In Thailand, Exit Only survived the most destructive tsunami of modern times
without a scratch, but we didn't escape scot-free. The arm of the
tsunami was very long, and out in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the tsunami
made a lasting impression on Exit Only's starboard bow.
The starboard bow is the bow of destruction. Two times Exit Only
has collided with things at sea, and it's always the starboard bow that
takes the beating.
When Exit Only left the factory in France, she was sailed to England to be placed
on a ship for delivery to America. Unfortunately, the delivery captain ran into
something and knocked a fist sized hole in the bow. I don't know what
he hit, and believe it or not, he didn't report the damage. He
repaired it with body filler and covered it over with gel coat. The
Privilege dealer in Florida didn't mention the damage, and I had the boat
for a year before I discovered telltale cracks in the gel coat when
I hauled the boat out of the water for a bottom job. Only then did the
dealer tell me about the damage to the bow.
At that point, I was starting a
circumnavigation, and it was imperative that I discover the extent of the
damage, and whether it was properly repaired. I removed the gel
coat with a grinder and discovered to my chagrin that they had put body
filler in the hole rather than do a proper repair using fiberglass. It
was the worst type of shoddy workmanship and substantially weakened the
strength of the bow. A repeated collision at sea could have been
disastrous with this substandard repair.
In the boat yard I exposed the entire area of damage and performed a
professional repair that restored the bow's integrity.
I beefed up the bow to make it more impact resistant in case I ever hit a
partially submerged container or log while at sea. Then I applied new gel coat to finish
Exit Only was never at risk of sinking when holed because
there is a collision bulkhead twelve inches back from the bow.
This bulkhead prevented any significant amount of water from entering the
yacht. Only a few cups of water were in the space ahead of the
It was a disappointment to have a hole in the bow of a totally new yacht,
and disappointing that the yacht dealer didn't admit to the damage until I
discovered its tell tale signs a year later, but in the long haul I may be fortunate
that we had the damage to the starboard bow. Why do I say that?
If I hadn't beefed up the bow to repair the hidden damage, then when I
ran into a log south of Sri Lanka after the tsunami, it might have put a
devastatingly large hole in the bow rather than just create the gel coat damage
in this picture.
One of the things that concern every captain at sea is the possibility of
collision with partially submerged containers and logs. In the Indian Ocean, some of the
floating logs were more than a hundred feet long and a meter thick. Collision with such a log can sink a
ballasted monohull yacht in under five
minutes. In a catamaran a log won't sink you, but it can cause
flooding of one hull.
You never know ahead of time whether apparent disaster is actually good or
wasn't happy about the damage to the starboard bow that I discovered in Fort
Lauderdale, but that discovery and repair may have saved me from a humongous
problem in the Indian Ocean eleven years later.
That's they way things are in life. Although you live in the short
term, life is a long term proposition. What looks like disaster in the short term, may be a blessing in the long haul.
There's truth in the saying, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."
It was certainly true for Exit Only's starboard bow.
I'll take gel coat damage any day when I hit a log in the Indian Ocean.
Repairing gel coat at my leisure in a boatyard is a world better than
having to deal with a gaping hole in the bow in the middle of the Indian
If you want to sail the seven seas, you must become an expert at turning bad
things into better things, and when bad things happen, you might discover
that dealing with the bad thing actually protected you from something even
When bad things happen, it's not time to put on sackcloth and sit in a pile
of ashes. It's time to keep on keeping on.
It's never over until it's over, and in spite the hole in my starboard bow,
life is still good.