Monday, July 11, 2011
Grendad - Carricou - Bequia
Finally found internet again so this is a long one. Sit back, get a coffee (or beer) and enjoy.
Back to Passage Making
Yes. . . finally got out of Dodge (Prickly Bay, Grenada). In the morning we listened to the Caribbean weather Center (Chris Parker) and heard of yet another tropical wave entering the Caribbean over the weekend. Perhaps arriving late on Friday. Now, once upon a time we thought we had a day to work with and waited to sail to Luperon, DR and got the crap beat out of us because the nasty business arrived a day early. From then on we want a day buffer.
So, Plan A was to take care of boat stuff on Thursday, anchor out in the outer part of the bay and then sail before first light making for Bequia - about 70 miles. We no longer think that Friday is a day to mess around with. Rats! So, Plan B: We still do our boat things and then take off for Carriacou which is half way to Bequia. We can weather the coming wave there and then press on on Sunday or Monday. Jobs to be done are to purge our water tanks and buy fresh. Our water has been just a little cloudy. Probably didn’t do a good job on that when we were in the yard. Other job is to calibrate auto-pilot (here after referred to as Otto) which we can do in a calm place while underway.
We tied up at Prickly Bay Marina and started purging tanks. Do you know how long it takes to pump more than 100 gallons of water out? Well it takes a while. You know what else? It take awhile to put it all back in again too! I was filling the second tank listening for the tell tale rise in pitch as the water comes up the fill pipe when Sue came back to the boat with ice, beer and other goodies. She goes below. . . ‘STOP, STOP, STOP! THERE’S WATER SHOOTING OUT OF THE TANK! I never received the increase in pitch message so water, being water, was finding another way out of that tank - through some tiny holes in the top making it a little water fountain! Good thing Sue got back when she did or some idiot would still be sitting there until his whole boat was full of water!
Once around the south west corner of Grenada we head in a little toward St. Georges to find calmer water to calibrate Otto. This requires us to drive in a slow circle a couple of times while Otto teaches himself directions. Should take 2 turns. After 4 laps (and we’re burning daylight) we give up and raise the sails. Otto is a problem for another day. Rats. Really looking forward to using Otto as this sail to the north east is sure to be a motoring day.
So full sail and we are on it! Our new sail is awesome. We’re making 5.5 - 6 knots in a little wind on the beam and Enee is much more manageable. Money well spent. . this time. Once we get to the high hills of Grenada we lose that breeze and are back to motor and main. As we make this little trip we discuss what might be wrong with Otto. Then it hits me. I mounted the compass under the port settee just aft of the most aft drawer. Lots of room there and nothing electrical around. No, nothing electrical but then there’s the emergency tiller pipes laying under the drawers which are made of STEEL! And not stainless either. While off watch Sue removes all the drawers and those pipes. Some one should marry her, I swear!
When we reach Carricou after an uneventful motor & main trip we try the circle trick again and after 2 laps, OTTO PASSES HIS TEST! We now have auto pilot but we’ve already arrived! Well, we’ll certainly use this a lot soon. Time to anchor.
The sea bottom in Carriacou is a mix of grass and big sandy patches. The idea is to drop your hook into a sandy patch. The water is nice and clear and you can see the bottom easily. I dropped in an area where I figured as we drug back it would go into some sandy patches. I let out more and more chain. It would grab and then I could feel the chain vibrate indicating that it was dragging. At some point you have to give up, haul chain and anchor back up and try again. Some of you may remember our trials and tribulations with our old electric windlass which I replaced with a snazzy mechanical one. That was a couple of years ago though. The way this gizmo is supposed to work is ‘double action’ meaning as I lever back and forth I haul on both strokes. It’s time consuming but not too hard actually.
However . . .
This thing has not been operated for a couple of years and, no, I did not test it or do anything to it before we took off and now there’s a problem. It will haul on one stroke and then lay the chain right back where I started on the other stroke! But not always! I find by trial and error if I push forward and then accelerate rapidly backwards it will catch.
Add to this that after a few pulls the chain peeler broke off. This is a rod that forces the chain off of the gypsy at the back end so that is goes down the hole. Without that the chain will go forward under the gypsy and jam. So there’s that. Finally our solution to the castling problem was to cut a hole in the anchor locker so that I could reach the chain and pull it back, knocking over the castle. That works! But I need to make a short stick with a hook on the end (or sacrifice my right hand and get a hook installed, YARRRRR)because as is I have to lay on the deck to reach through the hole. So here’s me working the lever like a mad man with the accelerated aft motion who then suddenly lays on the deck for not apparent reason to an outside observer and these two events are separated by severe swearing when the chain jams under the gypsy.
