Or as Emma-Kate said more accurately: rudderless in Zakynthos.
After zooming 6,000 nautical miles to Greece, we finally arrived in the Peloponnese in the island of Zakynthos on June 30th at 2am. We dropped the anchor just around the corner from the main port of the same name (Porto Roma is where we stopped for those of you who’d like to look it up) and we all went into a well-deserved slumber in the quiet windless anchorage.
Little did we know that a Greek tragedy (or comedy perhaps) was brewing overnight…
The next morning we woke up slowly, with me rising last of all, and when finally mustered, Manny had gone swimming and taken a look at the undersides of Ondine. He had found some white stuff tied up to the prop. Being the good sailor that he is, he got a knife and cut it away and brought it topsides. It looked like we had driven over a fishing net, or something like it and the prop had got fouled, though I never felt anything as we were motoring or sailing. When I dove in, I went down to take a look and to my horror, I realized that the P bracket that holds the prop shaft in place had become separated from the hull – probably because the prop pulled too hard and the net got caught on the wrong side of the bracket and yanked it off the boat. Here’s a diagram of what a P bracket is:
It’s the bracket that holds up the prop shaft. It gets its name because it looks like an upside down P.
Really the only way to repair this is to haul Ondine out of the water as you’ve got to fiberglass it in place and it can’t dry underwater. Hauling a 55ft long x 30ft wide catamaran is never easy on the best of days and we are in a tiny Greek island with few services, so my heart (and pocket book) sagged. It certainly took the joy out of being in Greece and wasn’t really what I meant when I said earlier we need to s l o w d o w n.
After recovering from my initial depression, I called up the local port to ask if anyone could help and got referred to “Nickos”. His son answered and referred me to another son “Dionysious”. Clearly a Greek family business: repairing visiting yachts. He was a very friendly guy, said he’d come out, dive down, and take a look the same day.
He confirmed my suspicions and we agreed that rather than trying to haul Ondine, we would try to raise one of her hulls (using a craine), quickly make the repairs and then put the hull back into the water.
Although I’ve heard of this being, done, I’ve never done it, but I figured at least it’ll be cheaper than doing a full haul out and it gave me comfort to think that Ondine wouldn’t be completely out of the water as she’s a really difficult boat to haul: the supports have to be in just the right place or you’ll puncture her hull.
They were very good and got everything organized for first thing the next morning. In fact they came early while Manny, Alison and their kids were off for a walk. No matter, Emma-Kate and I moved the boat across the harbor where the crane was waiting and we started lifting up Ondine’s port hull. You had to be there. The crane operator was a real character, he told me in his broken English with me chiming in in with my broken Greek that he was really smart but only did 6 years of school. By my reckoning that means he left the education system aged about 13 – maybe younger. And he’s pulling my baby out of the water – AHHHHHHH. Here he is in action.
Me saying: “Cigar, cigar”. Greek for “slowly, slowly”.
And here are a couple of pics as they pull Ondine out of the water. I can’t say I was very comfortable. Let me ask you this: do you see anything missing from these pics?
Then just as Manny and Alision came back to see Ondine imitating a mono-hull in a stiff breeze, one of the Greek guys said something that I still can’t believe I didn’t notice. “Where’s your rudder?” I looked at him blankly, and I looked at Ondine, and kept looking at Ondine. Here’s what we saw.
I sat down, turned into a lump of jello and nearly cried. Here are two pics taken the moment it happened.
How on earth did I lose a rudder?
AND HOW DID I MISS THAT WHEN I WENT DIVING DOWN TO TAKE A LOOK?
I mean you’d think I’d notice.
The rudder is huge. It stands about 4 feet tall and two feet long: it is over eight feet tall if you include the shaft. It’s really not something you can miss…
Everyone was silent as all eyes went between the missing rudder and me: looking for direction.
I finally broke the silence by stating the obvious: “Well I guess we are now going to fix the rudder as well as the P Bracket.” That little P Bracket now seemed so insignificant.
A catamaran has two rudders and as we all started discussing it, we came to the conclusion that we’d been sailing on one for a while. We had noticed some minor steering issues, but as Ondine has a hydraulic steering system the helmsman is really insulated from the “feel” of the boat and those rudders are so big that you can (obviously) steer her with only one. Whether we’d been missing the rudder for a day or a month I couldn’t tell you. I’m pretty sure I saw the rudder in the Azores, but I haven’t checked for it specifically since then, so embarrassingly I cannot tell you how long it’s been missing!
When we took out the rudder shaft (it was still in place), it had been sheared off. Papa and his sons looked at me very doubtfully when I said I didn’t remember any impact. The shaft is made of two inch solid stainless steel, it’s not that easy to break in two. But as we looked more closely, it wasn’t a clean break which leads me to believe that someone (before me) had had an accident there and weakened it/cracked it, and it had been slowly, slowly getting worse and worse: and then finally just dropped off due to incessant pressure and movement. The very last part of the break is clean – so perhaps a strong wave, or the fishing net that snared the prop and dislodged the P Bracket… we’ll never know.
Boats: just when you think all is going well, they come up and remind you that the salt, the UV and the incessant motion is enough to wear away every component on board one-after-another, and it will given enough time. I’m going to call my next boat “Entropy”.
Right now as I write this we are sitting in Zakinthos harbor with no rudders: we’ve taken the starboard rudder out as well so that we can use that as a model for the missing port rudder. It’s Sunday as I write this, all the drama took place on Friday, and I’m told the new rudder will be ready on Tuesday, maybe Monday afternoon if I’m lucky. I’m certainly hoping we’ll be ready to continue our Greek odyssey by Wednesday with both rudders back in place.
In the meantime, we’ve been enjoying Zakynthos with our new guests Dave and Lisa (this wasn’t the start to their cruise that they’d been imagining), but that’s good subject matter for another post, until then we remain rudderless in Zakynthos.