Nigel North
Sun 22 Feb 2015 12:39


21:45.809N 072:10.471W

Friday, 06 February 2015

Sunny, beaut day, no wind am.  Clocking round to North pm.  Ashore at 9am local to walk round to Customs and Immigration, in the South Dock area.  Rowed as outboard refusing to start – dirty fuel?   At South Dock Gate – busy with heavy lorries coming and going - I was warned of a body search and watched in growing horror as the latex gloves came out.  Gulp.  Luckily not that.  Empty pockets, then my bag, leave the penknife in the office, given a tally and went off to Customs.  This time it cost $50, half the previous.  Had I paid overtime? 

Walked back to arrive on the beach at 10 in time to meet Tanibeth to recover my bag as pre-arranged, but they couldn’t make it as they were about to fly out to GRAND TURK ISLAND

Rowed back, and spent a quiet pleasant day chilling in the sunshine, some writing, no work.  Outboard remained broke.  Had a chat with Tom of HORNBLOWER TOO, who said there was a Tiger shark around, supposedly.  Oooh!  Good job Stu’s not here or he’d be swimming around looking for it. 

Saturday, 07 February 2015   SAPOLDILLA BAY ANCHORAGE

Woken at 0600 by strong winds of over 30kts from the East, there’s a crash on deck and the  folded up inflatable dinghy floor was now in the walkway.  Rain too.  I should have done the re-provisioning yesterday! 

To be fixed:  outboard, inflatable floor puncture, wood trim on Nav table, put back the headlining Stbd quarter berth, re-route the SSB antenna cable, fit engine hours counter.

Weather check coming up on HF at 7am. 

Stripped the Suzuki outboard down, found crystalized fuel in the main jet and float chamber, cleaned it out.  Also drained and replaced the transmission oil – what came out was 50% water!   Test run over to HORNBLOWER TOO, they caught 2 fish yesterday! 

The wind is howling, gusting over 30kts and 20-25 otherwise.    Today I will work..

Replaced the headlining over the starboard quarter berth I had removed to get at the wiring for the windgen.  An awkward job, as always it took some time.  Then moved across to the other quarter berth and re-routed the antenna cable for the SSB radio to appear through the deck by the backstay, where it attaches.  Previously it had been temporarily run up through the cockpit, a nuisance in the companionway, and sloppy.   Whilst working on the through-deck fitting received a VHF call from MOONSTONE, the Brit boat next to me that came in on Friday, asking if I was coming over for a beer.  With various holes gaping in the boat, I demurred until the job was complete, taking a half hour.

Rowing across, the wind took me there, and climbed the useful ladder over the side.  Maybe I should get one of these? (Ah, but where to stow it?)  Their boat was nice, good condition, slightly older than Pinball, bought in Spain and 3 years spent readying her for this their retirement cruise.  Aft cabin, between that and the main cabin was a great pilot house arrangement with solid varnished wood and glass cockpit area making, with canvas sides, a really nice deck area with the wheel, instruments etc all protected from the elements.  Carib beer and small eats appeared, and I added a tube of cashew nuts.

Brits, they had sailed the Atlantic from Cap Verde to Brazil, and loved it there even though neither spoke Portuguese.  Running up to Trinidad they later tried to return to Brazil, a hard sail at the best of times, but ran into a thunderstorm and eventually gave up and went to Tobago instead.  Here the Skipper caught dengue fever which laid him up for two weeks.  Now working their way northwest to Florida, they would be leaving MOONSTONE at Cape Canaveral to return for a family wedding.  They didn’t sound very enthusiastic about that bit! 

Sunday 8 February 2015.  I GET THE BAG BACK! 

A nice sunny day.   Dug out the engine hours counter gauge I’d bought aeons ago in St Lucia and taking advantage of the headlining being already down in the port quarter berth, fitted it.  It works!  Now I won’t have to log the engine hours each trip.  Then put the boat back together.

I was not to know then that the new gauge would soon be reading just 2:oo hours for an unexpectedly long time..

But later on, after days of messaging and texts, Arturo and Tanibeth finally announced their impending arrival at Sapodilla Bay….WITH MY BAG!   Jumped in Perky and went to await them on the beach, with Perky anchored just off the beach. 

I finally rang Arturo, as there was no sign of them. 

