Keep the People In the Boat, Keep the Water Out of the Boat

A Week Aboard S/V Sabado: 5/21/2023 – 5/28/2023

Hi hi! I hope you’re doing well!

Here is our latest YouTube video if you are curious. 😉

We spent last Sunday relaxing at home. We had a few rainstorms blow through, so we stayed inside and read/did some computer work. 💻

Monday afternoon, we pulled up our anchor and motored over to the fuel dock. We filled up on diesel and gasoline in preparation for our next move. We’re beginning our journey to Grenada, where we will spend hurricane season, this week. We plan on island hopping our way down, so the first leg of our trip will be motoring from Saint Thomas to Saint Martin. We went to shore for groceries and canceled the mailbox we’ve had here since December. 

On Tuesday, we ran our last few errands and got the boat ready to move. Our friends invited us to dinner that night, so we got cleaned up and danced to 80s music before taking the dinghy to Oceana for steak and martinis. 🍸

The next day we decided to move over to Christmas Cove to stage for our departure. We had dinner from the floating pizza shop and watched some massive tarpon have a feeding frenzy off our stern as the minnows congregated around our underwater lights.

We left the following day for Saint Martin. We were instantly reminded how lucky we were the last time we made this trip when we had no wind, and the sea was flat calm. This time, we experienced the usual conditions of traveling East in the Caribbean: battling the trade winds. We were motoring directly into the wind and waves. It was bouncy but bearable for most of the day. The current was not in our favor, so we had to use both engines to maintain a reasonable speed. We pushed through a few squalls, but without any sails to fuss with, it was pretty uneventful…

Until sunset, that is… The sea state had been building all day. I was making dinner, holding onto every ingredient so it wouldn’t go flying off the counter when I heard a slew of curse words coming from the cockpit. I looked up to see Ray running to the helm. He shut off our starboard engine. I plopped dinner into the sink (where I knew it would be secure) and took the helm while Ray climbed into the engine compartment. 

Our engines suck up seawater to stay cool. Ray had noticed our starboard engine was getting less water than usual and didn’t want it to overheat. With just our port engine operating in these conditions, our SOG was only 3kn. So, Ray started troubleshooting right away. First, he checked the filter, which was relatively clear, so he changed the impeller, too- neither solved the problem. We switched positions. At this point, we had both engines off and were adrift halfway between the USVI and Saint Martin. 

We were rapidly losing daylight in over 7,000ft of water, being tossed around by the waves. We try to follow the golden rule while underway: “Keep the people in the boat and the water out of the boat.” So, I stuck our GoPro overboard to look at the raw water intake for the engine underneath the boat. I saw a clump of sargassum that could be causing the decreased flow. The sun was now below the horizon, and it was getting dark fast. I had to break the “keep the people in the boat” part of the rule. I grabbed my fins and dove down to clear the clog. Being underwater when the boat is bouncing so much is nerve-racking; you want to be careful not to hit your head and risk losing consciousness, but you want to get the job done as quickly as you can… Plus, there’s something psychologically troubling about swimming alone in such deep water… I stayed under just long enough to be confident I had cleared as much as possible, then quickly climbed back aboard.

Ray started the engine, and we both examined the flow. It had noticeably improved but was maybe still a smidge lower than it should be… We reversed hard to try and “blow” any remaining sargassum out, which seemed to solve the problem. I was covered in salt water and Ray in sweat, but we high-fived and returned to our posts:  Ray to the helm and I to our sink dinner. 😂 

As I was finishing up in the galley, I heard the bilge alarm go off. Sure enough, our port bilge was completely full of salt water. I guess we’d broken the “keep the water out of the boat” part of the rule, too. Ray came down to investigate, and I once again took the helm. We are still unsure how this happened, but one of the hatches on the side of the boat had been open while we were underway. 

A wave slapped the hull, flooding the forward cabin with salt water that seeped through the compartment cracks, ultimately collecting in the bilge. If you watched our boat tour, you know we use that cabin to store tools and spare parts. So, to open that hatch, you’d have to climb over towers of plastic containers and tool bags; neither of us can remember the last time we opened it! I guess there is a slight possibility that we were bouncing around just right, and whatever we had stored up against the hatch moved enough to unlatch it, but who knows. 

We closed the hatch and monitored the bilge pump for a bit. It was pitch black, with no moon in sight. The sea state had gotten worse, and we were getting beat up. We were tired. All the tools and expensive spare parts in that room were soaking in salt water. Dinner was still in the sink.

We motored for another 6hrs, annoyed, salty, and sweaty. In reality, it’s not a big deal. A lot of our things in that room were protected in plastic containers, and I’m sure this happens to a lot of people… it just doesn’t happen to us! We have a tried and true pre-departure process to avoid mistakes like this! We were frustrated. 

We arrived in Saint Martin a few hours before sunrise. We’d been here before, so we followed our old tracks into the anchorage. We moved some things around to get a better feel for the mess we were dealing with from the open hatch and decided to wait until daylight to address it. We slept for a few hours, then jumped into action. Ray emptied the forward cabin, started the watermaker, and washed the outside of the boat while I wiped down every nook and cranny of the room with soapy water three times and did the same with the freezer and every bin/bag we stored down there. Ray washed out the compartments and the bilge, sprayed his tools with WD40, and loaded the room back up. Every time we passed each other while doing our part, we’d crack a joke about how relaxing and easy boat life is.😂 I deep-cleaned the rest of the interior since we’d tracked salt water everywhere during the cleaning process, and I’m happy to report that Sabado is now salt-free. It took us two days, though, so today will be our first actual day in Saint Martin. 😉

Overall, it hasn’t been our best week, but it definitely wasn’t our worst!😂 Boat life is full of highs and lows; the only constant is who you choose to do it with. Our compatibility always shines in situations like this, and I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else. 😘

I hope you had a great week! ❤️

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