Our next stop on the Wonderful West Kalimantan Rally was Bengkayang where we were scheduled to anchor at Kura Kura Beach.
Along with Yantara, Shakti and Liberte, we pulled our anchor up in at around 7.30am and were relieved to find none of the mass of fishing net, fisherman’s twine, plastic bags and old sacks that had come up with the anchor when we had previously re anchored in the Sambas River.
On that occasion the skipper, with help from the crew from Yantara, had spent considerable time cutting the ugly tangle away and Capt’n Birdseye had ended up with a very nasty infection from something sharp in the mess that had cut his finger.
Fortunately a course of antibiotics and anti inflammatories had cured the infection quickly and the hand was functioning fully again.
Yantara were not so lucky as they managed to pull up a whole car tyre along with their anchor! Fortunately the skipper was able to knock the tyre off before bringing the anchor in.
We negotiated the Sambas River without any problem but because it had some extremely shallow parts it was quite a nerve wracking trip out to the open water.
Once out of the muddy brown water of the river estuary we were able to put on our water maker to replenish our diminishing stock.
We motor sailed to the proposed anchorage in Bengkayang where S/V Matilda was already anchored and found it to be a long way out and with quite an unpleasant swell. We tried another spot further along the coast that looked a little more sheltered but that was still not comfortable.
In the meantime, Shakti and Liberte had found a cove on the other side of the proposed anchorage which they said was pretty calm and quite comfortable so Yantara and Bali Hai turned round to join them.
We were motoring along quite happily when all of sudden there was a loud clunk which seemed to come from the propellor shaft. Instinct told me to check for water ingress and I quickly lifted one of the hatch covers to discover much to our horror that in the few moments it had taken me to go down below, the bilges were already sloshing with seawater.
This was a real disaster and one that could turn really nasty if we couldn’t stem the flow of water entering the boat.
While the skipper went down below to see what he could do to stem the flow, I radioed the fleet for advice. Fortunately the skippers of Liberte and Shakti had the same Yanmar engine as us and were able to give suggestions on what to do.
In retrospect it is hard to remember the exact order of things but Yantara was by our side very quickly and a tow rope attached very professionally.
We were about a mile from the anchorage when disaster struck and fortunately (due to the skills on Yantara) the tow went well although one tow rope snapped under the strain.
As we were being towed the skipper was bottom up looking at the PSS unit (a kind of bellows arrangement attached to the propeller that keeps seawater at bay by a simple system of water pressure against a stainless steel collar) and could feel (but not see) that the collar had moved up the shaft for reasons which would become only too clear a few days later.
With the brute force that comes with the certain knowledge of imminent disaster, he was able to push the collar back down the shaft and the flow of water slowed down to a trickle. In the meantime I was at the bow, knife in hand in case we needed to detach ourselves quickly and instructing our daughter who was at the wheel.
The skipper then took my place at the bow and I started bailing as the water was sloshing from one side of the boat to the other in the big swell.
Visions of turning turtle due to the weight of the water sloshing over to one side as the side swell tossed the boat were running through our minds.
Fears that the water would swamp the electrics and cripple the boat also plagued our thoughts.
It’s funny what goes through your mind in a real emergency- my first thought was “passports and money got to grab them” and then the next thing that went through my mind was “oh dear our poor friends (who were booked on flights to come and join us in a few weeks time) where will they end up staying if we sink?!”
While all this was happening the skippers of Shakti and Liberte were preparing a heap of things to bring over to Bali Hai including a battery and a pump (our bilge pump didn’t activate even though the skipper had checked it recently and made sure it was in working order).
They loaded up a dinghy and came out to us as we neared the anchorage and made a dramatic entrance into Bali Hai mid tow.
In the meantime our daughter and I traded places and I steered and she started to do a magnificent job bailing.
Finally we got to the anchorage and put the anchor down. The skipper from Shakti who is very knowledgeable and experienced about engines checked the PSS unit and made sure it was tightened and in place correctly.
It was a great relief to be sitting at anchor with no more water pouring in and everything starting to get back to normal. We were so grateful to the crews of Yantara, Shakti and Liberte for their hands-on practical assistance but also for the moral support.
We all enjoyed a beer together while we revisited the eventful day and thanked our lucky stars that Bali Hai was safe and sound despite the high drama earlier.