Steep Learning Curve.........and lessons learned.

Steve Powell
Thu 12 Mar 2009 16:42

Well here we are again, after a little break. After finishing the ARC, I went home for Christmas and New Year. It was great to go back and see that all was well at Ladycross. It’s amazing how life just carries on. Max was in great form and we went out and rode a few times. Unfortunately, I got sick again while skiing so I couldn't ride as often as I wanted too. But that’s another story.

We had a great Christmas at the Cadman’s with Tony and Sally then headed off to Verbier to stay with Nick & Diane Harvey in their lovely chalet. I discovered Alpine Touring skies with “soft ski boots” which resolved all my boot issues that had been dogging me for years, to the point that I nearly gave up skiing altogether. We had probably the best snow I’ve seen in the last ten years or so.

Lucie and Will, her new ‘beau’, Will of Bay of Biscay fame and we’re “just good friends Daddy”, seem to be getting on famously.  And Sophie got accepted at the ‘London School of Art’ to do her first two year foundation course in Photography, she hopes this will lead to a BA in Fashion Photography. Now she’s off on her gap year travels. Charity projects in Ecuador followed by partying in Thailand, Malaya, Bali, etc, etc,. They all do it but it still makes me nervous.

Then out of the blue Josh and Claire, our UHURU crew, announce they wanted to move on to other things, they wanted a bigger boat and a bigger salary. Well Beans and I were both relieved and a little pissed off. They had committed to a three year trip and we had spent a lot on training them up, but that’s crew for you. On the other hand we were finding crew more hassle than they were worth. So we took the big decision not to replace them. Hence the “Steep learning curve...” and it has been. I flew back to the Caribbean to take over the boat early February and spent the first week trying to get my head around some of the maintenance issues plus the outstanding problems. Beans then arrived just as the Cadman’s arrived for a cruise around the BVI’s. Well we all mucked in and it was great fun. Tony showed not only his burgeoning sailing skills but he’s a closet engineer. Fixing everything that even threatened to go wrong!!

First “ Lesson learnt.......” Never believe local knowledge is best!! Beans and I have visited Anegada many times in smaller boats and it is very pretty, very remote and has some of the best beaches and lobsters in the world. So we had to try and take the Cadman’s, but all my charts and electric gizmos were telling me we were too big to get into the only safe channel through the coral reef. We draw 8ft 11inches (2.7m) and the channel at low water is 7ft 9inches (2.4m) deep, so even with a 12 to 18 inch tide (Caribbean tide, not quite what we’re used to in the Solent) it was a pretty close run thing. So still keen I spoke to some locals, “ Yea No problem Man, if you stick to the right side of the channel going in, you’ll be fine , man!” Well we did, and we weren’t, running hard aground (in sand fortunately), I did manage to spin her round on her keel using engine and bow thrusters so that we were at least heading in the right direction, back out! But we could not get off. So we sat tight for about 20 minutes and waited for what I believed was high water, i.e. Another few inches of water, put all our sails up and prayed that the heal we would get from the wind pushing us over, plus full engine power would get us off, if not we were going to be there for another week as this was the highest tide for another week.

Well I’ve done this in my little race boat, E’Tu, a few times but never in a forty ton Oyster. To say there was a lot of breath holding as we slowly heeled over as the wind took her, would be an understatement. There was defiantly a lot of praying, and whistling for more wind.

When...... Pop, off she came straight out into the main channel. I love it when a plan goes well :-) Bloody good job it did otherwise we’d have been stuck for rather a long boring time. Well we cancelled our dinner reservations on Anegada, made our excuses and left, bound for the Bitter End Yacht Club. A fine consolation.

After dropping off the Cadman’s Beans and I had just a few days to prepare the boat for the arrival of brother Mike and Judy, Sean & Emma. Our next “charter”, or that’s what it felt like. Beans and I did have a laugh while scrubbing, changing sheets, and doing all the stuff that has to be done for another week onboard. But what a great week we had with Mike & Judy, the kids are just fantastic.

Beans and Judy on the transom, while the kids prepare to go ‘Ringoing’

Sean and Emma on the ringo in Northsound, Virgin Gorda. Saba Rock Restaurant in the background.

After a week young Sean was promoted all the way from ‘Landlubber’ to Midshipman 1st Class and took on a decidedly ‘Piratical Look’. Johnny Depp, eat your heart out!!  (Mr Harris, might like to note the contrast in promotion rates!! Clearly more effort needed :-))

I don’t want to give you the idea that it is all sun, sea and sand... fun, fun, fun. It mostly is........ But when you get back into a marina it’s a lot of work. Apart from a massive maintenance schedule, weekly, monthly and six monthly schedules, at the moment we are still doing a lot of warranty work. An then, of course, there is the cleaning..... Which never, ever ends.

I am feeling quite proud at the moment having just completed my first monthly maintenance schedule ‘solo’. I am covered in scars, bruises and broken knuckles, but I did it. And ‘I Think’ I covered everything.  I am not an engineer but I am learning fast, which is where the second lesson learned comes in.

Second “Lesson learned....” Never trust anybody to do it right even if they are the expert and you like them! We had some really good help here with a number service and warranty issues. And the guys have been fantastic. One of the last jobs they did before Beans and I set off for our little romantic escape was to check the engine fuel filters. So they turned the fuel off, checked the filters and promptly FORGOT to turn the fuel back on. Old Captain Birdseye here, trusting them and liking them didn’t bother to double check. So the next morning Beans and I prepared the boat to leave and go through the process of letting off the lines all very calmly in what was quite a breezy day. I had the engine running and was starting to move out into the channel, as I asked Beans to pull the last slip (line) our engine cut out. I don’t know whether any of you have ever had that horrible gut wrenching moment when you realise that you are adrift in a 42 ton boat in the middle of a busy marina with no engine and a strong breeze!! It’s not one I’d wish on anyone.

Fortunately, Beans did the right thing, you little sailor gal you, and she didn’t let the line go. So we had one line amidships and we were being blow off into the main part of the marina. I shouted ‘chinch it off’ and she understood! What a trooper! I then managed to get the line onto a winch and using the bow thrusters and winch we started to haul her back in. Then a couple of neighbours saw our problem and came to help. Ten minutes later we were safely back on the pontoon, breathing a very large sigh of relief. I’ve always maintained it’s better to be lucky than good, and boy were we lucky. Another thirty seconds and we would have had no way of getting back on the pontoon and god knows what damage we would have done to any number of other boats, not to mention UHURU.

A few minutes below identified the problem and off we went on our little break.

We had some great sailing and spent a couple of days anchored off the Bitter End Yacht Club which is one of the prettiest locations in the Caribbean. Romantic dinners and sunsets. Bliss.

Well Beans has flown home now and I have two young ‘wannabe crew’ onboard. We are doing the final warranty work before heading down to Antigua, and the Oyster Regatta. Beans is coming back for that with Lucie and a few girl friends, plus the Botti’s, of Morocco fame, and Kit and Tim Kemp. I don’t think we will be the fastest crew at the Regatta but I am confident that we will be the most glamorous..

Bye for now.

Love to all


Steve Powell (Owner/Skipper)
UHURU of Lymington
steve {CHANGE TO AT} uhuru {DOT} mailasail {DOT} com
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