18:10.841N 76:27.194W Port Antonio Jamaica

If Knot Y Knot
Patricia Day
Mon 23 Nov 2015 11:34

ARUBA TO JAMAICA – 17 to 22 November 2015

I had paid to be on the dinghy dock at Renaissance Marina until Wednesday noon, but as it is pay for 5 days and get 2 free, then it didn’t really cost me anything to leave Monday or Tuesday.  The forecast for the week was quite good and so I left 9am Tuesday.  (Without getting the fuel funnel filter, which had been promised was arriving all the time I had been there).  Whatever you should do and don’t is guaranteed to bite you in the bum.

9am left the marina and went round to the Customs Dock, which is a disgrace to the island.  It was blowing hard and I struggled to tie up and not damage the boat.  I saved the front and the middle, but the back rubber bumper got ground against the wall.  The outboard prop will have to have a little plastic surgery, epoxy not botox and I think the wind generator got bumped too, but beyond caring at the moment.  Immigration came quite quickly (they are still based at Barcadera), but it took an hour for Customs as he didn’t have transport (they are at the port!).  I was just grateful to get away without too much damage.  I asked the Customs man to help me off, he was very dubious, but he only had to take the front rope off the bollard and throw it on the boat while I reversed out.  There is no way I would have been able to motor off the wall into that wind.

A day for this exercise spans the 24 hours to 10.30am which is when I set off.

Day 1

I motored out of the port and soon had Horatio, the windvane, in charge with the new stubby vane.  It was blowing 25 to 30 knots with 2 to 3 metre waves, from directly behind up the coast of Aruba. When I came from Jamaica to Aruba in March 2013 it was a 10 day not pleasant trip and so once I had cleared the island I did head North to gain some Easting, to compensate for the Westerly wind and current that I was going to encounter. The wind did drop to 20-25 knots and the waves came down.  I sailed 100 NM that first day.  It was rougher than I would have chosen for the first long trip, but ok.  I have to admit that I did say ‘please stop the bus I want to get off’.

Day 2

I kept the N heading to stay East of the squalls, which I heard hit Aruba very heavily (it doesn’t rain in Aruba).  I didn’t get any squalls which was good.  The wind dropped to 15-20 knots and the waves were comfortable.  However, the boat was very happy going N and I now really needed to get W.  It was a lovely day and night and I was truly in The Zone.  Now I remembered how great it is when it all goes well.  100 NM. 

Day 3

Was the happiness of yesterday a tad premature?  I tacked to get West and was becalmed, so put the engine on to charge up the batteries anyway.  I am only using the genoa and it had dropped about a foot.  The halyard is not holding in the jaws that hold it tight before I cleat it off on the mast.  It probably happened when I had to go up and change the light bulb at the top and I didn’t notice.  I couldn’t do anything while the sail was in use, but now I could go and pull it back up.  No rush, make sure everything on deck is ok and then back to the cockpit, where everything is quiet.  Too quiet, the engine is meant to be on, but it had stopped.  I tried again, but the oil pressure light came on.  I got out my very dog-eared engine manual, which said to change the fuel filters.  I have had so many problems with the diesel, but really would like a new tank that I can get to.  I changed the pre-filter and main filter and off we go again.  2.5 hours later the engine stopped.  The bowl under the pre-filter was full of more muck than I have ever seen.  I was not going to waste any more filters on the tank fuel, so I cleaned the filter with diesel and re-plumbed a 1 gallon container with beautiful clean diesel.  That had taken 2.5 hours to fix, but it worked and the wind picked up, so I went back to sailing.  I still covered 96NM even with the difficulties.

Day 4

Another good 24 hour sailing, 100 miles to go.

Day 5

Becalmed, needed the engine as I was not in the mood to sit out here and wait for wind.  The engine worked, but continually went through the typical stages of fuel starvation, nearly stopping and then picking back up.  It was only a matter of time and I could not trust it to get me into the marina.  I couldn’t stand it and put it out of its misery.  I would have to use the final pre-filter, which I didn’t mind with the clean fuel, I had just tried to save it if I could by re-using the other one which obviously had not worked.  A clogged filter is a clogged filter, even if it does seem unfair that it has only worked for 2.5 hours!  So another 2.5 hours and I have failed to vent the fuel and cannot work out why.  So I took the pre-filter out of the plumbing and have the gallon container going direct to the fuel filter on the engine.  I have lots of these filters and I can change and bleed this quite quickly.  The downside is that I have to top up the container with filtered fuel every hour, day and night.  My engine is so slow.  I have a new throttle and the Revv counter works, is it right – I was lucky to get 4.5 knots, a lot of the time it was down to 3.5.  It was a long tiring day and night.

I had noticed that the chart plotter had the heading wrong.  I had been ignoring this as I had more important things to deal with and use Course Over Ground rather than Heading, but the autopilot could not be given a Go To command.  It was odd to be facing South and sliding sideways, but finally I had time to think about it.  I knew where Jamaica was, so could risk turning the chart plotter off and on again to see if it was having a funny 5 minutes (probably 5 hours or more).  Nope, same problem.  The fluxgate compass is under the table.  I checked there was nothing metal on the table and there was nothing metal under the table, but there is a compartment in the table for drinks.  The makers mean wine and spirits, but I keep tea bags and powdered drinks in there, which are not in metal containers.  At some point when I was dealing with the engine I had found the powdered coffee in the food cupboard and put it in the drinks compartment, the tin was in fact a metal tin which is why it was in the food cupboard.  I took the tin out and my heading changed 70 degrees.  Now I could let the autopilot hold a course and that was very necessary, I was struggling to stay awake, avoid the ships and top up the container.  Diesel is a very slippery, not to mention smelly, customer. 

I got into Errol Flynn Marina at 11am, so only half an hour into Day 6.  I realised much later that I had gained an hour, so it really was 5 days.  I could not leave the boat until the Health Inspector had been.  I am sure whatever I had brought with me that might need quarantining had swam, walked or flown off in those 4 hours.  The Coastguards had come first and they should not have stepped on until after the Health Inspector had cleared it, but it’s not up to me.  Then I had to wait until after 5 for Immigration and Customs.  I shall probably get a visit from the Marine Police tomorrow as they are the only ones that have not visited.  Then the manager gave me a swipe card to get off the dock and into the bathrooms and the code to the wifi.  Too late for all that, time for sleep.  Tomorrow is allocated to sorting the diesel tank from Hell.