Broke Down (and Out)

Ok, first of all – we are safe, as of writing this post, and the boat is too.  But it was a challenging few days after our first engine failure of the trip, which happened this week (on Valentine’s day, but who’s counting?).

We were en route to black point from Georgetown in the Exumas to meet Caitie’s parents for a week visit when we heard a squeal and a hint of burning coming from our Diesel engine.  We cut it quickly (thankfully) and after a quick series of deductions and tests discovered that our fresh water circulating pump (that which circulates the coolant) had seized and was not allowing our alternator vee belt to cycle around.   Despite spending a lot of time and money organizing spares for this trip, this, of course, was not one of them, so there was no easy way to fix it on the spot.  We were headed almost directly upwind and there was no way we could sail to black point before dark, especially since this involved getting through one of the high current cuts from the Exuma sound (aka ocean) side of the islands to the bank (aka shallow) side.

Since there is no real coast guard or towing service here, we issued a pan pan and luckily had two high powered dinghies come assist to pilot us in through a cut and onto anchor.  This went smoothly enough, except for the fact that we were now anchored at an uninhabited island, 30 miles from civilization and our newly arrived guests.  To add insult to injury, our cell phone cards had unexpectedly expired and we had no email or phone communications.  DRAMA!

After taking our dinghy to a few nearby sailboats we managed to get an email out to Caitie’s parents as well as a weather check to decide what our plan would be.  After much deliberation, we decided to continue up to black point and try to fix the engine on anchor there (with the assistance of a newly flown in part from Florida), with the hopes of still salvaging some of the visit.  A very kind Bristol 47 sailboat towed us out of the cut the next morning at slack tide, which was still very scary as the wind created a “rage” condition of steep, short waves that jerked us around.   We managed to sail the 30 miles up the Exuma sound in high swell but safe conditions and had an adrenaline filled downwind run through Dotham cut (hitting over 8 knots), passing by the steep rock walls closely but safely.  We anchored under sail and even managed to get in to have a celebration drink with Caitie’s parents at their rental cottage.

We’ve ordered our replacement parts and have had to sail off and onto anchor again, to move to a slightly safer location for a heavy northerly front coming in tonight.  We have been channeling the spirit of Lin and Larry Pardey (wherever they are), as their books of sailing around the world in small boats without engines have been sources of inspiration and awe on our trip so far.

Although this has been really challenging, emotionally and logistically, to deal with this situation, it has been a learning experience and will hopefully make a good story… Once it’s all sorted out :)

PS – Thank you so so much to our boat friends (and family) for reaching out to offer assistance, encouragement and kind words these past few days.  We are beyond grateful and only hope we can pay it forward.

M & C