Instalment 15 - March 27, 2001 - Conception Island
"Ship Wrecked on Conception Island"©
- Jim Laverdiere (Formally Scurvy Dog #6)
- Janette (she who is to be obeyed)
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(Occasionally, editorial comments from Don of S/V Destiny Calls, host of this web site and southern waters frequenter, will appear in green italic)
Today is Sunday March 25th, and we are starting our journey back North. We hope to be in Florida by the second week of May, so as to get the boat ready for shipping home.
Janette and I had returned to George Town to check out some of the Cruising Regattas activities. On our way north we wanted to return to Conception Island, this most beautiful jewel in the Bahamas. As you know from a previous installment this is a land park and uninhabited island. Well, if the Bahamian government were to take a census, they would find that the population grew by 1.
About three weeks ago there was a nasty cold front that rolled through the area and as usual the wind piped in from the west. When this happens we all seek cover and look for an anchorage that will protect us and our boats. Mark was trying to do just that. With the wind coming in at 35 Knots (that is 67 kilometers an hour ), Mark was anchored in West Bay on Conception Island. He was getting under way to move around to a more sheltered anchorage when the fitting holding his tiller to his rudder post snapped, leaving him with no way to steer the boat. Fearing for his safety and with the winds growing ever so stronger he attempted to jury rig his tiller.
With the boat being tossed about, swinging one way, and yawing another, the inevitable happened and his rudder snapped from the force of the waves. Now, he was completely without hope of steering his way to a safe haven. Mark managed to get an anchor down, and for 4 days he rode out the storm a prisoner on his boat. After four days of his boat being subjected by the pounding waves his anchor line finally snapped,and his 26 foot Columbia was washed up ashore, leaving him stranded like a castaway on a tiny island in the Atlantic. From a perch under a full moon, he watched his sole possession being lifted like a rag doll and slammed down on the rock hard sand. For a lot of us this would probably have been the end of the voyage. Mark decided it was not. After the storm subsided, he had a very nasty hole to repair on his port side, on which the boat was now lying with the mast parallel to the beach.
His first priority was to get the boat was to get the boat upright, so that he could do some repairs . The only way to do this was to remove the keel (which weighs 2500 lbs) which now is completely buried in the sand by Mother Nature.
Having removed all his belongings and most everything else on board his next task was to remove all the sand that had accumulated inside. This is wet sand and he only has a small opening to shovel it out and over the side, he must have removed at least a 1000 lbs. He says he will never get all the sand out as it has worked its way into inaccessible parts of the boat. The only way to accomplish this would be to cut a hole in the bottom of the boat and flush the complete interior with water and let it drain out. But Mark is a survivor and is quite determined to see his repairs through so as to get back to Florida to get her seaworthy again. Cruisers who stop and anchor here provide Mark with food and water, and he is especially anxious to hear what the weather will be as he has no means of getting this information himself.
His next plan, now that the hole is patched, is to make a new tiller and rudder, and a means of making her stable in the wind and water. His first idea was to turn her into a trimaran, by using 55 gallon drums as outriggers,or by bolting lee boards to her side. He is an inspiration to us all, and we all wish him good luck.
With the warmer weather the beach sand is hot to walk on. And here on Conception the beaches are accessible on both sides east and west at the northern end. The west side has fine sand, so fine it is as hard as a side walk when wet. The east side is more granular and littered with things that fall off boats. This is know as flotsam and jetsam.
It is a nice walk with all the time in the world. The waters are now full of tiny jelly fish. They do not sting and they swim everywhere. They are so diaphanous. In the air we see Bermuda long Tails. They swoop through the air with such grace. They are white and look much like terns except that they have long double tail feathers. On the top they have black markings. But the most amazing thing to see is the colour of the water reflected on the underside of the white birds while they fly above us. They are shaded blue-green or blue or turquoise. It is very beautiful to watch them fly overhead.
The reefs are close to the anchorage and we explored them but they are not colourful. Some brain coral and elk horn coral. What I noticed was that there were very few fish. I expected more around the reefs.
There are dolphins in the waters around here. We have seen one and then two visit the anchorage. Yesterday two swam by the boats from one side to the other. Then one came closer to shore about 10 to 15 feet away from two children and their moms. The dolphin circled around for a while. We decided to tape it and see it with the dinghy. But the noise of the dinghy made it swim further. So we beached the dinghy and Jim walked out in to the water. The dolphin came and swam around him. I too went out and waited until it came near me. I swam around and it came very close to me. It was very nice to watch this. Other boaters came with snorkeling gear on. Everyone had a good view of this friendly dolphin. We were sorry to see it swim away. Maybe we will see more in the other bays.
I spoke to Jim on March 27th and word has it that Mark had better hustle. Jim reported to me that the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) have told all boaters to cease and desist giving him aid ie. food and water. Jim added, that Not knowing BASRAs side of the story I still felt that it was important to help Mark out. I managed to secure food and water from various boats, but one Canadian vessel refused to, citing BASRA's request.
As of this writing he was getting further along his quest and getting a little antsy as someone pointed out to him that camping was illegal on the island, so he moved all his stuff back on board. I helped him get his outboard back on board. I believe that if he is not off the island in a few days that he will be physically removed, as we heard that there is a Bahamas Defence Force boat in the area and seemingly on its way to Conception.
Id help the guy. Christ sake, food and water! Just goes to show you that to some rules are rules: enforce them the same way in the mean streets of the city as the blue waters of paradise.
Finally, I can't help but second guess Marks situation. Why did the tiller bust? Taking the keel off to fix the boat? Why not dig her out? She's so close to the water can't cruisers drag him back into the water?
Second guessing is a lot easier than solving.
Here's another web site with more on Mark and his ill fated Columbia 26
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