C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What a Night!

By yesterday evening what had been a three boat anchorage filled up with a number of medium to large sport fishing vessels.  A trimaran, EZ, appeared on the western horizon as the sun began to set.  She dropped her hook off our starboard bow the light of day waned.  The evening was pleasant with light winds relative to the past few days.  That was all to change.  Slightly after midnight I awoke to an abrupt shift in the wind and the heavy feeling of impending rain.

I set up our new foredeck awning to allow us ventilation during the pending rains and was returning to the cockpit when we were slammed by a 50+knot wind gust from the south.  I dashed below decks to shut down the straining wind generator.  Bad idea… engaging the wind generator's clutch during the blast only served to destroy the clutch mechanism.  The whine of our damaged wind generator now added to the screams of ongoing squall.

With 50+knot gusts lashing the anchorage I returned to the cockpit to survey our position relative to other vessels.  The late arrival EZ was moving pilotless across the anchorage and bearing down upon the sport fishing vessel, Whiskey Tango.   It was unclear in the melee if the two vessels struck.  What was clear is that the two vessels anchors were intertwined and they were both now streaking towards the fort’s decaying coaling docks.  The coaling docks, once a pier designed to allow steam ships to take on coal and water, now are a grid work of large rusting metal I-beams (see image below). 

 Whiskey Tango, was able to cut their anchor line and avoid becoming dashed upon the bristling coaling docks.   The entangled rodes fouled Whiskey Tango’s props.  Fortunately the crew was able to get a line around a channel marker and retard their drift into the shallow waters surrounding the fort.  The trimaran, EZ, struck the coaling docks broadside and remained pined their as the squall continued to batter the area.  Our wind generator screamed on into the night.

To our port side a Grand Banks trawler also pulled free from their two anchors and was maneuvering under power in an attempt to avoid other vessels in the anchorage.  Observing the woes of others, I began to worry about the holding of our own ground tackle.  I had limited our anchor rode’s scope in an attempt to provide more room in the anchorage.  I was now regretting my generosity.   Our wind generator screamed on into the night.

 I started C’est la Vie’s engine and began to counter each wind gust by powering forward into the wind.  Anne checked our position on the GPS, but it was difficult judge the integrity of our anchor with this limited data.  Time became blurred along with the streaming, wind driven rain and I am unsure how long it took for the squall to finally pass to our north. 

As the squall abated the blackness of the night was dissected by halogen beams as each vessel in the anchorage took stock of personal damage, proximity of other vessels, and the drama unfolding on the coaling docks.    Somehow during the ebbing minutes of the storm Wes from Eos had reached EZ and was attempting to free her from the docks.  The park service was also mounting a response to the two disabled vessels.

I became convinced that we had pulled our anchor across the sea bed and were now uncomfortably close to a 40+ foot sport fishing vessel, Double Diamond.  Anne and I drew our attention away from the ongoing rescue efforts ashore and reset C’est la Vie’s anchor.  The VHF was abuzz with talk of more squalls so this time around we fed out our entire 100’ of chain rode.  We also set up our hand held GPS to accurately monitor our position relative to the anchor.   This “anchor drag alarm” would prove valuable as the squalls continued to target our anchorage. 

By 04:00, EZ, the trimaran was secured to the NPS mooring ball; Whiskey Tango was tied to the docks; the Park Service had visited each vessel to confirm all is well; and I was ready for some sleep.

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