I finally get the anchor up and we move to a different and shallower spot. I find a nice big hunk of sand and drop the anchor. But the boat peeled off a little sideways in the wind and drug the anchor into the grass instead of the sand. After dragging way back hoping it would catch I am again the crazy man on the foredeck trying to get the anchor back up. With about 20 feet of chain to go the windlass stops working in both directions. Now it is just a machine that you would use to make your anchor bob up and down about 6 inches. There is nothing for it now but to brace my feet and start hauling chain by hand. My light little work out has turned into the strongest 60 year old string bean man contest. I do get the anchor on deck and I. Am. Gassed. I’m done. Luckily Sue spots a mooring buoy dead ahead and we make for it and hook on. I don’t care whose this is because it’s MINE for tonight. I could not have laid and hauled the anchor one more time. Good timing because the sun is just going down.
We find out from the sailor next to us that the mooring is owned by the boat yard and we can pay them tomorrow. Now it’s time for arrival rum and sit on the foredeck and watch the stars come out. It is a LOT darker here in Carriacou than it is in Grenada. We love this bay and enjoy some snack, our rum, and left overs from yesterday. A good day all in all and the windlass will have to come off the deck and be a project for tomorrow.
Friday - The Windlass
First thing we rig the dinghy motor and put up our anchor shade. Now I’m at getting the windlass off the foredeck. This turns out to be easier than I would have imagined. Once out I turn it over and remove the plate at the bottom revealing a crumbling gasket and a bunch of gears. It’s a greasy mess in there.
Carriacou has this amazing platform boat that is actually a metal shop. I’ve spoken of this before but never used their services. Now I’m on it. The frenchman who owns the place and I discuss the workings of the windlass and the problem with the peeler. He speaks a little english and I speak my english really loudly and slowly and wave my arms which to the french sounds just like Marcel Marceau. He seems to be washing his hands of the fact that it isn’t working correctly but will try to fashion a new peeler if I can make the thing work. He’d like me to disassemble the whole thing and just bring him the empty casting.
Back to Enee. I attack the windlass with my available tools. I’m reminded of the time I took the family manual typewriter apart but couldn’t get it back together again before my dad got home. So I work slowly. With the windlass up-side-down I begin to understand how the double action works. A small gear has springs on it and is connected to a partner just like it. So on one stroke one gear is in operation but on the other the spring pulls the other gear into operation and thus the output always goes the same way. It is so gunked up inside that the little back and forth motion (probably less than a quarter inch) is not always happening. I clean up what I can and squirt WD-40 where that action happens and keep cranking back and forth. IT’S WORKING!
The bad news is that I can’t get this thing apart and don’t know that I really want to now that it is working. I take it back to the frenchman and ask him to see if he and devise something as is for the peeler problem.
Now it’s raining (and has been off and on all day). I’ll check with the frenchman later today. We think leaving Sunday is now a good plan and have to figure out how to check out with customs on Saturday.
Back at the metal shop the frenchman has indeed devised a new peeler and is just about done. He used a piece of rigging rod so this shouldn’t break. He also gave me a piece of gasket material to replace the old. He probably worked on this for a couple of hours. Total price? 150 EC or about $60 US. Not bad. Most yards charge 50 - 100 an hour for labor.
We cut the gasket and put it all back together on onto the foredeck. I’m hoping that the double action will still work with the anchor hanging on it. We lower the anchor a little and crank it back up. . . IT WORKS! This is good but now I’ve solved two problems after I needed them solved! Otto and the windlass. I’ll need them again though. We’re going to the main town of HIllsborough tomorrow to check out with customs and immigration and then on to Bequia tomorrow.
We’re re-upped with Chris Parker so we can call in on the SSB radio for info on a particular passage we plan to make. I still don’t understand radio. This guy is in Lakeland Florida, on a boat, and we hear each other loud and clear. Weather looks good for the next several days as is often the case in July in the Caribbean. Later in the morning I take the bus to HIllsborough to clear customs and immigration for our Sunday departure. No problems there but a bit of a wait for the customs lady to show up for work. Island time. . . We did little the rest of the day except to buy some eggs and limes from the nice vegetable lady and to prepare the boat for Sunday morning departure.
