15.39.39N 88.59.75' W
The engine has failed, we have no wind
and can barely steer a course as travelling at less than 1knot. We
have over 200 miles to go and as things stand we will miss
Even worse we have an atoll with coral
up with stronger currents around them, which we are worried we
be able to steer a course to miss.
Our satellite phone has stopped
charging, so we feel we have to save this for emergencies. All our
weather forecasts were for stronger winds, but we don't want to
the phone battery checking the weather updates. So, desperate
Yet again, the engine starting, going and then giving up.
This time, with everything we have sailwise, we went backwards in
current towards uncharted coastline.
The satellite phone mysteriously
started charging again, hurray – now we have a weather forecast
we have to limp along on the engine for 12 hours, just as we are
approaching another strong current area.
Whilst sailing we hit an
eddy and sailed most of a circle – this journey is definitely a
stressful. Our contingency planning has gone into overload, we may
a bit doomed. No wind, the engine went for ½ hour, then for 2
and finally some wind so that we can sail slowly. Our problem now
we are arriving at the atoll with very strong lee currents, with a
lee wind and possibly no engine. We have finally arrived at the
potentially worst current area, at night and no idea as to whether
not the engine will work for any length of time.
approaches we lose the wind and ability to steer, so we are now
heading towards the atoll at 0.5 knots. Thankfully when the engine
did work earlier we had headed straight off shore to give
as much leeway as possible.
Unbelievably the engine starts and
runs at low revs (So we are very slow) for most of the length of
atoll. Just as we reach a point we can safely sail at, the engine
starts to fail again and we have to switch it off.
The winds build
and build to 24 knots, we have to keep reefing, we now have
waves throwing the boat around. From the ridiculous to the
Anyway, with crashing waves, lightning all around we sail
fast through the rest of the night.
Now we have the situation
where we can only arrive at Livingston at the wrong time of day
so we actually have to reduce sailing speed. We are going to go
slowly through the night to to arrive on a rising tide. This area
known for pirates, the moonrise is late on and the lightning
overhead. The wind is creepy as it makes ghostly sounds in the
rigging and sails. Onwards we sail at 2-3 knots, perfect timing
the rising tide and daylight.
Finally, all wind disappears and we
motor slowly across the 0.8 mile sandbank. Fishing boats, nets and
buoys abound, we go over depths of 50m, 20m, 5m and 3 times, 0m,
feel a couple of little bumps as fast local motor boats create
wash to reduce the depth.
By 0800 we are anchored awaiting customs
before continuing our 20 mile journey to the marina for our off
season. There is no wind, no accurate charts and we can only
at idle speed so it is going to be a long day. The tender is to be
towed behind us as a spare tow boat just in case the engine does
last. Idle speed should extend the time it works. The depths are
and down all the way and then we spot withees. Caroline is yelling
Murray, Murray 'withies, bloody withies' again we have hit 0
but not touched bottom. A good look round and we can see that a
has dumped a load of silt creating a bank of mud and sand where
had not existed, a boat had taken out the first withe so confusing
the course. By the skin of our teeth we avoided going aground as
slowly motored into deeper water. Another yacht later in the day
to be towed off by a helpful passing local boat.
No wonder we find diving so relaxing,
sailing is not for the faint hearted.
This journey broke one of
our golden rules, never to sail to a time deadline, but we made it
past the second longest barrier reef in the world with 100s of
of poorly charted water, with strong currents, rip tides and
potential for tropical storms and waterspouts.
( A withe is a strong small branch
is stuck in water to mark a course and can be very hard to spot)