June 2011 - St Lucia to Grenada

1 June 2011 Rodney Bay to The Pitons, St Lucia
We cleared out of St Lucia, bought a few bits and pieces in the hardware shop and sailed down to the Pitons where we picked up a mooring in between the two Pitons - a very dramatic anchorage. The wind really shrieks down from the hills in huge gusts.

I’ve finally figured out where the water in the engine sump is coming from. When we’re motor-sailing in nil winds, there is a slight drip coming from the propeller shaft seal. As soon as the wind picks up and we are motor-sailing at more than six knots there’s a spray of water coming out of the propeller shaft seal. We avoided motor sailing once I discovered this and we took on very little water during the trip.

In Between the Pitons

I managed to pick up an Internet connection and spent an hour researching the PSS propeller shaft seal and any known problems. There is supposed to be no water coming from the seal, so either the engine is out of alignment causing a lot of side movement in the seal faces or the seal isn’t compressed enough.

We had an early night ready for an early start.

2 June 2011 St Lucia to Admiralty Bay, Bequia
We got up at five o’clock and dropped the mooring at twenty past five. There was no wind at all for the first hour, until we cleared the lee of the island. We then had 15-20 knots about 60 degrees up-wind – it was a fabulous, (if boisterous) sail until we arrived in the lee of St Vincent at about midday.

We motored up the coast, and then sailed across to Bequia in good winds and flat seas. We anchored off Princess Margaret beach at about half past four and collapsed.

3 June 2011 Admiralty Bay, Bequia
First thing in the morning, we cleared into customs. They asked me when I had arrived, to which I gave a little white lie, “Last night at about half past six” – I knew that they were open until six o’clock and they get a bit crinkly if you don’t check in as soon as possible.

The British guy behind me didn’t play the “game”; instead he told them that he had arrived at four o’clock yesterday. When asked why he hadn’t checked in yesterday, he started to quote international law, stating that he had raised the yellow Q flag and by rights they should have come out to his yacht! I thought that the customs guy was going to drag him across the counter and lock him up, but he simply said that he was giving him a verbal warning and would fine him next time. The Brit didn’t like this at all and had another rant stating that he was never going to come to their country again. I sloped off leaving them to it.

Staining the Mosquito Screen Frame

I arranged for the Sam the refrigerator man to come and sort out the freezer again on Monday and then we did some serious shopping. I bought two dive tanks, Glenys bought some canvas to make an “Ober-windscoop”, I bought an 8 foot by 4 foot sheet of marine ply and we bought a case of “Stag” beer. It was a very heavily loaded dinghy that we took back to the boat.

After lunch, I started the generator, started the water maker and then set about cutting up the plywood with my jigsaw. After about fifteen minutes, I popped down below to check on the watermaker and noticed that there seemed to be a bit of smoke below. The generator control panel wasn’t showing any alarm signals, but I could see smoke coming from the cockpit locker (which is linked to the engine room.) I quickly shut down the watermaker and turned off the generator. I tentatively opened the engine room door to be greeted by billowing smoke!

We left the engine room door open and opened the cockpit locker to let out the smoke. Thinking it through, I thought that the generator had overheated because I was running the water maker, the battery charger and the jigsaw. I decided to leave the generator to cool down and hoped that I hadn’t done irreparable damage.

Switching on the inverter, I continued to saw up the plywood. I cut one piece to fill in the space in our bed to turn it from two single berths to one huge king sized bed. I also made a frame to fit into the washboard to hold mosquito netting to keep the pesky little blighters out at night and still give us ventilation in the saloon. It was about four o’clock by the time that I’d finished sanding the bits and tidied up. Glenys stained the bed infill and the mosquito screen.

By now, the generator had cooled down a bit, so I had a look at it. I read the manual which stated that “the generator cannot be damaged by overloading” – it will simply stop generating electricity. That was a relief. I started the generator and saw that the smoke was coming from somewhere behind the engine. Further investigation led me to the exhaust outlet which had a broken circlip. I replaced the circlip and started the generator again – just the same. I then saw that there was a ¼ inch hole in the exhaust outlet casting – bugger! It was getting late so I gave up for the day.

We’ve decided that we need to be sociable, so Glenys went over to “Life of Reilly” to say hello (to Alan & Lisbet) and invited them over for a beer - we’d met them in Prickly Bay about two months ago. They were our first guests aboard Alba after living on board for two months – we had a good time.

4 June 2011 Admiralty Bay, Bequia
I was up at quarter to seven, working out the best plan to repair the hole in the exhaust fitting. After some research on the internet, I decided that welding the casting was not going to work and that I should attempt a repair with some Marine-Tex, which is an epoxy putty designed for emergency repairs. I cleaned the area around the hole with coarse sandpaper and filled the hole. It will take 24 hours to set hard, so I won’t know if it has worked until tomorrow.

While I was messing about in the engine room, I adjusted the propeller shaft seal to make the two bearing surfaces push together harder. I only moved one bearing about ¼ inch along the propeller shaft, but it was it was a mission having to contort myself over and around the engine.

It was a very hot afternoon with small puffs of wind that seemed to come from any direction, which made the boat swirl around making it hard to hide from the sun. Glenys was having a hard time keeping cool especially after she jumped in the water and got stung by a jelly fish again.

