A Busy Week

Nigel North
Sat 28 Apr 2012 05:18

After Dayan’s departure on Friday I had every intention of making best use of having to get up so blinkin early by setting sail for Rodney Bay, as I wanted to collect the repaired genoa, but it was not to be. The weather - which I have yet to quite comprehend - was odd; it was either not enough or far too much wind, and this was the case all Friday and saturday, with rain to boot complete with viscious gusts that swung PW around 180 degrees. With four other boats not very far away all swinging around too, one gets a bit nervous. I was well clear of them, but not that far from a rocky shore - what if I swung round with the stern towards the rocks? But we didn’t.

But then on saturday afternoon the sun came out again and so I went for a skinny dip armed with a plastic scraper to remove the green weed clinging to PW, which then stuck to me instead. I thought I’d snorkel over to where Dayan reported a sunken wreck, but on encountering a jellyfish with four big spots on the way, had a sudden change of heart and emerged looking like King Neptune with a green beard. Better than a jellyfish beard. But at last the weather had settled and tomorrow I would sail.

Sunday 22 April 2012 Mended sail

The day was perfect and so weighed anchor at 10am ships time (an hour ahead of local) unrolling the genoa for a nice downwind sail initially. St Lucia is shaped like a rugby ball long side up, and invariably has an east wind, but the winds at either end N and S tend to follow the coastline, so are SE’ly in the south and NE’ly in the north. The Equatorial current which sets to the west, on hitting the island tends to do similar to the winds. So on a sail south to north you can expect to start downwind and with the current, be on a reach midway, and then hard on the wind and against the current by the time you are coming up to Rodney Bay. And so it was today.

I do love setting off. It was the same with caravanning - something about being all set, hitched up and ready to go….lets roll! Before sailing there’s always things to do :- everything cleared away below so it doesn’t end up on the sole,; hatch and portlights shut; outboard off the dinghy and hung on the pushpit around the cockpit; dinghy moved to the rear for towing; covers removed from the mainsail; engine checks - coolant, fanbelt and oil; electrics turned on for radio, instruments, gps, chartplotter, autopilot. Then its time to get the anchor up. With a crew, you’d have one on the wheel who’d drive the boat on top of the anchor, and the other up in the bow to operate the electric windlass to raise it. Singlehanded you can’t do this, so its all done on the electric windlass - a wonderful piece of kit - which is used to gently to pull the boat up to the anchor buoy - a small buoy used to mark the position of the anchor - by winding in the anchor chain. It uses a lot of amps, so the engine has to be running reasonably fast to provide them and is preset. The trick is to only operate the windlass when the chain is slack, stop, wait for it to go slack again as the boat gets nearer, wind in some more, and so on. By the time the chain is vertically above the anchor you hope the anchor is coming free, but this is not always so. If there are any waves then you can use the motion to help shift the hook by shortening chain just as the bow drops, then stopping as the bow rises so that the ships motion pulls the anchor out, and not the windlass.

In the middle on the west coast are the Pitons - two conical peaks of local beauty, and the highest on the island. Approaching this area always gives interesting winds, and today was no exception as the wind just simply reversed completely - to westerly. So for a while we were on a port reach which made a pleasant change, and cleaner wind.

Arriving back in Rodney Bay - a wonderful anchorage not just for its attractiveness, but its huge area of suitable depths for anchoring - the hook went down off the main Reduit Beach. This anchorage allowed Stu and I for instance, to arrive at night - not normally a good idea - and just park up behind all the other boats some way from shore, yet safely. Well, if the radar had worked it would have been safer.. Most boats anchor around the entrance to the dredged channel that leads to the marina, so they don’t have to go too far in their dinghies, but I was further away but with a nice view and importantly, in a windy bit. Wind is great here. It cools the boat with the front hatch open, and it drives the windgenerator all night which keeps the fridge cold. No wind? No fridge, well not at night anyway. In the day the solar panels are more than enough to keep it going. So on windless nights the fridge has to be turned off.

I dinghied to the marina next day, realising half way that I hadn’t any shoes on but heh..and walked barefoot to collect my genoa. The big man sailmaker had just turned up on a bike and was joking around with his colleagues.

‘What do you want’ he said in his inimitably charming way, without looking at me. I told him.

‘Wait here. I’ll be back’, and cycled off again.

For a couple of straps sewed on I thought it a bit expensive, but there again, I’m a yachtie aren’t I and yachties are all rich right? I paid up.

