Tuesday 02 Aug 2016 A Runaway Boat, Muros, Spain.
I’ve been at anchor just off the pleasant town of Muros in northwest Spain for a couple of days now, and I’m busy on deck with the endless maintenance a cruising boat needs when for some reason I glance up. There are half a dozen other boats in the anchorage, all of which have been there for a while too, and I’ve got used to them being where they are. And that big blue boat isn’t normally there. Is it moving? It’s hard to tell for sure but it certainly seems much closer than it was.
It’s getting closer, I’m certain now. Heading right for me, in fact. I prepare to take evasive action but, at the last moment, it looks like the big blue boat will miss Moonrise by a whisker and drift on by. However, the next problem is that in passing ahead of me and presumably dragging its anchor along the bottom, it seems likely it’s anchor will catch hold of my anchor chain and either come to rest or drag my chain, anchor and boat along behind it. How this doesn’t happen I don’t know, but the big blue boat just drifts on by, ten meters ahead of my bow, going sideways and heading out into deep water.
Once it’s clear that my own boat is safe the next issue is what to do about the runaway. Like most people, the owners of the big blue boat keep their dinghy tied up to the stern of their boat, tethered like a horse by the door. There’s no dinghy to be seen now so the owners are presumably ashore, blissfully unaware that their boat is floating away.
I’m English. One doesn’t wish to interfere. Or make a fuss. But that boat’s drifting away with nobody aboard! Yes, it is, but what happens if I try to do something and fail? Will I be held liable? Maybe, but it’s not just a boat, it’s those people’s home, too, and probably the hard fought-for manifestation of their dreams as well. I chuck my kedge anchor and rode into my dingy, zoom across to the big blue boat and climb aboard.
Blimey, this really is a big boat. It’s at least twice the size of mine. I’m not sure my kedge will hold it. But it might at least slow it down a bit and give me a chance to work out how to use the complicated-looking anchor set-up.
Barry, seeing what’s going on, has jumped into his own dingy and come to help. Good man! Having made fast the end of the rode I pass him the kedge. He takes it out forward in his dingy as far as it will go and drops it, whereupon I haul in the slack. It looks like it may hold after all. We’re slowing down a bit and the rode is tight. But no, it doesn’t hold. We’re still drifting, and heading for one of the viveros, a shellfish farm anchored out in the bay.
Having figured-out how to work the blue boat’s windlass Barry and I debate what to do next. We could just let out more chain but we’re away in pretty deep water now and, furthermore, I suspect the anchor is fouled by something, which is what prevented it from holding in the first place. Barry was an RNLI lifeboat crewman and and press officer, and he councils caution. Owners, and certainly insurance companies, cannot be relied upon to be reasonable. If we haul in the anchor to clear it and collide with the vivero while we’re doing so we could well be held liable for the damage to both the vivero and the boat, regardless of the fact that the collision would have happened anyway.
Another boat from the anchorage arrives. Having seen the whole thing they’ve hauled in their own anchor and come across to offer a tow. This takes a little while to arrange but once it is I haul in my kedge and most of the big blue boat’s anchor chain and we’re towed back towards the shallower water of the anchorage.
At this point a dinghy can be seen heading towards us at top speed from the town. The owners! Thank heavens for that! I am mightily relieved when they climb aboard and assume both command and responsibility.
The following day the owners of the big blue boat go around the anchorage and invite Barry, the couple on the boat that provided the tow and me to lunch ashore by way of a thank you. And a very pleasant occasion it was, too.