Returning to Trinidad - Part 1

If Knot Y Knot
Patricia Day
Wed 27 Feb 2008 14:32

Returning to Trinidad – Part 1


Now it is time to head back down to Trinidad, so 6.30am I set off.  Now I noticed that the sacrificial strip on the genoa was coming off, I knew it was bad on the trim, but this was the main part where it joined the sail, I had not noticed because I cannot see this on port tack.  I cannot reach it and it will have to take its chances. 

If Bluewater Cat were here I am sure we would have gone to Buck Island yesterday afternoon and snorkeled the underwater trail and been a few hours nearer to the end of the island.  There are lots of reefs and shallows here and it took 4 hours hard motoring into wind to get past the end of St Croix, then I could sail.  I would have to sail as close to the wind as I could all the way and see what island I came to.  The wind is strong and keeps going SE, the waves are big and the current is against me; feels like a fun few days ahead of me. 

I put out the fishing reel, have to start sometime.  I tried and gave up on getting a sunsight with the sextant, it is not as easy as it says in the book and the one thing I am missing is an almanac with the sun meridian times, which I think is a bit critical.  It is rough and I have got out a lifejacket, I only want the harness, and have put out 4 tethers.  This is just to keep me in the boat, I was trying to stay attached by at least one tether at all times, but after a few hours I gave that up.  It might be easier to give it all up and fall overboard, but I am not that depressed yet, not quite. 

There was one yacht came up behind me and overtook, seemingly on the same heading, could be going to any of the islands in the chain.  1.30 I noticed my starboard inner shroud was loose, did that happen when I fell off the big wave, or is it that I am just so close to the wind it does that.  I cannot remember seeing this before and it was worrying, I was 25 miles out, but did not think of turning round.  I took the split pins out and tightened it up a fair bit and hope it holds.  There are other stays keeping the mast up and I am just going to have to stay on port tack all the way; now it was even more important to stay upwind of my route.  I have a Plan A, tie a rope round the other side of the spreader round the front of the mast, round this spreader and bring it down to the fitting and tighten that off.  The only problem is that means going up the mast and that will not happen in this weather.  I settled for Plan B, which was to tie my spare mast rope to the deck fitting.  Did I mention that I was not enjoying this trip.

The weather has been bad all this winter, everybody is complaining about it, so now I am joining in.  There seems to have been a Small Craft Warning or Advisory out most of the time, the wind is strong, the waves are big.  The Caribbean is losing its appeal.  The clear water and sandy beaches are great, but the mass water is not that friendly.

At dusk I put the trilight on and took the fishing reel in, the last thing I need to deal with in the dark is a fish.  I am running on basic electronics only to conserve battery power.  The water generator keeps the batteries at 100% until I put the lights on, so I should be ok for a week and I hope I am not out here that long.  I turn the chart plotter on a few times a day, just to see where I am.  I have a paper chart, but it is comforting to see the little boat icon getting closer to somewhere, anywhere. 

There are no rocks, reefs or shallows for hundreds of miles, which makes a nice change.  Also there is virtually  no traffic or lobster pots to watch out for; who would want to be out here?  There is one rock Aves Is which has been confusing me, there is also Isla Aves.  Both belong to Venezuela, one being just off the coast of Venezuela and the other 150 miles South of St Croix and West of Dominica.  The rock is so small that I had to know where it was to be able to zoom low enough on the plotter to put a warning marker on it.  If I go too far West it is in my way, I shall have to keep ckecking for it in a hundred miles or so.

The sun has set and I have a 360 degree horizon which is totally empty.

9pm there is a light behind me on my left and one on my right.  Over time these grow into cruise ships, which cross each other and then come past me one on either side.  


The night was as comfortable as living at a 45 degree angle in big waves can be.  It was time to tidy up, the deck, the cockpit and the insides looked as though it had been a great party from the mess left behind. 

I tried and failed on the sun sight again, I will have to get the relevant tables to get me started and day 2 and I did not catch a fish.  The only boats I saw were one during the day that was heading straight for me.  The freighter had to give way to me, so I held my course.  I was passing ahead of him and it was so much more comforting when I saw him bear off a few degrees, the size of his bow wave was disconcerting.  Overseas Sophie; we were 80 miles West of Montserrat, or maybe he was going to the oil terminal on Statia.

Just before sunset I saw another ship on the horizon, but I was way in front of him.  All night and I only saw one green light over to the West.


Day 3 and I am much less active that the previous two days.  I am putting the timer on for every 30 minutes to check for shipping and that is beginning to tell on me.  In the Atlantic, away from shipping routes, I gave myself an hour, but here I am less than 100 miles out from the islands and freighters can cross from anywhere, so I am stuck with 30 minutes or risk the alternative.

