[Kensblog #9] Rescue!!!


Greetings all!

Sometimes, you wake up in the morning with a plan for the day, and then the day turns out completely different. That describes our day yesterday. We had dropped anchor in a bay called “Luka Zakan” in the Kornati Islands in Croatia.

The Kornati Islands, a national park in Croatia, consisting of 140 islands, running roughly north to south over a 25-mile span.

This bay was actually our third choice in the Kornati Islands. Unfortunately, there aren’t many anchorages to pick from; the Kornati Islands are a national park, and anchoring is permitted only in a limited number of locations, most of which are too small for Seabird and Sans Souci. And, in order to anchor in the Kornatis, it’s required to buy tickets for each night of anchoring – much like people do when entering national parks in the United States.

When we arrived in the Kornatis, a couple of days ago, our intent had been to anchor in a different bay, called Smokvica Vela, but then on arrival we discovered it was much too tight. Possibly one of our two boats could have fit, but I doubt it. We also tried a bay named Opat, and quickly gave up on it.

Our third choice was plenty big, but also plenty taken. We found a corner of the bay where we could fit, but had the seas not been totally calm, and projected to stay calm, we probably wouldn’t have accepted those spots.

As it turned out though, the next day, the weather turned nasty, and that was the beginning of a major nightmare which included the boats on both sides of us dragging anchor, a night sitting at anchor watch, and Steven (Seabird) and I spending a very long time under the water in our dive gear trying to cut loose a line wrapped around a prop.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I should start this blog entry where my last entry left off.

Most of the last week has been spent in port.

I reserved our marina in Croatia a year ago sight-unseen, and made a hefty deposit toward one year of moorage. Seabird followed my lead and booked the same marina.

I chose the Mandalina Marina , in Sibenik, Croatia, for three reasons: 1) It was centrally located, 2) A side-tie berth was available, and 3) most importantly, the website claimed it was the most protected marina in Croatia. Looking at the charts I could see how this might be possible. It is back a three-mile waterway. I had problems in Turkey a couple of years ago, with my boat being slammed against the dock during the winter, plus continual power outages. Last year I hauled the boat out and stored it on land, rather than risk a repeat. This year, my goal was to choose a nice, calm area and leave the boat in the water.

Even though I was impatient to see what I had gotten us into, as we approached Sibenik, it turned out that none of us was in a great hurry to get there. We’ve been having fun going from anchorage to anchorage, and once we reached the marina there would be lots of boat projects that would need done.

We noticed what appeared to be an attractive anchorage, just a few miles from Sibenik, and dropped our anchors for a last night of relaxation before arrival at the marina.

Rogoznica, Croatia. We anchored just to the left side of the causeway you see in this picture.

Our evening in Rogoznica was a bit of a sad event, in that Seabird’s guest, Carol’s sister, Tina, would be leaving us the next day after two weeks on Seabird.

There was one bit of excitement at Rogoznica. While we were anchoring we noticed anchor symbols like the inset in this picture, on shore in several places. I was convinced that they indicated places that were ok to anchor, and this seemed to match our chart. However, AFTER I had dropped anchor Seabird radioed me to say that they had read on the internet that the anchor symbols marked the location of electrical lines. We were probably 500 feet from the nearest electrical cable indicated on the chart, so I was sure this was wrong. A decade ago, Roberta and I pulled up an electrical cable in France. We were in no hurry to repeat that incident and worried all night. The anchor came up fine, though, and I am now convinced our original interpretation of the sign was the correct one.

In an earlier blog entry I had mentioned that the tow-eye on the front of my tender has been destroyed by the many hundreds of miles it has been towed. Rather than fix it I decided to just remove it and glassed over where it had been. There are a second set of tow-eyes beneath the tender which are much stronger, but required a towing bridle. Steven Argosy (Seabird) rigged one up for me, and it has worked perfectly. Both of our boats are now towing the tenders virtually non-stop.

Our first view of Sibenik, our new home. The passage to get in was trickier than we had expected, due to all the traffic around us in a fairly narrow channel.

Sans Souci and Seabird at the dock in the Mandalina Marina in Sibenik, Croatia. The marina has been going through a major expansion and our dock is new. When we tied up the dock attendant mentioned that Sans Souci was the first boat ever to use the slip

To our surprise there was one other Nordhavn at the marina: Minky, an N47. We ran into the owner, a Brit, who was headed for cruising in Italy.

