Jamaica to Aruba, 10 day cruise anyone!

If Knot Y Knot
Patricia Day
Sat 16 Mar 2013 19:56

Thursday 7

I had some time so I biocided the watermaker, not needing that again.  I had a cake mix and with some powdered egg, thank you Lynda, I made some chocolate cup cakes for the journey.  1600 left marina and motored away from coast.  I tried to sail, but the wind died and the current was stronger and I just went sideways, which was backwards.  I motored until the early hours when the wind was light but in the right direction so I motor sailed.  By 4am I was able to turn the motor off and sail.  The wind is 10-15 knots, plus some gusting higher, but I can have full sails out and sail faster at the lower windspeeds.  I was less stressed as soon as I left the marina.  Starting in the evening means the first night that is a bit of a dread is over with early.  I am making 4 knots in the right direction most of the time; when the wind gusts I go faster, but not in the right direction.  The swell is against me, but much smoother than I have had recently, although being heeled over all the time is not too conducive to getting anything done. 

The alternator was working when I started, but stopped and I am having to rely on the solar panel to top up the batteries; it is just a pity I did not notice this earlier, because I treated myself to radar to stay out of a storm cell, which wasn’t totally necessary because it was still light enough to see.  0800 I had the fishing line out but something happened and it was caught round the boat.  The boat had tacked, there must have been a big wind shift, or a very big fish.  I could not pull the line in, but suddenly it was free to pull in, but had broken about 30 ‘ away.  I just hope there is nothing round the prop or the rudder, they seem ok.  The wind died in the afternoon so I motored for 2 hours and it was ok, but the alternator still will not charge once the belt is warmed up.  I made 100 miles towards Aruba, very fast and just hold on.  I found that whilst I was filling up the water tank in all the rain the other night I had not checked the top was properly on the tank and it overflowed.  I will have to take everything out when I stop and see what has got wet, but for now I have mopped up the water that I can.  It has got into the bilges and drains into the middle of the boat.  There is not enough to get to the bilge pump because the heel has it over to the side and slopping out over my feet, and anything else (and there is lots) that is on the floor.  It will keep me busy for a few days, but what clean bilges I will have.

Friday 8

I had spent the night tweaking every half hour to get the best out of the wind, thinking that I now had them perfect and would not need to touch them again.  By lunchtime the wind and the swell were still strong and against me, but I was struggling to make much better than South.  I tacked to get back to my line, but it was very slow, so I tacked back and hope the wind comes round.  Because the forecast keeps saying NE, which is what I need.  About 350 miles to Aruba.  St Martin is too far and too tough, this is tough enough.  I was hoping to arrive on Tuesday, but things will have to improve over today.  Indoors is untenable and I just have to sit on the heeled side and hold on.  I have a padded corner, with cushions behind, below and next to me. Gravity keeps me in and it is difficult to struggle out to check for ships every half hour.  Only have the solar panel and only using the navigation and trilight, so it goes up to 90% and down to 85% over night.  I am keeping the phone charged through the computer for the alarm, which is the only excuse for writing this up.

Saturday 9

Wednesday night I was just pleased to be out of the marina and away from the land mass.  Thursday I did really well and made 100 miles.  Friday was tough, relentless wind and swell against me, not always in the best direction, but still made 95 miles with less than 10 miles off course.  Today I have arrived, in the zone.  Steve said the forecast was 10-15, I have more than that, but the direction is good.  The boat is as well set up as I can for the conditions and I just settle down in my gravity locked cushioned cockpit seat and let the waves go by.  It is still very difficult to do anything because of the angle, but I do what I have to and come back to my corner.  I did manage once round the deck to secure ropes and fenders and the anchor was not fully tight, so I think it has worn a groove in the roller.  There are a lot of cargo ships in this area going in both directions, I am in the middle of the Caribbean routes to lots of places.  I am halfway and very pleased with that.  In the words of Paint Your Wagon – when will I get there? I don’t know.  All I know is I am on my way!

As usual a rough trip like this has me thinking of all the modifications I need to do to make it easier next time.  Not just rough conditions, but just being heeled over.  I do need holes in the toe rail to lash the dinghy and fuel cans and inside looks like a battle zone, but won’t take long to sort out once I am level.  I am already thinking that if the conditions are the same when I leave Aruba it will be a terrific trip, but what are the chances of that? I had extra battery power so charged up the computer and still had 93% at dark.  I had managed to tidy up indoors and was looking forward to watching a movie on the computer.  Then my world fell apart.

