Alongside the reception pontoon – tow boat ahead

Thursday morning, Puerto Calero; Temptress’ crew, still exhausted had to be up to complete paperwork and apparently first to be moved to a more permanent berth. The harbour Master himself would conduct the operation but we viewed the “tug” with alarm. It was just a few meters long, no bigger than say Southsea’s workboat or Minima’s safety boats but unlike them was not a rugged, heavy craft but  relatively lightweight elegant open boat with a generous curving bow. Pleasing on the eye but we wondered if it would be able to manage 16 tonnes of uncontrollable yacht. However it is their boat and their harbour so we went with the flow even when the HM said he wanted to tow from ahead on a line when both Kevin and I’s instinct in such confined space would have been an alongside tow.

We untied the last of the mooring lines and the HM set off. Kevin called to him to go faster and more to port (left) so Temptress cleared the bows of a beamy catamaran secured to the pontoon a few boat lengths further on. Our tug sped up but not enough for Temptress’ keel to bite in the water so she responded by yawing rapidly to the left well beyond her tug. Kevin yelled back at the First Mate to start the engine and I scrambled to put it in full reverse but could not avoid what happened next. Crunch! Temptress’ pulpit (the metalwork around the bow) crashed heavily into the post supporting the first pontoon running out from the shore on our left. She reverberated off then swung away off to the right on the end of her towline. Somehow the pair of us managed to get fenders raised sufficiently as poor stricken Temptress came to rest alongside the forward part of a large motorboat whose flaring bow curved above our guard wires threatening further damage.

After some heated discussion the HM agreed that the Skipper knew best how to manoeuvre his boat and agreed to be secured along side us. Then, using the engines from both boats to alter course as required, Kevin got us moving in a more controlled fashion mid-channel up the marina. Meanwhile a group of cruising yachties had witnessed events from one of the other pontoons and a couple of them suddenly realised where we were headed. The berth adjacent to their boat had become free that morning when the occupant left for pastures new. The crowd scrambled along the shore quayside and onto Juliet pontoon up by the boatyard. From on board Temptress a shouted conversation between the Skipper and the HM (it was too windy for anything else) ensured we too realised where we were headed and as it dawned on me I seriously doubted we’d get there in one piece. Another sharp left was hampered by the huge bow of a bulky motorsailor we’d be sharing the space between the fingers with.

Ouch – one of several…

Although Kevin was fairly confident we could turn (ahead on one engine, astern on the other) and poke our bow in, rid ourselves of the tow and then be heaved in the rest of the way by the now large reception committee, the HM himself wavered. Temptress turned but wasn’t going fast enough so drifted almost across the entry to the boatyard hoist basin. Kevin yelled, I looked up and caught mostly in the face a line from the far corner of the basin which was quickly secured to our starboard stern cleat. A line off our bow was taken by the team on the pontoon finger whilst others ensured we didn’t collide with our other new neighbour “Orion I” moored on the opposite side of short finger. Soon the hullabaloo was over, the crowd departed and we were left to make Temptress secure. Debbie offered us coffee and her husband John made us welcome assuring us that we were in good hands even if the HM’s boat handling did leave something to be desired.

Various marina staff came to visit during the rest of the day with apologies. In the office everyone could not be more helpful too so despite our rather dramatic arrival we began to be reassured and started to relax. Time to call the insurance company and get the ball rolling for repairs. By mid afternoon their surveyor had arranged a liftout for Tuesday 12 Nov at midday so he can inspect the damage. Meanwhile we’d been visited by the boatyard manager who promised that the pulpit will be replaced and the damage they’d caused made good at the marina’s expense.

Snug at last if a little bent and bruised –
the anchor is upside down from our tow in,
turned that way to prevent it snagging on the bridle

And to add to our eventful day, it seemed we were minor celebrities due to our “dramatic rescue and tow” into Lanzarote. Alex from the office asked us if we wouldn’t mind doing a local TV interview – just one question “what happened” and we had twenty seconds to answer. Kevin was perfectly tuned into the situation – what was needed was a plug for the SAR folk and he was more than happy to provide it ensuring that Canarians knew how professional and caring the crew of Guardamar Talia were. Then Alex took over in front of the camera; presumably his torrent of Spanish was a plug for the marina for being able to offer us shelter and lift out facilities! The cameraman then followed us around the boat “tidying up and examining the damage” for a few minutes before heading off. The following morning we learnt that Temptress’ rescue had also appeared in the local Spanish language papers.

Adrenaline finally gone we slept shakily on Thursday night but woke resigned to being here for some months. It could be worse, winter in the Canaries is not cold, our home is still afloat and Lanzarote is spectacular, just a walk on the lava field on the headland beyond the boatyard is impressive with huge clear turquoise waves crashing on the foreshore. We’ve hired a car (the marina staff got us a good deal) and decided that as we are here for the foreseeable we’ll tackle some of the bigger jobs on our boat list. You know the ones that aren’t essential to safe sailing but none the less will add to the comfort of the crew or well being of the boat. Number one of these is re-upholstering the saloon – the grubby cushions are over twenty years old, seams are splitting and underneath the cloth is starting to rot badly in places. We’ve patched it but it is not going to last too much longer with us living aboard full time. The local sailmaker (a chirpy Brit) is organising someone to come out from Arrecife next week to take a look and provide a quote for new foam and covers.

We also have to consider what next. A long term stay in a marina was never part of our budgeting and this will be our second unplanned one, the other being Oban whilst the First Mate’s back recovered during August. Therefore we may have to curtail our long term cruising destinations and return to the UK to top up the contingency coffers. However until Temptress is well on the way to recovery and we have some time scales, whilst we might mull over the options, we aren’t making any decisions. Life is full of surprises and we like it like that – our mantra is that plans are made to be broken, better to have one to alter than drift along with no idea of where you are heading.