Originally posted 7/27/16

The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use.
–  Dom Degnon

It’s been a minute since our blog was updated.  Sorry about that… I don’t want to spoil the story but we’ve been readjusting to life back on land and preparing for this new season in our lives… too many changes to list here.

Cyndee and I sent the kids (and Meeka) off from San Juan on June 16th, made the scenic hour long drive back to Ponce and Kokoro, and began the process of resupplying and prep to leave for the 1,200 NM trip to Marathon Florida – our FIRST offshore passage together.  Not to mention Cyndee’s first EVER voyage offshore – or anywhere really!

The sail loft in Ponce had a great location above a local restaurant and a unique method of getting sails up to the loft.

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The Quantum Sails loft in Ponce lifting the Genoa for repair work.
The guys from the loft repaired the sail and returned it to us at the dock in just a few hours.  We removed the inner forestay – a wire that goes from the deck to the front of the mast at the front of the boat where an additional sail can be hoisted up – because it had started to come undone and was damaging the genoa, tearing one large hole and several smaller holes in the sail.

All the shopping was done, our gear was ready, but we struggled to get the genoa back up on the forward roller furling gear.  We even went up the mast at one point, not an easy undertaking, to try to straighten things out.  In the end we prevailed but in the process one of the winches on the mast came apart… yes… came apart!  Turns out a spring loaded keeper ring inside worked its way out of its groove.  I solved the problem the way any rational individual would…YouTube.  I was able to disassemble and fix the winch but by now it was 12:30 AM and leaving now was out of the question.  I decided on an early morning departure and hit the bunk for the first real rest I’d had in about 48 hours.

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

As I went to sleep I was so encouraged! We were able to accomplish so much in preparing the boat – as a team.  I  became suddenly aware that we had passed a few important tests… going up the mast, hoisting sails, anchoring, docking, organizing the various boat systems, and launching and retrieving the dinghy and motor.  We had learned so much in such a brief time.  We were ready enough.

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Together I am pretty sure we could do just about anything.
Early the next morning we were up, a little apprehensive, yet hopeful we had covered our bases with the boat and her provisions for the next week of offshore sailing.  We had perfect conditions and made fantastic progress.  I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we sailed over 150 NM the first day! (1 NM=1.2 Statute Miles) This first leg of the trip took us just West of Puerto Rico and just East of the Dominican Republic through the Mona Passage.

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Sailing “wing and wing” in amazing conditions in the Mona Passage.  Notice small round and larger rectangle patches on the Genoa to the right.
I could not have been more pleased with our progress.  Kokoro was in her element.  Following seas, 20-25 knot sustained winds, kept her moving along at 7-8 knots.  What could possibly go wrong!  Dumb question… never ask this question.  Don’t even THINK this question.  My utopia came to a violent stop when I discovered the same problem with engine flooding that plagued me on the leg to Tortola had happened again!  Looking into the engine room from the cockpit my heart dropped.  Joy turned to despair in just a few seconds.  How do I tell Cyndee?  What are my options?  How do I stop the water from coming into the boat? Just in case you are unaware, water leaking into the boat is usually bad.  To add insult to injury, the electric bilge pump, the thing that gets water leaking into the boat back out of the boat, stopped working.  Yeah, it has a switch that is designed to not work when there is oil present in the water… you know nature conservation and all… and since the engine was flooded and all the oil had made its way into the bilge… you get the picture.

No way to avoid the topic so I just came clean right away.  Cyndee knew something was up because there were more than a few choice expletives pouring out of my mouth.  I explained the situation and our options as I saw them.  She was great.  She never panicked.  Profound isolation on the sea has a way of focusing your attention on what is truly important.  We discussed energy saving strategies since we could no longer charge the batteries with the engine and would be relying only on the solar panels to power the autopilot and other electronics.  I have to add here that I was truly distraught by this point, full on pitty party mode. Cyndee was totally cool and just said, “well it’s a good thing we are a sailboat, we can just sail!’ From that point on I was encouraged although the engine issue loomed large in the back of my mind.

