It was supposed to be a quick 10 day sail back to French Guiana but two weeks later I found myself still busy battling isolated thunderstorms and gradually being pushed toward southern Venezuela. Not my premiere choice of destinations given the number of sailors I’ve come across that have given it the thumbs down with respect to safety.
Just so that you know…. sometimes sailing isn’t that much fun!
Bouncing about like a cork for two weeks is one of those times…
Although squalls in the Caribbean had been forecast (they’re always forecast), who’d have imagined that isolated thunderstorms was a synonym for “focused entirely on Eileen of Avoca” thunderstorms?
With a steady Force 6 on the nose and a contrary current of 1 to 1.5kts I should have stayed put. Of course what I should have done… and what I did do…, are two paths that rarely bisect. In this case, I’d fallen victim to the one thing a sailor should never do…
I told someone I’d be in a certain place at a certain time. “Certain” shouldn’t be in a sailors vocabulary. In a moment of sheer stupidity (happens rather frequently I’m told), I agreed to attend a birthday party upon my return to French Guiana.
Of course I didn’t make it….
Progress at 1 knot was steady if frustratingly slow, but despite this I might have arrived with time to spare, if of course I hadn’t been swamped by a rogue wave!
Pause here for dramatic effect…
Obviously I didn’t drown because I’m still writing in the first person…
Was it a close call? No, but it was the first time I’d ever been thoroughly pooped!
How many adults dare say that nowadays?
I was dozing in my bunk (my favourite spot), when without warning Eileen was knocked sideways in a rush of noisy whitewater which, despite having one washboard in place and the hatch firmly closed, instantly drenched everything in the cabin. I can testify that having buckets of water thrown over me is an effective if unpleasant catalyst for gaining my full attention, an attention that was now directed at the cascade of water flowing down the companionway stairs. It’s source…? A new swimming pool in my pushpit. (—Deleted expletive!—)
Outside it was immediately clear that everything that wasn’t tied down was now gone. Good thing I wasn’t outside huh? Cushions, ropes, jerry cans with my precious extra fuel, all washed overboard. Feeling strangely disconnected from reality amid apparent chaos, at least panic was the last thing on my mind. Stupefied, just about everything was far from my thoughts. It took the absurdity of a waterproof container (a practical Christmas gift) floating by, to break my stupor and set me in motion. Grabbing the improvised bucket, I did what I assure you comes naturally to all sailors in similar circumstances…
I bailed like a madman.
Why did I have to bail? Were the cockpit drains blocked? Much later I discovered that I’d only opened one of the two seacocks draining the pushpit. Luckily I’ve had a unique modification made to Eileen as a contingency against being flooded.
Check out the raised lip of my exterior lockers! The extra waterproofing kept most of the water out and the interior bilge pump installed in the heads meant I could safely deal with any seepage from the safety of “the can”.
Ten brownie points for being prepared!
Not enough fuel to get to Saint Laurent but if I can push on a while longer I’ll just reach Guyana. Good thing I’ve got Chris Doyle’s guide aboard.
Looks like I’ll be making an unscheduled visit!