Sailing to Bermuda (and How I Nearly Died at Sea)

Sailing to Bermuda how I nearly Died at Sea

They say it’s bad luck to change a boat’s name. Maybe that’s why it all went horribly wrong. The following story is so crazy that looking back on it, I can still hardly believe that it happened to me.

After months of hanging around Rhode Island, trying to get a job on a sailboat, my dreams of adventure on the high seas were about to come true. I was given a job on a sailboat heading to Bermuda, over 600 miles away through the open ocean.

We left at sunrise that autumn morning, the captain, his wife and us three crew members all bundled up against the intense chill. The waves were big and I realized later that most people thought we were crazy for leaving right then. After all, a hurricane had just passed the stretch of Atlantic where we were headed! Not to mention that our destination was Bermuda (as in the Bermuda Triangle Bermuda!) and our boat had just changed its name without even using the proper ceremony to appease the gods.

Bad luck as the old salts say.

Trying to sleep that night, the waves literally rolled me back and forth across the bed. I got up at 4 am for my turn at the watch and could barely walk across the boat.

And it was about to get a lot worse. Unbeknownst to us, (as our weather forecast system was down) we were on the edge of a huge storm with 150 mph winds!

Afternoon of the second day only got rougher. Imagine trying to sit on the toilet and with each wave, making air that a pro skateboarder would be jealous of! The Captain and First Mate began to talk about turning the boat around and going back to Newport. I was horrified! My first trip out couldn’t end like that. We had to press on!

We turned around.

The sea calmed and that night was one of the most spectacular of my existence. I was outside on watch and the sky was filled with stars so bright and numerous that I couldn’t even pick out the constellations. On every side of us, lightning flashed. We were surrounded in storms.

By the next morning, the waves were no longer waves. They were mountains. We didn’t have enough gas to make it back to safety so were forced to sail, despite the violent wind. I sat in the cabin and watched through the window as towers of water crashed right over top of us. Every few minutes I got up and carefully made my way to the hatch to make sure that the First Mate hadn’t been washed away into the sea.

Then things started to get bad.

Something slammed against the window next to my head so hard I can’t believe the glass didn’t break. I scrambled away. It slammed again. And again. Ropes and metal bits were flying everywhere outside. The furling line had snapped.

This means that the headsail, which had been reefed in as tight as possible (made small because there was too much wind), had broken and was now full out in the middle of the storm. And there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t even reach it due to the rope whipping across the deck with enough force to take a man’s head off.

The boat was nearly impossible to control. We got in contact with the Coast Guard and made a plan to reach Block Island. With any luck, we would be able to find shelter along the West side.

But as we’ve already established, luck was not with us.

The next thing to break was the engine. It died completely and nothing the captain did made any difference. It was dead.

A few minutes later we lost steerage. Our rudder (the contraption used to steer the boat) snapped completely off from the force of the storm. It was gone. Our engine was gone. Our headsail was full out with lines and metal whipping across the deck, destroying the rigging. And we were smack dab in the middle of the kind of storm that I’d only seen in the movies.

The navigation system died next. The sky had grown dark. The first mate actually went out on the deck among the whipping lines and cut the now-ripped-up headsail loose. The coast guard was still hours away.

Inside, water leaked through every hatch. Every thing and every person was completely soaked and freezing. The brand new $500,000 dollar boat was a wreck.

When the coast guard finally arrived, we thought we were saved. I helped my friend, Marc, tie into his safety harness and watched helplessly as he went out on to the raging foredeck to try and catch the lines thrown by the Coast Guard ship.

But then the unthinkable happened. One of the lines got tangled in the Coast Guard ship’s propeller. They were just as dead in the water as we were! Half an hour later, I noticed that the Coast Guard ship was approaching us again. I thought that they had fixed their propeller and were going to give another attempt to save us. Not so.

The other ship was still dead but the waves were pushing us close. And then together. The Coast Guard ship slammed into ours with a startling force. Then again and again. A row of Coast Guard guys lined the other ship’s deck trying to push us apart. One of them screamed as an impact broke his leg. A big chunk of fibreglass was torn off of our boat before the waves finally pulled us apart again.

A few miles away, another boat was caught in the storm and sinking. It was a towboat and the crew was saved by somehow getting on to the barge they were pulling. The Coast Guard ship that was on the way to save them was rerouted to save us instead.

The new Coast Guard ship arrived and after hours of failed attempts we finally got linked to them with a tow line. For the next thirteen hours we were towed back to Newport. There is more to tell but I think I will cut the story here as it is already long enough.

Back in Newport, I felt a weird mixture of sadness at the destruction of that beautiful boat, relief that everyone was okay, and gratitude toward the universe for giving me such an incredible adventure. The kind that I had always dreamed of. The next day, Marc and I booked flights to Fort Lauderdale, where we would continue our search for work on the sea.

Miss Miral

Click Below to Find Out What Happened Next!

Adventures in Bikini Boat Washing – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Bikini Boat Washing in Fort Lauderdale Florida

Or To See Just How I Ended Up Here, Check Out My Previous Post!

