400 detour to Bermuda

Posted by on Nov 27, 2014 in blog | 4 Comments

Anahata has had a bit of adventure over the last week. When we were 400 miles south of Hampton, Virginia, the engine would not start. Result was we had to sail 400 nautical miles to Bermuda with limited battery power.

The good news is we got here safely at 8:00 Monday night. Because we had no power we had to get towed into the harbour at st David’s, Bermuda.

Even better news is that I got a mechanic out to the boat yesterday and he was able to find the problem. The boat has an electric shut off solenoid. The spring that controls it had stretched… Result it would not allow the engine to start.

Back to the beginning let me tell you about the trip. Leaving Hampton got a bit delayed as our head (toilet) decided that it wanted to cause problems the day we trying to leave. The through hull would not open properly and the only way I could sort it out was to completely take out the holding tank. Not a pleasant task. Joys of living on a boat.

Eventually got the head sorted and departed Hampton at 3:00pm Monday 3 November.

Through the evening the wind picked up and we were able to turn off the engine and start sailing. As the wind was coming off the land we had minimal swells or wind chop. With the AIS system we could see that we were surrounded by other boats in the Salt Dawg rally. By morning off Hatteras heading across the Gulf Stream. Perfect weather for crossing. Wind and current in same direction.

Highlight of the day was when Ruffian a fellow rally boat radioed us to say get the camera as there were dolphins heading our way. Sure enough they swooped in and rode our bow wave for half an hour. Just makes my heart sing.

Tuesday saw us crossing the Gulf Stream south of Hatteras. Perfect weather, beam reaching entire way.

End of Tuesday Chris Parker the weather router suggested that we all needed to be south of 30N as a storm was moving in behind us. We turned on the engine and started motor sailing. We were still surrounded by Salty Dawg boats on the AIS – it was neat to be able to follow everyone’s progress.

Wednesday saw us making great progress south and we felt confident the we were going to be far enough south to avoid the storm to our north.

Then it happened the engine would not start at about 2 in the morning. No worries, we still had wind. I told Whit I would deal with in the morning. I immediately said we had to turn off all the power hungry systems on the boat… Fridges, computers, iPhones.

In the morning I did what I had always done before when this had happened… Changed all fuel filters and bled the engine. Still no luck. Engine was turning over but would not start.

Thursday evening I checked in with Chris Parker on the weather, asked for options in terms of weather for different destinations. The reality was we were 400 miles from everywhere… 400 miles back to Hatteras, 400 miles to Bahamas or 400 miles to Bermuda. Chris talk through the different options and suggested Bermuda. I was still hopeful that I would solve the engine issue and we could then turn south again back to BVIs.

Friday we were heading back NE towards Bermuda. Tried solving the engine issues without any luck. We did fire up the portable honda generator to boost the batteries. We only had enough fuel for 2 days of running the generator. Had diesel but had not thought I would need a lot of straight gas.

As we were heading north we ran in the south end of the weather we had been so desperately going south to avoid.

The weather can change just like that before we knew it we were totally becalmed with just enough swell to really rock the boat. I took down the sails as they were just getting flogged to bits. As Whit was sea sick at this point he was totally unimpressed with the rocking and rolling.

Morning saw the wind fill in again and before we knew it had the twenties straight down wind. Swells were picking up . On a controlled gybe a shackle on the traveller blew apart. No worries just jury rigged a rope connection with some chafe protection and we were back in the game.

Thankfully after 24 hrs Whit’s sea sickness has passed.

As we were head east wards we ended up sailing close by some of the slower salty dawg boats. Ruffian a British boat called on VHF radio and picked up our lat and long and called parker by sat phone to get latest weather. I had decided that we had to totally conserve power of only VHF radio, AIS and handheld GPS were on. At night when I was on watch I turn off tricolor to conserve power.

The first day that we had lost power I had pulled up the charts for Bermuda on the computer and traced then out on pieces of paper in case we were not able to use electronic charts. I plotted all the way points needed to enter the harbour. All just in case.

In the more boisterous weather we were unable to start the honda generator.

Day three of no power saw us sailing SE slightly away from Bermuda just to get east before we could turn north to Bermuda. It was a very long ten hours with either 0 or negative VMG.
Finally  we tacked over the as wind began to change direction and we were rocketing towards Bermuda. Sunday ended up being our best day sailing 180 miles . Sun was out, beam reach sailing all was good.

