Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Post Traumatic Voyage II
We left the Chesapeake on the 1st of November under cloudy sky's and light rain. The wind was 20 knots gusting to 25 out of the NE. Brisk conditions. We were running a full head sail and 3 reefs in the main doing 8+ knots with a 2-3 meter beam sea. The Gulf Stream was predicted to be 15-20 knots with 2-3 meter seas. Not ideal but there was no window after our departure as conditions were deteriorating due to the Hurricane Ida developing in the Gulf. This was probably the last chance for weeks to get warm!
We were roaring along at 9.5 knots just about out of the effect of the Gulf Stream when I looked in the cabin and a 3 foot high column of water rushed into the boat. Catamarans have escape hatches on the bottom of the boat in case of a capsize. I ran to the Starboard hatch and thought it had come open.....noooooo.......it was gone. A hole in the boat!!!!! We were taking on water and the bilge pumps were going full bore. I had plywood forward for damage control and grabbed screws and screw gun and started screwing down the plywood to the floor of the boat. During this drill I had Dave steer the boat downwind to stop the beam seas from entering the breach in the hull. Needless to say, there were some scary moments!
After I brought the leak under control I had to determine the next course of action. We were just about out of the Gulf Stream and heading back to the Chesapeake was not a good option as into wind and waves. I did not think the repair would last with a pounding to weather. Another option was to head SW and try for the other side of Cape Hatteras. The weather on the East Coast was getting lousier by the hour, so I decided to press on to the Tropics as my weather reports stated conditions would moderate to the 10-15 knot range in 24 hours. Hurricane Ida was to make all weather projections useless.
As we left the Gulf Stream conditions settled down to 20 knots gusting to 25 with wind North. Anytime the boat speed exceeded 6 knots the wave action assaulted my repair and water filled the starboard hull. Bilge pumps easily contained the flow but were on every 15 seconds. Eventually I replaced one of the pumps after it failed.
As conditions were so vigorous I was unable to apply a repair to the outside of the hull, the ocean eventually worked upon the repair until after 100 screws I was able to prevent most water from entering. But, the ocean gets her way eventually, A 17 foot swell came under the boat and slapped my repair and broke the floor loose in the cabin and lifted it about 6 inches. After, removing the stairs that go down to starboard I was able to sea the Atlantic in all her glory! More screws and blocks in the walls to jam the floor and we were off again! BTW I was running out of lumber!
When I approached highway 65(65 degrees Longitude) we turned south and with a North wind the floor in the boat actually dried out as the temperature rose and the sun came out. The rest of the trip was mild although we did have 30 knots NW for 30 hours gusting to 40 but from astern so mostly a wild slide down the 15 foot swells. My crew was amazed how much easier conditions were at 30 knots compared to 20 . The bigger wind set up a more consistent swell and wind waves seem to diminish. The last day we were forced to motor sail into Ft Thomas as wind went south at 5-10.
It took us 10 days to reach the Virgins as we had to slow Le Chat Beaute down to 6 knots. Dave Surridge , my crew, had never been on a boat before, I can't say if he will ever get on one again. He stood his watches and was there when needed. Good performance on his part. The trip would have been great and boat speed was acceptable but the leak took all the pleasure out of the passage as my anxiety levels were high. At no time time did conditions prevent us from enjoying meals and we even had the BBQ half the trip. I talked to some mono hull sailors who arrived before us and they lived out of cans and hardly ate. These were 60 foot + boats. So even in the worst conditions life on a cat is OK.
The enclosed sunset picture was as we left the Chesapeake. It looks to me like a hammer. Prophetic!