That Time When the Engine Broke and then the Sail Fell Off… MAYDAY!!!

There have been a lot, and I do mean a LOT of firsts since we decided to take on this adventure.

Our first time seeing the inside of a sailboat (via video, since Patrick was the only one who went to look at her in Florida while the rest of us stayed in Oklahoma).

Our first time actually meeting and stepping foot on a sailboat (and it was the day we moved onboard!)

Our first time docking, anchoring and motoring down the ICW. (Also on Video)

Abyni’s first time windsurfing.

First time paddleboarding.

Our first time sailing.

Our first Haul Out (and my first panic attack on the boat! 🙁 )

Our first crossing (from Key Largo to the Bahamas).

Our first Bahama beaches.

And now… our first S.O.S. call. This wasn’t quite as awesome as all of those other firsts, but really, at first I wasn’t at all worried. I don’t know if I just hit my limit of catastrophes or if I was just more worried about Patrick’s blood pressure but throughout this whole thing, I had an almost… giddy feeling. Maybe I was just hysterical. But I was really thrilled that something finally went wrong during the day time so that I could get it on video. I mean, if it was going to go wrong anyway, it might as well be on YouTube, right?

First let me backtrack just a bit.

Sunday, March 6th, 2016 (Allens Cay, Exumas/Bahamas)

Byn: These stressful anchor watches. We’re stuck here because our starter went out today. Which also means that we can’t even start the engine to set the anchor in a better location close by, much less leave the area altogether. Its going to be another long night. Patrick is running on fumes after days of barely any sleep. The kids and I are keeping watch over everything and hoping he can catch some sleep. If only the wind and current could cooperate and make up their minds! It feels like we’ve swung around our anchor about a gazillion times!

I can’t really describe how stressful this is. The anchor alarm sounds like an ambulance siren. It goes off whenever our boat goes outside a set amount of meters. This CAN mean that the anchor is dragging along the bottom and we’re in danger of hitting rocks (or in some situations another boat). The kids and I are sitting up and watching the chart on the ipad that shows what our boat is doing. I’m keeping an eagle eye on the phone with the anchor alarm so that I can catch the alarm before it goes off too long and wakes up Patrick. We’re all pretty aware that even if it DOES start to drag, there are few things that we can really do to ‘fix’ the situation right at the moment. We have a second anchor to throw over, but we’re not completely convinced that will solve everything. All in all, its a pretty stressful place to be. I hope beyond hope that the winds are right for us to get out of here by sailing tomorrow.


*for the non-boaters, the blue dot is the anchor. The green lines track everywhere we’ve been… Which is basically spinning around our anchor for far too many hours. The yellow little duck thing tells us where our boat is at any given moment.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 (Allens Cay to Exuma Cay Land & Sea Park)

Patrick: Finally safely anchored after a very frustrating couple of days. First the starter on our engine decided to go on permanent vacation, leaving us in a VERY undesirable anchor position with rocks all around us and tidal current like you wouldn’t believe. I managed to sail us out of there this morning under sail alone, with the intention of sailing into an anchorage this afternoon where we could affect starter repair in safety.

Midway through the day our furler on the jib came apart, rendering our head sail useless. Without a head sail this boat will NOT point into the wind at all, which we needed to do to get to safe harbor…

Byn: So, yeah, that’s where I left off. I woke up to a view of the sail flapping off of the mast and by the time I got out of the cabin with the camera, Jaedin was sitting on the pile of sail, making sure it didn’t fly off of the boat.


There we were, stuck in the ocean with fairly good sized waves and no sail. No motor. No way to move at all. I still wasn’t feeling panic, but I stood up into the pilot house and looked out the starboard side and saw only ocean. Nope. Still wasn’t going to panic. I slowly turned until I glimpsed a faint hint of land off the port side. For whatever reason, that little piece of land was reassuring. We still didn’t have any way to GET to the land, but I could see it.

We put our anchor down so we knew that we could at least stay put.

Patrick had Jaedin get in the dinghy (which was a precarious thing to do in the huge waves) and he tried to tow or push the boat. Although this works in calmer waters, there was no way this was going to help in our current situation.

Patrick finally got on the radio and sent out an S.O.S. on the delorm outreach as well. After some talking through a helpful chain of nearby boaters (including RatCatcher, who was our first point of contact in the chain), we discovered that although we have towing insurance through TowBoat US, there were no available towing comapnies anywhere near except for a salvage company that could tow us… but we wouldn’t be able to be reimbursed through our towing insurance.

There we were stuck on the ocean with no way to move. Ratcatcher was on the radio waiting for our reply. Patrick turned to me and said, “It would probably be thousands of dollars if we have the salvage company come out and tow us…” and that just wasn’t feasible. If there was ANY way we could get around it, we had to figure this out ourselves. He finally got back on the radio and said that we’d have to look for another option.

We needed someone to go up the mast so that we could fix the sail, but the waves were so bad that it was far to dangerous to send someone up. Patrick was trying to get the starter to spark… anything… to no avail, when another call came through the radio.

A big power boater had heard our S.O.S. and was willing to try and tow us.

As it turns out, they could, they did, and JABULANI saved the day. Hell, they saved our cruising plan for MONTHS, if not just completely. Having to pay a salvage company thousands of dollars, in addition to the repairs would have completely derailed our cruising for the time being. By the time we were all hooked up and being towed, I was having a hard time not just bawling my head off in relief.