We have waited some time to share this story with you. All sailors know Murphy´s law, although maybe not everyone by its name. It basically says that if something can go wrong, it will. The question then is not if things go wrong but rather what or when. If you ever followed another cruising blog, you have probably heard the stories of how things break at the worst possible times, how the weather prognosis never is correct, that there is always too little or too much wind and so on. Although the blue water cruising life at this time and place of the year can be a little rough, the beginning of this week was something never experienced before.
Let me give you some background. After finally managing to continue south from Gigha island and cross the north channel to Northern Ireland, we had made one stop in Glenarm and one stop in Bangor outside Belfast. The shipping forecast (sea weather) that we always check out either by VHF or the internet showed gale warnings once again in the Irish sea, but with a gap this Monday. Since it was supposed to be northeasterly winds, we took a shot and aimed south instead of heading into Belfast. Before going out of the Belfast bay we needed to pass a narrow passage between the mainland and some small islands. We knew the tides could be strong and cause waves but after consulting the local marina owners we were confident since we would have the wind in our back. The problem was though, we didn´t. The wind was almost by the nose and that meant we dipped our nose in the water as we confronted the increasing waves. It still felt alright, but the bow was drenched in water several times and at one point we both reacted on the force with which the bow crashed into the water. Jens went up to check if it made some damage once it calmed down a bit and we then realized that one of our chains between the bowsprit and the hull had broken. This is not the end of the world, but to make sure nothing else would break we rolled in the genua, thus decreasing the forces on the bowsprit.
When the islands were passed the rough sea calmed down so I went down to fetch a snack. Before my mind had made sense of the information I could tell there was a weird smell. Then I could see there were water on the floor. And I realized what the smell was. It was the smell of poo. How come there was so much water in the boat!?! Walking a bit further I could now see that the toilet was flooded and that it had leaked out not only in the forepeak but all the way to the galley (kitchen) floor. YUCK!
I told Jens what I had found and he quickly realized what had happened. When the waves crashed into our bow, it had poured into the anchor box (the hatch had broken) where we have the ventilation for our toilet going out. As there became too much water in the anchor box, it found its way down the air ventilation hose into the toilet, flooding the composting compartment of the toilet and out through the seat into the boat. Literally, our boat was full of shit (blended with large amounts of salt water and peat moss).
Realizing that the yucky salt water went all the way up to the floor (meaning it had filled the bilge), we now decided to try and enter the closest marina we had just passed by. Calling them up on the VHF, they told us that we were welcome, but that we could not enter until high tide, which was four hours later. But, we could enter the fishing harbour next door. So we did. The only problem was that it was full of bouys and there wasn’t any mooring available for us to tie up and start cleaning up the boat. So we decided to head out again and go back into the bay to Belfast. We hoped that is would be the best place nearby where we could have access to both harbour facilities and spare parts.
A couple of hours later we were tied up and safe in the marina. We were not eager to begin the cleanup, but there wasn’t that many hours left of daylight so after removing the carpets, toilet, and flooring for me to rinse outside, Jens started the tedious work of removing all the salt water by hand. At least 30 ten litre buckets of water were removed from the bilge! While it was an awful work to do the most worrying part for us was that we did not know what damage it had done to our battery bank, which was also soaked in water. Luckily we had marine classed lithium batteries which are far better protected against water than normal lead acid batteries but still, would they have survived such a treatment?
After working hard until the evening, all the water was finally removed and everything rinsed. We were exhausted. The day after I cleaned the floor once more with soap while Jens went across town to buy a new and stronger chain for the bowsprit.
The same time we arrived at the marina, so did the catamaran “Water Dog” with a Canadian family onboard. They cheered us on through the hardships and invited us to share dinner with them the day after. Gavin and his wife have sailed all the way through Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland together with their three children during the summer. They since passed the Faroe islands and Orkney before going through Scotland and the Caledonial canal just a week before us. It was great to get a break from the work with the boat. There is a friendly and helpful atmosphere here in the harbour and we already got to know several boat owners who have their boats here on a permanent basis.
Since then, we have been in contact with the supplier of the batteries and toilet to discuss the damage and get spare parts. We also contacted the insurance company to report that we might need their help. We have been walking around the outskirts of Belfast to find some spares, but the fan to the toilet and spares for the batteries has to be shipped here. After all the troubles, we took a day off to walk around in the centre of Belfast, looking at the beautiful buildings, cruising through a Christmas market and doing some shopping.
But today, we got the verdict from the battery supplier. Based on their recommendation, we opened up the casing of the batteries and they were much more severely damaged than we had thought. They need to be completely replaced. Since they are the most expensive thing on the whole boat, our faith now lies in the hands of the insurance company. Without batteries, we can’t go anywhere. We are stuck in Belfast until we can get this sorted.
We try to stay hopeful, but tonight we will stay in the boat and forget our troubles with some good food and a movie. Maybe even a whisky 🙂