Monday, October 04, 2010

Hammered (Again)

Norfolk, Virginia
36 50.33 N 076 17.55 W

The good part is that Libby and I and Tarwathie are safe and sound in port. Barely. The rest of the story is bad. Here's what happened in chronological order.

  • Just before dawn on Sunday I saw our red-green navigation light blink and go out. That's bad. It is a critical element for safety at sea.
  • The monitor self-steering blade wouldn't stay latched down.
  • Saturday's forecast for Sunday called for 20-25 knot winds. Sunday morning's changed that to "gale warning." Oh shit. It was too late to do anything other than forge ahead.
  • The storm came and made our life miserable. Cold, wet, and with aggressive seas. A half dozen times waves broke over the deck at the beam filling the cockpit with water. Twice, we got pooped, i.e. a wave broke over the stern filling the cockpit with water.
  • I reduced sail to just a 50% furled jib. That was still too much.
  • Libby looked green in the gills, so I told her to stay below while I held the helm. The self steering wasn't enough. I couldn't let go for a second. I got only 2 hours sleep in 48 hours.
  • After several hours of pounding I sensed something terribly wrong. I called for Libby to take the helm and I went forward to inspect. What I found was that the two side stays on the port side had come dis-attached from the mast. Only the third stay, the cap stay was holding the mast up. We were in terrible danger of being dismasted.
  • I furled the rest of the jib and started the motor. Now we were running with bare poles and power. I went below to inspect the engine. The pan under the engine was full of sea water. When the cockpit was filled with water 8 times, the rubber seal that makes the cockpit floor waterproof leaked. We were without the ability to sail, if we now lost power too, it would be serious indeed. Fortunately, diesel engines aren't bothered much by being wet.
  • Entering The Chesapeake Bay at 0200, I put out our battery operated red-green navigation light. It's batteries only lasted 2 hours, we needed 5 hours.
  • Once in the lee of Cape Charles, we were spared the biggest of the big waves. Still is was very rough. Winds were up to 37 knots.
  • Once inside Hampton Roads harbor, we were past all the waves. I relaxed and let Libby take the helm. I went below to get warm. I was chilled to the core and shivering.
  • A tug boat nearly ran us down because we had only white lights, no red-green. Remember, in an urban setting like Norfolk, there are lights everywhere. It is very hard to discern the ones on land from ones on the water. Libby nearly panicked. I tried to hail him on the the handheld VHF radio it didn't work; it had failed too for the first time ever. Only a panic full speed reverse prevented a collision with the tug. (p.s. The tug did see us after passing close by. Big help that is.)
  • The GPS chart plotter stopped working. Libby tried to navigate by blinking red and green lights all around. Norfolk though is a maze of intersecting channels, one sees red and green in every direction. Soon she got lost and we nearly ran aground in shallow water.
  • I rescued us with our backup, the chart plotter program on my Driod phone. I worked great and we got back into the proper channel. Then I discovered the problem that caused the GPS to fail in the first place. Libby put a pair of water logged gloves down on top of the GPS sensor. They blocked the GPS signal from the sattelites.
  • I went to raise the monitor blade. The line used to lift the blade had come untied.

Good grief. What a string of failures and problems. The one with the mast was deadly serious. We're very fortunate that we Ldidn't lose the mast. I inspected it this morning, it was caused by a nut that came loose from a bolt. I'll write more later about the details of these mishaps and the lessons to be learned.

For now, I can truthfully say that this was the first time on a sailboat that I was scared for our lives (excepting an incident with an International 14 racing dinghy years ago). It was fear and adrenalin that kept me going 46 of 48 hours and I had begun thinking about calling for Coast Guard rescue.

Thankfully, today we're in a marina in Norfolk. We had hot showers, long naps, a big lunch, and used the dryers to dry mounds and mounds of wet clothes.

Tonight David comes to meet us and tomorrow we'll be in the tranquil security of the Dismal Swamp Canal. Good, that's just what we need.

Look forward to many future posts about yesterday's events. My mind is roiling with analysis and soul searching.

Bottom line, we're safe and sound, the boat is whole. However, we're thoroughly shaken.

5 comments:

  1. Oh my. So so glad you are both okay, and warm and dry. Scary scary 48 hours.

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  2. Wow! That's quite a story Dick. Sounds like a harrowing trip. Very glad to hear you are both safe and healthy.

    I'll be interested to hear more about your rigging failure. Is it true that losing a single nut off of a bolt caused you to lose TWO stays? That doesn't sound like a healthy situation at all.

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  3. As I read about your adventure, I was almost sick with worry. Thank God, you are safe, as well as the Tarwathie. Keep warm and dry. Jill, Clarkson ECE

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  4. I've been following your blog for some time. Glad to hear you're alright. This could help me but in hind sight, what would you have done or not done different to minimize or eliminate what you went through?

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  5. That did not sound fun. Yikes. But good on you for sticking it out and making it in on your own. I bet you made a lot of good decisions in and amongst the problems. And stamina galore, clearly!

    R.

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