S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Passage Notes

Saturday, June 2, 2007
Beaufort, North Carolina
N 34 degrees, 42.919 minutes
W 076 degrees, 39.826 minutes

I've been tardy in this blog. There's really not much you can do about it though, is there?

I think we already mentioned that our friend Joe came along to help us out on our longest offshore ever on Delilah. We picked Joe up in the Abacos, then waited a few days in howling winds for somewhat suitable (but promising to get better) weather, then headed out for our 500-mile, four-day journey to the U.S., taking us right smack through the Bermuda Triangle.

Things began on a minor down note: Saturday night, the night before we left, our propane solenoid packed it up in the middle of cooking dinner. I fiddled with it for a few hours, but it was broken beyond repair and we therefore had no hot food or drink for the entire trip. I made do with Pop-Tarts, jill with PBJ, and Joe with cold ravioli from a can. Really pretty disgusting, but we didn't starve, and four days is not long enough for scurvy to set in.

Overall, I really can't complain about the trip. Sunday we had some sort of favorable current, combined with plenty of wind, which gave us an unheard-of speed of 8 knots for the first day. We had reasonable weather for most of the trip (wind and seas were pretty rough the first two days; we knew they would be when we left, though Joe might have something else to say about that in his blog). Joe was there to help with the watches, which made such an enormous difference I can't begin to explain it). Two other boats left with us (Indra and Carapan). Our windvane did all the steering for the first two days, when maneuvering in heavy seas and high winds at a high angle of heel would have been most exhausting. However, as is probably inevitable on such a long journey, there were a few vexations and a few strange happenings.

On Tuesday, our third day, smack in the middle of nowhere, we saw a strange object off our port beam. We watched it for over an hour, puzzling over its strange shape. At first we thought it was a cruise ship, but as it got closer we realized it wasn't so much a vessel as a fuel platform...a MOVING fuel platform...headed, wait a minute...headed straight for us! Because there was no discernable bow or stern on this thing, and because it took so long for it to approach, it took until we could read the writing along its side for us to see the bow wave and realize that the Saipan 7000 was actually underway. Jill ran down and hailed the vessel, who assured us that we would pass astern (ah, the joy of radar, which we don't have). We altered course to assure ourselves the same.

Tuesday night we realized that our masthead tricolor was broken. That's our navigational light, which tells other vessels in the area which direction we are going (after altering them to our presence, of course). Not a good thing. Luckily, we have deck-level lights, but they are not nearly as visible in big seas. Luckily, we had no big seas. Then our steaming light broke. This light tells other vessels when we are under power so the appropriate rules of the road can be followed. Not a huge deal, but still.

On our third night, things got very strange. At three a.m., when most of the excitement seems to happen, Joe and I spotted an emergency flare while about 80 miles off the coast of N.C. and 180 miles from our destination. I went through the proper motions (putting a waypoint in the GPS, calling the Coast Guard, getting out the spotlight, etc.), but after searching for over an hour we decided to proceed on our journey. I think we made the correct call, but of course there's always the worry that some poor people were out there in a life raft...

Our decision was based on a few factors. First, the Coast Guard had been receiving many, many flare sightings over the past few days. Some of these were no doubt meteors (Jill saw one not 15 minutes after I saw the flare), but still... Also, the Coast Guard was not sure that the military wasn't on exercises (they were indeed on exercises, we found out later). The flare appeared green to me, and distress flares are not green. I could not be sure how far away the flare was when I saw it; another boat radioed the Coast Guard and he was 20 miles or so from our position. Finally, there were absolutely no visual reference points, which made searching very difficult. I practically pleaded with the Coast Guard to tell me what to do, and their response was basically to keep our eyes open. This was a very unnerving happening.

While motorsailing on Wednesday, our fourth day at sea, moments after Joe had caught a fish, as Jill was crouched next to the engine compartment, cleaning up the sea water that had leaked into the boat and mingled with the spilled nastiness leaking from the fridge (which is another story, one you have heard before), she noticed that the water seemed to be coming from another area entirely--the engine itself.

