The ride to
Puerto Rico Dominican Republic was quite wet. Our boat is fairly low in the water, and our bow lockers are probably a bit heavier than is ideal, and to be honest, the boat is probably loaded more than it should be as well. All of these factors combine to cause our bow to dig into waves every once in a while. When it does, there really isn’t anything to divert them from rolling up and over the deck and if large enough – right over the salon roof and into our cockpit. The swells were decent sized 1-2 meters and we were doing a good clip sailing along at 7-8kts.
It wasn’t too long into the journey that we discovered our efforts to repair the problem with the starboard engine had not been successful. We thought the problem was a bad fuel injector and had replaced it – but the engine began losing rpms, slowing down and then speeding up. Eventually – after a short while the alarm went on and the engine shut down. We were down to one engine, again. But that was okay – we are a sailboat, after all.
That night was pretty smooth and we handled the problems with a great deal of aplomb, things do go wrong on a boat after all, it’s to be expected. I was more concerned when the next morning we found a 12” tear in the main sail. Jay repaired this with sail-tape and we used the full main again the next evening. Still, it indicates we will need to replace the sails before the large trip through the Pacific… which is disappointing.
We ended up heading more directly south than we’d hoped, but I thought we’d be able to get more easterly when we tacked back up north. As we moved along through the night, things seemed to be going well – but when I got up for my shift, I found out that the pin holding the top of the jib to it’s halyard had broken so the jib had been taken in. We were also taking in a lot of water through our leaking hatches and efforts to tape them closed had reduced the influx only moderately. Whenever a big wave rolled over – it was pouring cupfuls into the head, galley and my cabin. Annika’s mini cabin in my room was also leaking pretty badly. With the difficulty in getting a good angle by tacking, we decided to travel the coast of the Dominican Republic at night and catch the lee winds for an easier ride.
I enjoyed my night shift, which Annika joined me on – keeping good company with me. It was a dark night again, the moon not rising until the end of my shift. Without the jib we’d slowed down significantly and the ride was so smooth I invited Annika to clip in and lay on the deck enjoying the complete darkness of the sky. She had just gone out and was laying there when a loud alarm disturbed the quiet, letting me know that the port engine was overheating and had to be turned off. Uhmmm… great. Now we had NO engines, no jib and a main that had a temporarily repaired tear. I was starting to feel a bit more concerned. Jay got up and figured the best option was to switch the halyard for the jib and get it working again.
Once the jib was up and running I retired to my bunk for a late sleep at 2 am. I didn’t sleep well though, as it sounded like there was a lot of activity going on above me. I thought they were adjusting sails, and it seemed like they got the port engine running again. I was looking forward to making more progress toward our goal and relaxed.
It wasn’t that much longer – 5am, when I heard a knock on my cabin door. It was Pat, letting me know that we were having problems steering the boat. He wondered if I had done something to the steering cable when I’d tried to resolve some of the leaking in Annika’s cabin. I let him know that nothing I had done would have affected it and came out to investigate the problem. We appeared to be stuck. At first it was that whenever we headed a course, in short order we’d be pulled into the wind, no matter what tack we were on, or how much speed we’d gained. But after a while we realized that we weren’t really able to move at all. In fact, we were holding the same position even if we turned on the engine and tried to motor. (The port engine would run, now that it had cooled.)
I have to admit that at this point, I was feeling extremely disheartened with the boat. EVERYTHING was breaking. Knowing that we had towing insurance and were only 4 nautical miles off of Dominican Republic was very reassuring. But what were we to do? What was wrong? We figured out through trouble shooting that nothing was wrong with the rudders. When we turned the wheel, the rudders turned. By process of elimination – we decided we must be stuck on something. In fact, even though we were in water that was several thousands of feet deep, when we looked at the depth meter – it would sway back and forth between being too deep to read and 5.5’ deep. Oh yeah, we must have a net hooked on us.
We tried raising the dagger boat to see if it was there, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. So we held tight till morning and light when we could go down into the water and see what was holding us up. It was a long quiet wait till morning and we held our position. Once the light was bright, we decided to make some more effort to get the daggerboard the rest of the way up (it was still about a foot or two into the water. It didn’t seem like it made a difference, so Jay descended into the swell – which was very difficult as the waves were throwing him into the boat. Fortunately, we’d brought along a helmet to help protect him, he wore a ski vest and held onto a line – but he saw nothing when he went below. Nothing was holding us in place.
At this point, we were flabbergasted… however I noticed on the GPS, that in the time since we’d done the final raising of the daggerboard till now, we’d started to move. So we decided to fire up the engine and see if we would be able to go forward. And we moved… no problems… The engine fired up and pushed us along at 4-5 kts against the swell. The gps showed we were changing position. And most importantly of all – the depth meter showed us at unmeasurable depths – the 5.5 meter reading disappeared. We were free!
It was daytime and as we went to adjust the sails – we realized that the main had two more tears, above and below the first one. My frustration and despair was intense. We double reefed the main which took the stress off the tearing area… I went below to sleep, instructing the crew that the bashing was too much for the boat. We needed to head in whatever course took the strain off the boat. Pat asked if we should find an anchorage, and I agreed.