Friday, 02 January 2015

After a very pleasant and successful Christmas Eve, Henrik was again ready to struggle with our very uncooperative engine. The staff on the boat yard where we were, had given him an old piece of rubber, so he could cut the seal for the heat exchanger himself, because it had broken, when the raw water pump was working again. Henrik made it, so it worked (but it wasn't pretty, as he explained), and on Boxing Day we left St. Augustine and headed towards Fort Lauderdale; a 250 nm trip in nearly no wind.

Our first problem arose after app. 24 hours, when we realised that we had almost run out of diesel. The tank was ¾ full when we left shore, but we had to keep full power on the engine to get out of the St. Augustine Inlet, because of the waves and the current, and we had apparently used a lot more fuel doing that than we thought. With no prospect of getting any wind for at least the next 24 hours, we went on the last fumes to the nearest inlet, where we refuelled.

This meant an extra 20 nm, but taking the following events into account, this is almost not worth mentioning.

Just before midnight we had problems again. Water was suddenly no longer coming through the exhaust, and in a minute the engine was over heated. We turned off the engine, but there was still no wind and slowly but surely we drifted towards shore. Henrik was about to give up: “Let’s see if it’s their work that is rubbish or mine.” It turned out to be their work.

The rubber in the impeller was all twisted – either because they had put in the old one, or because they had put it in the wrong way. Luckily, Henrik had a new one (and a speech for me about the importance of having spare parts!) He changed it, and we were able to use the engine again. However, little pieces of rubber from the impeller was missing, and was probably in the tubes somewhere, but we decided to worry about that at another time.

The next day, mid-afternoon, we were outside Palm Beach and decided to go visit for a couple of hours, since we wouldn't make it to Fort Lauderdale in daylight anyway. But one mile outside the inlet, the transmission went out.

We just couldn't believe our luck! How could we be this unfortunate in one trip? We turned around and luckily the wind had picked up, so we decided to continue to Fort Lauderdale, which is a huge centre for pleasure boats. There we would try to enter a marina under sail or get towed in. But just as we were feeling depressed about the dent in our budget a new transmission would cause, a big bang suddenly sounded: A power boat had sailed directly into us, and left us with a big hole in the boat!

Henrik was quick to react. He called the U.S. Coast Guard to get information about what to do, and he called SeaTow, an American towing company that we luckily had signed up with, to tow us ashore. I on the other hand sat down and started crying. I just couldn't cope with the fact that we had a big hole in the boat and what consequences it would have.

SeaTow arrived after about an hour, but it took us nearly two hours to get to Palm Beach, because the accident had happened in the Gulf Stream, so we had been drifting north with 2-3 knots. The hole was luckily above the waterline, but when we were towed forward, the bow wave was so big that water was coming in. Henrik started pumping water out, but of course our manual pump went out, so he had to start bailing instead. Out in front, he got our electrical pump working and he then made the tug boat go slower, which reduced the water intake to a minimum. Just before dark we were placed in a marina, where two policemen were waiting to take our statements. Because there were damages for more than 2.000 USD, they
had to be involved, and first at 8.30 at night, we were alone with the damages.

It’s now five days ago it all happened, but we're still completely exhausted. We have gotten the boat on land, but we still don't know where to stay the next at least four weeks. Luckily, no one was injured at neither our boat nor the powerboat, and we've decided to try to make the best of it. However, we do wish for a new year with a lot fewer problems!

I wish everybody (and especially boat owners) a happy and trouble-free new year!

Signe Storr Freelance journalist and friend of Boatshed