RATED NFM…NOT FOR MAMA
At first I wasn’t sure I’d post this because I know my mama reads these things but Dan said it’s something our readers should hear about so I’m doing it and have posted the requisite NFM rating so hopefully she will pass it by. Don’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain Mama…there’s nothing to see here. LOL
I guess fun is a relative term and if you’re the type of person who enjoys around the clock torture and moments of shear terror then this would be your kind of trip. I, on the other hand, prefer to do what is referred to as “brochure sailing” where the winds are steady, the seas are filled with nice long rollers and the sun warms my skin making it a nice golden brown. So, no, for me, this is NOT fun!
Let’s just set my broken ribs aside for the moment. Two days ago we found ourselves in winds in the high twenties with seas at a steady and very choppy 4-5 meters. Every so often we’d see a six meter swell that we’ve no doubt was just tossed in to keep us on our toes. It certainly did me as I looked up at these giants wondering which would be the one that came crashing down on top of us. Dan, on the other hand, was grinning like a kid with a new toy relishing in the way Dazzler was doing exactly what she is designed to do….Like I said, fun is a relative term.
This delightful situation went on for about four hours during which I spent most of that time below deck in prayer. You’d be surprised at the bargains you’re willing to strike with God when you think you are about to meet Him up close and personal. I’m pretty sure I can’t even come close to living up to the promises I made. Thankfully He’s a loving and forgiving God. Let’s hope He’ll forgive me for not being able to keep my word on the pledges I made in my time of weakness.
Two nights ago when I was on watch we hit a squall that brought with it sideways rain that I can only surmise felt similar to being pelted with poison darts thrown by African pygmies. Within a millisecond of being stabbed like a voodoo doll the winds ramped up from 18-20 knots to a seriously frightening velocity of 35-40 knots. With that, the very loud, high wind alarm started going off in the cockpit because, you know, I needed a blaring 130 decibel alarm screaming in my ear telling me the freaking obvious. NOT!
I couldn’t stand up or move because we were screaming through the water moving at least a knot or two over Dazzler’s safe hull speed. And, we were healed over so far that I was afraid I’d go overboard. Sure I was tethered to the jackline but I could potentially have found myself banging along the hull breaking even more bones as I was dangling from the port side of Dazzler off of one such line.
I made it to my knees and started screaming for Dan. Of course he had already heard that oh so subtle alarm sounding off in the cockpit. Honestly, I don’t know how he heard the gentle beacon in his toasty slumber, you know, with its sweet angelic sounding chorus. Anyway, he gets to the companionway way and I’m clinging to the doors like Kilroy. All he can see is a set of eyes the size of half dollars and four fingers in a death grip on either side of them.
He shuts off the high wind alarm much to the pleasure of my bleeding ears and starts to get his clothes on to go on deck and bring in some sail. Meanwhile the pygmies haven’t stopped thrusting their darts into to my face which I’m absolutely certain must be dripping in blood about now. And for some reason my mind turns to … where can I find a blood transfusion out here?
With a little coaching from Dan I find the courage to make my way through the doors and down into the cabin. I’m breathing like a judge who has been running from BLM protesters after he acquitted a white cop who shot a black teenager. Dan is telling me not to panic.
Panic? Is that what I’m doing? Why on earth would I do that? It’s just a near death experience in the middle of the ocean in 8000 feet of black, shark infested water. Don’t be silly honey…I’m all good. No panicking here…. butthead!
You know the Captain Ron movie with Kirk Douglas? He says…”squalls, they come on ya fast and they leave ya fast.” Well, he’s right. By the time Dan gets his foulies on the winds have started to drop, the rain is all but gone and Dazzler is starting to right herself again.
Now normally this would have made me smile with exuberant joy except my dear husband looks at his watch and sees that it’s only 0200 and declares he’s going back to bed because I’m to be on watch until 0430. Oh yeah, okay…let me just jump right back out there in the saddle cowboy. No problem. I’ve got this. You sleep well Roy Rogers.
