Sailing to Bermuda (and How I Nearly Died at Sea)

Sailing to Bermuda how I nearly Died at Sea

They say it’s bad luck to change a boat’s name. Maybe that’s why it all went horribly wrong. The following story is so crazy that looking back on it, I can still hardly believe that it happened to me.

After months of hanging around Rhode Island, trying to get a job on a sailboat, my dreams of adventure on the high seas were about to come true. I was given a job on a sailboat heading to Bermuda, over 600 miles away through the open ocean.

We left at sunrise that autumn morning, the captain, his wife and us three crew members all bundled up against the intense chill. The waves were big and I realized later that most people thought we were crazy for leaving right then. After all, a hurricane had just passed the stretch of Atlantic where we were headed! Not to mention that our destination was Bermuda (as in the Bermuda Triangle Bermuda!) and our boat had just changed its name without even using the proper ceremony to appease the gods.

Bad luck as the old salts say.

Trying to sleep that night, the waves literally rolled me back and forth across the bed. I got up at 4 am for my turn at the watch and could barely walk across the boat.

And it was about to get a lot worse. Unbeknownst to us, (as our weather forecast system was down) we were on the edge of a huge storm with 150 mph winds!

Afternoon of the second day only got rougher. Imagine trying to sit on the toilet and with each wave, making air that a pro skateboarder would be jealous of! The Captain and First Mate began to talk about turning the boat around and going back to Newport. I was horrified! My first trip out couldn’t end like that. We had to press on!

We turned around.

The sea calmed and that night was one of the most spectacular of my existence. I was outside on watch and the sky was filled with stars so bright and numerous that I couldn’t even pick out the constellations. On every side of us, lightning flashed. We were surrounded in storms.

By the next morning, the waves were no longer waves. They were mountains. We didn’t have enough gas to make it back to safety so were forced to sail, despite the violent wind. I sat in the cabin and watched through the window as towers of water crashed right over top of us. Every few minutes I got up and carefully made my way to the hatch to make sure that the First Mate hadn’t been washed away into the sea.

Then things started to get bad.

Something slammed against the window next to my head so hard I can’t believe the glass didn’t break. I scrambled away. It slammed again. And again. Ropes and metal bits were flying everywhere outside. The furling line had snapped.

This means that the headsail, which had been reefed in as tight as possible (made small because there was too much wind), had broken and was now full out in the middle of the storm. And there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t even reach it due to the rope whipping across the deck with enough force to take a man’s head off.

The boat was nearly impossible to control. We got in contact with the Coast Guard and made a plan to reach Block Island. With any luck, we would be able to find shelter along the West side.

But as we’ve already established, luck was not with us.

The next thing to break was the engine. It died completely and nothing the captain did made any difference. It was dead.

A few minutes later we lost steerage. Our rudder (the contraption used to steer the boat) snapped completely off from the force of the storm. It was gone. Our engine was gone. Our headsail was full out with lines and metal whipping across the deck, destroying the rigging. And we were smack dab in the middle of the kind of storm that I’d only seen in the movies.

The navigation system died next. The sky had grown dark. The first mate actually went out on the deck among the whipping lines and cut the now-ripped-up headsail loose. The coast guard was still hours away.

Inside, water leaked through every hatch. Every thing and every person was completely soaked and freezing. The brand new $500,000 dollar boat was a wreck.

When the coast guard finally arrived, we thought we were saved. I helped my friend, Marc, tie into his safety harness and watched helplessly as he went out on to the raging foredeck to try and catch the lines thrown by the Coast Guard ship.

But then the unthinkable happened. One of the lines got tangled in the Coast Guard ship’s propeller. They were just as dead in the water as we were! Half an hour later, I noticed that the Coast Guard ship was approaching us again. I thought that they had fixed their propeller and were going to give another attempt to save us. Not so.

