Majuro Cruisers to the Rescue
September 2018: The sailing boat Ahaluna from Vancouver, Canada, broke from its mooring in the early hours Friday morning as strong winds blew in from the west. Captain Peter Hartmann put out a distress call on the VHF radio saying that his boat was stuck on the reef, prompting a number of yachts to come to the rescue in their small inflatable boats.
Ahaluna went adrift just after high tide, so with the waves pushing the boat further towards the shore and then the tide dropping, the cruisers were unable to shift the boat. They did, however, manage to set a 100-pound Danforth anchor on a line from the bow about 300 feet into the lagoon. At first light came the sickening sight of the relatively large yacht sitting high and dry on the reef, in front of the houses alongside Majuro jail. The next high tide was at 3pm. But it was about half a foot lower than the previous high, and the one after that was to peak at 3am, but it was a valuable half a foot higher than the tide that took Ahaluna ashore.
Peter asked Cary Evarts, captain of the yacht Seal, to coordinate the attempt to re-float his boat. Cary agreed and he and the team then started putting things into place: He spoke with PII’s Kenneth Kramer, who agreed to put a crew on standby for a 3am rendezvous at the stricken vessel. He also talked to Indies Trader’s Martin Daly, who made the excellent suggestion to hang a water-filled lift bag off a boom to give extra lean to the boat, thus giving it a shallower draft.
With this in mind, Cary decided that if he used his boat Wasabi to pull a line from the top of the mast, the boat would tilt even more and would likely be enough to float the boat in the afternoon.
Police Commissioner George Lanwi was then asked if the Lomor II could be deployed as a safety measure to stand by from 2:30pm while the relatively dangerous operation took place. This was made slightly trickier as Ahaluna’s motor was out of action. Subsequently the Sea Patrol vessel was indeed positioned in the area with the crew ready to assist.
Also helping was local resident and diver Matt Holly who, with his team, placed protective items under the boat to help ensure the hull wasn’t holed.
On the approach of high tide, Grant of the yacht Viandante and Lanny of the yacht Swiftsure boarded Ahaluna to assist Peter with cranking in on the bowline, which had a good amount of tension.
One cruiser, Anton of Timaios, tucked his inflatable on the shore side of the boat and began pushing, while another dinghy brought the line from the yacht’s masthead to Cary’s boat, where he attached it to a bridle.
Ready, set, go… Breaths were held, the boat heeled over even more, and in less than a minute the boat slid off the ridge and its bow popped around to face the west. Wasabi’s line was released and the cruisers moved their dinghies into position to shepherd the boat back to its mooring. They were assisted by captain Angus on the Indies Surveyor tender. Within minutes Ahaluna was secured safely to a nearby mooring.
Given the number of boats that have not survived being on the reef, this was a happy ending.
*NOTE: This article first appeared in the September 14, 2018 issue of the Marshall Islands Journal.