29 December, 2006
Near Tragedy Averted with Malua Aground
We were preparing Malua to sail out to sea to rendezvous with the
Sydney to Hobart yachts as they sailed south past . We crossed the bar on high water and secured the vessel to my mooring off Square Head in Batemans Bay . We left Malua that evening in light winds and a moderate swell. Batemans Bay
At 4:00am on Wednesday 27 January 2006 Nicola, Iain and I left our house and headed off to launch the Rib to travel out to Malua on the mooring. In the darkness as we traveled over the bar Malua was not on its mooring. We could see at a distance the white of her hull in the surf of the Square Head rocky shoreline. My heart sank as I saw the waves crash over the bow of the vessel as it rode the swell on its side. It was hard aground on the sand meters from the rocks.
We came along side and scrambled aboard, it was listing to starboard at an alarming angle. I quickly radioed a “Mayday” asking for assistance. It was 5:00am and the tide was going out. Terry and Zena on Sivershot answered immediately and said they would steam to our assistance. The Coastal Patrol offered to send a crew. The Water Police contacted me but said they would not come to my assistance preferring to help the glamour boys of the
Sydney to yachts! Hobart
Iain in the RIB took the main anchor out about 15 meters but could not pull it further as the waves were breaking over the RIB. We then ran a strong line out to Sivershot to attempt to pull the vessel off the sand.
With every wave we moved inches forward as the anchor strained and Sivershot pulled. We had turned the bow directly into the waves and they now washed down either side of the vessel.
The Coastal Patrol RIB arrived and took my second anchor some 50 meters off the starboard bow to prevent it being washed towards the rocks not more than 10 meters from Malua. Their efforts to pull the mast head over to reduce the draft had little effect with the falling tide.
At approximately 7:00am I called off the rescue effort as the tide was almost at it lowest point. The RIB returned to base but Silvershot maintained the pull on the vessel ensuring that it would not turn towards the rocks. I kept the strain on both the anchors from the windlass and the two main winches in the cockpit. All the lines remained taught at all times. The relay on the anchor winch was not keeping up with the load and tripped out on many occasions. During the wait for the high tide I rewired an extra large relay into the circuit to solve this problem. It helps to know your vessel and how to address problems.
Denny arrived along the shore to capture the near disaster on film. I was so glad to talk with her.
All we had to do was wait and prepare the vessel for the high tide and to drag it off the sand. The hatches remained water tight and no water had entered the vessel. A cupboard had come open and the contents were on the floor. One of my tool boxes had come adrift and gouged its way across the sole. Further than that everything below remained secure in its place.
Malua was now well over on its side with water up to the starboard gunnels and the vessel resting on its side, keel and rudder. The sand gradually washed away from the keel and made an indent in the sand. A potential hazard later in the operation. Thankfully Malua lay on sand with the rocks a mere 10 meters from the vessel but none directly in contact with the hull. I climbed off Malua and walked around to inspect for damage but everything was intact. I also survey the area for potential rocky outcrops and the route to the deepest water.
At about 10:30 the tide started to rise. The swell continue to march at Malua who started to rise to each wave, unfortunately as the bow rose the rudder started to bang into the sand. This went on endlessly as the tide rose. A sickening noise down below.
The Coastal Patrol contacted me to say they were waiting for the tide to rise so they could cross the bar. I confirmed the rescue plan with Mick Kelly who had received permission from the Eden Police to assist in the rescue. A major change from the previous policy of not assisting stranded vessels. My volunteer time spent on the crew of the BB Coastal Patrol has paid dividends. Thanks guys.
At 11:30 we had dragged Malua more than 5 meters from the low tide position. The tide was rising fast to reach its highest point at 14:15 – almost a meter higher than the low water mark.
The cavalry arrived in the form of the Coastal Patrol Waveney Type Lifeboat. Iain in our RIB retrieved their tow rope and I secured it to the bow cleat of Malua. The RIB Rescue started to pull the mast head line to reduce the draft.
The power was applied to Malua’s engine and those of the other vessels. The lines stretched to breaking point and Malua moved slowly forward. We moved out of the hole around the keel and the vessel lay over on its starboard side as another set of swells lifted the boat. Slowly we moved towards deeper water, then Malua was free under its own power.
The lifeboat retrieved its towrope and the Rib Rescue recovered its line to the mast head. Silvershot let loose my lines and I pulled in both anchors.
The rescue was successful and an environmental disaster averted thanks to all involved. I motored Malua back to it berth in the marina. The only damage appears to be the end of the keel and the bottom of the rudder.