17 March 1984
Happy St. Patty
Full Moon, Warm 84
2030 (8:30 PM)
Los Lobos anchorage. 15 miles north of La Paz harbor
Mi Amigos y Amigas,
I ask your forgiveness for quality of the typing tonight as each key that I strike must be pushed down into its home position. The reason that the typewriter is screwed up is that it sank (like in underwater). Now by rights, it shouldnít have sank because it was stored in the third drawer up on the starboard locker. Thatís about three feet above the bilge. Now this typewriter is not an individualist because, when it decided to go for a swim, it took everything that was stored on the starboard side with it! Including, of course, the entire starboard half of O. D. J. . ! Cameras, radios, clothes, binoculars . . . in fact, about half of everything on board was underwater. Iím still assessing the damage, drying out, and repairing some three days after it all happened. As with most things in this life, what happened had both good luck and bad luck, heroes and villains, comedy and tragedy. But you will see what I mean when I tell you the tale.
Before I begin, let me say that I started this trip hoping that I would have no "adventures. " I really didnít want anything to write home about . . . no storms, easy passages; you know, just a ho-hum sort of kick-back life. Well, I got my first "adventure".
Departure for Tahiti is only six weeks away; and I knew that before leaving, I would have to haul and paint the bottom (itís been a year). The boat yard quoted $160, which isnít too bad. However, as many of you know, Iím a little (?) tight and decided to do it myself and save the cash. The way to do it yourself is to find a quiet anchorage, run the boat ashore at high tide. The boat will roll over on itís side as the tide falls; you then have a few hours to paint before the returning tide refloats the boat. Mary and I did this years ago in San Diego, and it works like a charm. The highest tides each month are during the full and new moons. This month, the best and only tides occurred between the 13th and 17th. So on the 13th, I sail out of La Paz to Lobos anchorage, about 16 miles away. On the morning of the 14th, I inch O. D. J. onto a sand bar; and with the falling tide, O. D. J. rolls over like at tired puppy. The painting goes beautifully with two coats on by noon. While Iím painting, a boat sails into the anchorage. Itís the Charis, skippered by John but commanded by his mate Eddie. These two wonderful people were to play a major part in what follows. Since the painting was finished, we three went for a walk across the tide flats. We got back about the time that O. D. J. should be lifting off the bottom with the flooding tide. While standing there admiring the lovely paint job, we heard the automatic bilge pump turn on. Now the float switch for the pump is mounted on the port side of the bilge and there is no wayóI mean NO wayóthat the pump should turn on at this time . . . unless, and I couldnít even think of it . . . the boat was full of water!
I climbed on board (with the boat heeled over at 45 degrees, you literally climb), and sure enough the whole starboard half of the boat was full of water. The water level inside O. D. J. was the same level as outside. Somehow water was getting into the boat; and, if I couldnít find and repair the leak in the next three hours, the rising tide would complete fill the boat. Now, by definition, a boat sitting on the bottom covered with water is SUNK; and that, my friends, is a bad way to end a day!
Now begins a hectic period that may, or many not, be exactly in sequence. I would like to go over the details with John; but after our "adventure," he returned to La Paz to have the boatyard haul him instead! The first thing was to get the water out as fast as possible. John and I formed a bucket brigade with me inside and John in the companionway. I estimate that we bailed 50 five-gallon buckets before we saw the level drop. Meanwhile, Eddie was a self-appointed Red Cross lady. She returned to their boat for "first aid" supplies. She was the most beautiful sight with her first aid kit of ice, rum tequila, limes, etc. After a short drink break, we returned to bailing. In the short time that we had quit, the water had risen to the same level as when we had started. If water continued to enter at that rate, we would physically collapse before we won. After another frantic burst of bailing, I checked for water flow within the boat and found that the water was flowing in from the aft. John and I removed a dozen or so cases of cans to get down to bare hull. Eddie stacked the water-filled cases on the dinghy.
Once down to bare hull, it was easy to find the leak. In fact, you could look right through the hull to the sun-lit sands on the bottom! The leak was a long, thin crack in one of the one-inch-square strips that the boat is built with. The crack was about an eighth of an inch wide by three feet or so long. This amounts to about three square inches; and with a three-foot pressure head, itís a wonder that John and I could even gain on it. Once found, we repaired the crack by tapping string into it. This reduced the water flow so that on the next burst of bailing, we saw actual improvement. A drink break was called when Eddie announced that O. D. J. for the first time was actually lifting with the tide. Hurrah! We were no longer sinking. Continued bailing reduced the level to a point where only one person could bail, so John and Eddie returned to their boat to start the barbecue and fetch some epoxy repair putty.
By now (7 PM), the boat is almost upright, and the remaining water gets a chance to soak the spare blankets and clothes on the port side! About 9 PM the inside of the boat is dry and I have it leaning in the opposite direction so that we can put on the epoxy putty from the outside. About 10 we eat the best steak dinner in the world washed down with my final box of California wine. I had to spend the night on their boat as everything (sleeping bags, blankets, pads, etc. ) is soaked. In fact, as it turned out, the only thing that didnít get soaked was a small bag of dirty laundry!
The next morning I rowed everything ashore and set up camp on the rocks. I also set the boat down on the other side to complete the paint job. Of course, this time I checked for water every few minutes, but not a drop got in. These last few days have been spent drying this out, repacking cans, shifting stores, and trying to repair all the electronics (even my meters go soaked and wonít work right).
All of the "damage control stations" have reported in and we have weathered the adventure. Let me share with you the aftermath. Mentally, Iím OK. Nothing has changed. Iím going to keep to my schedule and plans. This is just one of those things that happen in life. In fact, if you didnít get a lousy meal once in a while, you really wouldnít appreciate a good one when you got it.
Physically Iím still a little sore. I figured that John and I each lifted about 400 buckets with about four gallons each; 1600 gallons at eight pounds a gallon is one hell of a lot over a few hours time span. The commissary section of O. D. J. reports that all is now well with cases repacked and re-stowed; only lost six pounds dry beans and ten pounds granola. The electronic department reports disaster with only 40% capability: both receivers (transoceanic and communications) out of order. However, the VHF and Ham transceivers seem to be fixed. The computers (Vic 20 and Atari) are still questionable and must await La Paz and 110. On the plus side, the cassette player and cassettes are A-OK. The navigation department report is a mixed bag. All charts dried and re-stowed. Over half of the books have been dried, but some in bad shape. One camera (35 mm) to be deep-sixed along with one pair of binoculars; however, we still have one camera and one pair of binoculars left. The one real disaster is the loss of the log books. Ink ran and the pages stick together. So we just start a new log book but lose much history. The library section reports the loss of all paperback books, about 50. The officer in charge of clothing reports all now dry but in need of a freshwater rinse. End of report. The captain thanks the crew.