‘Where are you?’ 

‘Sapodilla Beach!’ 

‘Whereabouts on Sapodilla?’ 

I didn’t understand his answer. 

‘Well I’m standing on the beach and I can’t see you Arthur!  Are you SURE you’re on Sapodilla?’ 

Yes yes, Sapodilla.’ 

Still no sign. 

‘Can you see the boats anchored off the beach?’ 

‘No.  I can’t see boats’. 

Well you can’t be on Sapodilla then Arthur.  There’s SIX BOATS anchored here!’ 


Then down the beach I saw a figure talking on a phone.  It was Arturo. 

On board I produced my one bottle of wine all the way from Publix, West Palm Beach and some smallie eats, in celebration, and we spent a pleasant hour or two chatting.  These two work very hard and long hours, in a job I am still unable to describe very well or understand.  They tour around listening in I think on the internet or maybe Skype checking for problems.  Or something like that.. 

Beyond me. 

But THANKYOU Tanibeth and Arturo.  Viva Venezuela! 


Monday 9 February 2015  - SAPODILLA BAY, TURKS AND CAICOS

Rain.  Bugger!  All morning too, a fine drizzle more suited to Dartmoor, and I needed to cycle the 3 miles to THE SHOP to stock up.  But dried up at lunchtime, so the fold-up bike was unzipped out of its bag and dropped in the dinghy.  At least the wind had died right back today, thought I.  Rather get wet than cycle against a wind. 

The gears were working really well, and I’d just finished congratulating myself for doing such a good job of changing the snapped gear change cable, when it snapped.  Luckily, I’d done the worst hills and was just coming out on the flatter bit, so ride on, now stuck in top.    

Usually I grab two baskets and when they’re both full-ish, but not overflowing, I call it a day and leave the shop, motto being ‘if you can’t carry it, you can’t have it’, as it all has to fit in the not very capacious pannier bags and backpack.  Today, feeling clever and a bit knackered, I took a trolley and put the two baskets in there.  Smart eh?  Best of both.  But for some reason it didn’t work as I ended up with twice as much as I could carry back.  Hmm.. 

Well it took about 20 minutes to pack it, but there was still a big bag of veg with nowhere to go left over.  So it got hung over the back of the twin panniers.

On the flat with quite a lot of effort I could cycle along ok, but the bike was now really heavy, and even a slight hill required prodigious effort, sustainable only briefly.  This was no good, I need a lower gear.  

By taking the outer cable off leaving the inner wire,  tensioning it and wrapping it around the frame a million times I got one gear lower.  ‘What a difference a gear makes….’  Must be a song in there. Then half way back a car stops in front of me, window down.

‘Heh man, you dropped your jacket’. 

I actually managed to get everything back on board, including 2 dozen eggs, without breakages. This is unusual.  Well, there was the cabbage..

The cabbage was in the bag hanging over the back end.  Part of the mudguard had snapped off weeks ago as the bike was being transferred to the dinghy, and so this bag had been rubbing against the wheel for 3 miles, and although the cabbage had fought bravely, it was now not quite round, and very sandy. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015.


Glad the shopping was done yesterday – 20-25kts today from the south so no protection at all from wind generated waves.  All boats pitching around on this lee shore.   Watching for any dragging of the anchor, as I’m only 50m from rock, so will not be leaving the boat until it moderates – which it isn’t forecast to do – or veers north of west – which it is. 

Down to just three boats in the Bay, then a French catamaran arrived, with that big powerful POLICE boat I first saw down at French Cay on the way to DR just hanging around him as he’s trying to anchor.  Uh?  They stay for an hour, then power away.  Must have been uncomfortable! 

Have hand-drawn the transit I’m using to check for dragging so I get it right, plus using the chartplotter with my estimate of where the anchor actually is.  If it drags I’ll up anchor and re-anchor further from rock. 

Perky the Dinghy has been jerking around on too short a painter, what with all the pitching around, so now on a long one well behind PW – much better.  Little did I know then the trouble that would cause…

THE WEATHER:  Big low pressure just off the Florida coast is trailing a strong cold front down through the Bahamas, due here tonight with some squalls, and down as far as the Windward Islands – St Lucia may even be affected.  The effect of this, one of many fronts coming down from FL every 48 hours, is to suppress the Easterly Trade winds, and replace with winds with a westerly component, veering to north.  Good news for me – heading southeast to DR, Puerto Rico and the Virgins, bad news for those heading NW to Florida, like Tom of HORNBLOWER, and MOONSTONE who set sail yesterday in full foul weather gear in the rain.  

