When we left Bequia, the skies were unexpectedly blue. We expected a squally morning but it didn’t materialize. Within half an hour, we had the sails up and engines off. Beautiful! We enjoyed a peaceful sail for an hour or so before I hear, “Janice, we have a major problem! Shut off the starboard engine and come here.” I left the helm and went down to the starboard engine room. “We have to get this water pumped out or we are going to sink!”
Sailing can be exciting for various reasons. Some days you see whales or have dolphins playing off your bow. Sometimes the wind is stronger and the seas are bigger than expected and you find yourself on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Other times it is because something goes wrong. Today our stuffing box sprung a leak, a major leak. Water was spraying into the engine compartment fast. The bilge was full to overflowing. We had to trust Leo, our autopilot, to drive the boat for a bit. There was no traffic around, so I started pumping the manual bilge pump down in the engine room. Dave had already been pumping until he was red faced, dripping with sweat, and looked ready to pass out. It didn’t matter how fast we pumped, we could not keep up with the leak.
Dave disappeared into the port engine room where we keep our supplies and I ran up to check on the boat’s progress periodically. We took turns pumping as Dave worked out a plan. “We have to stop the water flow,” he said. “Yes, I checked and there are no ports close by to tuck into,” I answered. We were nearing exhaustion from pumping and from the heat coming from the starboard engine. I made another traffic check and course adjustment and Dave climbed into the engine compartment with some tape for stopping leaks. He started wrapping it around the leak and asked me to get some duct tape and zip ties. It worked great for a temporary fix. It slowed the leak enough to start getting on top of pumping the water out.
Dave took over the manual bilge pump and I grabbed the dinghy baler and pumped water into a bucket. But I had to climb the steps with each bucketful and carry it to the cockpit to dump down a drain that doesn’t use the bilges. We think the electric bilge pump burned out, but we’re not sure. There was just so much water that there was no way it could keep up.
Once the bilge was drained, I went down every half hour to pump more water out. So, no, it didn’t appear the bilge pump was working. Dave wanted to work on it, but by this time we had passed the north end of St Vincent and the wind and waves really picked up. It was hard to walk around inside and Dave would be guaranteed to get seasick if he tried to change out the bilge pump in those conditions. We gave him some Dramamine to try to stave off seasickness while taping up the drive shaft. It worked, but exhaustion, relief, and Dramamine knocked him out for a bit.
The sailing was good. We were making about 7 knots and the leak was slow enough to keep on top of. At least now we knew we could make it to St Lucia without sinking! That leak tape was on the boat when we bought it and Dave’s dad told him what it was for. It was fortunate Dave remembered it was onboard. It may not have been a professional fix, but I was very proud of Dave for his quick thinking and boat bandaging skills!
Once we reached St Lucia, the wind and water calmed again and Dave went to work on the electric bilge pump. The starboard pumps have been an ongoing problem and given Dave lots of practice at working on and changing out bilge pumps. He thinks he narrowed it down to a wiring problem now rather than a problem with the pumps themselves. I did most of the sailing/motorsailing today, which was not a problem until we reached the Marigot area in St Lucia.
We arrived at sunset, just as all the cruise ships were pulling out. I felt like Frogger! The Jewel of the Sea pulled out right in front of me! (It is the one just peeking out from the land in the picture at the top of the page. All the ships were closer than they appear in the picture.) I hailed them on the VHF and they were very responsive. They could see us on AIS and we sort of coordinated a plan. It didn’t quite work and we had to make a last minute major course change, putting us close to the next cruise ship that would be leaving. Ugh! There were four in all and our timing was just wrong. Our friends on Banyan heard us on the VHF and hailed us to make sure we were okay. I had shared on Facebook Message with our group the problems we were having. It was so nice to have friends check on us! They offered assistance, but I really don’t think there was anything they could do. We just had to limp in on the port engine, which now put us arriving well after dark into an anchorage that we had never anchored in before. At least we had passed through it before and we knew it was a nice open bay.
We anchored without issue and I would have just dropped, but we hadn’t eaten a meal all day. Fortunately, we had some stew left over from last night that I could easily heat up. Now it is time to shower and go to bed! We have quite a mess from all the saltwater to clean up, but it will have to wait until the morning.