Indian Ocean Sailing Adventure: Part 2 – Man Over Board *Video*

And the Indian Ocean Sailing Adventure continues…

Day 7: We sailed by the Sri Lankan coast, which some of us thought we could see in the far distance. It was also the day we made the fateful decision not to stop by the island to buy more fuel… Here’s how close we were to the island nation:

Coboat 's Journey, photo by Therese Barber

Around this time I also learned that we didn’t have autopilot to navigate. Because I didn’t know about autopilot, I didn’t miss it and assumed everyone navigated at night by the stars and moon. Or, in inclement weather, by the lights of passing cargo ships.

In the galley, we made bread pudding with 20 loaves of *slightly* moldy bread. Some chopped dates and sprinkled cinnamon on top and it was a crowd favorite!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADay 8: This was a rough day 7 night at sea, with 40-knot winds and 25-foot waves. The cat usually sailed at between 4-7 knots, but this time we hit a speedy 16 knots under Vin’s steering. Scarily, our trip was starting to resemble an episode of Deadliest Catch.

During that high winds that night we lost a life preserver, a section of sun shade and part of the bow. To be fair, this front decking was just a temporary fix to cover a portion of the ship left open when unsafe netting was taken down, so it wasn’t, you know, super secure to begin with. In fact, we were told early on not to hangout in the port-side netting.

Day 9: Another piece of important equipment bites the dust! Today was the day the generator broke and it was a BIG DEAL. We had already lost one engine and we needed the generator to power the second remaining engine.

Without it, we would only have wind power and the promised sailing-friendly forecast wasn’t panning out, which is why we were so dependent on continuously running the engine and fast depleting our fuel supply.

Harry at Work, photo by Therese Barber

Harry at Work, photo by Therese Barber

Also, without a generator, we couldn’t use any of the electrical instruments on board – including the ship’s lights, the water filter, the water pump (important because of that constant influx of water) and the INS system.

INS stands for Internal Navigation System, a thingamabob that comprises a computer, motion sensors and rotation sensors to continuously calculate a ship’s position, orientation, direction and speed of movement. It shows where all the ships are in relation to one another and helps to avoid collisions at sea. Think air-traffic control. Kind of an important gadget.

Here’s a photo of the INS that shows us on a collision course with a 138 meter (450+ foot) container ship in 36 minutes. Plenty of time to avoid a head-on disaster—if we have the generator to power the engine…


If we couldn’t get the generator to work, the backup plan was to use the iPad powered with spare batteries from our personal computers and my solar charged battery, giving us about 9 hours of back-up electricity to get us through the night. Luckily after hours and hours of sweaty hammering Harry and the Captain got the generator to work – just as the sun was setting. Whew!

Day 10: Feast! We thought we’d be catching lots of fish along the way, but no. So when we finally caught a fish it was a big deal! The multi-talented Tess landed it, cleaned it and cooked it up. I hear it was pretty tasty.

Fishing! photo by Therese Barber

Not so tasty though were the mushrooms found growing under the seats. According to the more experienced sailors, this had never been seen before and was subject to much eye-rolling with mushroom growth indicating a level of neglect not often seen onboard. Ewwwww – kinda gross.

Mushrooms 2, photo by GoErinGo

Day 11: Today the crew went swimming, looking to have a bit of fun after the drama of the broken generator a few days before. Apparently you can safely hang on to a towline if sailing below 4 knots. Since the wind was at only 3, some of us (not me) decided to take the plunge.

I was in the galley (chopping garlic per usual). Here I am doing what I call the “garlic wiggle:”

Since I was in the galley, I didn’t see this first hand, but apparently the first person to try the towline was the Captain, who promptly lost his shorts to the pull. Now he was naked. (He He He!)

Matthias Splash 2Commando attire aside, the real problem with the swim idea was that we left the sails up. (Actually, let’s just admit this right now – this is not a good idea under any circumstances. I mean talk about live bait!) So while the boat may have been ploughing ahead at only 3 knots, one big gust of wind could power the boat forward at 4-5-6 knots, which is what happened.

Second person on the towline was my buddy Matthias. When the wind gust came, he was dragged under the water and had to let go of the rope or drown. Next thing we knew he was bobbing in the water, waving at us as we rapidly sailed away.

The Man-Over-Board bell was rung and the crew rushed to stop the engine, take down the sails, and turn the boat around as precious minutes ticked by. Several of us scrambled to the roof with binoculars to keep our eyes on him, but as the boat turned, we lost our line of sight.

Matthias has been in the water at least 10-12 minutes before the boat started to make the figure 8 recovering maneuvers. We were all searching in the wrong direction, except for Harry, who was the one to finally—sans binoculars—to spy him.

When we eventually hauled Matthias on board, he was cracking jokes about landing a second fish. I, however, didn’t find his near-death experience quite so funny. In fact, I was crying afterwards and shook up for days about the close call and senselessness shenanigans.

To be continued…

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Be sure catch the others you may have missed:

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2015 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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