Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Day in the Cruising Life


One of those longish posts so settle in with a cup of joe. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll want to read it again!

We are sooooo ready. On Friday the 8th we got the boat ready for a 50 mile run from Bequia to Soufriere in the south west corner of St. Lucia. We decided that with the good day we were likely to get we might as well do the whole shot and skip stopping at Wallilabou in St. Vincent. So we cleared customs, took down the new awning, hauled up dinghy and motor, went through our checklist (yes we have a pre-passage making checklist. Don’t you?) and went to bed even earlier than usual. We plan to get up at 3 to make coffee and then out by 4. We don’t know how rough the passages between Bequia and St. Vincent nor the one between St. Vincent and St. Lucia might be and we’d like to arrive in daylight. It’s about a 50 mile trip and we usually hope to average at least 5 knots. Do the math.

Very light breeze so I can haul anchor without any help from the helm and Sue can stay below and stow chain as it comes in. Anchor up. . .LET’S GO! Then Sue says, “You’re not going to want to hear this but we’re not going anywhere”. It was true. I looked around. Engine is going but we’re almost dead in the water. Almost. We were drifting a little toward the little blue hulled boat behind us. Oh crap! It’s too late to raise sail. We’ll only accelerate. I got on the very tip of the bow to fend off. We may clear them. Wait. Wait. . . Yes! We clear their stern by inches. They never even woke up!

We drop the anchor and breath. What the hell is going on? I go below and look at the coupling to the prop shaft. Sue puts the boat in gear and sure enough the engine is turning but the shaft NOT. I feel around the coupling. No set screws! I feel around in the bilge and find one set screw AND the key that connects the collar to the shaft! Holy crap! Anyone who knows us from Chicago sailing days knows that this was common on Catalina Enee, our 30 footer that we left town in. In fact part of THAT boat’s checklist was for me to ‘check my nuts’ every morning to make sure they were there.

(Pause for laughter to settle down. . . )

Of course when you get a new boat you assume all the old problems were left on the old boat. Stupid. OK, This HAS to be fixed pronto. We are engine-less until then. The anchor is down but not really set. No wind now but if it comes up and we start to drift again it could mean trouble. Not to mention we’ve already cleared customs so we have to leave or check back in and pay again!

This area of the engine is fairly accessible as things go in boat repair but I do have to disconnect the exhaust hose from the engine to really get at it. That done I can see what I’m dealing with much better. The collar completely covers the key slot so the collar will have to be un-bolted from the transmission and then slid aft down the shaft until it reveals the groove for the key. Sliding the collar aft wasn’t too bad except every time I flexed the shaft in any direction sea water gushed in because we have a dripless gland (say nothing). Bilge pump seems to be able to easily keep up with this so I continue to twist the collar aft back and forth. Of course with about ⅛ inch to go it stalls and I have to use all muscle and griping tools available to get it to move any more. Finally I get the key to drop in.

Uh oh...now this has to slide forward but there will be no twisting it back and forth as now the key is engaged in both the shaft and the collar. I can see the sun is up. I’m sweating like a pig and dirty as one too. I fear that now I’ll need some sort of special device (like maybe a trained technician!) to properly slide this collar over the key and back into position. Or, perhaps a hammer and screwdriver? Yeah! That’s the ticket! Collar re-bolted to the transmission and set screws in (I had found the other one) AND wired together (they weren’t before) we’re ready to go. “Sue! Start her up”! Before she can test forward gear she shuts it down and says, “She’s not pumping water”! Oh yeah, I DID remove the exhaust hose didn’t I! NOW we’re ready. Prop shaft is turning and checklist has been amended accordingly!

It’s 0600 We’ve lost 2 hours but if we have to pick up a mooring in the dark that’s not so bad. (Soufriere ONLY has mooring balls. No anchoring).

As is our custom we raise the main to one reef and see what conditions are like in the Bequia channel between Bequia and St. Vincent. Nice wind and seas not too bad. Lets haul genny out to the uppers. Hey we can SAIL! Engine off and even with this little bit of sail out Enee is making 7+ knots and crushing the seas before her! Wheeeeee! A little more of this and we’ll be back on schedule!

Along the lee of St. Vincent of course there is no wind so we motor and main those 10-15 miles or so. We try to hug the coast and even get a little easting in before heading across the gap to St. Lucia. Of course we’re dragging our fishing lure but no bites. But wait! Dolphins off the port beam! LOTS of them and they are jumping out of the water! We think they’re happy that we’re under way. We are too! We did NOT catch one on our lure thankfully and I guess they are too smart to fall for an artificial bait.

This northern tip of St. Vincent has a reputation for high winds as the wind wraps around the volcano at the northern end. As promised, PLENTY of wind and seas are probably 6-8 feet which really isn’t too bad. AND, looks like we might be able to sail this as well. We haul out little genny again and off we go. Another sporty sail at 6-7 knots with even a brief period of 8 knots! What a ride!

We’re heeled over pretty good and some things come apart down below. The worst was the shelf of three ring binders and catalogs that have a bungy cord keeping them in place. Apparently the bungy is no longer very springy and after hearing the crash I find a pile of papers, books, charts and whatever on the deck of the companionway. Well, that’s going to be cleaned up later. No way is either of us crawling around on the deck down below in heaving seas. Onward!

We approach the south west coast of St. Lucia which is dominated by two giant pointy hills or ‘pitons’. Grosse Piton and Petite Piton respectfully. Many junior high level comments ensue about pitons and breasts as you might imagine. Sue can be soooooo immature! (All I said is, ‘Piton is French for perky.’)

