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Drama in the Philippines

April 7, 2012

It happens when you last expect it. Yes, we put Sage on the reef. We had just finished a wonderful day on the water sailing over to Coron from Borocay. The weather had been ideal. We left Borocay early in the morning and had a great sail across to Caluya Island with some boisterous winds reaching 25 knots. We decided that instead of sailing straight for Coron we would take a break and hug the shoreline and anchor in the lee. We managed to find a good spot in about 13 metres of water surrounded by fishing floats. We settled down for the evening and set the alarm for 0300hrs so we could sail the last 60 miles to Coron in daylight and have time to find a good anchorage.

Great plan, or so we thought. Our speed was a little to slow as winds were down from the day before and we made the approach to Coron a little late in the day. Knowing that we weren’t going to make it into Coron’s harbour that night we decided to anchor at a cove where there are some hot springs about 3 miles from the Coron anchorage. The light was bad. We were sailing directly into the sun as we approached the bay and it was difficult to get a lay of the underwater features. Once can usually navigate by the colour of the water but for that you need the sun behind you. Sailing into the sun makes it almost impossible to read the water. However, the chart indicated a slow decrease in the depth and we should be able to anchor in about 12 metres. So, with the engine on we inched our way into the bay commenting that everything should be OK navigation wise since there were large bangkhas on the shoreline with a greater draft than Sage.

The depth sounder was on and sure enough it indicated the depth we were expecting. Everything’s fine! As the depth sounder moves from 30 metres to 20 metres to 10 metres we’re getting ready to anchor. I look away to wave at an anchored bangkha and turn my attention back to the depth sounder. All isn’t as it should be: 10 metres had turned to 10 feet, it was rapidly decreasing, turn the wheel to avoid the crunch. Too late Sage was driven right up onto the reef. Reverse gear and put the power on. We’re stuck. Wind is from the stern. Quick get some anchors out astern so we aren’t driven further on to the reef. Yes, tide is falling.

As I get into the dinghy Sage is already showing she’s firmly stuck on the reef and listing to port. It’s only slight though so hoping an anchor may pull us off I quickly set an anchor and also run a line out to a mooring I see astern. We try pulling hard on the line to the anchor and mooring line but with no luck. We’re starting to lean more to port but the drop in tide is slow, interminably slow. In fact, as we researched and planned the next steps we realised that low tide had been at 1530hrs. We went aground at 1745hrs and the next high tide was the next day at 1540hrs! Oh boy, we were in for a long night.

As the evening progressed, Sage leaned more and more to port and at the lowest of the receding tide we were laid over 35 degrees. I had to sleep on the floor although started in the cockpit but then it started to rain. Fortunately there was no wind, just rain, heat, humidity and a tilted world. Of course, at different times of the tide Sage would rise a little on a larger swell and smash, or so it felt like, down on the reef. Thoughts going through our heads: “are we going to get off at the next high tide, what kind of damage are we going to have, what happens if we can’t get it off?” It was a stressful night thinking of all the scenarios.

Morning comes, Sage is starting to right herself, the wind remains absents, the skies have cleared and we’re not pounding on the reef. So far we’re lucky. Sage is intact, no hull damage, the skies are clear and the tide is rising albeit slowly. We walk around the boat. As Sage only draws 1.5 metres it means we can walk on the reef and view her from the water. We see she’s almost sitting on the waterline. It’s still 5 more hours till high tide so we go down below to have breakfast. Again there’s the occasional crunching as a swell comes along and pushes Sage upwards and then down on the reef. Suddenly there’s a different sound. Instead of a bang when she comes down there’s a crunch and a more natural movement to the boat. We rush on deck and sure enough the two stern lines, one to the anchor and one to a mooring, are a little slack. Quick we must be afloat. Haul in on the winch, pull in the slack line, yes we’re moving back. We’re off the reef and breathe a sigh of relief.

So, after all that Sage sustained very little damage. Nothing a little filler won’t resolve when we haul out next. It’s not the first time and am sure it won’t be the last. Such are the hazards of a life on the ocean. We were exceptionally lucky the wind died down, lucky that we have a strong boat that can survive a grounding, lucky we have the gear onboard to help us in such a situation and lucky that we’re healthy enough to handle all that needs to be done. Nevertheless, the next day we were exhausted. Glad to be in an anchorage where we could get a good rest and a breeze that came down the hatch all night long to keep us cool. Let’s go sailing……

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Admiral Wayno permalink
    April 7, 2012 23:40

    Am I reading Robert Louis Stevenson or Herman Melville here? You guys have a waaaay different version of retirement than me. I am so glad to know you are alright. Don’t ever set your alarm for 3am again. What the hell are you smoking?

  2. Louise permalink
    April 9, 2012 08:33

    Phew. Good thing it wasn’t worse. Good work getting the anchor and lines out so quickly! It sounds beautiful there.

  3. April 9, 2012 09:38

    Holy Cow! That was a scary read. Please don’t do that again…my heart can’t take it.

    So glad for the happy ending!


    Aboard Murre
    Honokohau Harbor, Islamd of Hawaii

  4. Barrie permalink
    April 9, 2012 13:18

    OMG!!! So far we have avoided reefs, but have had more than our share of groundings (4 to be precise) on mud and sand on our trip up the ICW on the US East Coast. At least we had Towboat US available. The best $139 US we ever spent was on our Towboat US Membership. It netted us over $1,700 US in towing services. Take care. We look forward to seeing you in July. SV Passat II.

  5. John Middleton permalink
    April 9, 2012 18:26

    Glad everything worked out ok but what a scare! Even Capt. James Cook ran aground so it happens to the best. Look forward to your continuing adventures. Take care!

  6. cpbl permalink
    April 10, 2012 01:57

    Nice work keeping your heads together, you two. Be easy on yourselves!


  1. SV Estrellita 5.10b: Tragedies in the South Pacific

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