Sunday, September 25, 2016

Barge Salvage in Paradise

With rainy weather finally behind us, we worked our way west from Savusavu along the southern coast of Vanua Levu, then up the western shore to the large open Bua Bay from which we could see our next day's destination: the island of Vadua.

After getting Moonshadow anchored and ready for the night, there was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the sunset.

The sun put on quite a show.

From here it was just three hours or so to Cukuvou Harbor on the west shore of Yadua Island.  This is where we were greeted by a Somali Pirate.  The Somali Pirate.  Well that's the name of the panga operated by Jone, the ranger in charge of nearby Yadua Taba Island Crested Iguana Sanctuary.  Jone came by to borrow some CRC lubricant to free a frozen battery door on his camera.  

But the real story was the other boat in Cukuvou Harbor.  Viking Star was once a fishing trawler with a big winch for bringing fish gear aboard through a transom ramp.  It has been converted to tow inter-island cargo barges...

... like the one in the picture below.  

Evidently about 2 weeks before our arrival, the barge rolled over in heavy seas a few miles from Cukuvou Harbor, losing all of it's cargo of palletized fertilizer.  The crew managed to bring the upside down barge here in hopes of salvaging it.  They had been awaiting the arrival of a larger, more powerful tug.

The next morning, this huge, massive, 3000 HP brute of a tug, named Ballina arrived, looking ready to take care of business.

And the crews immediately went to work.  
Phase one was to relocate the barge to the other side of the bay.

They asked another sailing yacht to move, but seemed to think we were fine where we were.  
We had seats on the 50 yard line.

But it started to look like maybe we should have moved.

But it quickly became obvious we couldn't move because the barge and tug were situated directly over our anchor.

We decided to employ our secret weapon:  Standing on the bow with hands on hips.  This usually works when other yachts look like they want to anchor too close to Moonshadow's anchor.

But we weren't dealing with some yahoo on a Moorings charter yacht.  Here the head honcho gave us his version of hands on hips.

Hey... Can they do that? 

Yes.  At 290 tons, a big tug like this can do whatever it wants, where ever it wants!  We quickly let out all but the last 10 feet of our 325 foot anchor chain, and put a buoy on the chain so we could recover our anchor and chain if we'd have to cut it loose. 

But these guys are pros.  For them it was just another day at the office....

... and soon the adrenalin rush had passed.  

We quickly gathered up our chain and anchor then relocated a safe distance away.

Meanwhile the team got organized securing ropes to big volcanic rocks on the shore.

These warps are huge hunks of rope.

Hundreds of feet long, the larger than life hawsers took a lot of effort to move around.

But we never broke a sweat, watching the action from aboard our floating home.

Eventually, it was time to flip the barge.  First, they tried pulling with both ships in tandem.

They tried with both ships rafted together.

And they tried with each ship pulling separately.

There were dozens of failures.  Despite the astronomical strength of their huge towing hawsers, several of them broke, often at the knot or a high chafe point.  The following four photo sequence from our drone shows the moment one rope snapped in the middle.

The lesson here is never, ever get near a line or cable that is under such severe loading...

...because when one breaks it recoils like a rubber band...

... and that could cost an arm, leg or life.

Each failure led to hours of work re-engineering the faulty components.  At the end of the day the stubborn barge remained upside down.  Nothing to show for all the hard work.

That first day was a whirlwind of activity with amazing amounts of sheer effort, and at least a half dozen attempts at flipping the barge.  But day two the pace was much slower with a methodical effort where each line was carefully placed to get the barge in exactly the right position so none of the shore lines were slack.  By the end of the second day, the team appeared to be no closer to flipping the barge. 

We shifted to watch another sunset...

...while the team carried on into the evening.

By day three, they were ready for a final assault employing all the lessons learned from the previous trials.  With five lines anchoring the barge to the shore passing under the rusty box, then around to the top (what was once the bottom), and both ships rafted together with tow lines extending from each to the far side of the barge, they began to run up the engines.

At first we were somewhat casual about what was happening, having seen so many previous attempts go nowhere.  But then the sound of the engines seemed louder.  Something was happening!

We heard some cheering.  Soon everybody was yelling like mad.  Smoke was pouring out of the ships' stacks, and one of the huge warps tided to shore exploded, but the tugs continued pulling. The barge was ever so slowly rolling past 45 degrees, the previous limit, then 60 degrees then past vertical.  

They did what had seemed impossible, and though it was still half sunk and listing 60 degrees, the rest of the salvage was easily doable now.  Just a matter of plugging leaks and pumping water out.  

We had stayed longer than planned to watch this spectacle, and it was worth it, but now we decided to leave in the morning.  So we swiveled around to watch yet another amazing sunset while someone on the salvage crew grabbed the VHF, keyed the mike and held it to the stereo that was playing Phil Collins' One More Night.


Hudson River Boater said...

Great Posting!! LOL!!

Hudson River Boater said...

That could be one of the Best Blog Posting I have ever read-- Sorry Dave.. AKA- Drift Away..

Unknown said...

What an amazing spectacle with the overturned barge. I am very glad that Moonshadow was unscathed. The photos showed that it looked perilous for a while. I guess it was the 'hands on hips' that saved the day. This is an unplanned part of the adventure.
Magnificent photos of the sunsets etc.
Stay safe.
Aidan and Robin

James Masters said...

Steve and Linda and their new FPB 78, the 1st one, were at Musket Cove thru this past weekend, 2oct. Check, their website, for updates. Fiji is their 1st-stop on their 1st-cruise with the new boat. Seeing the pic of Moonshadow with Interlude and Wind Horse, made me think of sending this note to you. This is my 1st-comment. I keep tabs on your cruises. Your blog is done so well, and is very enjoyable. Thanks for putting up with the trouble and expense it is, to have it be available. You are real nice people and lucky are they who are your friends. Gratefully, and with the Kindest of Regard, James Masters, Las Vegas, NV, a Dashew fan since 1985, and now an FPB dreamer.

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