Water Tolls

We live on water. Salt water. And interestingly enough, our electronics (personal and navigation) have coped well with it.
Ironically, it’s been when we are not sailing or cruising that our electronic casualties have tended to happen.

When we moved aboard, we knew we would be subjecting our electronics to a heightened risk level, for they are far more exposed to the elements, particularly salt water.
And we did have casualties – three – all of them involving the electronic being soaked in water. But interestingly in none of the cases was the water from the Sea.
Reflecting upon these events one day, it was tempting to think maybe the ocean could be charging us some kind of “Toll”. The truth, however, lies on a less epic factor underlying the three events: they were all consequence of human action. Even less flattering is the fact that I was involved in all of them, twice as protagonist.

1.) From Lemon to Lemonade: the first event happened one year ago, when I was still preparing Pesto for the Journey in the safety of Lake Union, Seattle. One warm day I was looking puzzled at Pesto’s electric panel and noticed one switch labelled “Pump”. I instinctively moved it to “on”, a purring noise started, but I couldn’t find exactly what was happening. It was only a few minutes later that I realized that particular pump sucked water from outside (in that case, fresh Lake water) and threw it loosely onto the cabin top. Being a warm day, I had all hatches open. Water flowed along the cabin top, through the hatches, into the bunk cabin, and onto Pesto’s Chartplotter computer head, which was “safely” stored there. At least one liter of water made its way inside the equipment, destroying it for good. It cost us a small fortune to have it replaced, but in hindsight it was actually a good investment, for we relied on our chartploter A LOT during our sailing in thick fog along the US Northwest coast, and the old chartplotter was already getting a bit temperamental. So, I call that one a “half-miss”.

The new chart plotter has been a key piece of equipment during the foggy night passages down the US West coast last year
The new chart plotter has been a key piece of equipment during the foggy night passages down the US West coast last year

2.) The Ride Across the River: a few months later, while moored in Richmond within San Francisco Bay, we took a weekend trip to the Yosemite Park. We stopped by a river bank, and I walked precariously over some rocks to get a privileged position for a picture. What I didn’t notice was that Raquel got intrigued by my moves and tried to come together. The problem is that the rocks were not big enough for the two of us. She tripped, grabbed me for support from behind, and we both fell in the water, sinking the camera in the process. It was rendered useless immediately, a replacement one had to be purchased. Pure loss.

Little did I know I would be soon soaked in, losing the camera in the process
Little did I know I would be soon soaked in, losing the camera in the process

3.) Seriously? : the most recent event happened recently at the end of our road trip in the US. We were raising camp from the Joshua Tree national park on a ridiculously hot day. The car was already loaded to the top and I had to stow one last bottle of water. The heat must have impaired my judgement, for in the hurry to get going I made two electronic-lethal mistakes: (i) placed a water bottle on top of a bag with electronics and (ii) did not check the bottle for leaks. Sure enough it leaked, soaked the bag, and with it my laptop and our Mexico cellphone, both dying in the process. To add insult, I had not backed up our photos recently and we were desperate with the possibility of losing them. Thankfully we found a shop in Tucson, AZ which was able to remove and “resurrect” the hard drive, and backup all the data in it to a safe disk. Better yet, our friends from s/v Coastal Drifter kindly collected it in Phoenix on their way back from Canada, and the data is back “home”. Major loss, major scare, I will be backing up more frequently from this time forward.

It's been a backup frenzy here since the near-loss of thousands of pictures from our recent months
It’s been a backup frenzy here since the near-loss of thousands of pictures from our recent months

Despite the humorous tone of this post, these losses were a big deal to us. The fact that we are not losing gear to sea water shows that we take reasonable precautions on our day to day on the Sea. But, being “out there” and doing things that we were not used to on a regular basis, it is clearly important to keep a heightened level of situation awareness on everything we do.
Hopefully this lesson is learned.

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