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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Endless choppiness of Atland

I selected departure day according to weather forecast, so that strong wind should ease for next day and then rise again. This was only window of weaker wind on coming week. Departure was delayed. I could excuse it by one cargo vessel entering the port, but it just did take some more time to finish all preparations. Added one more safety rope for fuel canisters. Most of canisters were tidy packed between aluminium and inflatable pontoon, partly in water floating at their own forming flat bottom between inflatable and aluminium pontoons. And no problems with canisters there. Only some on pontoons needed adjustment during cruise, as few waves hit these hard.

One hour late started to pick up the anchor, but in vain. Wind was so strong, I could not get it. As using engine would result rope around propeller when done alone I did not dare to use power. Did take the rest, eat some pies. Then knowing situation did take better position for more pull and got the anchor out of muddy bottom. Waved to Arnaldo and Buck on shore and headed the ocean. Wind strong there also, waves three meters. But not so bad downwind. Until I started to feel, that may be the pies were not so good at all. Then felt like had whole life eaten bad pies. Then puked. Seasickness was there. Then did something usuful, but after some minutes discovered myself sitting and staring on waves. And then puked. And then after break, yes, I puked. So, serious seasickness continued for two days. Did not eat or drink, only some drops of water. As sickness was bad, decided to make break and stay in sea anchor at the evening of first day and day after also. Had to prepare myself before heading and spend night at anchored Amphibear. Maybe would result less seasickness. But you never know. Inside Amphibear is like inside washing machine.

Common Atlantic here has 12 knots wind and 2m waves. For me there was on offer 20 knots wind and 3m waves. Not too bad, but not good either.

The wind howls around the car and waves are three meter high, but nothing I could do about it. Some waves are five meters also. Luckily long ones, not storm breakers. Occasionally some break, but very few to the car. No slamming on body, just some canisters on top of pontoons get serious hits. Sea anchor does the job, but of course at ancor more waves and wave shakes more than cruising downwind. But no cruising, seasickness is so bad, that rest is needed.

Headed on in third day. Not totally well, but health was improving and decided to continue. Eat my first food, one orange for breakfast. Driven few hours, course pilot did sound warning message - can not hold course. Hand steering did not work also. Went to see the situation, it looked like disaster. One of the drives was below waterline, tilted on strange angle. Other seemed more or less ok, just bounced from side to side. Did take the swim. Situation was pretty bad. One of the drives totally broken off, hanging on hydraulic tubes. Other drive bracket lower part broken and cracks on upper side. And me still weak and still seasick.

Launched sea anchor again and started to pull onboard the lose drive. Not easy task. Drive is not too heavy, 58kg but waves bounce it violently and every gain on pulling it onboard is taken back by next wave. Strong hydraulic tubing has its own ideas about drive position. Finally after pulling and tieing, did take front winch of the car, and in rhythm of waves pulled drive onboard. Separated the drive from hydraulic system. And dived one more time to find possible punctures at the pontoon, where the drive was loose in waves. Did not find anything significant.

Strong hydraulic tubing and waves make lifting the drive to mission impossible. Finally front winch of the car helped to clear the situation.

For heading forward or back to Praia there was one drive left. However, it was obvious that without additional supports it would be matter of hours for break off. Had to plan the repair. It was simple modification needed. There are needed two wooden supports between pontoon and drive and then load strap to pull drive against these supports. But night is coming, exhausted, I ate my first proper food since start, hundred grams of canned tuna fish and went for asleep.

The morning wind eased a little and I felt better also. Started to prepare wooden support from my only wood plank, the support of bridge between pontoons. To lunchtime pieces were ready for first try. Some more preparations and to swimming tour. Repair almost impossible. Rear end of pontoons moves up and down so violently, that most of time I have to take care of myself, to not get hit or stuck hand between pontoon and drive. So, different methods, testing, setting fixing and finally plates were somehow in place. Installed load strap, but as twilight coming did not start driving. Planned frequent inspection and it is much easier in daylight. And I did not remember, it was Christmas Eve...

Slept not well. Usually wake up here 10-12 times per night, change position and sleep again, but not this night. And bad news in the morning. The load strap is cut by the sharp edges of drive overnight. And my supports are floating on thin safety rope, I fortunately had tied. Modified supports for better fit, and to swimming again. Hopeless, waves are big and can not set support in place. There is not much places to fix it, and it is tricky to get drive away, place support and let drive back to hold it.

Had small rest of swim sitting on pontoon. Look at rear end, and Amphibear is tilted to rear - right. Wave runs over pontoon every time. Obvious, there is leak. The loose drive had punctured rear chamber of right pontoon. Dropped the left drive repair attempts and prepared to pump water out of right pontoon. First had to pump out some fuel, from left pontoon. Then move pontoon cap with hose through, from left pontoon to underwater cap of right rear pontoon chamber. Quick operation succeeded, not much additional water was let into pontoon. Started slow pumping process and situation improved. But again getting dark, and too much for me to go for repair again.

In the morning of second Christmas day I woke up in depressed mood. Could not start any action, exhausted, still little seasick. Had my minutes to think it over. And sent message to support team - need tow to Praia for proper repair. There are just too many tasks arising and too few hands to solve these. Even, if I can fix broken drive, I will not know how lasting it will be was important consideration also. Support team, Kristjan Kalda and Erki Koldits acted as needed. Clear messages to me and methodical work started to find tow on holidays. Mood improved, went to repair again. No results, whatever method I try. At the evening made a little different, step by step plan for installing the support. Improved my bed also, set some more supports and night sleep was improved indeed.

Next morning again drive repair. And miracle happened. I got support on place. For duration of one wave period, as next did throw it away again. At least i knew, it had right shape. I just need to fix it until I can pull the drive by. At lunchtime I looked, the tilt is really bad. Enthusiastically repairing drive did not pay enough attention. Pumped air into pontoon, to get some pressure inside. After half an hour of pumping, pump stopped working. Broke. Bad news as this pump is needed for inflatable pontoons. And if tilt is too bad, then inflatables are important. One puncture, and I will have trouble. So pumped out as much water as I could. Still something wrong, Amphibear tilted but no more water comes out.

If waves run over pontoon with closed chambers, this does not harm. If waves do not leave the pontoon, there is trouble. At least no sharks around, as had Ra I in Atlantic in similar situation.

Next morning tilt was really bad. Repositioned some more fuel canisters, and see some yellow half meter fish are sending Amphibear. Some fishing would not harm, but situation is too serious for fishing. Started pumping one more time, but what does not come out of pontoon is is water. Maybe hose is somehow in upper corner, maybe something else. Do not understand. Support team already proposed to get me rescued. Matter of 2 hours as they said. Still insisted for tow or ship with crane. And got notice in hour, ship with crane on the way. Prepared few things for lifting and there is ship on horizon. This was first ship I had visual contact, week after leaving Praia.

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