Wednesday, May 10, 2017

1980 (28) - Tortola to Nevis

Two Toucans.  An art quilt.  The bodies are from
a black velvet bolero jacket.  The flowers are
cut from thrift store blouses.

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

We had decided to get the rougher upwind part of our trip out of the way first, by sailing directly from Tortola to Antigua.  That would leave us with more pleasant reaches or downwind sails when heading back north to St. Barths, St. Maarten and then west to Tortola.  Ulysses really proved his worth on the upwind part of the trip.  We spent almost no time at the wheel.  That left us with not much to do on our watches except keeping a lookout for other ships.  I would find myself talking to Ulysses, urging him to keep up the good work.  I much preferred sitting around slightly bored, rather than putting out the effort of steering the boat through the heavy seas.

Two Toucans.  Detail.

Leaving Tortola, we beat upwind for two days and nights.  On the third day figured we were about 50 miles off Nevis, and would put in there that night.  During the afternoon, on one of my watches, the halyard on the mizzen sail broke and the top of the sail came loose.  Ed came up on deck and managed to get the sail down.  He tried to lower the wire halyard too, but it got caught on something.  While Ed was working on the end of the mizzen boom, leaning out over the stern, he looked down into the water and noticed we had company.  A large fish was traveling along in the vortex formed behind our stern.  The sleek fish, about 7-8 feet long, looked green through the water.  Ed was peering down at the fish and joked, "Dinner!"  I told Ed, "Don't fall off; he's probably looking at you and thinking the same thing."  The fish stayed with us for several hours. 

Ed went back to work on the mizzen.  He rigged a temporary topping lift so he could use the topping lift rope as a temporary halyard for the mizzen sail.  He got the mizzen up again.  With the extra wires and ropes hanging from it, and with a sloppy double reef in the mainsail because of the strong winds, we looked a rather shabby affair.

Two Toucans.  Detail.

After sixty hours of sailing, we started the engine to motorsail to Nevis.  Ed was speeding up the engine; I leaned over the stern to make sure water was coming out of the exhaust pipe.  Instead, I saw billowing black smoke.  I made some incoherent noises, which Ed correctly interpreted to mean, "throttle down."  Then he went below to look for the problem.  A hose on the cooling system had popped off, and the bilge was filling with water.  Ed shut down the engine, so the pipe would cool, and he could reattach the hose.  By then we had taken down our sails, so we had no forward motion, and the sun was dropping in the sky. 

We finally restarted the engine and finished motoring to Nevis, but it was after dark when we arrived.  We found ourselves approaching a harbor we didn't know well, and approaching it from an unfamiliar direction.  I dug out our spot light - which we'd never had cause to use.  I had it plugged in and ready when we came closer in to shore.  We had our depth sounder on, and were constantly checking it to insure we were staying in sufficiently deep waters.  We headed for the lights of Charlestown.  When the depth sounder read 25 feet and, using the spotlight, we were able to make out a couple other boats, we dropped our anchor.  We left our stern light on overnight, just in case there were other late night arrivals.

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