Monday, 21 April 2014

Antigua and a broken boat again

Antigua and a broken boat again

We arrived back in Antigua from the OCC rally in Dominica on Sunday afternoon. Our first port of call after checking in on Monday morning was the Volvo mechanic. He was too busy to look at it on the Monday but suggested we come to the work dock on Tuesday morning. Tuesday 25th of March is the skipper’s birthday so we motored in from the anchorage to the work dock to have the problem diagnosed.

Danny is the first to take a look, he thinks the tick over is too low but this doesn’t explain the leaking stern gland when we are motoring. Danny returns with Derry, a man with a big crowbar who levers the engine up and spots a cracked front rubber engine mount. Problem diagnosed, so it is off to see where to get them and when they will arrive.

The good news is that they can be couriered in from Miami in a couple of days, bad news is they cost an ‘arm and a leg’. Other bad news is Friday will be the earliest they can start work on it.

Ah well could be worse, the marina and anchorage is filling up with our friends from the OCC rally and when we get back to the anchorage ‘Vivace’ are anchored behind us, looks like an impromptu birthday party at the 2 for one pizza place tonight! Things can’t be all bad.

Friday arrives and our mounts haven’t arrived, UPS advises delivery in the afternoon, nothing will happen today so now it will be Monday at the earliest before work starts.

Monday dawns and we eventually pin down the guys, yes the mounts are in and yes they can start today. We motor onto the work dock anticipating probably a ½ day job, the weather looks settled for the week and we are hoping to go to Barbuda as soon as the repairs are done.

Not so fast! Remember, this is a boat and things always take longer than anticipated.  The prop shaft is disconnected from the gearbox and the back of the engine is jacked up. Within the hour we have replaced the rear mounts, now for the front mounts. We jack up the front of the engine. The studs that are welded to the plates that are bolted to the engine bearers rise up with the engine! Both studs have sheared off! No wonder the engine is moving about. It is not just the engine mounts that need replacing and repair, the studs will have to be re-welded back on to the plates.

In order to get to the starboard front mount we had to take off the water pump.  Then we discovered that the heat exchanger was leaking from underneath and had rotted the bracket holding it to the engine. Before we can re assemble we will need a new bracket fabricated and the heat exchanger cleaned up and overhauled.

For those of you not familiar with boat engines, unlike a car that has a radiator to cool the coolant we have a heat exchanger where sea water is pumped through a cylinder where the coolant pipes run through to cool the engine. This requires a seawater pump in addition to the circulating pump (water pump) you have on a car. After cooling the circulating fresh water, the sea water is injected into the exhaust outlet to cool the exhaust gases and out it goes through the exhaust pipe at the back of the boat.

Ok so we have to work on the heat exchanger, fortunately apart from the bracket (new one) and some new gaskets it is cleaned up and repainted so all as good as new. Unfortunately, the water leak had dripped onto the starter motor, so this will have to be cleaned up too. Fortunately,there is a spare available in the machine shop and this unit will be fitted as a replacement for the water damaged one. The only good news is that if you have a broken engine being broken outside a machine shop is probably the best place to be.

The work dock is hot and dusty during the day with many flies, at night there is little wind and lots of mosquitos. Not the best berth in the marina!

Rescuing the Boatyard dinghy!

By Friday we have it all back together. However, the engine was slow to start. Crawling over the engine a leak on the fuel lift pump was diagnosed, so we ordered a replacement, and also found a leak on the back of the sea water pump so another new pump was ordered. These parts will not be here until Tuesday at the earliest (Wednesday?)

Guess what? We still have a leaky stern gland, it appears we have damaged the seal while motoring with an out of alignment engine. A new seal unit has been ordered and should be here in a few days, hopefully when all this has been done we will be good to travel the high seas again.

So the weekend comes and goes, parts are ordered at great expense and we wait. The old fuel pump has completely disintegrated and doesn’t pump at all! It is only passing fuel by gravity from the tank, it is a miracle with all we have found that the engine worked at all.

Sunsrt on the work dock
On the plus side we have met most of the guys from the boatyard who all come over for a chat at various times during the day, we hear all about their lives and a lot about life in Antigua especially the politics (there is a general election soon!), so we are having an interesting time.

We have to mention a great piece of kit we purchased with the outboard but only just fitted the other day, it is called a Doel Fin. It attaches to the cavitation plate by 4 bolts and is a very effective hydrofoil, creating lift and getting the dinghy ‘on the plane’ much easier. The dinghy is more stable and less skittish at speed, fantastic! It really does what it says on the box.

We have been in the boatyard a week, the original problem still exists, the engine has been overhauled, we are fully versed in local politics, the best way to fish for lobsters and the state of West Indies cricket!

