Not us! But friends of ours, a Swiss guy living in China and his Chinese wife, plus their two small children. They arrived at the entrance to Bonbonon after dark last Tuesday in bad weather. Their engine had given them problems on the way, showing low oil pressure, and their main sail had ripped in nasty squalls with 50 knots gusts of wind. Exhausted, they decided to try to enter the harbour under sail; they had the track and thought they could manage it. Bonbonon has a difficult entrance, with a long sand bar across most of the width. To enter, a yacht has to close with the land until it is almost on the shore, then turn smartly and dash into the channel which runs parallel to the rocks. Unfortunately the wind had dropped with darkness, leaving huge waves. As long as they were approaching the shore they were pushed along by the waves, giving them the impression that they had enough wind to maneuver- when they turned side on to the waves to get round the sand bar at the entrance suddenly they had no speed and were swept onto the rocks. This could have been a bigger disaster, but luckily all escaped unhurt, largely because another cruiser and Boy and Arlene came out in dinghys and helped, first trying to pull the yacht off the rocks and when it began to break up pulling the children out and up the cliff. The cruiser, a German called Gunter who is a brilliant mechanic, lost his dinghy and outboard motor in the process, and Boy and Arlene overturned and by luck managed to save their dinghy, Boy manhandling it over the coral somehow and avoiding puncturing it. Gunter was injured, getting a nasty gash on his knee, and all had cuts on their feet from the coral.
The yacht , a 30 year old Beneteau, was completely destroyed during the night, only little bits of wood and trash was left to wash up on the beach. During the next few days local people dived to find anything which could be saved, but found little, only winches and the mast, which was in two pieces. The outboard engines of which there were three were smashed to bits, and there wasn’t much else on the boat since it wasn’t a full time cruising boat. The engine is still on the sea bottom. We came out with the rest of Bonbonon’s cruising fraternity to see whether we could help the next morning, but there was very little we could do. Oren found some clothes washed up on the beach; until then our friend had only his shorts to wear. Other cruisers fixed Boy’s outboard engine, which had been submerged. Luckily there is a resort on the rocks called Kookoo’s Nest, and the family took a room there to recover before flying back home.
This story makes me realize how much we have learned in the time we have been cruising; we also arrived after dark in bad weather, also without an engine. We also thought that we could probably make it in to the harbour, and really wanted to, since staying outside is uncomfortable and we were tired. But we didn’t do it. We overcame the natural urge to finish the journey and chose a spot far enough from shore to be safe, put down our trusty fisherman anchor with 200 metres of rope in 40 metres depth , just like the fishermen do, and rolled around, even managing to sleep, until morning. Then we fixed the engine enough to get in, waited for the tide and easily chugged in. This is called experience. It is gained when you come in to shore at night and get up in the morning to find yourself in a big coral reef ( Eritrea) and when you follow the chart to enter harbour and find it is not in the right place ( Galle, Puerto Princesa), and when you have a hundred other near misses. Everyone has them, but an unlucky few don’t manage to survive them intact.