The pass was deep, wide and well-marked. I bet you could drag an aircraft carrier through sideways and not have a problem, but the wind direction slowed us down to a meager three knots. Tacking (a left hand turn) into an 18 knot headwind from the pass was going to be difficult (maybe impossible) without more speed so Dois decided to teach me the “worry-around”. He had me turn the boat the opposite the direction from where we wanted to go, gaining speed from the wind that was now behind us and quickly completing the turn (sort of a ¾ circle) ending up on the tack we wanted. We were only 11 miles to the moorings now and things were looking up. We tacked back and forth, close to the wind, begging for speed. We were really enjoying this sailing, especially because we thought we were almost home. Little did we know we would not find safe haven for another 17 hours.
It was Tuesday night. Why is this important? Because Tuesday nights are yachtie Happy Hours here in Majuro and you do not want to get between a sailor and his happy hour. At 6:00 only 2 small dinghies showed up and the weather now warranted a tug boat. We were very grateful for the two dinghies and decided to furl the staysail and drop the main. Unfortunately the main was intent on staying up the mast, being pinned there by the wind. Dois jumped out of the cockpit to pull in down and it came down alright... in one fell swoop; busted right out of the main mast track. Now we had no engine and no main sail.
The Frenchman was free and he unbelievably, hollered over the noise of the squall that he would return with his big power cat. At about that time another dinghy came along side and boarded Ashika. Phil is a jolly Brit with a desire to help but we needed at least two more boats by this point. Dois was helping our helpers onboard and tying down their boats and as soon as everyone was safe I pulled out the staysail and we whipped a u-turn sailing away from the reef and any immediate danger. The only problem was I could only go in a direction that was away from any anchorage, but it was also away from the reef, at least for awhile. Port dinghy and Dois started work on a towing bridle. And when he could, Dois came back to raise the mizzen hoping it might gain us sail control.
Now Ashika was headed in the right direction again and closing in on the mooring. The storm had kicked it up a notch and making a real mess so we were relieved to be so close. Finally, safe at last. But it was not going to be. A man was sitting in a dinghy at the mooring ball, waiting to hand us up the mooring loop so we could thread it with our line, easy peasy. But the power cat drove around the man in the dinghy and stopped. The wind blew him down toward our port side, effectively lassoing mooring and the man in the dinghy - nearly killing him. He scrambled to get loose from the tow line and as he neared Ashika’s bow Dois could see his eyes were huge with fear as Dois help him slack the line and skinny under it to freedom. The Frenchman was screaming again… RELEASE MY LINE RELEASE MY LINE! What could we do? We released his line. And Frenchman powered off leaving us adrift again.
Four or five guys in a small fishing boat fresh from happy hour had arrived and were ready to tow us to safety. Where had we heard that before? Orders started flying out of that boat like a MacDonald’s at noon. The committee were all yelling to be heard over the storm, making demands mostly for us to cut the anchor loose (buoy it so we could retrieve it later). Dinghy man was giving Dois the full court press for cutting the anchor and Phil was telling me delightful stories in the cockpit. The chaos was complete. I said "please excuse me Phil" and splashed out on to the deck in the warm torrents of wind and rain to pow-wow with the Captain. In that moment the decision was whether to cut the anchor loose or put out more rode. Dois and I were in complete agreement.
Another rescue plan without a plan, at least none that they could share over the howl of the wind. They arrived directly from several hours at the bar and met two highly doubtful and very tired sailors. A rescue had sounded so easy until it wasn’t. Nobody else had done as much for us that night as our anchor had so we decided to trust our own instincts and put out more rode. Although their hearts were certainly in the right place, we had been through the ringer that night, and we trusted our anchor more. We sent the party away, all of them. An additional 250’ of rode was deployed and kept us in place all night.
A squall piped up just as we started picking up the rode, probably because Neptune was still angry about the solar panel. Raising the anchor became a significant problem again as the wind doubled the pull on the Mantus. Dois tried to call it off and reschedule for after the storm, but the committee boat wouldn’t concede. Phil (our jolly Brit) joined Dois on deck and kept a foot on the gypsy while I flaked chain below into the locker. Dois worried all 500’ of ground tackle right up to the pulpit. Cary, the tow/fishing (committee) boat owner threw us a tow line and expertly and efficiently towed us safely to our mooring. Smooth. Safe.
Oh, and I also want to mention that Ginger was an angel during the whole ordeal. She stayed tucked into her bed where she could see the cockpit and me and only barked when someone new boarded. She’s a sailor’s best friend. And mine too!