They say that “cruising is doing boat maintenance in beautiful places”. This adage seems to be true. In Part 2 of our ongoing tale, you learned that two days into our cruise homeward, we had hit some rocks or a reef very hard causing some serious concern. As well, you learned that in preparing for our passage from Eleuthera to the Exumas islands, the winds had kicked up so much that we could not sail or even motor comfortably to the places in the southern Exumas that we had hoped to see. Rather, we ended up at the north end of the island chain. Further explanation about not being able to sail to our original destination of Staniel Cay is below. Time was flying by and we knew that with this leaky boat we wouldn’t have a chance to see the swimming pigs at Big Majors Spot or to swim with the nurse sharks at Compass Cay (cay is pronounced “key”, same as quay as in Queen’s Quay in Toronto) or to spend days sailing the shallow waters of the Exuma Bank. Not on this trip.
Thus we blew in to beautiful South-West Allan Cay, part of a small group of cays which are home to endangered Rock Iguanas (Click Here for more info on these iguanas).
We anchored in about 4′ of water just off of a beautiful sandy beach lined with palms trees and interesting rock formations. We set our Rocna 33 Lb anchor and then set our second anchor, the 22 Lb Bruce as the winds were supposed to build with gusts up to 60 knots. Jim always has an eye for how high the land surrounding the anchorage is because higher land usually will give you more protection from the winds. As the island was relatively low, he thought we ought to deploy the Bruce too though all of the load was on the Rocna. The anchorage was fairly tight with a sandy bottom and beach to the south but rocks to the east and west, not to mention the two monohulls we had anchored in front of.
Once we were all confident that the anchors had set, I swam over to the monohulls to ask if they were OK with us having anchored ahead of them. After all , they had gotten there first! We were well clear of their anchors and we all had plenty of swinging room but I just wanted them to be comfortable with us there. They were two couples buddy-boating together. The fellow from our nearest neighbour said if he could anchor in 3′ of water like we did, he’d do it too! They were fine where we were and he explained that we were using a Rocna like they were except that theirs was a 45 Lb. All was fine and dandy and we settled in for the night.
So…about the “technically we are sinking?” bit. Jim always tells me that a trimaran can’t sink. I guess it’s true as most have lots of watertight compartments in the hulls so if one is breached, the others will help hold the boat up. There is no lead-weighted keel like monohulls have and the pontoons (called “amas”) help balance the whole boat like training wheels on a kid’s bike. Plus two of our trimarans are made of foam covered in fibreglass and epoxy resin. So that material floats. All of this is true. But after we had hit the rock or the reef back on Eleuthera, there was more water coming in than I was sure we could be comfortable bailing. You see, we were sponging up the water into a pail every hour. When I stood at the stove in the galley I was standing in about a half inch of water. The galley floor, just aft of where you crawl into the v-berth, was continually wet. The water seemed to be coming from the underside of the main cabin floor via the settee storage compartments and maybe from under the v-berth where the water tanks were. It was too much to hope that the freshwater tank was leaking. It was not. We were taking on sea water, no question.
Jim and Paul agreed that it wasn’t bad enough to haul the boat out but it was bad enough that we should make for home more expediently than we had planned. The almost constant sponging was tiring though. Getting up during the night was exhausting. We all took turns but it was frustrating. Crew morale was getting low.
Before we left Lighthouse Beach on February 15, the guys put their heads together while I had a nap after breakfast and a swim where I tried to video the damage on the underside. I awoke to the two of them grinning like fools and high-fiving each other!! They may have even been pouring celebratory drinks! Was I dreaming? Had they found a lost stick of underwater putty and fixed the leak? No putty, but here’s what happened while I was asleep…Jim figured we needed a pump to get rid of the water as it collected under the floor of the head next to the galley. Why was the water entering the galley floor anyhow? It was flowing out of a small round access hatch at floor level. This hatch allowed access to the bilge pump for the shower under the head floor. Bilge Pump?? Of course, the bilge pump!! They put the round cover on the access hatch, then rigged up a way for the water collecting under the head to get sucked up by the bilge pump. I think there was some disconnecting and reconnecting of hoses somehow to make all of that work. They also installed a small stick of the foam we had brought along for repairs into the shower drain. This foam stick, which I nicknamed “Bob”, would bob up when the water level was getting high indicating that it was time to pump out the bilge. GENIUS!! It turned out that we would only have to pump out the boat about every 3 hours, maybe 4 using the handle just above the toilet in the head. We still took turns waking up in the night to do that but it meant that all of us slept better. Morale quickly went back up again….until the tack let go on the jib later that day during our windy passage from Eleuthera to the Exuma islands!!!