Concerns about anchors dragging just came to fruition with the arrival of one of several vicious squalls, giving winds up to 48kts onshore and lots of rain.  Good job Perky was on a very long leash!  Started the engine just in case, then  looked up at the transit I’d selected and Wow!...we’d clearly dragged at least 20metres – now 30 metres from rock.  YOUCH!

Water depth was between 1.9 – 2 metres, so about 2 feet under the keel but we were going up and down almost that much with the rapidly building wind-driven waves.  

Engage gear and drive Pinball back out a bit, but now, because all the tension is off the anchor rode there’s nothing to keep the nose into wind – except by steering.   Winds now galeforce.   As soon as the nose comes off the wind it requires more and more power to get it back again.  I could motor forwards but would gradually overtake the anchor, not a good idea.  So plan had to be to try and hold position on power, without driving forward too much. 

Windspeed now 40-48kts – storm force.   Turns back into wind requiring full power. I look out over the side and notice the anchor chain running back behind us.  Not good!  Its pouring down…good job I put my swimmers on this morning.  Dashed below to fetch a rain jacket.   Noticed the radio wasn’t on, dashed below again to switch on.  But sitting behind the wheel I can’t reach the radio anyway, but wanted to warn Tom on HORNBLOWER that I had dragged.  Dashed below again and got the handheld VHF radio, but the battery died.  Bugger!  Well, nothing I can do, can’t leave the wheel to make radio calls. 

Wind reduced to gale force after about half an hour and it felt like it was all over by comparison, but 5 mins later another squall came whacking through.   What needed to happen was to up anchor and re-anchor further out hopefully with better holding.  To do that I would have to go up to the bow and wind a lot of chain in, with the poor old windlass having to drag 8 tons of boat against all this wind.  No good.  In these conditions you need a helmsman to drive the boat to on top the anchor whilst the bow-man winds in the chain.  If I left the wheel, the boat would immediately start blowing off the wind and disappearing downwind – towards the beach/rocks.  I thought about engaging the autopilot with engine engaged then rushing up for’d, but would it work?  It would need a fair bit of power to give enough steerage to keep the boat into wind, but this would mean advancing up to and past the anchor which could end in a right mess.  I could see no way of doing this safely, so just have to hold on until conditions improve. 

An hour and a half later the winds were coming down below 30kts.  I had tried calling HORNBLOWER, but no response.  Then GREY HAVEN  called HORNBLOWER TOO up, talking about it all, and PINBALL was mentioned by Tom a few times, no doubt as he had been witnessing us blowing off and back into wind for the last hour or so.  They said I might need a hand and I came straight back with a ‘yes please’!  It hadn’t occurred to me to ask for help, singlehander that I am..

I had not met Mike of GREY HAVEN before, nor he me, but he dinghied straight over in quite a sea to help me out, outboard even conking out once,  then climbed up the back end of PW with some difficulty as it was going up and down like a guillotine such that I had to give him a hand. 

‘Right.  What d’ya want me to do?’  

‘Just keep the boat straight into wind and maintain this position.  Try not to motor over the anchor’, and with that dashed up to the bow to start winding in 40m of chain. 

It turned out that Mike had lost his dinghy overnight, come adrift I suppose, complete with outboard motor on the back.  Tom had taken him in his own dinghy this morning to look for it, and they found it.  Heading straight for the rocks it should have been wrecked, but by some miracle they found it beached on the only boat ramp there, unharmed. 

There’s not really any place to go in TCI when the wind goes South and this strong – itself pretty unusual.  Marinas maybe, but to get to them you have get across the reef that runs around TCI, not a good idea in strong conditions.  Then you have to pay, of course.  LOTS!  

VERY bad idea. 

As dusk fell and the evening wore on the wind gradually veered more West’ly, which eased the swell somewhat, if not a lot.   Ah!  Time for some ham, fried pots, cabbage and kale!   Our new position much further out left plenty of sea room behind if the anchor did drag a bit, but that Rocna was good.  Wasn’t it? 


