The promised wind shift to a more easterly direction was short lived but it did give us the opportunity to sail straight to South Friars bay in St Kitts. As we approached the channel between St Kitts & Statia the seas really kicked up. As I was bending down in the nav area an unsecure drawer flew open and gave me a bit of a wake up call….. when am I going to learn to secure everything before heading off?
We didn’t check into St Kitts as we were heading straight off to Montserrat, another 50 mile sail sadly yet again hard on the wind. The nearest we could get to Little bay was 5 miles off as the wind kept shifting so had to motor the rest of the way and arrived just as a huge squall swept through! We checked in through customs first thing in the morning & to quicken the process I’d pre-cleared using sailclear which holds all our information. When I got to customs they said their computer wasn’t working so we had to do it the old fashioned way !
After the volcano destroyed the capital “Plymouth” in 1995 most of the population fled the island primarily to the UK leaving about 1200 people on the island, today there’s over 6000. We would’ve liked to have done a land trip to Plymouth but at 200 USD for a morning we couldn’t justify it out of our budget. When we left for Guadeloupe we did sail through the exclusion zone and took a few pictures. You can see the lava flow and to give you an idea of how deep it is take note of the church!
The sail to Deshaies in Guadeloupe was “again” hard on the nose and very lumpy & we couldn’t get above 6kts as we didn’t want to have to tack back in. We genuinely thought the journey south would be easier with NE winds not E-SE !After checking in we immediately set off again down to the Cousteau marine park which we’d stopped at on the way north. The anchorage is very protected and we enjoyed 3 calm days there before heading off to Portsmouth in Dominica with a great beam on wind of 20kts… caribbean sailing again. Dominica use Sailclear as well, so I pre-cleared as we were approaching the island to find when we actually got to customs/immigration that their system wasn’t working either !!!
The bay is great with no hassle from boat boys. They set up PAYS and organised themselves into offering services and security meaning we felt and were very safe. Without exaggeration everyone on the island smiled and said hello which was quite something to be a part of. The hurricane in 2017 pretty much destroyed the Island and even today there’s an American ship at anchor helping with medical advice for the locals.
We wanted to do the Indian River tour which was a 3 mile journey by rowing boat stopping half way at a bar for liquid refreshments. Our guide suggested I try the Dynamite punch… damn can they make strong drinks!Rowing up and down the river is the only method allowed to save the banks from wash, the results are stunning. One of the Pirates of the Carribean films was made here and the eerie feel to the place was clearly why it was chosen! We also attended the local beach BBQ organised by PAYS and it was a great opportunity to meet and chat with other cruisers.
Eventually we tore ourselves away from the Island and headed back down to Martinique, checking in at St Pierre. After doing a big food shop in Fort de France at the well stocked Leader Price we headed over the bay to Anse Noire which has to be one of the most beautiful secluded bays we’ve seen so far, complete with bat cave ! Another 1 night stop in Anse D’arlet and we said goodbye to Martinique and had a very spirited sail back to our “home port” of Rodney Bay in St Lucia.After a few days relaxing in the bay it was time to have Silhouette lifted out for some much needed maintenance. Our bottom rudder bearing had loosened up again, we last did it almost 3 years ago but have done about 6000 miles since then. We had a rumble on the prop shaft too and hoped it was the cutless bearing which again was replaced at the same time.
The next part of this blog is for the benefit of boat owners with the same type of rudder set up. I’ve checked the stats on our blog and “bearings” is high on the search list.
Once all the steering quadrant, autopilot rams and steering cables are removed it is only a small stainless pin which holds the rudder stock in place. Driving this pin out and the rudder drops easily so make sure you’ve propped it up first with blocks. Once down far enough the bronze sleeve literally drops out of the fibreglass tube, this sleeve is what should be bonded into the tube. Personally I think its a bad design as you’re relying on the sealant/adhesive to keep it in place and the constant beating a balanced rudder gets breaks the sealant down. I suppose you could say 6000 miles would take a weekend sailor many years.
Anyway we cleaned the tube up of any remaining sealant (not much at all) and then placed a jubilee clip around the sleeve to tighten it up on the stainless steel fixed section on the rudder, and tightly wrapped some electrical tape in the middle to hold the bronze sleeve in place once the jubilee clip was removed. We used loads of 3M 5200 fast cure adhesive sealant and at the last moment, released the clip and pushed the rudder back in place. Lining up with the top bearing is just luck/perseverance, but as soon as it goes up someone inside the locker just puts the retaining pin back in. There was a lot of excess sealant which was wiped up and then left for a minimum 24 hours to set. Trust me when I say if we can do it anyone can !
We also swapped out the cutless bearing which meant removing our maxprop. This is a relatively easy job except I forgot to take note of the pitch settings 🤦🏻♂️🤦🏻♂️🤦🏻♂️
An emergency call to Darglow Marine in the U.K. and their hugely knowledgeable and patient technical team soon bailed me out.
Antifouling and hull polishing was carried out by a local guy called Benji who worked extremely hard to a tight schedule finishing just as the hoist arrived to put Silhouette back in the water.
A final visit to the Friday jump up at Gros Islet followed by a sail down to Soufrierre where we caught up with “Crean” and are heading off to Bequia together.