Shipwrecked. Didn’t think this was a story I would ever have to tell.

 

Catamaran, anchored, St Johns, USVI, sailing vacationIt’s been over a month since the beautiful S/V Forever crashed into the rocks while we slept.
I JUST now downloaded the pics off my phone.
So much happened all at once.

The reasons for the delay in writing this post are such:
1.  It happened in the US Virgin Islands in an area where there was no internet readily available.
2.  To tell the story, I have to relive it and that’s hard to do.

When we started this adventure of delivering catamaran Forever to Florida for Steve and Darla (owners), we made the decision to share the journey with anyone and everyone who wanted to do some armchair sailing with us. Grenada to Florida, so much to see!
Considering the dramatic end to this adventure, I think its only fair we share that with you as well.

We were in Red Hook, anchored in a spot that we knew first hand to have good holding having anchored there for 3 years with our previous boat with no issues.
We deliberately anchored instead of opting for an available mooring ball because we didn’t trust what we didn’t know or couldn’t verify like:

  • Was the mooring ball being maintained?
  • Was it being abused by large catamarans who apparently can’t read the word PRIVATE written very clearly on the mooring ball?
  • Did the hurricane(s) cause any damage to it?

In any event, we made the very deliberate decision to anchor knowing that during the course of our travels with Forever thus far, anchoring had always been seamless.
Great anchor, enough chain.
We trusted our tackle.  She had proven herself in some nasty weather.

When we arrived in Red Hook the conditions were unusually windy/wavy.  Actually, the majority of our sailing all the way from Grenada was in uncommonly windy conditions. You can’t control the weather but as sailors you are aware of the change in weather from previous years.
Let’s just say it was weird.

That night we went out for sushi with friends.  When we got back to the boat the conditions hadn’t changed much.
We got soaked by the waves on the ride back in the dinghy and then getting onto Forever from the dinghy can best be described as a salty wet rodeo.
It was odd and unnerving, but it was the way weather was going lately, everyone was just waiting it out and wishing it away.

The next thing I remember was Steve waking me up and saying ‘we gotta go’.
I did not question this.
I grabbed the ditch bag (a waterproof bag for your valuables and ID in the event of…)

Looking out into the dark, I could see we were now on the rocks and by the way the boat was being bashed in the break getting pounded with each incoming wave.
Throwing the ditch bag on the salon table inside I followed Stevo’s commands to try to get her out of the crash zone.
I went to the front of the boat to pull up the anchor which was hopefully going to help those two 9.9 motors winch us forward enough to make our escape.
The anchor remote stopped pulling up the chain.
I looked back at Stevo who was givin’ her all he had but we gained no ground.
He confirmed we had lost the engines.
In the meantime we noticed people had ran up the rocks behind us.  They had flashlights and were calling out if we were ok.
It was so loud out there between the waves, the wind, and the boat smashing onto the rocks.

I yelled out NO we’re not ok and then they were gone.
I didn’t have time to ponder their departure at the time, but I do remember thinking WTF?! Where’d they go?!

We threw on our rain coats and out life jackets, grabbed a couple of towels and the ditch bag.
The sugar scoops at the back were getting smashed into the jagged rocks – this was our only way off.
If we jumped into the water the waves would have smacked us into the rocks, swimming was not an option at that point.
Stevo jumped first timing the waves just right.
If you can imagine the boat in the position it was in without the waves it would have been easy to just step off.
With that said, no boat would EVER be that close to any rocks.
At this point Forever was heaving pretty violently and starting to roll slightly and turn.
I threw the ditch bag to Stevo and jumped to safety swearing and praying simultaneously.

I guess at some point I took this footage:


While we stood taking in the scene the people with the flashlights showed up again.  Enter Tim and Pru, stage left.
After they had done the initial call out to us and saw the situation, they went and got a dinghy, some line and an anchor and came around alongside Forever.
Right in the wave crash zone!
In a dinghy! They threw in the anchor and somehow attached it to the boat.
Idea being to stop the boat from turning into the large jagged rock just off to the side that would inevitably compromise the hull.

Tim jumped onto Forever, tied the anchor line onto a winch and started rolling that line.
The coast guard was calling on the VHF and between winching and balancing against the waves Tim would run over to the radio and tell them
‘We’re going to save her, she is NOT salvage!’ and then run back over and start tightening that anchor line again.

Standing on shore there were now a couple of guys, Pru, Stevo and myself watching Tim battle the weather, the ocean, the darkness, gravity – everything actually.
‘I could really use some help here’ he said.
We could all see this was a losing battle.
It was getting worse, turning more, which meant it was now taking the waves broad side making the impact even more violent.  The side anchor couldn’t hold the boat in those conditions.
There was nothing more to do.  Tim gave up the battle.
Here was a guy who jumped into action with both feet and his girlfriend, as if it were his own boat at peril.

There was a real action hero vibe to this scene only, unlike the movies, we didn’t win in the end.

Around 1:30am we were offered a couch to rest till morning.
You know what?  As hard as it was to watch the destruction, it was also hard to leave her. I felt like we should stay.

If I left it would mean that this most amazing journey of sailing and personal discovery on so many levels was over.
It happened so fast.
Within 2 hours everything we were doing and planning and hopeful of came to a screeching stop.
I wasn’t ready for it to be over.
Not for us, and not for Steve and Darla.
This was how the beginning of the end of S/V Forever played out.

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18 thoughts

  1. Thank you for sharing yall’s amazing story and we are sad for the ending. But, mostly, we are greatful that both of you are safe and sound. God Bless you both. Your Okie Friends, Jay & Danielle

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  2. This must have been so so scary I can’t even imagine how you must have felt!
    Thankyou for your story
    So happy you two are safe
    XO

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  3. So grateful for your safety, so sad S/V Forever came to her end this way. Thankful for people with flashlights in the night. You made us feel as though we were right there with you.

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  4. I did read the story,and understand that you had anchored there before, but did you ever dive on any of your anchorages there and confirm the set of the anchor. I plan on sailing soon and read this should be done to ensure a good set. Sorry for your loss.

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    1. We do dive on the anchor in places we are unfamiliar with in addition to pulling back with the boat to ensure we are set.
      This particular anchorage is great holding and all sand. Dived on as well as snorkelled on many a time.

      When you start sailing you will very quickly identify the places with good holding as your go to. We all want to sleep peacefully after all. This was one of our places.
      I will address this further in posts to come.
      Thanks for your curiousity and kind words.

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  5. SteveI and Chrissy, we were following along on your beautiful journey and know how hard this was for you both. We can only send our love and say that we would count ourselves lucky and blessed to sail with you again someday. Even though it is a tough story, it is also very uplifting to hear of those that went with you to the end to save Forever and most of all to make sure you were both safe. 💗💔💗
    Tom and Marla Fisher

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  6. Very sorry for you guys. It must have been tough to write. Good to see you are both healthy. More to come for your story I’m sure..

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  7. My heart is heavy with losing FOREVER and I know you did all that you could do to try and save her. For that I thank you and Thank God you are both safe. A boat/cat can be replaced but not a life. I know it was heartbreaking for Steve and Darla losing it as well as you both standing there with it and not able to do anything about it. You tried and that’s all that can be expected. The first thing I said to Steve when he contacted us was are the people of the boat safe. He said yes. I’m thanking you again as Steve’s mother for what you tried to do to save FOREVER. It’s time to move on with new adventures. Good Luck to you both and keep the post coming.

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