Every twenty minutes or so I had a look up on top, checked out position against the transits, cross-checked the chart plotter, yet all was fine.  Slowly I relaxed.  It was still blowing a steady 30kts but no problems now. 

 I should have kept up those 20 minute checks.  Around 10pm I had another look, and got a shock.  A glance at the chart plotter – which leaves a black line of our track – revealed all.   Ever since sailboats were invented, sailors have shared the same fear – of being caught on a lee shore.  With the invention of the engine, life improved dramatically as I had demonstrated, rather clumsily, earlier, and this fear abated somewhat.  You could always drive out of danger.  The chart plotter now showed a very long black line running dead downwind for some considerable distance.  I could scarcely believe it.  We had dragged a long way.,,and when the eyes began to adjust to the dark after the bright cabin lights, a large menacing black lump right next to Pinball loomed. 

We were nearly on the rocks.   The same rocks that had claimed the unfortunate hulk that forever lay forlornly upside down on Sapodilla Point as a warning, its rusty bottom now a roost for terns.

Start the engine. Get the anchor up. Turn away from the rocks.  Don’t waste a SECOND.  Heart pumping, waiting for the terrible sound of rock on fibreglass.   With the engine driving us towards the dragging anchor, I was up on the bow winding in chain, a process that seemed to take for ever as I had run A LOT of chain out, praying the windlass wouldn’t jam, as it almost always did.  Peering over the bow, still no sign of the anchor, the dark mass over my shoulder, waiting.  On and on came the chain, stop a second and poke the piles of chain over in the locker below so more can get in, and on and on.. At last the anchor broke the surface.  We were free.  Dash back to the cockpit to find the Engine Oil Pressure red warning light on and audio warning siren screaming at me.  The engine had stopped, and I knew why. 

The dinghy had been on a very long painter behind to reduce the shock loads on it in these strong conditions, and I should have shortened it before starting the engine to prevent the lines getting anywhere near the propeller.   Now it was wrapped round that propeller. 

No engine in a gale on a rocky lee shore just feet away.  Now  we  really were doomed. 

SAILS!  Get some genoa out…QUICK.  

Hauled hard on the sheet with one hand whilst releasing the furling line with the other, which just led to a lot of flapping up front, but no sail.  Damn!  The genoa had doubled back on itself around the forestay, producing no power but a lot of noise.  

Winch it.  WINCH IT OUT! 

Slowly the power of the winch dragged the sail back over itself and into some sort of shape, a mess and still all caught up, but better.  Pinball picked up speed, and full starboard wheel got us heading away from the rocks into slightly deeper water, and safety. 

Now what?  

Anchor before we go too far out.  You do NOT want to be sailing around The Banks at night. 

Roll away the patch of genoa, turn up into wind, walk up to the bow and hit the windlass footswitch.  Chain rumbles out, but the windlass is running off the battery alone now, I hoped it would be alright.  Normally the engine is running to provide the considerable amount of power required.   The windlass didn’t sound right…and it was running on after the footswitch was lifted.  For a moment I thought the chain was going to keep on running out under its own weight – as had happened before -  but it slowly stopped.  Not wishing to push luck’s boundaries any further, I settled for a shortish chain and locked it off.   

We had survived a very near thing.

Going below, my eye caught the ominous glistening of water through finger hole of the inspection hatch beneath companionway ladder.  Lifting the hatch revealed the bilge almost full of water.


 Off came the engine cowlings;  water was spouting up from the rubber propeller shaft seal behind the engine at an alarming rate.  Jesus!  This was getting serious..   I fetched the old boathook and compressed the spring inside then released it – a procedure you do when first going back in the water to lubricate the seal inside with water.  The jets died back to a trickle.  Whew! 

Then I noticed the engine fuel cock was just hanging there, fuel running out, having sheared off the fuel filter it’s supposed to be attached to.

What on earth…?   I could see no reason for this to have happened.   Luckily it had sheered on the downstream side of the cock, so could still be turned off and fuel isolated.   

That night I was up every hour to check for dragging – though not so much of a problem out here – also flooding and fuel leaks.  About 4am a tanker lit up like a Christmas tree hove to on my port beam and shone very powerful search lights on Pinball for some time.   Finally turning to go behind me, he came up on the other side and anchored.  I was smack bang in the middle of the commercial anchorage.

