St. Lucia to Dominica
Last few jobs to do before John arrives. A trip to the supermarket to buy some provisions, a thorough clean of the yacht inside and out, especially the windows which needed a clean more than any other part, store all the non essential bits and bobs which seem to accumulate on the boat over time, and prepare a meal for the both of us. The anticipated arrival time, 13:30 soon passed and it was closer to 17:00 when he turned up. I thought Helen travelled with excessive bags. John outdid her by miles, bringing on board a total of five bags...... despite being told that space was limited. He does have a double cabin but might find that other 'boat equipment' will have to join him!
Little to do today, just run through do's and don't' when on board and underway. Getting familiar with the boat and my ways of wanting things to be done will take a small amount of time but we have got plenty of that over the coming weeks and months. Tomorrow we will set sail for Marigot Bay but will stay on the anchor, something that John hasn't done before, so a new learning experience for him. In the evening we go to Elena's for an evening meal and my first ice cream since being in the Caribbean.
First task, fill up the water tanks and switch over to using the stern tank. This is so I can replenish the water used by running the on board water maker when underway. Next task, go to the marina office and settle my account. I had already paid for the mooring but needed to pay for any additional electric used above my quota and the water. $40EC extra to pay. Passage already plotted, last task was to take in the electric supply cable, run through our leaving system and be on our way. The wind was blowing us off the finger so no problems there. A case of going astern to port and the once in the channel going forward and out into the bay. We had decided to put the reefing lines on the main sail in the bay so John had his first opportunity of setting the anchor. Anchor held first time so all good in that respect. Boat heading into the wind, the main sail raised, I now needed to attach the reefing lines to the rear of the sail. Oh no! The first reefing line was there but the second had somehow slipped back inside the boom. I could kick myself for being so silly. Every time I remove the sails I always put a stopper knot in the lines to prevent this very thing happening. On the one occasion I don't do it, it happens. So, I now need to get this problem sorted out, but it can't be done until I'm in a marina somewhere. We head out of the bay for Marigot Bay, a passage of just under 10nm. On arrival the anchorage area is crowded and finding a place to drop the anchor is tight. First attempt, the anchor was dragging. I hadn't spotted that we were in 18m of water and hadn't let sufficient chain out. Second attempt, we ended up too close to another yacht, which wasn't safe enough. Third attempt, at a different spot, the anchor was still dragging despite the depth being less than 4m and plenty of chain out. As the boat was going in reverse I hadn't noticed that we were getting very close to another yacht astern of us. Thankfully I did at the last minute before the captain started shouted a warning to me. Where to now? We decided to go closer to the swim area but slightly out towards the channel used to get into the inner bay. Anchor dropped but no sooner had we settled down the harbour authorities asked / told us to move as we were in 'the middle of the shipping channel'! We had to get closer to land. But that meant risking grounding as the chart indicated very shallow depths. However, move we had to. My first attempt felt the keel just touching the sea bed, so in reverse to avoid further problems. We were then shown exactly where to drop the anchor so we motored to the spot shown by the 'traffic warden'. Anchor dropped, all was now good as we could not be told to move again as this was the spot where the authorities had put us. Time for a refreshing beer before a swim and supper.
An early morning swim before breakfast. Not too long after the first cup of tea I thought I could hear some scraping noise under the boat. Knowing we were in shallow water it crossed my mind that we were probably at low tide and we were touching the bottom. Time to move without delay. John was asked to tend to the anchor as I was preparing the boat for the off. Engine on and in forward gear, the anchor came up easily and we moved without further issues. We had left an hour or so earlier than planned, but as it turned out, it was just as well. Going down to Vieux Fort we got caught in the wind and current against and sped was down to under 2kts at times. Wally was arriving at 16:00 and our ETA was a few hours beyond that. Fortunately, as we got passed the Pitons, both current and wind turned in our favour and we eventually arrived at 16:30. This meant that by the time Wally had got off the plane, gone through customs, got his baggage and a taxi to Vieux Fort, we wouldn't have to wait too long. Tender lowered into the water, outboard attached, we were all ready for his arrival. I thought I'd have time to cook supper before he got here, and I nearly did. Ten minutes later and it was ready, but the phone call came first. It was only a short ride in the tender to the fishing quay so we were back on the boat before too long. Supper and a beer to wash it down, my plan was to return to Rodney Bay marina to get the reefing line repaired. This meant an overnight passage, six to eight hours and then waiting in the Bay until 09:00 then calling for a berth. We set off at 18:30, and were making great progress. Not soon after passing Laborie Bay the engine started making a very strange, but familiar noise. We had caught a fishing pot and / or lines wrapped around our prop. It was too dark and too dangerous to resolve the problem now. We would have to continue under sail alone to Rodney Bay, drop the anchor and swim under the yacht to actually see that my assertion was correct. Again we were making great progress, but, again, approaching the Pitons we had the wind and current against us. Current was pushing us further west and our speed was under a knot with insufficient wind to drive the boat forward. For four or five hours we just bobbed about in the water going nowhere. Well, actually, we were going further out to sea! Eventually the wind began to develop and we begin to make a northerly passage. However, the wind continued to increase to the point where John was unable to hold the required course. A call down to me asking for support, I found him on the cockpit floor trying to keep hold of the wheel. I managed to take the wheel and John managed to regain his position on the helm seat. It would be the following morning by the time we get into Rodney Bay.
