I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write about our sailing adventures since Leg 1 of this year, the long beat from BVI to St Bart’s and on to Antigua. While 2017 has been a mellow year in comparison to 2016 (when we kept breaking the boat, and on top of the sailing trips, we’re managing the World Cruising Club stuff), with the podcast going full steam ahead and the article series I’m working on for SAIL, I haven’t had any time to write for myself.
I’ve been re-reading Sterling Hayden’s Wanderer, one of my all-time favorite books, sailing or otherwise. The guy is so inspiring, and what a writer! I’ve taken that spark of inspiration from reading his adventures to write a little bit myself this morning. Incidentally, I’ve been writing down a lot of the best quotes from Wanderer, and there are plenty. With many of those, and some of my own thoughts, I created a ‘Why?’ page on the website to see if I could convince anyone still needing convincing on why they ought to pursue offshore sailing.
A rainy morning in Grenada, our first besides the odd squall which is unavoidable down here. We left St. Georges and the suppressive heat of Port Louis Marina to head for the anchorage in Prickly Bay, after we dropped the Butler family off after the cruise down from Antigua. We normally don’t do typical ‘charters,’ but Greg had sailed with us the year before and yearned to share ocean sailing with his young family. We had a gap between trips and needed to get the boat from Antigua to Grenada anyway, so we set up a customized trip to accommodate them. Darcy (11), Alex (7) and Greg’s wife Calla joined us in Falmouth. Long story short, there was a lot of ‘flexibility’ built into the trip, but Greg got to scratch his offshore itch en route from Guadaloupe to St. Vincent and share it with his son Darcy, while Calla & Alex got to enjoy a magical cruise down-island through the Grenadines.
So here we are now, anchored in Prickly Bay on Grenada’s beautiful south coast, waiting for the next crew to arrive. We haven’t had a ‘normal’ trip since leg 1 - the RORC Caribbean 600 was anything but, and I’ve just described the Butler cruise. So it’ll take some adjusting to get back into the routine of ocean cruising with four strangers who will soon become friends. The 600, by the way, was an enormous success! I won’t be writing anything more about it, nor will there be a podcast like there was last year, but Mia posted a series of awesome photos that pretty well sums up the experience. What a great race!
Prickly Bay is wonderful. It’s huge, fringed by reefs around it’s edges and filled with a myriad of cruising boats of all types, from the two-masted steel schooner behind us, to the tiny European 26-footer we saw in at the dock. Beautiful houses with immaculate gardens surround the waterfront, and postcard-worthy palm-fringed beaches beckon just off the bow. A catamaran anchored near us has a rather noisy chocolate lab onboard who has a real disdain for passing dinghies - he sounds the alarm anytime someone moseys past within a few hundred yards. Mia thinks he is annoying. I think he’s cool.
Strange how things happen between trips for us. We always hope to have a few days off for some needed R&R - I know, I know, running a Swan in the Caribbean sounds brutal right ;). Anyhow, usually something happens and we end up working on the boat instead.
Exhibit A: the Torqueedo meltdown in Guadaloupe. Technically this one happened during a trip, but it’s worth telling. I LOVE our little Torqueedo Travel 1003 outboard. It’s simple, quiet, and most importantly, packable - it stores down below in it’s custom canvas bag during offshore passages and is super easy to rig and take apart. No oil, no gas, no mess. But I’m done with it. For the third time in one-and-a-half years, it’s got an internal fault that brings up an error message on the display screen and there’s absolutely nothing I can do with it. To their credit, Torqueedo has been awesome with their customer service - it was repaired under warranty once already, and they’ve offered to repair it again free of charge, but it has to go back to Michigan! For obvious reasons that didn’t really help us in the moment when we needed a working outboard to cruise the Grenadines. Long story short, I spent an excruciatingly long and frustrating day at the Yamaha dealer in St. Vincent trying to buy a 2-stroke 4HP outboard, which eventually turned out successful. So the Torqueedo will go back to Annapolis on Sojourner in May, get repaired, and then go up for sale at Fawcett’s in Annapolis on consignment. If anybody wants it, make an offer! If you’re not going too far afield, like staying on the Chesapeake, I’d definitely recommend it! But out in the boonies, I’m back to the old-faithful Yamaha (sigh).
Exhibit B: the engine alternator belt. En route from St. Georges around to Prickly Bay, Mia noticed a slapping noise in the engine room while we motor sailed around the island to charge the batteries. It was a lazy sail - we didn't even take the mainsail cover off, I hate to admit! - and I was hoping it’d be a quick relocation so I could continue relaxing. Turns out the alternator belt was shot. Not broken, but frayed and loose and slapping around inside the engine room. We shut her down and I cut it off and started the replacement process.
Isbjorn has a GIANT secondary alternator mounted off to the side of the engine for charging the house bank. It runs on twin belts in front of the engine alternator belt, which also drives the water pump. Well, that second alternator has to come apart before you can get a new belt on the engine alternator. Of course. There was a big swell running on the south coast of the island and I got very frustrated very quickly. So we bagged the repair, set the jib again and proceeded to sail into Prickly Bay and onto the anchor, which turned out to be great fun and a nice way to enter a new bay. My frustrations quickly subsided with the added fun and challenge of navigating onto the hook in a new place with no backup plan. Everyone should be forced to do that at times, it’s good practice. Anyway, in the calm of the anchorage and with the right tools I was able to get apart the big alternator and slide on the new belt (we did have a spare onboard!) and we were back in action in 30 minutes. Happy Andy.
Exhibit C: The propane solenoid. This one’s not a big deal, but did fail right after the Butler’s left. Our propane ‘locker’ is simply under the helm seat and out in the open, which is nice, but leaves the solenoid exposed to the weather. So it failed and I had to bypass it the other morning just as I was getting awake and ready to boil water for my morning coffee. Lousy timing! The big Budget Marine down here adjacent to Spice Island Marine didn’t have any solenoids either, so we’re old-school for the moment and need to be good about turning off the gas at the tank every time we’re done using the stove. Not a huge hassle, but important to remember.
We met another Swan owner in the bay. Just after we arrived a guy called Michael dinghied over to introduce himself when he saw us sail in. He was on Chasseur, an S&S 44 of the same vintage as Isbjorn, but highly modified. After our intern Liz arrived (she’s sailing the leg back to BVI with us, and just took a summer job at Newport Shipyard! She’s also interning at Gorilla Rigging in Newport. I’m so proud!) we went over for a visit and to check out the boat. Chasseur’s got a 6-foot-taller carbon fiber rig, completely redesigned fin keel, and carbon fiber balanced rudder and rudder stock. Turns out Michael used to manage the Pilot’s Point boatyard, where we originally saw Isbjorn, and ran the place for 30 years. That was only after he spent more than a decade skippering maxi racing boats, including a Swan 65 for a time. He and his wife Nancy were super people - we had some wine on Chasseur and enjoyed the origin story of the name. Apparently in the early 1800’s, there was a particular Baltimore clipper that sank 20-some-odd British ships. She was officially Chasseur, but when she returned to harbor she became affectionately known as the ‘Pride’ of Baltimore. Her replica, the Pride of Baltimore II, still sails today, of course. Cool story.
Crew arrive today for the sail back to BVI! Liz is in charge of leading the navigation discussion on this trip, so she’s at the salon table going over her notes. Mia’s finishing storing the last of the provisions we bought ashore yesterday after a visit to the spice market in St. Georges. As much as we like Prickly Bay, I’m looking forward to getting back to sea.