Two years ago, we moored at the Bitter End, in Virgin Gorda – British Virgin Islands. A nice anchorage in which we took one of the outer mooring buoys.
Late one evening, we were sitting on the aft deck, having a drink, looking at the night sky, counting the shooting stars. It was new moon, so the sky was dark. Pitch dark… While watching the sky, suddenly, the corner of my eye caught some movement ten yards from our ship. I pulled myself up, and saw the dark mass of a big catamaran moving silently past us. No navigation lights, no cabin lights, nothing… It was too dark to see if anyone was on deck, but I presumed they were going for a night sail, and had forgotten to put their lights on.
For at least an hour, we watched that ship making all kinds of strange twists and turns. Sometimes it would go even backwards, all without any sails nor lights on.. “Really weird”, we thought, “Wonder what those are up to?”…
It was a few hours later, about 1 am in the morning, we were already in bed, I was awoken by a dinghy racing by and circling around our ship. I got on deck, but could not see very well what was going on. I could only hear voices of two men in the dinghy, with one of them shining a small flashlight to and fro onto the water. During one of the times they passed close to our boat, I could clearly hear one shout to the other: “But I am sure we left it here!”. I did not think much of it. The guys went back ashore, and I went back to bed.
Two hours later, I heard a call on the marine radio: ‘Salvation One, this is Salvation Two’.. “Salvation” is a call sign often used in a rescue operation.. I got curious and listened into their conversation. They were clearly two vessels in a rescue operation, looking for a ship. A catamaran. Apparently I was not the only one listening in, as I heard a fisherman breaking in:
“Are you guys looking for a white catamaran?”
“Euh yeah!”, answered one of the salvation vessels.
“About 45 feet long?”
“Well, I know where it is”, the fisherman answered, clearly enjoying himself: “I see it drifting onto the reef, and according to my calculation, it will crash onto it in 15 seconds!”.
There was a weird radio silence that followed.
Half a minute later, the fisherman came onto the radio again: “Ok, you should no longer hurry, it just crashed onto the reef !”.
What had happened? Some guys had moored their catamaran onto a buoy, but clearly not fixed the lines properly. While they were partying on shore, their boat drifted away, by miracle missing all the other boats at anchor, and drifting gaily downwind, towards the reef several miles further.
When the guys came back with their dinghy, they did not find their ship, and warned the authorities. While the drifting vessel missed our boat by ten yards, it had hit the reef bulls-eye.
I guess these guys will take some courses in making knots when flying back home!
UPDATE: I just found this video. Something we witness every day in the Caribbean: a certain nationality typically thinks they can sail a yacht because they went out on the water a couple of times, charters a big catamaran, and then hope for the best.. ;-)
More about sailing on The Road.