I rescued a fender and noticed the inner shroud on side with the sail out was very loose.  Is this just because the other side is taking all the strain or do I have a problem?  I put one rope that goes up the mast to the shroud terminal.  I tried to phone Steve for weather and advice, but he didn’t answer the phone or the text.  I was awake all night by everything trying to get at me.  The wind was very strong, nothing under 20 and the swell is huge.   The boat bounces up and down, hard. I took the canvas cover down and got wet and cold from the spray and the odd rogue wave that makes it into the cockpit.  The depth alarm decided to go off with 5.9’ of water, whereas it is about 5,900’.  Perhaps something swam under the sounder.  No, it kept going off, so I turned the alarm Off, still it sounded and I checked it was also off on the chart plotter.  I realized that now it has a separate display I can turn the whole thing off, which I did.

Then there was a horrible noise, like a motor starting up, but it was my polystyrene bodyboard rapping against the side dodgers, just trying to rattle me – and succeeding. 

So much for not having to touch the sails.  I had the main in down to the spreader and the genoa about half, to give me some steerage in the high winds.  I had to call a freighter up because it was due to come to within a few feet; they moved 10% to starboard.  Later I had to call another freighter, he said he had been keeping an eye on me and he too moved over.  I cannot do much in this weather to keep a course.   He came back to me later to ask what station I monitored to get a weather forecast.  I said I used the sat phone, but I could have told him it was not good with no likelihood of improving for a few days.

Sunday 10

I am glad I did not let yesterday get me down. 

0600 Decided to change and move indoors.  Why hadn’t I done this hours ago? Because I always stay in the cockpit underway.  I will have to settle on the seat and climb outside when necessary.  175 miles to go to the end of Aruba where I will motor.  I am going very fast even with little sail up, but the bouncing is horrendous.   I lasted less than 5 minutes indoors and settled back into the cockpit.  The wind and swell is still in the 20s but still E or ESE and I need N or at least NE.  I had to call up one more freighter this morning.  He thought I might like to cross his bow, I was thinking maybe we could go port to port please.  I tried to tighten the backstays, I could do one, but the fitting on the starboard side was too stiff and I did not want to break it, so it will have to wait.  I was tired from the night before.   I tried to make a Yorkshire pudding, but I could tell when I put it in the oven that it was too thick.  I didn’t even try it, just gave it to the fishes.  I spoke to Steve who was still promising NE, huh.  The night was solid resting with struggling up every 30 minutes to check for ships.

Monday 11

I felt rested, but have given up the hope that I might get to Aruba Tuesday.  I have 100 miles to go, but lost time and distance yesterday.  I can only make South and Columbia is only 50 miles in that direction.  I tried to motor, but the swell is too strong and I cannot do any better than sailing.  It was better to go on starboard tack now and try and make some miles N, can’t get any East, until the wind changes and I can tack back (!).

1330 I tried port tack, but it was still 200 degrees, so gave it a bit longer.  1500 over 20 miles at 20 degrees, hardly Easting, but the Southerly component in the wind is lessening and I went back to port tack.  I have as much sail up as I can, it is still 20 plus knots and the swell is high and either head on or on the port bow.  This makes it slow going and the best I can do is 2 knots.  I cannot get close enough to the 140 degrees that I need, I shall hope it improves otherwise I might have to put in another tack tomorrow which will delay my arrival even more.

I have put a rope in the cockpit from the companionway to the binnacle and back, twice.  Because it is so hard to get up from the seat and to keep your feet once up.  I will be glad to get level again.  There was a thick cloud layer just before dark and there was one bright point, was it a planet or a star, neither it was a satellite and I could see its wings.  Astronomy has so much more to it now than the original design.

I still hadn’t had my movie and it might make the night easier.  I have moved on from Downton Abbey to Life on Mars – I get it now Debi.  Oh and the phone died, it has survived 6 months with a smashed screen, but now the display is off.  I have to find another way for setting alarms.


Tuesday 12

I cleaned and tidied up and felt better, important to not get downcast.