Monday brought dying wind by mid day we were down to 5 knots wind and still 40 miles to go.

Bermuda radio called us when I explained our situation they offered to help. They arranged for Bermuda yacht services to be on stand by if we did not make it by dark and if we needed to be towed in.

Sure enough sunset came and went and we still had 25 miles to go. At 8:00 Bermuda yacht services launch and out and towed us in to ferry dock in the St David’s lagoon.

Bermuda is increditably organized – it was not twenty minutes after we had tied up and two custom officers appeared and asked that we report to their office to check in. $35 per person and we were cleared in at 10:30 at night.

The ferry dock where we had been towed to was not a good place to be as it had large tractor tires on a concrete wall. Thankfully on Tuesday morning some crew from Flight Plan one of the other Salty Dawg Rally boat who had also sidetracked to Bermuda, came over and help tow Anahata out to the anchorage.

Tuesday was Veterans Day in Bermuda so everything was closed.

Brian Berger from one of the other salty dawg rally boats Sea Rose offered the help look at the engine. 4 hours later still no luck we retraced everything I had done plus took the injector lines apart … We could just not get fuel past the injector pump to the injectors. After much hassling Brian thought it had to be something to do with the electronic shut off on the engine.

Tuesday night the crews from the 4 Stray Dawg boats as we now called ourselves met up for beers at the dinghy club. Brian and Sue from Sea Rose (from New Zealand), Ralph and Vince from Flight Plan (from Alaska) , Ian and Fiona from Ruffian (from England) plus myself.

After two days I managed to get a local diesel mechanic over to the boat. Three hours later he solved the problem. As Brian thought it was the electronic shut off solenoid… basic it has a spring that pulls the solenoid and the spring that stretched with the result we could not start the engine. Unfortunately some of the attempts of bleeding the fuel lines had worsened the situation as we had drained fuel from the injector lines and there is no way to put fuel back into the lines except by running the engine. The only way the mechanic was able to do this was by pouring mixed gas/oil mixture directly into the air intake and me repeatedly try and start the engine. Slowly inch by inch we pushed fuel back through the injector lines.

It was a bit frustrating to know that such a simple spring would have caused such a problem. Oh well it all part of the process.

It is now ten day after I arrived in Bermuda, ended up getting to know some really nice fellow cruisers. Wonderful pot lucks on various boats. Anahata host a butter chicken curry evening. Discovered we could sit 9 people in the cockpit.

All the cruisers have been extremely helpful in problem solving all sorts of issues on Anahata plus each other’s boats. It really made me feel like I was finally back in cruising mode. Everyone just loves being put here on the water and messing about in boats. We did manage to break up the boat projects by doing a couple of excursions : on Sunday we all hiked to beaches and went swimming and on Tuesday we caught a bus and ferry to the old dock yards.

Anyway it’s time to go again. Fueled, watered and re -provisioned Anahata today. Tomorrow Friday 21st Flight Plan, Ruffian and Anahata are heading out to sea again for BVIs. It’s 850 m almost due south. It looks like we have a good weather window with winds from either the NE or E at about 20 knots basically a beam reach all the way.

Ready for the next adventure. Speak to you later. 🙂


  1. Menno
    November 28, 2014

    Glad to hear all is well; had us worried for a bit. Every day is a new adventure!

    • David
      November 30, 2014

      You would have loved the sailing Menno wind almost the entire way. Would have been great to have you a board I am sure we would have figured out the engine stop button issue. Anyway it was great to be able to do the singlehanded leg. She is a fantastic boat. Feel very safe in her. Would not go to sea with out Monitor and AIS. Now I just have to figure out alternative power sources I am way to dependent on that engine. 🙂 D

  2. Merle Kisby
    November 29, 2014

    How exciting to be reading about all your adventures on the high seas – one more motor incident and I think you need to throw it in the ocean! Safe journey to the BVI’s and hopefully a relaxing Xmas holiday.

    The Galapagos, Amazon and Machu Pichu were amazing, each so different and each a lovely adventure. I’m having brunch tomorrow with Valerie and Jim and then off to Christine Shorts jewellery sale. It’s dam cold here and I’m looking forward to heading to Vancouver for Xmas. Safe journey David.

    • David
      November 30, 2014

      HI Merle What a month of sailing. Just had to keep thinking and figuring out one situation at a time. If it was easy there would be a lot more people doing it. stay warm, David


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