The other ship was still dead but the waves were pushing us close. And then together. The Coast Guard ship slammed into ours with a startling force. Then again and again. A row of Coast Guard guys lined the other ship’s deck trying to push us apart. One of them screamed as an impact broke his leg. A big chunk of fibreglass was torn off of our boat before the waves finally pulled us apart again.

A few miles away, another boat was caught in the storm and sinking. It was a towboat and the crew was saved by somehow getting on to the barge they were pulling. The Coast Guard ship that was on the way to save them was rerouted to save us instead.

The new Coast Guard ship arrived and after hours of failed attempts we finally got linked to them with a tow line. For the next thirteen hours we were towed back to Newport. There is more to tell but I think I will cut the story here as it is already long enough.

Back in Newport, I felt a weird mixture of sadness at the destruction of that beautiful boat, relief that everyone was okay, and gratitude toward the universe for giving me such an incredible adventure. The kind that I had always dreamed of. The next day, Marc and I booked flights to Fort Lauderdale, where we would continue our search for work on the sea.

Miss Miral

Click Below to Find Out What Happened Next!

Adventures in Bikini Boat Washing – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Bikini Boat Washing in Fort Lauderdale Florida

Or To See Just How I Ended Up Here, Check Out My Previous Post!

Just Trying to Sail – In Newport Rhode Island

Just Trying to Sail in Newport Rhode Island

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78 thoughts on “Sailing to Bermuda (and How I Nearly Died at Sea)

  1. WOW! What an incredible set of circumstances! That’s just something you can’t make up. I’m pleased you ended alright, all things considered.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you were alright. Sad about your boat. I saw a survival show where this happened to a group of guys on a sailboat (you may know of this story) when out of about 6 one didn’t make it. The other 5 spent almost 2 horrific days in the water together and were rescued just in time. Of course, it was a reenactment, but I cried when they were rescued. The relief on their faces even as actors were just so realistic; I was there with them.

    Like

    1. Oh wow, no I don’t know that story. Sounds like a good show but not so good for real life!

      Like

  3. Note to self: don’t blow off the renaming ceremony! I admit that I struggle with some of the old salty superstition, especially ref bananas, but why take the chance? Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Changing the name of a boat is a big no, no in the world of boats, as is leaving port on a Friday. All superstitions but ones that I lived by throughout my 21 years living on boats.

      Other superstitions include bad luck to have women on board (I quashed that one as many other women have), nothing green (ropes, canvas, dodgers, boat)…there’s a plethora more stemming from the old Square Rigger days and before 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Really? Nothing green! I hadn’t heard that one. Too bad cause green’s my favourite colour 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s a swag of superstitions. The biggest one is never to have women on board!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Lol, glad that one’s not true!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ha, ha me too! Just keep enjoying it as that’s all that counts 🙂

        Like

  4. I commented on a later post you made before I read this one. Wow.

    I am pleased you survived, you have something to write about now! Dial the clock back or forwards or, put those zombies on a coast guard ship that came to rescue you even.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing and frightening!! Character building stuff, well done for getting through it all. 💛 On a lighter noter, if you’re looking for something to read on your travels, you might like to check out this book “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” a lovely story about a couple who pack in the 9-5 for a while to go sailing round the Caribbean.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Like

  6. I love the way you write! Thought about sailing in Annapolis where I live or maybe you already have! Great piece-

    Liked by 1 person

  7. First of all thanks for the follow on papermudandme.com. Having lived aboard our boat for 8 years sailing around the Pacific and having sailed through a hurricane once, I’m eager to read more of your sailing adventures. Thanks again for the follow and Aloha – pjs/

    Liked by 1 person

  8. And out of the bad luck at sea emerged Lucky Miss Mira! What an adventure!! Anyway I’m trying to connect with my followers of whom you are one and find out “what’s up with you?” My adventures in NZ and AU are not as spell binding as yours, but please do stop by again… between life-threatening moments, that is!!! Thanks for following!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Seriously, this sounds like a far-fetched disaster movie! Well, as the old cliche says: Truth is stranger than fiction! Very exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing your sailing experiences with your readers. I could feel the ordeal you went through and what shocked me was that you were so ready to just get back on another boat and go for it. Not sure that I could be that brave. You will love my picture book that is going to be published soon, entitled, Who’s the Captain? It is humorous and fun! Keep checking in and you’ll see it listed on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very exciting story to tell. Glad you are safe !

