Murder at La Playita
or "Dude Where's my boat".
Was a lovely strong offshore breeze for the first few days here in Panama City, La Playita, Flamenco Anchorage. Yesterday the proper doldrums weather kicked in. It was windless, it was hot it was so incredibly sticky. I chose yesterday to go shopping (AKA getting lost) around Panama City. Man was it hot.
We were supposed to go out to the old town for a Jazz open mike night last night. Glad we didn't. We went to the bar at sunset for a couple of beers. As we came back the wind came up big time. Dinghy ride out was incredibly wet, waves coming straight in the anchorage. A very crowded anchorage. We weren't dragging, I think, its bloody hard to tell when every boat is bucking like a hobby horse kid on a sugar rush. But we were scarcely close to several boats who either were dragging or would give no warning before they hit us if they did drag. If you want a lubbers comparison it was like the sort of ebb and flow of people at a borderline riot/demonstration. With 20 ton boats.
Dinghies everywhere, rushing back to their boats. Easier said than done. Finding your boat in the dark is a skill. When the anchorage has changed and the dinghy ride is like a Brighton Beach launch on a bad day and either your boat has dragged (I.E. its anchor has lost its grip on the bottom) or those around you have, finding your boat becomes a challenge in its self. To extend the demo analogy imagine the dinghy as the parents and the yacht as a lost child - in the midst of the pol tax riots. Remember here their yacht is their home, centre of their universe with all their worldly goods on it in many cases and the analogy won't seem so extreme.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â To add to the back ground of mayhem you have shouting between boats, which is usually inaudible, conducted as it is in 5 languages. Powerful searchlights stabbing out briefly illuminating boats. Sometimes a boat dragging badly will be illuminated from several directions as it goes backwards through the anchorage.
This happened right next to us. An Island Packet (American brand of heavy, cruising yacht not something out of Master and Commander), scrapped down the side of a boat next to us, maybe 20 meters away. 10 meters behind us a tinny little yellow yacht was plunging its bow in then 15 feet in the air. Its chain out of the water to almost to our transom.
At this point the Island Packet crew, and one of the crew from the boat 15 meters ahead of us managed to get aboard their wildly bucking boat, get the engine on and start hauling anchor.
Given they'd gone past the boat they'd hit, on one side and looked like coming back up the other (thus pulling the stationary boats anchor up too) and had borrowed someone of the lurching boat close ahead of leaving it short crewed we had a spectre of both boats, entangled, crashing into us so we cut and ran. Getting our anchor up involved passing right along side the boat ahead. Within feet. Both boats plunging up and down similar distance. At one stage we thought we'd hooked they're chain but in the end we we're up and clear.
Even as we cleared the anchorage it was clear the wind was dropping off again. Several other boats were milling around too. The radio was alive with similar incidents, some on going. Rayla's anchor was pulled out by the yacht that dragged past her, other rally yachts took the decision, like us, that even if they did hold there was as much of a threat from other people dragging and came out Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â to anchor offshore with us.
The night was rolly, the wind dropped but the swell didn't morning saw the yellow boat who'd been close behind us Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â anchored out at sea with us again. We've moved back in to the re-arranged anchorage. With a bit more space. Where we were yesterday it's difficult to imagine where we'd have fitted. There's a cluster of boats all very tight, no sign of the gap both us and the yellow boat were occupying.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â All in all there was little damage for the amount of carnage. Bear in mind that I know one boat here has no steering at all it due to arrive back today. One of the cats has an engine out I.E. it can't do 'owt but circles. We all got off quite lucky. One boat did loose their dinner to the ravenous cabin floor. After they'd got the hell out of there, they opted for a liquid dinner of fruit juice with a rum stock.
There are more pleasant ways to spend the evening but no harm done. Given we're all rusty, we handled the whole thing bloody well I think. A couple of days later I met the people of the boat in front, we did pick their anchor up on the way out, but dropped it again and it held, so they were ok about it.