September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao

By Tom Morkin

 

Willemstad Bay, Curacao Island Caribbean Sea

We’re stuck not less than 300 feet from where Feel Free splashed after a ‘reasonably’ uneventful haulout in Willemstad Harbor in Curacao.

No, we’re not aground. We are at anchor with a diesel engine that won’t run for more than half an hour before it dies. So we couldn’t be more stuck even if we were aground. Somewhere in the fuel system ie. fuel line filter valve, air is getting into the mix and one thing diesel fuel systems can’t abide is air.

So here we are chomping at the bit to head to Colombia and the San Blas Islands of Panama and we don’t have the power to leave the harbor.

Truly ‘getting stuck’ is one of the bigger downers of cruising. It is not the first time it’s happened to us and it won’t be the last. Nobody who cruises for any length of time avoids getting stuck. Maybe I should define this term ‘stuck’. It really is quite simple. One is stuck when for one or more than one reason one can’t move on or go where one wants to go. It is a loss of control, and it doesn’t feel good.
Sailors often get stuck in the following ways:

• Mechanical breakdowns
• Weather- either too much wind or too little
• Waiting for crew
• Legal matters- often Customs, Immigration or quarantine matters
• Illness or accident

Of course one doesn’t have to go cruising to fall prey to this loss of control or this ‘stuckness’ thing. People get stuck in their everyday terrestrial lives- stuck in traffic, mechanical breakdowns, losing your key, locking yourself out of your house or apartment, getting stuck at the airport and the list goes on. The common link is loss of control.
Getting stuck when sailing far away from home however, often carries greater consequences. Over our sailing lives, Liz and I can recall a handful of times we’ve been stuck. Our memories of these events are still quite clear because they were so awful and caused us such anxiety. Here are some examples:

 

Stuck in a storm

It was in the Tasman Sea 90 miles east of Sydney Australia. For 36 hours we were ‘hove to’ with a tiny storm trisail, with hurricane force winds at 65 knots for much of the time. Green water repeatedly washed over the boat, breaking the dodger, solar panels and wind vane. What we thought was a water proof boat was not, as salt water was everywhere inside the boat. Unable to propel the boat or steer it, we were totally at the mercy of the sea. We were being driven towards land but fortunately we were 90 miles from it. We tended to deal with issues as they developed but after a while we simply had to wait it out. This meant coming to terms with the unfortunate reality that we were stuck in a situation which was out of our control.

 

Stuck in a yard

During the summer of 2006, we left Feel Free in a boat yard in Langkawi Malaysia. Before flying back to Canada we contracted a mechanic to remove our 70 hp Isuzu engine and rebuild it. We were assured that upon our return four months later, we’d have a rebuilt engine ready to be installed in the boat.

What we discovered back in Malaysia was that not only was our engine in hundreds of pieces in the mechanic’s shop, he was off working in a gold mine in Laos! For a month he did not return phone calls or emails. We had no idea if he would be away weeks or months or worse, if he was coming back at all. That was the season we planned a 4,800 mile trip from Malaysia to Turkey so we needed to be on our way. We couldn’t be waylaid for too long. For the entire month my primary task was controlling my angry desperation. I began grinding my teeth in my sleep and fantasized how this incredibly insensitive person could be punished! To cope, we focused on jobs that never would have been completed if we were ready to go sailing. When we weren’t busy with boat work we swam lengths in a pool and practised stoicism. Our mechanic did eventually reappear one morning. We found him in his shop working on our engine behaving as if all was well with the world, didn’t offer even the slightest suggestion of an apology. Within a week, the engine was back on board running just fine and we were un-stuck.

 

 

Stuck on the bottom

In 1988 we were foolish enough to put our 41’ steel ketch Hoki Mai seriously aground on a surf beach in trying to enter the tiny port of 1770 in Queensland Australia. It was hardly the first time we put that steel boat on the bottom, but never like this.

 

 

Each passing wave crest lifted the boat only to be dropped back on the bottom with a resounding and terrifying thud. The rigging and masts and spreaders shook and threatened to come apart. Worst of all was the feeling that the rudder post was about to pound through the cockpit sole. Our misery lasted about an hour during which time we managed to kedge the boat off by setting an anchor into the deeper part of the channel and winching the boat along. The punishment that steel boat took was astounding. I’m convinced a fibreglass, wooden or ferro cement boat would have been left for dead. At dusk we found the deep water and entered the small harbor. Our huge feeling of relief morphed into a terrible realm of stuckness as we realized we’d eventually have to leave the way we came. It was a full week before we felt ready to brave that shallow channel. We wanted the highest tide we could get and that meant waiting. We consulted with every fisherman in town about where we could find the deepest water but regrettably, no two could agree. There we were stuck in the lovely little town of 1770 unable to enjoy the idyllic setting, overcome by the dreadful anticipation of our departure. That we had relinquished control of our short term freedom to the weather and tide just exacerbated our frustration. We never should have tried to take a boat with a 7’ draft anywhere near that channel. We paid the price for our blunder. It could have been a much higher price than being stuck in 1770 for a week.

Back to the here and now stuck in Curacao. It has been a week that we have been at anchor without the use of our beloved 70 hp Isuzu. We’re stuck alright but it could be a much worse situation. The engine could have failed in a reef strewn channel or a busy commercial harbour. It could have happened at night or in an area known to have unfriendly elements who are not above taking advantage of a distressed vessel. For example Venezuela, or Colombia where we plan to head next.

 

 

No, we can count our blessings. Our anchorage although not pretty, is secure. Here’s our view from the cockpit. We’ve diagnosed the problem- broken mechanical fuel pump. We can have a replacement sent here by UPS within five days. We have the amenities of civilization close at hand.

 

Our forced immobility means boat jobs we’d consider doing only when we have ‘the time’ are getting done. Come to think of it, getting stuck like this could give ‘getting stuck’ a good name. But maybe I’d better wait until we’re finished being stuck.

It was only seven days here in our ‘sick bay’ but things are started looking up. The fuel pump arrived, got installed and it seems to have solved the problem. While there, we ran the motor for over three hours and didn’t hear the slightest hiccup.

 

We are now back in Spanish Water with about 75 other cruising boats, participating in ‘happy hours’, getting caught up with cruising buddies, and are making plans for our upcoming trip to Colombia and Panama.

 Now that we are good to go, our sick fuel pump seems like a distant memory, just a little bump on the road. Can’t wait to get out on the watery highway again.