This is so not good, the sail locker was flooding with water...


d'Albora's Action Project: AUS 360 Blog Update

Presented by Pivotel

Afternoon all,

Last night I was expecting the winds to build to 30 knots so at sunset when they were at 25 knots I decided to get mostly ready and put the second reef in the mainsail and furl away my no 3 headsails so that I was now sailing with the storm jib only. I also took some sail ties forward and wrapped them around the two sails that are furled at the front of the boat as a secondary measure as the last thing I would want would be for the winds to half un-furl the sail. For me, it is important to shorten sails well ahead of the bad weather arriving to prevent me from needing to be on deck and exposed in dangerous conditions.

I have seen it go bad and it can happen quickly one wave and your washed down the deck and injure yourself and as a solo sailor, I can't take the risk so even though it makes me a bit slow for a while, in the long run, it is worth it for the safety factor. So all I needed to do now was put the third reef in when the winds built and if it was needed to the 4th reef but everything else was prepared and ready to go.

I was quite tired from the last few days but I still didn't manage to get to bed until after midnight however once in bed I was able to get some good sleep in. in the morning I checked on everything and then decided that I could sleep some more and went back to bed until noon. When I woke up I went about my normal routine. Went on deck and checked on everything, debated about putting the third reef in but still felt it was a bit early so I went back below and make a bowl of porridge for a brunch and relaxed with my book for a while.

I completely felt like I had everything in hand and that I was ready for this storm. The seas had already started to get to 3 meters and they are steep and choppy so that if I speed up too much I crash off the back of them and everything shudders but I felt that Climate Action Now was taking the conditions well and we were doing okay. That was until I went to go into the head (toilet) and saw something that is usually quite terrifying for anyone on a boat.

The way the boat is set up you need to pass through the heads to get to the sail locker and I have a large watertight hatch between the two. It is a similar hatch to what you find on deck with the see-through plastic cover. So it was quite a shock when I glanced forward and saw that the sail locker was flooding with water and that there were well over 500 litres already in the boat. Shit. Shit. Shit. This is so not good.

Instantly my adrenalin pumped and I flew into action. I debated quickly if I should open the hatch or not to get a better look and decided that the water wasn't high enough to flood the main compartment so I threw the watertight hatch open and climbed into the flooding sail locker. I knew that I hadn't hit anything and in this locker, I had 4 through hull fittings for different things like depth and speed so I was hoping that it was something to do with one of these. As I climbed through the water was sloshing around above my knees and with the rock of the boat, I was thrown down to my knees and completely soaked in seconds. I didn't really care about getting wet at that moment I was more worried the huge amounts of water I could see flooding in through the hull of the boat.

I was right it was a failure on one of the through hull fittings and I could see the sunshine through the hole in the bottom of the boat as the water pumped in. I have plugs tied to each fitting in case of a situation like this but with all the water sloshing dragging sails and ropes around I couldn't find one so I ran back out to the locker under the galley sink where I keep my spare wooden bungs and grabbed one of those. I also needed something to hit it in with so I ran to my tools and very quickly dug around. I couldn't spot the hammer but I did find a large wrench and figured that would do. I ran back to the sail locker and jammed the bung into the hole and started hammering on it with the wrench but it was hard to get enough force behind it as I was hammering under water. After a few good hits, I got the bung to hold. By this time I was shaking like a leaf from the adrenaline but I wasn't sinking any more I just had a whole lot of water in the boat.

I set up my bilge pump system but this was the same system that wouldn't work on the collision compartment and it didn't work now so I grabbed my roving bilge pump and set that up. Almost as soon as this was set the winds decided that this would be the time that they would blow harder and we were really starting to smash off the waves. I was really worried that I smashed down and push the bung back out so I went on deck and tied to quickly put the third reef in the mainsail. I got the reef in fast and that was trouble free however when I was winching in the extra slack from my 4th reefing line it somehow managed to feed its self around the self-tailor in such a way that I spent the next hour cursing up a storm while I tried to fix this while also keeping an eye on the sail locker to make sure that the bung doesn't get knocked out and start flooding me again. At the same time, the bilge pump was still pumping all that water out.

Finally, after 2 hours, I had enough of the water out, my winch was fixed and my third reef was in the mainsail so things were mostly under control. Now that the water was down I was able to find one of the plugs that you use in these fittings that screw in and switched out the bung for the plug before getting the last of the water out. It's almost impossible to get all the water out as is all trapped in the sails but its mostly all gone and I am feeling both relieved and exhausted.

Tomorrow is my 34th birthday so I am really hoping that I don't end up with another battle on my hands. I can quite happily sit through a storm but dealing with emergencies like a sinking boat is something I would rather avoid on a day of celebration. The winds are now between 28-35 knots and I am making a grand old speed of 5 knots in an NNW direction. So slow and steady it is as I go through the increasing winds. Now I just need a relaxing, drama free evening.

Thanks to the following Sponsors for all their continued support: d’Albora Marinas, Pivotel  B&G, Australian Geographic, Zhik , Park Fuels, Karver, 3M, White Bay 6 Marine Park, and Great Circle Life Raft