Sailboat living consists of times where the seas are calm and times when they’re rough. And then there’s times spent at anchor or in a marina. (Note: you’ll find the Sailboat Living video at bottom of the page)
The inside of the boat stays the same but the surroundings and external environment can change dramatically.
During our recent voyage due west from Bermuda to Wilmington, North Carolina, we endured 16 squalls during the five day trip. We were aiming for Charleston, South Carolina but due to wind, sea state and fuel issues we had to divert to Wilmington.
Over the years, I’ve explained that sailors often set off for point B but often end up in C!
While in the US State of North Carolina, we dropped off our crew member, Ryan. We also spent time visiting with my mom and step-dad. They live only a couple hours west of Wilmington so they enjoyed the spontaneous opportunity to visit.
Simon, Sienna and I also recovered from the very bumpy ride.
After a three day stay at the wonderful Port City Marina we had a weather window allowing us to motor 21 hours south to Charleston. I told Simon that I preferred a voyage in flat waters – even if we had to use fuel. I was fed up with the Atlantic Ocean and just wanted to get back to Charleston with out feeling fearful.
Simon and I set out around 7am in the morning. We waved to my parents while passing their hotel on the Cape Fear River and headed south. The day was overcast and it was misting with a cool rain. None of us were interested in being on the boat but we had to get to Charleston.
Within a matter of days Sienna was starting school (2nd grade) and we had guests flying/driving in from all over the world to see the much anticipated full solar eclipse.
While motoring down the river Simon discovered that our autopilot didn’t work. He called Raymarine, the autopilot manufacturer, and stood on hold for three hours as we slowly motored down the river. In the end, Simon left a message.
To our amazement the autopilot started to work just as we entered the Atlantic Ocean.
We’ve discovered that it’s not uncommon for things to break and then for the same things to fix themselves. We’ve had the same situation with our AIS, or position tracking system, for three years. Some days it works and some days it doesn’t. No matter how many ‘experts’ we’ve had look at it the device has a mind of it’s own.
Fortunately for us, the autopilot worked for the duration of our very uneventful motor down to Charleston.
During the trip, I slept quite a bit. Sienna watched a couple Harry Potter movies and Simon played Candy Crush on the iPad. We didn’t see or hear anything after we entered the Ocean.
While in the Cape Fear River, however, there was a MAYDAY that came over the VHF.
A dive boat was 25 miles out into the Atlantic, was taking on water, had six people and one diver below the boat. Over the course of an hour or so we listened to the Coast Guard, dive boat and others in the area all scramble to find a solution. In the end, the dive boat stopped the incoming water, retrieved the diver and made their way back to land with one engine.
Listening to the MAYDAY made Simon and I feel silly for complaining that our autopilot didn’t work. When you hear about life and death situations it puts things into perspective.
I did, however, find it interesting that the Dive boat didn’t follow the standard protocol for making a MAYDAY call. In fact, he didn’t even say it was a MAYDAY nor did he seem to set off a DSC alert. In the UK, the only prerequisite for owning and operating a boat is to have a VHF radio license. To get the license you need to take a 2-day course learning how to make emergency calls. I wonder if the US has the same requirement?
After learning to sail in England’s Solent, one of the busiest waterways in the world, we were accustomed to hearing MAYDAY’s and PAN PAN’s in a very scripted way.
Needless to say, the end result for the dive boat was positive so I think that’s all that really matters.
Do you know what to say how to say it if you need to make a MAYDAY broadcast?
Does everyone on your boat know how to do it? If the answer is ‘no,’ make sure to purchase my VHF Radio Checklists & Templates for Sailors. This guide can sit nicely in your navigation table ready for use at a moments notice. It has the full template on what you need to do and say to effectively send out a MAYDAY, Pan Pan, MAYDAY Relay and more. Further, the guide offers an easy to understand explanation on how to operate the VHF reducing fears on simply making a call to a marina or other boat (great for first-time users or new crew).
Around 5am we made it to the Charleston Harbor Marina. I thought it would be difficult to sail into Charleston in the dark but it was easy. We knew the channel and we had good knowledge of the marina after staying there for 11 months previously.
Upon arrival the tide was low and running so we docked up at the fuel dock. Our plan was to move over to our slip at slack high tide when we knew our efforts would require less work.
Simon contacted Customs & Excise, I cleaned up the boat a bit and then we finally went to sleep.
Over the course of the following week we set out to repair leaks, fix damages done during the rough sailing conditions the week before AND enjoy seeing all our friends again. Furthermore, we had a solar eclipse to experience so it was busy, busy, busy.
Simon first tackled a leak that formed in Sienna’s bedroom. Her room is the forward port side bunk room. Water came in and sat at the bottom of the top bunk. It wasn’t a massive amount but it was enough to damage the wood a bit.
We hired a local guy that helped us narrow down the issue.
Simon and I believe that a hole in the fiberglass was letting water in. I wonder how the heck a hole got there in the first place, but there are so many mysteries aboard a boat. The local guy found the hole under the teak. It’s all fixed now so lets hope that our problem is solved.
