compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Why sailors are superstitious
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia 3.17.09

Ugly Condos, Prickley Bay, Grenada

Ugly Condos
Prickley Bay, Grenada

Sometimes life's a reach and sometimes you must beat hard to windward. After a while, you start looking for portents: which will it be this time? Anchored in Prickly Bay, Grenada contemplating the trip north to Carriacou, I stuck my head out the companionway hatch to check the clouds. At 5:30am it is pitch black if there are clouds and a bright canopy of stars if not. Just as I turned my eyes skyward, a brilliant shooting star flashed right across the sky. Plus the sky didn't look bad at all.

Young Island, St. Vincent
Young Island, St. Vincent
We were kind of pushing the weather window and were heading north into reported northerly swells and the North-North Easterly trade winds. Plus this passage features seas that pile up near Kick 'em Jenny (the underwater volcano) and Diamond. The cruising guides recommend a rather elaborate route to avoid the worst of the expected bad conditions. On this fine day, we ended up simply sailing west out of the bay turning north onto a starboard tack and just let the wind take us where we wanted to go. Aside from a few moments of fluky winds, we didn't adjust sails at all and the wind continue to carried us directly into Tyrell Bay on Carriacou several hours before we expected to get there. The rest of the windward passages were equally smooth. Caught fish off of Union, layed Bequia on one tack. The dread Bequia channel, which had been so rough that Admiralty Bay filled with boats, was a breeze. We slipped on in to Young Island Cut and had a visit that was both productive (rebuilt windlass motor and got refrigerant for the straining refrigerator) and pleasant (fabulous tour of the Mesopotamia Valley and Montreal Gardens).

Model Boat Racing Bequia
Racing, Bequia, SVG
Sunset Tyrell Bay, Grenada
Sunset, Tyrell Bay Grenada

Friday our luck changed. Sailors say you shouldn't start a voyage on a Friday, but we were on a mission. Northward ho! We have a weather window. Friday the 13th of March was only 2 hours old when Neptune chastized us. We were rousted by a loud knocking on the hull. The anchor line for the mooring had somehow gotten caught in the keel and the floats attached to it were wound up next to our hull about 6" from our ears. Banging. Irregularly. Loudly! I got up and tried vainly to extricate us by carefully motoring around the line in reverse. No luck. Around the other way, in forward. No luck. We were stuck; it was dark and we were losing sleep. Then the batteries went dead on the radio and the ipod we had hoped would distract us from the knocking. Susie strung an extension cord the length of the boat to try to get things running but sleep remained elusive. At first light we tried again to get the boat loose. Drifting off in the slacking current didn't work. Motoring didn't work. We were all packed up and ready to begin the long north eastward slog to St. Lucia from St. Vincent in plenty of time to get in before dark. However, we were going nowhere fast. I vowed to cut the damn thing loose if I had to let the dinghy down, go in the water and start the trip wet as well as tired. Susie calmed me down and we called "Charlie Tango", the father/son team who owned the mooring. By 8:00am a wet, sleepy Charlie Tango was waving goodbye as we finally got loose. My only revenge was that he was no more enthused about the early morning dip than I was.


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Moonrise, Young Island Cut, SVG
Bad moon rising,
Young Island Cut, SVG

Sailing boldly out of the Young Island Cut into the Bequia channel we encountered steep 8' seas and a 3 knot adverse current. Our course was slightly south of east and we made slow cacophonous banging progress against the wind and seas. There was enough wind that we were easily making 4 knots headway against the current but the noise and bouncing was terrific. Soon the dinghy loosed its bounds and threatened to leave us for a quick trip to Honduras. I wanted Susie to slow the boat and motor very slowly into the winds and directly into the seas to make it easier to lash the dinghy back in place. The motor kept dying. Starts but won't run long. Then won't start at all. Damn. Friday departure or bouncy seas stirring up gunk in the tank? We got the Dinghy secured and repeated our mantra "no problem". We are a sailboat. Who needs a motor?

Susie Bowman at the wheel
Montreal Gardens, St. Vincent
Mesopotamia, St. Vincent
Mesopotamia, St. Vincent

After several tacks and what seemed like most of the remaining morning we were finally rounding the southeastern corner of St. Vincent and were getting some relief from the current running through the Bequia Channel, when one last tack somehow managed to catch the fishing line in the wind generator. The captain is once again exiting the cockpit in an attempt to set things right. This time I climb the dinghy davits and cling to the pole with one hand while slashing away at what appears to be several hundred yards of fishing line in a big ball around the shaft of the wind generator.
The admiral is trying to keep the boat between 3-4 knots, enough speed to keep us somewhat steady, not enough to slam into the waves, which are coming from every direction. She's thinking, what if he falls in? How am I gonna get back to him with no engine? She can't quite reach the radio to stop an awful noise it started making, and she doesn't dare stop steering. It's much too lumpy and bumpy for the autopilot. After a few bruises where I slammed into the solar panels, the captain is back inside the boat holding the formerly trailing portion of the fishing line when Susie suddenly lunges for the radio. At that moment, we get a strike on the line.

Approaching St. Lucia
Approaching St. Lucia
Our Friday luck changed just at sundown. We made it to St. Lucia just as the sun set and before the total tropical dark which follows. The admiral explains fleet options: if there is no mooring here, we'll be obliged to sail another 20 miles up-wind to Rodney Bay, where we know where the sand is and have enough room to anchor under sail in the dark. Our bad luck ran out with the light. There were three moorings available at 6:30pm on a Friday night! Unheard of! There was a friendly local boat that helped us with the mooring line pickup in exchange for 10EC$ ($4 us) and a beer. The next day we got checked in to St. Lucia and made several attempts to fix the motor. We weren't suffering though. Susie baked bread and we spent one of our most spectacular stays ever at that stunning location. Naturally, by 2:00pm on Saturday all the moorings were occupied and the park rangers were trying to settle disputes over "reserved" moorings. We read and enjoyed the view. We didn't get the engine reliably running though. We sailed off the mooring and on to anchor in Rodney Bay. Very pleasant sail. We towed the dinghy in case we needed a little auxiliary power but it was never used. The last attempt to bleed the fuel line seems successful, knock wood. This is just enough demonstration of Neptune's powers to have your intrepid travelers touching wood, scratching and whistling at the mast and, most of all, not starting a voyage on Friday the 13th.

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