Swear like a sailor.


My hands won’t stop shaking. I feel like I’m in a movie where a recently traumatized character frantically attempts to shake a cigarette out of its box only to find themselves unable to hold the lighter to light it. That’s me, but it’s not a movie and I don’t smoke. I sit there and chuckle to myself as I realize how much I just swore. I don’t swear often and when I do I’m usually laughing. This time, it was not a casual F-bomb and I was not laughing.

But before I get too far, I should probably give a little background. First, this is Alex. In April, Lauren and I flew out to Bali to meet Saltbreaker where Nick and Anca kept her after having sailed up from New Zealand. Some combination of our desire to take a turn on board and their desire to land travel lead us here to Bali.

What started as a few small repairs turned into a month of boat work but finally, Saltbreaker was ready and we set out to explore Indonesia. First stop: Amed, about 45 miles, or 12 Saltbreaker hours away. The trip North through the Lombok strait requires fighting some seriously strong currents. The same winds that pushed Saltbreaker across the Pacific also push massive amounts of water along with them. That water hits Indonesia and forces its way westward turning the straits between islands into rivers that finally drain into the Indian Ocean.

As we rounded the Eastern tip of Bali we slammed right into those currents. With full sail, the engine running full speed and the boat tucked just a hundred meters off the steep reef-lined coast, we were just barely making progress … when the tiller pin sheared. Not fluent in boatspeak? Picture an RV struggling up a winding mountain road only to have the steering wheel fall off  (though our situation was less perilous).

Screenshot of our GPS track.

I would not suggest following our track to Amed.

The rudder was locked in a position pointing us directly to the oh-so-close reef. What happens next is a bit of a blur. According to Lauren I ran back and forth along the length of the boat cursing, yelling commands and throwing stuff, anything, over the side. I’d toss an anchor over, only to find the corresponding rope a tangled mess, then scramble to the bow to throw over another, then back to untangle. I said things like, “Fucking shit fuck jib shit”, which Lauren somehow understood correctly to mean “Let out the jib sheet!” I did some very reasonable things, like shut down the engine. And some unreasonable things like attempt to steer the boat by trimming the sails (which IS possible … but not with the rudder hard to port and not with a reef 50m away). In the end, an anchor caught, spinning us around and stopping us, literally, just feet from a wall of coral.

On shore a group of kids on shore waved hello. I gave them a shaky wave back and hoped I hadn’t just added to their English vocabulary.

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One Response to Swear like a sailor.

  1. Jenn says:

    Whoa!!!! What an amazing experience and what fast thinking! I love the visual of Alex running pell mell along the deck yelling unintelligible orders and hurling jetsam seaward :) Glad as hell that Lauren is such a good interpreter of your rants!!!

    keep the updates coming, as i love living (and learning) vicariously through your adventures! I’ll be helping to move a 44′ jenneau from Tortola to Miami and then from Charleston to Norfolk next spring, should be a LOT less exciting.

    fair winds friends!

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