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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies


Highs and Lows of Yachting Life

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

Le Marin, Martinique, FWI 19.03.10

Chain Gang

Sarah, Quincy & Susie on the chain gang

Marking the Chain

Marking the chain

Guests aboard Queen Emma may find themselves put on the chain gang. Though neither Sarah or Quincy had committed any punishable offense, the presence of 4 pairs of hands inspired a long delayed movement of 100M of anchor chain from its resting place in the bilge to the working chain locker. Chain is heavy. And very abrasive. We borrowed cardboard from the chandlery to line the chain's path home: from bilge to forward cabin, up through the hatch into the chain locker. Old chain out into the dinghy and carted away for disposal. New chain windlassed out into the dinghy and from thence to the dock in 25 foot lengths. From the dock back to the dinghy and from the dinghy back into the main chain locker. We celebrated a job well done and the end of a really fun visit at Jambe des Bois, a restaurant/art house/music venue on Pigeon Island a short dinghy ride from our favorite St. Lucia anchorage. We stayed up past cruiser's midnight and a fine time was had by all.

The low came the next day just before dawn. Because the taxi had to be met at 6:00AM, I decided not to hoist the dinghy in its davits, but rather to leave it tied to the boat. An iron clad rule aboard Queen Emma: always hoist the dinghy at night. This is partly to prevent theft and partly to keep it from needing regular scrubbing. What was I thinking? Its late, there is a ground swell in the anchorage, we need to get up really early tomorrow. Just plain lazy. This is never a good thing in a sailor. New iron clad rule: always follow the rule.

At 5:40, the captain got out to dry off the dinghy and prepare it to take Sarah and Quincy ashore. Peering into the dark waters, the baffled captain could only gasp: "The dinghy is gone!". The clip for the safety line was open, the painter gone with the dink. Susie immediately replied "What do you mean?" No dinghy? Unfathomable. In this case, it constitutes a double emergency. In the short term, without the dinghy - no way ashore with luggage and clothes dry. In the long term, a dinghy is expensive, time consuming and difficult to replace. In addition, our main engine had a blown head gasket. This is not an immediate problem because we are a sailboat. We had sailed up St. Lucia without an engine many times and had known we were going to have to replace the engine before long. However, an engine is also expensive, time consuming and difficult to replace. We were not thrilled to have to do both right away. It also compounded the short term issue of how to get ashore; there was no way we could sail up the narrow channel into a slip at the marina when slip and channel were oriented directly up wind.

Bummer. Probably our worst day sailing.

We did manage to grind and smoke our way ashore and handed off Sarah and Quincy to a taxi driver in time for their flight. We borrowed a dinghy from StoppKnot and went out searching Rodney Bay for the missing dink. We dinghied around, telling all we met about the missing dink. Much sympathy and concern for the loss was expressed. We had turned back toward the marina when I spied a dinghy which looked suspiciously like ours tied behind a charter boat. The two German couples in the cockpit were just sitting down to breakfast after an overnight passage from Union Island. At about 5 AM, they had spotted our dink five miles offshore and altered course to avoid what they thought was a fishing boat. Bear in mind, it is dark at this hour and our dinghy is gray. As they approached, they realized it was unoccupied and marked its location on their GPS. They were afraid the dinghy driver was lost at sea. They were in quite a quandary about what to do with the dinghy they had found. Notify the authorities? It is the end of the charter and they have to fly home the next day from Martinique.


Karl der Grosse and Queen Emma reunited

Much joy and happiness all around. We invited them to lunch at the St. Lucia Yacht Club and a good time was had by all. I am now regularly offered the loan of a book on knots and will probably never live this down. I added a carabiner to the painter's slippery polypro line and studied up on knots. We sped up the schedule on the engine replacement and altered our cruising plans once again to include a stay in Martinique.

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Sunset at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Sunset at Rodney Bay

They say the worst day sailing is better than the best day at the office. Our trip north demonstrated this and more. We had forcasts of SE winds in the 15-20 knot range on the first day we could go to Le Marin which lies NNE of Rodney Bay. By this point the engine won't start at all. Hoist the mainsail (in our case just unroll it in the wind) and sheet in tight. Tack back and forth to the point directly upwind of us where the anchor holds us, taking in a little chain with each tack. Nailed it! Susie gives the thumbs up, we fall off on a starboard tack and unroll the jib. The seas are quite calm as the wind has just started and we are soon bounding into the spray at 8 knots. At this rate, Martinique is less than 3 hours away and we sail onto anchor in Ste. Anne well before lunch. After lunch French West Indian time (14:00hrs), we call the mechanic. Could we arrange to get towed up to the work dock? Pas ni Pwoblem. The wind is so south, we can sail all the way up. We wind up into the mangroves in a narrow twisting channel which normally lies directly to windward from Ste. Anne. Swing the boat into the wind next to a catamaran and drop anchor just as we stop abreast of him. Wind in the backed main to set the anchor. Nailed it again!

The next afternoon, Jean Paul, the head mechanic, gets to see what his boss has sold. Much gaulic gesticulation. Crawling all around, tapping panels and peering under cabinets and the inescapable conclusion is reached: the engine will have to come out through the potting shed. Tres dificile. Mon dieu.

Old engine going out
Out with the old
New engine going in
In with the new

This involves taking all the projecting parts off the old engine. Followed by levitation of the 500 pound monster and rotating it inside an engine compartment not much bigger than the engine. It then slides up a ramp into the salon and is dragged up the companionway steps on boards with the aid of a hand operated hoist tied to our boom. Swing the boom over the side and onto a cart and away with the greasy carcass. All accomplished in calm, deliberate fashion without drama. We applauded the performance.

The new engine will not go back in without taking off its projecting pieces. It is determined that it will not go in with the transmission and sail drive still in place so out they come. Taking them out leaves a big hole in the boat so we haul out and are put on stands in front of the workshop. The travellift has a crane attached which can be used to drop the engine into the salon through the companionway. The behemoth still needs to be manhandled along a board trail through the potting shed into the engine compartment. With all that swaying cast iron just inches from the fragile craft we call home, there is still ample savoir faire to take cell phone calls. Pa ni Pwoblem. It is so close going in that water pipes running across the ceiling must be removed to fit. In fact, the new engine is a little taller than the old and the engine pan is being modified to lower it a bit. For a pictorial account ot the amazing process, click here.

Silent wind generator blades
Noisy old and silent new wind generator blades
Silent wind generator blades
Mounting the new silent wind generator blades

The new engine is quieter and much shinier. We are getting a folding prop so one more annoying noise is going away. We have also purchased two sets of wind generator blades from a Portuguese company found here. They are a lovely blue color and even better, don't make an accurate imitation of an airplane take off when the winds pipe up. The German engineer who designed them stopped by in his dinghy when we got the first set up and was pleased when we bought the second set. Queen Emma will soon be running in stealth mode at a modest fraction of the cost of military stealth.

But a modest fraction of humungous is still huge.

Next we will try to spend the rest of the proceeds from the sale of Eaux Vives in St. Martin.

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