I’m not even sure where to begin since my last posting. My biggest apprehension is that I’ll scare some of you away from cruising and being on the water, which despite the challenges over the last few days, remains one of my biggest sources of joy. We have diverted from Tortola and now are heading for Bermuda, where Tom will need to address some maintenance, spare parts, and general mechanical issues. Arnie, Peter, and I can’t wait until items that should have been addressed three months ago are handled in Bermuda.
A lot has happened in the last few days, and I asked Yachting’s Arnie Hammerman, our navigator, and mechanic (not by his choice) to post his blog as well.
Since the last posting, we did get nailed with heavier weather on Saturday. Winds continued to blow at 25 knots with some higher gusts hitting 40 knots. Seas were 15-20, with 30 footers mixed in the sets. We certainly got tossed around and there is not a part of my body that isn’t bruised or tender.
During one of these watches, I admit I had to ask, “What in the hell am I doing out here?” What is it about some of us that make us go out and bang the crap out of ourselves? Coming onto watch at 0300 on Saturday, it literally took me 15 minutes to get all my gear on. I looked like the kid from “Christmas Story,” stuffed into the snowsuit, barely able to move any limbs. The most exciting accoutrement to my outfit is the safety harness and inflatable PFD. It is a nice final touch, complete with the semi-official sound of the metal on metal shackles clasping together. Argh! Then I waddled toward the companionway, looking as if I was back on my Gin and Tonic kick (devil’s juice!) and pulled myself up the companionway ladder ready for my watch.
Thankfully, there was some foredeck work involved on Saturday that allowed Arnie and I to skirt along the side deck to the mast, turning into the wind and large waves, giving us even more of a thrashing to prove our manhood. It seems that the entire aging process from my last 40 years is beamed directly into my knees. My back is okay, I can still run at a decent pace, but man, after kneeling on a pitching deck during this sail change, I almost wept. We propped Tom at the helm to hold the boat into the wind. He must be tired of our gentle ribs about the state of his boat—I swear it seemed as if he kept trying to throw us from the deck intentionally by turning beam to the seas. “Screw this, I gotta drive,” quipped Arnie, handing me the main halyard and tumbling back to the cockpit.
Tom’s battle with mal de mer engulfed him while we were in the foul weather, forcing him to take shelter in his bunk for a few days. It became a little strange to be sure. He was neatly wrapped and placed in the bunk; completely stationary while the cabin around him creaked and moaned in protest as we plowed through the weather. Taking the watch one night, the moon cast a glow over his sleeping face and gray unkempt beard. It was if we were transporting him to his final resting place through a gale as part of some Viking ritual. Should we dress him with a crown of thorns and tusks? After 36 hours Arnie felt compelled to take a pulse to ensure a decomposing corpse didn’t weigh us down. Plus, that whole official inquiry thing after losing the owner to the sea is something I try to avoid. Yet, occasionally he would toss out an oddly placed missive, “there are two containers of pickles on the right side of the fridge under the butter.” Maybe he was going mad.
Yet as the sun rose, and the wind succumbed, so did Tom. (Maybe the aforementioned ceremony was successful?) Although the seas remained sloppy and confused, we’ve had some great sailing moving along at 7 knots in 15 knots of wind, especially on Sunday after clearing the Gulf Stream. My head is cleared just like I had planned. The reset button firmly pushed.
However, the mechanical issues I mentioned in the previous blog continue and have become more annoying and cause for concern. Arnie will explain, but we’ve decided to divert into Bermuda and end our trip there. This boat is just not equipped to take on a 1,500-mile ocean voyage. We have more variety and quantity of food than a Greek diner, but not one bloody wrench. There are almost zero spare parts on board, yet we have a pan for a bunt cake. Arnie and Tom’s brother Peter spent yesterday jury-rigging the alternator (again), hopefully it will hold. “It’s kind of like burning the walls of your own house for firewood,” said Arnie. He and Peter took on a recon mission disabling “non essential equipment” for nuts and bolts to help with repairs.
This is certainly a well-built and designed boat. We were sailing at 7 knots in 12 knots of breeze, and in the heavy stuff, you barely had to touch the helm. The layout works well, and it’s obvious this is a boat intended to go to sea. I’m impressed. But we found out that the boat was sitting for five years until Tom purchased her this past spring, and he never took a cruise more than 20 miles before we left Newport for Tortola. It would have been better to cruise the boat for at least a season before taking on a fairly ambitious voyage. And shame on us for not trying to find out more particulars.
I feel kind of bad for not completing the trip, but along with bad knees I’ve developed a more focused set of survival skills. We hope to be in Bermuda by tomorrow night. Stay tuned for another post before we have our Dark n Stormy.