At daybreak I slept.

 Wednesday, 11 February 2015


Out in the Ship Anchorage the wind gradually moderated through the day until by nightfall it was around 20kts from just North of West, with improving seas from the protection of land.  Every now and then the leak would reassert itself, but repositioning the rubber prop shaft seal helped control it.   Out here a half mile offshore was the safest place to be for now, away from a lee shore. 

Pinball needed to be fixed.  The only place on TCI that offered shipyard and outhaul facilities was CAICOS MARINA, 9 miles to the east.  But the entrance was, as with all marinas here, shallow, and Pinball would need to go in at high tide, and without an engine would need a tow.  Some calls on VHF led to finding a tow craft in principle if not fact, and acceptance by the marina, but not yet as seas would have to moderate first.  In the present west wind I could easily sail to somewhere close today, but it was still rather rough, and more importantly, I doubted whether I could get the anchor up without the windlass in these conditions.  So opted to wait for the morrow, when light winds were forecast.

Thursday 12 February 2015


Awoke to a beautiful day, with not a breath of wind.  Not going to be able to sail anywhere!  But a good day for getting into shallow marinas with a tow-boat.  The leak was still under control with tending, we had not sunk, and there was no longer any reason to be anchored way out here!  But how to get back to Sapodilla? 


Lashed alongside fore and aft, Perky with its little 2.5HP Suzuki engine was soon propelling 8 tons of Pinball at a respectable 2 knots back to the anchorage, to be greeted by Tom on HORNBLOWER TOO with predictable disrespect. 

‘You’d better put TWO anchors out this time PINBALL’ he bellowed from his bow. 

But it had taken about an hour to get the heavy Rocna anchor and chain up, so well dug in was it, and to break it out required a rope round the chain back to a mast winch to apply sufficient pressure.  So I’d stowed that and got the lightweight Fortress aluminium kedge anchor out to use instead with its rope rode – much easier to manually handle now the windlass was not useable.

I dived down to look at the prop. The whole shaft and prop were a good four inches further back that they should be, with one blade embedded in the skeg.  Armed with a diving knife I found I could unravel the rope from around the shaft without much cutting, but incredibly there was rope jammed up inside between the prop shaft and the stern tube where the prop shaft enters the boat. Maybe if I could get the rope out this would help the leak?  Returning with big pliers, I tugged for dear life as long as a breath held out but to no avail.  Oh well..

Then I thought I’d try winding it out by wrapping it round the pliers’ nose and twisting.  It worked!  As soon as the rope was out, the whole shaft sprang forwards several inches freeing the prop.  Yippee!  

But it wasn’t yippee for long..

Back on the boat I found in horror that the leak was now not only back, but far worse than before, spraying about a gallon a minute into the bilge.  Laying prone, I struggled to contain it by adjusting the rubber seal, but the shaft having moved forward had changed the dynamics of the leak, such that moving the seal no longer made the slightest difference.  The boat was fast filling up. 

We were sinking..

There are two manual bilge pumps on Pinball, the best and biggest made, one down in the cabin and one port side in the cockpit.  But you can’t pump and  fix leaks.  I got on the radio.

Hornblower Too I’ve got a serious leak now.  I could really do with some help here’

‘Ok Pinball, Billy will be right over in the canoe.  I’ll be over in a minute.’

I pumped.  No sign of Billy. 

Pumping is hard work.  Five minutes of that and you want to stop.  Billy turns up, clambers aboard and relieves me.   I go below again and try wrapping the seal with rope, which doesn’t work.  Thinks:  ok, try some cloth.  Some improvement.  HOPE!   Right, bind the cloth, see if that works.  Much better! 

Tom suggested wrapping self-amalgaming tape (rubber that sticks to itself) around the shaft underwater where it enters the keel.   Good idea, so borrowing his, I dive down to do it, but it makes little difference.  Meanwhile, Billy pumps uncomplainingly. 

‘Have you tried 5200?’  asked Tom.

‘What that?’

‘You HAVEN’T HEARD of 5200!?  Look of disgust.  ‘Marine adhesive.  Use it on anything.  Not sure if it’ll work underwater but it says “above and below the waterline”’. 

