Ships Log 19 Jan 2004
It may seem that life in the Caribbean is all lazy beaches, cool cocktails, BBQ's and sunsets - and to some extent it is. But I try to describe both the good AND bad events without gloss, and January 2004 demonstrated TWICE that the real world does intrude and sailing always manages to provide the counter-agenda: the challenges that hit just when you don't expect it, and then continue until you wonder when it will stop, and ...please can't I be back in cold rainy England on Tonbridge station when at least when the train is late or broken there is someone else to blame and someone else is responsible for fixing it. On a boat its down to whoever is on board, and all the consultants and manuals can't really help when sea water is coming into the boat, and you are 3 miles from shore. And it was........... lots of it coming in fast.
We had dropped James off in Martinique and then stayed for 5 days at Marin, a largish marina in the south of Martinique, base for Moorings charter yachts, exploring by car, and doing relaxed repair work that we had put off over the holiday season - anchor windlass (easy, just take the load off, and run it gently to unstick it), Duogen (remove screw factory installed through wire), faint leak forward hatch (re-seal). The last day we stayed just to catch the jazz, and this jazz was hot! The Calabash Club in Marin had a really live Caribbean Jazz Quintet but about another 5 players just strolled up at diferent times and played as well. I am no jazz fan, but even I could recognise the talent - they jammed for 4 straight hours, up scale, down scale, cross scale, all for the price of 2 beers ( 8 Euros).
So Friday we left Marin bound for St Pierre on the north west of Martinique. I was splicing 2 ropes that had frayed, then melting the end to seal it completely. We had gone about 4 miles when I noticed a slight smell, a different note to the engine...... at the same time the hot engine alarm went off. Engine door opened.................lots of water in the engine compartment, and water a foot plus deep already coming up over the saloon floorboards. What to do????
First find the source - fairly easy - a cooling water pipe had slipped off its poorly designed end (no shoulder for the jubilee clip to grip - generally Yanmar engines are excellent - this is one weak point). Replace hose - still water coming in. Another leak????!!!! Yes, the cooling water now in the engine compartment had been intended to cool the exhaust gases, without this water the hose has split in another place. Easy - cut 1 foot off the hose, replace, and put the engine driven bilge pump to work to drain the water away as well. Solved? No......... the engine is still overheating , and no cooling water at all is circulating..... maybe the impeller is broken, or heat exchanger blocked, (but at least no more water is entering). We turn Intrepid around to head back into the 20 knot wind to beat back to Marin where there is a Yanmar dealer, keeping into the shore to minimise the 3 knot westerly current.
But without an engine we can't really get into the shallow narrow entrance to Marin, so sail past to St Annes, anchor in a crowded anchorage under sail in a squall, pause for lunch, then check the cooling water feed pipe - one valve won't turn, take off hoses and extract......a large soggy flannel sucked into the hose and stuck halfway. Solved - Dry Boat?? Engine on...... cooling water is still leaking ... the heat has eroded another part of the hose, I find the replacement hose carried on board, and replace. Solved?? No, the other hose also has a weak point, replace that as well, dry boat, take up all floorboards, dry, clean, then ...... 3 wire terminals come off - they have been affected by the water ingress, sort out which is which, reattach using new crimping tool, Darkness falls, Rum and Lime ....Time taken - about 10am to 6pm.
This day was very unusual - Intrepid by now is highly reliable by most standards, and I have little if any repairs to do most weeks - but stuff like this happens perhaps once/year. Intrepid is sailed for about 40+ weeks a year, so if you chartered the same boat for 2 weeks every year, its equivalent to a problem once/20 years.
The 2nd incident happened less than a week later: We had a good sail north to St Pierre (where Mt Pelee blew up in 1902 and killed all 30,000 inhabitants), to buy Nicky's favourite rum, Deepaz, then north again to one of our favourite islands, Dominica, where we planned to celebrate Nicky's 5Xth birthday on 14th January with Dominica's pre-eminent hike through the Valley of Desolation to the Boiling Lake, using Samuel our Dominican guide from 2002. Dominica is an island nation of 70,000 people no harbour, just lots of volcanoes (8) and extravagantly beautiful jungle and diving/snorkelling. The hike is a difficult 7+ hours so we planned to stay overnight at Laudac, and therefore paid for a supervised mooring north of the Anchorage Hotel. We locked Intrepid, and caught the bus up to Laudac in the hills, and tracked down Samuel via the village store which is run by Didi who is Samuel's cousin, and drank rum with Leslie and Sandra, Canadians living in Laudac (they live off income from e-books they publish on the internet). Next day we set off at 7 am through secondary then primary jungle on a track with steps formed from local trees (tree ferns, Lauchie (similar to mahogony etc)), up hillsides, down valleys across rivers through drenching rain to the Valley of Desolation which is about half a mile of sulphurous vents of yellow, black green and muddy grey bubbling and hissing, surrounded by landslides, then up more until we arrived at the boiling lake which is a half mile wide volcanic crater filled with ....boiling water .....and it really is boiling, just as if some giant cook was using it as a cooking pot, steam covering most of the surface, except that perhaps once every 20 minutes the wind blows it away for a short time and you can see the whole surface rolling round as it boils and the other side of the crater.