Birthday Boy on 6th Beer

The evening was no better, with no breeze and still hot below. While cooking dinner, Glenys finally cracked up and burst into tears of frustration at sweating all the time. We discussed sailing to more temperate latitudes over dinner, and we think that we’ll spend this summer and winter in the West Indies and then head up towards the east coast of the USA for next summer.

Just before bed, I heard a shoal of fish jumping around our boat and managed to catch a small Jack with my spinning rod.

5 June 2011 Admiralty Bay, Bequia
It was my fifty-fifth birthday today. My main present was the fishing rod that I bought myself a couple of weeks ago, but Glenys also gave me a “Billy” – a small baseball bat for whacking fish over the head.

We went for a hike up to the top of Peggy’s Rock, which is the highest point on Bequia. It took us 45 minutes to walk to the Whaling Museum where the path starts and then 30 minutes to walk up to the top. It’s a nice walk up a ridge, with a faint path in places, but a well-worn path up through trees in other places. It’s especially pretty near the top with lots of Yucca plants along the route. The view of Bequia from the summit is well worth the walk up. We walked back down the same way and back to the boat to have a cooling swim and change for lunch.

When we got back to the boat, I ran the generator for 45 minutes and my “bodge” job on the exhaust seems to have worked, which is a relief.

We went to “De Reef” restaurant on Lower Bay and had lunch with a few beers that turned into a lot of beers as we chilled out and listened to a live Blues band playing. We got talking to John and Bobby from “Notre Vie” who are heading down to Grenada, so we’ll see them around over the next few months.

Back on the boat we had barbequed Jack for dinner and a bottle of wine. It was a very nice birthday.

6 June 2011 Admiralty Bay, Bequia
I mooched about in the morning and organised the shipment of a replacement exhaust manifold from Fischer Panda in the UK (£130 + £65 carriage). I’m having it delivered to Erica’s Marine Services in Union Island because it will take between 3-5 days to get here. We are planning to be in the Grenadines for a couple of weeks and we’ll be able to leave Bequia whenever we want to. I hate the idea of being trapped here waiting for a delivery (even though Bequia is lovely.)

Sam The Refrigerator Man

I picked up Sam, the refrigeration man, at half past ten and he was on-board for five hours. He removed the two high pressure connectors from the compressor and then soldered the pipes with permanent joints. He has the job of Reilly because he then sat around for four hours waiting for the system to charge with Freon and pull down to working temperature.

When he’d declared the job done, I asked him how much I owed him and he said just to give him whatever I thought was fair. I gave him $200EC (£50) which he seemed happy enough with. He’s a nice guy who obviously wanted to get the job right after charging me the full rate last time. While I was taking him back to the GYE dock, I suggested that he ought to put an advert in the Doyle Guide because it would give him more credibility – he thought that it was a good idea.

By the time I’d got back to the boat, it was four o’clock, so I just tidied up and then messed about creating an advert for Sam including a photo that I’d taken of him when he was working on our fridge. Glenys managed to finished Stage 1 of the Ober-windscoop - it zips onto the back of the bimini and reaches down past the aft cabin hatch. The idea is that it will scoop wind into the hatch as well as preventing rain going down the hatch – it’s a real nuisance having to keep getting up in the middle of the night to close the hatch.

7 June 2011 Admiralty Bay, Bequia
It rained really heavily early in the morning and the Ober-windscoop did its job until the boat veered and the rain came in sideways. We now need to design some side panels to stop that happening.

I had a great morning and managed to complete the wiring for the dive compressor and actually got it to start. I filled the two dive tanks that we bought last week - it took about 50 minutes to fill two dive tanks completely, so hopefully a normal fill with 50 bar left in the tanks will only take 40 minutes. It is however, very noisy – I won’t be the most popular person in the anchorage when I run it. We can now go diving at last, but unfortunately it was a grim, rainy day with constant heavy rain showers which is not the best conditions to go diving.

One of the nice things about being on a boat in the Tropics is that we only have to wear shoes when we go ashore. One disadvantage of this is that it is very easy to stub the odd toe. In order to get the compressor working, I had to empty the cockpit locker, so there was stuff everywhere and while trying to scramble out of the cockpit, I managed to kick the edge of a hatch with my little toe – hurts like mad.

Spiny Lobsters

We went into town and picked up our gas tank and a few other bits and pieces (and a case of beer). I gave Sam the advert that I made yesterday – he was very pleased with it. We couldn’t get any cash out of the bank because the system was down. None of the shops could process credit cards either, so we only have $80EC of cash left.

8 June 2011 Admiralty Bay, Bequia
We woke to bright sunshine today. The batteries were pretty low this morning so we ran the generator for a couple of hours – the patch job on the exhaust manifold seems to be holding fine.

Glenys did a bit of sewing while I got out all the dive gear and checked it out. We went for a dive on The Devil’s Table – a reef at the entrance to the bay. I was very nervous as this was the first dive that we have done on our own for fifteen years. There was a strong current, so we went up current for twenty minutes and drifted back. Very nice reef with lots of fish life – spotted a couple of nice lobster.

In the afternoon, I zipped into town to get some cash and some petrol for the dinghy and then fixed the dive compressor into its permanent position in the cockpit locker. I filled the two tanks ready for the next dive. Glenys put one side panel onto the Ober-windscoop which I think will keep out the rain.