Many Nordhavns have what is called a “dry stack” or “dry exhaust.” This is a very simple exhaust system in which engine exhaust is routed directly into the sky, via a pipe from the engine. There are a lot of good things about the system: It is very simple, which is important on a world-cruising boat. There are no moving parts and no through-hulls involved. It is also very easy on the engine. There is no back-pressure caused by the exhaust system. However, there is one major downside. There can be soot-spray when the engine is started. My N68 has wet exhaust, but my former N62 had dry exhaust and, from time to time, when I would start the boat it would blow soot. Usually the soot wasn’t a problem, but if the wind was just right, the soot could rain down on my boat, or on adjacent boats. I have a vivid memory from Monaco, where Roberta and I were moored next to a gorgeous, white boat that the crew had spent the entire day cleaning. I started my engine, and immediately a black cloud of soot descended on our boat — and on the other boat! The crew had to start the cleaning all over again! I offered the captain money as a “peace offering,” which he took angrily. Roberta and I tried using a butterfly net attached firmly at the top of the stack in order to try to contain the soot, with limited results. Steven Argosy uses a different approach, which has been very effective. He believes the soot comes from moisture that forms in the exhaust, and has been capping the exhaust when in port (it’s not an issue when leaving an anchorage, because typically no one is next to you close enough to be in the spray field.) He said that since he has been corking the exhaust, he hasn’t generated soot. Given that I am usually the boat docked next to him, that’s a good thing!

Most of the time nights and mornings are dead calm.

The St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Sibenik, a UNESCO Heritage Monument.


3d pictures from Sibenik:


Left: Roberta standing next to the statue of Giorgio da Sebenico. (Croatian: Juraj Dalmatinac; c. 1410 – 10 November 1475) was a medieval sculptor and architect from Dalmatia, who worked mainly in Sebenico (now Šibenik, Croatia), at the time part of the Republic of Venice, and in the city of Ancona, then a maritime republic.

Shopping for food is always a challenge. Simple tasks, like, “Let’s buy some Cheddar cheese,” become a major challenge. There were lots of different cheeses, but unless you buy and taste-test each of them, how would you know? Even more of a challenge was trying to purchase hamburger (ground beef). I picked up what appeared to be packaged hamburger and took it to the butcher to ask if it was “cow.” I even googled on my cell phone to show the butcher a picture of a cow. He said something I didn’t understand, but I interpreted it as a “yes.” I wasn’t confident he understood me though, and took the packaged meat to the lady at the cheese counter. I asked if she spoke English, and she said, “Some.” I asked her what kind of meat it was. She said it was a mixture of sheep and pork. This sent us back to the butcher’s counter, where we picked out what appeared to be a large cut of beef (and, might be), pointed at it and then said “hamburger, ground beef” and showed him a picture of a cow, and pantomimed grinding it. He nodded as if he knew exactly what we wanted, took this large piece of “beef” and ground two kilos (basically, four pounds) of “hamburger” for us. Just another day of shopping…
The Mandalina Marina is terrific, particularly the staff. It is a part of a chain of marinas, called D-Marin, which are characterized by excellent service, a beautiful facility, and an enthusiasm for high prices. We have been in two other D-Marin marinas in turkey: Didum and Gocek, both of which were excellent.

The town itself hasn’t particularly charmed us. Sibenik is ok, but nothing too interesting. The marina sits on the site of a former naval base and is surrounded by factories which mostly look empty. One of the boat mechanics mentioned that the factories had been bombed during the Yugoslavian war.

I’m not sure if this conversation is representative of what Croatian youth believe or not, but during dinner one night at the marina restaurant, Roberta and I had a particularly talkative waitress. Without prompting, she decided to share with us her views on Croatian economics and politics, as well as her life story. The quick summary, from her vantage point, was that costs are climbing while there are no jobs. She was finishing a masters degree in Hospitality, but said that her chances of getting a job in Croatia that used her degree were nil. She believed there is a rampant corruption and that jobs are awarded based on who you know, or who your family knows, not based on education or merit. We mentioned having been in Croatia when it was still Yugoslavia, which prompted a dissertation on why life was much better (as related to her by her parents) back when it was a communist country. She said everything was much simpler then (as according to her parents) and everything was just given to the people, whereas now she was doomed to a low income forever, or leaving the country. We considered debating her, but generally debating politics with the locals in other countries is a very bad idea. Whether or not her opinions are typical of the young in Croatia I do not know.

