19 Dec

Dec 17

Waves have broken fully onto the boat many times over the last two days–I stopped counting at five at Mo’s insistence. An hour ago I heard that now familiar deep whooshing and braced, but instead a wham to the hull and water over the top (kathwap–sploosh!), we were hit as by a freight train. Mo was pushed heavily to starboard and then went all the way over. Knocked flat.

Weather was moderating (wind 35+), a dangerous time after a blow as waves will spring up initially when released from the downward pressure of heavy wind.

I’d just come below. As we went over, I was thrown against the port side pilot house windows, which turned green as they faced the sea floor. The cockpit went fully under. Both companionway hatches (top and bottom) had been closed and locked from the inside (standard protocol now when re-entering the cabin). But I noticed water burbling up and into the pilot house from the lower corners. Noise as of the apocalypse below. Two food cupboards blew open spilling cans everywhere.

All over in a surprisingly long instant. And suddenly Mo was sailing again as if nothing had happened.

As I was mopping up I noticed water had gotten into the electronics cabinet where both the autopilot junction box (Otto’s brain) live and also all the satellite equipment. How this is possible is beyond me as the cabinet is protected by cushions and has only two small thumb holes in the door that allow operation of the latch. The latter equipment was spared, but water has apparently got into Otto’s brain. For the moment he is deceased. I get blinking lights that immediately fade; then nada. I have a spare for every other piece of that system. No spare brain.

This is a big loss. I’ve used Otto several times already on this passage–motoring through the doldrums, as a back up for Monte (Monitor windvane) when he’s offline for repair, etc.–and he is an essential piece of kit for the Arctic.

Dec 18

After two nights of nearly no sleep, slept the night. Winds were down to 35, which felt like the merest breeze compared to what we’d had. I set the alarm for one hour, then two…then I just had at and slept.

Spent the day cleaning up and doing repairs. While at the transom, I noticed that Monte’s pendulum assembly looked bent. Monte’s responses had been mushy just as the big blow was coming on, and I found, upon inspection, that the quick-release line for the boarding ladder, which drags in the water in case needed by…me, had tangled in the hinge. Was so tight had to be cut free. Wave action was such then that most of that assembly was underwater, so no inspection possible then.

When I got the paddle below, it was obvious that all the bend was in the break-away tube. Relief. Monte is my primary steering system. But with Otto now dead, he’s it. It is beyond bracing to consider being here with no one to take Mo’s tiller but me.

So, three cheers for Monte, who steered Mo through some powerful wind and waves…with a bent tube!

Barometer is dropping. Winds are coming on again. Glad I got that done early.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


  1. James

    Merry Christmas and safe passage . You are an inspiration !

    James – Marblehead , Massachusetts – USA

  2. George Hewitt

    Your voyage inspires simple kayakers like me (wannabe sailors) and my daughter who is (4/8) Rowing Team at LSE in London — so Merry Christmas out there and wishing you safe passage into 2018! from Stafford, Virginia USA

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