6th May 2023
Cayo Largo, Cuba
Did you have sweet dreams last night? Did you dream happy thoughts with cute bunnies and Squirrel Nutkin frolicking in the grass? The scene could very quickly change from one of contentment to horror with the simple addition of a wolf that starts chomping on the little bunnies and using Squirrel Nutkin’s tail as a teeth flossing aid. In the world of Ruffian we had the bunnies and squirrels and all was happy and contented. The wolf then entered and changed everything in an instant.
Cayo Largo was being as dreamy as it could be. Every night the sun set over water that was mirror flat and Ruffian floated above her own shadow where tarpon and turtles rested. Dinghy Safaris across water so clear we could snorkel without getting wet took us to islands full of iguanas and beaches so remote it felt like our footsteps were the first ever. Cayo Largo was dreamier but about to get even more so as Iain sought to go diving with sharks. This was a place where Squirrel Nutkin would be a very happy bunny indeed.
Going offshore in the dive boat gave a whole new insight to diving. With no land in sight and with a huge swell running we leapt off the back and bobbed about in the swell before quickly descending deep into the calm underwater world.
Sinking quickly to the seabed everything in Cuba was on a supersonic scale. Huge coral towers stood around us, groupers the size of small cars swum by us and importantly for our mission, lion fish, the size of lions were waiting to be caught.
With a lion fish safely attached to the end of a spear and oozing blood we knew the excitement wouldn’t be far away. Then, with unfathomable speed, black tipped reef sharks surrounded us, made short work of the lion fish and inquisitively sniffed our fins, sensed our superiority and went off to look for a tastier lunch.
Returning to Ruffian, unbeknown to us, Squirrel Nutkin was about to be gobbled up, chewed to mush and then spat out. The wolf was in the form of a huge French catamaran who was looking for an anchor spot in our large, lightly populated anchorage, where the depth is all the same and there is no ‘top spot’.
We commented time and again why it is French boats that always want to anchor in amongst other boats and why they always want to be front row. We showed our displeasure by standing on the side deck and giving hard stares. Time and again his anchor went up and down and he seemed to be making a big deal of this simple task. Then disaster struck.
Just as we were settling down to a post dive cup of tea and crossword, just meters from us shrieks of warning were shouted and we saw the catamaran’s towering bows powering towards Ruffian. Disaster was seconds away and in those seconds Fiona leapt to fend off, Iain started the engine but there was no avoiding a huge impact.
The huge catamaran ploughed into the side of Ruffian with frightening speed and an immense amount of energy. Ruffian’s glass fibre hull splintered, inside the cabinetry exploded and her gantry bent to painful angles. The huge catamaran was entangled, still powering forward, still damaging Ruffian and with every second more stainless bent and more wood splintered. The wolf had struck and Squirrel Nutkin was now in a nightmare. Through no fault of our own our plans were in pieces, our safety compromised and our home had had a big chuck chomped out of it.
The massive bang had alerted every boat in the anchorage to our predicament and our friends on Mahala, who were about to lift their anchor ready to sail to Jamaica, were going to be our heroes. The crew of Mahala are not only a computer whizzes and lovers of techno music, but they also know epoxy, glass fibre and boat building. With no hesitation they changed their plans, retrieved their boat building kit and set about making Ruffian water tight.
In awe we watched Mattias work. Surfaces were prepared, epoxy putties mixed and the hole slowly filled. Glass fibre covered the filler and epoxy worked into every crevice giving Ruffian a bandage on a painful cut, but there was nothing to be done to the stainless, the cabinetry or our emotional shock. All those were on the back burner and will take longer and more expertise to fix.
With Ruffian safe we now started the painful task of sorting out a plan to get Ruffian fixed. The Catamaran skipper had admitted complete culpability but this was little help when we were far from help and at the start of a long road to recovery. Our plans were in tatters and emotions running high as brokers, insurance companies and then maritime lawyers were all contacted. Everyone was fighting for their own interests and in all this we were told that, although we were the ‘victims’, there would be no quick fix, no easy way out and our suffering was going to continue for months and months.
The nightmare that we find ourselves in continues and Squirrel Nutkin, although morbidly wounded is not yet dead. All being well, in months to come we will wake up from this nightmare, and will have learned something from it, but right now we have 500 miles of ocean sailing between us and safety and Ruffian will need lots of TLC before she is once again in impeccable order.
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