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What an incredible adventure! You’re so lucky to have survived it all!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What an adventure! Not only is the story absolutely fascinating, but it is very well written. I’m glad that you all survived to tell abut it..

    Liked by 2 people

  14. “And then things started to get bad”. Oh, my gosh! Well told. So glad it had a happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Seems like a fiction story, but as usual life is stranger than fiction. The hard part about getting a ride is knowing all you need to about the captain and the boat.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Having lived on a couple of sailing boats for about 21 years of my life and been in one or two (unavoidable) storms, I can totally relate to this blog! Don’t let this incident stop you from sailing again, there are many incredible places to sail to! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Your journey makes mine look like child’s play! Wow, what a story!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. You are so brave for doing this! I would love to do something like this some day minus the near death experiences lol. For now I’ll just do my best to have adventures on land!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Holy cow! Your guardian angels were watching over you and your companions. What a harrowing experience!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. RollinwithCaroline 3 Feb 2016 — 11:29 am

    wow. what a story. I felt I was there while reading this. I have been in pretty bad weather with happy six but this takes the price. I am glad all were okay.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I will follow this exciting adventure!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me too! 🙂 I’m late, so I’ve lots to catch up with. 🙂

      Like

  22. Quite a ride, glad you survived! Thanks for dropping i on my blog. appreciate it.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Quite an adventure. I was brought up by the sea. And one thing I learned is to respect the Sea.
    Glad you came out ok.
    And thanks for the follow.
    Brian

    Liked by 2 people

  24. holy cow! My blood pressure went up twenty points just READING about it!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. pursuitofanewadventure 2 Feb 2016 — 3:53 pm

    This is amazing! What work did you (almost)do on the boat? Lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Impressive story to read. I am not sure it was the great feeling to be there.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Amazing. Instant seaworthiness. Thank you for reading my blog!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Wow, sounds like you really got onboard a boat with a very incompetent captain who didn’t bother to even do simple weather routing which not only endangered himself but his entire crew. I’m also surprised SO MUCH was destroyed onboard the boat. Boats, if well maintained, are designed to endure much more than we are. She must have not been very heavily built. I’d be curious to know what kind of boat it was, I can’t tell from the photo. I’m relieved you lived to tell the tale and hope you have a safer captain whose priority is keeping everyone safe and alive on your next voyage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Emily! The boat was a Hylas 54 (or fifty something anyway). Yeah, it’s like everything that could even remotely possibly go wrong on the boat, did. When we got back, an acquaintance told me that he had looked over the boat with the Captain before we left, and warned him not to go. I guess it was in bad shape.

      Like

      1. Oh my that’s unfortunate! I know a couple sailing around the world on a Hylass, 44 feet I think. Those are supposed to be solid boats. I hope you scrutinize your next trip’s captain!!! Lost at sea is not joke…

        Liked by 1 person

  29. OMG THAT SOUNDS AWFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would have legit had a heart attack!!! So glad you made it out of that alive!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. absolutely wild. I love to travel but I was never this brave. Thanks for following my blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. That is the craziest story ever! I’m glad you made it out alive though!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. What am amazing experience! Understandably horrifying when it happened, but it left you with a memory of how you were able to cope up with such a situation and to feel proud about it! “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I’m glad you can tell us your story.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. I am glad you made it back to shore safely!!! I have logged thousands of miles and seen a few wild storms but never lost a yacht (or even come close), this is because I have sailed with good sailors on well maintained Yachts. It is a wonderful and dangerous sport, choose your skipper carefully.
    Keep going 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Wow – All’s well that end’s well, as they say. Merci for following 24/7 in France, author of “Solitary Desire-One Woman’s Journey to France” (video http://youtu.be/xG_YTa5sDac) & wishing you all the best in 2016!

