Kalunamoo under sail entering Bequia
We all know them. Those sailors who despise the fact that their vessel harbors an “iron jenny” that consumes an inordinate amount of a cruiser’s kitty for fuel and somehow deflates the sailor’s ego of relying solely on wind power. They strut up to the local watering hole proudly stating that they used only 3-4 litters of fuel for their circumnavigation of the world. Only because the girlfriend demanded to run the engine alternator to blow dry her hair. Wallowing around for days in the doldrums, tacking back and forth for hours to gain a few miles on distance made good, are hallmarks of the Sailing Purist. Not knowing the price of diesel since 1970, ghosting up to the anchorage and dropping the hook while the main luffs is, in many eyes, the very proof of the proficient, if not saintly, Sailing Purist.
We are not Sailing Purists. There is a reason there is a 100-horsepower turbo diesel under the hood of Kalunamoo. No, it’s not the muscle car of the 60’s, but it works hand in hand with mother nature’s fickle finger of wind. Getting into port during daylight, avoiding hours of 3 knot sailing, powering the auto pilot and Sirius Radio without battery failure are only some of the advantages it offers. Until it doesn’t.
On our way out of Bequia in the Grenadines we set sail for St. Lucia, our next port call. We were on our way to Antigua to meet the Salty Dawg rally. We would also stop at Martinique to take on a load of French wine, Diddea water and cheese. We could also replace our rusty anchor chain with new 10MM G43 chain. That would eliminate the rust stains when we anchor.
Sailing up the Windward Island chain on the west side of the islands involves a knowledge of the micro- wind environment these mountainous island produce. The Trade Winds, the “strongest of the season so far” (Chris Parker, cruiser’s weather guru) were forecast and were experienced. These consistent 25 knot, gusts to 30 winds are great for sailing, especially for heavy boats like Kalunamoo. Our ketch is in its design element. Small Yankee cut jib and staysail, reefable main, and mizzen, there is enough sail control area to handle the wind in these “moderate to strong” conditions. Chris recommended that these were to be “salty sailing” conditions best for southbound vessels. We were sailing north.
The tall mountains of the island produce two major effects. A wind shadow on the lee (west side) of the island and compressed higher winds on the ends of the islands (think of the amusement park ride: The Whip). Sailing these islands, one must take these effects into consideration. Also, 25 knot winds may not seem like much, but 3000 miles of fetch for a week build considerable seas between the islands.
All was in order until we were in the lee of St. Vincent the first of 5 islands we were to pass. When the wind dies the engine is turned on to motor sail until the wind picks back up at the other end of the island. Long story short – the motor ran fine but the freshwater circulating pump bearing on it didn’t. In fact, it finally gave up the ghost in a room full of rubber belt smoke and noise. So much for using the engine, we became Sailing Purists.
Kalunamoo’s engine also helps us “point better”. Meaning we can sail closer to where the wind comes from. Without the motor, relative winds closer than 55 degrees to the bow with choppy seas slows the boat to a crawl. Considering this we eliminated the St. Lucia stop and the St. Anne port call on Martinique. I thought we could make Fort du France or St. Pierre but that proved not possible either. Scratch Martinique. We would have to sail non-stop to Antigua. The planned 12 hour sail - Bequia to St. Lucia - turned into a 50-hour voyage to Antigua. Thank heaven Maureen didn’t mutiny. Although, granola bars for dinner were served in lieu of her normally well-planned voyage fare. I had no complaints.
The wind shadow effect was a problem that defied solution. Ghosting around for hours in the shadow, hoping that the current wouldn’t send to shore was a challenge. But, as any Purist would say, it’s doable, enjoy the leisure time.
We arrived after dark at the entrance to Falmouth Harbor, Antigua with a light rain squall looming on the radar. I knew we could enter but the wind would die between the headlands and we would be dead in the water before we reached the anchorage.
A.B.S.A.R. is Antigua and Barbuda Search and Rescue volunteer organization. Like the Coast Guard it serves the safety issues of boaters in Antigua. I called them a few hours in advance and relayed my concern on entering Falmouth. Andreas, a fine fellow with a great English accent was very encouraging and helpful. He was tracking us on AIS. But, he said, they don’t provide towing service and their rescue boat was not in service as the season just started. Oh! But then he called back and said that they would get their boat ready and out to meet us anyway and guide us down the channel. Great! We came down the channel and as expected the wind died. They came alongside and did tow us to the anchorage area. We cannot say enough about Andreas and his assistant, truly a great help to us and a service that should be supported. This was at 9PM on a Saturday night! (no charge – they accept donations).
So, for two days we were Sailing Purists. The next time at the watering hole, Maureen and I can swagger in, sneer and say, “Yeah, we sail in wind shadows, 35 knot squalls, beat to windward, tack and duel the elements and didn’t use a drop of diesel oil running all the Windwards.” In the meantime, we are getting a new pump for the engine installed.
Definitley not a Sailng Purist, ANNA in Falmouth Harbor