The tack is the area of the foot of the sail that attaches to the boat. In this case, the tack was on the jib, the small sail at the front of the boat. It is this sail that allows a sailboat to sail upwind, to drive closer to the direction that wind is coming from…in essence, to sail in a slightly straighter line toward a destination upwind than tacking back and forth on an angle to claw one’s way upwind. Picture a triangular sail: the top of the triangle is the head, where the sail is hauled up toward the top of the mast with a line (or is on a stiff furling foil like ours so it can be rolled up around the foil rather than dropped into a bag on the deck); the front part of the foot of the triangle is the tack where the sail is attached to the bow of the boat; and the aft part of the sail which is the clew, where the controlling lines are attached allowing the sail to swing out to one side or other of the front of the boat. The jib is a crucial component of a sailboat and we were on the brink of losing ours!
When we originally unrolled and inspected the sails, the jib was very moldy. It was in sorry shape after sitting rolled up on land for almost 10 months. It had a clear UV cover on it but who knows how effective those are after a while. So none of us were really surprised when the tack blew out. We didn’t have a spare jib so the guys chose to partially furl up the sail so that there was less force on the foil. They didn’t want the furling system to break as that could mean that the mast would fall down!!! The part that let go was a round eye on a few sturdy straps that are sewn onto the tack of the sail and which is where the sail is actually attached to the boat.
We were able to partially furl the jib to prevent it from completely pulling out of the foil and keep sailing but this was another reason why we couldn’t sail toward the southern or central Exumas since the boat would no longer point well to windward. We were forced to sail off the wind, away from our original destination, and so we landed at SW Allan Cay.
The weather proved to be a little unsettled and we knew we could not leave the protection of the anchorage for a day or two. So Paul, bless his heart, took on the task of sewing the straps and the eye back onto the tack of the jib. Picture yourself trying to push a regular sewing needle through several thicknesses of seatbelt strapping. Plus, the needle seems a bit dull. And you don’t have proper UV thread either!! This is what Paul dealt with. I gave him whatever needles I had in my little sewing kit. Jim gave him some dental floss for thread (it’s really, really strong) and he got to work. Paul must have the patience of a saint as he continued to fight with the strapping ALL DAY. I’m not kidding when I say all day. He did take a break for lunch though! At one point he started to use pliers to push the needle which was dipped in dish detergent through the layers of strapping and sail. I know that his hands were cramping up, I think two of the needles broke and somewhere near the end of the repair, we found some whipping twine (strong thread-like line) which would have worked great for the job. When it was all over, we rejoiced. More rum drinks to celebrate! One of our neighbours came by in his dinghy and heard about the sail repair. He said “Hey, I’ve got a sewing machine aboard if you need it!” We just looked at each other and died laughing. Of course he has a sewing machine aboard: a strong one for stitching canvas, sailcloth, you name it. We have a proper sail repair kit…back in London. Poor Paul. What a hero.
While he was sewing and Jim was cleaning our old head pump, I used our down time to do some laundry in rain water which we had collected in a 5 gallon bucket. Freshwater is a precious thing and finding ways to collect it while on a boat is just smart. Once the sun comes out, clothes dry quickly and spirits rise as well.
As Jim said, each day we accomplished something: whether that was getting the Stereo to work, learning to enjoy one’s time down below during a rainstorm, or doing laundry in a bucket. But we did miss our family and friends and I was glad that I had the means to share some of our experiences via this blog with them.
But what about the frog that I referred to in the title? Ah yes, the tree frog. Paul’s little friend. Back at our rental house in Rock Sound, Paul had spotted a tiny tree frong clinging to one of the exterior door frames. He thought it was super cute. The next day the frog was inside, in the room where Paul was sleeping! Hmmmm….I suspect the poor little thing bonded with his big human buddy (I refer to the frog as a “he” but who really knows except those with a lot of letters after their names). Paul carefully took him outside and we thought that that was it! Sometime during the first few days of sailing, maybe at Lighthouse Beach, Paul spotted the frog (it had to be the same one right?) on the transom or back end of the boat!! A tiny stowaway. Paul gently put him overboard knowing that they can swim and the shore wasn’t too far away. But the frog frantically swam back to the boat and hopped aboard. Well, we were OK with a small fourth crew member coming along as long as he ate his fill of bugs like noseeums. We weren’t sure where he ended up while we cruised along and hoped that he jumped ship on his own at SW Allan Cay as we had no sightings of him until much later on! But this too is a tale for another day.
Enjoys the pictures and videos below of our time at SW Allan Cay in the middle of February.
Soon you will learn about more of our creature friends and the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Rest of the Story Part 4: “Paying for Water” or “I think we just hit 13 knots!”
P S you will notice the three flags we were flying from our lower spreaders. The highest is the Bahamian courtesy flag: fly it to show that you have cleared into the Bahamas with Customs. The second is our Fanshawe Yacht Club burgee. The third is my Women Who Sail burgee. I am part of an ever-growing closed Facebook page called the Women Who Sail. If you are a woman who sails (or boats) and want more info on joining the group, just drop me a line.