Glovers Reef: Squall and 2 Boats Aground

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Belize

016-42.960 N
087-51.120 W
Marine forecast for this location

Ahoy from safety of the Twin Cays after an exciting stay at Glover's Reef!

Where to start? I guess that I need to back up to last Saturday when the party at Lighthouse Reef finally broke up. Querencia and Feisty headed off to Isla Mujares, Mexico and we headed to Glover's reef. While we were sad to see everyone heading different ways, we needed to split up from a caloric standpoint. Every night we were having dinner parties on various boats and eating very well.

We motored to Glover's with 0 kts of apparent wind in rolly seas. When we got there we found Lone Star Love (LSL) anchored along with Cordonazo and Starship. Cordonazo is a 1950's, 84,000 pound, 63' steel sailboat that's set up to do diving. They have a compressor that will fill a tank in 6 minutes which is slightly better than the 26 minutes that it takes our compressor. They also have a ton of space for entertaining. If we thought that we had escaped the dinner parties, we were wrong...they had simply moved location and boats. Cordonazo became dinner-central hosting up to 13 people at times.

The diving at Glover's is superb and quite a bit different from Lighthouse. First off there are very few dive balls so you have to anchor or drift dive. On Monday we decided to take BlueJacket to Long Cay which is about 5 miles from South Cay where we were anchored. Greg and Judy from LSL came along and we dove at the two dive balls located there. Jacques Coustea claimed that this was one of the top 3 dive sites in the world. While I wouldn't go that far, it certainly was beautiful. If we come back and the weather is good, I would definately anchor off of Long Cay and explore the dive site a lot more. After 2 great dives we headed back to South Cay.

When we arrived back at South Cay we found that a small sailboat, Margarita, had anchored where we had been, so we anchored further back. I noted that the skies to the N looked ominous, but there was nothing in the forecast that was immediately worrisome. A strong cold front was forecast to come though 36 hours later, and we were planning on heading for shelter the following day. That evening Cordonazo was having people over again. We headed over at 6 PM and were enjoying ourselves when cold air suddenly descended and a rainless squall was upon us.

Within minutes the winds were blowing 35+ kts out of the NW to W which was opposite the direction that it had been blowing when we set our anchors. By the time that we got back to BlueJacket we could see that LSL was aground. I fired up the engine, powered into the wind and tried to keep us from going sideways into the wind. Sue was stowing things so they wouldn't get blown away or thrown about inside the boat.

Cordonazo was having the worst problems. They had swung over the anchor of the Margarita and the two were tangled. If you can imagine a large 63' steel boat on top of a 25' wooden sailboat in 35 knots of wind and 3' seas, it's not a pretty picture. I sure wouldn't have wanted to have been aboard Margarita and was very glad that we had moved! Cordonazo kept trying to maneuver to keep off of Margarita and at the same time a skin diver was in the water trying to untangle the anchors. Somehow they managed to do it, but in the process they got blown onto shore.

I kept BlueJacket out of danger and finally the winds dropped below 20 kts. I jumped into the dinghy to see who needed help. Greg, from LSL was already over at Cordonazo. I tried to lend a hand, but there was already more than enough help. After a while I suggested to Greg that we deal with his boat, and he agreed. I got Sue and we started trying to free LSL from the sand.

LSL was sitting sideways to the wind and nosed slightly towards the beach. Using my dinghy I was able to push the bow of the boat around maybe 30 degrees, but we needed another 90 degrees. Greg and I hauled their anchor 275 feet out to the side of their boat and Greg set it by hand by diving on it. Remember, this is in the dark with 15-20 knots of wind blowing and lots of chop. We couldn't use the anchor windlass to pull on the anchor because the chain was at a 90 degree angle to the anchor rollers and it was pulling across the metal frame. We came up with a solution of a line running from a winch at the mast to a snap shackle at the bow and out to a chain hook that we could move on the anchor chain. We used that to pull the chain in and then tighten the chain using the windlass. Sometimes the force on the anchor was so great that it would pull out of the sand, and we'd have to start over. Eventually we went to two anchors which allowed us to increase the force and reposition one anchor while the other one held us in position.

We kept this up until about 3:30 when LSL was pointed at the correct angle, but we just needed more water to get LSL to float. High tide was at 7:30, so Sue & I headed back to BlueJacket for some sleep. One would have thought that sleep would have come easily, but we were so wound up that it was hard to get to sleep. We were back up at 6, and by then LSL was free with the assistance of a local dive boat with big engines. The next task was to get Cordonazo free.

Cordonazo was having more than their fair share of problems. Their HUGE windlass is 36 volts and needs the generator to charge the batteries. While they were trying to get themselves free they were running the generator and it sucked all kinds of junk off of the bottom which destroyed the impeller in the water pump, which had to be replaced before they could proceed. They had managed to get themselves pointed to deep water, but it looked like they were well entrenched in the sand as there was no bounce or rocking of the boat. However, they have a 165 HP motor and a huge windlass. All night long you could hear their huge motor trying to get them off, but with no success. At 6 AM they were still stuck and were re-deploying their anchor. As high tide approached they started cranking in their anchor chain and were running the motor at full bore. The 25' dive boat that they pull behind them was doing donuts along side to create a wake and rock the boat. Inch by inch we could see them pull forward until they suddenly broke free! After a minute or two of cheering I fired up the engine, retrieved our second anchor, and we headed out of Glover's. LSL and Cordonazo weren't far behind.

The trip to South Water cay was a rocky one. We were being rolled 25-30 degrees on a constant basis and we had 25-30 kts of wind on the nose. The 13 mile trip took about 4 hours, but once we got through the cut it was relatively calm. We waited for LSL and headed into the Twin Cays where there's great protection and a wonderful holding in mud. Cordonazo was about an hour behind us so after we anchored we headed out to the entrance to Twin Cays to guide them in. We saw that he was cutting the corner into the entrance too close and tried to wave him further out. Their forward progress stopped and they were aground again. After an hour or two they were freed only to run aground again! They had never been aground before and now it was 3 times in 1 day. Exhaustion was clearly playing a big roll here. Eventually they got themselves freed and the anchor set. We had 35 kt winds for most of the night which made sleeping tough, but everyone was exhausted and slept much better than would have been expected.

We're now waiting for the skies to clear so that we can pick our way through the shallows and out to the deep water of the Inner Channel. Everyone has been doing boat projects to repair damage done during the squall. This afternoon it's Dominoes aboard one of the boats. All in all it's amazing that we were able to get everyone free without anyone getting hurt or any significant damage to any of the boats.

Oh, Margarita left as the front was coming through and sailed to Utila, Honduras! Those guys had more brawn than brains, but they made it there safely. Also, during all of this commotion the dog on Starship decided to have 5 puppies!

We're going to be pulling into a marina and then flying back home on April 21st. We'll be there for 2 weeks and we're looking forward to seeing family and friend and getting haircuts!

-- Geoff & Sue
Log ID: 481

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