For every good story there is a bad. For every amazing day, there follows an equally frustrating day. One night is a fresh fish dinner, and the next is a cold can of tuna. That’s just how it works. After a week of bliss, both of our psychic senses kicked in. Things were all too perfect and it was time for something to go wrong.
It requires an overnight passage to get 75-ish miles from Cat Cay to Chub Cay, which was our next destination. Since we have now done several overnight crossings, we left Cat Cay at 4pm with confidence, planning to arrive at Chub by 9am the next morning. The majority of the crossing is known as “The Banks” which is an enormous flat providing no more than 10 feet of water beneath you. Shallow water has its perks, enabling us to anchor anywhere we wanted at 3 in the morning to get an hour of rest. Shallow water is also terrifying. In the pitch black of night with no moon, all you can do is hope that there is nothing that lays in your path to put a hole in your boat.
By 8am we had crossed “the banks” and entered “the tongue of the ocean”. This is where the water drops from 10 ft, to 6000ft. The sunrise was stunning. The insanely deep blue water rather intimidating. We were successfully motor sailing until suddenly our motor became useless. While in forward, at a certain rpm, Louise was no longer being propelled forward at her normal rate of speed. Two knots? Maybe. Anything faster than that was a no-go. Hmmm….
Light wind. Little current. At this point we’re not sailing anymore because we are trying to figure out engine issues. Louise refuses to push more than a knot and a half. Give Louise throttle, and she revs up leaving us motionless. Okay girls, think. Think, think, think. Yes, we have sails, and yes we can use them. Not confident enough to enter an unknown channel, and anchor under sail. Must. Solve. Engine. Problem. We should probably contact the coast guard, right? Hah.
Together we went through the checklist of what we knew how to check ourselves. At that point it didn’t matter if what we were checking had any correlation with the problem, we just did what we could. I tied a bowline around my waist, got in the water to check the prop after shutting off the engine. Nothing was tangled in it. Turned the engine on, cautiously decided to get back in water and check prop again. The propeller and shaft spins in forward, spins in reverse, speeding up and slowing down depending on position of throttle as necessary.
Moving on. Checked reverse which seemed to work just fine. Checked the shift cable. Checked the throttle cable. Checked the oil, transmission fluid, impeller, strainer, leaky freeze plug, while eyeballing every inch for a possible answer. Great. This is the moment, where Katie and Jessie had to become real sailors. I don’t know about you, but to us, this was somewhat terrifying. We had 8 miles to go, and very little wind coming out of the wrong direction. Could be worse, could have been blowing 30 knots and we really would have been screwed. Everything will be okay.
Four hours of tacking and bobbing around at 2 knots we got close to the channel entering Chub Cay. This entire time there were sport fishing boats surrounding us in all directions. Perfect, we can get one of them to tow us into the marina or something. Over the VHF I hailed all boats nearby Chub Cay channel again and again. Not one human responded. This was frustrating. What if it were a real emergency, and not a soul listening. Bummer.
We were on our own. For story telling purposes I wish I could say that getting to the anchorage and dropping trow under sail was a complete disaster. But we actually did just fine. I think I scared Katie after not smiling or talking for hours. I was frustrated. The frustration came from exhaustion, the fact that this happened at the tail end of an overnight crossing. Lack of sleep, lack of wind, lack of any boat responding to our call, lack of mechanic knowlege, and lack of land for Reggie to go pee. I finally cracked a smile after we successfully got to a safe place. Smiles turned into laughter after later learning we were going to have to replace our transmission. Awesome.
Most of you reading might be laughing as well, because this is what sailing is all about. Duh. You sail every moment you can. Your engine is there to assist you in docking, anchoring, and in currents. For Katie and me, this concept is backwards. Our comfort is motoring or motor-sailing. The sails are just there in case the wind is perfect. We grew to have so much faith in our engine, and little confidence in our sailing abilities. There is a first time for everything my friends. This was our first time the engine was unavailable. We made it happen. I think this means we are real sailors now, right?
Okay time to make some friends. We are delayed here until we get our transmission replaced. Whether it is a new one, or a rebuild, I do not know yet. We have to find a mechanic. Thank god we are well stocked with provisions. There is only one tiny market on this island that offers the bare minimum. Cherrios are $7.00. But trust me, there are worse places to be stuck. Although this fix will be detrimental to our bank accounts, it is hard to be upset while surrounded with such beauty. The cost of fixing our transmission probably doesn’t compare to what the average human spends to vacation here.