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A cat with no life

Feb 28, 2017
A cruising cat that came to grief in Admiralty Bay, Bequia.

A cruising cat that came to grief in Admiralty Bay, Bequia.

Eric Sanford

To the editor: On a recent night at around 9 p.m., I was surprised to see a large catamaran cruising into the crowded anchorage here in Admiralty Bay, Bequia. The cat was moving fairly briskly. The sky was ink black and huge gusts of wind at 25 to 35 knots were ripping through the anchorage as the big cat flew past us, disappearing further into the bay. “Boy,” I said to my wife, “that guy’s coming in kinda hot considering how crowded it is in here. I hope he knows where he’s going.”

I didn’t give it much thought until the next morning. I looked up from the daily weather briefing on my SSB around 7 a.m. Whoa, that boat looks tipped! I got out my binoculars and went on deck to get a better look. There, about 300 yards in front of us, was the cat I had seen coming in last night. But rather than bucking wildly on its anchor as most of the other boats in the anchorage were doing, it was … sunk.

The port hull was fully submerged. I could see a couple people on deck, but nothing frantic appeared to be going on. The tender was still attached to the davits on the stern, and there were a couple of white fenders floating along the port hull. I looked for any real sign of danger or activity of any kind, but all looked tranquil on board. Strange.

I took a few photos from our deck and got in our tender to go see if there was anything I could do to help. As I approached the stern, someone came out of the darkened saloon. “Hello, do you need any help?” I yelled over the howl of the wind.

The figure either couldn’t hear me well or didn’t understand English, so I yelled again, “Anything I can do?”

He waved as if to say, no, everything is fine. I waved back and did a quick lap around the vessel to try to determine what had happened. The boat was an older Lagoon 57 named Flamenco, registered in Fort-de-France, Martinique. I took a few more photos and headed back to our boat.

The cat ran aground on Bareboat Reef.

The cat was sitting in perhaps 6 feet of water, so it was difficult to figure out what had happened. Perhaps there was a hidden rock they had hit? Or a through-hull or hose had failed during the night? I had no idea.

I pulled up the chart of the anchorage on my iPad and clearly saw that there was a very shallow portion of the bay right where they were. It was labeled “Belmont Shoal” and looked to be 2 to 4 feet deep. I assume this would show up on any chart or chartplotter. Then I looked in Chris Doyle’s book Cruising Guide to the Windward Islands, where there was an obvious shallow curl of sand and rocks called “Bareboat Reef” — an obvious reference to charter boats that have gone aground there. The large aerial photo in the book also clearly showed a shallow, sandy hook extending out from the shore.

So there the boat sat. Nothing much in the way of a salvage operation seemed to be going on. There was still someone on board inside the saloon, and an occasional dinghy or boat boy wandered by to check it out. Someone would have to stay with the boat until it could be towed or floated or somehow moved, since once it is abandoned it becomes fair game for salvage — and there would be a feeding frenzy among the locals if that were to happen.

In all, it’s a very sad sight to see a half-sunk boat sitting in the middle of a crowded cruising anchorage just a few days before New Year’s. I’m sure everyone around us was thinking, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” I know I was.

—Eric Sanford and Debbie live aboard their 46-foot sailboat Indigo in the winter and cruise on their 43-foot Ocean Alexander trawler from Hood River, Ore.

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