Monday, January 2, 2012

Aitutaki Island, trying to get in.

We arrived at the island at about 08:00 and were very pleased that we'd managed to get there during the daylight hours. We knew that navigating up the small channel they had was not going to be easy as it was very shallow in places and not very wide. We have a beam width of 23 feet so we have to be careful about where we go. :-)
A reef all around the island.. where is the entrance?
We motored around trying to find the channel by eye. We could not see any marker buoys or posts anywhere, so we decided to follow the chart plotter.

As we neared the entrance marked on the plotter I got more and more jittery. David was standing on the bow and i was following his directions. First he told me to drive to starboard and then to port. The plotter showed no reason to be taking these deviations. I got more worried. The surf was pounding on the reef around us and sounded ominous. we could see a dark stretch of straight water ahead, indicating a long deepish channel, but just before that the water looked really shallow. It was hard to tell the depth because the water was so crystal clear. I don't know if you've ever experienced that. you can be in 40 ft of water yet the bottom looks as close as 1 or 2 feet, very disorientating. Just then I noticed that the depth sounder was not reading a bottom.. great I thought just what we need right now... I wanted to get out of there but David said to go on, and then it happened. We hit the reef. An loud awful grinding and bashing, bumping sound. I started to shake, oh Shit I thought. David yelled at me to get us out of there, I yelled back that he should come and take the wheel and I'd guide him out. He is way better at the helm than I am. So we swapped places.

It was just as well. I was showing him the direction he needed to go when he yelled that he had no steering.. Oh Shit I thought again. He worked the engines and propellers hard and managed to swing us around and out of danger. As soon as we were clear and in 30 feet of water we dropped the anchor. We needed to assess the damage and figure out what to do.

David donned his fins and snorkel and jumped into the water. He took a look at the rudders. The port one had bent it's shaft a tad and was jammed up against the hull. What to do. He came up on deck and we discussed our options. One was to disengage the rudder from the system and try and go in with only one rudder, the other was to drop it out, dinghy ashore and get it straightened there. There was another option and we thought we'd give it a go.

David went into the water with a long line that we'd draped over the bow roller where the anchor chain normally goes, he swam it back to the rudder and tied it around the blade. I attached the other end to the windlass, ( the machine we use to pull the anchor up), and then I slowly tensioned the line. I had to release it a couple of times while David did some adjusting but eventually we managed to pull the rudder straight again. What a huge and profound relief. We sat in the cockpit marveling at our narrow escape for a lot of extra work and inconvenience.

While sitting there David decided to go through the information we had for these islands. We have several cruising guides, and in one of them we found a note to say that the Chart plotted entrance for this island was false... well we knew that now ;-p ...  anyway this chap gave us some way points to follow to get into the anchorage. David plotted them and they were quite far from where the plotter had told us to go.
The marked channel and then the triangles where we actually ended up going.
We decided to take another chance. I'd calmed down now and was determined not to let this place beat me. So there I was once again at the helm with David standing at the bows directing me a little left and then a little right.... Before I knew it we were in the channel, which by the way was marked with thin maybe 10 mm black sticks that you could hardly see till you were almost upon them. I was still nervous but I didn't feel the foreboding that I'd felt before, even when the depth got down to 2.5  feet. :-)

It didn't take long and soon I was turning us around, dropping the anchor and backing Puddytat towards the shore so that David could tie our stern to a tree. This was the way that these folks liked our boats to be anchored apparently.

We sat back and relaxed, taking in our surroundings. Whew what an ordeal. It was 12:33.
Tied up and looking at our new back yard.

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