July 25th, 1997
TTYA, Chaguaramas, Trinidad
Well, it's been a while since I've written. As I had mentioned in one of my shorter notes, several letters on my computer keyboard had retired. One does not realize just how many O's and L's we use in everyday language until you try to cut and paste each one individually into a seven page letter. I have not yet found a place to get the keyboard repaired but in another of life's little mysteries the keys seem to have come back to life. I know this will only be until I'm in an even less likely place to find repair but while I have the opportunity I'll bring you up to date.
My last letter which has only now been completed and posted brought us back to Martinique in mid May. It must have been a strange alignment of the stars but Pirate Jenny's GPS, computer, auto pilot and the dinghy outboard all died within the same 3 day period! As it turned out the nearest Autohelm/Raytheon and Yamaha dealers were all in St. Lucia so we sailed south to St. Anne to spend a couple of days anchored in a favorite spot by the Club Med. Then with good winds and medium seas we sailed the 20 miles south to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.
We had planned for Evelyn to return home for the summer from Trinidad in the second week of June but with so many needed parts in for repair we began to be concerned about time. We decided to check other options and hopped the bus into Castries to the American Express Travel Office. We where discussing flights with the agent when in walked Danny Devito who, with a pleasant hello to everyone sat with the other agent to arrange his own travels. We were able to arrange a good flight for Ev on Air Canada right to Ottawa and at a much better price than we had found even in Trinidad. Unfortunately the only seat available was on the flight the next afternoon. So we hurried back to the boat for her to pack. By this time Luca had returned from Switzerland and had caught up with us in his boat RORO IV. Luca and I took Ev to the airport to see her off.
Within a few days my GPS and autopilot were repaired and the outboard motor had had all it's bearings, pistons and rings replaced. Luca and I motored to Marigot Bay to meet Bill and Julie on Windward Lady and then we all left to anchor at the Pitons in preparation for an early morning departure for Bequia. Windward Lady left at midnight. Luca and I were both singlehanding so we decided to do our traveling during daylight and dropped our moorings at 4:00am. By first light we were under sail just south of the Pitons with a close reach to St. Vincent. Four hours later we were still in almost the same spot fighting the 4 knot plus current! In all it took almost 10 hours to cover the 25 miles to St. Vincent. By mid day the winds were brisk, gusting to 35 knots and the seas which are often rough in this passage were quite uncomfortable.
Finally in the lee of St. Vincent I came close into shore, furled the head sails and put a reef in the main and started the motor. While talking with Luca on the VHF to decide whether to continue to Bequia the auto pilot decided to take a bit of a rest and let the large wind vane (main sail) take over. The boat responded accordingly and headed east. Within the few minutes it took to check a chart and make a decision 'Pirate Jenny' motored into the island at 6.5 knots. When I came up and saw the land in entirely the wrong place I immediately pushed the throttle back just as the keel found a large, thankfully round and smooth rock. We rode up the rock finally stopping then slid gracefully back down with little more than a slight shudder. That is on the part of the boat, shear panic on my part. I immediately grabbed my snorkel and mask and dove over board to survey the damage. The rock had claimed my depth sounder and knot meter which protrude somewhat from the bottom and had scraped away the layer of gelcoat that covered the leading edge of the keel. Thankfully, nothing serious.
We spent the night in Wallilabou Bay. After an hour of diving to seal the scar with some underwater epoxy we retired to the local bar to seal my raw nerve endings with a good application of Rum. When you sail alone you have to trust electronic and mechanical devices and you can not be attentive to everything every minute of a 12, 15 or 24 hour passage. But even at 7 miles per hour things can happen very fast. Had my boat been a modern light displacement fin keeled hull she may well have suffered much more severe damage. There are some very distinct advantages to a strong, heavy, well built cruising boat. She may be a bit slower but she takes very good care of her captain and crew.
