Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter Island Dinghy Disaster

Surfing In the Dinghy On a Settled Day

Today was scheduled to be a 'work day'. Sue from s/v Infini and I went grocery shopping. We walked all over town and shlepped large bags full of meat, veggies, and other necessaries back to the dinghy, while the guys were back aboard doing minor repairs.

We got in thru the surf OK by ourselves in Sue's dinghy, but but when we got back to the dinghy, wow, was the surf big. Getting in and out of the small boat harbor is an adventure on a normal day. Well, this turned out to be more of an adventure than we'd planned.

The Surf Line between Boat and Dinghy Beach on a Mild Day

What we'd been told is to idle at the dinghy beach area and watch and wait for a big "set" of waves to finish, then race out thru the surf zone in the calm that follows.

Well, what we didn't know was that at this time, there was not going to be any calm. And we were in a hurry--the guys were waiting for the dinghy to go get diesel. So we idled out into the surf zone and somehow got 'committed' to going, and there was no calm.

To make a long story short... we made it over the first wave, but then got a little further out where a REALLY BIG wave was coming. There was nowhere to go. We went straight up the wave face and then curled over backward as the wave broke. Sue and I were in the surf, along with the dinghy and all our groceries. It was an exciting time to say the least.

Both Sue and I are good swimmers, but this was really a challenge. The waves were so big, we weren't making a lot of progress toward shore, and were getting tired. We finally gave up trying to save our stuff and concentrated on saving ourselves!!

Fortunately, there were lots of surfers nearby and they soon came to our rescue. I think the locals are used to this drill. One surfer helped Sue up onto her board. She was getting really tired. A couple of guys helped me (between huge crashing waves) get the dinghy flipped back. Then they got me in the dinghy and guided me in to the beach.

Some of the guys were gathering up our floating groceries on their surfboards. And someone called the Chilean Coast Guard, and they were soon out in jetskis helping to collect stuff too.

In the end, we lost about a third of our groceries. Sue lost a handheld VHF, and her camera, which was in a nylon 'drybag', is now toast. She was able to retrieve her bag that had her money and passport in it (though it was all soaked). My camera was in a better drybag, which one of the surfers retrieved. It got a few drops of water on it, but Dave cleaned it up and it's working for now. I did lose my small change purse with 3 credit cards in it, which was just in my pocket.

The bad part was that the dinghy motor needed to be worked on ASAP, to flush the salt water out. But the guys were stuck out on the boats--the conditions were too bad for them to come in. Fortunately, the Chilean Coast Guard mechanic volunteered to take the outboard back to their shop and work on it immediately--gratis. What a very nice gesture.

The Dinghy Beach on a Better Day

Sue and I spent all afternoon on the shore trying to dry our stuff out, and watching the surf, wondering how we were going to get back aboard. Finally, another cruiser with a small dinghy hired a fisherman to load their dinghy on his big outboard-powered launcha, and take them out. So when he came back, we negotiated a ride too. It was an exciting trip thru the surf--still huge waves--with our dinghy in the middle of the boat, and Sue and I crouched in the fish guts, trying to hang on and keep from getting crushed by our dinghy! It was Well worth the $20 we paid him.

Mike and Dave, fortunately, knew nothing of our disaster until it was all over. They were going to come in and 'rescue' us, but we convinced them that the surf was too bad and we didn't need another disaster. They did notice a bunch of bananas float by, so they got in our (Soggy Paws') dinghy and ran around gathering up whatever they could. They retrieved quite a few useful things too.

Unfortunately, no one we know took pictures of our adventure. In these pictures here, the surf is very modest.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a real adventure, ancient history now from the date of this post but I bet you still remember it vividly! I've always wanted to go the the Easter Islands since reading a book back in the '70's (think it was called 'Chariot of the Gods'), seems like a mystical place. I think where inflatables are concerned you need something pretty meaty to get through surf, smaller and lighter tenders will be a bit unstable however careful you are. Respect for trying to reach dry land in that size of surf though!