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We came below, and motion was now bad owing to waves and wind, and having no rig. The waves were 12 to 15' occasionally breaking, but steady now from SW. We were all feeling ill, especially Wendy, who was also a bit panicky and tearful. We had 2 handheld vhf on board and an EPIRB. We sent out a distress message on Ch 16 for 2 hours, and nobody responded. We saw two ships pass close by, and they went right by us. We sent up two rocket flares. Nothing.
We were about 25 miles south of Long Island, and about 15 miles east of New Jersey (Barnagat Bay). We were in main approaches to New York Harbour and nobody was responding. Our VHF was obviously weak. We had no lights, no engine, no rig and it was not that good a situation. We all rested for a couple of hours, and at 0530, we decided we had to do something. We could hear Coastguard and radio on Ambrose light, but they could not hear us.
As it got bright at about 0700, we decided to try and rig a jury rig on stump. If this were not possible, we would set off EPIRB. In order to get going, we had three problems:
1: dinghy was upside down and in water 2: we had a sea anchor out 3: how to haul a sail up a mast stump with no rig.
The dinghy was probably most dangerous thing about morning. It is a rigid 9' made of cold moulded wood and epoxy. We got it long side, but motion made things tricky. Then we righted it awash, and managed to get two buckets on lines into it and emptied it. We put it out on a line, and tackled sea anchor. It was a big parachute basically and we used lifting bow with anchor windlass to get thing onboard. Ashley pulled and I tailed.
We came back to cockpit and dinghy was upside down again. Cut it loose or try again. As rig had wrecked wind vane when it came down, we had more or less a fairly clear aft deck. We again hauled damn dinghy in and righted it. We emptied it again, and again by using rolling motion of boat, we got it on deck. We lashed it across transom upside down.
That left mast and how to get a sail up it. We had a combination of jibs. The mast still had two hoops left on it from mainsail. We lashed them together and attached a block with a halyard. We then shoved hoops up mast as far as we could with a rowing sweep. We then lashed sweep to mast and we had a halyard. The sweep was lashed to base of mast and lashed to hoops. We then lashed tack of a jib to halyard, lashed clew to base of mast, and attached a sheet to head of jib. We raised it gingerly and it worked.
We brought bow round to northeast and got going at about 0930 Wednesday. That all took about three hours. Under this jury rig, we averaged 4.5 knots for next 30 hours and actually sailed to Martha's Vineyard. We had covered about 230 miles Sunday Monday and Tuesday. We covered remaining 130 miles in 30 hours with this jib set at 90 degrees.
The wind stayed WNW; about 25 to 30 knots, so we had a broad reach run on 60 magnetic to Martha's Vineyard. We sailed past Long Island, Montauk Point, Wednesday night, as well as Block Island, and by dawn Thursday morning, we were about 20 miles SW of Vineyard. It was a lee shore, and as we had limited manoeuvrability, we called Harbourmaster at Newport RI and same at Vineyard, and eventually Harbour master at Vineyard sent out a launch to tow us last few miles. We tied up about 1600.
News spreads like wildfire, and there was quite a crowd on dock by 1700. We were all soaked and caked in salt. The boat was a mess below. I am not going to into all that, but suffice to say; every part of inside of boat was wet. A woman took away all our wet clothes and brought them back dry and clean 2 hours later. We then had showers and a change of clothes. Life felt a lot better.
We were taken for a meal, but we were falling asleep from heat in restaurant and from sheer fatigue.
We were back in boat by 2100 and asleep. I spent Friday then, getting from Martha's Vineyard to Annapolis to my car.
Quite a week. One of life's experiences.
Lessons: 1: forecast never lies. We were complacent. We should have been prepared for sudden wind shift.
2: it was outer jib that brought mast down. Not main. The boom was in water and main was luffing.
3: sheets for headsails should have been led aft into cockpit. They were secured forward of mast
what would we have done different? Not a lot. Maybe set off EPIRB.
During fight to survive, my thoughts returned to sailing on lower Shannon between Foynes and Carrigaholt, sailing round to Cork from Shannon in all kinds of conditions, running through Blasket and Dursey Sounds, beating hard in a Mirror dinghy in Galway Bay, freezing in a Laser in Dromineer, and many other happy thoughts.
Anyway, out of this, we learn how much we can cope with adversity. I found myself afterwards thanking God for chances we had in recovering from situation, and later while sitting for hours helming, wishing that all of life's problems could be dealt with like losing a mast.
I did not know Ashley and Wendy two weeks ago. Now, we have been through quite an experience.
So, who says Limerick men don't have adventures abroad. - http://www.limerick.com
Shay Dooley, formerly of Priory Park, Clancy's Strand, Limerick now living in the US: http://www.limerick.com