Men and Children First!
October 2004, The Mayday Crew is back in the North Sounds BVI (Gorda Sound). This time boarding a 60 ft. power cat owned by one of the local establishments. It was a rare gray day in the islands. Cooler weather, little wind, and a bit of drizzle. Not great for sailing. So the girls in the crew talked the guys and several other couples in the general vicinity into a shopping trip to Spanish town. They also managed to get a powerboat to take them there. The guys were stuck. It was going to take divine intervention to get out of a shopping trip. And to underscore the fact the boys were not going to get out of it, they were reminded. "We have never done this before, it will be fun." True, when the Mayday Crew comes to the islands... it is not, repeat, not to shop. The girls had a point though. It was rainy, grey; why not try something "new" like shopping, albeit in the islands.
The Mayday Crew and about 12 new friends they had met over the previous days headed for the docks and boarded their vessel. As normal, everyone staked out their spot on the boat and settled in for a 20 minute or so ride. Two of the Mayday Crew's guys wandered to the stern and sat down. They were passing the time talking and watching the scenery go by as they began to motor out of the North Sound. As the headed for the Sir Francis Drake Channel on of them noticed something odd.. and said.. "Isn't the diesel exhaust that comes out this thing normally pretty dark?" The other replied, "yes, usually."
"So why is the exhaust white then?" They both knew something was wrong. One of the pair has extensive experience with tractors and diesel engines. He knew this was a bad sign.
They both got off their backsides and headed to the engine hatches that were just in front of them. They stepped on the first hatch with their bare feet, "The engine cover is hot!" "Time to alert the Captain."
This boat had a Captain and First Mate aboard to run the little ship. One of the Mayday Crew guys told the Captain what they had seen; the Captain replied with, "the engine gauge is not showing hot." Big surprise. Neither engine gauge showed anything. They were both broken!
Seeing that the gauges were broken got their attention. The First Mate headed down to the lower deck where the other Mayday Crewer was standing, watching as the situation got worse. More smoke. As the first mate opened the first engine hatch... Fire! The Capt. pulled the engine bay extinguishers... not working he said... he pulled harder. Still not working. His fingers were bleeding now from pulling so hard, but they never activated (the safety pin was never removed so the lever could not be pulled to activate the extinguishers - Think of your home fire extinguisher).
As the Capt tried to gather up how to get the extinguishers to work, the two Mayday Crew guys let the others on board know the situation and that they were working on it.
They then headed to the radio to alert the base of our situation and issue a Pan Pan.
Only to be over spoken by the Captain, who by now was panicking... issuing a Mayday call for our vessel. "We are on fire and drifting!" was the call. All while the First Mate plugged away with a fire extinguisher on the blazing engine. The Mayday guys were quickly by his side with a line of fresh fire extinguishers. Good thing too. While all this was going on, one of the guys went to check the second engine cover. It was hot too! He alerted the Captain again. And again the "self suppressing" fire system was not correctly activated.
So. We all took turns handing fresh extinguishers to each other and playing firefighter.
At this point the crew noticed a few of the guys that came along to go shopping had started to get the life raft out. The Mayday Crew knew the fire was under control and the immediate danger had passed. He asked the guys to keep the life raft on board in case it was actually needed. They guys moving the life raft insisted that this was the moment for a life raft. In true Mayday Crew form they told the life raft advocates that they are welcome to jump in the life raft if they really want to, but why bother getting off a floating boat for a life raft with a cargo net bottom?
After the life raft guys thought about it they decided to stay onboard. But they did get their wish to get off. Within about 20 min. a "rescue" boat pulled up along side.
By this time the fire was out and we were drifting slowly.
Our rescue was one of Sr. Richard Branson's express boats for transporting guests. Not a bad way to be rescued! And here is why we say the guys got their wish. As soon as the rescue boat was tied up the life raft guys made way to be the very first off the boat. True. When the test was on, they failed. I guess the old saying is "men and children first (excuse me ladies)." In fairness they were scared. And fear got the best of them. But really... if there is one rule of the sea we all know... it's "women and children first!"
Shortly thereafter a small tow vessel pulled along side the smokehouse of a boat we stepped off of and they brought her slowly home.
Chalk up one more for the Mayday Crew... it all worked out as we had hoped. We don't mean the Mayday on the water. We mean getting out of shopping! Told ya it was going to take divine intervention!
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