Tom, good as gold, dived and smeared this stuff on for me, emerging covered in it.  There didn’t appear to be any reduction in flow, but every little bit helps. 

He then went off to sort out his health insurance, leaving Billy on board Pinball to man the pump, which he did uncomplainingly the rest of the day, albeit at a reduced level now. 

I had another go at reducing the leakage further, as at this rate the boat needed pumping out every 20 minutes and I wouldn’t mind some sleep tonight, so more rope binding, then as an afterthought a couple of cable ties, with considerable success.  Leakage was now down to a pump out every 4 hours.  Result. 

Friday, 13 February 2015                          


Bed last night at 2130, up at 0400 with 3 hourly checks on the bilges – looking good.  The extra wrapping and cable ties reduced leakage to a manageable level, so got some sleep.  I didn’t think that wasgoing to happen! 

Dawn brought another beautiful calm day, sea like glass.  Pumped out, breakfast, then climbed in the dinghy to go untangle the two anchor rodes, the chain bow anchor and lightweight rope kedge, an easy job with the sea so clear, just look down! Last night I’d put the main bow anchor down as well, just in case. Brought the kedge back on board so I only have one to deal with when…if?...a tow-boat arrives.  Just climbing back on board again and there’s a VHF call to me.  Its CAICOS MARINA.  Apparently the ‘very reliable’ Skipper of BOSS LADY wasn’t coming to tow me as he’s gone fishing seeing as it’s such a nice day.  The marina would try and find a replacement, to arrive probably around 2pm – fine on timing, as I needed high tide to get in safely, which would be at 1630 according to the Cruiser Net broadcast on VHF this morning.

By midday there was still no news.  Tom had his magic air supply pump out - small petrol engine in a tray, hose and mouthpiece – and had been under his boat changing the engine zinc, breathing pumped air.  Wouldn’t mind one of those!   Dinghied over to have a look at it, a chat, and have a laugh over how reliable BOSS LADY was.   Then Tom said ‘If it was ME I’d sail there now there’s a west wind.  

He was right.

Went back, thought about it…forecast was for only 6 knots….what if it died halfway there?  Then decided I didn’t really care, I’d just anchor wherever I stopped – its all shallow here – and went up front to manually haul the bow anchor up.  You only really appreciate a windlass after you’ve had to do it without one!  I couldn’t use the windlass as it uses a lot of power and would probably flatten the battery, but you can’t flatten me.  Wear me out yes, but good exercise.   I’m bang upwind of THOSE ROCKS of course, and Pinball decides to turn the wrong way in towards them just to tease me doesn’t he, but pulling some genoa out we slowly picked up a little speed, enough to get the rudder working anyway, and we’re off! 

It was  8 miles to a point a mile south of the marina, and I reckoned in this girly wind we might make 2 knots, so 4 hours.   ETA 4 o’clock.   We would be dead downwind pretty well, so I just had full genoa out front and the little mizzen out the back and no mainsail, and once steady on course and I knew exactly what the wind was, got the big heavy spinnaker pole out and poled the genoa out with it – ideal for light winds and downwind conditions as it stops the sail collapsing all the time.  We were now doing 2.5 kts over the ground, and a delightful sail it was in these calm sunny conditions. 

Now up to 3 kts with just 6 kts of wind, that’s actually 50% efficiency!  I even started thinking about slowing down, as I knew the entrance to the marina was dead shallow – just 5’ on my chart and Pinball needs 6’ – so it was VERY IMPORTANT to be going over it at high tide, give or take a bit.   But I didn’t slow.  For a start, I wasn’t certain of the timing of high tide, just going on what ‘Bob’ gave us on the daily Cruisers Net, and if his tides are anything like his forecasts then it could be anytime.  Secondly, it would be better to go in on a rising tide than falling – get stuck then you’ve a chance of getting off.  

On arrival at a mile south the wind, knowing my task, had veered right round from West to North and increased to a Force 4,  11-16kts, with associated chop.  This put the marina smack into wind.  Great. 

I tried for the sixth time to raise them on VHF.  Nothing.   

