December 22, 2014 Hitting the Wall

The last time this happened to me was when I arrived in Portugal after soloing across the Atlantic Ocean. I had left the Azores on my way to Ireland. The entire trip the winds had been adverse so eventually I abandoned trying to get to Ireland and headed for Portugal. When I was a few miles offshore the engine quit. I entered Cascasi harbor in 35 knot winds and dropped anchor. After things calmed down I changed the fuel filters and made it into the marina. It had been 44 days since I had left the United States. I was ready to sell the boat and fly home. After a couple of days ashore I calmed down and went back to cruising. That was two years ago.

After several days of bobbing around trying to get south of Rum Cay I finally decided to turn on the engine. Within seconds after engine start the exhaust filled with heavy white smoke and there was no power. I spent the next couple of hours changing the fuel filters, always a joy at sea. Not being sure that the engine was OK I altered course and passed west of Rum Cay (and east of Long Island.) At that point the wind picked up dramatically from the Southeast - exactly the direction I was trying to go. I started doing short tacks with a double reefed main and a small section of the jib. I was clearly overpowered but in a bind. If I dropped the main I would not be able to point high enough. The batteries were dropping quickly as the electric autopilot tried to maintain course with the wheel over almost at lock. I tried shifting to the vane but could not get it working. Not being sure of the engine (to produce power I decided it was time to drop the jib and head downwind. This of course mean I was giving up all of the distance I had struggled to make over the last two days.

Everything calmed down - not a lot but enough that I knew that Reboot was back under control. Dawn came a couple of hours later. I discovered that the reason I could not get the vane to work is that I had failed to put the in-water vane down. I realized I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. Checking the weather forecast I discovered that I would be heading directly into strong winds for the next couple of days. I decided that I did not want to spend Christmas fighting the ocean. In fact, I was not sure that I wanted to continue on to Jamaica at all. I had once again “hit the wall.”

I headed up to Nassau, Bahamas and after another couple of days made it into port. For the first several hours my legs were tingling - I don’t know if it was because of the reduction in stress or just having been afloat for so long. I decided that in my emotional state the smartest thing would be to stay in Nassau until I got a good weather window and then head back to the United States to regroup. So that is the plan.

Fair winds and following seas J


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