Just 8 miles outside Sibenik, in the hills, is the Krka National Park, with a lovely little town called Skradin.

The town of Skradin can be reached by boat, and we thought about taking our boats, but weren’t positive we’d find an anchorage large enough to hold us, so we drove a car there instead.

From Skradin we boarded a small tourist boat, and traveled a few miles up the river to where the famous waterfalls are located.

Waterfall at Krka National Park. Obviously a popular place to swim!
A 3D picture of the waterfall
In the early evening, we made the mistake of being on the last boat back from the waterfall. This meant standing in a long line to catch a boat and then being badly overloaded. I’d guess there were
200 to 300 people on the boat, and that it was perhaps 70 feet long. I thought about looking to see what the maximum capacity of the boat was, but knew that this would be a bad idea. Some things are best not known.

Our week in port was not all fun. Most of it was spent doing “chores.” This included:

  • Fixing the hot tub (I installed a whole new computer brain box)
  • Getting satellite TV working (for the first time in over five years!)
  • Changing the oil in the genset
  • Interviewing the local maintenance teams to find someone to watch over the boat in the off-
    season (which was a success!)
  • Provisioning (the low-tech word is, “buying groceries and drinks”)
  • Having the boat washed and rails polished
  • Roberta, heavy-cleaning of boat interior
As we left Sibenik, in the narrow channel, I was passed by two boats simultaneously. Not fun.

We departed port for an anchorage on the island of Kakan, which would be our first anchorage prior to entering the Kornati Islands.

As we entered the Kakan anchorage we were surprised by this tender which arrived immediately demanding payment. I explained to him that we just wanted to anchor, and not use one of the many mooring buoys around the bay, and he said that we should move to another bay. No other bays were nearby in which to anchor so I refused to move and said we were going to anchor anyway. He looked unhappy but said that if we were going to stay, whether we were using a mooring buoy or not, he’d need $100 a night. He looked official, so we gave him the money, but it didn’t seem right.

Although we had to pay to anchor, we stayed two nights. We were the only boats at anchor, whereas all the other boats were on mooring buoys. It was an incredible place to be and we were much cheerier about paying for our second night.

Ken ordered Spaghetti with Lobster at the Piccolo restaurant, but was surprised when they brought a live lobster to the table for inspection. This picture was taken just before it met an untimely end

Anyway… I should return to my story about our anchorage, at Zakan, in the Kornati Islands.

As I mentioned, we had dropped anchor in a crowded bay, in perfectly calm conditions. We are very cautious about weather and check many news sources. That night stayed calm and we even took our tender for dinner at a nearby restaurant, called Piccolo Restaurant (highly recommended) about two miles away. It remained peaceful throughout that night.

However, with no warning, the wind started rising the next afternoon. It went from 5 knots to 20 knots within minutes.

On one side of Sans Souci was a catamaran, anchored closer than I liked, and on our other side was a 64’ powerboat named Nashira, also anchored closer than I prefer.

The power boat had done something unusual. After dropping their anchor they had deployed a small buoy, which was tied to their anchor. Later I discovered that this was intended as a “trip line” to somehow allow them to get their anchor back should it be stuck. Roberta and I were unsure what the buoy was, or if it was a good or a bad thing, but the one thing we did know was that Nashira was “in our swing circle.” We would be spinning around in a circle around our anchor, and if our boat rotated over the anchor buoy, it could get tangled in our prop. Roberta pointed out that our prop wouldn’t be spinning, and tangling was unlikely, but I wasn’t necessarily convinced.

As the wind rose, I could see the owner of Nashira often stepping onto his bow looking nervously down at his anchor chain and then over at us. In the evening, after a particularly long study of his anchor, I noticed he had dressed up and was stepping into his tender, along with his wife, who I happened to note was wearing a long, reddish floral print dress. I’m not sure why I noted it. Perhaps because we had originally planned to visit the fancy restaurant on shore, and would be dining there the next night. I had been wondering if I needed to wear long pants (something I haven’t done in a very long while) and was relieved when I saw he was wearing shorts.

