After arriving into Suva Harbour on Wednesday 6 June, I anchored in the small yacht anchorage off the Royal Suva Yacht Club. After clearing in at around 4pm, I went ashore and enjoyed a cold beer at the yacht club bar and then returned to the boat for a very long sleep.
The next day, I paid the health department bill (F$163.50!!) and got my cruising permit (free) and my coastal permit (free). These were all at different places, but luckily, taxis were no more than F$4.00 for any trip I took. I finished off the excursion at the market by getting some fresh fruit and veg which was all cheap and fresh. Then it was back to the boat to enjoy a good fresh meal. At about 7:30pm and halfway through dinner, the wind suddenly started increasing rapidly from the south due to a thunderstorm over Suva Harbour. I became concerned about the strength of the wind - estimated later to be in excess of 40kts - and started the engine in case I needed to move. After starting the engine and putting on foul weather gear, I came on deck to find that I was about to be hit by two vessels that were fouled together and dragging anchor.
The two vessels were the mv Princess Civa (an old rust-bucket 100ft ferry) and sv Second Wind (a 44ft fibreglass yacht from Seattle). The master of Second Wind yelled out to me that the Princess Civa was dragging her anchor and in the process had hit Second Wind and taken her along. When the two vessels hit Ms Murphy, Second Wind was pressed under the starboard quarter of the Princess Civa at a severe angle of heel and unable to free herself. The point of impact for Ms Murphy was directy on our bow and against Second Wind's starboard quarter. Ms Murphy was unable to slide past Second Wind and was dragged along with Princess Civa and Second Wind for approximately 3 minutes – seemed longer! - before Princess Civa slipped forward enough to let Second Wind and Ms Murphy pass behind her stern.
Once free of Princess Civa, it immediately became obvious that the anchors and chains of Second Wind and Ms Murphy had become entangled. Both of us attempted to lift and separate our anchors without success. During these attempts, both vessels were slowly dragging northward toward the shallows.
Very quickly, we were bearing down upon the Princess Civa which had run aground and was laying broadside to the wind with her bow pointing westward. Ms Murphy and Second Wind were slowly dragging down directly on top of Princess Civa. To avoid ending up lying on the windward side of Princess Civa and pounding against her, I attempted to motor into the wind at full throttle and drag Ms Murphy along with Second Wind into clear water. Progress was made until the anchor chain wrapped around the propeller on Ms Murphy and stopped the engine. At that point, Ms Murphy was adrift and being blown northwards toward the shallows.
I deployed my second anchor - a 45lb Manson Supreme with 10m of 8mm chain and 30m of 14mm nylon rode. Unfortunately, 20 of the 30m of line ended up in a tangled mess of a ball. Worse, I only just managed to get the rope tied to the boat before it was wrenched out of my hands. The second anchor slowed us down but could not prevent us from going aground. Eventually, Ms Murphy touched with Second Wind about 20m away.
This all happened in under 15 minutes. I was soaked and shaking. So, I made a cup of tea and changed clothes to warm up. I found that it took me a while to get moving again.
Over the course of the rest of the night, I set about trying to kedge Ms Murphy off into deeper water with my third anchor. This meant launching the dinghy and putting on the outboard in a heaving sea and getting 100m of line sorted out. It's no easy task on your own in a small dinghy. It took several trips with the second and third anchor before I could winch myself into slightly deeper water. But, it worked ever so slowly.
At about 5am, I decided that I was floating just enough to be able to motor off. So, I summoned the courage and dived down in the murky water and freed the chain from the propeller. I tested the engine and was relieved to see that I had forward thrust. So, I buoyed and dropped my primary anchor and charin and began to motor off into deeper water. I hadn't gone a full boat lenght when a fishing net became wrapped around the propeller. Wonderful!! Down I went yet again to try to remove it. It was a huge snarled mess that I was unable to remove safely in the dark. (Think knife, net, darkness, moving boat, lack of breath and you soon see cuts and worse.) So, I had my third hot shower in 8 hours and took a nap.
I was eventually pulled off by a powerboat at approximately 8am. Second Wind didn't get off until high tide at 3pm.
Ms Murphy suffered the following damage:
1) The bow roller chain retainer was destroyed during the contact with Second Wind.
2) The blades of the Kiwi Feathering propeller were severely damaged by the chain when attempting to avoid drifting down upon the Pricess Civa.
3) The rudder bushes were damaged when pounding on the coral after grounding.
4) All paint on the bottom of the keel and rudder was been ground away.
I learned a couple of things: I should have let my primary anchor go once I saw it was tangled up, but I don't recall the thought even crossing my mind. If I had done so, I would then have been free to re-anchor and suffered less damage. My second anchor was not ready for deployment and took me several crusial minutes to assemble. It is set to go now.
Apart from the usual bruises and minor abrasions, I am fine as are all the people on the other 4 boats that were hit by the Princess Civa. Ms Murphy will sail on, and we learned quite a bit from the University of Hard Knocks which will see us better prepared in the future.