Tales of the Itinerant Sailor

Cruising 2009

Political Peril and the Itinerant Sailor


Steven Jones  

The False Start

The next leg is nearly 300 nm, with many long stretches where there is not a safe harbor to be found.  This is a long time to be bucking the trade winds.  At Hotel Ancon I had spent several hours on the internet trying to analyze the weather and wind patterns.  I conclude that if I get an early start, before the trade winds pick up, I should be able to cross the reef at Cayo Breton and sail all afternoon and night inside the reef with 15 – 20 kt winds at the most.  That’s the plan.

Hotel Ancon

Hotel Ancon

Here, the officials are a little less regimented and more punctual and on June 29 I get my early start.

By mid afternoon I arrive at Cayo Breton on schedule, but the winds are a little stronger than predicted.  The auto pilot is not performing properly, unable to hold course.  Which means, naturally, that I have to steer.  I cut inside the reef.  There is no significant lessening of the wind.  As daylight begins to fade I make the decision to go back to Cayo Breton where there is a protected small bay.  I negotiate the narrow channel and drop the hook at dusk and set in for the night.

Although seemingly secure, I note the latitude and longitude so as to check the boat’s location throughout the night.  I am up and ready to go by 0700, waiting for sunrise to see the channel.  Once underway, I note the wind is still at 25 kts out of the SSE, exactly my course.  As the day progresses, the sea gets angrier and the wind gets stronger.  I am at the wheel.  I elect once again to go back to Cayo Breton.  I drop anchor in the quiet water by 1300.  So, now what?

I prepare lunch; I recaulk the starboard mainstay; I recaulk both port side portals.  About dusk I hear the bilge pump engage.  Somewhat unusual, so I investigate.  Excessive sea water is leaking by the packing gland (aka stuffing box) where the propeller shaft goes through the hull.  Two hours later I stop the leaking and am ready for the sack.

However, now a decision has to be made.  Tomorrow morning will be 48 hours since I have had a weather report—which was for 48 hours.  At that time no hurricane activity had been reported, from here to the West Coast of Africa.  But in this part of the Caribbean it is not uncommon for a tropical depression to develop from the convection of the warm ocean and to develop to a tropical storm, then to a Category 1 hurricane with winds over 64 kts (75mph), all within 24 hours. 

In years gone by, I would not have given this much thought.  Even though the wind has lessened a little during the night, considering the unknown weather situation and with a faulty auto pilot, I elect to return to Casilda.

Casilda Bay

Early morning fishing boat in Casilda Bay

The Colonial Town The Second Mate

Cruising 2009: Political Peril and the Itinerant Sailor
Copyright © 2010 Steven Jones. All Rights Reserved.

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