Friday, 20 March 2015
Some sails are good.......!
The sail to Iles des Saints from Portsmouth is only just over 20nm and so it was a relaxed, leisurely start. The situation soon turned though as we experienced a moderate swell but some very strong gusts. We still had a couple of reefs in the main and the genoa was well reefed, but gusts of nearly 30 knots had Sarah showing the knuckles on her fingers! Fortunately it was only a short passage (although to Sarah it seemed never ending) and we were soon into the more sheltered waters of Terre de Haute, the largest of the islands of Iles de Saintes.
We had visited here last year and been entertained by a lone dolphin while we were on the moorings so hopes were high for a repeat performance. We managed to "bag" the last available mooring, and by the time we got ashore we had to have a drink whilst waiting for the Internet cafe to open before we could clear in. Things are so much more laid back on the French islands. No customs officials, just an "official" computer to record our arrival, print off the form, have it officially stamped and pay a euro or so and all is done. No passports or other documents required.
Being a French Island everywhere closes for a very long lunch, so we couldn't do any shopping while we waited. So we had to settle for a drink in a bar which was closing up around us.
We were soon joined by friends on their cat who had sailed from Pointe a Pitre on Guadeloupe where Andy had just had his gall bladder removed. They don't routinely do this to visiting yachtsmen, but the diagnosis explained the abdominal pains that he had been experiencing for the last few weeks! We were fascinated by the egg size stone that they removed, no wonder he had been in pain! Darrell came in useful for changing dressings, as his wife was rather squeemish about his scars.
Essential maintenance on their cateraman had been postponed due to the skippers immobility after the operation so Darrell volunteered the 'simple' task of fuel filter change. This involved climbing down into the engine compartment and standing barefoot in bilge water. (x2 of course as there are two hulls with an engine in each) and then replacing both the primary and secondary filters on each engine. The job of changing filters was soon accomplished but then the task of bleeding all the air out of the system took the next 36 hours! I did stop for meals and sleep, and the odd jump on the trampoline with their three year old son, but can now say with some certainty that I am well versed with the component parts of a Volvo Diesel engine, particularly the injectors.
The enforced delay due to Darrel's confinement in the engine compartments meant we had to leave the following day for the short passage across to Guadeloupe and along the West coast to the Jaques Cousteau Marine Reserve. After the last passage Sarah was apprehensive as we left with a forecast of 18-23 knots winds. This turned out to be well founded as, after the relatively easy 8 nm crossing to the coast of Guadeloupe where we had a constant 23knots, we had the 'shelter' of the island. Unfortunately, like most Caribbean islands, Gaudeloupe is a volcanic island and its contours seem to concentrate winds rather than reduce them. Without going into the details, wind speed increased to 25-30knots and then 30 knots with gusts up to 40 knots. Beating into these winds was very wet and incredibly noisy and so eventually our well furled Genoa was taken in and, with the onset of 40 knot gusts, we prudently dropped the main and motored the last 6 or 7 nm into Plage de Malendure, as by this time Sarah was a quivering mass and not saying anything. We heard from other cruisers afterwards that over 60 knot speeds had been recorded in a bay that we had sailed past where they were sheltering. We never had winds like that when we crossed the Atlantic, but Stream came through undamaged which is more than can be said of Sarah's confidence!
To add insult to injury as we were anchoring it began to hail with Sarah being hit by very large hailstones on the foredeck as she attached the snubber. The afternoon was punctuated by high wind gusts and heavy rain. All the boats were swinging about 270 degrees, which did mean that all the other boats that came in to shelter had to give a lot of space, making for an interesting afternoon.
Our friends in the catamaran also made the journey and ended up motoring and the engines both performed well, so the fuel filters were definitely ok much to Darrell's relief. Apparently Val was in a similar state as Sarah when they arrived., buckets were involved! We really need some nice sails where we set the sails and just tweek them as needed rather than the wet, noisy and uncomfortable sails (and frightening for Sarah) that we have had of recent.
The plan now is a few days R and R snorkelling in the Reserve before sailing north to Deshaises where we had our memorable 'dolphin experience' last year.