1.38 pm the wind had dropped and I was going 2 knots or less, I have the diesel, so I put the engine on.  I had to get the autopilot on, the wind vane and rudder locked off and the water generator pole out of the sea.  I should have taken the pole out while I was going slowly, it is hard enough to do anyway and now I had the engine on and the fishing line.  The chances of getting the line caught in the prop of the generator were somewhere between 110% and infinity.  I carefully brought the line up and now I had the fishing line 6’ up in the air round the prop.  I got the line down with the boathook and had to hold on to that and untie the other end and pull it through the prop.  One moment of inattentiveness and I was in danger of letting go of the wrong bit of line and losing my lure.  It took over 30 minutes, but I was now motorsailing with everybody in their rightful place.  The wind has dropped and clocked round to SE and I think it was the right decision, only time will tell.  By the evening I was 90 miles West of Guadeloupe.

I did not see anything today, not one ship, just a few small flying fish and the odd seabird.  If I had known that then I could have snoozed.  A whale pod is unlikely, but I don’t think a small school of dolphins would be unreasonable to expect to keep me company for a while, maybe tomorrow.


06.30, 72 hours in and I have covered 265 miles, I am about 80 miles West of the bottom of Martinique.  I turned the engine off at 7.45 pm last night and spent considerable time balancing the sails and the windvane.  3.00 am and there was the first of the big squalls, guess who had too much sail out, I must speak to the crew about that.  Morning seemed to take a very long time arriving.  The squalls continued and I alternated between sailing through the squalls and motoring in the lulls.  There is something decadent about sitting wrapped up in the duvet in the cockpit, but it does not feel so great in a raincoat and socks and soaking wet. 

I started counting down the hours, 73, 73 ¼, 73 ½.  Even counting down the miles to go is very slow.  I have about 120 miles to go and want to get in to Union as early as I can in the morning to give me a day to recover before continuing.  The more of a hurry you are in the more everything conspires against you.  When the squalls finally ceased there was no wind, what there was was coming from where I was trying to get to and the current was taking me ever westward of my course.  I was rapidly losing speed and by lunchtime that meant that if I motored all the rest of the way I would be lucky to get in before dark, so I would have to stop at one of the other higher Grenadine islands.

This afternoon it is so hot that I am using the duvet cover and socks to stop me from burning, ironic.  I am too tired today to do anything much other than keep the boat going. 

At 2.30 I checked the engine and there was coolant in the bilge and I noticed a stalagmite, or is it stalagtite?, of salt hanging down from my impeller housing  I turned the engine off, but there was no alarm and I cannot see a leak in the coolant pipe, I am hoping it was just overfilled.  So now what do I do?  I know the engine needs a service before I leave it, I just want it to hold out a little longer for its new oil.

I had acquired some flying fish on the deck and collected them up; three small ones and one a chunky 6 inches.  I got a knife and started to fillet the small fish, the way Jimmy showed me, but it is a bit difficult with a fish 2 inches by ½ inch.  I threw the bits in the water.  Then I realized that I should be using these as bait.  I reeled in my line and put the big fish on the end, well at least there has been a fish on the hook now.  This seemed wonderful until later in the afternoon I checked the line and the knot keeping it on the reel came undone and I lost the lot.  Now I truly give up, fishing will have to wait for a time when I can give it some concentration and when I have learned to tie a knot in a nylon line.  Sailing, fishing both need knots, and engines; the more I do this the more I think it is for guys.

I was passing west of St Lucia, gritting my teeth and hanging on.  The wind picked up to 20 knots plus, but because of the direction and the fact that the Windward Islands curve the opposite way to the Leewards I could now still sail there.  I took in most of both sails and was going over 5 knots.  It was most uncomfortable, but it gave me a chance to get in to Union tomorrow which I had not thought was possible.

The only ship I saw was at 3 am.  It was a cruise ship and had probably stopped at all the islands that I have been passing in the last 4 days.


6.30, 96 hours on the go.  It is still windy and rough and I have not had to turn the engine back on.  I can see St Vincent that I have just passed and Bequia and Mustique in the background. I found some last reserve to have a shower and tidy up the boat, with the exception of the back cabin which is a dumping ground.  I have decided that the aft cabin will have to be dedicated to storage if I am to maintain any form of sanity.  Too late again.

Going between the islands there is a 5 masted cruiser.  I can now see Canouan, Mayreau and Union islands coming up.

11.18 anchored in the bay by Frigate Island, next to Loreley.  100 hours and 400 miles.  A quick stop to rest and then it is off to Trinidad.