Yes, a lot has been written about the Bermuda Triangle and a lot of it is probably just tales. But the fact remains, some people have actually experienced strange events in that area.
I’m one of them. In December 2002, I received a request from the owner of a 79-foot sailboat (White Eagle) if I wanted to undertake the project to put it in sailable condition. The boat had been inoperable for 6 years on a small boatyard in Tampa Bay and was due to poor condition forbidden of the maritime authority to leave the yard. I undertook the assignment and my first action was to put the boat in an approved condition to be able to drive by motor to Fort Lauderdale.
The boat was equipped with a two-stroke compressor-powered Detroit diesel V12 at 750 hp in good condition, so that would be no problem.I prepared the boat to to make the trip to Fort Lauderdale, supplied it with 2 independent GPS and updated charts. The boat was equipped with a hydraulic autopilot (which was put into operation after some throttle with the hydraulic valves), it had its own magnetic compass for the autopilot and a large magnetic compass in the cockpit. There was also a magnetic compass In my cabin.
We had carefully checked the weather outlook for the actual sailing day, it was a decent storm approaching from the north and we had figured out that we had to leave the yard no later than 13:00 if we were to get ahead of the harsh winds from the north. Everything was ready. We had cleared out and were just waiting for the software for the GPS that had been delayed. The clock went by and we decided that if we do not receive the ordered programs delivered before 3 pm then we will blow off, with the risk of being delayed for several days. Five minutes before 3 pm our long-awaited software arrives and we could leave Tampa Bay.
It is a long and winding road out to the coast from Tampa Bay with many sandbanks to watch out for, almost all the time we had nice company of dolphins. It seemed as if they wanted to see us safely to the ocean. Once out on the open sea we became aware that the storm we wanted to avoid now chased us from behind. On the radio, all seafarers were strongly recommended to seek port due to very severe weather. However, we decided to take the storm. It was no small boat and it had sailed around the world for several turns so we were not so nervous.
In hindsight, I can say that it is not fun to travel by engine in an 83 ton sailing boat when it rolls in five meters high waves from behind. Everyone was completely knocked out by sea sick except me the captain and his girlfriend. So we drove the boat on 3 people around the clock for 3 days. Besides the three of us who drove the boat, the owner and his family were on the trip.
The owner was a chef and had previously run a restaurant in Sweden. His lot was to provide us with food on the trip. Because of the harsh sea going, all the family members became sick to the extent that the amount of sea sickness pills they stopped in themselves made them completely excluded, so no food to speak of.
After all, it “floated on” pretty well except when the boat’s propulsion without warning completely ceased and the boat started to run wild in the high sea, then it was near panic for an inexperienced captain and I could see the horror in his eyes. I quickly had to rush down into the engine room where it was only creep height and check out what had happened. It was like crawling into a roaring dryer in 60 degree heat, the big V12 diesel engine thundering on too full but the propeller shaft did not propel the boat. In addition, a generator of 32 kW roared for full necks, that’s when I started feeling a little nauseous.
Well. I stopped the machine, checked the oil level in the transmission, everything seemed ok so I started up the big monster again and now it worked and the boat accelerated. Once on deck, it was just to quickly determine the wind direction and then emptying the stomach. The transmission failed three more times on the trip and I spewed all three times.
When we arrived in Fort Lauderdal, I found out from the manufacturer that these transmissions were not made for as high sea waves as we went in. The hydraulic oil accumulated at the wrong end of the transmission when the boat rolled too hard and the hydraulic pump was disconnected to prevent failure of the transmission. After all, it is a sailboat and it is not designed to be driven by an engine when the wind blows, then you should sail.
Of course, this meant that it did not get much sleep for me for the next 3 days. If the propeller stopped, it was in a hurry to get the boat going in the big waves we had. At 22 o’clock in the evening of the third day, the captain says to me: Chief! go to sleep in your cabin me and my girl take the night pass. The waves are smaller and the risk of engine failure is not so big.
It wasn’t long before the waves rocked me to fall asleep. But tell the dreams that last forever. I wake up as the captain’s girlfriend shakes me and with terror in her eyes points to my compass at the wall on the foot end of my bed. It spun around without anyone wanting to stop and show the direction. You have to get to the cockpit quickly, we don’t even know which way the boat is going and the autopilot is not working at all.
Once up in the cockpit I meet the terrified captain. He explains that with the autopilot turned on, the boat behaves completely insane. He has disengaged it and is trying to use the large magnetic compass that sits on his pedestal behind the steering wheel. It spins same way as my compass did down the cabin. A check of the autopilot’s compass shows that it has also lost control.
Ok. We had two GPSs from the beginning. The fixed mount sensor on the mast to one, broke already the first day, it probably could not withstand water. So we used the backup, which consisted of my laptop connected to a Garmin leisure GPS that I provisionally mounted in a mast wire and also it had stopped working and gave no positions at all.This happened just as we entered the area known as the Triangle of Death, and the fear inthe Captains eyes showed that he was believing that our last moment on earth had come.
Anyway, since I am a practical person, I did not think the disaster was at the door immediately. The fact that magnetic compasses are playing has their explanations for the fact that the earth’s magnetism varies in the earth’s liquid interior.
When it came to the problem with the computer it was easy to solve. The captain had configured the map program to save sailing coordinates once a second. This meant that the computer’s hard drive had become completely filled with coordinates after just over 3 days. Simply restart it, remove the blocking file and set the program to logging once an hour instead. Then we had to steer the boat according to the GPS compass.
After almost 6 hours, the magnetic compasses began to stabilize and we could turn on the autopilot, but then we were almost in Fort Lauderdale and it becomes another story with a new captain who turned out to be a scam. This I write about another day
Finally, I present some pictures that show that it was a nice job at least. The pictures are from Christmas Eve before sailing from Tampa Bay to Forth Lauderdale. The girl with the Santa hat surely recognizes many from among others. Paradise Hotel.