After months of preparation on our boat, taking care of our careers and household and sorting out everything needed for our girls during our Silva Family Gap Year, we headed out of Anacortes at 5:00 PM on Thursday August 17th. A beautiful warm late summer day, bright blue skies and a fading sun that casts that incredible light that always has me taking photos of every object I see. Breathtaking really. We had “Blowin’ in the wind” cranking loud in the cockpit, relishing in one of those rare moments when life just works.
Fast forward eight hours, in total darkness and the middle of the Juan de Fuca, 20 to 25 knots of wind on our nose and The Answer cutting through the waves motoring along, I noticed commotion down below. As I descended into the interior lit only by the dim glow of the red lights, Shelby informed me “we’re taking on water”. Happy feeling gone. The sight of Jen, our crew member with a hand held manual bilge pump in one hand and Shelby a large cooking pot in the other, trying to move the large volumes of water coming from the v-birth to the boat’s main bilge was not a sight I was hoping to see.
I’m not sure there are many situations that strike quite the same feeling as taking on water, 8 hours into our adventure, 2:00 AM in 25 knots of wind and 4 hours from a port. Yeah, I’m sure for many salty sailors out there, this was a minor blip on the radar, but for us, it was an event.
In the next 120 seconds I learned another valuable lesson about our boat. It turns out that the small hole where the anchor rode passes through to the bow locker allowed more water into the locker than the small 3/8” drain could remove. With each wash of water that came over the bow, the locker filled with more and more water and drained, of course into the chain locker below deck. Gallons of water was rushing through the hawse pipe and flooding the chain locker which I also found out does not drain to the main bilge.
With every known electronic gadget I could fit onto a 38’ boat, the fix in this situation I had to pull from the “Portegue rig” repertoire that only accompanies a true Portuguese, or anyone who has ever owned a boat in their life. With the hawse pipe stuffed with trash bags, the influx of water subsided, the floor boards resettled into their permanent positions and our crew, soaked from bailing decided Neah Bay would just have to wait for another day. Port Angles bound we were.
We pulled into Port Angeles at 4:00 AM. Tired, wet, a bit freaked out, but with that underlying satisfaction that we had just faced our first challenge and persevered as a team. The funny thing about sailing is that regardless of how solid your boat is, how much you have prepared, you will be tested. The Answer was letting us know where her weak spots lie in hopes that we solve them during times of minimal true danger. We do look forward to getting the bugs worked out!