Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fed the homeless & the sinking of friend`s boat

Yesterday morning Bill ventured out in search of an ATM to obtain local currency of francs; they don`t accept Euros here in New Caledonia. The first ATM machine would not accept our debit card and Bill could not figure out whether the message on the little screen was saying that the machine was out of order or that our card would not work on their system. Since the next ATM machine was farther away and we had been advised that it was not the safest place to walk around, this time I accompanied him on this trip. We also wanted to look at the local market.

There is a fabulous seafood market right next to the marina and I wanted some of the great looking fresh tuna, but we have too much food on the boat already so we passed on the fish. There is a separate produce market where those fabulous French pastries are also sold. This is a wonderful daily market; prices are a bit high but the quality cannot be beat.

We walked the few blocks to another ATM. A vagrant street person followed us half a block and stood a few feet from us as Bill did one ATM withdrawal and I could hear him submitting a second withdrawal. I stood with my back to Bill and faced the vagrant, making it obvious that I was watching him. He kept glancing at Bill and the ATM machine and started whistling and making hand motions to other vagrants down the block, motioning them to come to where we were standing. I told Bill that I thought we should hurry up and get away from there. Bill said he was finished and we walked away. The vagrant stayed at the ATM machine.

After we were half-block away Bill told me that only the first withdrawal had worked. The screen said something about "impossible" on the second withdrawal attempt. Remember that this is all in French, which we don`t speak or read. We walked around a few blocks and then returned to the ATM to try another withdrawal. The vagrant had moved on by this time. We put in our card and punched the button for another 8,000 francs and the little screen again said something was impossible. But for some reason I thought it was telling us that it would be impossible to print a receipt. Sure enough, we waited about 10 seconds and out came our money but no printed receipt. Uh-oh. That meant that the previous transaction probably had worked but that we hadn`t hung around long enough for the machine to dispense the money. No wonder the vagrant had hung around the machine after we walked away. Sure enough, once we got back to the boat and got internet access to check our bank account we learned that all 3 transactions had been processed.

Oh well, it could have been much worse. We had just given the vagrant about $90 to drink his day happy. We should expect mishaps to occur when we don`t understand the language. Sort of suprised that we haven`t screwed up before now. We decided to return to the boat before we got into more trouble. On the walk back we saw that the new Star Trek movie is playing just down the street from our marina. Of course it is in French. We are seriously considering going to see it anyway, just to see the special effects even if we can`t understand the dialog or plot.

Now that we had internet access it was time to update the websites and catch up on some of the news. We were very saddened to learn that a boat we know sank last Friday en route from New Zealand to Fiji.

We had met Wendy and Steve on S/V ELUSIVE in Tonga last October; didn`t get to know them well but did socialize with them several times. ELUSIVE was one of half-dozen boats sailing from Opua to Fiji, all scattered well away from one another. They were about 500 miles out of Opua when they received news of impending bad weather and diverted course, heading south again. At the same time John and Renee on S/V SCARLETT O`HARA had also diverted course and were heading west. These 2 boats were not too far from one another and heading in opposite directions, one headed south and one headed west and closing the distance between them. ELUSIVE began taking on water quickly. ELUSIVE is a fast J-44 and had extensive refitting work done in New Zealand. Steve could not find the leak, but did verify that water was not entering at the prop shaft or packing gland.

Wendy and their adult son got into their dinghy and Steve continued to try to find the source of the leak. SCARLETT arrived and John (who is a marine surveyer and very knowledgable about boats) went aboard the rapidly sinking ELUSIVE and attempted to help Steve find the source of the incoming seawater. Apparently the water was entering somewhere in the forward half of the boat. Unfortunately, the water was rapidly filling the boat and it soon became apparent that Steve and John must vacate the boat because to stay longer would endanger their lives. Wendy, Steve and their son were taken aboard S/V SCARLETT O`HARA and watched their home sink. The cause of the leak will now never be known because the boat is at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. One thing that is for certain is that this sinking was not caused by bad weather or by collision; it was some malfunction on the boat. Our thoughts are with Wendy and Steve as they recover from this traumatic event.

Wendy and Steve are so fortunate that they were sailing this passage with so many other cruisers nearby. If they had been alone on this passage the outcome could have been far more tragic. And this rescue is even more interesting because John and Renee on SCARLETT O`HARA had also once been rescued at sea. Several years ago they departed from Mexico en route to French Polynesia. They were 750 miles out of Mexico when their rudder fell off. The rudder literally fell off the boat!!! They were very fortunate that the Mexican Navy came to their rescue and towed the boat back to Mexico, where they spent 2 years replacing the rudder and making other improvements.

The crew of SCARLETT O`HARA were rescued once and now they have paid forward by rescuing the crew of ELUSIVE.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! We didn't meet Elusive, but I can only imagine how sick you would feel watching your boat sink. Good thing my mom doesn't know about your blog. This story would really make her worry. Good on Scarlett O'Hara for the rescue!


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