The Storm Arrives
In the afternoon, a very powerful cold front came through the area,
It was blowing way over 50 knots. The Sea Cloud was
straining at her anchor in the harbor and listing heavily due just to
wind in her rigging. The heavy cross bar anchor chain was as
straight as a solid rod. Sea Cloud began to drag her anchor. I
radioed the captain of the Sea Cloud to tell him that I knew were
there was a deep hole in the bay where his anchor might hold better.
He said, lets give at try. As he got underway, he was
almost unable to turn to the left because of the wind and looked
like he might go aground in shallow water. I told him that
I would push his bow around with Quiet Dawn if necessary.
He agreed, but Sea Cloud finally began to turn on her own
and I led him to the hole, but the anchor missed and he started to drag
again. He decided to get all passengers on board and go to sea.
A great many sailing ships were lost in harbors due to dragging
anchors and no engine to save the day. Sea Cloud had two
engines, but the rudder being between the propellers, instead of behind
the propellers had no prop wash across the rudder and had little
turning power until it was moving briskly. That was close, but
Sea Cloud made out to sea to safety.
Radio Call for Help
Shortly after Sea Cloud was safely out to sea, we received a desperate
call for help from Oak Ridge's Reef House Resort dive boat Henry
Morgan. Henry Morgan had taken guests diving at Pigeon Cays
to the East, near Barbaretta and while motoring had lost all power in
engine. They were rapidly drifting out to sea to the south away
from the protection of the island in rapidly rising seas. Henry
Morgan was a 40 foot inboard powered boat with a huge open
cockpit and very vulnerable to being flooded by the rising waves and
There was no boat other than Quiet
Dawn close enough to rescue Henry Morgan and the 16 or so people on
board. We had Rene on board as a crew member because Betsy had
been clobbered by a steel shrimp boat wheel house door that slammed
into her head the day before while we were adjusting its steering
compass. I asked Rene if he would go with us on this very
dangerous mission It was way too rough for Quiet Dawn to be going to
sea on in that weather. I will never forget his answer. "Mr
Richard, I sure don't want to go out in that sea, but if I was out
I sure would want someone to come to rescue me. I will go with
you." First we had to leave our 13 ft Boston Whaler at the dock,
because we couldn't tow it and the Henry Morgan in such weather. Our 9
ft whaler was in Oak Ridge on shore, so now we had no life boat.
If Quiet Dawn went down in that terrible weather we would be
doomed. We were going to attempt to rescue the Henry Morgan.
Out to Sea in the Screaming Norther
At 1615 we put out to see at full power on both engines heading
southeast toward the Henry Morgan. Fortunately a ship of about
200 or 300 ft based in French Harbor, Roatan passed near the Henry
Morgan and agreed to stand by till we arrived. That was a huge
help as we could see the ship on our radar, but not the little Henry
Morgan. It got rougher and rougher and the rain came in torrents.
We couldn't see anything except the ship blip on the radar.
When we were within a mile of the ship, we asked them to aim
their spotlight at us. We couldn't see that either. Finally
we saw the dim glow of the running lights on Henry Morgan. Now it
got tricky. Henry Morgan was lying beam on to the huge seas and
the crew and tourists were bailing with their lunch dishes as the waves
came on board. If I had better visibility, I would have preferred
to go head into the waves with Quiet Dawn and pass just in front of
their bow to
pass the line, but I was afraid that we might collide. We
prepared a towing line and Rene was ready with it on the back
deck while I went up on the flying bridge to see better for the close
pass by the Henry Morgan. We were now beam on to the waves too
which was extremely dangerous for Quiet Dawn. We were rolling so
hard that I could barely keep my footing with my feet as far apart as I
could get them and still steer. The wind and rain was so loud
that Rene on the back deck could not hear me only 15 or 20 feet away on
the flying bridge. Rene tossed the line and they caught it and
made it fast to the bow of the Henry Morgan. Back in the cabin
Rene said, "Dem mans catch dat line like a cat catch a fish."
The Henry Morgan was under tow at 1900, three hours after we left
The Long Tow to Safety
Now we were towing Henry Morgan and going straight into the wind and
seas to get in the lee of Barbaretta Island and safety. Since we
were towing from a docking cleat and I had no idea what our line was
attached to on Henry Morgan, I ran the engines only at 1300 rpm far
below our normal 1800 rpm. We had to watch the radar for 30
minutes to see if we were gaining. We went up over the waves and
crashed down into the trough of the other side very hard,
even though we were barely moving. My dog threw up in the
cabin, Rene threw up and I threw up over my shoulder out the
wheelhouse door. Betsy took the wheel while we recovered.
In about two and a half hours were were in relatively calm water
in the lee of Helene Island. Finally at nearly 0100, 9 long
hours after we started out to rescue Henry Morgan , we were
approaching Oak Ridge, Roatan.
The End of the Trip
As we approached Roatan, I called the manager at Reef House on the
radio and asked him to go over to my friend Calvin Bodden's house and
get Calvin to come out the narrow unmarked pass through the reef
at Oak Ridge to guide us in. Instead, he sent a young kid who
didn't know what he was doing and who did not come outside
of the entrance. That was no help at all. So even though I
had never gone through that dangerous unmarked entrance at night, I
decided to do it with directions from Captain Pandy on the boat
that I was towing. As soon as we got in, the kid in the skiff
managed to run over my tow line and get it tangled in his outboard.
We got the Henry Morgan under tow by a small boat to its dock and
we went to tie up at BJs Backyard where we were docking at the
time. We all collapsed into bed.
The Next Morning
The next morning Rene went home and we started to clean up the boat.
I found that none of running lights were working. We
had been coming down off of the waves so hard that the filaments
in every bulb that was on was broken from the slam. Wow.
Well, we only then found out then that a couple of our Oak
Ridge friends, including Hanky Hynds, the owners of Reef House
Pandy were on board along with over a dozen tourists. We
all have a story to tell now.