The Catamaran Adventures of Noel and Ceu
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Boat Sinking! (well, sort of)

Current Location: Portsmouth, Dominica
Current Position: 15 34.79 N 061 27.87 W Click to view map.
Distance sailed since last post: 18 nautical miles. View the map of our voyage track here

Here we were, all set to sail to Gaudeloupe, and what do we find when we check the engines before we fire up! The port engine compartment FULL of water. I mean water up to sea level outside. The compartment is separate from the rest of the hull, so only that section was affected, the rest of the boat was dry.

Clearly there were two problems – water coming in from somewhere, and the bilge pump not working. Very odd. An additional problem was the lack of a high water-level alarm to tell us about this state of affairs before the water got this high.

So, lower the dinghy back into the water and head to the shore in Portsmouth (Dominica) to find a new bilge pump and a whole boat-load of wire to hook it all up.

Pretty quickly we had it all bailed out and we could assess the damage.

First, and oddest of all, was the site of the gearbox completely separated from the engine. And the source of the water – coming through the shaft seal where the propeller shaft goes through the hull into the water.

Then of course was the disintegrated battery terminals and starter solenoid, plus who knows what else?

Since there are no services in Dominica, we figured the best course of action was to sail to Antigua where we could find a decent mechanic and haulout if necessary. The new bilge pump was working great, we only had to run it for about 5 minutes every hour to keep up with the water coming in, so we were pretty sure we would make it there without any problems.

We left at about 7pm, sailed across to Gaudeloupe in a nice fresh breeze, then up the lee shore of Gaudeloupe in a flat calm, and then across the St.Martin in a nice breeze again – doing 7 – 8 knots even with our propeller hanging off the end! Of course while we motored up the side of Gaudeloupe we had only one engine, so were a bit slow. But at least that is one advantage of a Cat – two engines!

The night sail was very pleasant, with Ceu and I taking 4 hour watches.

When we arrived at St. Martin we called the marina in English Harbour and had them waiting for us, as docking is a bit tricky with only one engine. You might think it is just like a monohull, but with the one engine so far out from the centerline, it is impossible to reverse in a straight line. Forward is not too bad, as the prop wash over the rudder counteracts the turning moment of the single engine. But it meant we had to come alongside the dock, into a narrow space, with just forward movement. Rather like parallel parking in forward rather than reverse!

Still, with some helpful people ashore, we were soon snugged up.

Of course, being a Saturday, there wasn’t much chance of finding a mechanic. We did however put in a new float switch for the bilge pump, so that it would work automatically again, which meant that we could go to bed and not worry about it till Monday.

5 Responses to “Boat Sinking! (well, sort of)”

  • Wolf:

    Wow Ceu and Noel that is boating for you. Never a dull moment. You are right two engines can come in handy. We just came back from Mexico and now back to work.

  • Chris Green:

    Awesome stories Noel and Ceu!

    I find it amazing to read this stuff!

    Especially enjoying the local historic bits!

    Happy Sails!!

    • Noel:

      Hello Chris
      how are you guys doing? all settled in Calgary?
      How is Michelle doing? and the baby? How old is she now, close to 2…..
      Sorry we haven’t been in touch much. Always so much going on.
      Hope to hear from you soon and that all is well
      Take care
      Ceu and Noel

  • Heidi and Elmer:

    What a disasaster, but you seemed to have coped with it very calmly. Hope the repairs are not too costly.

  • Heidi and Elmer:

    With all the problems, both large and small, I think you should plan to sail to the Med via Newoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, U.K., Portugal. At least this way you will be in a well used shipping lane and also close to land most of the time. I do get worried about you being in the middle of the Atlantic with a problem that stops you. You might also have some interesting placed to visit.
    Your adventures are very enticing.
    Love, Dad

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