We had left Prickly Pear Island and decided to head somewhere quiet for the night. The guide book suggested Bluff Bay on Beef Island, a small anchorage tucked in behind a reef.
We approached the channel in the reef carefully, with Jennifer up in the bow looking out for rocks, and made it into the anchorage with no problems. The space was a little tight though, with little swing room, so we decided to find somewhere with a bit more room.
We turned on the spot and headed back out the channel. It is very narrow, with rocks awash either side so we followed our own inbound track on the chart plotter to get back out. About halfway out the boat lurched forward and then rocked to a stop, pivoting so we were now lying across the channel. We had grounded! Worse, we couldn’t go forward because of whatever we had hit, and because we had spun we now had reef directly behind. Some colourful language and excessive throttle later we managed to clear the rock and get back out to sea.
Groundings are not uncommon, but I was kicking myself that we had had one. We later realised this was, in part, a GPS assisted grounding. I had believed that because we were following our own track back out we would be in clear water, but the track on the plotter shows a straight line between two stored positions, and in reality I think our line had curved to the east between those two points.
No water in the bilge, so at least no catastrophic damage. A closer inspection around the keel boats identified some stress cracks. With another ocean crossing coming up we decided to have the boat hauled and professionally surveyed.
The damage seemed reasonably minor, so we headed round to White Bay and took a mooring ball for the night, so we could then book into Nanny Cay for a haul out and arrange a surveyor.
We arrived In Nanny Cay on the Monday and Geoff the surveyor came over for a quick look. His initial view was that the damage around the keelbolts was all cosmetic but agreed a haul out to be sure was sensible. We arranged for that to happen the following day. Inspection haul outs (lift and hold) at Nanny Cay are done at the end of the day and the idea was we would haul, power wash, check the underside then all being well sit in the slings overnight and be back in the water in the morning. We might even have time to get a quick coat of ant-foul on.
On Tuesday afternoon we hauled the boat and with some relief could see no damage to the keel or bottom of the boat. Somewhat less of a relief was seeing that the P bracket that holds the prop shaft to the boat was bent, and the drive shaft was rubbing against it’s housing!
We were at a bit of a loss on this one. We had fouled a line around our prop back in December but had noticed no problems with engine performance or sound. The only other incident had been on a mooring ball where the wind had spun us around the lines and pinned us but the force required to bend the bracket is huge and it seemed unlikely.
Regardless of the cause we now had to fix it, which meant moving into the yard for a few days and some substantial repairs. The P bracket is mounted inside the boat in a fibreglass housing filled with a polyester resin – the entire thing would need to be ground out to remove the bracket. The rudder also needs to be removed to allow the prop shaft to come out.
While the yard contractors were grinding, disassembling and straightening, we took the opportunity to get some new antifoul on.
Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get everything back together by Friday, which meant staying in the yard over the weekend. Monday was a local holiday so it was late Tuesday morning before we could get back in the water.
As frustrating as the grounding was, at least there was relatively little damage. We also otherwise wouldn’t have found out about the prop shaft until we got home, which could have caused bigger problems on the return Atlantic crossing.