Lying in bed late at night in Numa Numa harbor, I was awoken by the sound of the boat twisting around the anchor chain and strong winds blowing through the mast and rigging. It wasn’t anything more than a small blast of rain and wind, pretty typical of life on the boat. As the wind increased and the whirring of the wind generator became louder, the only worry I had was that my towel or swimsuit drying up top might be blown away. Lying in a comfortable, dry bed, I decided not to venture out into the wind and rain to retrieve them; after all they had survived worse storms than this on board.
“Dan, I think we’re dragging!” captain Bill called out. Immediately, I tore my mosquito net from under my mattress, jumped out of bed and followed by Michal, we joined Bill on deck. The wind was howling and the rain was coming down so hard that after only a few seconds, I was drenched. I took the helm while Michal and Bill studied the depth meter and realized that we were now much closer to shore than when we dropped the anchor. It kept getting shallower and shallower, but we couldn’t tell which direction the land was! With no lights readily available and our computer shut down for the night, we all knew this was a bad situation. While Bill started the computer, I fired up the engine. Michal again emerged from the cockpit and I shoved a torch toward him. He asked “What do I do with it?” Attempting to be heard over the sound of the wind and the rain, I yelled “Look for land!” I felt like I was in a bad scene in a movie where the boat sinks leaving all of it‘s passengers and crew in a chaotic frenzy swimming around in a churning sea. The worst thing that could have happened would have been for us to run aground and even though we weren’t far from shore, it was so dark that I wouldn’t have known what direction to swim to get there!
With Monica down below in her cabin saying prayers, Michal frantically waved the torch around but still none of us were able to see land. Using the computer and gps, Bill and I tried to figure out which way we could motor to avoid running aground or into one of the many nearby coral reefs. After digging out the 800,000 candle power searchlight, we realized that we were only a couple of hundred feet away from the crescent shaped beach, a whole lot closer than when we had gone to sleep! With only about four feet of water below our keel in a boiling sea, we needed to get the hell out of there! As I motored out into deeper water, unable to see Michal and Bill who were pulling in the anchor, we new that heading north would bring us to safer and deeper water. Shivering cold from the rain and the wind, I gently eased the boat into the wind battered darkness. By now, the gps, radar and depth sounder were all up and running. We made a couple of passes while the onslaught of the storm continued, hoping to find a deeper spot that was further from the nearby beach. We again dropped the hook, this time with a lot more chain to make sure we wouldn’t again be pulled ashore.
By the time the boat again settled and Monica had brought us all towels, everyone retired to their cabins all still with a bit too much adrenaline still pumping through our bodies. While the freshwater shower was definitely needed, I would prefer to do it when under a whole lot less stress next time. I think it took me a good hour to come down from the rush I had from the excitement on deck before I could even think about falling asleep again. Sleep finally came, and I awoke to a cup of coffee followed by gifts of weavings, fruit and fresh fish from the local people of Numa Numa.