We arrived in Rodney Bay about 10:30, our passage of just under 30nm from Vieux Fort took 16hrs! Not quite the sprint that I expected when we first left the fishing port. At anchor I put on the wet suit and went in to see if the problem was as I expected. It was, a clump of five plastic bottles held together with rope, tightly tangled around the prop. It was time to put the dive gear on. The first BCD (buoyancy jacket) would not stop inflating. The second jacket wouldn't inflate. One of them had to work to enable me to spend some time under the boat, so a bit of fiddling here and there and I finally got one to inflate and deflate as needed. The rest of the scuba equipment was assembled and it was time to get in the water again. Knife to hand, it didn't take long to cut the rope free from the prop and to test that the prop rotated freely before I got back on board. Next test, to see if the boat would move forward and reverse, and it did. The marina was contacted for a berth and we were given the same one I vacated a couple of days ago. A call to Kenny, the sail maker, to get someone to sort out the reefing line issue and I was advised that he would send someone shortly. A couple of hours later I decided to take a walk to Kenny's shop as no one had come. He told me that he had sent someone but would call them again. In the meantime I went back to the yacht to await their arrival. Two people turned up, Botchit and Bangit. They had no tools, so I supplied them with mine, the bolts holding the boom end cap that they had to remove needed WD40 sprayed over them to free them up, which I also supplied. As they were removing the bolts I suggested that the Bimini cover be folded back to prevent any items being lost overboard (from my own experience!). With the end cap removed they managed to get the line that had dropped into the boom back out. Now to test that everything functioned. It appeared that the front pulley was jammed with the forward reefing line twisted. So out came the borrowed hammer and screwdriver to try to get the twist in the line out. No go. A longer piece of metal bar, a heavier hammer and more hitting. Still it wouldn't budge. By now I had formed the opinion that these two 'Cowboys' had no idea what they were doing so I suggested that I would seek someone else to complete the task, and asked them to reinstate everything. When it came to bolting back the end cap one of the pulley pins was missing. A search around the cockpit didn't reveal its whereabouts so I can only assume that, with the boom swinging back and forth, the pin had become dislodged and had gone overboard. Problem to sort out. They said they weren't responsible, and in terms of their professionalism I had to agree, but they were responsible for its replacement. A 'discussion' followed as to who would buy the pin and eventually they went off and got one. In putting everything back together I had to point out that they had put the reefing lines over they pulleys incorrectly before they bolted back the end cap. Now it was a question as to what they required as payment. They asked for $100US, for an incomplete job. I refused to give them that amount and handed over $60US. Again, another 'discussion' about the full payment followed but I was not prepared to budge. They were not professionals in any form and I thought that $60US was too much. They went off with $60US, not a cent more. It was time for a drink after all of that, but not another fine supper was had.
I had checked out of customs the previous day, and it was now a case of settling up with the marina. As I hadn't used any water and very little electric there was no further charge. Time to move on to Dominica. Course had been plotted to sail to Roseau, some 81nm further north. I had intended to fuel up after leaving the pontoon but the fuel dock was closed for lunch. We motored out to the marina, put the rudder on the wind vane, raised the sails and set off. An excellent beam reach sail, constantly in the 7kts, was had for quite a few hours. Progress was rapid and our arrival time was going to be about 03:00.
During the course of the night and in the early hours of the morning we got in the wind shadow of both Martinique and Dominica. The first delay meant switching the engine on for a short period of time, the second for about three hours as I made a change to the passage plan. We had got to the point where we needed to change course to enter Roseau. It was just before 03:00 and under sail the boat was being pushed south of the harbour. The only way that we could get into the harbour would be under engine. It was also dark and not the best time of day to find a nice safe anchorage. I decided that we would continue north, to Portsmouth, some 17nm, and arrive there in daylight, much more sensible. A couple of hours motoring, then the wind picked up before going again, so our arrival in Portsmouth was not until 09:20. Once anchored in the bay the tender was lowered into the water, outboard engine attached and off I went to check in with customs. All of the information had been entered on to the SailClear web site so it was a straight forward process to check in and out. Back to the boat to go to the north end of the bay, which is more sheltered. Again, anchor set, bearings taken to ensure that the anchor was secure, and then a swim to cool down. Back on the boat, a little bit of cleaning was in order. Wally cleaned the cockpit, I cleaned the heads, and John slept. Methinks I'll have to set routines for the crew, or one in particular. The water maker has been switched on to produce the next batch of 30l of drinking water and then it will be a trip into town.
Portsmouth Bay, Dominica. Spent a lovely few nights here just chilling out.