The only thing that made the stay on the work dock bearable was all the company. For a few nights we had neighbours on the other side of the dock who had circumnavigated and had been at sea for 19 years, so they had many good stories to tell. Between guests for dinner and invitations to others, sundowners at West Point and taking the dinghy out to a little beach at the anchorage for swims we made the best of it.

Thursday looks to be the day the new stern gland will arrive. We still cannot go anywhere as the prop shaft has now been disconnected! Slowly our parts arrive and the engineer arrives on Friday to fit them.

Things are never straightforward! The new fuel pump needs a modified fuel line and when we fire up the engine we have a fuel starvation problem! Only discovered after we had left the dock and the engine stalled in the harbour! A nerve wracking time while we got back onto the dock and the fuel system was stripped down, new filters installed and off we went again. By now it is late Saturday, our plans to get water and leave Sunday for Barbuda have been thwarted.

Sunday morning we get water and decide it is now too late to go to Barbuda today so the plan is a gentle sail to Deep bay and go early Monday morning. Outside the harbour the engine stalls while we are hoisting the sails, we decide to continue to Deep bay as it is only 6 miles away and we need a change of scenery, 10 days on the work dock has driven us stir crazy.

Monday we are off early at 0630, Barbuda here we come! Not so fast! With little wind we are motoring and the engine stalls several times as we leave Deep Bay. With heavy hearts we turn round and sail slowly back to Jolly harbour. Back on the work dock a feeling of déjà vu! Danny arrives and removed the fuel pump, what else can it be? An old pump has been found and we will fit this to see if it is the new pump that is faulty. The new pump is pumping strongly on the workbench so we cannot believe is the problem. Danny refits the pump only to discover that the modified outlet pipe won’t reach?

I think we have found the problem, the boss comes to look, it appears the mechanic has connected the inlet and outlet hoses the wrong way round! Instead of sucking fuel from the tank and pumping it into the secondary filter we are sucking it from the filter and trying to pump it back to the tank! The filter is being fed from the tank by gravity! The hoses are swapped and the system bled of air. The engine starts and we are off, unfortunately not for Barbuda as it is now lunchtime and a late afternoon arrival is not recommended due to the many coral heads around Barbuda. Deep Bay here we come! Again!

Deep Bay Still beautiful!

We arrive in Deep Bay without drama, the engine doesn’t stall although it is a little slow to start from cold, maybe we are sucking in air through one of the fuel unions and the system is not holding its prime? It has been suggested that we paint around all the fuel unions to eliminate the possibility of sucking air in. Next project! For now we seem to be fixed. Barbuda here we come before the weather gods deliver a strong blow and swells which will render Barbuda ‘no go’ (planned for the coming Easter weekend!)

Friday, 11 April 2014

OCC Rally Dominica March 2014

We are off south to Dominica for the OCC rally . Since we joined, we have met many other people who are also members but apart from the Vice Commodore none who are going to the rally.We look forward to meeting a whole set of new OCC members and like minded people.

We had planned to do the trip from Antigua in 2 or 3 hops; Jolly harbour to Deshaies in Guadeloupe, then to the Saintes and finally the short hop to Prince Rupert bay in Dominica.

Our stern gland appeared to be holding up, no leaks and not overheating. We departed and had virtually no wind, what little there was, against us so we motored. We ended up motoring all the way to Deshaies as the wind was light.  The motor to Deshaies was fairly uneventful, I saw nothing but Rowena saw a whale dive! On consulting our book we decide it must have been a Humpback whale due to the shape and colour of the tail, just like a cartoon whale tail. A pretty impressive sight. We arrived in Deshaies just as it was getting dark and anchored near the edge at the outer part of the bay. We were not stopping apart from sleeping overnight as we planned to be away at first light in the morning.

 On doing the engine checks we noticed that we have water in the engine bilge, not a good sign. It will have to be monitored carefully as we will probably have to motor down the east coast of Guadeloupe as well. It seems the leak only occurs when we are motoring.

Early morning fishing - Note the diver in the water

The best laid plans etc… We wake up as it is getting light and are just getting ready to up anchor when the local fishermen decide to cast their net around the back of the boat. We can go nowhere as their net is touching the rudder and the last thing we want is a net caught around the rudder or the propeller. We wait until they have retrieved their net as there is nothing else we can do. We are now late departing and it will be unlikely to get a buoy in the Saintes late in the afternoon. Our experience earlier was that you need to be there by lunchtime to get a mooring off the town.

As expected we have to motor as there is no wind along the East coast of Guadeloupe. As we approach the southern end of the island the wind fills in, to sail to the Saintes would be difficult as it is very hard to windward, Prince Rupert bay in Dominica is a much better angle on the wind. We elect for Dominica even though it will be probably dark when we arrive. Motoring into the bay at dusk we are met by Titus who works for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, he will be our ‘boat boy’ for our stay. We explain that we don’t need a mooring as we prefer to anchor and as we are with the OCC rally we won’t be doing any tours as the OCC have a programme of events organised. Titus is quite unconcerned and says to call if we do need anything.

