Nigel North
Sun 15 Mar 2015 22:08

19:54.04N 070:56.98W




Lanky PJ from the Engine Shop had come over yesterday, to look at the mounts and get their product number.  I thought he looked a bright young fellah, which gave me hope.  Later the Engine Shop boss, Mike, also came across to tell me he needed a copy of my Cruising Permit – if I wanted to avoid Import Duty on the new parts.  He looked stressed and a bit put out at having to come find me. 

Rather surprisingly, when I gloomily said to PJ yesterday ‘Suppose I’ll have to haul out again?’ he contradicted me.

‘No.  We can align the shaft in the water’.    I brightened!  Haul out costs: - $600!   The difference between living on a boat in the water compared to propped up in a boatyard is immense and incomparably better with a wet keel.   Not wanting to use the engine, Pinball had to be ‘walked’ round from the lift, and past LAST TANGO - a very smart 43’ American yacht skippered by an ex-Vietnam vet helicopter pilot, Jim – and docked.  I got asked out to dinner on the strength of that, there to be regaled with Jim’s war-stories. 

SUNDAY 22 FEB 2015  

A beaut day, spent making a long painter for Perky out of the blue nylon rope Marcus had sold me, as well as a bridle for the dinghy’s two tow points, a method of keeping it all from sinking under the weight of the shackle when slack (to avoid wrapping props), and a short painter for normal use, all out of lightweight floating nylon.   The problem with using nylon rope is that it has very low friction so knots tend to unravel, so had to search through the RYA BOOK OF KNOTS to find one that wouldn’t.  Settled on a HALYARD KNOT, and for good measure seized it as  well.   That took all day, butheh, whats the rush?  

Monday, 23 February 2015

Another bright blue day, with light winds from the east. 

Took a photocopy of the Cruising Licence round to Mike in the Engine Shop, and while there showed him the snapped off piece of the fuel line, to see if he had any bits to fit.  He didn’t.  I now have to remove the fuel filter and they will try and re-tap it so something fits.  I’m beginning to regret having refuelled on Friday. 

Marcus came over offering coffee, but it was my turn.  He is always most entertaining and good company!   He has Travis arriving to crew the boat to St Martin later this week, but BAYOU LADY is far from ready – new wood panels going on to fill the hole in the side, keel needs to be fibreglassed, engine fixed and some sail work. 


Disconnected the fuel line and took the big glass filter off, discovering to some surprise that it wasn’t just a water trap but had a proper fuel filter above it – which looked very like it had never been changed.  It was filthy, full of black sludge, so spent the rest of the day cleaning it all out in wonderment that the engine had run at all.   Took the filter and fuel cock round to see Mike in the Engine Shop again, as instructed yesterday.  Mike takes one look at it and says ‘Oh I know that type.  I’ve got something to fit it, ‘ and 2 minutes later I’m walking off with exactly the right bit.  Hurrah!  

Wednesday and Thursday: 

Waiting for the ordered engine mounts.   Nice weather,  Marcus comes over here now every morning, for some Dominican Republic ground coffee.   Mike informs me that they’ve sent the mounts to Puerta Rico by mistake, for goodness sake.

Then at 4pm Thursday PJ of the Engine Shop shows up with the new mounts, and starts work. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Quite a strong wind building from the SE, so set a second line ashore to hold the stern.

PJ arrives before 8am, and finishes putting the mounts in by midday. He is very thorough having learnt the job on the job ever since leaving school.  Overnight I have been thinking,  realising that when I re-set the prop shaft and propeller back to their ‘normal’ position before relaunching, I did not take account of the fact that the engine had been wrenched backwards out of position by the shock loading, simply because I didn’t know.   So the prop shaft was now set too far forward,  and when PJ tries to move the engine backto its correct position the shaft will have to be pulled back out somehow, and seeing as how it had taken a heavy mallet to get it in there, how on earth could we do this whilst still in the water? 

He looked thoughtful when I told him. 

‘Hmm… Yes, I think we’ll have to haul you out again’ he agreed.   I went and warned Jamie the Manager that we might well need another haul out, but he suggested a way of doing it without haulout. 

 ‘But I don’t want to be telling them their job’ he warned.  

So I told PJ instead, who nodded and then asked for a big hammer.  I have four!  15 minutes later he’s done it, his way.  

By midday it was all over, the worry, the stressing, the suspense.  Pinball was back in commission!   

Deep joy. 

Several times in life it has felt like I have been given another chance by Providence, to have miraculously been spared the consequences of inadequacies and mistakes and  handed another ball to run with.  Today added another. 

It felt like I had let the side down and been found wanting having made a mistake – a bad mistake - then kept waiting outside the Headmasters study awaiting punishment, only to escape lightly with a heavy fine and given the boat back.  

I was lucky. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Strong Easterlies, sunny

Walked over to the Engine Shop and paid the bill by credit card - $1493

Tried to find Jamie to do the same for the haulout etc, but he was busy.  That will be a similar figure. 

