Posted from Sandwich, Massachusetts, United States.
Yesterday we decided that we would try to leave later at night with the tide just to make the passage that much quicker. The speed part worked out well as we were able to hit 10 knots while in the area outside of Eastport with the islands, the down side was that with minimal lighting and basically no light from the moon that night we couldn’t see the buoys at all. To solve this Neil and myself went out onto the bow with flash lights to light up the buoys as we could find them. Let me tell you that breeze from the ocean is cooooooooooooooooold. So it took us a bit more time to get out of that area and into the actual ocean than we had anticipated and the entire journey part went off with no more of a hitch than going down the wrong side of an island part way requiring us to double back on our path. No biggie really.
Now that I we were out in the ocean we could start our shifts which was 2 people awake for 6hrs, then another 2 people awake for 6hrs. Since it was my turn off I could rest and relax… HAHA Just kidding. The “calm” weather that we were told about was technically “calm” for that stretch of the ocean. By calm they mean 10 to 12 foot waves constantly tossing us. Fortunately our course aimed us straight into the waves so we pounded through them fine enough. UNFORTUNATELY I discovered that I get violently sea sick in those conditions and spent the next day (yes ALL night and all day pretty much) hurling onto the back deck.
Pro tip to those that get motion sickness and plan to take on a trip such as this. Do NOT have rum and cokes, fish and chips, and red wine right before heading on out. Tangy was the flavour and disgusting was the experience.
So anyways my shift began which I pretty much just tried to soldier through as much as possible between bouts of “christening the back deck”. Things were going fine until near the end of my shift when disaster struck. The steering became increasingly difficult to operate at all to the point where steering was near impossible to keep a steady course (of which we had had a hard time due to the waves and the inaccurate steering system anyways but this enhanced it 10 fold). Little did we know that at this point the start of a long series of problems was just beginning. My Dad woke up from his night early and Jon and I informed him of the issue with the steering system. We decided we’d go down and see the issue first hand.
The steering system is a custom and overly complicated mess of pipes and pumps. Behind the steering wheel is a sort of mini-pump that when turned pushes steering fluid down to a compressor pump that ups the pressure from the engine turning. That is kept full by a resevoir that is nearby the pump and the fluid is kept cool by a cooling system attached to a pipe on the water intact for the engine. FINALLY we get to the pipes that go to the piston that turn the rudder. What broke or what we SHOULD have noticed that broke before we did what we thought was a good idea was the belt that ran the compressor pump on the engine. We should have noticed this and just soldiered on but we decided to stop the engine to see if there was something we could do. A few things were going on at once at this point that we hadn’t fully thought through. First off the waves were coming from the South South East direction while we were heading more or less South and on top of that the wind was coming from the South East. When we shut the engine off to have a look we lost steerage (like in a car if you’re not moving forward you can’t steering) and were hit by a big wave that turned us sideways to the waves. This rolled us extremely dramatically throwing cargo and people all over the place. My Dad at the wheel at that point hollered down for us to get the engine back running. An operation which I had not done before nor had Jon who was with me. So I was hitting the switches and hollered that I had no idea how to do this. Jon to his credit was a sea of calm during this and just said “Calm down. We’ll be alright.” at which point my brain instantly painted a picture of us capsizing and drowning while locked in the engine room. I managed to get the engine back running regardless and we got steerage back. So we took 5 (oddly enough I wasn’t sea sick during this moment of terror) and then surveyed the damage. The entire saloon/galley area was trashed. The table was overturned, provisions were thrown all over the place but the only casualities were a bottle of beer and a jar of pickles. Once those 2 smells had combined and heated up I naturally took my spot at the stern hurling some more. Yay me.
As a point of interest Neil pretty much slept through all of this. The guy is crazy. He was smiling like a maniac while at the wheel when we were pounding through the waves. I basically took mini cat naps between bouts of hurling. To add to this part of the journey we believe there is something happening with the electrical system as some things seem to be acting a bit weird at times (Radar, and radio most notably). This is not a good sign since we have to dock at Cape Cod in the middle of the night.
(Tune in next week for the rest of the hurling express. I should be adding the next article when I have a few minutes to myself.)