S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Push Me, Pull You

Tuesday, June 6
Admiralty Bay
N 13 degrees, 00.45 minutes
W 061 degrees,14.749 minutes

We left Martinique on Saturday morning and enjoyed a great, thirty mile sail--a beam reach, no less--to Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. Marigot is a small bay almost completely surrounded by land, and I was excited to learn that Dr. Doolittle had been filmed there. Then I realized they meant the remake of Dr. Doolittle, not the original. What a disappointment.

Construction is going on full tilt along the shores of the bay, and sometime in the next year this sleepy little anchorage will become a major resort with all sorts of amenities. In the meantime, enterprising locals have installed mooring balls and were, to put it mildly, encouraging us to use them. But we found one last space to anchor, and as we pulled up to the stern of the boat behind which we would drop the hook, I realized we knew them. Steve and Gloria on s/v I'Lean had pulled into the dock in Bimini, our first foreign landfall, just a few minutes before us, and Steve warned us away from a shallow spot. We haven't seen them since Nassau, and I had thought they had gone no further than Georgetown. Our little world of cruisers is closing in as we get south. And though many of the boats around us have flags from lots of different countries, we still seem to be meeting up and spending time with other North Americans.

We stayed only one night in Marigot Bay before heading down to the town of Soufriere, right below the Pitons and within St. Lucia's park boundaries, on Sunday. In the park you are required to tie up to a mooring ball, but fees go straight toward the management of the park, so we were glad to do so. Unfortunately, the mooring areas in Soufriere were fairly rolly, so we got very little sleep before finally giving up at 4 am and getting the boat ready for a dawn departure.

This is where the excitement starts. The Windwarde Islands are known for their steady trade winds, which blow from the east or ESE at 15 to 20 knots. In between the steep islands the wind whips through, and the waves pile up. Chris Parker, our weather guru, had been off the air for a few days, so we did not have an updated weather report, but we were eager to get further south before Wednesday, when the next tropical wave was predicted to blow through. Because St. Vincent, the next island in line, has a reputation for lots of crimes (dinghy thefts and break-ins) against boaters, we decided to sail on by it, which meant we would need to sail 54 miles to get to Bequia. Two other boats had the same idea, so we all left at the same time. As usual, those boats were dots on the horizon by the time we got our sails up.

By the time Chris Parker came on the ham radio at 7 am to tell us that the both the wind and waves in our area would be pretty high, we had already put a second reef in the main. If we had still been safely at anchor, we might have chosen to wait a day, but since we were already two hours into our long day, and had seen the worst of it, we decided to keep going.

But that's never the way it goes. Sometimes it pays to be the last boat in line. Just after I took the helm from Dean, I watched a big, black cloud, full of rain, wash over the boats in front of us. One heeled waaaay over. The other, a ketch, took in a sail or two. We did likewise and rolled up the jib, leaving just our double-reefed main.

The wind whipped up to 35 knots, the rain came, and the sea spray from the already-steep waves doused both us and Delilah. The squall only lasted a couple of minutes, but we were soaked through.

We had a two-hour break from wind and waves in time for lunch, as we sailed in the lee of St. Vincent. But as we rounded the southern end, it all picked up again. I made the mistake of thinking we were on the home stretch, as the final crossing between St. Vincent in Bequia is only ten miles. We had decided to motorsail the last few hours in order to make Admiralty Bay by nightfall. But the motor had had enough. We shut it down before it could shut itself down. We knew the problem was likely a clogged fuel filter--not a big problem, but not something we could fix until we were in calmer conditions. We had to get to a harbor and anchor under sail.

We still had the main up with a double reef in it, and while Dean was forward preparing to raise the staysail, I took a look at our track on the GPS. Our compass said we were pointing toward 150 degrees, and Bequia glimmered on the horizon at 180 degrees, but our GPS reported that we were drifting toward 270 degrees--due west--at about a knot. Current! It was pushing us west faster than the wind could push us south. I looked back at St. Vincent, wondering if we would have to turn around.

Dean got the staysail up, and we started making way again. We radioed Amanzi, who were waiting for us in the anchorage, to let them know we would be coming in under sail and to find out what the anchorage was like. Fortunately for us, it was wide open. Aside from the white caps in the harbor, sailing in would be a piece of cake.

The thing about cruising is that nobody has a job or a TV or a commute or any other daily event to prevent us from sitting out in the cockpit as the sun goes down and critiquing the newcomers as they attempt to anchor. Yesterday we were the main event. Not only were half a dozen cruisers set up with their sundowners in the cockpit, a few intrepid "helpers" came out in their dinghies to meet Delilah, making a little flotilla as we came in.

But the wind was with us for a change, giving us a beautiful beam reach right in the harbor, and dying just a hundred yards short of where we planned to drop the hook. Dean let the anchor go as I luffed the main and rolled up our jib. Just like the pros do it.


Blogger Gregory Burd said...

I can't believe you sailed, and that you anchored under sail. Nice work. You should always do that. Hey, I just bought a boat, an International 600 Yawl like Barefoot but in much much better shape. I'll post pictures soon.

12:26 PM  

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