they were drifting toward us. Maryanne, who had just finished getting dry from her last swim, went back in the sea to check the situation and recover our floats that were by now drifting off.

When she got to our anchor, she found them lying alongside about a boat width away. After cutting our line, they must've dragged our floats a couple of boat lengths before they dropped their anchor, so they were close, but not nearly as close as we had feared. I thought she was then going to swim over to them to talk to them about it, but she came straight back. She told me it was because she wouldn't have been able to be nice to them just then. As she was in the water near them, someone from their boat went in, checked their prop and came back out, all without even acknowledging Maryanne's presence or going anywhere near their anchor.

As Maryanne was swimming back, the guy called me on the radio to tell me not to worry, everything was fine with his prop.

'That's great, but you ran right over our trip line floats and cut the line.”

“My prop's fine.”

“Okay, but you ran over my line and cut it, which could have pulled our anchor off of the bottom and then you dropped yours almost on top of ours.

“I didn't see them.”

“I SAW you see them! You looked at them, stopped, turned toward them, went over to them, stopped to look at them some more and then ran right over them!”

“I didn't see them.”

Liar! I then went down below, got a grenade and lobbed it into their cockpit. What? I didn't pull the pin or anything.

Many boats are equipped with line cutters on their prop shafts to keep their props from getting fouled with fishing lines, pot buoys and the like. Maryanne didn't get close enough to check while she was swimming, but I think they may have had one. The cut on ours was pretty clean and I think there's a chance the guy may have done it deliberately to get rid of obstructions in his potential swing area, or just to make some kind of point.

When they all loaded into their dinghy later, we thought they may swing by and offer some sort of apology, but they went about their business acting like we were not even there.

The cruising community down here is pretty small. It didn't take long for us all to know the name of the boat that helped itself to everything it could steal off of the wreck in Beveridge after the ten boats before them left it unmolested. It's not going to take long for people to find out this guy is a selfish liar.

While we were still stewing over that incident, another boat, a catamaran, came in and went through the same process of trying several spots before dropping their anchor very near ours. I was in no mood for this. They were new and had nothing to do with the other guy, so I decided to force myself to be calm and hope they figure it out on their own that they are way too close, the way we would if the roles were reversed. When they backed down and came to rest a boat length ahead, they decided to re-anchor without any prompting from us. They found a new spot a little ahead, but were still over our anchor.

This time, it was my turn to swim again. I swam the length of our chain and back. Their anchor was ahead of ours and their chain ran parallel so that their boat rode behind and just to one side of where our anchor was buried. Maryanne and I had a little chat about my findings and then I swam back to talk to them.

They were very nice. They had been searching all day for somewhere suitable to anchor, but had repeatedly come up short, including at all of the places we had considered to shorten our next leg. I told them we didn't need them to move just then (the first boat in an anchorage takes precedence over the next and so on), but we warned them that we were planning to leave very early the next morning. They might have to get up so they could nudge to one side so we could retrieve our anchor. When I told them we were planning on going in the dark at five a.m., I expected snorts of disapproval, but they said it would be good motivation for them to get an early start themselves. It turned out they were planning on doing the same sail as us. Our next stop was the Ha'apai group. Ordinarily, it would require an overnight sail, but the wind forecast was such that we had a small window where we thought we may be able to do it in one day, but we would have to get an early enough start to ensure we got there in daylight. Their boat was a slightly bigger Fountaine Pajot of roughly the same vintage as Begonia, so their performance would be similar.

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