The forecast said yesterday was the peak of the swell, it has been high since Saturday and if the wind is in the 20s why would the swell reduce.  I don’t understand why it would, but I would appreciate it.

From 830 yesterday morning to this morning I had made just over 20 miles to the waypoint, but was still West of where I wanted to be.  Tacking can be so time consuming and depressing when you don’t seem to make any progress. The swell is so strong that my heading is ok whichever tack I am on, but the swell takes it off a massive 100 degrees at times, which is very unhelpful.  I tried tacking to see if I could get any East, but I couldn’t even get the right side of North.  I struggled for quite a time tacking, or trying to, but the result was no better for my course so I am sticking with this one.  Heading 140 which is too high and actual course of 175 and I have to be grateful for anything under 180.  I did try having a scream, but it didn’t have much effect on the weather.  I am only 36 miles from Montjes, rocks off Columbia where there is military, so I really have to stay away from there.  I will give it a bit longer and review.  It is not even fast in the wrong direction, I am lucky to make 2 knots and only 1.5 of that is VMG to the waypoint, the rest is slippage.  When I went from Puerto Rico to Trinidad it was about 500+ miles and it took 9 days, ignoring the stop in St Croix.  As experiences go, this is one I could have quite happily done without and do not wish to repeat.

1500 I decided to tack away from Aruba.  It was difficult to achieve against the strong conditions, the boat then tacked back and I struggled on.  The wind is too high to put more sails out and 1700 I had the boat settled heading North, although only just.  I made a new padded cell on the port side of the cockpit.  It started to rain and so I used the canvas canopy, which it is too windy to leave up, as a cover over my blanket. 

Wednesday 13

The forecast still says 10-15 NE to E, all night I have had SE 20-25, average 23, but 25 to 27 a lot and a max of 33True that I saw.  0630 this morning I am back where I was 48 hours ago, but 30 miles further East.  This was very necessary to do, because E is the one direction that is so difficult to make.

I had hoped to be in yesterday, but that was revised to today, which has now been revised to ?, after the weather changes.  I cannot bear to go indoors, everything I tidied yesterday is now negated by the opposite tack throwing new things around.  I have 3 fire blankets and two of them have thrown the innards out. 

I did find the hot water has been heating, comes on when I start the motor for tacking, so only short periods.  I do not know which battery this uses and the alternator is not working so I have turned it off.  The batteries have not filled up today and I have not used them for anything except navigation instruments.  This is not good.

I have been taking the water out of the bilges daily, not too much, but still a pain.  I thought it was fresh water, but it is now probably seawater which I think can only be from a deck leak somewhere.

I was going to fish, but who needs the extra trouble and mess.  I will open a tin of tuna if I am hungry.

I had been wondering what was wrong, even Steve didn’t believe I had SE winds.  I had noticed last night that in the over 30 winds I had been unable to steer more than at 90 degrees to the wind, rather than 30-40.  I put this down to not being able to point in the very strong swell without more sail area out.  This morning the winds were coming down, 23 gusting to 25 and lessening so it was time to work this out.  The wind instrument has been knocked at the top of the mast and 60 degrees starboard is the new 0.  So the wind direction I had been reading was not SE it was more ENE, as I was being told.  However, when I had tried the other tack I was immediately going S and that really was the swell.  Having come back North I have just the angle to Aruba, so I am sure backtracking was the right thing to do, it was just mentally difficult to cope with.  Obviously now I feel much better, Hello Mother, Hello Father, Camp Grenada always comes to mind on these occasions.  The bad stuff falls away and new hope is found.  Maybe I will get to Aruba this week.  It is very confusing to use the wind instrument and the data it gives the chartplotter. Luckily I rely on the windvane and the compass, these two are not electronic and the chartplotter I just have to keep the green course line on the dotted line to waypoint.  120 miles at about 3 knots, maybe less, I am still into wind and swell, but it is calming, so I put the canopy back up. 

I hope I have fixed the fan on the exhaust which I knocked while servicing the engine, and I topped up the oil.  I need the motor to work when I get to the coast.  I also topped up the oil, which is still dripping.

