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Monday, October 1, 2012

Sept 4 - 7, 2012 Uwada Dasami - Destiny Climbs Cannibal Rock, A Rescue and Wildlife on the Beach

After considerable tide and current research we departed Labuan Bajo at around 1 PM in order to catch the southward flowing tide through the pass between Flores and Rinca. Well, as Indonesian tides go we didn't exactly catch it right and found a 2-knot current pushing against us. At least it wasn't 6 knots against us. Our target anchorage at Uwada Dasami is located in a horseshoe-shaped bay at the lower end of Rinca. Imagine was just ahead of us and Sea Mist was following. Eventually the tide began to go with us giving us a positive drift. Late afternoon was sneaking up on us as we emerged from the pass putting us at the entrance to the bay at around 5:00 PM. Entering the bay we immediately noted that it was completely surrounded by mountainous shores blocking out the last of the afternoon sun. We were rapidly losing our daylight leaving the water black as pitch. Two very large live-aboard dive boats were bobbing on massive moorings in each of the small coves either side of a very large rock outcropping. Imagine went for the nearer cove, and as we watched them motor back and forth for close to ten minutes seeking a spot to drop the hook, we realized it may take them a while to find their sweet spot. If we wanted any visibility for anchoring we should move on around to the other cove.

I'm sure I've mentioned that there are MANY uncharted reefs and obstructions throughout Indonesia, so as a precaution we had sonar and radar on as well as Google Earth overlaying our chart. Cutting a wide path around the jutting rock formation we were registering 141 feet of depth when suddenly Frank called to me, "Barbara the bottom is coming up…real fast!" The sudden crushing grinding noise was enough to tear our guts out as Destiny slammed up onto the top of a pinnacle remarkably named Cannibal Rock. It happened so quickly. As soon as Frank had noticed the depth changing he had instinctively neutralized the engine and then slammed it into reverse. Nonetheless, we had climbed straight up and were squarely sitting bow up at about a 15-degree angle. It was horrible. Oddly, instead of freaking out, Frank and I both stepped into assessment mode, more level-headedly than either of us could imagine. I quickly gave him a report that from the foredeck we were surrounded by (stunningly beautiful) coral but the hull did not appear to be breached, and then while he was working the throttle and helm, I dropped below and began flinging open all the bilges to check for leakage. Within minutes, 3 tenders from the dive boats descended on us and began a well choreographed and extremely organized rescue under the very well composed direction of a tall American named Alan Collins. Frank never left the helm and never stopped working to free us. I dug out dock lines, secured them to cleats and tossed them to the dive staff. Two of them boarded Destiny and directed the efforts of the others. They worked unremittingly and extremely cautiously for nearly an hour to free Destiny from the pinnacle without causing her hull any additional stress or damage before the tide really did a number on her. It was surreal.

By the Grace of God, and the incredible structure of Destiny, the keel took all of the hit - no hull damage to Destiny. We have never felt so much gratitude and I know that nothing short of a miracle saved us. There is no other explanation for it. I kept telling the dive crew that they were our Angels. As soon as we were free, the crew and their tenders departed as quickly as they had appeared, leaving only Alan aboard who directed us safely around the obstruction into a secure anchor spot in the next cove. After we settled our shaking nerves, we asked him what we could do to repay them for their incredible efforts. He said, absolutely nothing. They were happy to have been able to assist, and then he further explained that there are other such unmarked obstacles out here that the dive operators know about because they are popular dive stops, but are not noted on the navigation charts. Of course I asked, "So why don't the charts show them?" He shrugged and said he didn't know the answer to that. Returning him to his ship, The Palau Siren, in the other cove he invited us aboard for a tour and to meet the captain. This dive boat was top of the line and this trip is her maiden voyage. After cruising Indonesia she will head over to Palau. Getting us off our boat and giving us this little tour, offering us something to drink worked wonders to settle our nerves. Alan informed us that they would be pulling out in the morning but that he would be happy to dive our hull for us before leaving. We kindly thanked him but assured him we would be diving the hull at first light ourselves. He assured us that if we needed anything to let them know ASAP.

The next morning before I could wipe the sleep from my eyes, Frank had already been down to check Destiny's hull. He popped back up with a huge smile and the good news that in spite of that horrific episode, Destiny only bore scratches to the underside of the keel. She was intact. There is really no explanation for that, other than we have experienced yet another miracle of fate. I have been too shaken up by it and Frank too upset with himself to relate this to anyone else. The only people who knew about this are the dive boats and the two yachts (Sea Mist and Imagine) that were there with us. It took me several weeks to share this to anyone, and even at that it was to only 3 other people. Frank is still not ready to talk about it. Now I feel a little bit insecure, and we absolutely will not sail these waters anymore without the full light of day. As soon as we had internet I downloaded the dive sites for Indonesia. Interestingly, this season we have more resources at our fingertips, including the overlay of Google Earth on the charts. How we missed knowing about that reef is unnerving.

Although we are divers and according to Alan, Cannibal Rock is one of the best dives in Indonesia we didn't do it. Frank snorkeled it with Stuart and John while we were there. I thought about it but by the time we motored over there in the dinghy I had talked myself out of it reasoning was that it was too cold, but I think it was really the knots in my stomach that formed as soon as we got back to the spot of our accident.

In spite of the shake up, we had a great time at Uwada Dasami. Shorty after Frank had dived the hull, both dive boats departed, leaving an available mooring in each cove. We moved onto the one by us, and Imagine took the one in the other cove. After snagging our mooring, Frank and I enjoyed coffee and breakfast in the cockpit. Whilst sitting there we spied 4 large Komodo dragons emerging from the bush. They sauntered out onto the beach and settled in for a warm up in the sun. WOW! We called the others who jumped into their dinghies and rode over for a look. We got within about 10 feet of the dragons and snapped some photos. After a short while, the dragons slinked back into bush and then a trio of black wild boars tumbled out onto the beach. They were soon joined by a troupe of monkeys. Frank remarked he felt as though he was at the San Diego zoo. Later that afternoon, at around dusk several deer appeared on the beach, balancing up onto their hind legs to eat foliage from the trees. While they were munching away out came the dragons, followed by the monkeys and the hogs. Surprisingly they all seemed indifferent to one another. This behavior conflicted with everything we had heard about the interaction of the Komodos with other wildlife and yet here they all were as though acting a scene straight from Dr. Doolittle.




After enjoying this spot for a couple of days mostly watching wildlife, we sailed over to lower Komodo Island.

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2 comments:

Judy & Bill Rouse aboard S/V BeBe said...

Very glad Destiny is okay!

Gillie Davies said...

My dears, so very glad that all was ok after such an horrific incident. The Angels are with you clearly and we are so glad they are. Love your blog, and the insights and tips you are giving us along the way. love and miss you both. G xxx