There are some days when it is definitely better to be a landlubber!
Our passage from Cuba to Grand Cayman was one of those days.
The trip started out easy enough, with not near as much wind as forecast and so pretty much a motor sail...and all was well till 3:30 am
It was a beautiful full moon and just about the hour when your physical resources are at their low after pretty much being awake since 6am the Sunday doing your normal routine, but also preparing for a long passage.
Kaija was off watch and Doc was asleep at my feet, the motor was purring along with sails up and we were doing 6.5 kts in light winds and reasonably calm seas...then I heard the motor revs decline slightly then it became normal...a couple of minutes later the same thing...I thought I would slow the revs a little and when I did, the motor died.
OK..not the end of the world...just gonna take a whole lot longer than planned to arrive in Cayman as our speed dropped below 3 kts with 35 miles to go...meaning we would be another 10 - 11 hrs but should still make it in daylight.
I checked to make sure we had fuel in the raycor and the bowl looked clean...the engine had been running for some time and way too hot to work on, so I was forced to wait for it to cool.
About 4:30 (after beseeching the great Master of the Wind and Waves) the wind started to blow, and blow and blow...(sailing can be a whole lot of nothing or a whole lot of too much oh, and if you are gonna pray…be specific…what we needed was 15 kts from the NNE, what we got was 25kts from ENE) and now we had wind...with a double reef in the main and a full head sail we started picking up speed nicely up to about 7kts...but with wind comes waves and the seas started to pick up....no problem...I figured to wait until we were in the lee (west side) of Cayman in the last 4 mile leg to Georgetown (where the water would be calmer and by then the engine cooler) to sort out the engine.
As we approached Cayman I radioed to the Port Captain and explained that we were coming in under sail and had no auxiliary power (and we needed a mechanic ASAP) and would be dropping anchor (there is a strict law prohibiting anchoring and we were supposed to grab a mooring ball to protect the sea bed). Another cruiser (SV Jupiter's Smile), heard the call and suggested that we alter course to more protected waters from the coming weather front as Georgetown in an open weather stead and can dangerous in a heavy blow. The Port Captain instructed me to alter course to the more protected waters of North Sound as there was a heavy NW Weather Front arriving.
The only problem is that the North sound was now on a heading that took us ‘head to wind’ or beating (they call it that for a reason)...but we altered course, tacking back away from the island to make the cut. Unfortunately, in all the confusion, the waypoint numbers written down did not correspond with the North sound entrance, putting us directly on the reef. By this time it was blowing 25 – gusting 35 kts and the seas were big...as we approached the waypoints we realized we were heading on the reef and I started praying big time...(I don't suggest leaving praying as a last resort, it's always good to have a little practice under your belt) but pray we did as we were now dangerously close to the breaking reef on a lee shore being pushed by wind and waves to an almost certain bitter end. Kaija finally spotted what looked like the cut and I headed for it...at this point, I'm on the radio asking for assistance from anyone for guidance into the Sound and received a call back from the DOE (Dept of Environment) telling us that there was not enough depth in the cut we were heading for and that we needed to head farther east to the next cut...and so with only seconds to spare and barely enough headway we tacked away from the island again to set up the next approach.
Then, the lower shroud/stay stud (that piece that holds the stay inside the turnbuckle) on the port side snapped......(it is these stays that are holding up the mast)...needless to say...praying went to begging
While trying to keep as much pressure off the rig and still make headway...and with the DOE boat and the Harbour Security boat close by we made it thru the cut and into the quiet shallow waters of the North sound...and now with the headsail furled we made our way across the sound (with the shallow water alarm going constantly) and into Governors Creek to the Cayman Island Yacht Club Basin.
Oh and as if we hadn’t had quite enough for one day… I forgot to mention that during the radio communications by Harbour security, I was asked for the vessel particulars and number of souls on board. I responded with the correct info and said was had a pet dog on board. At this point Harbour Security said "we were under strict quarantine and if the dog stepped ashore they would "put him to sleep" and Welcome to the Cayman Islands". …all in one breath… Needless to say, at that point, I was a little less than happy to be here. (Reed’s almanac states that ‘ALL PETS WELCOME IN THE CAYMAN…what’s with that…????)
But alas, we were met in the basin by Jay and Barb SV Jupiter's smile, the Harbour Patrol came aboard with guns and attitude and we're quickly taken under Doc's spell and quicker than we could blink...they made the calls and arranged for customs and Immigration and Dept of Agriculture (for Doc) arrived and with a lot of fun banter checked us in to Cayman and said Doc could come ashore (altho they have a strict prohibition against Rottweiler’s and could not give us the official document, the DoA guy gave us his card and his blessing and said if we had any problems to contact him.
Also, Hosea, a Philippine mechanic was standing by. He's a mini Mc Giver and soon discovered that the PID pump (primer fuel pump) had failed and blocked the fuel to the engine. I had a new spare on board, but as usual the hose fittings were in different places, so he left with parts in hand and returned with it re- fabricated to fit
So...the Maker of the Wind and the Waves looked after us...we landed safe...altho do have to admit that after 5 years of doing this...season six has seen more than it's share of excitement and equipment failures...all the more reason to get back to Trini for some major work and overhaul of the ships systems.
KaijaSong with Doc and Kaija aboard spent a couple of relaxing, albeit busy weeks in the Cayman Island Yacht Club while Gary returned to Vancouver and then to Tampa to visit with family and friends.
Kaija enjoyed making new friends who supplied her with a bicycle to use and Dexter with his assistant Simon of Fantasy Tours who took her out to Stingray City known to the locals as ‘the sandbar’ where she got to swim with and feed the large stingrays resident in these waters. Needless to say she was thrilled.
We have met many wonderful people here in Grand Cayman who have been very helpful to us. But this is not a place to come for boat repairs as everything must be imported to the island and as a result…the prices are almost beyond belief. So, with repairs to KaijaSong complete we depart here with new friends and empty wallets en-route to Jamaica to meet up again with our friends Luis and Sofia S/v Fruko. Needless to say, we are looking forward to a very uneventful trip and will update the blog upon our arrival.
Till then, keep reading and following along, we sure enjoy hearing from y’all.
Gary, Kaija & Doc