Friday 27th - April 1st 'Journey from Grenada to Antigua'

Michael & Amanda Dyer
Thu 2 Apr 2009 17:56

We cleared customs today and went ashore with Sali & Chris in the evening for pizza and live music.
We were going to leave first thing Saturday morning but when we woke at 0600 I was not feeling too well. Too many rum punches were partly to blame. So we had an easy day preparing for sea.
Early Sunday we were up and away. With full main up, romping along until a squall hit us at the top of Grenada. I saw dolphins but they didn't stay long. Sunday night, we expected the wind to go down but it didn't. The seas are 6ft which is not too bad. The wind is from the NE, which is a bit of a pain, making it hard to stay on course.
The night seemed to be one long squall with a quiet patch in the middle for about an hour before midnight. The anchors clonked the bowsprit as she dived into a wave, which was a bit disconcerting. The first night at sea fills one with fear and trepidation. We put one reef in the main before dark which was just as well because I had attached the first reef to the second cringle! Mike went forward and had to climb the mast to undo the first reef and reattach it to the first cringle.
Thank goodness it was still light.
We had one squall in the night that lasted for over an hour and we were eating miles. As darkness fell Bequia and St Vincent were visible by a light haze on our starboard beam. During the last part of the night we slipped downwind by 8 miles or more. So at 0700 we tacked to see what would happen and apart from going backwards an awful alarm went off in the cabin so loud and we still don't know what it was! Everything is switched off except the GPS and instruments as we don't have the power to run them all. So that is still a mystery.
We have left one reef in the main and let out most of the yankee and are averaging 4.5K today. St Lucia is 50 miles to starboard and we hope to reach the latitude of Martinique before dark.
We only progressed 30 miles north today as the wind was so light and we could only sail 320 degs. I was worried we would be pushed to leeward too much. By 1400 we decided to motorsail to windward to gain a few degrees of easting. So we did for two hours and gained 8 miles east.
Then we reset the sails and switched off the engine. It was a beautiful calm evening, clear blue sky with hardly a wisp of cloud.
I rang Adam on the iridium and gave him our position and told him we were frustrated because we couldn't head north. After speaking to him, Mike noticed we were steering 010-020 degrees! He didn't say anything and it continued all night! So we have made very good easting which has put us in an excellent position. We came quite close to Martinique in the night and saw the glow and lights on the shore.

Tuesday 31st March
The wind died between 0400 and 0630 (Mike's watch) and then picked up to 20k and we are making 6k progres towards Dominica. 12 miles until we are level with the southern tip. 120 miles left to Antigua.
I saw a cruise ship that was heading South and a container boat heading across our bow into Martinique last night. Nothing so far this morning.
The acceleration zones at the top and tip of the islands always take one by surprise at their furiosity. The one to the south of Dominica propelled us along like an express train and then came to a complete standstill once in the lee of the island. No wind, main slatting, boom lurching for an hour or so. Then a gentle breeze, calm seas all along the coast of mountainous Dominica. Majestic and proud.
By 1600 we had reached the upper acceleration zone from which begins the passage from Dominica to The Saints and then Guadeloupe. Once again we found ourselves steaming along at 6.5 to 7 knots and decided to reef the main before dark. She was standing up to full sail well but once reefed, she felt more comfortable and was actually going faster, over 7k!
We left 'Les Saints', to starboard as night fell. I was anxious about the passage from The Saints to Guadeloupe as on our journey south we had been hit by a nasty squall at the same time as coming into the acceleration zone. We ahd full sail up and as we were hit, we reefed down to the third reef to cope with a 40k squall, it was very hairy and we were about to do the same crossing in the dark! It is only 6 or 7 miles and as it turned out a very fast but comfortable crossing. (The squalls were yet to hit us south of Deshaies!)
Again, once in the lee of Guadeloupe the wind died. It was 2100 and I left Mike to it and went off watch. He started the engine and I hit the sack. I was woken by him shouting 'the engine won't start'. He had had fits and starts of squalls and calms and now in another calm had tried to start the engine. It wouldn't turn over. Another time this wouldn't have been so worrying, but this time we were close to land and had no wind. He expertly checked through everything, oil? water?, both ok.
He found the air filter had come off and replaced it. Then he looked at the starter motor as he thought it might be the solenoid. It was. The switch wire had come off. Back on, we were back in action.

Mike had been handsteering as the windvane won't work without wind. The yankee was furled and the main had the one reef. The squall from hell hit us south of Deshaies. A catabatic wind the force of which we hadn't experienced since Gibraltar! Mike had a job to steer with the force of wind and at that moment the GPS decided to fail. It was still switched on but showed a blank for position and course to steer etc. After a minute or two, it resumed it's otherwise invaluable duty. What caused it to fail, I can only speculate. Maybe for some reason it could not receive an accurate signal from enough satellites. It was almost as if NASA had decided to switch it all off. A sobreing thought!
Then finally, as we passed Deshaies close to starboard and Mike had gone off watch at 0230 we hit a metal pot! It appeared to get caught underneath the hull and clunked along until after afew minutes it freed itself.
That being the third mishap, (of course I'm not superstitious), I reckoned the rest of the night would be quiet and it was. I stayed on watch until dawn. I'm not sure how I stayed awake but Mike had not had any sleep until 0230 so I guessed he needed it.

We sailed the last 40 miles to Antigua in perfect conditions and arrived late morning in English Harbour. We dropped the hook and got our heads down!