Friday, 18 December 2009

This Exotic Life... Searching for Meaning from Head to Tow.

Admiralty Bay, Bequia. Bristol Rose anchored in less than 10 feet and holding.
Voyager also rests at anchor reflecting the beautiful tourquoise water.

We talk about Boat Dollars being far more valuable than any other currency. We joke that the word boat is really an acronym for B-ring O-ut A-nother T-housand. Things invariably go wrong and when the “gotcha devils” bite, it’s gonna cost valuable time and money. It’s part of the sailing and cruising lifestyle and none of us are immune.

It doesn’t help to search for meaning in the sudden setbacks that befall us as sailors. Despite the constant vigilence, caring for all the various systems and the attention we lavish, boats always seem to want more from their caretakers. It’s a tough life for a sail boat so the care is more than warranted.

Plumbing systems seem to attract an unfair share of attention from the evil “gotcha devils”. But the head is not our only vulnerability. Lately, we’ve been targeted by the devils on a number of fronts.

The day started off well, with a plan. That’s always a good start even for “carefree” cruisers who appear to just go when and where the wind beckons. We’ve been staying put in Bequia for too long as the winds gust to 50 knots for over a week. The ever-cautious weather guru, Chris Parker, warned against leaving the anchorage. Thursday should be a good day to head north to St. Lucia, Chris advises.

The sight of one boat returning to Admiralty Bay yesterday with the results of wind-induced trauma; detached headstay and sail in shreds, is confirmation that squalls and wind gusts are not to be taken lightly.

So we wait and with every confidence, spend the morning working through our “to do” list to prepare for a 6am departure tomorrow for St. Lucia. We feel good about crossing off most of the 17 “to do’s” including taking Daisie for a swim, giving her a bath, buying water and food and checking out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We’re on a roll.

We’ve tried to put annoying little setbacks behind us; for instance, the problems with the head (never an easy or pleasant fix) that stopped us in our tracks in Petite Martinique. It wasn’t until we reached Bequia that we really got it sorted out. Luckily we have 2 heads on Bristol Rose but problems have to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Clearing the blockage caused by insidious calcium buildup in the discharge pipe, giving the head a new lease of life when we’d rather be snorkeling or exploring served as a reminder. Obviously we’ve been too light handed and too irregular, so to speak. We vow to give the head it’s medicine (a good dose of vinegar through the pipes) much more regularly from now on. Our memories of Petite Martinique will forever be marred by thoughts of the head.

Water delivery in Bequia

With all that behind us, we’re thinking of St. Lucia. We have a busy time ahead of us; Christmas with friends in Marigot Bay then up to Rodney Bay for all the World ARC activities. We’ll leave early in the morning for the sail north. It should take us about 10 hours from Bequia to Vieux Fort at the southern end of St. Lucia.

The gotcha devils still have a hold on our 2 hp outboard and our Honda generator. We think the problems are due to some bad gasoline we got in Grenada. We’ve tried but have not been able to get them going again. More investigation needed. So we start the main engine to charge the batteries and cool down the refrigeration.

Owen is the first to notice it. Smoke! coming from the engine compartment. We’re quick to get the situation under control but not before (we learn later) the starter motor is fried. What, why? Robert figures out the start switch is faulty and it’s sticking in the “start” position. That will do it. We put our preparations to leave aside for the remainder of the day to focus on the engine.

Turtle at the OldHegg Sanctuary in Bequia

As nice an island as Bequia might be, it’s not the place to be when you have serious engine problems, requiring parts, and you’re on a schedule. After a night of tossing and turning, we decide at 5am that we will sail to St. Lucia as planned to improve our chances of getting parts if necessary.

With no engine, we’ll conserve the batteries and sail without electronic aids. Then we should have enough power for our instruments and charts as we navigate the anchorage at Vieux Fort. With wind to sail, and with the Monitor self steering, we hope to make it in daylight.
Thursday morning, we quickly bring the 9 hp outboard and the dinghy onboard and prepare to weigh anchor by hand. Can’t use the windlass without engine power. There’s very little wind in the anchorage but we should feel the Trades once we are out.

We raise the anchor and the sails and slowly move away. Where have the 30 knot winds of the past week gone? There’s barely a breath and by the time we make it to the channel over one hour has passed. We must pick up some wind soon. Should we call one of the boats back in the anchorage to tow us back? We are ever hopeful. If we take the windward side of St. Vincent we should do better but if we encounter storms and we can’t sail out of them we are courting serious danger. We'll stay the course, the windward side of St. Vincent.

Bristol Rose is becalmed. Not wishing to dwell on negative self recriminations, we’re willing the wind to return. At this rate, about one knot when we’re lucky, we’ll never make it in daylight. Our wind generator can’t help us to recharge batteries for our electronic charts if we don’t have any wind to power it. We won’t be able to rely on our eyes in the dark. If nothing else, it means Owen and Elliot will gain some added night sailing and charting experience.

St. Vincent passes slowly as we check our paper charts and portable GPS and search the horizon for signs of other vessels. Only fishermen in small boats are out here, perhaps wondering if we are mad, flailing about. Light fades, it’s painfully slow going. Time to cook up some sausages and hot dogs. It will be a long night, come what may.

We take 3 hour watches in pairs. Once we leave St. Vincent behind we pick up to 4 knots, off and on. Then as we get closer to St. Lucia we’re sailing at 6 knots. We turn our instruments on as we approach St. Lucia’s southern coast.

It’s 1:00am on Friday. It’s taken us 18 hours but we’ve made it safely into Vieux Fort. Fortunately, this is one of the easier anchorages we have negotiated in the dark and there are only 3 other boats anchored. As Robert and Owen drop the anchor, Elliot drops the mainsail. Nicely done, and no tow needed after all.

Sad looking Starter Motor

1 comment:

  1. Great Photos...
    Keep them coming especially in the Grenadines from Bequia "Island of the Clouds"
    Happy Holidays!