1999 New Zealand - published newpaper story PDF Print E-mail
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1999 New Zealand - published newpaper story
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The bilge pump must still be working as I had just heard Charley check under the floor a while ago. If the weather calms down during the day we still might have a chance of getting to the coast. The wind seems to have picked up again. Even without any sails up the boat is laying over at about 45 %. It must be howling outside, but through the hull only sounds like a whisper.

Each wave that hits the hull seems to be intended directly for the skeg. Maybe I am just being paranoid about it. Its not reasonable to assign personal feelings to a storm, but it does feel like it is taking a personal interest in us. At least with the boat heeled over it is nice and secure lying on the lounge. Looking up again and the hatch is a lot more defined against the darkness of the cabin. The morning has arrived for real this time.

A bit longer and I will get up and check out the sea. I am also keen to check out for ships. We have been all night and not keeping watch. I would hate to have kept the boat afloat all night only to be run over by a ship now. We are all up and getting around. We check under the floor and to our shock the water is almost up to the floor. The bilge pump is pumping away continuously, but not achieving anything. It has finally packed it up for good.

We are back to bailing and put in a big effort to clear away what has accumulated. We watch it for a while and it seems that it needs bailing much more often. Charley and I climb into the cockpit and check out the seas. They seem to have built up over night, but the wind is no worse. The rope securing the wheel has become loose and needs lashing up again. Charley scrapes together two cans of soup and warms them up. We top this off with some spaghetti.

The food in the freezer will be starting to defrost and will need to be eaten, refrozen or thrown out. What a waste, all the lovely meatloaf that Ivan's wife, Sybille, had cooked. We will deal with it all later. The water need bucketing out again. It doesn't seems very long since the last time. We check the skeg and there are little fountains each time the plates twist. The water seems to be increasing dramatically. Still bailing. We have the bright idea of using the fresh water pressure pump to help clear the bilge but dismounting from the engine room, rewiring and replumbing seems daunting.

I finally realize that all we need do is cut the hose from the fresh tank and drop it down in the bilge water. Then we just turn the sink tap on and the water goes down the drain. Its helping, but not going to last the five or six days to Auckland. Ivan is looking worried. He askes me what I think we should do. This is one time that I am glad to be just a crew member. I know what I think, but don't want to influence his decision.

He brings up the subject of calling for help. The Epirb is the only real option if we need help and once that is put in motion there is no going back. We need to be really sure that there are no other options. We bail some more to help out the pressure pump and spend some more time looking at the cracks in the hull. The problem would be so trivial if we had a welder and power. Its not so much what the problem is, as where it is.

There is no way to fix it where we are. Our best chance would be if the wind would die down and the seas calm down to a flat sea. We could idle the engine and get maybe a bit closer to the coast, but it is still such a long way and we don't really have enough fuel to get all the way. The wind is still blowing wildly and even seems to have picked up again. It is mid morning and we have a long day ahead of us and an even longer night.

I worry that it will not last the next 24 hours, and even if it does. We have a conference. Ivan suggests setting off the Epirb. You can see that the decision is tearing him up. This is the final step. He knows that if we do this, then the boat is lost, it would have to be abandoned. The rescue organization is not interested in coming out this far to save the boat, only the people. It would mean taking our situation out of our hands and putting it completely in somebody else's. We put the idea aside for a while and I get us some food. Canned ham on Ryvita.

We bail some more water to help out the pressure pump, as it is not keeping up. We all inspect the rudder again. Ivan brings up the idea of setting off the Epirp again. The thought of the boat weighs heavily on all our minds, but he has the crew to think of as well.

I feel I should show more bravado and try to talk him into sticking with the boat, but I am reluctant to. Maybe, if I was ten years younger and wasn't so conscious of my boys at home ! We discuss the fact that we are better to do it early, rather than wait until later. We do not want to be getting rescued in the dark, nor do we want to let the problem escalate and be forced into the raft later in the day, or at all for that matter.

Finally one of us, not sure who, say the key words, "life before property". That decides it. We get the Epirb and look at the button long and hard, then finally press it. The light comes on and we tie it up in the cockpit near the wheel. There is no going back now.


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