It's midnight, March 29th and we're hove-to waiting for a gale to abate. We're
150 miles east of the southern Brazilian coast in water about 2000 meters deep.
The waves are large and steep but so far so good. I look out to check the
situation and can see, of course, absolutely nothing. Same wind and rain. Michel
is just about to get out of his bunk for the change of watch. Then the world
turns upside down and there is a tremendous bang. At the same moment both main
cabin windows implode as we are hanging on watching. Things fly and the boat
fills with saltwater. Slowly PAX rights itself and wallows like a drunken duck.
Michel goes outside and to out great relief the mast is still standing. He takes
the sail down while with every roll of PAX more water surges inside.
By now there's over a meter of water above the floorboards. Our main concern is
to plug the windows - with a piece of plywood and a floorboard all the while
pumping frantically. Sure enough the pumps die clogged with floating debris so
the bucket brigade begins. A strange smell of diesel becomes apparent. We found
out later that the connection tube between the fuel tank and the engine was
broken and 100 litres of diesel was floating on the sea water soaking everything
from floor to cabin roof. A nice mess.
Now it's 0600 and finally we start to see the floor. It's amazing what adrenalin
can do. By mid afternoon we are trying to make order out of the chaos our home
has become. We find the glass globe of our kerosene lamp miraculously unbroken
in amongst the bedding. A toolbox has flown from it's home underneath the table
to wedge itself behind the head. We are cut and bruised, bleary-eyed and coated
with diesel, shaken up but not hurt. Clothes, bedding, cushings, books, and
electronics are all wet.
Now starts the long haul of trying to reach land without a motor - the traditional
way of sailing. Wouldn't you know it we're becalmed almost two days. Finally 6
days later we reach the Uruguayan coast - La Paloma - a small fishing harbour.
By then we'd been camping inside a soggy boat and we're exhausted from lack of
sleep combined with heavy skin reactions to diesel, swelling redness and itching.
We spent the next month getting the boat sailable again, repairing engine and
electronics, trying to get rid of the all pervasive diesel inside and taking
stock of all the things we had to discard. Books, clothes, photos, camera,
once-dry food for example. By then a house and garden sounded like a marvellous
idea. We found out later that a much larger and heavier steel yacht was knocked
down in the same area at the same time by a monstrous wave. Just in the wrong
place at the wrong time.
Now we are moored at a yacht club about 30 kilometers north of Buenos Aires.
The boat fixing continues on a daily basis - a real refit this time. Work
teaching may or may not happen, wages are low here and Argentina seems to be
in a state of crisis. So by October we have to decide whether we stay here
or head north.