Portals.—Some weeks are more exciting than others, when you live aboard a schooner at anchor, especially in winter. Residents of Palmanova are used to seeing the staysail schooner Leopard Normand III at anchor a few hundred metres from the beach and many have made friends with the crew over time. Imagine the surprise of some of those residents whose windows overlook Palma Bay, on the flat calm evening of Tuesday 7th February, when the anchor chain snapped, some ten feet below the surface of the water, a victim of the natural electrolysis which occurs in salt water, and the yacht drifted gently over to Palmanova beach, coming to rest about twenty feet away as the keel embedded itself in the sand.

The crew were watching a movie called ‘Premonition' on the laptop at the time, oblivious to their predicament although surprised at the slightly odd motion of the boat, until the captain remarked casually: “You know, if I didn't know better I'd say we were aground”. At this, both captain and mate leapt to their feet and rushed up on deck to find themselves staring directly at the wooden stand occupied by the lifeguard during the summer months. The boat had come to rest parallel with the beach, wafted there gently by the current.

Salvamiento, the maritime rescue heroes were called and by not long after 11pm had arrived with their orange rescue boat, powered by two 1'400 horsepower jet engines. It took them almost two hours to tow the 33-ton yacht free of the beach and they agreed to help the crew deploy the spare anchor and chain over on the other side of the bay, near Son Mattias beach. Paperwork was exchanged and by half past one in the morning, the crew were settled happily in the new spot. The following day, a new chain was ordered and a dive team was hired to buoy off the end of the chain which had snapped so that the main anchor could be located and also buoy off the end of the warp on a secondary anchor which had also given way, presumably worn through by the ragged broken link on the main chain.

The dive team charged three hundred euros for ten minutes' work, without even needing to use a breathing tank, since the crew knew exactly where to look for the chain. This, frankly, was the only sour moment as this was three times what any other dive team would have charged and they had been recommended by another team who were too busy to come out themselves. Meanwhile, delivery of the chain from Palma was arranged for Friday evening and another diver agreed to come out on Saturday 11th after lunch and attach the new chain to the main anchor, a 97-kilo CQR anchor still well embedded into the sand about 600 metres off Palmanova.

The yacht remained anchored rather uncomfortably close to Son Mattias beach until Friday the 10th of February at around lunchtime when, in a fairly stiff Easterly wind, the spare anchor dragged and it looked as though Leopard Normand III was about to visit her second beach in a week! Once again, the wonderful Salvamiento came out to the schooner and, after the spare anchor and chain had been buoyed off and left for later collection , towed Leopard Normand III to safety before there had even been time to pay the bill for the first tow! Salvamiento took the yacht into Puerto Portals, reputedly the fifth most expensive marina in the world, since there were no more anchors available to deploy.

The crew of the rescue tug then helped the crew to get alongside the waiting quay/fuel dock and more paperwork was generated.
The officials at Puerto Portals were charming and kind from start to finish and allowed the yacht to remain a second night when it became clear that it would be very difficult for the crew to sail back across the bay before nightfall to pick up the buoy on the new chain which had been taken out to the anchor and shackled on after the old chain had been removed and pulled aside, a job which had taken more than an hour and for which only a hundred euros had been charged, which is more like it! The plan had been to use the yacht's tender to tow Leopard Normand III back out of the port but the outboard motor was only firing on one cylinder and the marineros were kind enough to delay their Sunday lunch and deploy two inflatable dinghies to help the crew get the schooner safely out into open water where they could get some sails up and make their way back to the anchorage.

Everyone was so kind and it seems only right to sing their praises since almost all one ever hears is complaints about everything and everyone these days.

Best regards, Linnet Woods
Mate aboard the staysail schooner Leopard Normand III.

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