Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Dreaded Nasonisoni Pass

Reefs in island groups provide many benefits to ocean life. They also a source of danger to boaters. Last week an Oyster 61 found a reef in southern Fiji with four New Zealanders aboard and was destroyed. The people got off safely and went to a nearby island and were later picked up.

When we were in Savusavu, a call went out on the radio seeking volunteers to go out and help a US flagged Hylas 44 named Kia Ora from Seattle that came to grief in Nasonisoni Pass. Michael was one of the four boating volunteers to go out with a dive boat from Namena Divers. The dive boat had a captain, two divers and two deck hands. The other volunteers were Ted from "Roundabout II," Ian from "Cables Length 2" and Pete from "Larakin." This international crew (Canadian, Australian and one that now calls Fiji home and US) went out in the early afternoon for the twenty plus mile trip to "Kia Ora" which had hit the reef in the pass. Because tide was out and still going out, they were hard aground resting on their port side. The divers placed a few anchors and a line to a coral head to secure the boat for the changing tide and did a quick inspection though the hull was mostly out of the water. After some time on sight and attempts to move the boat, Ian was willing to stay aboard with the stressed out couple overnight The dive boat and other volunteers returned to Savusavu around 8 pm with the plan to return to the stricken boat earlythe next morning on the high tide.

The next morning at 0730 the volunteers and dive boat went out again. When they arrived at Nasonisoni pass, the boat was upright and almost floating. Divers went in the water to inspect the hull with good instructions on specific problem areas to really look at carefully. They also checked out in what direction the boat should be pulled to safely remove it from the ree fwithout additional damage. A bridle was made up with Astarte's old anchor rode, and the dive boat got the Hylas off the reef. The dive boat then got all the anchors up while "Kia Ora" motored for about 45 minutes to check things out. The dive boat then reset the main anchor and "Kia Ora" motored back to the anchor for hook up. The dive boat and all the volunteers returned to Savusavu giving the owners of the Hylas time to rest and recover in a safe anchorage. "Kia Ora" did call the rescue vessel when it was about 2/3 of the way back to Savu Savu, asking that the dive boat return to help bring up their anchor. The captain said to get some rest and he would return in the morning. Stressing that a good nights rest was surely needed.

It seemed like a successful recovery. Until the next morning...
A call on the radio said that "Kia Ora" sunk and the crew had gotten off and dinghied over to another boat at anchor who were bringing then to Savusavu. "What?" was the exclamation on the lips of all the rescuers and dive boat personnel. The boat was left floating and there didn't seem to be any major damage to the hull. It motored quite awhile while their anchor was being reset by the dive boat. What happened? According to the owners, they say that boat started to take on water in the early morning. They abandoned their sailboat when the water was knee deep below and went to ask for assistance from the nearby sailboat at anchor. The boat was still floating but they did not want to go back aboard to recover any items or watch it. They simply came to Savusavu.

We can now definitely say the boat has sunk. As we came through Nasonisoni Pass today, we saw the very top of the mast with the wind instruments barely sticking up out of the water at low tide.

These lessons are great reminders how you must always be vigilant while cruising and especially when sailing around reef strewn waters. Much discussion over beers has taken place over the last few weeks. Finding where the water was coming in and trying our hardest to stop it was top of the list along with really listening for the bilge pumps working. We have also determined we need a very long, very strong line that could be used as a tow line should we need it. The line they had broke when the dive boat first attempted to tow it (that's why Michael brought Astarte's old anchor rode which was ultimately used as the bridle).

We made it through the Nasonisoni Pass today as we begin our travels around Fiji this year. We always have a bow watch when going through passes and sails down and motor on. We do our best to time tides so we enter on slack water.

Seeing sailboats lost on reefs is very sad – for the owners and also for the damaged reef. We have safely anchored just around the corner from the pass. Luckily the tide is coming in so we can no longer see the mast of "Kia Ora."
At 6/7/2017 10:48 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°46.65'S 179°19.94'E

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