Sunday 27th February 2011
Distance run: 52 nautical miles
We had an enjoyable ‘pot luck’ evening on board Moonshadow Star and on Wednesday morning the other CA boats left. We went ashore to collect the new mainsheet track and car which we had ordered in Martinique for delivery here. There was no problem finding the chandlers and Cedric was extremely helpful. All the parts had arrived and were the correct ones which probably makes this the easiest ordering and receipt of goods we have experienced in a long time!
We stayed in the anchorage another couple of days as it was very comfortable there and took only minutes to rib over to the marina (supermarket, internet, restaurants) or to the town. On Friday, we were up bright and early and ready to leave, but as we were raising the anchor, Steve heard a knocking noise coming from the steering so we lowered it again to investigate. It appeared that a spacer had come off a ball joint in the steering, and another was very worn, so we decided to delay leaving and go into the boatyard to see if we could get some more made up. We found a workshop where they were able to do so, but they would not be ready until midday, so as we had 40 miles to sail to get around to the west coast of the island, and would not now make it before dark, we decided we would have to stay another day. We collected the spacers at midday and returned to the boat where it took all of 5 minutes to fit them.
On Saturday we were up bright and early again, and this time we set off without incident. With the wind behind us the first part of the trip was a pleasant one, but livened up when we rounded the south-west tip of the island to go up the west coast. Being in the lee of many hills and mountains, the wind was either light and fluky or screaming off the hills in great gusts of 30 knots or more. We gradually made our way up the coast to our intended anchorage near Pigeon Island, which is the site of the Jacques Cousteau marine reserve, where we thought we might stay a day or two to do some snorkeling and perhaps some diving. However, we had a close look at the anchorage and decided we weren’t keen to stop there as it was fairly unprotected, quite small and appeared quite full. We decided to sail on to Deshaies, 8 miles further up the coast.
With now very frequent gusts coming off the land we made Deshaies in an hour or so. The approach to the anchorage was directly into the wind so we furled away the yankee and put the engine on, and began motoring a slalem course between the fishing marks. With around half a mile to go to the bay entrance we noticed the tone of the engine change and then it just simply died. Attempts to re-start it proved useless, so we unfurled the yankee and began sailing again while we thought about our next move. Steve suspected fuel starvation, so we switched over diesel filters but to no avail. The engine would need bleeding to get it started and in the lively sea state and so close to land this was not really a practical or safe idea. So our choices were: a)sail offshore to get some sea room and heave to while Steve bled the engine b) tack into the bay and drop the anchor under sail c) put a call out on the radio and get help to tow us in.
The first option seemed singularly unattractive in the prevailing conditions (strong winds, lumpy seas). The second was an option but the anchorage was very busy and finding a spot without engine control could be tricky. We decided to put out a radio call on channel 16 stating our predicament and asking if anyone could offer assistance. After a couple of calls with no response and just as we were beginning to consider option b), we were called on the radio by Blue Beyond who had just anchored and were about to launch their dinghy and see if they could drum up some other assistance. It was good to hear a friendly voice – particularly so as we had sailed in 2008 with Mark and Maxine and had not seen them since!
We tacked into the mouth of the bay and just as we entered, the wind died completely and we were dead in the water. Shit! At that point, however, we saw Mark making his way towards us in his dinghy, closely followed by a local fisherman in his wooden boat with two HUGE outboard motors on the back. Things started to look a bit better at that point, and the fisherman threw us a line and started to tow us in. Between the fishing boat and Mark’s dinghy they managed to get us into position and we dropped the anchor. That should have been the end of the story, but as luck (or lack of it) would have it, the anchor would not set and dragged across the seabed – not once, but twice. A chap called Albert, from another boat anchored in the bay arrived at this point and offered his services as a translator, and he spoke to the fisherman and between them they decided a better spot to try the anchor. Eventually on the third attempt, the anchor finally bit and we held. The German couple on the boat we ended up almost alongside were extremely nice about it, and suggested we let out a bit more chain (they had no more to let out) and they took up a little so that, although we were uncomfortably close, we did not touch. In sailing, people can be very kind, helpful and understanding – all of which we really appreciated in this little episode.
We thanked all concerned and had a short catch-up conversation with Mark over the guardrail, but as we had an engine to sort out and they were planning to leave early the next day to sail to St. Kitts, the proper catch-up and thank you over a beer or two will have to wait. Hopefully our paths will cross again as we are sailing in the same area, but hopefully not in similar circumstances!
We then set about tracking down the problem with the engine. Steve bled it and it started, but was very lumpy and didn’t sound at all right. Then it stopped again. This happened several times, and eventually we could get no more fuel through to the fuel pump, and Steve suggested it must be a blockage in the fuel pipe from the tank, the problem we had in Turkey during the EMYR. So he disconnected the pipe and tried blowing down it into the diesel tank, but could not. Last time he used the fender pump to blow it through, and it did the trick again this time. Once the pipe was reconnected the engine began to run much more smoothly again. It seems there is something in the diesel tank that occasionally finds its way to the fuel pipe and blocks it. We are fairly confident the engine is running ok again, but when we get to Antigua we will have the diesel tank cleaned out and the fuel filtered to try to avoid it happening again.
The German boat we were very close to had left by the time we got up this morning, and the anchor seems to be holding fine so we have decided to stay in this spot for the moment. The bay is very windy as it is surrounded by hills and the wind accelerates down them. So we are sitting here in 20+ knots of wind, watching boats sail past the bay entrance under full sail!
There are fairly strong winds forecast from the North East until Tuesday, and so we will stay here in windy bay until then, then set off for Antigua, about 45 miles North of here. If we wait till Thursday the wind is forecast to come around to the East which will make it a much more comfortable sail. We’ll see. Right now, wind or not, it feels good to be anchored in the relative calm of Deshaies!