Sunday, March 15, 2009

Don’t go to sea on Friday the 13th !!

When you are woken with a slam to the top of your head at five in the morning, it can take you by surprise! Your mind tries to quickly work out what the hell is going on. Am I sleeping with a gorilla which has just tossed me out of the tree, am I sleep walking and smacked into a brick wall

-- orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, holy shit Bat Man, the boat has just hit something.

Sure enough, the forecast winds for Friday the 13th had arrived and that was the start of a very memorable day, for all the wrong reasons.

The night before at the dinner table, Victor (Victoko by nickname) was joking about Friday the 13th. He was suggesting all sorts of nasty things, but even as we laughed, I had a small amount of dread in the back of my mind. Maybe it was that I knew the weather forecast, or maybe with so many years at sea I am becoming a little superstitious.

Now back to that thump in the top of my head. Any skipper knows when their boat is in trouble, and as I flew out of bed in only my underpants and skidded to a stop in the cold rain and wind, my fears were a very real reality. In our little anchorage where we were tied with three 26mm polysteel line to shore, we had lost the rear stern line and Xplore, in the strong winds, had moved forward and touched bottom (hence the sudden stop and my head banging against the cabin bulkhead (wall). “Damn and bugger,” I muttered to myself as I quickly jumped down the companion way and started the main engine. I had to get the boat and the situation under control damn fast.

My crew were pretty fast behind me and I was thankful that one of them handed me my wet weather jacket, as standing there on deck, just about naked wasn’t going to help the humor of the day (or maybe the crew couldn’t stand to see me like that). Anyway, we quickly got the boat and situation sorted out and Xplore was tied up once again in these blustery conditions. I had felt the katabatic gusts during the early hours in the morning but an exceptionally strong blast, with enough force of leverage had actually torn the tree that our stern line was attached to, out of the ground. Well, there's a first in life.

With all that commotion early in this "Lucky" day, I needed an hour sleep before I could face the new day, probably more to let my nerves settle than anything. I faintly dozed and then "shaken but not stirred," we moved on.

So out we headed. The mission for the day was to survey three islands and check them for wildlife nesting locations. The SE winds had eased, but were still gusty as we turned the corner and headed back into Seno Almirantazgo. We moved along under motor at a smooth rate and life seemed normal. An hour later, we were reaching our first island, when crew Audrey informed me that there could be a problem with the starboard heads (toilet). Sure enough, I checked the toilet and it was blocked. I persevered for 15 minutes, trying everything under the sun to unblock it but she was buggered. In a foul mood, I stormed back up on deck, knowing that a full strip down of the pumps were needed.

After a smoko break, I headed down with a bundle of tools and started pulling it apart. Lo and behold, it wasn’t a shit that had blocked it, but a huge piece of Fuegan kelp had been sucked up into the water intake pipe and blocked it solid. “Well,” I said, “this is turning into a fine day,” as we started to rock and bounce a bit.

Back on deck, the winds had turned and turned bad, straight on the nose, and by the looks of the clouds poring in from the SW, this was not going to be a good day. Big cumulonimbus clouds, wind blown were flying along, and we were being pounded. With headsail out, we clawed our way up the Straits of Admiralantazgo.

Waves and water were pouring over the decks as the combination of wind against tide were giving us really shitty conditions, and those waves were getting bigger by the hour. This was going to be a very slow day. At the nav area, I was working away at a revised schedule and options of where we could go and be located by the end of this "Lucky" day, when all of a sudden I heard a “Sploosh” as I felt the boat lurch from another wave. “Oh shit,” I think someone heard me say as I rushed forward to the cabin areas, to find that two of the hatches had been closed, but not properly, and sure enough, we had taken a good dose of sea water into their areas. “Bugger, damn,” I spluttered, “what a fine day this is turning into,” as I crawled around the floor with a sponge and small bucket before all the seawater soaked into everything.

Hmmm, time for a cuppa (mug of tea) and a few ciggies (cigarettes). We continued with the rhythmic thump thump, splash splash as we tacked our way to the NW. Three more miles and then we could make the final 100 degree turn that would take us into Bahia Brooks. But along comes crew Julia who informs me that someone had left the head’s valve open and that the bathroom was flooded with salt water!

“!#$!^^^$%#&#&#&%#.” Yes, you can imagine I didn’t say nice things but hey, this was Friday the 13th. The question was, what was going to happen next ?

We all sat quietly and kept our thoughts to our selves; we all know that "Shit Happens" but today was really taking the piss out of us. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, we waited and made sure that we checked and double-checked everything that we did and what was happening. We didn’t want any more of this game today, we had all had a gut full.

Quietly we slipped into our anchorage that evening, tired and in need of a good stiff drink. No other unexpected things happened that afternoon, but needless to say, the selection of strong trees were very good.

Xplore and the adventure here in Tierra Del Fuego continue.


1 comment:

  1. hey steve!!
    how nice it is to read about your adventures... even though this one was a little "dramatic" for you that day, I must confess I laughed a lot.... never sail on a Friday 13th again!!!!, and never forget Vitoko is always right.

    big hug and hope to read some more about your trips!!