Ok, lets try lashing Perky to Pinball again and use the 2.5 HP outboard to drive us in.   Well, Perky tried, but couldn’t stop Pinball turning downwind all the time.  Too small an engine and too much wind and chop!  So we went round in circles a few times. 

OK.  Anchor. 

Another VHF call.   Ah!  Someone answers!   They were waiting for The Boss to come in, and he would sort it out.  No one, it seems, in this marina can or will do anything  without The Boss’s say so. 

Time is ticking by. Decide to try tacking in.  Enough wind at the moment, but the problem was trying not to stray very far off the track over the reef so quick regular tacks required to stay close, and that’s just not possible with TWO forestays, as the genoa has to be almost fully rolled back onto the forestay before you can pull it out the other side, a time consuming and tiring rigmarole.  Answer – rig the heavy weather staysail on the inner forestay on its own.  No problem pulling that across.  

Of course, soon as I’d got the anchor back up and done that the wind died back to 6 kts, and we barely made headway. 

But….is it?....I think it is…..YES!  Here comes the Cavalry! 

Jamie – The Boss – a thirty-something Canadian looking a tad like the blonde guy in Starsky & Hutch arrived in a RIB with a 50HP donkey on the back.  That’ll do it!  Passed him a long mooring line as a tow rope which he attached to a bridle around his engine and we were off, me steering PW, Jamie steering fairly randomly with one hand whilst talking on his mobile with the other. 

On the way he shouted ‘I’m gonna bring you in starboard side ok?’   Oh good, all my mooring lines were set for port side to.   Sods Law again. 

Pinball weighs a good 8 tons loaded up.  Stop driving him and he’ll keep on going for some distance,

So how exactly was I going to stop then?  Hopefully….Jamie will slow right down miles early.  But what if he doesn’t? 

A bucket!  That’s what I’ll do, I’ll chuck a bucket out on a line to act as a drogue. 

I had just finished re-setting all the mooring lines as we started coming in over the shallow reef, but infuriatingly the depth gauge kept freezing – just when I needed it most.  Then as we went over the shallowest part, it started working again, and read 1.5 metres.   At 1.2 metres on the gauge Pinball is grounded.  That’s one foot under the keel then… Hmm 

As we rounded the corner before the marina, Jamie slowed.   Good.

He indicated where he wanted me to go alongside and I aimed straight at it, watched by the entire staff and anyone else around, all leaning on the rail, all hoping I’ll stuff it up.  This is a wonderful spectator sport, at least as good as Potter Higham Bridge on the Norfolk Broads.  

Perfect arrival’ remarked one of the goofers, introducing himself as MARCUS.  He was soon to prove good company as the only live-in occupant in the boatyard. 

As the leakage was still well under control, and in view of the lateness of the hour I agreed to stay in the water overnight, for a haul out on the morrow. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015


By mid morning there was no sign of anyone doing anything about lifting Pinball out so went to speak with Omar up in the office, who was on the phone and flapped his hand at me.  He was talking to The Boss of course. 

‘Hi Omar.  So what’s the plan with the boat lift then?’

‘Yeah The Boss, he hasn’t said to do the lift’, he said, looking a bit dazed as usual.  When it emerged that he had just been talking to The Boss, I asked him why he hadn’t asked him then. He got on the phone again. 

Two of the guys walked Pinball round the 90 degree corner into the lift basin, stern first.  Normally, I get out the way and let the experts do the job, but not this time.  Well, it was all a bit slapdash, Pinball’s stern – with very expensive windvane steering equipment sticking out – was fast approaching the concrete end of the basin with no attempt by the bow-man to slow the boat, and I had already had to join in with the big pole to fend off the side.   I started gesticulating, as worried Skippers tend to do.   Pinball was stopped three inches from the end, whilst one the guys held the stern off – just - I hovered nervously on his shoulder.  Two inches now.   Then I had to unrig the mizzen topping lift. 

But it lifted out ok.  The blocks went in underneath to support Pinball, the boat-lift dropped me the last few inches with a crunch, and that was it. 


The propeller was in full reverse when the dinghy painter wrapped round it, and the shock of this pulled the whole shaft and prop back about 4 inches, enough for one of the blades to impact the fibreglass skeg and chop a piece out, stalling the engine.  This also pulled back the rubber propeller shaft seal inside the boat, moving the rotating bearing also about four inches, now out of position.  Result:- leakage. 