Thursday 14

The batteries were down to 72% and not charging, this had to be the solar panel which is over 6’ up in the air on the arch, but I still decided to stand on the seating and lean against the binnacle to unscrew the fitting and check my connections.  Luckily these were good, because I don’t think I could have reached to do anything to them.  Now I had to check the connections on the battery in the box, not fun in the bottom of the cockpit locker at any time, certainly not underway.  I took everything out and go to the box.  There was a wire connected to the battery, but nothing on the end.  The captive end of the fuseholder had pulled out.  I persuaded the end back in and taped it up, fished the 35amp fuse from the bottom of the battery box and reconnected.  Very happily I had 9 amps going in and the batteries came back up.  Sometimes I am very pleased with myself and this was one of those times.  It might not have been too difficult, but I did fix it. 

I had been noticing a fuel smell.  I don’t know where from but the bad weather could have caused a leak at the inspection hatches and it drains into the bilges.  Now I not only had to sponge out the water I had diesel too.  The bilges are so shallow they spill over when heeled and the diesel was now making the floor slippery.   I have made 6 sides of paper of boat repairs, improvements, purchases and could really do with the end of this trip.  1830 35 miles, plus motoring to check in to Aruba, could I drag this out to arrive in daylight?

Friday  15

Drag it out, I was struggling with the strong wind and 2-3 knot current on the nose to make 2 knots.  The autopilot could not hold the course at all, so I had to stay in the cockpit all day steering.  The two times I have been to Aruba before I checked in at the main port, but the last time I had checked out at Barcadero.  Now you have to check in at Barcadero.  I arrived outside what I thought was the harbour in the afternoon.  It looked industrial and decrepit and I checked with the port authority that I was in the right place.  Nothing the man said was anything that I could turn into navigationally useful, except look for the white buoy.  In the end he said he would send the coastguard to guide me in.  A man from Renaissance Marina gave me 2 waypoints to get in.  One was the yellow buoy which you keep to starboard and the next was 50 yards off the dock.  It was really easy and so close I set off.  I had developed a horrendous diesel leak, so I did not want to be waiting outside the reef for the coastguard and my engine to stop.  I realized it was because I had turned both tanks on, because one seemed to have trouble pulling the fuel and they were returning to one tank which was full so the extra overflowed.  I turned one tank off and the diesel on the water soon stopped.  Just as I was going in the coastguard came up, so I let them help me with my lines. People must have thought I was an idiot, but I was just so tired and didn’t want it all to go horribly wrong at the end.

Check in was easy and I was very tired, it was 1800 and I asked to stay the night.  The Port Authority would have to charge me, but the person who did the paperwork would not be back until Monday (which is a holiday, so maybe Tuesday), so I could leave in the morning and not have to pay. 

I took all the floorboards out of the boat and the bottled drinking water I keep in the bilges and cleaned them and the bilges with detergent.  I then went to bed, the end of day 10 and I could not sleep. 

Saturday 16

I had to decide where to go.  The anchorage by the airport, or the Nautical Club or the boatyard, which were both inside the reef, but in opposite directions.  I opted for the Nautical Club as it was upwind, but not far.  Bob and Vera took my lines and I am happily sitting on the end of the dock.  I have the paperwork to complete, but nothing will happen until Tuesday.  I decided to go to town.  I was going to take a look at the other marina, but the bus goes into Oranjestad first from the second main road and back on the parallel road.  I could not decide on a phone, so I bought a Kindle, the obvious choice for someone with a minute quantity of remaining braincell.  After letting the bus back to the boat go, I decided I was too tired to go to the boatyard so had to wait for another bus.  I told the man I wanted WEB, he was going to tell me when we got there.  A very long time later he said I thought you wanted to get off at WEB.  Yes, is this it? No we passed it ages ago.  I think bus drivers went downhill as soon as they took the conductors off and made the drivers sell tickets.  We went round again, I like to think of it as the unguided tour of non-tourist Aruba, don’t miss the oil refinery at the end, you only get to see that the once.  He dropped me off and I had no idea where I was, but I kept walking and Bob came up the road from the club, I’m home.  I should be able to sleep well tonight.

The 6 sheets of repairs are going to have to wait, but I will put the boat to bed nicely and make a list of what I need to bring back.  Oh and I have to book a flight!!

How to spot a motor cruiser – how many hours did it take you? 

How to spot a customs/immigration official – did you stop on the way?