Last month we started moving a 48′ Tayana cutter called Island Time out of Guatemala. Onboard was first mate Phil and deck crew Chris. The boat was supposed to go to the Virgin Islands but … sea happens. We had made it out of the jungles of Guatemala, down the amazing Rio Dulce and over the shallow bar at her entrance. Finally, we were at sea.
The boat had mainsail furling so we had to head into the wind to hoist. We brought in the headsail, fired up the engine and turned into the wind and waves. Once some main was up we fell off the wind, shut down the engine (peace), re-launched the headsail, and Island Time charged off across the low swell.
We had a great morning sail. It was sunny and we had that perfect, warm, el Carib breeze. The wind slowly moved forward and we sheeted in the sails until we were beating. As the wind get’s stronger you want to flatten sails a bit to depower them. This worked good on the headsail but we couldn’t flatten the in-boom main. We fired up and motor-sailed for the rest of the afternoon.
Then the helicopter arrived. We could hear a quick thump, thump, thump, thump. It was coming from the boat. Changing engine rpm did change the speed of the thumping which meant that it was drive line related. It wasn’t louder in the engine room – good news. I could hear it best in the aft stateroom. Something wrong with the prop or shaft probably. If it was kelp, you would want to back down. We slowed slightly, pointed to Roatan and listened for change.
We were briefly distracted from the chopper landing on the aft deck by smoke rising into the dodger. There is nothing worse than a fire on a boat. Where do you go if you can’t put it out?? And the autopilot wasn’t autopiloting. We quickly determined that the whiff of smoke did not come from the cabin but from the gauges above the companionway.
We later figured out that the Raymarine Seatalk system had fried. There was nothing wrong with the autopilot. It stopped working because it stopped getting signals from the rest of the system. And then the GPS went down. Lame. Buy the TV and DVD player separate. You want modular.
Out came my trusty portable Garmin gpsmap unit which got me around the world and then some. The only important ‘gauges’ on a traveling sailboat are the depth sounder, working gps and the masthead windex. The depth sounder was fortunately, a separate unit here. We were back in action.
With the faint smell of burnt electronics and a growing helicopter sound, we hoisted our colors and made landfall at the beautiful island of Roatan, Honduras. We had considered stopping there anyway to top up fuel. Did I mention the mainsail furling line had removed it’s own cover? I can’t check everything pre-departure. I should point out that the charts on my old gps were not entirely accurate. I sailed us up to the wrong side of a peninsula. I had to consult my pc charts for the in close navigation.
The sun falls fast in the tropics. By the time we arrived at the entrance to the reef it was night. I had a good cruising guide and my charts. They didn’t agree so we pulled up close to decipher what buoys were what. We got lucky when a big fishing trawler made it’s way out. We followed it’s path and parked on the back side of Fantasy Island. “Zee Chopper, Zee Chopper!”
In Tatus place, we got Jerry, and he was kewl. He welcomed us and gave us the lowdown about the restaurant, pool, diving, internet, and cruiser happy hour. Full use of the island was $20 a day for the whole boat, love it. We’d make the most of it.
We cleaned up the inside and gave the outside a quick rinse to get the salt off. The boys headed in for a meal. For me it was an outdoor shower at the dive center and dinner onboard. Mmm better, and ready for tomorrow’s assault on our boat issues, third world style. Bring your sense of humor.
I meet other delivery skippers in ports like these. Some have been poolside for days. They broke something on the boat and they tell me, “I don’t work on them, I just move ’em”. It doesn’t seem right and besides, there’s no challenge in it.
In the morning we left Chris to oversee fueling while Phil and I caught a ride to town with the marina cruisers. We hit the bank, got a local sim for my cell, and some food to keep us out of the restaurant. We were waiting on a couple still in the store. We were 8 people in a minivan and it was tropical. The consensus was to close up the van, rev it up and run the air conditioner. On the downside there were gas cans onboard and the fumes were strong. They persevered. Old habits chosen above health, interesting human experiment.
We got back and moved the boat around to the front of the resort and I hopped in the water to see where the helicopter was hiding. The strut cutlass bearing was good but there was some play at the shaft log/stern tube where the prop entered the boat. I pulled a piece of shredded plastic out. While I was there I cleaned the dirty prop, it’s the best way to raise motoring speed and save fuel. I couldn’t get the techs at Raymarine to help me isolate the other gauges. They just wanted us to send everything in for some hi-budget service. Not very convenient for most cruisers.
And then there were monkeys! Between projects I would whip into the lobby to wifi the owner, do part searches, find boatyards, and send poolside pix home. On my route there were monkeys leaping between palapa beach shades. Are you kidding me? Monkeys?? They never got tired of playing the same games and I never got tired of watching them. Everyone loves monkeys. Right?
That night we got to chill with the cruisers at the dock BBQ. It was great to hang out with my fellow adventurers. They were all very nice, in various stages of their adventure and all from crazy different walks of life. The food was awesome. We brought hot dogs while others brought real food. There was quesa dias, flan, brownies and on. Jerry had the old school rap mixed with easy listnin’, cranking out the back of his vessel. It was awesome.
I had to break the news to the guys. We were going to have to haul out to change the stern tube bearing. We weren’t going to make it to the Virgin Islands on this trip. The blow was softened when I explained that there were hardly any virgins left anyway (I’d been there 6 times).
The cruisers in Paradise were mostly Texan. It made sense, we were close. I’m a big fan of characters. An old timer waldled up and gave us the lowdown on “the best boatyard in these parts”. He explained about the entrance to the harbor and the town of La Ceiba and “the 1$ beers and 2$ women”. Chris perked up, “Where’s that?” Chris likes beer.
La Ceiba and the Island of Women, next month. -Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake-