Pyjama Party with a French Sailboat Live Aboard Couple

from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...


Monday 16th July 2001 (continued)

I could not sleep, the wind was blowing very strongly, the rain was lashing and the wind generator was howling, making an ungodly sound. We were both awake and Dick suddenly shouted

"What the hell is that going by?" 

He dashed out into the cockpit to see a French yacht 'Diaton X' had dragged anchor and was careering backwards out of control on our starboard side at a rate of knots.

Both crew (skipper and his wife) were on deck in full wet weather gear and managed to get the yacht under control by motoring forward.

The skipper went onto the foredeck to try to pull in his anchor but instead of keeping well forward of Alacazam his wife turned the yacht right across our bow, spun around and ended up nearly colliding with our port side.

I dashed out with our wet weather jackets to hear Dick shouting 'let out more anchor chain'. Although it became obvious later that he could speak very little English, fortunately the skipper understood the command and let out the chain and the yacht dropped back behind us.

Dick went forward and by sighting Diaton X's anchor buoy realised that their anchor was caught around our chain and that both yachts were now hanging from the one anchor, ours.

Diaton X was flailing around behind us, with every movement we were making greatly enhancing its movements. The gale was in full force by now however, we seemed to be holding fast and the decision was made 'in pigeon English' to wait until first light before disentangling.

The worry though was that if our anchor did not hold we would crash into the moored boats behind us. Dick stayed up boat watching and I went to bed fully clothed in readiness if I was required to help.

At 0340 hours we heard the anchor move and started the engine ready to motor, but it must have been Diaton X's anchor moving as we held fast. Dick could not see anyone on Diatron X and said

"I think the buggers have gone to bed!"

and promptly flashed our 1 million candle-power torch onto the yacht. A startled Frenchman darted up on deck.

Dick explained what had happened and the plan remained to do nothing until daylight as the weather was so foul. Both crews donned full wet weather gear and put out fenders on both yachts in readiness for first light. We realised that they must have been worried out of their minds and were also having a sleepless night.

As soon as it was light enough to see Dick checked the anchor and could clearly see the Frenchman's anchor attached to our chain. He signalled the Frenchman to motor along our port side to slacken his chain. Dick managed to free the anchor and the Frenchman is pulling in his anchor chain shouting 'Arrêtte' (stop) to his wife on the helm.

"For f...s sake, go!" shouts Dick, but too late, thank goodness for the fenders, as the wife is now ramming us. All hands manage to keep the two yachts apart and finally they are off with surprisingly no damage to either yacht.

Their anchor was really much too small for the size of yacht and it was little wonder that it did not hold. They motored around Alacazam to check for damage but there was none, so "Au revoir and Vive La France" shouts Dick although he was saying much more under his breath.

It is 0600 hours, time for a cup of tea. The only damage I could see was spots of blood everywhere from Dick's little toe, which he had hit on a stanchion base earlier and was now proving to be very sore indeed. He was not a happy bunny...

Tuesday 17th July 2001

Dick went to bed for an hour while I continued to boat-watch. Diaton X had anchored a fair way from us but we were still downwind of her and she would make straight for us if her anchor broke free again. Dick woke up at 0730 hours. The wind had abated, Diaton X appeared to be holding fast, and so we went to bed.

Dick woke me at 1000 hours with a cup of tea, but then I fell asleep again until 1400 hours.

It was still pouring with rain when I woke, and found Dick really bad tempered and exasperated because he just could not make the email work.

I decide to cook chips (oven baked) with pork chops and onions, a totally alien meal for me as Dick is more the meat eater, but that sums up how I felt.

I was just about to put the food in the oven when Dick decides it is time to move, Great!!!

Although by now it has stopped raining and the sky is blue, a south westerly force 9 gale is expected tonight and we will be much safer back on the Visitors Buoy. I put the food in the oven anyway so it can cook whilst we move Alacazam.

The anchor was well dug in and proved difficult to break out but there were no cock-ups. As I needed to be on the helm we decided not to flake the chain as it stowed.

No doubt we will find out if this was a mistake or not the next time we drop anchor. We pick up the Visitors Buoy perfectly. At least we seem to be getting something right. I was beginning to wonder if Alacazam was jinxed and that we should abort the voyage but that is plain silly. Perhaps we have had an early lesson in 'not to become complacent'. Who knows?

By now lunch was cooked and tasted excellent. We settled down to relax for the rest of the day - Dick reading a novel in the cockpit - me continuing with this journal. Murphy phoned to see if I wanted to go dancing at Plymouth, but I declined mainly because of the gales forecast but also because I was very tired. He has invited us to his house for dinner tomorrow night, which is something to look forward to.

We phoned Phil and Anna to regale them of our night's events and spoke to Rosie and Bill (Landlords of 'The RABI', The Royal Albert Bridge Inn) who were having dinner with them.

Dick goes to bed early and I follow at about midnight. It is a perfectly still beautiful night, and I can hear the birds calling - is this the lull before the storm?

Next: The Sailboat Live Aboard Lifestyle, Part 5

Parrots,Tin Mines and the Americas Cup...

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