With fish guts all over the cockpit and a freshening wind, we had a lot going on in the cockpit, but I traded the helm with Jill and went down to investigate. It didn't take long to find the problem. Our raw water hose was on the verge of splitting wide open, and salt water was leaking everywhere. Had we not caught this in time, the hose would have failed, salt water would have leaked from the engine, the engine would have overheated, and our repairs could have become decidedly more complicated. In this case, however, we had the spare part and were able to replace the hose in a few minutes, but I was tired enough that I forgot to reopen the raw water valve. Duh. Luckily, I noticed that no water was coming from the exhaust and shut the engine down AGAIN before it overheated. Nice move.

Then there was Wednesday night, our fourth and final night at sea. Once again, in the middle of the night, the wind faded to nothing, so I turned on the engine. It ran for a minute, then died. Fuel filters. On Delilah, you can hear the noise the engine makes when it's not getting enough fuel. We have plenty of fuel in the tank, so we knew it was the fuel filters. This is a nasty business, replacing fuel our filters at sea. I won't go into details, but the whole process took two hours of bending over a compartment below our V-berth. I had to fight off puking the entire time, became covered in diesel fuel, got diesel all over the floor and walls belowdecks, etc.

Jill came below to help, and we had left Joe at the helm. To ease the motion, we hove to, which means that Delilah was basically drifting slowly through the water, with no way of steering her. Joe was under orders to touch nothing. But we were 50 miles from land, the seas were calm, and the wind was light. What could possibly go wrong?

My mood was not the greatest when Joe happened to call down for Jill. At that moment we were in the middle of a delicate fuel transfer, so she asked Joe what it was and couldn't it wait. Joe replied, "They're are all around us!" I asked who and he replied, "There are BOATS all around us. They have no lights on. We're going to drift into them!" I began to figure out how we were going to restrain Joe for the rest of the passage, as he had clearly lost his mind and begun hallucinating.

Jill and I went up, and we could just basically make out the silhouettes, but to my amazement, WE WERE SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUNCH OF WARSHIPS THAT WERE RUNNING IN TIGHT FORMATION WITH NO LIGHTS ON WHATSOEVER. And obviously, several had already had to move out of our way. Gadzooks! It was only then that I remembered that we had shut down most of the electrical systems to conserve battery power, including the VHF. I quickly turned it on and basically said: "Uhhhh. This is Delilah. Our radio has been off, if anybody cares." A little more professionally, but not much. Very quickly came the response, "This is Warship 78 off your port bow. Please turn to starboard immediately." So, we did and a few minutes later were out of the battle group. I have to say, the Navy was pretty nice about our boneheaded move, and at no time did anybody appear to be pointing any guns at us or threatening our civil liberties.

Well, we got the fuel fliter changed, made it back to land early Thursday morning with no further adventures, splurged on a slip at the marina, were checked into the U.S. by the nicest Customs guy ever, drank champagne with our friends to celebrate, and were in fairly euphoric moods for the next day or so. Today, Dave Rollins showed up in the cockpit at 7AM. He had said he'd come visit, but due to my legendary poor planning ability, combined with the uncertainty of sea travel and the sporadic communications mechanisms available to me, I never really told him exactly where we were. He came anyway and hunted us down (to the point of almost renting a kayak to paddle around the boats anchored in the harbor). We had a blast with him and Allison (Dave went to school here one summer, and so he played guide), but they had to leave that afternoon.

We had planned to move to a mooring today to save money, but none are available, as the remains of Barry are threatening high winds tomorrow (Sunday). We will proceed north as soon as conditions warrant.


Blogger dcrollins said...

You forgot to mention the dollar knife store. I just opened an orange with "Clovers Mastectomy and Medical Supply". Damned luck o' the Irish that I get a mastectomy.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome to the mainland!
Nice dolphinfish.
How big were the warships?
Who drives a golfcart faster, Jill Or Mae Mae?

Most importantly, what flavor pop tarts?
big r

7:08 PM  

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