The guide book shows where the mooring fields are and as we slowly come in I see no vacant mooring balls. Hmmmmm…..Then a boat boy comes out. Many places have these - some good. Some annoying. He says he’ll help me pick up a ball. I say I don’t need help and is there even a ball to get. He says yes there are two left and yes we can use him to take a line to shore to point us into the swell. All for 10 EC. OK. We drop the main and head for the mooring ball where he is waiting. A Benneteau ahead of us got one but that still leaves one. UH OH! A Moorings boat comes flying around the corner from the south and beats me to the last ball. BASTARD! We motor up to the other field but it is full as well. Oh crap. When you’ve already had a long day and even when it has mostly been a good day, you are ready to get hooked up and relax. Now its sails up and north to the next place.

The next place seems to be Marigot Bay. About 6 miles. We put up full sail AND keep the engine on. Don’t know what to expect here and it’s already late afternoon. If this doesn’t work out it’s probably on to Rodney Bay and maybe anchor in the dark. On the way 3 boats pass us into Marigot Bay. Uh oh. . . As we approach the entrance we see two of them exit the bay. I try to hail them on the radio to see if they left because it was too crowded but instead the marina at Marigot Bay answers my hail and yes they have mooring balls available. Wheee…..

Alledgedly, the British hid their entire fleet from the French (They are SO hard to trick!) back in the lagoon back in the day.

Boat boys are ready to help but I say no, I can pick up a mooring by myself. They are insistent but I decline. Marigot bay has a narrow outer part (supposedly where you can anchor but it is nearly all mooring balls) and then a lagoon of sorts for an inner part. That’s where we’re headed. We motor up to a ball and I’m ready with my boat hook. I grab the ring on top and pull. Nothing happens. Typically this ring should come up on deck so I can put a line through it. We try another one. Same thing. The boat boys are just waiting. I wave them over and they take my line and put it through the ring. OK. I give them a small tip and send them away.

What a great day! We’re tired but it’s mostly a good tired. This little lagoon is sort of pretty but dominated by a busy water taxi taking tourists back and forth to a little restaurant (which looks to be pretty high line) and the buzz of boat boys zipping about. Customs is closed so we’ll try them tomorrow. We don’t launch dinghy nor do we put up the new awning.

A guy comes over from the marina to collect the fee for the mooring. 80 EC!!!!!! Wow! (About $30 US) You’d think for that THEY’D come out and help you with your line. You’d also think that the guy coming out would have a pen or clipboard or change. No, no, and no! We provided all of that! We don’t care at this point. Interestingly, Sue asks the guy what other services we might get for our 80 EC? Oh he says. . . I could sell you some music I have! Not really what we had in mind. Perhaps a shower? Oh sure we have showers you can use.

There is one fairly loud boat of French people but they leave before we hit the rack. Ah….I’ve been up since 3 and I am going to sleep like the dead.

No, I’m not because somewhere up in the hills someone had Kareoke from hell. I mean it sounded like Yoko Ono before voice lessons . . . Which she failed! Luckily they stopped around 2AM! THEN I went to sleep. What a day.

This is our brave ship's cat NOT facing the music during a sporty sail!


It is now Tuesday the 12th. We’ve moved on north to Rodney Bay which is a huge bay and developed to look a little too much like Florida or Nasau for our tastes. On Sunday we anchored at the north end by Pigeon Island where they were having their 18th Jazz Festival featuring Patty LaBell and Chicago. Jazz? Oh well. We were anchored in a huge nest of chartered catamarans (Uh oh. . . ) but it was a festive atmosphere and lots of boat and people watching to do. We just stayed on board as we could hear the bad music easily from the boat. The exception, of course, being Chicago! Jeezus. . .how old are these guys? Anyway we could hear all the favorites, Saturday in the Park, 24 or 624, etc from the boat. I fell asleep during their set and was awoken by gun fire! What the hell! Sue gives me cheese and settles me down and explains that it’s fireworks! Nice. And being launched right from shore near the boat. Fun although Mismo did NOT approve. This was her first experience with fireworks and she liked it even less than sailing I’d guess.

We plan to stay maybe through the weekend here in Rodney Bay and then head south once again. We’ll probably move our anchorage to be nearer town on Wednesday or Thursday as we have already scoped out our restaurant for our 21st anniversary on Thursday and it’s about a half mile dinghy ride to where we are now.

Thanks for reading and all comments appreciated as usual!


Renee and Mike from Jacumba said...

You're heading back south?! What about Dominica? The Saintes? You're missing the best parts - St. Lucia blows! Then you're almost at Montserrat and St Kitts and Barbuda!! Well, we were certainly entertained, and I'm sure will continue to be on your trek back. Safe sailing and don't forget to check your nuts!

Sally said...

Happy Anniversary! I was at the Jacalope in Lorain, Ohio, where I met you two, yesterday and thought of you, of course. Still reading after all these years!

LeahC said...

Sounds like a fun day. The morning sounds almost as fun as the sailing trip from hell...I mean the awesome trip we took to the US Virgin Islands. I guess it was only the beginning that was bad but I still remember Sue's face when you started up that motor on day 2! Looking forward to stories from your trek back south...how's the running going ;)

Anonymous said...

Hoo Haa if this is the kinda fun you have on water we can hardly wait to see what happens on Land!

rob said...

Great life! even better post, thanks for sharing it.

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