More Crew Arrive, and a Painful Incident

Nigel North
Mon 30 Apr 2012 01:13


Saturday 28 April 2012

Abandoned the cycle in to the airport plan as it seemed unnecessary to get the bike out just for that, and walked in instead. It was hot, and I could have taken one of the always full minibuses from town, but wanted to walk. It took me past the pleasant kite surfing beach café in the shade of the palmtrees so I took the path there to get away briefly from the busy road. This 'road' was once the peritrack built by the Americans for Hewanorra Airport during WW2 - clearly where there is now bush were once vast marshalling areas and dispersals for their bombers. Now it was just the road out of town along the beach, and took me across to the other side where Arrivals was situated.

As I walked into the Airport approach road a taxi stopped and offered a lift - hoping I would employ him for the return journey with Rosie and her friend. After establishing his price I agreed,  but declined to get in and he set off. I never saw him again!

The British Airways aircraft was taxiing in - early - as I arrived, so didn’t have long to wait, and my visitors were soon taking in the heat. I pointed out the big guy in front wearing a jaunty baseball cap who was an absolute dead ringer for Lenny Henry - he turned out to be one of the hordes of taxi drivers who meet each flight, and took us back to the dinghy a couple of miles away at the Vieux Fort fishing port, at great speed as is customary everywhere in St Lucia. But at least he had air-con. My pleas to slow down so we could enjoy it a little longer were laughed at.

Getting the bags and all three of us into Perky was interesting, but we managed it. Bags up front, passengers behind we set off out of the harbour and across the bay to where PW waited on his leash, but when within a hundred yards the engine suddenly became sluggish and power limited, before dying completely. With no hope of a restart, it was get the oars out and quick, as the stiff offshore wind would soon take us past PW and out to sea, so there was some frantic rearranging leading eventually to Kyle on the starboard oar, me on the port one and Rosie acting coxswain. We made it.

Later I managed to start the engine again after some enthusiastic pull cord work, and after a few coughs and splutters it seemed to be ok. A quick test flight proved satisfactory too, so I could only conclude it was some water in the fuel.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

PW was anchored snugly next to a small beach and shallow bay behind which rose a modest hill on the southern end of St Lucia. Well boy did the wind whip round here on occasion! It would go from 8 knots to 30knots instantly, howl for 10 seconds then die completely. This led to some wild swinging on the anchor through a full 180 degrees, throughout the night. This sort of thing makes a Skipper a bit nervous, as each swing is arrested suddenly by the chain tightening abruptly, and the swing changing direction. So I fitted a nylon snubber line to the chain and that took the strain leaving a small portion of chain now slack but still connected. Nylon stretches quite well, and this took most of the shock loading out. But not all. So sleeping light that night, I made several trips up on deck to check all was well. It was..

We set sail around 0930 Ships Time for the return trip up to Rodney Bay with a cracking downwind run under just a full genoa - still the No 2 - making 6-7 knots in a 28 knot SE’ly. Running downwind is just delightful, and the easiest point of sailing. But the west coast of St Lucia is curved, so it soon became a reach, then a close reach, and finally we were hard on the wind in half a gale - blowing a steady 30knots. This was not what I had intended as Kyle had only once before been on a yacht - this one - and had felt seasick before we’d even left Portland harbour. But a seasick pill, plus the responsibility of having the helm seemed to work wonders, and he did very well indeed for a first timer doing most of the helming, especially in view of the very strong conditions.

But there was an incident: we had reached about half way - under the lee of the mighty Piton hills where the wind had increased as it always did to near gale force and the seas were very choppy - when I noticed we were trailing something in the water. It was a rope, attached to a couple of plastic bottles, and clearly a fishing pot line or similar. Groan..! I tried at first to push the rope off the  rudder with a boathook, hoping it wasn’t around the prop, but it proved impossible with the now stationary PW crashing up and down in a heavy swell from behind. It was clear I would have to go in. Grabbing a mask, and tying a safety line around me I climbed down the stern ladder receiving a good battering from the dinghy on the way, which was being towed astern and was now smashing into the stern and me with each big swell. I could see the rope wrapped about four times around the prop shaft and all I had to do was duck down and unwind it I thought, but the problem was the stern was rising and falling five or six feet, and I wasn’t! Finally I got down to it, only to find it was wrapped far too tightly to unravel in the few seconds I had before needing a breath. Out again, I returned with my brand new and highly efficient rope cutting knife I kept for emergencies, and went back in the water. I had to be really careful with that hull crashing up and down, and the dinghy was also battering me and threatening to sit over the top of me too when I dived. We moved the dinghy and tied it out of the way. This time I went down, cut the two ropes in one slash and was back up again in seconds - but not before I’d been smashed in the leg by the steel stern ladder. But the problem was solved for now, although there would be an upset fisherman later looking for his lost kit. But why lay ropes like that half a mile offshore on a busy yacht route? Tragically, having replaced the knife in its scabbard, it had gone by the time I climbed out, so I must not have  replaced it fully. I cursed myself for this unnecessary loss - an expensive and important piece of equipment - and unforgivable.

We made Rodney Bay anchorage by about 5.30pm and dropped the hook next to a Canadian catamaran, and behind a Brit yacht. On our right was a French cat festooned with people as they usually are, who were diving off the roof of their cockpit and generally showing off well. Madame though, carefully lowered herself into the evening waters inch by inch.

With a tired crew and a long day behind us, it was get that galley going and we were soon enjoying  chicken egg fried rice of substantial proportions and watching the sun sink lower. By then we were grateful to see its graceful dip into the sea, and enjoy a slightly cooler environment.

But Rosie had still not achieved her prime aim in life: to see a real shark. Having messed around with the prop I was very glad she hadn’t.