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Wow… thats an interesting experience! Glad you are doing fine there! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  37. What a brave girl you are! I wouldn’t want to go back to sea if that happens to me 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  38. What a sailing story! We sail on Lake Superior in the summer so I enjoyed your adventure! Your blog will be fun to follow.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Oh my god what an adventure… Glad that you were ok. You are such a talented story teller, I am looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Really terrifying. Anxiety and tension was building up as I was reading through the narration.I can’t take such risks.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. I’m not sure why I clicked like. Probably relief that you are still intact 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Wow! That’s all i can muster.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. What an adventure! Right down my alley 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  44. wow. speechless! I’m glad you lived to tell the tale!

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Wow!! That was an amazing experience and brilliantly written !! I believe I was with you the whole time , my heart in my mouth as I watched the waves crash down on the craft . Kudos !!

    Liked by 1 person

  46. So glad to know you are safe ! Keep writing !

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Wow amazing story! I’m glad you are okay and I hope you are luckier next time! x

    Zoel Hernández | zoelhernandez.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Hi Marina,
    This is a well written terrifying story! Just terrifying!
    Thank you for following my photography blog: http://throughharoldslens.com. I hope that I can capture my journeys as well as you. I also hope that you enjoy your journey.
    To launch your travels, find a Country or find a Genre, “click” and jump aboard. Or, here’s a few “Quick Links” to some of my favorites, from over 300 posts, on Through Harold’s Lens:
    “Shaken! Not Stirred”(Sweden)
    http://throughharoldslens.com/2013/09/13/shaken-not-stirred-european-tour/
    “Maiden Mild” (Poland)
 http://throughharoldslens.com/2013/06/12/maiden-mild-european-tour/
    “Where Spirits Soar” (Chile)
    http://throughharoldslens.com/2014/01/25/where-spirits-flow-musicians-of-our-world/
    On behalf of the entire Creative Team at Through Harold’s Lens, my trusty sidekicks, Mr. Mirrorless Sony, Mr. SLR Nikon, his brother Mr. Pen Pal and myself, we wish you fun and safe travels.

    Best,
    Harold
    https://www.facebook.com/haroldmetcalfgreensr

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Harold! I will check out the links 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  49. Thanks for the follow. Great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Of course you and the crew survived, Eowyn. You are a good storyteller and I whish you had included some of what came after the rescue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Eric!!!! Yeah we had a few more mishaps under tow. For example, the anchor came down of its own accord and got caught and had to be cut loose. Lol, every little thing that could break seemed to break. Afterwards, the captain took the crew out for a thank you dinner which was super nice 🙂 My next post will pick up right after this!

      Liked by 1 person

  51. Great story… Scary… But really great story telling.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. Crikey! Quite a tale to tell…and to survive! Maybe stick to terra firma from now on…? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  53. Wow, what a story. I think you’re officially a seasoned sailor now if not before. Good thing you made it

    Liked by 1 person

  54. My jaw literally dropped when you said the coast guard boat started slamming into yours. Especially when someone broke their leg. I can’t even imagine it!

    Liked by 2 people

  55. Wow, thats crazy! Is there an “after” pic of the boat?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately no. I really wish now that I had taken more pictures while on board and after. Oh well, I’m prepared to do better next time!

      Like

  56. OMG what a story! I am happy you are okay guys!

    Liked by 2 people

  57. I’m glad you lived to tell the tale, but I hope next time you will be better prepared,and all systems are in working order before you depart,Mother Nature is a hard taskmaster

    Liked by 2 people

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