So, let’s add to that evening of fun by telling you what was happening last night on Dazzler. You see, sometime after 1600 I turned on the inverter and it said it had a low battery. That’s not good. Dan starts checking and believes that it’s possible he didn’t get a full charge in when he last ran the generator. Okay, not a big deal. It’s happened before as we have two ways to check it and sometimes one can be off for one reason or another, so he fires up the generator and all is well.
At 1715 precisely, we start getting an autopilot alarm indicating it is now offline. Then the chart plotter goes into some sort of failure followed by the VHF radio which is now also showing a critical low battery alarm. As Dan starts diagnosing I leap to my feet from the one comfortable position I’ve been in, in I don’t know… days…and I start getting dressed. Something tells me this is going to be a little more sinister than just a switch flipped in the wrong direction.
Fortunately, and yes I do thank God and Poseidon for small favors, the sea state was a calm 1-2 meters and the winds were in the mid teens. When no immediate cause for the failure presents itself we decide it’s time to hove to. This is where we set the sails and rudder in the proper juxtaposition so as to stall any movement. In essence we’re parking in the middle of the ocean. Yes, we will still drift a bit but we will stay at an angle to the swell that keeps us from being tossed like a toy boat in child’s bathtub.
Now the real fun begins. Dan starts by digging everything out of the lazarette which, by the way, fills the cockpit. I’m charged with making certain none of the tools or tubs or lines or dive gear end up overboard as Dan climbs in to check wires, connections etc..to see if he can locate an obvious cause. After fifteen minutes or so he pokes his head out to say he sees nothing of consequence. Brilliant…just freaking brilliant! Now what?
The answer is one I already knew but for some reason I felt compelled to ask it out loud to which Dan replies, “Well, time to empty the quarter berth and start going through the wiring there.” Think….emptying the entire contents of your garage onto your living room floor then trying to move around it while some ancient god tilts your house from side to side. Yeah…this is going to be so much fun!
With the contents of the lazarette safely back in their places we set about to remove those of the quarter berth. I have to stop for a moment here and ask….why does this stuff ALWAYS happen at night during what should be my nap time???
Sorry, I digress.
Back to the quarter berth. Dan starts with the auto pilot ram. There is some doohickey or doodad part thingy of which he has an extra that he believes may be the culprit. He takes the old one off and….. wah, wah, wah…we’re sorry Dan. You’ve picked the wrong door. You’ll be leaving with the plush pig in a dress rather than the deluxe, first class vacation to Fiji. Please play again.
At this point I’m laying on top of stuff on top of stuff just trying to get comfortable because there is absolutely nothing I can do. Believe it or not…I’m not even speaking. After all, even I know there are times that I should just sit down and hush up.
Precisely three hours and ten minutes from the first alarm and he’s found the issue. We had a ground fault at the battery bus bar. It’s only putting out 10 amps not the necessary 12. Congratulations Captain Dan. For your diligence and hard work we’re going to allow you to exchange that plush pig in a dress for a slow sail to Fiji with a cranky old wife who keeps asking, “Are we there yet?” Yes sir, you have won the jackpot!
Three and a half hours after the alarms started ringing and the issue is fixed, all systems are running correctly and we’re putting the cabin back together. During our time hove to we only drifted 5 NM off course. If you don’t know how to do this and you sail the oceans…learn it! It’s an invaluable tool to have in your bag of tricks.
Within minutes of us getting underway I’m back wedged around the table fighting off claustrophobia and begging for sleep to come quickly as I have already lost two hours of my pre watch nap to repairs.
As you can see….this is NOT the report I would want my mama to read. She’d be in the hospital with a coronary right now and that’s no way to spend Mother’s Day weekend.
So, as I leave you here I will again remind you that fun is a relative term and definitely not a word I’d use to describe this particular passage. Also, I’ve one question….is it still called a piña colada if you tell the bartender to just give you the bottle of rum with a straw and a slice of coconut on the side???
Until next time,