S/V Delilah

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Trinidad! Hooray!

Sunday, 9 July 2006
Chaguaramas, Trinidad
N 10 degrees, 40.609 minutes
W 061 degrees, 38.317 minutes

I had been dreading this passage: it was to be a 16-hour overnight sail, and I had really had enough of those for a while. Jill and I have taken to doing 3-hour shifts during these long overnights. Typically, Jill would do the 6PM-9PM, I would do the 9PM-Midnight, Jill the Midnight-3AM, and I the 3AM-6AM. Theoretically, we each would get 6 hours of sleep. However, it just never works that way. The 6PM-9PM is really too early to sleep, and the overnight shifts are usually interrupted by calls over the VHF or sail changes or something of that nature. I get very cranky when I don't get enough sleep.

In addition to my reluctance to sail any more overnights, we've been having engine problems. That, coupled with the need to pass through the "Dragon's Mouth," a narrow body of water in Trinidad, through which the current runs to 3 knots against the wind and south-going vessels, meant that I was more unenthusiastic than ever.

The trip turned out to be everything I was dreading, though it had a happy ending. We left St. George at 1PM Saturday, unfurled the genoa, and turned the engine off. We were barreling along the east coast of Grenada, and all was well with the world. But when we reached the southern corner of the island, with its confused seas and swirling currents, Jill and I started to get a little, shall we say, green. We each had some Phenergen, which helped. It's the drug used by hospitals for those coming out of general anesthesia; therefore, unlike other seasickness medications, it will work even if taken after one begins to feel unwell.

We had plenty of wind, eventually setting a double-reefed main and double-reefed genoa once we were free of land. Finally, we were able to sail! And sail we did, through the night, all 80-odd miles from Grenada to Trinidad. The sea conditions were relatively calm, and the wind, though higher than predicted, put us on something between a close reach and a beam reach, which is a fast and comfortable point of sail for us. At times we were making 6.5 knots, fairly screaming along ahead of our companion boats.

Because so many cruisers were taking advantage of the allegedly calmer weather to head from Grenada to Trinidad, there was lots of VHF traffic among the boats, so neither of us slept very well (I should point out that on Delilah, the VHF is below decks, so any traffic necessarily wakes the slumbering crew). In the early morning hours (about 2AM), we were nearing two oil rigs off the coast of Trinidad. The wind was letting up, and the current was fairly strong against us. Our speed had gone down to 1.5 knots, and we could no longer make headway toward our waypoint. We started the engine. Five minutes later, it died.

It was the same problem that had cropped up for the first time two days earlier: air in the fuel lines. We have tried (as per Mr. Martyn's suggestion during a previous engine issue) pressurizing the fuel line to see where fuel leaks, but we found no leaking fuel. I'm at a loss, and we aren't able to call our consultant in Wilmington. Sometimes we can leave the engine on for a few hours, sometimes mere minutes. The last day at anchor in Grenada we thought we had solved the problem, but here we were in the middle of the passage, and it had reared its ugly head again. Ah, well. We'll find the leak someday.

One could argue whether what happened next was a blessing or a curse. The wind picked up again, but not at the pleasant 15-18 knots we had been enjoying. It was up to 20-25 knots, with gusts to 30, and had clocked around, of course, and was nearly on the nose. Even with greatly reduced sail, we were flying along with the rail in the water, and for a while, until we got everything settled, both Jill and I had to stay in the cockpi.

So, from 3AM to 9AM, I was worrying about the "Dragon's Mouth." How would we get through? At about 9AM, I bled the air from the engine yet again and started it. The tide had changed to our favor, so we were merely motoring against 2 knots of current or so. There was no wind. If the engine died, we would be pushed about wherever the current wanted to take us. Not a pleasant thought.

But the engine behaved itself perfectly, we made it through the cut, and we prepared to come alongside the customs dock. We had been warned that customs gets very annoyed if boats anchor out and dinghy in to customs: they don't like to dinghy out to boats to check them out. The customs dock is tucked into a narrow corner of the bay, and it has room for 2 boats. There were 2 boats already docked, and another doing circles waiting. Jill and I were nervous enough about the engine's dying again that we decided to risk custom's ire and anchor out. We found a spot in 33 feet of water, fairly close to another boat. We dinghied in to customs.

Contrary to my expectations, customs and immigration were no problem at all! I did have to walk to the nearest hotel to have copies made, as the copier in the customs office was on the blink. It took an hour, and we were free to go.

I was so very tired that I slept for hours, unable to move my limbs. When I arose, at 5PM or so, I couldn't form coherent sentences. Jill functions better, though she does get, let's say, emotional. It takes a full night's sleep for us to be ourselves again. Such is the toll that an overnight exacts.

Chaguaramas isn't the prettiest place. It is mostly industrial, with no residential area that I can see; and the dark water, turned murky by runoff from the Orinoco, makes it clear that we are really in South America, not the Caribbean. However, this area is the single best place around for yacht services--cheap, efficient, and available. There are literally dozens of marinas, and innumerable shops offering every kind of supply or service. We're here to stay for quite a while. This weekend four friends from our marina in Charlestown are flying in to visit. We'll have a blast!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on making it to Trinadad! MaeMae got your message and we all got a subsequent alert/call. Hearing that you could possibly still get seasick, gives me pause, but reading details of the whole adventure is a delight. Hope you like the tank top coming with your visitors...sorry, long is in. Thought it would hide grease stains since it looks like it already has grease stains. Enjoy the company, hoping we're the company in the not too distant future. RovingFender

4:34 PM  
Blogger Gregory Burd said...

Nice work sailing the grueling 16 hours. Imagine if you had made the 5 day hop from Newport to Bermunda, then 6 days from Bermuda to the BVIs. You may have simply turned around and come back right then. And you wouldn't have met so many cool people along the way, or gotten those nifty Explorer charts. Crusing along under the flaky iron genoa isn't so bad is it?

As for me, Blackhawk is safely in Boston Harbor at the NE corner of the Rowes Wharf mooring field. I sailed her yesterday. I did about 90% of the work, soon I'll be ready to single hand my new boat. I think that if I can find a harmony with the varnish, then I've found the ideal boat for me and my purposes. But the varnish does scare me a bit.

I've added your location to the plot of your journey thus far (http://ossus.com/delilah) and when I viewed that lat/lon in Google Earth there is a boat anchored at the exact location. I'll just imagine it to be Delilah.

Enjoy the time with friends from the Navy Yard, and keep in contact. Soon I hope to join you on the open waters.

5:04 PM  

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