Next day, Tuesday, with a daughter and friend arriving on Saturday I set to work wiring in a second electric fan in the cabin. Fans are wonderful, and don’t use a great deal of electricity so can be left on all night - when the wind usually dies and that cooling breeze through the hatch ceases. This fan was a top of the range model I’d bought in a bout of monetary rashness. It was fully gimballed, a bit bigger than the others and had a timer on it as well. I decided to attach it to the headlining (roof) starb’d side over the sink and worksurfaces. That was no problem, or shouldn’t have been, as the base comes off and is then screwed where you want it, and then re attached by two small bolts to the fan. Simple! But one of the bolts was loose and just rotated, and fiddling with that whilst holding up the fan upside down and one of the wire attachments broke off, and then the bolt would come undone etc etc. Finally took the whole lot to pieces to find out why, tightened the bolts from the inside and back on. The only thing was it took 12 hours as I decided to leave it til morning in case I made a hash of it.

Morale? Don’t do fiddly jobs at night.

I needed to transfer some money. Normally I would do this on my computer on wifi. But, the battery on the computer has died so I can’t take it ashore. I decide to try the Jambe de Bois - a wonderful little restaurant beneath Pigeon Island on the other side of the Bay. Well, good excuse right? This involved a hefty dinghy trip of a good mile or so which with my little 2.5 horse outboard takes a fair while. Well, no computer here, just wifi which is no good, except that I could download some new books on my Kindle at last. And…they do serve an excellent dish. I had dorado, and very nice it was too.

At last I was able to download SCRAM by Harry Benson - his story of the Air war in the Falklands, and much admired by his readers. Plus a load of other books which looked promising. The trip back was slightly surreal - droning along way out in the middle of the bay in a rubber dinghy in pitch dark, and as sailors do I wondered idly what would happen in the engine failed. The offshore breeze was quite strong…when suddenly I was startled by being impacted with something live and wriggly. In the head torch I found a six inch pipe fish thwacking around gasping for breath. He was making some impressive attempts at repatriation, so I gave him a helping hand.

Thursday 26 April 2012 Marina Fun

To get some wifi I decide to go back in the marina for a night, and fill the water tanks too. Going into a marina is where things tend to go wrong I’ve noticed, and I am never relaxed about it. I’ve watched boats come, festooned with crew, who reverse into posts, get blown across to impact other boats, throw ropes in the water, and generally make a complete hash of it - mainly, I would say as an inexperienced sailor, because they’re trying to do everything fast. Fast is manly here. Throttles are open wide always. But bring a yacht in fast and you’d better get it right. Many don’t.

Well, so far touch wood, I haven’t screwed up on arrival. It will happen I have no doubt, but it hasn’t yet. Single handed, you have to be organised. Ropes are prepared carefully for throwing and positioned at the bow, stern and midships. Fenders go out early. I come in slow. Dead slow. If it starts going wrong then there’s time to reverse and try again. So I try and bring PW to a dead stop next to the pontoon and immediately disengaging the engine leave the cockpit and walk not run to whichever end is upwind to hurl the coiled mooring line onto the pontoon. Then I get off midships taking the midship line with me and start tying on before the boat drifts off - as it can do surprisingly quickly in any wind - or the lines get pulled into the water. Most boats coming in here, fully crewed, call on VHF and ask for assistance with their ropes from the marina!

Friday 27 April 2012 Rodney Bay to Vieux Fort

Called up the Dockmaster on VHF and asked him to come and read my meter readings for water and electricity, so that I could pay up and go. They are good here, and respond quickly.

Picking a non windy moment, I let go the lines and threw them safely back on board, hopped on and hit reverse before we drifted too far forward. Trouble with reversing is you get prop walk - ie the prop as well as driving you backwards also pull the stern to port, in PW’s case. This is because the prop at the bottom of its rotation is in denser water and more effective, giving a sideways reaction. So reversing out from a port side to pontoon tends to push the stern into the pontoon - and this happened this morning, risking a scrape if the fenders didn’t hold off. Well the main fender ran up and over the pontoon so we got close. Next time in this situation I shall bet the boathook out and give us a good shove away first. Not my best departure…

But the trip down was pretty standard - downwind to start, then a reach, and then a hard slog for the final bit until the wind and current were dead on the nose and it was time to motor. Anchoring in exactly the same spot as before, I was the only one here as the other seven boats were all over by the harbour wall - which I had found rather rolly last time and worse, very close to a reef. But the wind tonight has been vicious here, with terrific blasts hitting us lasting just ten seconds, then nothing at all. And in that ten seconds the boats heading swings wildly round 90 degrees until with an unnerving jolt the chain brings it up. Maybe that’s why everyone’s over by the harbour again. Last time they all migrated over here as it was much flatter.

Tomorrow Rosie and her friend arrive, around midday, so I shall dinghy in with the fold up bike and cycle up to the airport to meet them.