OMG – Have The Gremlins Returned?

Date: 23 January 2014

Position: 14:04.459N 060:57.023W, Rodney Bay, St Lucia

We’ve just received an email from a friend in the UK telling us how murderous life is in London in mid-winter, and enquiring how tough life is for us swanning around the sunny Caribbean. Well, let me tell you, on Mina2 we don’t swan – we rock. Not in the party sense of course, but in the from crisis to crisis sense.

Somewhere from Canouan (kan-warn) to Bequia (beck-quee) a critical bit of equipment that enables us to let our mainsail out broke (for the technical yachties: outhaul car that travels along the track on top of the boom exploded). With considerable ingenuity I fashioned a repair in Bequia. “So are problems are over? asked the DS. “Guaranteed” I said, perhaps a little too smugly.

We had a long 60nm passage from Bequia to St Lucia planned. This was to completely by-pass the island of St Vincent which has a very bad reputation for theft and violence in all the anchorages. Ironically, two days before we left, we received the news that in our safe-haven island of St Lucia a yacht had been boarded in an anchorage at night with a husband and wife crew on board. The husband was murdered and the wife seriously injured. And we thought that sailing into isolated anchorages in Brazil might have been a hazard. Our thoughts and those of all the sailing community here are with the wife and their family. But as a result there is at this moment probably not a safer place to be.

Two hours into the ten-hour passage, the sun was burning hot as we sailed across the azure sea as all three of our sails were pulling us rapidly towards the Caribbean islands silhouetted on the horizon. This was the life!

Then there was a bang. The mainsail outhaul car exploded once again, this time scattering dozens of ball bearings into the air, which pittered and pattered into the sea around us at a dollar a pop.

“Guaranteed?” asked the DS. “Not to worry” I said, “we still have the massive yankee, and the staysail as well”. Hardly were the words out of my mouth when there was another loud bang, and the massive yankee started sliding down the forestay. The top swivel of the furling gear had, entirely coincidentally, also exploded with a further pittering and pattering of expensive bearings dropping into the sea. In a cruising area renowned for its strong, dependable winds ideal for sailing from island to island, we were now reduced to only the pocket handkerchief sized staysail and , therefore, the need to motor all the time to get anywhere. So forget the isolated but exquisitely beautiful anchorage at the Pitons; forget the anchorage off the lovely little village in Marigot Bay. The only place we were to get this lot sorted was in Rodney Bay right at the north end of St Lucia 50 miles away. So engine on and we motored all the way arriving at 1630 hours ignominiously creeping into the marina.

Now, marinas for the average motor boat owner are a source of joy and security where they can plug into the National Grid and walk ashore for a mediocre but expensive meal. But for me it is like paying unnecessary money to sit in a municipal car park. Absolutely ghastly. Apart from the week when we had to bolt into Salvador for urgent repairs in 2012 and when I left the boat in marinas to overwinter, the last time I was in a marina was more than four years ago. I was not happy, but it was where I could get hold of riggers etc to assess the damage and for us to get things sorted.


Tim Barker is a sailor and occasional adventurer. Since 2004, Mina2, his Oyster 485 yacht, and he (with the Downstairs Skipper and a wonderful bunch of friends) have sailed from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many places in between. Come join their adventures and read Tim's award winning blogs and journals from the comfort of your own computer screen.

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