Regarding the forward leak that we’ve been trying to fix for three years, Simon has finally gone all out. As far as I’m concerned no stone has been left unturned. But let me back up.
I think we’ve had a couple leaks in the forward making it hard to determine where the water has been coming from. During the Atlantic crossing, however, our crew member, Ryan, actually saw water spurting through the fiberglass into the front cabin. It looked as if it was coming from the anchor locker and only came in when the bow dipped under the water.
There has also been water coming in hitting the ceiling panels – much higher than the fiberglass hole. AND…we’ve found water about half way back from the front of the room.
While in Bermuda, Simon and I found a hole in the ceiling leading to the underside of the toe rail. Simon filled it with silicon as a temporary fix but it didn’t work.
So…this is what we did:
– Filled in the fiberglass hole
– Took the fairlead off as it’s possible water was entering the toe rail through it. Resealed it and caulked it.
– Painted the anchor locker with an epoxy paint
– Caulked the inside and outside of the toerail
– Removed anchor locker drain fittings (shells outside the hull) and re-caulked them
We’ve already rebedded the hatch window and replaced the hatch so there’s literally nothing else left to do (she say’s) aside from remove all the teak and refix all the deck fittings…
Leaks aside, what about the damage done on the Atlantic Ocean voyage?!
So…our main engine oil leak got worse. We’re still working on that. We’ve had a couple mechanics look at it and we’re still none the wiser. Simon and I have cleaned it up really good so we’ll go for a motor to make it leak again. Our aim is to narrow down the issue as much as possible before taking things forward.
The genset diesel leak was a result of us changing some washers that just didn’t work. We should have used Westerbeke washers instead of off-the-shelf washers. After putting the Westerbeke washers on it’s fine now.
And the mast! During our transit one of our main sail batons popped out of the sail and proceeded to rub against our carbon fiber mast creating a nasty groove. Rumor had it that the mast had to come down. Simon and I felt sick.
I put a video on Facebook showing the damage looking for feedback.
Paul Gray, a lovely guy from Dolphin Sails managed to get in touch with the guy that actually made our mast. And I think that it was Chris Boulter, another 56’ Oyster owner that contacted Paul. In the end, John Boyce, the rig manufacturer saw the video and commented that he didn’t think it was too bad…that the Carbon Fiber looked intact.
Through word of mouth referrals Simon tracked down a local carbon fiber expert and the rest is history. The mast was fixable as it stands so no major drama there.
Other than leaks and fixing things we broke, life was very social back in Charleston.
It just so happened that upon our return, we had friends visiting us from Maryland, Virginia and Guatemala for the solar eclipse. And what’s a solar eclipse without a pre-eclipse potluck dock party?!
I made a sweet potato spinach curry in my solar cooker and others brought all sorts – shrimp, dips, flatbreads, chicken wings, veggie platters, and on and on. It was awesome. After spending a month on the anchor in Bermuda with few visitors it was nice to socialize a bit more.
On the day of the eclipse, however, things weren’t so great.
The forecast for Charleston was looking terrible. Several of our friends hopped in a car and drove west (they did travel from afar to see the eclipse so I don’t blame them for looking for clear skies).
Simon, Sienna and our friend Jill stayed behind. We watched the eclipse from the poolside at the marina resort. We had live music, burgers, drinks and a good vibe. In the end, all parties saw the full solar eclipse and enjoyed the experience.
And Sienna went back to school!
She started second grade at the school she attended last year. It was great to see her enjoy the start of the new year and it was nice to get some time to work on the boat.
So…what’s Sailboat Living like now?
Well, we’re going to hang out in Charleston until the hurricane season ends. Let’s all hope that this one passes without a major one. As I write there’s one nailing Texas and another three potentials making their way towards America.
After the season ends, our insurance covers us to head back to the Caribbean. We’re going to take some short trips along the Florida coast (ensuring I’m not stuck on a boat for days with seasickness) and then to Turks & Caicos and the Eastern Caribbean.
We have many friends making the Atlantic crossing this year so it will be great to catch up with them and other friends we have in the area.
We’re toying with staying in Grenada for the next hurricane season, but who knows?!
Sailboat Living – Life after sailing in rough seas video
For all my articles/videos about our recent Atlantic Ocean voyage to Bermuda and back, check out the following:
- Provisioning for a 5-day sail to Bermuda
- Sailing To Bermuda
- And…Sailing to Bermuda Video – The 5 Day Passage
- Sailing around Bermuda – Life at anchor
- Hamilton Bermuda by Boat
- Hamilton Bermuda At Anchorage
- Sailing in Rough Seas – Article & Video
Would you like to buy a boat and travel around the world? Learn from our experience.
Get everything we learned in real terms. It’s easy to understand, no sailor jargon…hard hitting and will give you what you need to know to hit the sea successfully:
And that’s that. If you have any comments or questions please leave them below or email me at Kim@SailingBritican.com and when I’m not sailing I’ll work hard to respond. Thanks so much for joining us on the journey 🙂
Other Resources about Sailboat Living
Sailboat Living graphic