27 November 2015 | Marsh Harbor Boat Yard, Abacos, Bahamas
(continued from previous post)
“Pan Pan, this is the sailing vessel Uproar calling Pan Pan.”
“This is Abaco Rescue, please continue on channel 14.”
Pan pan (pronounced “pon pon”) is the call for a vessel in distress. Mayday signifies a life threatening situation. We had already put on life jackets. We were anchored in 14 feet of water and were about 200 yards from a tiny island. We were going to make it but Uproar was taking on water. Prior to the call, Rick and Lisa were bailing with buckets. I rigged a spare bilge pump wired directly to the battery switch and with the hose running into the cockpit.
Abaco rescue wanted to know our location, I gave them lat/lon but they asked, “Just where are you?” I answered that we were just west of Spoil Key. They were concerned that that wasn't a protected anchorage. No kidding! It was the best we could do and we weren't concerned about that part of our predicament.
They quickly contacted Dive Guana and Troy said he would come out with pumps to help. Within 45 minutes, Troy, Colin and two others arrived with pumps similar to the one I had rigged. We added them to the bilge and the water was going down. By then we could see the water coming from underneath the fuel tank, the location of the prop shaft strut. It became clear that the impact of the line on the prop had cracked the strut at the hull and caused the leak. There was no way to access that area with the tank still in place. Troy dove and confirmed that was the damaged area. He cut away most of the line.
Troy asked for 5200 and a plastic bag. Lisa found a tube of 5200 and gave Troy a trash bag. Troy asked Colin to dive with him and hold the light. Colin used my mask and the two of them shared Troy's tank. After about 10 minutes under Uproar, they emerged, covered in 5200. This was a difficult dive with the boat bouncing in the waves and the dark.
We could see that the flow of water under the tank had slowed to a trickle. Troy's fix worked. He even tied the bag around the strut. He was concerned that when we were towed that the bag might get torn loose. Troy called Truman from Lucky Strike, a seasoned tow operator in the Abacos. Truman did not want to tow us in the dark and without high tide. That 8' draft garnered the same response it always does.
We assured Troy we would be fine for the night and would wait for the morning to be towed to safety. Troy assured us he would sleep with a radio on 16 next to his bed and come out again if we need help. He could not have been more concerned and helpful. We slept reasonably well with the alarm going off to inspect the bilges. The leak was quite small so we decided no more bilge watches were necessary.
Morning broke with a sunny day and we were happy we were still floating and in the Bahamas. I remembered Pantaenius Insurance suggested we call if in need of assistance, they would help. I called and they got right on it. They called me back and said our draft would be a major problem. They suggested Uproar may have to be towed to Florida! They said there was a slim chance we could make it into Marsh Harbor Boat Yard but that was not certain.
This was the most deviating part of our ordeal. Here we had just arrived and it looked like our voyage may be over. It was worse than anything we had experienced over the past 3 days. Words can not express how we felt after the years of work and prep to go cruising.
Troy was in contact with us and Lucky Strike much of the morning. We were able to sit back and enjoy the Bahamas, in spite of our predicament. Truman contacted us and said he would tow us to Marsh Harbor Boat Yard at 11:00. High tide was at 13:30 so he wanted to get us going then. We were quite surprised when a beautiful sport fisherman approached. We thought they were just going to ask what we were doing there. Truman was shocked that we were just hanging out on the cockpit and not waving our arms frantically. He later said he wished he got a picture of us just sitting there.
Truman and his mate, Will hooked us up and towed us up to our anchor. We easily got it aboard and he started towing us. It took two hours to get to the entrance to MH Boat Yard. I steered the entire way to stay right behind them. It was so easy to steer with no weather helm or other forces. It was a pleasant ride. They side tied Uproar for the entrance to the boat yard. He said it was very narrow and he needed to put us right in the middle. Truman told us to brace ourselves in case we ran aground. We didn't even touch.
The crew at MHBY had a large catamaran in the travel lift. They launched it in a hurry to get us in the slings. The office called customs and immigration and asked them to clear us at the boat yard. The customs officer came first. He said they are glad to provide this service for vessels in distress. Finally, Uproar took flight in the slings. The staff was concerned about, you guessed it, our 8 foot keel. They were barely able to lift us high enough for the keel to clear their well. They put Uproar on jack stands but wondered if such a high boat would stay. I assured them it looked fine. Then they found a “very high ladder” so we could climb aboard.
There was still a strand of rope tight between the prop and strut. There were wear marks where the rig had rode on our keel for some time before it became lodged in the prop. But at least we were safely on the hard. Repairs could begin.
Loretta at the boat yard arranged a condo for us in Marsh Harbor. We secured the boat, packed some belongings and were headed for the condo by Thur afternoon. Showers never felt so good!
Friday morning, Bill La Pree, surveyor hired by Pantaenius, arrived at 8:30. He surveyed the damage and was most helpful. We worked all day and he returned in the afternoon to see what we had uncovered. There was a lot of water damage in addition to the damage caused to the prop strut. The shaft appeared bent too but the prop seemed OK.
We all worked hard Friday and Saturday cleaning and drying out Uproar. By Saturday afternoon, all of the cushions were at the condo and the bilges were cleaned with fresh water and everything was dry. It was a lot of work and Rick was in the thick of it. Once again, I don't know what I would have done without him.
John and Lori from Sargo visited us in the boatyard on Saturday. They joined us for dinner that night. John had some good ideas about fixing the damage and fixing the anchor locker problem once and for all. He was a great help on Monday.
Rick was flying home on Monday so we took Sunday off. We drove the rental van to Pete's Pub in Little Harbor. This is a picturesque spot that has a bronze foundry that makes beautiful artistic castings. We had a relaxing Bahamian beach day there.
Rick left a big hole in Team Uproar. He was a lot of fun in Norfolk and the ICW trip. He was invaluable in our passage and the clean-up when we finally got Uproar on the hard. The morning Rick left, he played my guitar and sang a song he composed for Sophie. I hope all can hear this on Youtube soon. Thanks a lot Rick, you are welcome back any time.
Tonight we celebrated Thanksgiving at “The Lodge.” This is what we call our condo in Marsh Harbor. It is not home, Uproar is home. But the Lodge is comfortable and allowed us to cook a full Thanksgiving dinner with John and Lori from Sargo and Nancy from another boat in the anchorage. Can't remember her boat name.
We truly have a lot to be thankful for. We will work hard getting Uproar wet again and in better shape than ever.