As I sit inside minding my own space I am brought to remember yet another sailing trip with my buddy Shack who is the captain of several deliveries I have participated as crew. This one I am referring to took place leaving Annapolis, MD and headed down the Intercostal Waterway (ICW) enroute to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The crew consisted of myself, another boat captain and his girlfriend who also had a great deal of boating experience.
It was late one night, we had gotten through the first few days and the majority of the ICW and we headed out into the Atlantic to increase our pace south. I was at the helm and it was a dark, fairly calm night. I, again, had gotten my groove and was enjoying the time on deck. The next shift was the captain’s turn. I let him know that I was comfortable and willing to take his shift so he could get some more hours of sleep. But before I signed on for another few hours at the helm I just first needed to use the head or bathroom. The boat was a 50 foot mono-hull with a four stateroom floor-plan, two fore and two aft. Shack was in the port aft, I in the port bow and the other couple in the starboard aft cabin. This allowed for us each to have our own space. So off to my cabin I went for a quick pee release when I noticed upon entering that the floorboards were FLOATING!
I called for Shack and let him know that we were somehow taking on water in the head of my cabin. He, of course immediately woke the others and all proceeded in an emergency reaction. First, I was to take the helm and maintain the course direction, which was towards Charleston, SC or shore as fast as we could. I was to also utilize the hand bail out pump. This is essentially a metal pole which is placed in the hull of the boat and pumped up and down as fast as possible to exit the water from the bottom of the boat back out. As I was steering, in sheer panic I was also pumping this small device as fast as humanly possible when Shack came back up asking if I would like a little Metallica to be played so that I would pump even faster! Ha! Even a touch of humor at this stage in the game, how nice!
In the meantime, the rest of the crew were assessing the situation which to my surprise was growing dimmer as time went on. They had finally discovered the culprit of our demise. The brass thru hull fittings, where the water from the toilet gets pumped out, had broken and cracked between the valve and the hull under the waterline of the boat allowing water to enter. This was not good.
Let me remind you it is pitch black in the middle of the night and we are hours from shore. And the boat is essentially sinking. Quickly. The amount of water that had gathered below the floorboards was quite a lot and the bilge pump was not working fast enough. In the meantime, the others were madly designing a wooden plug that could potentially stop the water from entering the boat for the time being.
In addition, they pulled the life raft on deck and called the Coast Guard. The situation was quite dire.
A few hours and some gray hairs later we did end up making it into the docks in Charleston. We had maintained communication with the Coast Guard and since we were gaining headway towards land they were standing by. Somewhere around 3am we did make it as safely as could be expected with one more disaster, the shredding of the mainsail. This occurred somehow, probably from the madness of the situation and us doing our best to make it to land before going down! In the end there was significant water that we had taken on but we did save ourselves and the boat.
In fact quite a few weeks later when all was safe and sound my buddy Shack took me out on the town. We had a few drinks and when I was feeling quite loose he asked if I was willing to join him back in Charleston later the next month to take the boat the rest of the way to Ft. Lauderdale. I, of course without hesitation screamed NO WAY! He laughed, said he knew if I was a bit buzzed I would answer him honestly. They did end up taking that boat the rest of the way once the repairs were made. I was happy to not have joined for as Shack likes to say : “Casey-your tiny tanks saved our lives! Had you not had to pee we may have all gone down that dark night.”
All I can say is there are more dangers than I like to think when delivering a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Some end up being a good story, some make you wonder why the heck anyone would take on such adventures. But if you are one who enjoys the openness of the sea you know that no matter what dangers may be out there, it is all worth it in the end!
Casey Graves is a sailor, writer, enthusiast of the small things in life like sitting in nature. Living in Colorado for many years with moments of adventures at sea to keep me connected to my love of the water. Aiming to grow spiritually with meditation practice and reflection in my writing. Choose to live a healthy, active and positive mindset and pass that along to others each day.
Casey is also a contributing journalist for the Telluride Daily Planet and her articles can be seen here: https://muckrack.com/casey-graves-2/articles