Rammed at midnight

Even the bleakest situation can have some positive aspects, Don and Agnes Reed discover after being rammed at midnight by a charter boat.

On a moonlight night in Turkey our anchored yacht, Honey Moon, was rammed amidships by a Turkish cruising charter motor boat. Poor anchor lights that blended in with the lights on shore combined with the cruise boat's captain's lack of careful attention to his navigation to result in a collision that damaged both boats. Fortunately no one was injured and lessons were learned. What started out to be a nightmare ended up being something quite different.

The anchorage

We had been exploring the many and varied anchorages in the large bay on the north side of the Bodrum Peninsula in SW Turkey and chose to anchor off the peaceful fishing village of Torba. There were no other cruising yachts there, but it did show as an anchorage on the chart. An undiscovered jewel, we thought, as we sat sipping our drinks and watching the sun set, the town lights blink on and the full moon rise. It may have been the same twinkling lights that played a part in our demise.

At about midnight we were woken up by screams and a roar of engines and a huge crash as the yacht healed over heavily to port. I scrambled out onto the deck, scantily clad, to find a 13m local “gullet” crowded with German tourists hovering off our starboard side and our deck cluttered with debris from his smashed timber handrail. On inspection we found our stanchions bent, safety lines broken and the gunwale on our steel yacht bent in 75mm over a 1.5m length, as well as a winch that his bowsprit had plucked off the mast lying on the deck.

Heated exchange

After a heated exchange and checking that none of his 14 passengers had been injured, we agreed to meet the next day. The lady owner spoke German and Turkish and the Turkish captain fortunately spoke some English. It was established that they were on a full-moon midnight cruise and some of his guests were sitting on the cabin top, obstructing his view, and our anchor light on the top of the mast blended in with the town lights on the hills ashore. He also said that yachts rarely anchor in the bay. The port police were not called, which we were comfortable with, and the skipper accepted responsibility for the collision, admitting he was not watching carefully.

He said he was probably doing 7-8 knots on impact. His steeply sloping bow that rode up and over our gunwale lessened the impact and reduced the damage done to both boats. The bottom line was that neither vessel was insured and in typical Turkish style, Oktay, the skipper, accepted responsibility and offered us his savings of US$500, leaving him with no money for the lean winter months to keep his wife and child. His preferred solution was for him to help us repair the damage with the help of a friend who was an engineer. We actually had planned to haul out in Turgutries nearby in a few months' time and on a handshake and exchange of mobile phone numbers a deal accepting his help rather than cash was struck. We continued sailing the rest of the season with a dented hull after making temporary repairs to the safety lines, remounting the mast winch and sealing the paintwork.

Making good

Six months later when we returned to Turkey we called his mobile number and Oktay answered. “Oh, hi, Captain Don, you are back from Australia.”

True to his word, he caught the bus down to our haulout yard and offered his services, arranged for his engineer mate to come down and inspect the damage. The engineer turned out to be an extremely skilled metal worker. With the help of a large hydraulic ram and a 28-pound sledgehammer, the gunwale and side if the boat were soon roughly back in shape. Oktay worked for a further three days sanding and painting until we agreed that the slate was clear. We parted friends, both agreeing accidents happen. He said he would keep a better lookout, and we agreed to improve our anchor lighting. We were very happy we were sailing a steel yacht and stopped complaining about chasing the occasional rust spot.

SIX LESSONS LEARNED

1.We now have good anchor lights, one on the mast as well as others down lower.

2. LED lights provide good lighting and use little battery power.

3.Solar-powered lights are good because they come on automatically – very handy if you return to the yacht later than expected.

4.We now have a six-LED-bulb solar-powered garden light purchased from Bunnings for less than $50 as an extra anchor light, mounted five metres above the deck.

5.When we purchased a new masthead anchor light fitting we made sure it would hold a LED bulb.

6.We always turn our anchor lights on in any anchorage.

Coursemaster Autopilot
M.O.S.S Australia
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Multihull Group
Coursemaster Autopilot
Nav at Home
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West System Afloat