The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lost Rocna and chain plus further agonies

Continued from Part I and Part II

Better finish telling my ill-fated voyage before readers start yawning, especially me. 

Anyway, there I was in the bay of Sesimbra with a fouled propeller letting out my chain with the manual SL 555 windlass. I tightened the clutch when I thought I had plenty of scope; then I decided, "ah what the hell, I've got no engine so a few more meters won't hurt."

I released the clutch, the chain clattered over the gypsy, snaked out of the hawser pipe and disappeared into the water with a sickening splash. Gone! I stood there on the bow looking at the hawser hole and at the ripples in the water not feeling anything in particular. I was numb, dumbstruck...WTF!

Since I had changed the chain end over end this spring, my first nauseating thought was that I forgot to shackle the bitter end. But I did, I was sure I did. My stomach was tightening and my tomatoes were drooping. 
shackle breaking force
This cheap (probably Chinese made) shackle ruined my trip.
Chinese stainless steel
Corroded, rotten stainless crap. 
I lunged for the Fortress FX-11 linked to 3/4 inch nylon rode in the port sail locker, cleated the end and threw it overboard.

Second Mistake

The Fortress FX-11 weighs 3 kilos...tied to a 3/4 nylon line. What a fucking laugh, it probably never even reached the bottom. Typical useless backup nonsense. 

I should have immediately pushed the MOB (man overboard) button to record the site of the sunken Rocna. Jakatar was slowly drifting out to sea and I had all the time in the world to set up the 25 kg anchor secured down below in the dungeon.

Gotta finish writing this before I fall asleep. So I pulled in the Fortress that was happily bouncing on along the seafloor at the end of a huge nylon line, stowed it, dove into the dungeon below, unsecured the ugliest (also probable Chinese) anchor I've ever seen - damn heavy though - and substituted the Fortress with this huge hunk of metal.

Meanwhile, the wind was stiffening and shifting north, blowing almost straight from the bay. Two hours later and on the third attempt, I finally managed to sail in and anchor in an acceptable location not too close to the rocks.

I immediately dove in, cut the lines and removed the jug stuck on the propeller, started the engine, tried the transmission and everything looked good. 

I noticed that I was dragging slowly; so when night fell and the wind died down I decided to move closer to the port, closer to where I had lost the anchor. 

With the engine running, I slowly pulled in the line with the windlass drum, working up a sweat and completely fatigued on this hellish day. When the anchor was dangling out of the water I engaged in forward and began to move...very slowly for some strange reason.

"Fuck! the transmission is shot...what else could go wrong," I was thinking when I heard the same Cacklunk noise and the engine died. Shit, shit, shit, lines in the propeller again. Yup, the anchor had fished up old lines and nets that were just dying to wrap themselves around the propeller and shaft.

I let the anchor down before realizing that the boat wasn't going anywhere and that, in any case, I'd have to free the anchor. Except now, I could hardly lift the anchor above the waterline and, after failed attempts, I lashed a kitchen knife to a broom handle and slowly cut the lines and net.

I was pooped, drank two glasses of wine, ate some cookies and went to bed feeling downright disgusted.

Another urgent translation came in just now, I'm taking the bus to the Algarve on Friday morning to crew for a friend returning to Peniche or maybe bring up a boat on my own. So, you guessed it, hell in Sesimbra will be continued.....there's still a lot more fun to come. 


  1. Oh Horacio, I'm so sorry of your loss. I've been dieing to buy a Rocna only to be criticized to be throwing 5 bills into the sea. Plus the chain...ouch! And all from a shackle? It's not fair! I don't even have a shackle on mine ,just a little piece of rope tied somewhere. But I've painted 10meter markings on my chain and the last 5meters are completely painted which I've never seen in fear of similar misfortunes.
    Twice fouled props????? WTF!

    1. You got it right my friend. A piece of rope doesn't rust and break with the weight of chain alone, and completely painting the last 5 metres is pure genius.
      Tomorrow I'm taking the bus to Lagos, Algarve, to pick up a Bavaria 32, a four-day solo trip nose into the wind and waves. Let's hope I have no exciting stories to tell on my return.

  2. We were forced to cut our Rocna and chain after an accidental deployment in 82' of water after a windlass failure. Unable to winch chain, wind blowing 25 knots, caught in the moment, I cut the line spliced to the chain and watched it disappear over the bow. Marking it on the chart plotter, we sailed back into port defeated. Three days later we went out and dove where the anchor had been lost. The whole dive was 15 minutes in 10' of visability. The bitter end not 7' from where I had dropped our second anchor.

    Many had asked if we had placed a buoy or fender on the bitter end. A smart idea perhaps but in the moment it wasn't a thought. Perhaps next time!

    1. Good thing you marked the spot. The buoy tied to the bitter end would have been great too, but isn't it so easy to list all the "ifs" after the fact. "If" I had pressed the MOB button instead of lunging for the backup anchor, it would have saved my trip and nearly 1,000 euros.
      You did the right thing. As for me, I'll never forget to press that MOB button, which might save a life if anybody ever falls overboard.

      It's actually possible to winch in chain. Tie a line (or set a hook) to the chain at the bow and then winch the line until the chain reaches the winch, secure the chain and repeat.

      Thanks for commenting and happy sailing.