This sail to Bequia (~35 miles) is to be a test drive to see if I can do everything by myself. This is planning for after Sue goes back to Chicago in August (hey, that’s next month!) and I am sailing single. First thing...get going! I think order of events is a big part of solo sailing. With two of us we typically get going and then raise the main. Easier for one person to take care of the main while still hooked to the mooring ball. Engine on, ease main sheet, raise main. Looks good. I wait for the wind to come to the starboard side of the boat as I want to turn left when I release the line to the mooring ball. Wait for it. . . I let go. Enee backs down to port. I walk to the helm, trim the main, put her in gear and we are off!
While in the lee of Carriacou I roll out the genny, and let me say, EVERYTHING is so much easier with Otto at the helm. Even with two people we can hit the Auto button and now we can both tend lines or do whatever. But even more valuable for the solo sailor. Otto performed great during the whole trip to Bequia.
You have to round Union Island and then head up a little to make Bequia. Great sail to Union with Otto at the helm we are close reaching right on course. Otto is a WAY better driver than I am and only slightly better than Sue. Once out of the Lee of Union our close reach is taking us a tad west of our desired course but we’re making 6.5 - 7 knots in about 15 knot breeze so we take the speed and will make up the angle later. Bad idea that!
The waters between Union and Bequia are a little rougher but not really bad at all. On the other hand we haven’t been cruising for 2 years so we still have an adjustment period. When we are about 1 mile off course I decide to see if I can tack the boat alone (with Otto of course!). It has a tack function but I’ve not set that up so I just hit the right turn 10 degrees button 9 times. Otto makes a smooth turn, I release the jib, and haul in for the port tack. Now I can adjust the heading by hand and set course for this tack.
Oh this isn’t good. I’ve had to tack more than 120 degrees and my speed is down to 2-3 knots. What the hell? Think about it. . . current. Yep, there is a 2-3 knot west setting current here. I should have planned for this and motored some angle into the angle bank back by Union island. This port tack is no good. It’s taking be backwards, I’m slow and crashing into the chop. I tack back to starboard, reel in the jib and decide to motor across my original line until I can lay Bequia.
This isn’t going to work either! As close to the wind as I can motor/main I can aim the boat at an angle of 60 degrees. My original course was about 38 degrees so this should allow me to cross my line and wait until I can lay Bequia. But, notice I said I could AIM the boat at 60 degrees. With that my actual course is . . . about 40 degrees. This means that I am basically paralleling my course and will never be able to lay Bequia for a sail.
Damn. I am pretty tired of motor and main with the little arrow on the mast pointing me to where I am going. But there is nothing for it in this current. You’d tack for days trying to make Bequia.
Otto does pretty good in the chop but of course he can’t anticipate a larger wave. I take the helm for awhile to round off some of the bigger waves. On the energy side, Otto is great. He only draws 3-4 amps and with the wind generator on I actually have to be careful to not over charge the batteries. Otto was not cheap but he has quickly become the best boat improvement ever.
When you get to Bequia you’re not there yet. There is a long spit of land and some off shore rocks sticking out to the west that you have to get around before you can turn right and go directly into the east wind to the anchorage in Admiralty Bay. This is usually about another hour. Now can I anchor by myself.
To get the main down I slowed engine, drove into the wind, eased the main sheet, and activated Otto. No problem. I took my time and tried to do a good job flaking the sail. While chugging slowly like this I also pull dinghy up close to the stern in anticipation of backing down to anchor. Don’t want any lines in the prop!
As I got close to the anchorage I again engaged Otto and went to the foredeck pushed the anchor over the forepeak in preparation for dropping. We’ve been to this anchorage before and it is easy to hook. Nice and sandy. I watch the depth and pick my spot. Engine in neutral I then go to the fore deck and wait for the boat to stop. While waiting I hear, “HEY, Enee Marie!” I look up and see our good friends John and Nancy on Silver Seas anchored just ahead of us. Great! We saw NO old friends in Grenada.
When Enee is nearly stopped I drop the anchor and start paying out chain. There is little wind and a screwy current here so Enee doesn’t back straight down. I wait and let out some more chain. At this point I just want to set the hook so I have Sue back us down a little. Feels good but what does it look like? I don mask and fins and go take a look. Sweet. Anchor and shank are buried with one fin sticking up as is usual.
One passage and I did it all myself! I can DO it!
We each get a finger of rum and before we can finish that two more friends have driven over in their dinghys! Val and Lloyd on Puddle Jumper and Bob on Persephenie. John and Nancy come over too and pretty soon we’re all toasting to good friends.