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Rain and wind

The last 24 hour period, and particularly last night, was particularly scary here in the Western Isles. Or to be more accurate it would have been a scary one for anyone not confident in their anchoring skills or caught in an exposed position. During the day this cruise ship which normally would have anchored out in deeper water, came into Oban Bay for shelter from the elements. With nightfall the weather came in hard. It was just so noisy; Cirrus was blown this way and that, straining and jerking at her mooring ropes with the wind screaming through the rigging and few in the marina here would have slept soundly.
We have been chatting today with a couple, another set of early-retirees, who went through and survived a terrifying ordeal in their yacht at anchor just south of us in Pulldobhrain. This is normally one of the safest and most secure anchorages and it is very popular for just this reason. We visited the place ourselves some weeks back in more pacific weather and found ourselves in a beautifully sheltered pool, just large enough to take about 12 yachts at anchor.
But changes in wind direction can easily create problems when one boat drifts too close to another and the anchorage is open to the north, that is to say a northerly wind will blow waves into the anchorage rather like water blown into a bottle. For a while last night the wind did howl in from the north before veering suddenly and dramatically through 90 degrees and this would have been enough to turn a safe spot into something of a nightmare. The wind strengthened, veered alarmingly then gusted and whirled about at close to gale force. Some yachts can start to swerve about from side to side under these conditions and the strain this puts on ground tackle can become just too much. Several yachts inside the anchorage began to drag their anchors, one being blown sideways until it actually came into contact with the surrounding rocks and became stuck there. The skipper calmly put in a radio call to the coastguard to say his crew were abandoning the boat before they made the short step, via the dinghy, to the shore and safety but we have yet to hear the sequel on what damage the boat sustained. This picture was taken at low tide the following morning.
Crews on those boats that did come through the night unscathed would have slept little, watching and listening for the scraping sound transmitted along a taught anchor chain that might foretell a slight movement of the anchor through the mud or sand in which it is embedded. Nights like this are what every yachtsman does his best to avoid. It is the secret dread of all of us and gives rise to smug satisfaction when such a night is endured safely.
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