Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lightning and Blunder - a hobbling adventure

Rain pours in sheets around, over, into us. A badly designed rain cover that we’ve dragged out in desperation crinkles and stretches over the winches. Rain clots and streaks and zig zags across my line of vision. Visibility is impossible. We are hobbling along against a raging current on one engine; the other overheated, steaming and pouting in it’s room.

Shiloh plodding along under stormy skies today
It's yet another stormy day and we are headed up the ICW, motoring in slow circles, waiting for a Bascule bridge to open. I have no chart plotter for navigation, I have no idea of the wind speed or exactly what direction it’s hitting us from.
Since Shiloh’s lightning strike days ago, we have been crippled. And now we are blind. The latest – engine fail – just adds insult to injury and will require JW to descend into the muddy soup of ICW water to investigate later…
Despite our predicament, I ponder what I can make for supper. Except earlier I’ve discovered all the condiments left in the dormant fridge have been invaded and are slowly disappearing under a fuzzy green colony of mold. The freezer is warm and gives off a slight gym sock, haunted attic scent.
Our choices are cans of fish or meat, some soft bruised tomatoes, a few iffy eggs. Not gourmet then. And no ice cubes for the whisky. Big sigh.
We’ve had better days onboard.
A week ago, watching our last Bahamian sunset fall gracefully into the sea, I knew we’d miss the bliss. The turquoise, the sand, the bizarre little towns. The simplicity.
We crossed a smooth, indigo ribbon of sea for 28 hours and arrived in the land of bureaucracy, choice and bling. Excess. Oh, and as a minor trivia fact - the lightning capital of the world.
After our initial customs and immigration hassles we anchored in Cocoa and headed to the shopping mall – of course! Faced with a head splitting, apparently life altering array of voice and data packages, we somehow came away with a fancy Internet wifi hotspot device and a working phone. And then the lights in the mall flickered. And the thunder permeated the building.
‘The boats!’
‘We better get back!’
But mother nature was fierce and the buses were delayed, hovering somewhere else or caught in the traffic. And we watched from the frosty halls of the mall as the skies threw down. High voltage strikes amidst the torrential rains.

Shiloh was alone. And under a violent grey sky, wind whipping, earth shuddering claps of thunder, she was struck. And 1 billion volts of electricity hit the top of her mast, flinging or disintegrating the VHF antenna before heading down through her hulls, and frying the electronics, batteries, lights, fans, fridge and freezer before exiting into the water.
The telltale smell greeted us – an acrid smoky evil. All the electronic displays were dead. An ugly quiet settled over the boat as we discovered each item and system that no longer worked.
Then came the calls and mails to the insurance company and the days of waiting for the surveyor, while the reality and severity of our injuries sank in. For me the missing stereo and TV are major. I like a soundtrack to my life. The starter battery charger is probably more important for JW. And the Raymarine and autopilot…
Luckily we were approved for moving on to St Augustine where Shiloh will be hauled out and a full survey completed. Hulls, rigging, sails, each failed system. 

But then the ordering of replacements will begin. I see weeks if not months of this ahead.
And the impaired sailing, along with camp life aboard are not ideal. A f*cking hassle in fact.
But it’s an adventure. We’ve got some great friends in St Augustine and I’m sure we’ll find fun. We’ll bring fun! We can’t control the things that happen to us, but we can control the way we deal with them. We write our life story based on our attitude.
I’m writing an adventure and this is another chapter.  A wet, thunderous and exciting chapter.


  1. FWIW, Florida is not the lightning capital of the world regardless of what Floridians like to claim. That dubious honor falls to Cerromatoso, Colombia. After having sailed in Malaysia and Indonesia and having lived in south Florida, I knew that claim heard so frequently had to be incorrect.

  2. Sad news! Where did you haul out in St. Augustine? We may have Ainulindale there this fall/winter.
    Kirk & Donna

  3. Holli, I found old comments from you on an old (newly reopened) blog of mine (Silver Moon Cove), so I decided to see if you were still blogging and here you are! I've been gone from blogland for years and just recently returned. Wow and youch!! That was one heck of a lightening strike! Hope all is well again.