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

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Kokoro sailing into the sunset.
Kokoro sailed on and we made great progress toward Florida via The Old Bahama Chanel.  We made the decision not to share the engine failure with our kids and family.  We assured them twice a day that all was fine.  Never sharing the looming engine repair needed.  We got back to business as usual with the exception of regular shifts on the manual bilge pump… remember… still have water coming in through the engine.  Believe me, I was struggling to devise a way to stop the flow.

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Mackerel caught on a hand line! So good with butter and garlic!
Cyndee’s take

After we lost the engine we lost wind.  Well, that’s what I said at the time.  We went from averaging 6 KTS to 4…there will be a time in the Gulf that I would get excited at 2 KTS… Day 3 on the ocean and it was silent.  I don’t mean quiet, but silent.  It was like a form of sensory deprivation.  The only stimulus is the sight of the ocean and sky.  No one speaking, no technology, no options.  By day 4 the winds picked up, as did the ocean.  We were seeing 30′ swells seeming to come over the stern, yet Kokoro just floated over them.  My spirits were not lifting however.  I was quiet, but this day I was acutely aware of what I was doing.  Then panic.

I have  only had two other full blown, I can’t control my emotions, panic attacks in my life.  The first was bungee jumping…lost all Christian witness.  The second was on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado.  I mean, who carves 2 lanes on the side of a 12,000 ft mountain with no rails!  The Atlantic ocean with no one around, no help if needed, no one, saw the 3rd.  I can’t tell you exactly what sparked it, but I lost all rational thought.  I couldn’t even count to 5. Jack would be so disappointed.

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I know a few of you have had a panic attack and can relate, but for those of you who have not, let me try and explain.  Most of our lives we just enter and do.  We may prepare a bit, but for the most part life hits you and you act based on your training (aka life) until that moment.  Most things we deal with we rarely sit and think about.  Then suddenly all you have is thought.  All you have is a desperate awareness of the situation before you.  An awareness that supersedes all rational norms.  And once rational is lost, no rational offered is able to be applied.  Its like dehydrating.  No amount of water will help and no electrolytes are in site.

We decided that we could stop in Matthew Town and let me breathe. The charts showed we would arrive around 2am.  Jason gave me a small pill and prayed I would sleep.  I did.

Thank God for Matthew Town (and medication).

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

Back to Jason

About 4 days in we had an evening with extremely powerful winds and wave action.  Needles to say, Cyndee was not amused. The need for a break, the possibility of getting the engine repaired, and ICE (I love ice) all played into our decision to make for the Bahamian island of Great Inagua.  Following most decisions to head for shore the mood is lifted and this was no exception.  We sailed on through the night toward Mathew Town hoping to arrive in the early morning hours.  As a result of our inability to recharge the batteries with the engine the house batteries died and would no longer drive the autopilot so I hand steered into Mathew Town.

Coming into an unknown place, at dark, no engine, is definitely not ideal.  Exhausted, I got us into about 20 feet of water and ran upfront to drop the anchor with the ELECTRIC windlass.  Yeah, it’s electric so that was a no go.  Still circling the anchorage under sail, Cyndee is mostly asleep saying “let me know if I can help”, I quickly jump below and excavate the 300 foot 1 1/2″ secondary anchor line from the bowels of a forward storage locker.  Back on deck, I rigged the secondary anchor and had us secure in a few minutes.  About this time I remembered the fishing line was still out.  I hauled it in and ended the day with a laugh and set this guy free because I was WAY too tired to clean a fish at this point.  We went to sleep hopeful our stop would provide the rest and repairs we needed.

On phone with the kids: “Everything is great”

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Caught while circling the Mathew Town anchorage under sail. Lucky guy made it home that night!
Next time:
1. Mathew Town
2. Morton Salt
3. Bahama Security Forces
4. Engine Repairs
5. ICE!
6. Moving on to Marathon

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