|Tourist Boats at Ilha Bella|
I then went topside with a bailer in hand in order to prepare the Zodiac and one look at the conditions told me that it was probably Game Over for the day. The wind was at 18 knots coming from the south along the channel. This was too high for paddling the Zodiac slightly upwind to the safety of the marina 200 yards away. To the north were dark clouds heavy with rain. The wind picked up to 20-22 knots and I saw gusts of 30 knots. After an hour of watching I realized that this was no quickie flurry but was here to stay for the day. The wind settled to the 20-22 kt range and the sea roughened up to match it. There went my plans for the day but I had a bigger worry in my mind.
The night I arrived I passed the bitter end of one of my 12mm jib sheets to Leonardo, who passed it through an eye below the mooring float then handed it back to me. I then evened the ends of the sheets and cleated the pair of sheets around the forward bollard. So all that was holding the boat to the mooring was a loop of 12mm jib sheet. I had planned on putting out a second line to the mooring but had gotten distracted the previous day with the effort to get ashore and make contact with the club. In the 30 knot winds I could see the mistake I had made in putting it off. The two lines to the mooring were taut, like rods. Because there were two of them I was confident that they would hold, but the big worry was where the rope went around the mooring eye on a tight radius rather than on a thimble as it should have been. I figured that the line would part at any time.
I turned on all of the electronic navigation systems, put on the anchor alarm, and selected the next tiny bay to the north and downwind as the place to drop anchor if it came to that. The Google photograph showed no boats, probably because it was near no shore facilities. That was good. I wanted no boats and no moorings because dropping anchor in a mooring field with ground chains running all over the place is asking for trouble. The SE corner of the bay offered good depths of 2-3 meters. I then untied the anchor for a quick drop.
I tried to figure out a way to get a loop of a second line through the eye at the top of the mooring float because I definitely did not want to go into the night in this situation. I tried pulling on the mooring lines in order to work the boat forward but the wind was simply too strong for that. I then moved the Zodiac forward in the hopes of jumping in it, working my way forward, grabbing the mooring lines, then working my way forward again to the mooring float to put the line through. But when I moved the Zodiac toward the bow away from the protection of the hull the wind began to lift the front of the inflatable, threatening to overturn it. I quickly beat a hasty retreat. I considered swimming, but I wasn't sure of the temperature of the water and didn't want the risk of a rebound of the cold that I had just gotten over and besides, there was an element of risk swimming under a wildly pitching bow. Worse, if the mooring line parted while I was in the water I would be forced to swim ashore while watching the boat beach itself near the bay where I would have dropped anchor. I resigned myself to waiting out the wind.
I spent 30 minutes moving the cargo back to the quarter berth and with the cabin clear I had lunch (instant soup with a piece of really nice cheese) then jumped in the sack for a nap. I slept well, but every time that I surfaced from the deep sleep I was aware of the wind howling through the rigging. I got up at 1 PM and started to act, knowing, but not really knowing, what I was going to do. It was as though my body knew what to do even if my brain didn't.
I started the engine and engaged it in forward at 1000 rpm. I went forward and saw that it had made no significant difference to the tension on the mooring lines. I increased the revs to 1500 and saw at the bow that now I had something to work with. The boat was slowly trying to overrun the mooring, but the wind would catch it and push the bow to the side. In a cycle of 5 minutes the bow would swing from one side of the mooring to the other. Whenever I got an opportunity I pulled in another 6 inches of mooring lines and wrap another loop around the cleat. After 3 wraps the float was close to the stem of the boat, bouncing on the hull at times, but mostly off to one side or the other. The next 10 minutes must have looked comical because I was flat on my stomach trying to poke the stiff end of a 22mm mooring line through the eye at the top of the float as it gyrated around wildly. That didn't work so I tried holding the float with the left hand while poking the line through with the right. Then the boat swung and now mooring was on the port side, my preference because I wanted the mooring lines to be on the port side of the headstay, so as to not interfere with the anchor on the starboard roller. I managed to do it. I threaded the bitter end through the loop, knowing that the other end was safely secured to the aft heavy bollard. I brought on the line, took out the slack, cleated it off, then spent 5 minutes removing the 3 loops around forward bollard that I had put in to shorten the jib sheet mooring lines.
At the end I had the heavy 22mm nylon mooring line taking the strain off the eye at the top of the mooring float, and the 12mm jib sheet line passing through the eye below the mooring float, slack and acting as backup. I felt that we were now as safe as we could be because the 22mm line would definitely hold. (The difference between the lines is larger than it seems. The 12 mm line is sheathed, meaning that its core is more like 10mm. The 22mm line is not sheathed, meaning that what you see is what you get.) ... Of course I could worry about the mooring itself failing, but the moorings all looked well maintained and besides, there was no point in worrying about things that I could not control. What I could control was the outcome. From now on the navigation systems would stay on, the anchor alarm would stay on, the anchor would be at the ready, and I would resume receiving grib files.
From the perspective of hindsight and a cup of liqueur, I could see that it had all worked out for the best. Had I left the boat before the wind slammed it the line could have parted without me being on board to be able to save it or, almost as bad, I could have faced the prospect of paddling the Zodiac back to the boat at the end of the day through a howling wind.
Pangloss, the philosopher in Candide, would have approved of my first statement in the above paragraph. "It is demonstrable", he said, "that things cannot be otherwise than they are: for all things having been made for some end, they must necessarily be for the best end." Candide wrestled with this notion through his many travails, which included a visit to Argentina. At the end he, Pangloss, and others wind up on a simple farm. The story finishes with Pangloss giving a soaring exposition of his philosophy and Candide replying simply "That's very well said, and may all be true, but let's cultivate our garden." To me that says it all.
(The medieval Catholic church hated Voltaire so much that they excommunicated and persecuted him. I read an account of his death that I hope is true. A priest visited him on his death bed and told him that this was his last chance to renounce Satan and all his works and return to the fold. Voltaire marshaled what strength he had remaining and gasped "This is no time to make enemies." Even during my time in high school Voltaire was on the church's List of Banned Books. To read Voltaire was a mortal sin subject to eternity in hell. Then at the flip of a switch the List of Banned Books was revoked. The day before you would be consigned to the hobbs of hell, but the next day it was OK. Go figure. So much for intrinsic evil. Personally, I'd like to see the modern Catholic Church canonize Voltaire as a saint, though I'm sure that Voltaire would spin in his grave at the thought.)
At 4 PM while I was seated at the companionway enjoying my wine ("Familia Gascon" Cabernet Savignon, 2009) the wind was still running at 20-22 kt and surging to 25 kt. Down below the rice was ready and pressure cooker was cooling down after heating up my 3rd and last portion of the pork stew. I would finish watching an interesting first-time movie for me, Ben Kingsley in "You Kill Me", over dinner and have an early night.
At 5.30 PM the dinner was eaten, the movie watched, and the wind was down to an average of 15-17 knots. Time for bed. Tomorrow would be another day.
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