Boats minus 'the boys' Fort Shirley on the hill to the left and the new hotel being built with the red roof. Galene amongst the masts
We are left to anchor and find a spot behind most of the fleet in about 7m of water. This will do for tonight -  if we feel the need to move we will do so in the morning. We wake to find we are in quite a good spot, an OCC boat directly in front, one slightly behind and 2 off our port side, OCC corner!

Before we do anything else we must check in so it is a choppy dinghy ride across the bay to the commercial dock so we can check in with Customs and Immigration. We also take the time to visit the IGA supermarket to stock up on some of the things we meant to get in the Saintes. Later that day we have a visit from John and Christine on ‘Oriole’ the Roving Rear Commodores from the OCC. We are given the programme of events and welcomed. A ‘formal’ lunch, various sundowners, a lunchtime cooking demo and a forest hike. Quite an exhausting programme.

The guest speaker at the lunch was Lennox Honeychurch, a Dominican historian, conservationist, writer and much more. He gave us the history of Cabrits Point, the hill above the anchorage, from prehistory till the present day. He showed us an engraving from the 1700’s  with square fronted canoes belonging to the local Indians who were selling supplies and water to the many sailing ships in Prince Rupert Bay! Not much has changed, except now the locals have 40hp engines! Lennox Honeychurch has also been very influential in restoring Fort Shirley making a good museum and function rooms. It was a lovely setting for our lunch.

Saturday morning market

 On Saturday Martin Carriere took us all to the market in Portsmouth to buy the fresh local produce we were going to learn to cook using traditional methods. We started with roasting breadfruit in the fire followed by plantain chips and saltfish cooked in frying pans on a coal pot as well as cocoa tea. Accompanied by a huge salad this made a delicious lunch.

Peeling the roasted breadfruit

We organised a dive with Fabian of Island Dive right on the beach at Portsmouth, he even collected us from the boat. We went round the corner to Douglas Bay, a marine reserve. We had two lovely dives, the first had a rather tight swim through with pretty white hydroids as we went in. It opened onto a vista of acres of colourful sponges and corals.

Exiting the swim through
Then we swam over the top of the reef where all our air was bubbling through.  

Above the swimthrough - Note the bubbles!

After some delicious fresh pineapple that Fabian had bought at the market on the way in we had our second dive, under a cliff which has dropped huge sections under the sea making a very scenic dive including a cave full of Glassy  Sweepers. Not that many fish as the locals are still allowed to fish here but we saw big yellowtail snapper and big glass eye snapper.

Shy Hamlet  - A rare fish in the Caribbean

 Sadly, there were quite a few lionfish – interestingly, here they are black, not red. There were big lobster, many different hamlets, anemones, corallimorphs (a new creature to me, a lot like anemones) many urchins and small creatures like arrow crabs and fireworms.

Is it an Orange Corallimorph? or what?

Dive boat at Split Rock

When we asked Fabian if we could wash our gear at the dive shop, he took it back and washed it for us, ready to collect after we had showered and had lunch! What service!

The stern gland is still leaking when we are motoring - this needs to be fixed. Fortunately we know a Volvo engineer in Jolly harbour so with his advice we will sort the problem. We ended up spending a week in Dominica before making our way back up north to Antigua.

Another new building project - a garden/beach treehouse

Our sail from Dominica to the Saintes was uneventful. We sailed all the way and motored as little as possible.

Off the coast of Guadeloupe -  A long way from Skye!

As we arrived in Terre de Haut in the Saintes we were met by a dolphin basking among the moorings. We slowed down and the creature looked at us from about 3 feet before slowly submerging to the depths! I could have sworn the look said ‘what are you doing here, disturbing my lunchtime snooze’!

Galene in The Saintes

Check in and out of the Saintes, sail to Pigeon Island and meet up with Longbow and Nyda, snorkelling not that good as viz poor but good reef life as usual.

After one night in a rolly anchorage we sail to Deshaies and anchor in the bay, very crowded and our anchor doesn’t bite 1st time, the wind drops and we all swing in different directions. Behind us 2 boats collide but very slowly so no damage done.

We are off early to sail to Jolly harbour and the forecast is perfect, East  F4 with 1-2 m seas, we sail with a small headsail, a reef in the main and the full mizzen and she sails herself. We cover the 54 miles in just over 8 hours only using the engine to get off our anchor and motor into Jolly harbour anchorage, a moving average of 6.5 knots, arriving just after lunch.

A fast run!

 A bonus on our journey is we see 2 big turtles as we arrive off Jolly Harbour (Irish bank). After a late lunch and a swim we are here and ready for our next round of boat repairs. Tomorrow is Monday so we should be able to start getting things organised.