We left in the morning at 05:00am as planned. Our house batteries (batteries used to run lights, refrigerator, electronics, etc) are over four years old and are showing that they are becoming long in the tooth. During the day when the sun is out our solar panels keep everything charging. In the evenings, our wind generator attempts to make up some of the power. We had a couple of wind less nights which caused our batteries to become low during the night, so we had to turn off the refrigerator. I decided that we would at least leave the engine in idle while sailing for a day and see if it would compensate and bring the batteries back to life. Since the engine was on, then why not engage it and motor sail to make things easier in case the wind died.
We started with just 15-17 knots of wind and by the time we rounded Dominica it was blowing 23-25 with gusts over 30 with 8 foot seas. We were not expecting quite so much wind but it is always worse at the ends of the islands due to a funneling affect. Once at the southern end of Dominica, I had to disengage the auto pilot and just hand steer for over an hour. The wind and waves were too much for the auto-pilot to handle.
We were flying at 7.0 – 8.3 knots most of the day and through the night and were way ahead of schedule. We reached the northern tip of St Lucia around 4:00am and once behind the island we were protected from the big waves and strong wind. Happy to finally get a rest from the elements we were content with motoring the length of the island. Renée pointed out that we had a following sea (waves coming from behind us) but we were only doing 3.9 knots when we should have been traveling over 6. I thought that perhaps we were heading directly into a current.
We reached the Pitons when were stopped by the St. Lucia Coast Guard wanting to know if where we were heading and wanted to make sure that we were not going to stop in their waters. We assured them we were on the way to Grenada and that we did not plan on stopping. They wished us a safe passage and took off. Since we were having issues with our motoring speed, Renée grabbed her mask, snorkel and fins and jumped in to see if anything was around our prop that could account for the lack of speed. We had a patch of Sargussam Grass on it but Renée was able to clear it. Figuring this must have been the issue we attempted to continue using the engine.
Not going to happen! I put the engine in forward and nothing happened, we could only go in reverse. How could this be happening considering we just had the transmission rebuilt in November and had less than 120 hours on the rebuilt transmission? Fortunately we were directly in front of Soufriere Bay and the Petit Piton and not 30-50 miles off shore. I radioed for help and Peter the Park Ranger came out and towed us into the bay where we tied to one of his moorings. We checked in with customs and the Health Department to make sure we had permission to seek help with more repairs. Peter arranged for a couple of the locals to tow us to the IGY Rodney Bay Marina where we had access to certified Yanmar mechanics. We left the next morning at 05:00am in order to get a head start on the wind and waves that start between 8:00 and 09:00am. We started out going pretty good for the 17nm journey when about 1/3rd of the way we were stopped by the Coast Guard wanting to know what was going on. We explained and they allowed us to continue. We were stopped again and the Coast Guard spoke to our tow boat. We once again were allowed to continue. By now the wind and waves were starting to crank up making the job of towing us more difficult. A third time, the Coast Guard radioed to us saying they were going to escort us in. I thought that is nice of them just in case our guys had trouble. About five miles from Rodney Bay, the Coast Guard made our friends tow us up into Castries which is not where we needed to go. The Coast Guard told us to ready our anchor because they wanted us to anchor in the bay. I told them that I did not have transmission so I would be unable to set the anchor and felt anchoring was not a safe option. They had us tie to a mooring out in the bay.
They explained that the boat towing us did not have a license to tow and that we did an illegal move and were not suppose to leave Soufriere. I explained that we were unaware of this and that we needed assistance that I already arranged at Rodney Bay. We were told that we had to stay at our current location until the Health Department came to visit us even though they already did that yesterday. After spending the day tied to the mooring not knowing what was going to happen I phoned the number one of the Coast Guardsman gave us. He said somebody from the Coast Guard would be coming to tow us the remainder of the way.