Thursday, June 02, 2011

No Good Deed

"Don Quixote Don Quixote, Loose Pointer."

"Loose Pointer, this is Don Quixote! How does it look?" answers my cheery youngest.

Loose Pointer's voice is grim, "We've been hit. We're stopped and are assessing damage."

Loose Pointer was riding point (pardon the redundancy) on what was supposed to be a very short, very easy hop around the corner from the main anchorage on Nuka Hiva to the beautiful little cove known amongst the anglos as Daniel's Bay. This bay features stunning vertical scenery and a gorgeous walk up to the base of the third longest waterfall in the world. We had all been looking forward to spending a few quite days enjoying the remote beauty as a last stop before leaving the Marquesas for the much more nautically challenging and considerably less lush Tuamotus.

I dash down below, grab the mike and the binoculars and run through the usual litany of emergency questions, starting of course with health. The accident was quickly determined to be mechanical -- Kathryn and Dan were okay -- but no one was happy with the report, "The bilge is taking on water." Ugh. Don Quixote motored within shouting range as both boats turned around and headed back to town. If Loose Pointer needed any help, we were going to find it there and not in the remote Daniel's Bay.

The first time we sailed into Baie de Taiohoe, we were impressed with its green lush beauty and picturesque town. The bay clearly displays its caldera origins with entrance between Les Sentinels, two very prominent rocks which guard what was probably the egress for an impressive volume of lava, ash, and gas at some point. However, we have been trying to escape this place for over week now. First, we had to wait for market day. Then we had to return to get our propane tank filled, which inexplicably took nearly a week. Now this. At this point, entering the bay feels frustratingly like moving backwards.

We waited while Loose Pointer dropped their hook and assessed the damages close up. The expected call came in after about a half hour later, "If we could borrow the Don Quixotian who speaks French for a visit to the gendarme?" Of course. I had already changed in what I think of as my "clean and respectful outfit." It is a skirt and a top which I deliberately avoid wearing except on special occasions, such as a visit to the gendarmarie to report an accident.

So here is the story. Loose Pointer was minding her own business motoring towards the entrance of Daniel's Bay at about 4 knots in moderate following swell. She was going so slow as we had both elected to tow our dinghies for the 4 miles trip. A fishing boat was inbound to Nuka Hiva from the south at about 20 knots. The fishermen were both in the back working on their catch preparing it for sale. The boat was either on autopilot or the tiller was lashed. In any case, the boat was itself headed straight for the island and in a few minutes would have neatly smashed itself on the rocks. Presumably, the fishermen do this trip a lot since we've seen this craft moored in Taiohoe daily for the past week. In any case, for some reason it never occurred to them there might be another boat anywhere on the South Pacific. The swell and the tiller arrangement made it look like the fishing boat was changing course, then it would appear to change back. Dan said he thought several times that the fishermen were in control but it was nearly impossible for him to determine what course they were planning to take. Without an ability to predict their course and being the much slower vessel, he maintained course. By the time it because clear that the fishing vessel was completely unguided, Loose Pointer was much too close and was only able to fall off enough to avoid a head on collision.

The fishing boat hit the port aft, rode up the edge of the deck, and took out the deck hardware on that corner. This include the wind van strut, the BBQ, and the wreckage of a whole of stanchion and life lines. Fortunately, Kathryn was on the opposite side of the boat at the time dumping compost while Dan was in the cockpit at the helm. Adam was with us. The bilge water turned out to probably be rain water from the deck leaking in from somewhere over the past rainy week. No one was hurt. Keep saying that because I look at the damage, and it makes my heart sick. We saw the fishing boat afterwards, and the thing is a tank. It barely shows a scratch.

The gendarmarie were spectacularly unhelpful. Note to cruisers: if you are in an accident in the French Marquesas, do not bother to report unless 1) someone dies or 2) someone sinks. For our troubles, the gendarmes became extremely interested in our paperwork, insisted that we check in, and made me return not once but twice the next day to clear Don Quixote in and out of Nuka Hiva. The fishermen were not hurt. Neither did they attempt to make any sort of restitution with Dan. Presumably, c'est la vie. The captain did give Dan some oahu. I'm not impressed. I wanted to stamp on his head.

"I just want to leave this place," sighed Kathryn this morning over coffee. She and Dan are not happy. The rain, the propane, the dodgy dock, the sharks, and now the accident have left a really bad taste in our mouths. Loose Pointer is fixable; With just some sawing, bending, and rope, she'll also be able to travel from here to a place where good quality repairs at a reasonable price are possible. For my part, while I understand in some abstract way why reporting to the gendarmes was a waste of time, I'm a little bent that they used my arrival in their office on a mission of assistance combined with my fluency in French as an excuse to require of Don Quixote every possible piece of paperwork and clearance procedure.

Above all, I am really beginning to dislike the French pronunciation of our boat name which comes out sounding a lot like 'donkey shit'.

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1 comment:

Richard said...


So sorry for Loose Pointer. Tell Dan, Kathryn and Adam our encouragement in making things good for sailing, some things happen to us all when we did not expect it. We have been following you for a few years, from Mexico to Kiwi, then Mexico and now South Pacific Islands. Congratulations for this!! Oh by the way tell Loose Pointer his position report says he is in the North side of the equator??

Best to you all.
Anne and Dick
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