Sailing south across the trade winds after their stay in Dominica, the Ty Dewi crew arrives in Rodney Bay, St Lucia and, not used to marina life, has the most active social week of their travels so far.
We’d decided to take a few days in the marina here, tempted by hot showers and a swimming pool, plus easy access to services, cafes and internet, apparently. After a rapid romp across from Martinique, three hours at top speed in big seas, we negotiated our way through a narrow channel into the Rodney Bay lagoon, where there is space for boats to anchor and a few hundred marina berths. We were directed to a berth which was, sadly, around a corner and into a fairly tight space but we made it, with some help from the new neighbours, who pop up as soon as you come within bumping distance of their own boats. Having survived the stress of getting into the space, we weren’t all that keen to leave it, so we stayed three days.
Next door was a small German boat crewed by a wonderful couple, Wolf and Elizabeth, whom we got to know and shared a few drinks with. A passing dinghy stopped and asked ‘are you a kid boat?’ and so the kids spent an afternoon at the pool with the kids from Iceni, anchored in the lagoon. In the chandlery, I met a couple with their very talkative five year old, Beth, and we have since spent a few more poolside afternoons with them. Along the pontoon is a boat called Out on the Blue, which we have met before, and William, the owner, invited us over for drinks. We ended up staying for dinner and a few drinks too many – it was a lovely evening.
So this has been an very social few days, after a couple of months of pretty much just the four of us. It’s nice to get out and about a bit.
Getting out of the marina was even more fun than getting in. The wind has been blowing pretty hard all week, and we reversed out of our berth without bumping anything. But then we couldn’t get the boat to turn and go down the line of berths. Every time I tried to turn, the wind would blow the bow back, so we were across the channel. It was about sixty feet wide. We are fifty long, so we were in a situation where we could hold steady safely in astern, but to try to turn ninety degrees and leave risked being blown down onto three or four other boats – which we couldn’t risk. After three or four tries, and a growing audience on the other boats, I asked Gesa to get in the dinghy and use it like a tug, to push our nose around whilst I motored the boat forwards. All credit to Gesa, she just grabbed the dinghy keys, jumped in, started the engine and did it. We, or more probably Gesa, got a heartfelt round of applause from one or two of the boats that we avoided damaging on the way out.
This morning, I decided to look at a problem we’ve had with the alternator – this provides the bulk of our electricity so is quite important. It’s driven by a fan belt from the engine, and the two pulleys have become misaligned. I thought it was wear in the joint between the alternator and the engine, but it’s turned out to be worse than that. The bracket that holds it is very heavy and hangs from four bolts in the underside of the engine. The forces on this arrangement are high, and it was now only secured by one bolt, the other three had sheared off due to the weight and vibration. Removing broken-off ends of bolts is hard enough at the best of times, but under the engine, with only a few inches of space, it is impossible for me to do. A trip to shore located a local engineer who also concluded that it was nigh on impossible without lifting out the engine, not something we’re really prepared to do. However, we think we can make a different design of bracket to fix on a point on the front of the engine, so we need to see his boss to get a more experienced opinion and a price. We’ve also had the chance to fix some outstanding little glass fibre and woodwork repairs, which is good, and being in sheltered water lets me finish off the paintwork on these more easily too, so the job list is shrinking almost, but not quite as fast, as it grows.
Looks like we’ll be in Rodney Bay for a few more days yet. There are worse places, I guess. We’ll just stay here as long as it takes and sample a wider variety of rum punch.
As usual, sleeping on a problem often brings new ideas in the morning light. And so it was with the alternator. We had two of these, a low power one as supplied with the engine and the high power one on a custom bracket, which has caused all the trouble. Thinking about the forces involved in generating our electricity, I realized it is clear that it will be very difficult to make a mounting that will not put huge stress on wherever we fix it to the engine chassis. But technology has moved on since 1987, and I realized that the low power alternator could now be replaced by a very powerful one in the same small size. We’d lose redundancy, only one unit, but should solve all the mounting issues at a stroke.
It hasn’t been quite that simple, but almost and we can now charge the batteries again at as high a rate as we used to, but with less vibration and noise from the engine, which is a plus. I’ve also discovered an underlying issue with the electronics that control the charging rate to the batteries, and solving that might get even more power out of the alternator, so I’ll be digging into the wiring there in the next few days. Thankfully, I tend to enjoy these sort of challenges, as long as they can be dealt with on our time frame, not theirs!
We met some friends and headed off for a day trip to Pigeon Island, a couple of hills that form the northern part of Rodney Bay. This is another of these British forts that, similar to the French islands, were built at each strategic point to maintain colonial power over the Caribbean. It is now a national park, with nicely kept woodland, fun walks up to the peaks and beaches facing both the calm Caribbean side and the wild, wave-tossed Atlantic. It’s very pleasant, and we spent most of the day there, having lunch at a quirky little cafe, Jambe de Bois, named for a French pirate (ol’ wooden leg, of course) who used the Island as his base in the eighteenth Century. At the end of the day, we went back into the lagoon to drop our friends off for a taxi and have a peaceful night at anchor.
I must sleep fairly lightly these days, for at around 11pm I heard voices close by. I get up on deck to find a yacht almost touching us. She had been anchored upwind and dragged her anchor, being blown down towards us. Luckily they had noticed too, and managed to start their engine and motor out of the way and drop their anchor again. She was smaller than us too, so I think they’d come off worst, but I’d rather not have to fix anything else this week.
Well, once is unfortunate, but twice would strike one as somewhat careless. About twenty minutes later, I was again disturbed from my bunk and go up to find that they have dragged again, are raising their anchor and have turned sideways and drifted such that the front of their boat touches the front of ours. Their pulpit, the stainless steel framework on the bow, slides under ours as they try to reverse away and thankfully there is little more than an annoying scraping sound as metal slides over metal. No harm to us, but now Gesa and I are both wide awake and spend the next forty five minutes watching them try to re-anchor several times before they end up a safe distance from us and anyone else and we can settle in for the night. It’s now the early hours of Feb 14th, and whilst spending the start of Valentines Day on the moonlit deck of your yacht in the Caribbean sounds terribly romantic, somehow the presence of a poorly secured and incompetently crewed yacht to windward kind of ruins the atmosphere.
In the morning, we watch with dismayed interest as they hoist up their dinghy and motor away without a word. I may be naive, but had hoped for a conversation along the lines of “terribly sorry, any damage?”, “no, no, these things happen, we’re fine, have a good trip.” But perhaps I expect too much.