6 1/2 hours and we were out of the race, done, finished. Not the way we expected to do in the 300 mile Everglades challenge. We had a good start off the beach and headed out on a Southeast tack in 14 to 16 knots of wind. Somewhere along that first tack we hit 11.9 knots. In the first 1/2 hour we noticed the boat was bow heavy and we were bringing spray into the forward cockpit, the first time that had ever happened. I was bailing from time to time to try to keep the water out and the boat light. Tacking West we cleared Egmont key trying to go Southwest against some 6’+ seas and building winds. Stingslikeabee was steering as I continued to try to move weight out of the bow and keep water out. Our speeds kept dropping and we were only moving 5-6 knots with full canvas up. If we pitched up to go SW we lost even more speed. I thought the big seas were killing our speed so we tacked back towards Anna Maria island to go inside and down the ICW. As we approached Anna Maria we noticed we had only about 4-6″ of free board in the bow. Checking the aft hatch ( where you can look in to the bilge), we were full of water! We sailed on in and beached the boat on Anna Maria island in protected winds. I was able to pump 40 gallons ( 300 pounds) out the bilge area. There was still more, but with out being able to put the bow in the air ( like on a trailer) there was no way of getting the last 10-20 gallons out. Thinking we were some how leaking due to the pounding offshore, we took off headed down the ICW. 1 hour later we decided to reef as the wind was still increasing. Just after we had reefed, we took a gust, instead of listing slightly like a trimaran normally does, the bow went under water followed by the two cockpits and both amas! Only the stern stayed slightly above. With large fenders and dry bags up foward I knew she’d come back up. We both agreed we were under about 1 minute before she popped back up. We had to be full of water again! As I bailed the cockpits we sailed over to a small island and beached it again. We were full of water, again! At this point we knew something was really wrong and we could not continue. We called Chief and let him know that we were dropping out. Again we pumped as much as we could and then we moved everything of weight to the aft locker. We were going to sail down wind and did not want to bury the bow in any big seas. So we headed North back to Ft. Desoto and our trailer. Sailing North in 22-24 knots,we ran with just a reefed main and cruised at 7-8 knots and hit 9.1knots. 2 hours later we were on the trailer and headed home.
The next day I filled the Sailbird up from inside the bilge. There are no thru-hulls, holes or places water should be able to enter exempt the centerboard which was under a hull liner. I had expected water to come pouring out of the centerboard trunk as soon as I put water inside. Nothing. Added more water, nothing. Finally at close to the top of the centerboard trunk water stared pouring out. The next day I talked to some other Sailbird owners. There is a line that comes out the top of the centerboard and then up through the hull liner. This is so you can lift the centerboard when you get to the beach. There is between a 1/2 inch and 1″ gap betweem the centerboard and liner. Any water that comes through the rope hole goes into the bilge, not into the cockpit. Since we had put most of our heavy gear forward, we had made the boat bow heavy right away. Between that and beating to weather, water had come through the centerboard line hole into the bilge. As the water entered the bilge, it kept making the bow sit lower and lower, pooling forward and making the water came in even faster.
The solution? So simple its stupid. You add a Anderson bailer ( used in small boats like a sunfish) to the hull in the bilge area. It sucks the water out as you are moving. Nothing to do but watch the water disapear. For next year, we will move weight/gear aft and try to lighten the boat 100-150 pounds between crew, gear, food and the boat itself. 11.9 knots to weather showed that it will move. Waterlogged with a extra 300-400 pounds of water inside and still hitting 9.1 knots bodes well for fast off the wind speeds. And I never got to fly my new reacher!
The count down clock to next March has started.