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Rescuing Rodolfo

by SV Taipan 7 Aug 13:31 UTC 30 July 2019
A nice wave from the Panama fishermen © SV Taipan

Disaster struck without warning. Anchored at Las Perlas to clean the bottom preparatory to a voyage to Galapagos. Michael and Corinne were preparing to undertake their first offshore passage.

At exactly 01.06.57pm on the 17th of May, we were doing just 2.8knots when the unthinkable happened. Rodolfo went overboard, plunging 60 feet into the dark murky water and a watery grave.

We were dumbfounded! It was a travesty! How could it happen? Four anchorages ago we had cleaned and carefully checked all the equipment, disassembling it and reassembling everything. The culprit was the stainless steel swivel.

It was a two-year-old 15mm Swivel with a 10mm pin. As Rodolfo came over the bow roller the head sheared off the swivel pin and half the swivel, with Rodolfo attached, plummet to the bottom. The other half was securely attached to our 10mm chain on the deck.

So we went to Galapagos and hung off our 15kg Fluke anchor for three weeks. We thought we would be able to purchase a replacement there but it was impossible.

We had to return to Panama, as it turned out because we had a Battery meltdown. That's another story and recounted in a previous post.

While we waited in Vista Mar Marina for our French Long Stay Visas we decided to go look for Rodolfo. A friend here on the Marina is a divemaster and he offered to accompany us with dive gear. On Wednesday morning we set off back towards Panama. We motored 35 miles east to Toboga Island. Humpback whales in the distance and we caught a nice size Tuna.

The new Rocna was baptized in 14 meters of water. We were fortunate to find Distant Drummer, (Suzy and Neil Carmody,) on anchor there, so we had a very fun evening with them aboard Taipan. On Thursday it was another short hop, just 35nm to Contadora Island, one of the Northern Islands in the Las Perlas Group.

The recovery attempt was planned for Friday. The weather was not congenial, overcast and drizzly. There were whales in the anchorage and Jonny could hear them singing underwater. A few boats arrived during the day and they left.

We use Open CPN, a free navigation package, on our computer and this programme saves all routes and provides a very accurate log at two-second intervals.

Our first task was to lay a line on the bottom along the GPS line we were on when the anchor dropped in. We used iPad with the Open CPN track imported into the Garmin App. It was a 50m line stretched between two buoyed anchors. We felt pretty confident that the line was accurate. Then Jonny swam the line twice in 60 feet of murky water with only three meters of visibility. On the third run, he moved three meters away from the line and went only about 16 meters before he spotted Rodolfo looking very forlorn, laying partially buried and covered in barnacles, It appeared he'd been dragged off the line by an anchor chain as there were drag marks and marks on the steel shank. Its a popular anchorage and he'd been there over two months, so this would seem likely.

Retrieving him with floats and halyards was time-consuming. Now he sits on the deck. All 55kg of him. Tied to the Granny Bar. Keel hauling was considered but the damage to the boat would probably be worse than the punishment. His position upfront and centre has been usurped by the Rocna (renamed Jonny) We will let him prove himself before deciding whether we put Rodolfo back.

The 65nm sail back to Visa Mar was fast and by Saturday 400pm we were tied up in the Marina. Mission accomplished.

Our Visas have arrived so we took the bus to Panama City to collect them, We've still got a few jobs to complete. Some new blocks are on order and the big Jabsco Pump is getting a rebuild. Lots of small sewing projects are getting attention.

Stay tuned for the actual departure. We hope to stop in Ecuador for a bit of a break.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of svtaipan.blogspot.com

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