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Woken, startled, by a loud noise, a bang, a crash, but what was it? Desperately struggling into coat and boots. The sound of chain moving. A grating noise. Christ, the mooring has broken. Five sixteenth chain over the anchor winch and round the foredeck bollard. Can’t have bust. Can it? Second boot on and out into the night.
Out of the cockpit a solid wall of wind and spray, the standing rigging screaming. The boat is veering round quickly, the wind on her port beam laying her over. Going to starboard! It has gone! Struggling forward, coachroof, foredeck, the bollard. Still chain round it, over the gypsy. Realisation, the chain has jumped off the stemhead roller and is now over the toerail against a pulpit stanchion. “OK, take it easy” he thought, “panic’s over, she’s still moored.” Now the boat is coming back through the wind, turning to port. Pitching as the seas come under the bow, diving with the stemhead nearly under.
“And this on a sheltered mooring in a sheltered loch, thirty miles from the open sea, the mountains all around. God help anyone outside tonight”. His head torch showed the surface of the sea being torn to shreds, spray filling the air. The wind had veered and was now coming round the headland which should provide shelter. He waited, feeling the boat pitching and tugging at the chain, waiting for a chance to lift it back onto the roller. “Hell, I could loose my fingers here” he thought, “some rope needed.” He didn’t want to go aft then forward again but -- yes, it’s still there, a small coil of six millimetre behind the liferaft.
Sitting on the liferaft he uncoiled it and kneeled on the foredeck to feed a bight under the chain. “Now, wait your chance boy, when she dives her head down.”
Another gust slammed the boat on her starboard side and she started to swing, pushed hard over to port, then bows up, now down. Heaving up and back on the line as the head went down, the chain went back on the roller.
“OK, Job done back indoors”. He secured the line trying to seize the chain over the stemhead fitting, and worked his way aft.
Another giant gust, spray and perhaps rain, he couldn’t tell, a banshee wail, a strange noise like gravel being poured. What---? The wind generator, backed, confused by the violent rotating gusts was grinding to a halt, sea spray crashing through the blades. Stepping back into the cockpit the horror struck him. “If something solid, a twig, sea weed, a bird,- God forbid, a rope’s end – went into those blades, at the speed they’re going there’ll be hundred mile an hour plastic all over the cockpit”.
There was nothing to be done then, wind gusting to eighty or ninety knots it would be madness to go anywhere near the windmill but he resolved to find a way of tying it to make it safe in a gale in future.
Now, in the grim, grey, begrudging daylight, thinking back on the night, tired but not sleepy, I realise it was me who lived through that night, and wonder, philosophically, if I am better for it. Huh!
Two months later, in a gentle force five, a fifteen foot boat broke the mooring I was on that night. Now I have learned something! But scant good it will ever do me!
Please visit my website www.boatsntillers.co.uk
About the Author: I have been involved with boats at some level since childhood and got my fisrt boat when I was 45. When I was 53 I bought a 32ft Macwester ketch and lived on her on the west coast of Scotland for seven years before getting a cottage ashore. I spend the winters building small boats, doing repair and maintenance work and making laminated wooden tillers. Summers are for sailing!
Please see my website www.boatsntillers.co.uk