Monday, December 14, 2015

A Minor Mishap on the Way to Vieques

Our destination after leaving Salinas, Puerto Rico was Culebra, and it took us four days since we did short day sails. During the passage from Puerto Patillas to Vieques in the Spanish Virgin Islands, we had a few tense minutes that could have ended our sailing adventure.
We had left early that morning, and immediately after leaving the anchorage, we saw several fishing buoys that local fisherman had set out. They are made up of rope with fishing line attached and a small plastic container (like motor oil is sold in or a 20 oz soda bottle). We always groan when we see them because it means we have to be extra watchful since hitting one could foul the prop and cause engine trouble. They can be really hard to see, especially if there is some wave action.
Since the wind was light and a strong current was running against us, we were motoring directly into the wind for the first ten miles of the trip to get it over with as quickly as possible.  David was driving at the time and all of a sudden we heard this loud THUNK. He put the engine in neutral, and when I looked back, I saw a yellow container bobbing in the water so I knew we had hit it. He went down below to open the engine compartment to check things out and told me to put the engine in reverse. A couple seconds later, the engine died, and I couldn't put the gear shift level back in neutral. We both looked at each other with this blank look on our faces because we knew this could mean something really bad.
David put on his snorkel gear to see if fishing line was wrapped around the prop and jumped into the 60 foot water. The situation definitely wasn't ideal for him being in the water because the boat was bobbing up and down due to two to three foot seas, and we were being moved along half a knot to a knot by the current. And I should remind you that there was no way for me to control the boat because the engine was dead and no sails were up. David could easily have been swept away and not been able to swim fast enough to reach the boat. I held my breath every time he had to let go of the line I had put out to swim under the boat and cut away the fishing line from the prop. He went under five or six times before he freed it, got back on the boat, and asked me to turn the engine on. The next few seconds were suspenseful because if the engine didn't start, it would mean remaining in Puerto Rico to get it fixed and depending on how much it cost and how long it took, could mean the end of the trip. Luckily, it started with no hesitation and sounded perfectly fine. Whew...disaster averted!!
Once it was all over, we wished we would have taken pictures of the cheap, homemade fishing buoy that almost wrecked our several thousand dollar Westerbeke, but we were a little freaked out at the time.
After that it was smooth sailing to Vieques, where we jumped in once we anchored to cool off and snorkel a bit.
Best rainbow ever! Look close to see the double rainbow.

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