April 20, 2017
Departure from the Harbor Club was scheduled for right after 0800. We needed to pay out at the office when it opened. Winds were still running out of the east at 18-22kts, but we all made the decision to go anyway. Both Renne’ and I had a few misgivings, but we were going to go with the group to Norman Cay. The winds were supposed to change by the 22nd, and we all wanted to be in the Exuma Land and Sea Park to be on the mooring balls as the wind changed.
Carpe Diem left the slip first to head for the fuel docks. Then Flynnigan’s Wake, then Miss Piggy. Scimitar and JonNe’ didn’t need fuel, so we were going to wait just outside the harbor for the others. As usual, Renne’ was at the helm. As she was backing us out, somehow the port jib sheet (line) dropped off of the boat, probably when we rubbed up against the piling in the slip. We just didn’t notice it. As she backed out of the slip, the bow began to fall off, and had we continued backing up, we would probably have had NO issues. However, as the bow began to fall off, Renne’ shifted to forward, as we would normally do, to stay out of shallower water. We just couldn’t get the boat around sharply enough and ended up against the pilings, perpendicular to the slips with the winds blowing 20kts from our beam, pinning us. In an effort to get us off, the dinghy, up on the davits, came in contact with a piling, just as the jib sheet was pulled into the prop. At that point, Renne’ had NO thrust, and the engine shut down. We had some dock hands who came over to assist, and a dock line was handed to them.
I went below and pulled my mask and fins out of the closet. Before entering the water, I had to cut the rigidly taught jib sheet to allow me to untangle the anticipated mess in the prop. This is the first time in 20 years of sailing I have had to do this, and I was NOT looking forward to it. I donned the dive gear and jumped in the water with my pocket-knife. Once in the water, I realized how little underwater practice I have had holding my breath. It actually took four attempts to get the line off the prop, and fortunately, the shaft and prop were not damaged.
With that out of the way, I took the helm, and with the assistance of the dock hands, we were able to get the boat bow back in the slip and we were able to back into the anchoring field behind us. We departed Nassau with our tails between our legs, headed for Norman Cay.
An hour after departing the harbor, and negotiating the mine field of coral heads marked on the charts, the engine quit. We were surprised, as we only had a few hours on the new filter. I quickly dropped below, picked up some tools and a new filter, and removed the lid to the filter housing. I quickly noticed that was NOT the issue. I have been using a squeeze-bulb in the fuel line to manually refill the filter housing after changing the filter itself. It was sucked down completely, indicating a clog in the line somewhere. I replaced the lid to the filter housing and moved to the selector valves. When I closed the starboard tank feed valve and opened the center tank valve, the pressure was released and the engine started immediately. So now, we were down to only one of three fuel tanks, and headed to the Exuma’s with no chance of repairing any of the valves or really discovering what the issues were. I thought about the issue for an hour, and just before entering the Yellow Bank (another coral head mine field), I broached the subject to Renne’ of returning to Nassau to figure this out! I didn’t like the odds of having a fuel issue with no options of changing to another tank once we were in the outback of the Exuma’s. So we announced to the Armada we were turning back, and came about. Immediately, winds and seas settled down for us as we were now going with the wind mostly.
Without warning, shortly after the decision to return was made, an alarm went off. We both raced to find the source, and I noticed the bilge alarm going off. This only occurs when the bilge pump is on for longer than 90 seconds, and is designed to inform the crew of a serious source of water flooding the bilge. I quickly looked into the engine room at the bilge, and noticed at least 18 inches of water in the bilge. I also noticed water flooding in from under the floor of the master stateroom. I quickly got under the mattress of our bed, and opened the top board allowing me to inspect the storage area below there. When I found the water flowing, I tasted it and found it to be fresh water rather than seawater. I quickly realized there was a leak somewhere in the fresh water system, and the pressure pump was running. I went to the circuit panel and secured the fresh water pump, and the bilge emptied and the alarm ceased.
With that “emergency” averted, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at that point. Renne’ and I spoke at length about what we want to do from here, and frankly, having lived aboard JonNe’ now for almost 10 years, we have come to the conclusion this will probably be our last cruise on this boat. We returned to Nassau Harbor Club Marina without further issue. Immediately upon securing the boat in the same slip, I went looking for the issue in the fresh water. The rest could wait until tomorrow. Going back under the bed, I found the accumulator tank that pressurizes the fresh water system had rusted through and now had two holes in it. It was going to have to be replaced or we weren’t going to have ANY fresh water. I pulled one of the bikes stored on the deck off and went in search of a new accumulator tank. I found one at the second store I stopped at, fortunately! I bought it for $335 (wow!) and returned to the boat. With the help of Renne’, we were able to get it replaced in about 15 minutes, and we had fresh water available once again.
In all, the fuel tank wasn’t the stopper. We could have continued, but for safety’s sake, and as a retired Naval Aviator, safety always comes first, we made the decision to abort the day’s trip. The water was actually the stopper. So we will focus on the other issues over the next few days, and hope we are ready to head out soon.
In the meantime, I am having ANOTHER Dark and Stormy. My psychy really needs the support!!