Recent changes to COVID travel requirements made us think there could be some country closures, and we wanted to be strategic about our next move. A couple of islands have experienced some local outbreaks after some poor choices over the holidays (not an expert, but y’all probably could have anticipated that several busloads of drunken pub crawlers at New Years was gonna be a super spreader event). We decided to skip St Barths and head to Antigua instead. If we were unable to move again for months, Antigua is large with plenty of anchorages.
Ian pretty much finished all of the priority work on the boat. He confirmed that all 14 or so through-hulls and their ball valves worked, and the float switch on the bilge pump was temperamental but functioning. He repaired the manual bilge pump, replaced its ball valve, and made sure I knew how it works. And of course, you’ve heard about the new toilet. He also has pretty much assembled all the tools and parts so that he can build another Afrikii if needed.
We got our COVID PCR test for $120 USD each, received the emailed results the following day, then hauled up our muddied anchor with the shiny new windlass, cleaning it off with the washdown pump. With a fond farewell to the airport-adjacent-lagoon, we steered the boat out into the bay when the bridge went up at 4 pm. Then we set the autopilot for Antigua with plans to arrive the following morning.
I’m going to be honest, I hate overnight sailing. I have been paid all my life to work at night, and now doing it for free just seems…so painful. I whine about it and then go to bed early. Ian wakes me up when it’s my turn to do watch, waves off my whining and climbs into the bed we set up in the saloon so he’s close by if I call him. But this time, it was him calling me to come help when the boat started taking on water.
At 3:30 am, I woke to a shrill siren of an alarm I had never heard before. It reminded me of a heart monitor alarm when the patient codes. This shrill siren was the “high water alarm”, a pretty important alarm which, when you are in a boat, really warrants such an ominous title. It tells us that the part of the boat that exists under the floorboard is full of water.
Ian took on this air of captain and ordered me up to the cockpit to start pumping the manual bilge pump.
When I didn’t move fast enough, he yelled “Go pump NOW!”, then followed with a supportive rally of “Great babe, you’re doing great, keep pumping!”
I looked out on the ocean and kind of thought we were actually sitting lower in the water. Ian meanwhile ran around the boat lifting up floorboards trying to determine where the water was coming in. He checked for a leak where water comes in to cool the engine (no), had we hit something (no), and finally he found it–the hose attached to the washdown pump had disconnected and seawater was flowing straight into the boat from under the V-berth into the bilge. He shut the ball valve on the through-hull to stop the flood. And then voilà, with the automatic bilge pump and the manual bilge pump we got all the water out of the boat. Suffice to say, I am satisfied with Ian’s regular maintenance schedule and very happy we didn’t have to test the life raft.
On another note, we witnessed the arrival in Antigua’s famous English Harbour of the solo winner of The Atlantic Challenge 2020–rowing 3000nm from Canaries, check it out here.
*Ian’s note: we had forgotten to switch off the washdown pump and with the sailboat engine running the whole trip (we were sailing against the wind) we hadn’t heard it cycling on and off. Because of a small leak on the spray nozzle up in the anchor locker, the cycling of the pump seemed to have shook loose the inlet hose to the pump, and then water just came pouring in from the through-hull hose. In lay terms, there are holes in the boat called through-hulls, to let water out (e.g. the grey water) or let water in (e.g. the washdown pump). These through-hulls have ball valves (aka sea cocks, which is a combined ball valve and through-hull) that allow water through but can be closed down to, well, close the through-hull. He adds, “You want a well maintained (i.e. lubricated) functioning ball valve at your through-hull, that ain’t gonna seize up on you ’cause when they seize, you gotta force them, and then you might bust the handle off. A goddamn mess is what that is.” Amen to that.