Four to Eight Islands

Four to Eight Islands

The Burnetts are settling in to their new lifestyle.  Marvin was hauled out of the water this morning by the same crane they just used to lift heavy containers and pieces of glass to build the new aquarium up north.  Fortunately, this was not an omen; no fish spilled out of the holes in the transoms once Marvin was lifted out; just lots and lots of water.  Although the kids think they saw a dead shrimp.

Now that he is out of the water, Mel hopes Marvin will be quickly crawled over by lots of people, much like the swarm of ants that turn up in the Burnetts’ new apartment when food is dropped.  Living on land has its downsides, they are recalling — like those ants, the giant tropical cockroaches, and the tarantulous spiders in their garden.  Give Mel a jellyfish to dodge any day.  They are slower.

Mel hoped desperately for a quick assessment and treatment as she prepared food last night wearing a headlamp because their circuit breaker tripped again.  The best case is that they will be here a month.  At their previous pace of travel, one month is easily four to eight islands.  Yes, cruisers mark time with islands.  The Burnetts are now on the real “island time.”

Anyway, the Burnetts owe you a story.  Since Greg is exhausted from telling his side of the rescue, Mel will take the dry, nerdy, engineery account he made for the insurance company and jazz it up a little.  She will leave out most of the figures.  You are welcome.

When we last left the Burnetts, Mel and the kids had been rescued by the Coast Guard after the big BANG! and Greg was left alone on the boat until morning, when it was deemed safer to try to extract Marvin.  He had tied Marvin to a floating line connecting the trap we were in to the one behind us.  This was to keep Marvin from continuing on into the circular trap and getting his bows bashed in, which would have surely eventually sunk him.  In the middle of the night, Greg got into a rhythm: lie down, listen to the creaking and moaning of the boat, jump up with any new change (which happened every twenty minutes or so), and then adjust the lines and replace the ones that popped.  There also was a quick winch reassembly maneuver at 4 a.m. thrown in for good measure.  In the light of day, one thing was obvious: the trap, which was actually a Triton fish farm, not a mussel trap, was barely bigger than the boat.  We could not have knowingly maneuvered Marvin into that particular spot if we had tried.

”By myself on the boat, I waited throughout the night, listening to the grinding and beating noises as Marvin’s saildrives and rudders were destroyed by the wind and waves.”

During the night, the port and then the starboard engine rooms flooded, and the bilge pumps died. At around 0900, Marvin gave out a huge groan and freed his rudders from the barrier, now slipping completely inside of the ring.  Greg scrambled to loosen lines and add others in order to keep Marvin centered in the ring and yet still away from the giant cage floating in the middle, but some damage was sustained to the transoms.

Shortly afterwards, it was decided divers were needed to extract Marvin.  Greg had involved our insurance agent, Marcos, who helped arrange a team of commercial divers from Reprosub Diving. Our Iridium sat phone got a workout.

The Coast Guard then assisted Greg in adding more lines to keep Marvin off of the barrier. See “Figure 3.”  Snort, nerds!

At 1245 the dive boat arrived, with three swimmers and three crew, plus Marcos.  Two of the swimmers (David and Roberto) swam around the boat to assess our situation and then came onboard to plan.  It was decided that the tubes that make up the ring were too tough to cut, but the plastic posts could be removed, allowing Marvin to be towed out, hopefully unobstructed, over the ring.  

“With the sorry state of our saildrives and rudders (the bottom 2/3 of one I had seen floating beside the boat) it was hoped that we would be able to clear the circle easily.”

Greg was appalled that the divers arrived armed with only a dull hacksaw, so he proceeded to lend them many of our tools.  This included our beloved and extremely useful yellow Spyderco Sailing Knife, which Mr. Pissypants (the Atlantic Sea God) apparently coveted so much he later took possession of.  Cutting the posts was hard, dangerous work, but in the end three swimmers took down six posts.

“The winds were 32 gusting to 36, with 2 to 2.5 meter seas.”

They then used Marvin’s anchor bridle and reserve anchor line to attach a line from the rescue boat that was passed to us by the dive boat.  Once the rescue boat was in position, the boat team cut the lines holding Marvin in the center of the trap and the rescue boat began to pull Marvin out of the ring.  Marvin was almost free!

NOT YET!  The keels caught on the tubing, and with further pulling the anchor bridle broke, leaving the rescue boat line held only by the backup anchor line.  Marvin fell back into his cage, this time turning in such a way that his starboard bow and stern was smashed against the tubing.  During this time the rescue boat had fallen off rapidly downwind and needed to reposition, which required releasing the tow line.  Marvin was beat against the tubing while this maneuvering took place, and a large hole was torn out of the starboard transom.  The rest of the starboard hull remained watertight.

New lines were tied directly to the bow rings on Marvin, and the towing resumed.  Marvin was almost free!

NOT YET!  The remnants of the port rudder caught on the circle of tubing.  Greg removed all of the bolts holding the rudder post in place, and in a few seconds Marvin looked free…

NOT YET!  The starboard rudder post caught on the tubing.  This time, the bolts would not budge.  Greg tried to use a 4-pound hammer to beat the rudder post, but it would not move.  After 4-5 minutes of this, the boat team told the rescue boat to pull away, and then the rudder plate broke free, putting another big hole in the starboard transom.

FREEDOM!  It was 1640 and Marvin was now free!  Soon, Marvin would be safe in port…

NOT YET!  Greg rigged a warp out of lines, but even so the rescue boat was having trouble getting Marvin to follow in a controlled fashion. Pulling out the jib did not help, and then they discovered that the towline had broken. Marvin was adrift until a double steel cable was attached to the starboard bow, and like a kid in really big trouble, he was towed, askew, by one hull slowly to Arguineguin. 

AT LAST!  It was dark again by the time Marvin arrived, and some elegant maneuvering was required to dock Marvin onto the rescue boat and then back him into the marina. 

The entire episode, from crash to finish, took 25 hours.   

Mel is convinced after all of this that she has one awesome, resourceful husband.  She already knew that, but a reminder now and then is nice.  Wait, what is she saying???  Reminders of someone’s resourcefulness usually are NOT nice!

In addition to Greg, they have some top-notch seamen here in the Canaries!

“We owe a debt to the rescue boat and the divers – especially the small boat crew that took my family to safety and tied up two lines at great personal risk and under dangerous conditions.  Given the damage sustained by Marvin for the few minutes when he was in contact with the ring, I can state unequivocally that without their help and the lines I rigged to keep Marvin away from the circle, Marvin would have been hulled and submerged in a few hours.”

Mel is editing a video for you, but for now here are some pics.  The awfulness is pretty obvious. 

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