The Pontoon Party & Salvaging Saint Christophe II

Our neighbours announced they wanted a pontoon party over the bank holiday weekend, to cheer us up with all the bad weather as storm Katie rolled in, causing yet more mayhem and destruction. For a change, the east of the country caught the brunt of it, though many trees were blown down all over. My pal Vicky found her garden table in the neighbours pine tree! We were rocked to sleep on Sunday night however were more sheltered than earlier storms as we’re in the lee of Dartmouth, built on a steep hill. It died down in the night for us and by morning all was calmer.

The only damage to any vessels on the pontoon was a visiting yacht which had rather rashly sailed from Brixham as the storm was building the day before. A charter vessel, the crew took four hours to get into the Dart instead of the normal one hour, and were all so knackered they failed to attach any fenders between them and the pontoon edge, and further they didn’t fully roll in their foresail, which promptly unfurled at midnight, flapping dangerously over the width of the pontoon. To add to this, the crew borrowed a hose to fill their water tanks in the morning and proceeded to fill their diesel tank with water. This caused much widening of eyes and horrified clucks of disbelief among us regular crews overwintering aboard our boats, and gave us good fodder for starting on adventurous and hilarious tales later that afternoon when we boarded Treshnish, with Marianne and Nigel, for our pontoon party.


With Cpn’ Jack & Fergus aboard Treshnish on Monday


Marianne as Treshnish left the pontoon to make way to her summer mooring mid river

It turned out that the crew were the owners of the vessel! Shock Horror! They returned to Dartmouth midweek to retrieve the yacht after its diesel tank was emptied, cleared of water and refilled. The skipper said they were so tired after their stormy sail they couldn’t think straight. If this was after four hours on a rough sea, it goes a long way to explain how tired the French fishermen four weeks ago must have been after 12 hours in a Force 10 gale. Talking of which, Saint Christophe II is about to be raised…


The crew of Saint Christophe II and Sagittaire, leaving for Caen after their Dartmouth catasrophe

The Dutch salvage tug Multraship, towing the salvage platform Sea Devil, set off for Dartmouth about six days ago, however on encountering Storm Katie outside Dunkirk had to perform a swift pirouette and track backwards with the storm for a day, before being able to continue towards us. On Wednesday we picked her up on radar passing Hastings with an estimated time of arrival 1700 hours on Thursday, and in dependable Dutch fashion, 1700 hours saw her turning between the castles at the mouth of the river Dart. And she’s a beast. The tug is 55 feet long (about 17m) however the crane platform, which hosts the crew’s air-conditioned portacabin living accommodation, is 180 feet long (55m). Last night they manoeuvred the platform’s legs into position – and these are about 100 feet high (30m) so it’s a feat of marine engineering. Today they’ve moved towards the wreckage, dangerously close to the pontoon, and we have prime position to see the proceedings as they unfold.


The salvage vessel and platform manoeuvring up the river Dart


Overnighting between large buoys mid river


Positioning one of the legs before nightfall


A dull windy morning this morning and the crane platform is nearly in position by the wreck, and we have the best view in town…. let’s hope no more catastrophes as they’re dangerously close


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