Meanwhile, the sailing catamaran seemed to be having troubles. When I looked over, I could see that it had pulled anchor and still had swimmers in the water. There was lots of screaming going on, and panic, as the swimmers were trying to board the catamaran — which was moving in the water! Steven later told me that the cat had lost its anchor, and was trying to save itself from the nearby rocks, and that the swimmers had almost gotten diced by the props trying to reboard the moving boat. The swimmers did succeed in getting onto the boat without injury and it disappeared — to go I know not where.

In the next minutes, virtually all of the boats around us departed. I assume they were returning to port, rather than sit at anchor through what was quickly becoming a significant wind.

Over the next hour the wind kept rising, reaching 30 knots. Normally, 30 knots at anchor is not a big deal. It’s high wind, but we’ve spent time at anchor in much higher. However, both Seabird and Sans Souci had anchored in cramped conditions, with a clean weather forecast. We were closer to land than we liked and couldn’t put out more chain (the normal solution to high wind.) We discussed re-anchoring, but thought we’d be ok. Attempting to re-anchor in high winds and increasing darkness is itself a risky business.

Nashira, the beige-hulled boat to the right behind Seabird was in the midst of dragging nearly 1,000 feet towards the rocks as we took this photo. It started its journey right next to us, in front of Seabird.

While I was desperately trying to call the restaurant to alert the owners that their boat was dragging anchor, Steven and Carol rushed to the restaurant in their tender.

Seabird and Nashira’s owners, arriving at Nashira after it dragged.

This shows Sans Souci’s swing circle. The red line is our track, and the yellow circle shows the potential radius of our anchor chain.

I felt confident that we were ok, and Roberta and I went back to a wonderful dinner (filet mignon with a cream truffle sauce) onboard Sans Souci.

Not long after, Steven was on the radio, “Sans Souci, Seabird!” I could tell by the tone in his voice it was an emergency. I rushed to the radio and Steven said, “Ken. That big boat next to you has broken anchor. Can you call the restaurant to alert the owners?”

I immediately started Googling the number for the restaurant and was coming up blind. Meanwhile, out the window I could see that Nashira was drifting towards one of the few sailboats that had stayed at anchor. The sailboat was pulling anchor as quickly as it could, but I was certain that the sailboat couldn’t get out of the way in time (which, apparently it did.)

A minute later I found a phone number. I called it, and no answer. I called again. No answer. Out the window I saw Seabird’s tender rushing to the restaurant. Good! I looked back and Nashira seemed to have stopped moving, virtually at the end of the bay. Was it on the rocks? Or, had the anchor caught?

My phone suddenly rang. It was the restaurant calling back! I confess that I was somewhat nervous at this point. I tried to explain to the restaurant person that there was a boat dragging anchor, but he wasn’t understanding me. I passed the phone to Roberta who spoke the message in a somewhat calmer voice. The restaurant wanted to know what the people looked like (the boat’s owners). Amazingly, I remembered the lady with the long, red, floral dress! I gave Roberta the information, which she relayed, and then the line went dead. Seconds later, both Seabird and the owners came shooting back from the restaurant, in their respective tenders, headed towards the wayward Nashira.

A minute later we saw Nashira’s running lights turn on, and Steven and Carol returning to Seabird with Nashira’s tender in tow. Nashira then re-anchored in the dark. Thankfully, Nashira’s anchor had miraculously caught on something right before crashing into the rocks at the head of the bay and had come to a stop before too much harm had occurred.

Now it was time to think about our own situation. Our swing circle would be putting us closer to land than I liked; it was a north-east wind, that was pushing us towards the land on our south-west side. We would be coming within 50 feet or so of land.

To avoid striking land, I pulled in some chain (from 309 feet, to 280 feet) and then Roberta and I sat watch on the anchor most of the night, as did Steven and Carol on Seabird, and the owners of Nashira.

The next morning, Nashira’s owner, David, visited Seabird to ask if Steven had dive gear. I have a dive compressor onboard, and Steven called to ask if my compressor could be used. Apparently, Nashira had managed to wrap a line around its prop, and was now crippled. Steven was going to dive to try to cut off the line. This sounded like an adventure, so I quickly asked if I could also dive!