Got the bike out and put another gear change cable on.  The nipple is a bit too big and prevents use of the 6th (low) gear as the nipple gets in the way internally, so spent some time reducing its size,  until I could get all by the lowest gear selected.  Greased the chain which was going rusty again.   Still working reasonably well.    It was getting dark by the time the bike was fixed up, at least good enough to get me to the shop 4 miles away.   At dusk the mosquito nets went up at both ends of the boat, and I lugged the bike onboard and chained it to the mast, its usual mooring. 

Sunday 1 March 2015.

Windy all day and most of the night, but still sunny.

I said to young Omah, who does the fuel,  ‘I’m going to the shop in a minute.  When I get back I’ll need to pay my bill’.   Omah did the business when the Boss was not around. 

‘Yeah OK.  You betta watch out for the dogs’.  

‘What dogs?’ 

‘They’ll bark at you.  Maybe bite you’, Omah said mischievously  , looking at me sidelong.

I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, but he didn’t look like it.

‘Where are these dogs then?

‘Oh, you’ll see them out on the road'.  Pumped up the tyres and set off. 

No dogs anywhere.  

Arriving at the very well presented but expensive supermarket, I checked the times of opening and closing to see if I had time to have a look round, then set off up to the Leeward Highway.  Most of the shops were closed, found a bank with an ATM but it wasn’t working, so cycled back to the store and tried the bank next door. 

Your transaction cannot be processed at the moment’.   I tried several times, with differing amounts, to no avail.   Sod it.

The cycle back was pleasant as this road is almost flat,  unlike the Sapodilla Road further West, and hurrah most of the gears were working.  Along the way were the occasional Provo trademark ‘desirable properties’ bulldozed out of the scrub, American style mansions built to impress rather than on need.  It was after passing a particularly large one set well back that a car passed me going the other way, in the process setting off some dogs barking. 


I glanced behind.

Uh oh..

Two large canine killing machines were now in the middle of the road and going hell for leather…for me. 

Its surprising how fast you can go on a little bike when you want.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015     CAICOS MARINA

Strong winds all this week, so stayed on a few more days in the marina, but next week’s not much better!   Thinking about going for the big one – sail northeast on a hard tack to about 63degW then south to the Virgins or maybe St Marten.   The point is, the winds and seas are much less severe further north, so should be able to tack against it.

Then I received an email from a potential crewmember who had now arrived in LUPERON DR, so it made sense to just do the return route back there.  Abandoned the ‘Go North’ idea, which in retrospect would have been a rough ride anyway with the relentlessly strong winds we’ve had for the last month. 

Friday 6th March was now target date to get out of the marina!  PassageWeather.com showed a slackening of Easterly Tradewinds on Saturday 7th - a small window of maybe no more than 12 hours - but I had been here 3 weeks already and if I missed this, another week would go by with more big winds due.  I would be going around the south of the Caicos Bank, it being too windy and choppy to try crossing the shallow Banks,  and I wanted to be at the most southerly point by the time the wind starting easing – for here I would be either motoring dead into wind and sea, or motor-sailing close to it.  You do not want a 25-30kt headwind!  

But first I had to get out of the Marina, with its shallow entrance.  High tide was at 0900, and with a full moon should be close to a spring tide, good good.   After that, I would sail down to French Cay due south and right on the edge of the Bank, and anchor there until the right time to leave.

Friday 6th March 2015

Paid my remaining dues, said goodbye and slipped away only 30 minutes late.  Marcus had said he would come over for coffee but didn’t show.  He wasn’t the best at getting up.   Pinball came out the narrow entrance, over the shoal and we were FREE!!!!! 

I took a direct line down south to Frenchman’s Cay in a brisk ESE’ly with a 2’ chop under just a reefed genoa and the mizzen, no mainsail, which kept the speed down with coral heads to watch out for.  By midday it was closer to 30kts and 3’ seas, by 2pm dropping anchor in a nice sandy bit close to the bird sanctuary to sit watching the Sooty Terns.   The larger Police Boat was anchored off too, fishing by the look of it.  Hard life.  These guys knew my boat well by now, as I had been moored next to them for a while in the marina.

The first course to sail would be Southeast, so what I needed was an Easterly wind to sail it.   The wind, however, was not playing fair on arrival despite the forecast of Easterly, as it was blowing 125 degrees, and by 1700 was even worse at 150 degrees – dead on the nose.  But later on it came back again, although not quite to East, still strong at 23-29kts.

Decided to leave at 0200, so after supper got my head down for a few hours, last chance for the next two nights.  

Winding the anchor back up at 0130, the chain came off the gypsy again – it doesn’t fit very well as the chain is US and the gypsy British metric – and starting running out unimpeded.   Had to stop it with the bar I use to poke the chain pile over.   By the time I’d sorted that out I hadn’t a clue where we were as it was dark dark, being blinded by the headtorch, and had to look at the chartplotter.  Ah.  That way!   I had been thinking of raising the mainsail before the anchor, but this incident reminded me why it was not a good idea.  Pinball, with the anchor half up, would have taken off all by himself and probably sailed into the reef, with me blinded an all.  

