Tyson Garvin and I knew the 780-mile race from New York City to Bermuda known as the Bermuda Challenge would be difficult, but we had no idea we would end up facing our toughest test while still within sight of the city skyline. Coming down hard after launching off a large swell departing the Big Apple, the engine hatch ram on our 37-foot Statement Marine center console failed and punctured the port engine’s starter cable. In an instant, we went from racing along at more than 50 mph to being dead in the water and on fire with 680 gallons of diesel.
Calling out for a wet towel, Tyson quickly extinguished the flames in the engine compartment and the melting battery switches and cables. A quick survey revealed that both the port and starboard starting batteries had completely melted, as well as one of the two house batteries and three of the four battery switches. Without power and drifting in large ocean swells, the ultimate jury rig began.
Garvin set about rewiring the electrical system to bypass all three melted batteries and battery switches. I broke out the damage control repair kit that we had outfitted with a set of jumper cables. Since the port engine’s battery cable was completely severed, we used the jumper cables to jump directly to the boat’s starter to bring the port engine back to life. A few more minutes of creative wiring, and Tyson had the starboard engine running, its alternator feeding much-needed power to the only remaining battery. We secured the engine hatch with two mooring lines and two ratchet straps.
Now what? Do we limp 15 miles back to Liberty Landing Marina with our tails between our legs, or put the throttles on the dash and go for it? The GPS read 765 miles to go, so we pushed the throttles forward and headed off into the rising sun and the record books.
Chris Fertig (above, at the wheel) is a safety and boat-handling expert with experience running high-speed powerboats. A former Coast Guardsman, he and Garvin broke the Bermuda Challenge record in 2012 and reclaimed it in 2013 with a 39-foot Skater.
September 2014 issue