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Chapter two: Seamanship
Chapter two: Seamanship
I forced myself to make some cook soup in the galley, although I did
not get far. Below in the saloon I stood ankle deep in water. "We are going down!" - A thought shot through my head. Panic was spreading. How do I proceed from here? I needed to find the leak in the boat hull before it was too late.
The brown water was slippery and it started to burn my eyes. This was not water; more of a diesel leakage in one of the main tanks. ?The three-cylinder Yanmar roars? I muttered. The oil slump dipped into the rippling sloshing diesel. It smelled as if I was sitting in the tank and not outside. The gas formation brought tears to my eyes. I felt dizzy. With a mighty effort I climbed back out onto the cockpit and grasped for fresh air. The gagging was joined by a nasty cough.
The fast wind seemed to deprive me of oxygen. ?What can save me out here, alone on high seas and so totally inexperienced?? I
exasperatedly thought to myself. The leaking diesel will soon be insufficient, not even enough for the way back to the Australian coast. The messy weather would blow me south past Tasmania and then to the South Pole.

?Time to learn sailing, even though there wasn?t much time!?

I had to close the leak first, using goggles to protect my eyes from
fuel gases before crawling back into the engine compartment. After a brief search, I found the problem. The mechanic who installed the
engine had forgotten to connect the third tank inside the keel with
the main tanks. At a quiet harbor this went unnoticed, but then the
wild event unfolded itself?

I estimated a loss of at least 200 liters of fuel. How can I reach Honiara , the capital of the Solomon Islands , which was 1,400 nautical miles ahead?

Fortunately the leak was sealed just in time and then I started the pumps for the mixed bilge water with fuel. The batteries went briefly flat. Instead of 12V, the amp meter showed only 9V and the alternator did not seem to charge. My infuriation grew along with the costs of boat electricians. On a Saturday afternoon, one of them tried to lay a lie onto me, assuring that everything was checked through and worked fine. ?It?s only the ampere that is buggered but the alternator works great, mate!? What happened afterwards was just the opposite. Fortunately I installed four solar panels which generated enough electricity with the sun.

I set back to work straight away on the pumps and bilge, instead I use the bucket to bail out, taking breaks for fresh air outside. That seemed to be the only way to dry the boat. It was a messy and unpleasant job. Diesel ran all over me burning my skin and eyes. After hours of hard work I ditched the last from the bilge but the stink would remain for some time. In this shitty weather the port holes could not be opened.

In my exhaustion I made some soup. I needed something hot to bring back my strength. Cooking in a steamer went quite well. I had to force myself to eat before I go to my books for study. A friend gave me a German reference book entitled "The Seamanship?.

"The Seamanship? covers all a sailor should know, when cruises High Seas. Since I had plenty of time, I read the book dutifully till late at night. I struggled to sleep. I looked repeatedly in the direction of Byron Bay , staring at the lighthouse which was still in sight. I could not make any headway with motoring alone and I was only burning precious fuel.

Next morning I put what I have learnt into practice, steering the boat into the wind, hoisting the main and the mizzen. The wild thumps of wind beat the sail canvas until I was 45 degrees off my Honiara course. Towards the direction of Caledonia the sails stayed stiff as my heart. This French colony island had Interpol connections, which I have to avoid by any means.

But for now the Restless sails stable, the arbitrary spin compresses into a steady plunge from wave crest to wave crest at 4.5 knots and we just ran like the fire police.

Very soon the Australian coast was out of sight. We were making good progress while I began to bring the boat in order. And it was at this time that I knew that I could do it!

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