On the midnight shift, moving through the blending dark of the sky and the ocean, I feel like I am in a spaceship. Voyaging through a space, far from land, far from people, far from light. The reality is that we are a spaceship by circumstance; we are fully self-contained and we must be fully self reliant. Any problem that arises can only be resolved by our common sense, John’s bounty of spares, and creativity.
Yesterday, we had three mini crises. The first was signaled by an occasional quiet beep; we all heard the sound, but no one could pin point the source. The beep became more frequent, more insistent. Finally, we all confirmed that it was the lazarette bilge alarm, signaling that there was water in the bilge. However, the design of the boat is such that the only opening to the lazarette is a hatch on the floor of the back cockpit, a location awash in salt water with each roll of the boat. Hence a Catch-22; open the lazarette to check for water in the bilge and the source of our alarm but in the process, risk a wave of salt water washing into the lazarette creating a greater problem. What to do? We knew there wasn’t much water in the bilge, because the manual pump was only removing cupfuls of water. However, the source of the leak was important since we didn’t want it to increase…was it a leaking thru hull, a leaking rudder post shaft seal, a leaking hatch gasket? We marshaled the forces, slowed the boat, turned into the waves, outlined the hatch with rolled towels, stood guard for a sneaky wave, and John jumped down into the lazarette with tools and flashlight. Five minutes later, John concluded that the problem was the hatch gasket, tightened the dogs on the hatch, leaped back out, and we slammed the hatch shut. Success…no water in, no major problem, tiny issue resolved.
Crisis two was a short time later; discovered when we tried to send our daily position report to our weather router. The satellite telephone informed us we didn’t have any more minutes, sorry. Whaaat? We had spent almost two weeks with the Inmarsat people working out our satellite communication, and included in those endless discussions was the instruction to automatically reload our satellite minutes if and when we went through the first $100. In other words, “here is my credit card, make sure we have access to the satellite”. At that bad moment in time, the Catch-22 is that we had no means of communicating with the people who could get us communicating again. In fact, we had no means to communicate with anyone other than via our VHF radio or SSB radio. The fortuitous resolution to this rather serious problem was Naomi, the infinitely prepared. Naomi had brought an InReach satellite messenger that allowed for short text messages to a telephone or email. We sent a series of terse, annoyed texts to the Inmarsat folks who, six hours later, deemed our problem serious enough to fix. Back in business again. In hindsight it is easy to say “we should have a second device, such as the InReach or the Spot”. I can only respond that crossing preparation is a constant balance between need – want – cost; sometimes you call it right, sometimes you don’t.
Our third mini crisis of the day involved Baby Huey, the 75 gallons of diesel lashed to the front of our deck in a large black bladder. Despite a certain amount of stress from our two previous crises, the day was relatively wave quiet so we decided to empty the bladder into our side fuel tank. John had devised and tested a diesel pump that should have made the whole job a 20 minute affair; one hose onto the Baby, one hose into the diesel tank, and a pump in between. All hands on deck with life jackets and the process began. However, within four or so minutes the pump stopped working, either battery failure, air suction failure, or gremlins. What to do? Try to fix the pump, try to do a gravity feed, try to create a straight suction with the hose… we opted for a gravity feed. However, various physics problems conspired against us and we spent two and a half hours on the rolling, salt encrusted front deck lifting, rolling, squeezing, stomping, hanging, roping, and cursing the Baby. Eventually, we prevailed and every last drop of diesel was drained from Baby. No disasters, no injuries, no loss.
The spaceship sails on and we have been lucky today that all we need has been aboard.
33 13.293 N 147 15.574 W
Miles to go: 1370 nm