Thursday, 21 June 2012

A little help from our friend

We flew toward St. Vincent on a steady SE wind, but once we got there we were becalmed in the lee of the island. We expected as much or at least considered that possibility. What we didn't consider was having water flood our engine. Our sails were beginning to flog in the dying wind and it was time to motor, but when we tried to put it on it turned a few times then ceased. Gabe immediately opened up the engine room to get a better look at what was happening. Judging by the engine's behavior he concluded that following seas must have rushed inside the motor through the exhaust. It's an incredibly rare incident, but it happens and after everything our little Yanmar has been through already it was now choking on salt water. We concluded that there was nothing to be done while under way. The motor required a flush and 3 oil changes to get it back in working order and that would have to wait until we got to Bequia. But how do we make any forward progress with no wind and no motor? The wind was coughing up brief gusts of air into the sails, but mostly we were dead in the water. Under motor power now himself, Gerard was watching Rodeo struggle forward at pitiable 1 knot/hr. Without even waiting to be asked, he called on the radio and offered to tow us the length of the island beyond which we could pick up wind and move on under sail. We accepted his offer without hesitation. There was nothing else to be done.
Saltwhistle back tracked a bit to meet us on our starboard, tow line in place. He tossed it across the narrow gap between our boats, to where I stood at the bow waiting. Once I had the line I made it fast around the bow cleat, then Gerard pulled forward and a few moments later we felt the gentle tug of the line and we felt Rodeo pick up speed. We weren't sure if Saltwhistle could actually pull the weight of us behind, but the scheme worked, the line held and we managed to get pass the lee of St. Vincent in no time. Out in the open the wind came in steady once more and we sailed for another 5 miles towards Bequia. Port Elizabeth is a wide and deep harbour and we were fairly confident that we could enter and anchor in it without a motor, but Saltwhistle, who went ahead to scope out the anchorage would be on standby to lend a hand again, if needed. With his dinghy and 15HP outboard motor in the water he waited for us to arrive. If the wind died and we couldn't pull into the anchorage under sail, he would pull alongside Rodeo in his dinghy and side tow us into our spot. Luckily the wind blew light and steady through the  low hills surrounding Port Elizabeth and we were able to reduce sails, slow down and maneuver into the anchorage without incident. We were quite proud of ourselves for having accomplished this. Anchoring can be tricky under the best of conditions and we managed to do it without a running motor. We couldn't have gotten there without Gerard though and we wanted to pay him back for being a pal. It also happened to be his birthday, all the more reason for a celebration, so we invited him over for supper. We caught 2 beautiful Dorado on the way and half of one ended up in a creamy caper wine sauce, served over rice with a side of fresh salad, the ingredients for which I had picked up from a street vendor back in Soufriere, St. Lucia. The rich taste of those home grown vegetables reminded me of the organic flavors that permeated produce from my grandmother's garden. The lettuce was crisp, refreshing with a tinge of bitterness, tomatoes juicy and sweet and the green onion fragrant and sharp. It was a wonderful compliment to the mild, creamy taste of the Dorado. A meal worthy of celebrating our friend's birthday and our camaraderie.

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