Bumper Boats

Sarah has recently expressed concerns that she doesn’t think she is learning all this nautical mumbo jumbo fast enough. I disagree wholeheartedly, and I think the events of two nights ago demonstrate this beautifully.

It was about midnight and we’d just settled in for a lovely night of blissful unconsciousness when our still semi-conscious minds were dragged rudely back to the world by the sound of a boat letting go it’s anchor at a range that sounded like it could well have been into our own bunk.

“That sounds very close”, said Sarah.

“It does indeed”, I agreed.

At this point Sarah performed a meerkat manoeuvre and stuck her head out through the forward hatch to take a look. A local dive charter boat was dropping their anchor about 20 feet off our port beam.

“But if the wind comes around to the North, won’t they hit us?”, said Sarah.

“Yup”, said I.

At this juncture I considered it prudent to have a delicate word with the captain of the dive boat and, without getting too agitated, try to explain that in my opinion his choice of anchoring spot was less than ideal. I went up on deck to the cockpit and called out to one of their tenders.

“Senor! Habla Ingles?”, was my first enquiry, which was met with a vague sound which suggested not.

“Tengo dos anclas” (I have two anchors), “Uno aqui y uno ayi” (one here (pointing to the bow) and one there (pointing to the stern))*.

“Si! Es bueno!”(Yes! It’s fine!), came back from the guy in the boat.

In my opinion it was not fine, but I wasn’t going to make a scene and make the locals angry, so I waited a few minutes to see if they might re-consider. If they set a stern anchor like us, then all would be well and there was no cause for concern. Perhaps they were planning to do so.

A few minutes past and it appeared that they had finished with whatever they were doing. It couldn’t really be described as anchoring. As Sarah pointed out,

“But they haven’t let out any scope at all! And they haven’t even set the anchor, they’ve just dumped it on the bottom with the chain in a pile! Did it even reach the bottom?!”

I decided to nip over and have a chat, this time with someone a little more willing and able to appreciate my concerns. El Capitan. Fortunately he spoke a little English. With his bad English and my bad Spanish I managed to convey my concerns such that he was aware of them. I explained that since we had two anchors out we would not move with the wind. I also pointed out that he was very close to us (there was absolutely no need for this – the anchorage was almost empty and there was plenty of room elsewhere). He dismissed my concerns.

“I be here. I watch.” he said.

I felt there wasn’t much more I could do. Maybe I was wrong (I often am) and my concerns were unfounded. After all, this guy does this every day doesn’t he?

I returned to Bob, told Sarah what had transpired and we went to sleep. Not for long. There was a noise. One becomes incredibly sensitive to odd noises when living on a boat. It’s really quite phenomenal. One has no trouble at all sleeping while the boat is moving up and down 6 feet every two seconds, heeled over 15 degrees and there are all manner of things banging around, wind whistling through the rigging, a block on deck banging, lines creaking and sundry items in the cabin throwing themselves from one side of a locker to the other every time the boat rolls. But the minute there is a sound that does not belong, however faint it may be, the music changes and one wakes with surprising sprightliness to determine the cause of the change, for change at sea (or even in an anchorage as in this case) can have dire consequences if one is unprepared (such as when asleep!).

In this case, the noise was a light thump. I was on deck sharpish, and all manner of ‘not wanting to piss-off the locals’ went out of the window. I picked up the nearest hard object (a paddle; plastic unfortunately) and whacked the hull of the charter boat with it repeatedly, while shouting loudly and angrily in an attempt to garner the attention of the skipper. No luck. The skipper was on shore somewhere having a few drinks (not ‘watching’ as he had promised), but I did succeed in raising one of his minions, who immediately jumped into their workboat and, having already untied it, tried in vain to start it’s engine while drifting off into the night. Sarah and I had limited sympathy for him. We succeeded in pushing the boat away from us to avoid further damage to Bob and then stood and scowled at the man while he tried all sorts of things to get it to work.

Unfortunately, it did work in the end. I had rather hoped that we might be required to save him, but alas. With his workboat he pushed the charter boat away from Bob and then made a phone call to ‘El Capitan’. By this point it was about 2am. I had a rum and watched. ‘El Capitan’ took a while. Once he turned up, they did what they should have done in the first place and set a stern anchor, then went back to shore and left the minion on his own again. Bob sustained superficial scrapes to the gelcoat, plus a scrape through the bottom paint and barrier coat beneath the waterline, but no structural damage. No apology. No explanation (there couldn’t have been one anyway) and no attempt to reconcile anything with us. I learned an unfortunate lesson though, and that was probably worth a scrape or two. Next time, be more persuasive.

*Here in Santa Cruz the wind dies out at night, but the swells continue to come in through the mouth of the harbour and into the anchorage. A monohull sailboat rolls abominably from side to side if broad-side to a swell when at anchor, so we had set a secondary anchor off the stern in order to keep Bob facing the mouth of the bay (and into the swells) at all times. This means that the boat does not move with the wind (if there is any) but instead stays in exactly the same spot at all times. This is unlike a boat which is anchored only from the bow, which moves around with the wind always facing into it.

Here is a picture of our not-so-friendly neighbour. Photo courtesy of their website:

Our Not-So-Friendly Neighbour