We left Walllilabou Bay early the next morning and continued on to Bequia. We spent only the balance of the day here, leaving the following morning and sailing in good conditions with 15 to 18 knot winds on the beam to Tyrell Bay on Carricou and the next day to St. Georges, Grenada. Here we took a couple of days to rest from our sprint south. From this point Luca would continue on to Los Testigo's and then Puerto La Cruz and I was heading for Trinidad.
I planned to motor around the southern tip of Grenada to Prickly Bay where many cruisers gather and wait for weather to sail across the 80 mile passage to Trinidad. I had hoped that I might be able to borrow a crew member for the long and tiring trip. After anchoring, I dinghied into shore to the one sure place to find fellow sailors, the local bar. After securing a cold Carib beer I sat to watch the world go by. I had noticed a large group sitting across the patio and in their midst a knapsack with a Canadian flag sewn on to it. Now there's a sure way to start a conversation with some folks you don't know. I wondered over and asked who was the Canadian, there were two. After a few minutes conversation I found that they were all together with the support team for the Carib Canoe project and that they were leaving that evening in company with the canoe to cross to Trinidad. I explained my situation and within minutes a deal was struck. One more support boat to take the lead and radio warnings of fishing boats or on coming squalls and an additional two crew members for Pirate Jenny.
We all began at 6:00 pm with Pirate Jenny about a mile or two in the lead. We kept pace with the canoe all night, keeping our group of four all within handheld VHF radio range. Behind us GLI GLI sailed with her crew of 8, followed closely by 'Make It So' and American yacht which had volunteered to help with this leg to keep a close radar watch on GLI GLI and bringing up the rear was 'Carmella' at 120 foot wooden schooner built in Dominica. 'Carmella' was the permanent support vessel for the project and carried the balance of the support personnel, supplies and equipment.
A strong current and light winds pushed GLI GLI far west of our rhum line, that and very slow progress made for a long night. By late afternoon the next day the project leaders decided to take GLI GLI in tow the remaining few miles rather than attempt a very difficult treck against wind and current. We arrived in Boca Monos about 5:00pm, in all a 23 hour passage, but it was a thrill to be a small part of this exciting expedition. With a half hour lead 'Pirate Jenny' became the one-boat welcoming committee and greeted GLI GLI to Trinidad in style with flags flying and horns blowing.
I did not have a reservation to haul out in Trinidad and the yards are all very full this time of year. I went into one of the two larger yards, 'Power Boats' (which these days is mostly sail boats) and explained my situation, asking if it was possible to be hauled to do my repairs. The answer was 'we are fully booked, but we always have room for a boat needing immediate attention is this afternoon soon enough?" I was out of the water and had the fiberglass exposed and drying by dinner time.
A bit of rest after 15 months and over 5,000 miles
I spent the next three weeks working on the boat. The keel was repaired and is now even stronger than when new, I removed the rub rails and refinished and re-bed them, repainted the waterline stripe, installed new instruments, had some new cushions made for the interior and numerous other jobs that have accumulated over the last year of cruising. Last, but certainly not least, a few new coats of anti-fouling paint and 'Pirate Jenny' looking as pretty as can be was lower back into the water for another year of adventure.
I am back at anchor at my 'second home' at the Trinidad and Tobago Yachting Association (TTYA). I have a few small things to take care of before leaving for Venezuela, a bit of provisioning of items not readily available there and getting my visa. Then I will say good-bye to Trinidad once again and head west to Puerto La Cruz where I'll await the return of Evelyn and my daughter Lisa, who will join us at the end of August for remainder of the cruise.
I hope everyone is enjoying a warm and breezy summer on the river, I hear Bernie is taking Amigo V to lake Ontario for a few weeks to give someone else a chance to win the Thursday night races. My very best wishes to all. As much as I am enjoying our cruise a part of me still misses weekends at Phiney's and our many good friends back home.
Bart and the still missing (and still missed) Evelyn.
P.S. I'm thinking of writing a survival guide called "How to eat for 3 months without ever really having to cook".