Even though Dagny is gone, maybe to me forever, I feel like I should recount my last steps after arriving on the North West Bank.
As soon as I anchored the motion turned out to be awful. The swells were coming from the Gulf Stream, winds shifting to the North. I immediately felt sick. Exhausted after driving the boat nineteen hours and not having slept before leaving, I needed sleep badly. I had not been able to keep any water down since leaving, not to mention any food. Dehydration was no doubt affecting me. I felt very weak. My electrical system seemed to be down, at least everything going through the control panel. Fortunately I mounted the solar panels and bilge pump directly. The VHF was left on with AIS receiver in case I saw anyone. Big ships kept heading South, five miles away. They never came closer but I had an eye on them. I spent the night being tossed around, practically off my bunk a couple times. I have the bruises to prove it, a couple I can just cover with my hand. Morning did not come soon enough, but the conditions were worsening. Moving inside the cabin became practically impossible. I was too weak to do anything but lay on my bunk.
Your brain plays funny tricks on you when you’re alone. I started hearing voices outside the boat… More like talk radio or furtive words being spoken. Of course I very well knew nobody was out there, and it soon became quite annoying. Had I understood more than a few sporadic words it might have been more interesting. This did tell me that I had better improve my situation by trying to rest, eat and drink. The seasickness I knew had to disappear after a while.
I was lucky to have my inReach satellite communicator, which gave me great comfort and contact with family and friends.
My anchor was a Mantus 35lbs with 40ft of chain and 250ft of 5/8 nylon rode, all out in 40ft of water. This anchor saved my ass (excuse my French) during those three days.
The next day was pretty much the same. I did manage to get a can of oranges and first drink the juice. It was like pouring life into my veins. I knew the sugar would perk me up. Since I felt better I finished the can. Still in a semi-daze, I rested all day and the following night, finally drinking water as well. The morning of the third day I woke up feeling better; not overly so, but enough to have a look outside and eat a can of grapefruits. The swells were smaller and the wind was shifting to the North East. Maybe I could make it to Great Sale Cay. Problem was, I could not start my engine with the electric system down, meaning no starter. As to using the emergency hand crank, forget it, I was still way too weak for that. Still, I had to get off the Bank, or things would have gotten worse again, and the anchor rode would chafe through soon or later. I wanted to be in control. How do you raise a 35lbs anchor by hand with a length of chain when you can barely stand for a few minutes? You don’t. Any other time I could have accomplished this with no trouble. I crawled slowly to the bow, wearing foul weather gear and safety harness. It took me a while, as I needed to rest a few minutes every few feet of Dagny’s 26ft. What was I thinking? I tried, of course unsuccessfully, to pull the anchor line out. All I got for my efforts was a nasty rope burn on my arm which took a little skin off. Here is a new $280 Mantus with $200 of rode and $40 of chain, used for the first time, and I need to cut it loose. Had I known I would not have been able to start the engine, I would have searched for much shallower water, but I was so exhausted, it was madness to continue that first night. Hey Mantus, how about a discount coupon on my next one? If I ever get Dagny back or another boat…
Making way has a totally different motion. My sea sickness disappeared almost instantly, though I was still quite weak, but now sailing South East at a good clip on main sail only. Hours passed, the weather getting sunnier and better. Now I was enjoying myself. These days, sunset comes quickly and Great Sale Cay was still quite far. I didn’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere at night creating a hazard to others with no lights. West End didn’t look so far now, and I was making best speed sailing South. I decided to keep going in that direction until I found very shallow water to anchor in with my 20lbs CQR, somewhere nobody could follow with my 3’10” draft and accidentally hit me. I slept well that night, my spirits up.
The last leg to West End was also a great day of sailing, though it didn’t seem I would make it before dark. I had crossed the Bank edge to the West to avoid the very shallow water North of the island, but in doing so went a bit too far West. Upon arriving I anchored out about a mile South of the channel entrance along the beach. That was another good night, and I ate a couple cans again, even made some hot oatmeal.
In the morning was time to check-in. I tried three times to enter the channel on sail only, but with those rocks on both sides, it was a futile attempt, as the wind would die approaching land. On my last try my bow swung a few feet from the rocks. Let’s forget about the idea… If you want to know if a dinghy with a 2.5hp engine can pull a 7000lbs boat up wind into an entrance channel, don’t try, take my word on it. It’s not the boat that’s going to get pulled. I had better anchor out again and go check-in by dinghy.
Not to recount my last post on the loss of Dagny, around 6:00pm, maybe 6:30, Dagny wasn’t where I left her. I had checked on her from time to time, no problem. The 1/2″ anchor rode was new, I had enough scope and lots of chain. I may never know what happened.
The hatches were closed, sails down. The bilge pump is fed directly by the battery, which is fed by the solar panels. I do not expect her to sink. Maybe she’s half way to Florida right now, or aground on the Bank somewhere, who knows.
I am stranded in West End with less than $20. Everything I owned was on the boat. I needed only little money with me to pay for the entry fee and lunch. A few friends have offered to send me a few dollars via Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org). I put my address here, but would like to emphasize that I am not taking donations. I’ll take a loan, pay it back to the last penny, yes, but that’s as far as my pride will let me do, and even that is painful to me. I have never relied on anyone for my subsistence since I was a teenager, and will not start now.
I would like to thank all my friends for their support and well wishes. I am so disappointed to not being able to share more of this adventure with you guys, as the feedback has been overwhelming. I feel like I have let everyone down, which is also very painful, considering all the practical and moral support they have given me, hoping to read all about it maybe for years.
My priorities are to get a beta blocker as soon as possible, my stock being of course on the boat. It is a medication I take every day for heart rhythm. Then comes accommodations, needed for a week waiting for news. I have no clothes but those on my back.
In a week I hope to find passage to Nassau, and maybe take a commercial flight back to France. Maybe Dagny will turn up somewhere, but I have little hope.
I will now head to the harbor master’s office and make sure the local police has notified the U.S. Coast Guard, which they should have done last night, I mentioned to them, but I am sure they know their job. My only means of communications is via email, having left my phone on the boat as well in a can of rice, since it had developed an aversion to salt water.
I still have my dinghy here with its outboard engine, but it is of little use to me now if Dagny isn’t found and somehow brought back here, but I doubt things like that happen, do they? So if anyone wants a brand new 7’9″ hypalon Achilles with used two-stroke outboard for $1000, let me know, pick up only.
I am in a state of numbness, my new life cut short by this stupid incident. Had I sunk, set my boat on fire or gotten lost, it would somehow be psychologically easier. I can’t think of anything I might have done wrong, and that is the hardest part.