Then when I had dived down and wound the bits of rope out that had jammed up inside the prop shaft, the shaft had sprung forward a couple of inches, immediately moving the bearing away from the seal its supposed to be hard up against.  Result :  massive leak. 

Then as the engine shuddered to a halt, a loose cooling water hose must have impacted the small fuel cock attached to the water-separating fuel filter and snapped it clean off, leaking fuel.  There may have been a hairline crack already perhaps.  Who knows?    

So the first job was to reposition the prop back where it should be, then set up the prop shaft seal again.  This took two days, much of it lying in the very small space next to the engine compartment – like lying in a coffin the wrong way round.  I bled a lot, as the slightest scratch and I run red nowadays. 

Today, Tuesday, the job was how to reconnect the fuel line to the fuel filter, with no replacement part as such.  I had asked Jamie, the Canadian Boss here (without whose say so nothing happens) if he might have any bits, and he gave me a piece which fitted at one end, but not the other.  The threads were different, presumably Imperial, so for want of anything better, set about filing down the slightly oversize end, then hacksawing out the threads a bit, until it would go in about 1 ½ turns – barely enough but best I could do.  It was also a different metal, so corrosion was likely.

Still, I fitted it, filled some buckets with water and test ran the engine briefly with the water intake hose in the buckets.  It started ok, but seemed very noisy;  however, I did have all three soundproofing panels off. 

 I am not entirely happy with what I’ve done, but staying much longer on this expensive Island will sink me just as well.   I think the thing to do is to get to Puerta Rico where I can get parts sent out if necessary, and repair Pinball properly there, at anchor ideally.


Earlier Marcus had invited me for coffee on his badly damaged boat BAYOU LADY, and related the story.  He was anchored somewhere off the north coast of TCI, the anchor had dragged and he went on the rocks.  Each wave pushed the boat further up the beach and over more  rocks.  He and his crew stepped ashore with dry feet, having stripped the boat of all its valuables and electronics, ripped out, including a large container of diesel and carried them up the beach.  At some stage a rescue attempt was launched using a fishing vessel, and some long strong rope.  Taking a run at it, the fishing boat had dragged BAYOU LADY back out over all the rocks and towed it successfully back to this marina, CAICOS Marina.  Damage: the keel had been ripped off, and on the starboard side badly scraped the fibreglass skin back to bare wood..but not holed.   Much damage was self inflicted on removal of the electronics.   He told how he actually laughed at his crewman as he prepared to get off, as he insisted on wearing a lifejacket despite being up on the beach. 

It could so easily have been Pinball, which being pure fibreglass, wouldn’t have survived. 

But that was not the whole story.   He had lost his previous boat in a hurricane in St Marten.  Four anchors out and various landlines too, it had wrenched both the bow and stern right off.  He had bought BAYOU LADY with the insurance.

‘I had my out.  I HAD MY OUT,’  he wailed, head in hands, meaning he could have walked away with the money then.  I asked if he regretted his decision. 

‘Yes’.  But after some thought added  ‘but..maybe…when its all fixed…I mean, its all I know. Its what I do’.  


For two days I thought it through, inspected the fuel line, repaired the skeg, treated the rusting foot of the keel, and dithered.  Should I stay and get the yard to work on the fuel line?  Or am I being too fussy?  The repair job seemed pretty sturdy despite its shortcomings.  Then on Friday awoke to a decision. 


I needed to test that prop shaft seal, it might still leak. 

Friday 20 February 2015


Went up to Jamie’s office first thing and told him I wanted to launch, plus refuel, and use of a dock until Monday when this weekend’s strong winds would be through.  If all was well, I could be away on Monday  lunchtime’s high tide at least to anchor, then head south in light winds. 

With the keel in the water there was no leak, until that is I compressed the seal to flush it, then it leaked a fair bit.  Bugger!  But with some pushing and pulling the leak finally stopped.  Hmm.. not quite what I’d expected. 

Starting the engine, there was definitely a knocking noise now, not good.  I tried leaning on the prop shaft to see if it made any difference, but not conclusive. 

Then I noticed what I should have picked up before.

The engine mounts starboard side were shot, the rubber inside sheered.  Three out of four were blown. 

Pinball wasn’t going anywhere


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