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Lessons in humility

Jan 1, 2003

Not long ago we were paying close attention to some maneuvers by a small cruise ship in Falmouth, Antigua, especially because the vessel had anchored literally on top of the 47-foot sailboat next to us. The sailboat, September Song, called Nantucket Clipper several times to report that Clipper was swinging dangerously close to them. Clipper had anchored between and just in front of us, Lady Marion, a 79-foot motor vessel, and September Song. The cruise ship, at just under 200 feet, had squeezed itself into the midst of an anchored fleet of 30- to 80-foot boats. Clipper's captain's response to the sailboat's repeated pleas was that he had a stern anchor to check his swinging, and the sailboat would swing away from him. The fact was that the stern anchor wasn't holding and wasn't checking his swing at all, and the captain knew it. September Song's captain tried to reason with him and explained that his engine was being repaired, so he couldn't move. The captain of Clipper said that he had passengers to offload and he wasn't moving and, furthermore, he added, September Song had sails.

After several swings that almost ran over the sailboat, Clipper's captain finally said that he would take up on his forward anchor. Instead, he apparently let out more scope and fell back to within 10 feet of our bow; he then began to swing even more, now coming closer to both of us.

September Song kept calling, saying that they were within feet of being hit. The sailboat requested the captain show some consideration for his fellow mariner and said that they were going to file a report of the incident. Clipper's captain told September Song's crew to go ahead and file it with the Antiguan Coast Guard.

Finally, about two hours after dropping anchor and saying they wouldn?t move, Clipper hoisted anchors and started to pull away.

Falmouth harbor is quite large but has several shallow reefs and shoals, all charted and well marked. Clipper soon found two of those shallows. The first time Clipper ran aground was light and brief. They hit bottom approximately 40 yards up from their original anchor position and were stuck kicking up mud for about 10 minutes before powering off. The second incident, just 15 minutes later, was very hard and very sound.

Throughout the day we watched various and numerous attempts to free Clipper from the grips of Falmouth's shoals. A small work tug pulled and pushed; a large sailboat tried to assist the tug; even a kedge attempt with the stern anchor and the tug pulling failed to budge Nantucket Clipper. By sunset Clipper was heeled over about 4°; at midnight they were high and dry with all their party lights ablaze.

At 0800 a St. John's tug pulled Clipper free, 23 hours after they first dropped anchor on September Song and said they wouldn't move.


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