Posted by: adventuressetravels | May 27, 2011

A Sinking Ship

The captain stalked out of his quarters, his baby-blue shell patterned comforter  held at arms lengths.  Water was literally pouring off of it.  Without a word he stomped through the cabin, disappeared on deck and hung his water-logged bedding on the lifelines.

Ten minutes later he was back inside and with a thin-lipped grimace told us

pumping water out of the flooded room

tersely quarters that his quarters were flooded.  “My room is an aquarium,” he grumbled.  “The bilges are overflowing.  There are a good ten inches of standing water on the floor.”

I couldn’t believe things were as bad as the captain made them out to be.  Like all sailors he was known for exaggeration, but when I stepped into the galley and peered through his open door my eyes widened in horror.  His quarters were a veritable swimming pool.  Standing water covered his floor and was pouring out of his door.  The four-foot deep bilge in his room was overflowing.  The bottom fell out of my stomach.  We were sinking.

Were we really sinking?  How serious was this?

The answer was not as bad as I had feared.  Yes, there was water coming in.  This hadn’t been done by waves crashing over the bow; the boat definitely had at least one hole.  We needed to get to land as soon as possible and find out where it was and patch it.  Thankfully though, we weren’t in imminent danger of sinking, or so the captain said.

But where was the water coming from?  How had this happened?

No one knew for sure.  The best guess was that some damage had been done when we the storm drove us onto the coral reef in the Bahamas.  After that the 32-year old catamaran hadn’t been up to the stress of beating into the wind.  The waves smashing into the bow had opened the already weakened places like a knife slicing through butter.

Imminent danger or no, we still had to get the enormous amount of water out of the captain’s quarters.  As the crew member responsible for pumping the bilges, the duty of drying up the swimming pool fell upon my shoulders.  I’m not ashamed to say I trembled at the task before me.  Even with the electric bilge pump it seemed as if it were me against the Atlantic.

One of the cracks leading into the captain's room

Luckily the water was not pouring in as quickly as I had feared, but even so it took hours until the long yellow bilge pump hose pulled up the remaining water out of the captain’s quarters.  I arranged the long thin hose just right, with one end in the bilge and the other wedged under a bowl in the galley sink.  At long last the familiar slurp like a child noisily sucking up the last few precious of a milkshake through a long red and white straw.

But that was not the last of my duties draining the captain’s private swimming pool. Not by a long shot.

The next morning we anchored in the Dry Tortugas with yellow quarantine flag flying.  There was no question about it; we were a boat in distress.

The Leeway looked like a floating yard sale drying all of the captain's clothes


  1. Adventures no end! For us lubbers you might have explained what a bilge is. Like a sump in the cellar?

  2. Oh! Yeah, a bilge is a pump that helps you to pump water out of the ship. There are electric bilges and hand bilges. We had both, but for this monumental task we really needed our electric pump

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