Then back, through Laudac tired but feeling good to Intrepid safely on her mooring .....except that the entrance hatch had been forced open....................clothes and plastic bags strewn around the cockpit. Full of apprehension we entered, no-one in, every locker open, our initial impression was surprise that they had not taken expensive marine electronics - but then we got to our aft cabin, all lockers open, Nicky's wedding ring, engagement ring, anniversary watches and more rings etc etc etc chains, ear-rings all gone. Steiner Marine Binoculars and 2 torches also gone, and some strange things - coffee, crisps, jam, my old sandals, small speakers. We think they may have swum over as most of the items were small, and the plastic bags perhaps used to waterproof them. They had levered open the entrance splintering apart the surrounding wood from the lock, not much we could have done to prevent that. They missed some jewellry which Nicky had hidden (but therefore never wears). Boat insurance in the Caribbean has such a hefty excess that we can't effectively claim on insurance despite being several thousand £'s, but we are more upset because of the personal nature of what is gone.
We went straight to the Dominican Police, and Corporal Valerie of CID was there quickly, we have written and spoken to the Minister for Toursim, written to the PM and the Chief of Police, and offered a US$1000 reward for return of the goods, and the police had by Day 2 interviewed 2 suspects, (who probably didn't do it) and are looking for a 3rd (who may well have). We have done all we can, and in fairness the Dominican authorities seem to be doing their best - also without being falsely positive about it, it could have been a lot worse - there could have been violence, or mindless vandalism as well as theft - as it was Intrepid was surprisingly unmolested, and we were able to sail north with 2 German friends, Stefan and Jutte on board, to Portsmouth with only a one day delay while I repaired and reinforced the entrance hatch, communicated with and urged on the authorities, and installed a locking bar which should prevent a similar method of entry - but we are realistic - they can still break a hatch etc, just like breaking a window in a house. Its normally dinghies and outboards that are stolen from boats - break-ins are comparitively rare, this was our first.
Portsmouth is in the north-west of Dominica, local guide Albert took us on a magnificent snorkel trail in the marine park, we ate scrumptious tuna in coconut sauce at a tiny beachside restaurant run by a German lady who arrived to dive, married a Dominican and now has 5 kids growing up, and chatted late into the night, then on Friday after touring impressive Fort Shirley where the Brits defended Dominica from the dastardly French, we went with Mike and Jean from Calpurnia to Portsmouth's own version of TGIF, a street party with BBQ ribs and chicken for £1, beers and rum punch and loud music, met Randolph who gave us a magnificent tour up the Indian River last time, and already we were beginning to relax and forgive Dominica which is still our favourite nature island, (but we now double padlock Intrepid's entrance...).
As I write we are at Marie-Galante a round island 8 miles diameter, 8 miles from Guadeloupe proper, and part of France and the EU - but a very rural part, every house/shack has a pig, a goat and a cow. There used to be 100 sugar cane plantations, but now only a few fields have cane for the remaining rum distilleries. As we walked up to a vantage point a coconut fell from a tree, and I took 1 hour hacking off 3 inches of its outer fibrous packaging to get to the white flesh inside while sheltering from the rain. Modern supermarkets have nothing on coconuts as regards packaging, but the taste on lamb curry this evening was exquisite.
We sail to Antigua this week, to pick up Pam and Katie then turn west towards St Maarten and the Virgin Islands. Thanks for all your emails, and visit suggestions which keep coming in, we genuinely mean it - come for a week or 2 or 10 cruising Caribbean, USA or Pacific, the itinerary is in the last email. We try to avoid surprises like the 2 outlined above, and in any case there are some compensating excitements............
Andy and Nicky Gibb, Intrepid of Dover, Guadeloupe, Sunday 18th January 2004.
Back to Ships Log Index
Return to home page