With the short seas and Force 6 conditions, Pinball was hobby-horsing along on a slightly divergent course from the desired one, but not too bad.  At least we were sailing!   However, the pitching motion made me feel sick as usual, but controllable.  No, I wasn’t.  But neither did I bother with supper that night, don’t like to waste good food. 

By mid morning we had diverged sufficiently from our course to warrant doing something about it, so I thought I’d just try motoring direct east even though the seas were now about 10’, 3m.  To my surprise, Pinball was able to make a good 4-5kts, better than expected.  With the bashing we were getting though, and the wind still strong and south of east by mid afternoon I decided enough was enough and to head the 60 miles slightly north of east to the anchorage at BIG SAND CAY, there to rest and recuperate.  I should make it about 10pm, so sleep was on the cards. 

But then a strange thing happened.  Just after I’d rescued the wooden chocks that had washed away from under the Big Green Bin and the yellow mooring buoy that had broken loose up on the bow,  the wind dropped back to a VERY pleasant 15-18kts, and the seas magically calmed.   This must be the long awaited moderation!   What the wind also did though was back round to a little North of East, making the diversion to Big Sand Cay untenable. 

Ok.  Change of Plan.  LUPERON it is.  Happy with that too.  It would mean another night at sea, but heh.  It would be good to get back there before the stronger winds return, and that touch of North in the wind would really help. 

Two hours later the wind picked up again, but strangely the seas stayed moderate for the rest of the trip.  I didn’t feel sick!   Turning south for the Dominican Republic, I kept a course upwind of LUPERON to make allowance for any changes as we neared the mountainous island.  

It was in the middle of the second night at sea that, feeling like a tin of soup, I discovered the underseat bin with all the tins in awash.   Looking under the sole showed the bilges were, for the second time recently, full of water!  Was this the prop shaft seal leaking again?   It wasn’t.    Then it must be the bloody hause pipe hole where the anchor chain enters the boat on the bow, constantly plunging into waves that had filled the boat.  I had blocked it up with a stuffed cloth on leaving the marina, but in the kerfuffle raising the anchor in the middle of the night, had not replaced it.  Later I’d gone up to the bow to put that to rights but had judged it too risky.  Now the boat was full of water. 

It took a while to pump it out, but pump it out I did.  It did seem like an awful lot of water for all that, and then it occurred to me that it might have been the fact that we had been heeled over to starboard more than usual for a long time, and perhaps was forcing its way back up through the heads through-hulls, all on the starboard side.   So went and closed all four seacocks, and the ‘problem’ did not return.   Lesson learned.   At least we weren’t sinking!  The price to be paid was that now I was feeling very sick!   But, didn’t let the side down..

Pinball was now self steering himself nicely on the windvane, whilst I cat-napped below.  I  began to take more notice of two white lights ahead and slightly to port, which were getting closer but never seemed to catch, one light above the other.  Nothing on the AIS, so very unlikely to be a big ship as they are required by law to transmit on AIS.    It could be a stern light, but why TWO?  That is not the correct lighting.  No red or green either.   So after some time, with Pinball seemingly determined to ram it whatever it was by unerringly aiming for the lights, I flashed up the radar and picked up a target at 1.5nm ahead.  Right, at this speed I should be abeam in 6 minutes.  20 minutes later we still weren’t there.  It wasn’t until finally catching up, at dawn, that I could make out that it was another yacht, with its stern light and masthead lights on, incorrectly.    This was not the situation I wanted to be in, mixed up with another boat just as we are nearing the entrance to LUPERON, but not much I could do but hold the 7kts and get ahead.  Then he calls me on the VHF in a slow Southern US drawl:

Heh shall we go in together theyunn?’  No callsign, nothing.  I’m considering a suitable reply when he continues chatting, in almost a mumble and mostly incoherent ramblings.  In a gap, I replied.

‘Better one at a time I think’. 

Yeah, sure, that’s right’.  More ramblings.  This was all very strange.  It dawned on me that he must think I’m someone else, one of his buddies by the way he’s rambling on, all on #16 like you’re not supposed to.   I shut up and left him to it.  Then another boat, SUNKISSED, called up to say he was hove to and waiting for the other boats, so clearly this was a flotilla coming in and I’d got mixed up with them.  This was confirmed when one of the four boats started talking about a green boat. ME.  I then identified myself, and was pleasantly interrogated by SUNKISSED on how to enter LUPERON, which I did.  He sounded rather more grounded.   Later, I went over to chat to Don on SUNKISSED, and he explained that he had been waiting for the other 3 boats all coming down from BIG SAND CAY loosely in convoy, with the tail boat – a French Canadian -  going slow as they had two youngsters on board.   The boat I’d inadvertently overtaken was PEACEFUL EXISTENCE. 

Entering the inlet with the seas dying away I could see PAPO in his longboat waiting for me,  with his brother FREDDIE.  Once I was within range he once again waved me to follow and led the way to a mooring, all unnecessarily now as I knew the best route thanks to him from last time.   I told him about the four boats that would be following, all of whom didn’t know the way in. 

Well, back in Luperon. Almost felt like home...



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