Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saving the "Camargue"

Early on Saturday morning, we received a frantic phone call from Billie.

"The Camargue has gone! I walked down to Dalpura this morning and she wasn't on her mooring! What shall I do?"

Billie is a delightful Scottish lady in her seventies whose husband Dudley works on the mines. She reminds me of a tiny little bird, bright inquisitive eyes and the cocked head that goes with them.

The night before had been extremely stormy on the island. We could hear the wind thrashing the treetops all night and had already decided to check our own boat after breakfast.

Hastily finishing our coffee, we piled into the 4WD and set off. Guy dropped me at Thompson's Point to climb down and walk along the beach to see if I spotted the errant craft. He, with Karla and Bec (here for the weekend) continued on to the Boat Club to launch the safety boat.

A turtle lay forlornly on the sand as I approached. Dead? There were no prop marks but although I willed that thin skin on the neck to pulse, the eyes remained glazed and the waves lapped over its flippers, burying them in the sand. Another casualty of the infernal plastic bag! Fishermen take their bait out in a bag and toss it over the side without a thought. Poor turtle comes along and the faint remnants of fish tempt it to swallow the bag which ties up its stomach.

Saddened, we left the burial for later in the day and hopped onto the safety boat.

The weather was still gusty. The previous night had been a king tide as well as the strong winds and now the wind was whipping up the waves like a giant eggbeater. It was easier to speed across the top of the waves rather than labour up and down each swell, so we hung on and closed our eyes against the salt spray. Screams of delight rang through the air each time we became airborne.

Suddenly, we espied the errant "Camargue" hiding itself in the mangroves about 500 metres from its mooring. We nosed in towards shore, finally jumping out on the beach and wading ashore. Ouch!!! Have you ever walked on a mangrove beach? The tiny mangrove roots stick up out of the sand every centimetre or so and they hurt! I imagine it's like walking on a bed of nails. We tied our rubber ducky onto a mangrove trunk before hobbling towards the "Camargue".

The "Camargue" is a 20' steel craft with a wooden mast and twin skeg keels. At least this meant that it was unlikely to have much damage. A sail boat with the conventional deep keel would be lying on its side with mast and boom shattered. But "Camargue" was sitting firmly on the sand, rammed into a group of large mangroves.

Guy hopped aboard and checked out the craft. Apart from a showering of debris from the mangroves, she appeared to be OK. The mangroves had definitely come off worse, with large branches floating in the water around the boat.

On the beach, I telephoned the good news to Billie.

And the bad news. "Camargue" had run aground on a king tide. With her weight, we would have to wait for the next king tide to shift her. And the next king tide is not until October.

The joys of boat ownership!

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