The proud divers; Ken and Steven, after successfully performing delicate surgery on Nashira’s propellor

Diving under Nashira turned out to be more of an adventure than either Steven or I expected. The line that had tangled was the anchor marker that Nashira had deployed earlier, and it was a total mess. Steven and I spent over an hour in the water hacking away at the line. The good news is that the project was a success, and culminated in a nice dinner at the fancy restaurant with Nashira’s owners, David and Liz, who were very happy to have their boat back to health.

At dinner David and I discussed the topic of, “What went wrong, and what lesson can be learned from the experience?” We reviewed all the details of his anchoring. He, like me, had bad weather information. We both had checked multiple sources, but sometimes the weather ignores the forecasters and does what it wants anyhow. We couldn’t have known what was coming. He had an ok scope, but not as much as one could want. He was in 60 feet of water with 260 feet of chain out, a ratio of over 4 to 1. This was tight, but should have been adequate. The anchorage had been crowded with boats, so this was as much chain as he could put out. He had been very careful setting the anchor and knew that it was well set.

My personal opinion was that he should consider a new anchor. I use a brand called Rocna, which many Nordhavn owners have swapped to. I’ve also heard good things about Ultra anchors but have never had one. My Rocna weighs 350 pounds and is the latest technology. Steven saw David’s anchor, and guessed it at 75 pounds. My thought as to the lesson to be learned: More scope, and a new anchor.

It had been a very close call. Nashira had come to within 50 feet of being on the rocks. The depth where they retrieved their boat was only 9 feet!

Steven and I now decided that we should re-anchor our boats. The bay was practically empty and we had all of the room in the world. The wind has remained high over the last 24 hours, but from our new locations, we’re not worried. It is supposed to be calm tomorrow and our adventure will continue.

This is actually the third rescue we’ve participated in, in the last couple of weeks. In the Pakleni Islands, we had to help four young ladies in a tender who had managed to stick their anchor under a rock and couldn’t get it back. We put the line onto our tender and did some creative maneuvering, which worked. Then a couple of days ago, the four of us were coming back to our boats on our tender, when we were flagged by a French couple on a sailboat, pointing at their tender floating away into the distance, being carried by a strong current. Speeding to it, we found three kids, two of which were hopelessly trying to swim towing the tender back to their boat. The tender had run out of fuel. The kids climbed back into their tender and thought that it was a wonderful adventure as we safely towed them back to their parents’ boat. They didn’t seem to realize they were having a bad day. Their parents were grateful, though!

On Sans Souci we believe that bad things happen in threes and are crossing our fingers that all three incidents count. We’re expecting nothing but good things for a while, including calm seas. And, actually, as I type this, the wind is still high, and I am noting that the water temperature has dropped by 8 degrees in the last two days! Argh. At 71 degrees Fahrenheit, swimming is a lot less fun.

That’s it for this week!

As always, thank you, and best wishes,

Ken and Roberta Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
Or, my daily blog, at: http://www.facebook.com/kensblogdotcom


3 Responses

  1. Hi Ken,

    Another great blog entry…. I look forward to each and every one!

    A couple of things…. After reading about your anchorage over a possible hydro cable, I did some digging, and I think Steven is correct. From what I found, an upside down anchor sign indicates NO anchoring…. something to keep in mind should you come across another one. 😉

    Also, I’m not sure if you’ve seen the latest issue of PassageMaker or not, but there’s an article in it that discusses the hazards of towing a tender. In the article, the owner was towing his tender from his Marine Trader 40 in heavy seas when the tow eye on the tender was ripped from it, sending the eye and the tow line whipping back to the Marine Trader and getting the line fouled in his prop! What happened next was every Captain’s nightmare! He lost control of his boat, it turned beam to the seas, his water tanks came loose along with his refrigerator…. he eventually had to abandon ship and was rescued by a passing cruise ship! I’m not sure what the final fate of the boat was….

    Thought you might be interested to hear this in case you weren’t aware…

    Safe seas Ken! Looking forward to your next entry!

  2. SUBJECT: Blog

    Always a pleasure reading your blog’s and living vicariously thru your adventures.



    38’ California

    Newport Beach

  3. Ken
    I put an Ultra on my 62 Offshore last year and spent the whole summer cruising in Canada. Many times anchored in strong current and high wind. Never a problem! Recommend it highly! Love your blog!

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