Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Around the Graveyard of the Atlantic

  Sunday, I left with my dad and brother to help them take dads fishing boat to the parents new home in Moorehead NC.
  Because the forcast was quite good, we decided to run outside around Cape Hatterras rather than take the Intercoastal Waterway. After we were well on our way the forcasts began to deteriorate....untill we were told we would be facing 16 foot seas in a 35 foot boat!
   The outerbanks of North Carolina are historically some of the most treacherous around the east coast, and if it were not for our GPS this particular trip might have ended badly as well. When we got the revised forcast we considered running in a Oregon onlet, but by the time we got there it was to rough and too dark to attempt an enterance into that treacherous passage. So we slogged on through seas higher than the wheelhouse, thunder lightming and driving rain. I was seasick for the first time in years and our main concern was not getting thrown from the boat while puking....untill the high water alarm went off!
    About 8pm sunday night the alarm went off, a quick inspection of the bilge revealed that the alarm was not mistaken there was a demoralizing ammount of water in the generator and engine compartments...and an unnerving geyser shooting oily water straight up! Well this was bad. Quick inspection of the geyser however revealed that the drain hose had come off the bilge pump and it was squirting water up rather than out. This seemed to be an easy fix, but only my dad could fit behind the generator to deal with this. In between moments of zero gravity (yes the boat was thrashing THAT violently) he shimmied in and I held the light and kept the pump positioned right. My brother steered the old boat keeping us from being driven into the barrier islands. We then realized that the pump casing had disintigrated! there was no way to fix the drain hose! Attempts to rig an attachment were to no avail and the boat was taking on water because of water being forced through vents and the shaft gland due to the intense pitching and warping of the storm.
   Fortunately, there was a spare pump on board but that had to be dug out from the focsal' while the boat pitched and yawed like a hooked Marlin ...and of course it as on the bottom of a lot of heavy(painful) stuff. We resumed our positions for the rather more complecated task of replacing the pump, but in addition to the shaking pitching and thrashing of the boat we had another annoyance. The bilge was filled with the sweet aroma of disel fuel...which combined with the up/down/side/over motion of the boat caused, well intense wretching, which would then encourage anyone who witnessed said wretching to wretch. Thus we found ourselves in a vicious cycle of vomit as we fought for our lives (and tried to fimd a 5/16 inch wrench) while drifting through the graveyard of a thousand ships.
  After two hours of trying we did get the new pump running, the water receded and our only worry was that we would all turn ourselves inside out...or the boat would break in two. The storm lasted the night and the water became paticularly choppy as the wind shifted against the sea towards morning. Of course this meant that Monday was noticably calmer though the seas were still 4-6 feet. We trolled for most of the day, but got nary a bite. On the other hand we did see a lot of sea life. A turtle, several pods of Dolphins a big tuna some harbor porpises in Okracoake , a small pod (4 or so) of orcas in the gulf stream and a solitary whale.
    We decided to run in at Okracoake and follow the canal to Moorehead which proved fortuitous as another storm came up a few hours after we got inland. Even with the much calmer seas getting into Okracoake inlet was tricky and I am really glad we didn't try to run into Oregon inlet during the storm. We averaged about 4-5 knots because of the storm less than half normal speed, which caused further embarassment.
    We learned as we approached our dock that Mom had called the Coast Guard to report us overdue. (oh the ignominy!) I called station Fort Macon and informed them that all was well. 
     Of course as I have an appointment with the Coast Guard, I had to run back north today.
      Oh well.... 

1 comment:

Egyptoid said...

good story