Just Trying to Sail – In Newport Rhode Island

Just Trying to Sail in Newport Rhode Island

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76 comments

  1. Glad you were alright. Sad about your boat. I saw a survival show where this happened to a group of guys on a sailboat (you may know of this story) when out of about 6 one didn’t make it. The other 5 spent almost 2 horrific days in the water together and were rescued just in time. Of course, it was a reenactment, but I cried when they were rescued. The relief on their faces even as actors were just so realistic; I was there with them.

    Like

  2. I commented on a later post you made before I read this one. Wow.

    I am pleased you survived, you have something to write about now! Dial the clock back or forwards or, put those zombies on a coast guard ship that came to rescue you even.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing and frightening!! Character building stuff, well done for getting through it all. 💛 On a lighter noter, if you’re looking for something to read on your travels, you might like to check out this book “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” a lovely story about a couple who pack in the 9-5 for a while to go sailing round the Caribbean.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First of all thanks for the follow on papermudandme.com. Having lived aboard our boat for 8 years sailing around the Pacific and having sailed through a hurricane once, I’m eager to read more of your sailing adventures. Thanks again for the follow and Aloha – pjs/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And out of the bad luck at sea emerged Lucky Miss Mira! What an adventure!! Anyway I’m trying to connect with my followers of whom you are one and find out “what’s up with you?” My adventures in NZ and AU are not as spell binding as yours, but please do stop by again… between life-threatening moments, that is!!! Thanks for following!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing your sailing experiences with your readers. I could feel the ordeal you went through and what shocked me was that you were so ready to just get back on another boat and go for it. Not sure that I could be that brave. You will love my picture book that is going to be published soon, entitled, Who’s the Captain? It is humorous and fun! Keep checking in and you’ll see it listed on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Having lived on a couple of sailing boats for about 21 years of my life and been in one or two (unavoidable) storms, I can totally relate to this blog! Don’t let this incident stop you from sailing again, there are many incredible places to sail to! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. wow. what a story. I felt I was there while reading this. I have been in pretty bad weather with happy six but this takes the price. I am glad all were okay.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow, sounds like you really got onboard a boat with a very incompetent captain who didn’t bother to even do simple weather routing which not only endangered himself but his entire crew. I’m also surprised SO MUCH was destroyed onboard the boat. Boats, if well maintained, are designed to endure much more than we are. She must have not been very heavily built. I’d be curious to know what kind of boat it was, I can’t tell from the photo. I’m relieved you lived to tell the tale and hope you have a safer captain whose priority is keeping everyone safe and alive on your next voyage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Emily! The boat was a Hylas 54 (or fifty something anyway). Yeah, it’s like everything that could even remotely possibly go wrong on the boat, did. When we got back, an acquaintance told me that he had looked over the boat with the Captain before we left, and warned him not to go. I guess it was in bad shape.

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      • Oh my that’s unfortunate! I know a couple sailing around the world on a Hylass, 44 feet I think. Those are supposed to be solid boats. I hope you scrutinize your next trip’s captain!!! Lost at sea is not joke…

        Liked by 1 person

  10. What am amazing experience! Understandably horrifying when it happened, but it left you with a memory of how you were able to cope up with such a situation and to feel proud about it! “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am glad you made it back to shore safely!!! I have logged thousands of miles and seen a few wild storms but never lost a yacht (or even come close), this is because I have sailed with good sailors on well maintained Yachts. It is a wonderful and dangerous sport, choose your skipper carefully.
    Keep going 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Marina,
    This is a well written terrifying story! Just terrifying!
    Thank you for following my photography blog: http://throughharoldslens.com. I hope that I can capture my journeys as well as you. I also hope that you enjoy your journey.
    To launch your travels, find a Country or find a Genre, “click” and jump aboard. Or, here’s a few “Quick Links” to some of my favorites, from over 300 posts, on Through Harold’s Lens:
    “Shaken! Not Stirred”(Sweden)
    http://throughharoldslens.com/2013/09/13/shaken-not-stirred-european-tour/
    “Maiden Mild” (Poland)
 http://throughharoldslens.com/2013/06/12/maiden-mild-european-tour/
    “Where Spirits Soar” (Chile)
    http://throughharoldslens.com/2014/01/25/where-spirits-flow-musicians-of-our-world/
    On behalf of the entire Creative Team at Through Harold’s Lens, my trusty sidekicks, Mr. Mirrorless Sony, Mr. SLR Nikon, his brother Mr. Pen Pal and myself, we wish you fun and safe travels.

    Best,
    Harold
    https://www.facebook.com/haroldmetcalfgreensr

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Eric!!!! Yeah we had a few more mishaps under tow. For example, the anchor came down of its own accord and got caught and had to be cut loose. Lol, every little thing that could break seemed to break. Afterwards, the captain took the crew out for a thank you dinner which was super nice 🙂 My next post will pick up right after this!

      Liked by 1 person

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