Posted by: adventuressetravels | April 19, 2013

The Death Knell of the Water Maker

We turned the tap on.  It coughed like a dying consumption patient twice, spitting out water  and then fell silent.  Strange that we’d used so much water in just four days, but it didn’t matter… we had another tank.

But wait… hadn’t we run the watermaker for 5 hours the day before? So our water-maker broke.  Now this is nothing new, watermakers on boats are constantly breaking.

Steve switched the tanks from the starboard tank to the port.

Nothing came out of the tap.  We were out of water.   Out of water with over 400 nautical miles to go.   No water.  My heart quickly relocated to somewhere below around my feet.

No need to panic, the captain’s girlfriend, or co-captain as she liked to be called, reassured us.  She had stored 20 gallons of water just in case something like this happened, 10 containers in the bilge in either hull.

But our relief was short-lived.  When we went to check for the water stores, only 6 gallons remained.  A former crew member had preferred bottled water to the filtered sea-water and had forgotten to replace the emptied containers.

We would have to go on strict water rations for the rest of the trip.  1 liter per person per day.  Reunion to Richards Bay, South Africa is not a short passage either, over 2-weeks for Southern Cross, one of the slower boats in the ARC.  We did have a good supply of boxed juice, but juice only goes so far to hydrate.  Especially when the salt air seems to suck moisture out of you.

Fortuitously I had filled my Nalgene water bottle right before our water tanks had dumped all of our water stores back into the Indian Ocean.   The days were as dry as the last passage had been wet.  I found myself wishing for another week of rain where everything was soaked with fresh water.  Alas, this was not to be.

The rationing wasn’t as bad as I had feared.  I gave up my liter for the first day because I had the full Nalgene and the captain went without coffee the first day (the crew insisted he have it the remainder of the trip.)

We had timed it almost perfectly.  The last day we had just cracked open our last gallon of water.  We would be fine so long as we made the window.

The Cape of Good Hope, is aptly named.  Every sailor going around the cape hopes a good deal that the wily Indian Ocean doesn’t sink their boat.   We had heard horror story after terrifying tale.  It is one of the most dangerous places to sail in the world.   We had to make that window and ram our way through the Agulhas current without getting swept too far south.  If we didn’t time it perfectly we would have to head back out to the ocean and wait until the window was right.

This isn’t fun under the best of circumstances… when you have a dwindling water supply these facts seem a lot more dire.

Many of the ARC boats were already docked at Zululand Yacht Club in Richards Bay.  That just left a few boats in the slower group.  One boat, At Last, had been at the tail end of the faster boats and tried to sneak in a little after the window closed.  After almost getting shaken to bits by an utterly confused sea the wind and current working against one another, their skipper had turned around and sailed back to wait it out.

The closer we got to the current, the worse the waves got.  One slammed over the boat, inside the cat it sounded as if we were in trench warfare as waves slammed against the hulls.  Cape Horn might not be the best place for cats, I thought, as a large wave rocked us up almost on one hull.  A monohull can list to one side, but if a wave tosses a catamaran violently enough it can flip over.  No one wanted that.

00000465Suddenly a huge wave violently shook us.  With a dull thump, oour last remaining water jug toppled off of the counter to smash open on the floor.  We watched in horror as the water supply leaked across the floor and scrambled to save some of it.

We had to get past the current.  We needed make it to Richards Bay.

At 3:35 in the morning, on my watch, the starboard engine alarm let out its high-pitched wail.  Immediately I turned it off.  Hopefully it hadn’t done any damage.  Hopefully we could get it going again… we needed both engines to make it on time.

To my enormous relief the captain had the part we needed and fixed the engine in less than half an hour.  We were back on track.

Three whales breached next to us waving their enormous flippers,  welcoming us to Africa as we approached Richards Bay.  We had made it past the Agulhas current.  As we docked at Zululand, I sprang off the boat, so grateful to be back on dry land I almost kissed the ground.


  1. Whew!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: