Leaving Trinidad I am tired after a long day preparing Anjea and Bollemaat. The final task is to commission Bollemaat's Autopilot. It does not go well. I have redone the actuator wiring, which had twisted itself so much that it physically broke, and done the dockside calibration. Now we are trying to complete the final calibration in the water. Yayo steers the boat in circles while I check the autohelm. It seems to complete successfully but when we try it out Bollemaat wobbles about and then steers way off course. Finally, at about 5 in the afternoon, I declare failure — they will have to hand-steer. Bollemaat drops me back at Peake's dock and sets out for Carriacou. They are three onboard and it's an easy boat to helm, but I am perplexed by that Autohelm.

I hurry to prepare Anjea to follow them. I leave my visit to the little grocery shop too late and they are closed. No matter, I have plenty of canned food, just not fresh. I need to leave tonight because there is weather coming. If I get away before midnight I'll outrun it. Otherwise I'll be stuck in Trinidad for several more days.

Just after sunset I finally cast off and follow Bollemaat for Carriacou. There is a strong breeze right on the nose as I motor out but I am not concerned as the wind will no doubt change when I get clear of the Mouths of the Dragon and out to sea.

I am tired but pumped. I want to get to that open sea and relax a bit but I still must put the dinghy up. I was unable to do it before leaving because Anjea was stern-to the dock. So I stop beside the channel and spend 20 minutes getting it up. This is the first time I've hoisted this new-to-me dinghy and the straps are the wrong length and I am missing a bridle. I finally get it up and secured. The only problem is that I can see no way to put the bike in the dinghy now that it's up, so it will live in the saloon, getting in my way.

With the dinghy up I am exhausted, hungry, tired, strung out, and not looking forward to an overnight sail. I start preparing to hoist the main but cannot find a single headlight. I need a headlight to see that the head of the sail doesn't get tangled in the lazy jacks as I hoist it. The more I look for a light the more frustrated I get until I just give up and resign myself to motoring for a while.

The 'while' turns into overnight. I take short sleeps of 20 minutes but then as we get clear of the coast I increase that to 30 minutes. I do not actually sleep but it is still a relief to lie down for a while and it's really hard getting out of bed each time. I don't have the energy to cook or do anything else, let alone put up the main.

Around dawn the engine stops. No warning, just stops. Ahh, I think, its run out of diesel in the day tank. I check the level and there is plenty left. I top it up anyway and try to start the motor. No luck. It turns over without the slightest hint of starting.

At least there is enough light now to work on deck so I hoist the main and set the genoa. We are close-hauled, as always when sailing the Windward Isles. There is nothing I can do about the engine until I get to Carriacou. I mentally rehearse my technique for anchoring under sail. I have done it quite a few times but that was years ago. Anjea under sail is taking plenty of water over the windward bow. The seas are not big but they are short and sharp and every hour or so I get one that passes over the saloon top. I can't leave any hatches open and inside is hot, sticky-wet and unpleasant.

As we approach the headland before Tyrell Bay in Carriacou the wind drops to nothing and then blows from the opposite direction. I anticipate it and am hoping to drift thru the wind shadow but a blast of wind from the opposite direction sets me spinning around back the way I've come. Then MY autohelm stops working and starts beeping and flashing something about the rudder sensor. This is the worst possible time to deal with a sick autohelm so I switch it off and resign myself to hand steering. I sail out further away from the headland and try again. Better, but still couldn't quite get thru the shadow. Third time lucky -- it is touch and go but we make it into the breeze in the other side of the shadow. Now to anchor.

There are a lot of boats in Tyrell Bay — over a hundred I guess — and I decide to go in past an old moored tug. It's awkward, with the wind blowing hard now, limited room, no engine and no autohelm. I get past the tug and go forward to drop the anchor but I'm still travelling fast and badly misjudge how far I've gone before I get the anchor down. When I look up I am just a couple of meters from the yacht on the far side of the tug and we are about to collide.

There is a sound of crunching solar panels as my rear solar wings collide with the bows of the other yacht, some yelling and swearing from my side, and then the two boats are locked together with Anjea's boom caught behind their forestay and my anchor holding it all in place. The owner of the other boat, which I later find out is called Alimar, is on deck in a flash calling for fenders. I am too stunned by what I have done to be much help. It takes a minute for the situation to sink in. The boats are wedged together but with the fenders not much more damage is occurring. Boats arrive from everywhere wanting to help, offer advice, or just enjoy the entertainment. The coast guard arrive and I take a line from them to Anjea. The owner of Alimar and I are now working together to find a solution that doesn't involve creating further damage. Suddenly there's a yank and more crunching of solar panels and the coast guard have hauled us apart. The other boat's forestay goes twang as my boom is hauled past it, but no further damage.

Unfortunately, my anchor chain crosses Alimar's chain. I am preparing to drop all my chain and get the coast guard to tow me to a mooring. At the last moment there's a joyous yell from Alimar that they've untangled the anchor chains and I am now actually anchored, free of encumbrance. Wow! I wasn't expecting that to happen!

It seemed like hours but I suspect the whole show was over in 30 minutes or so. Total damage to Alimar is a forestay that needs replacing, and Anjea has lost a solar panel and has a bent rail. I was expecting much worse.

My position is not great as I am too close to another boat behind me, but I am too tired to worry and can do nothing about it without an engine. It's a fuel problem for sure and after fiddling about I can see that the new fuel pump fitted in Cape Town has died. Replacing it will be an easy fix but I need rest and so I go below and crash.

Next day I collect my friend Roy in the dinghy and we go ashore in search of a new fuel lift pump. Close to shore the outboard engine dies and refuses to start again no matter how enthusiastically I haul on the starter. It is almost certainly dirty fuel and I know that if I get it started it will only stop again. I hand paddle the short distance to shore.

Budget Marine have a store here which has two fuel pumps on the shelf. I buy one and we hitch a ride with the Bollemaat crew to Anjea to fit it. With all the delays the owner of the boat behind me is now irate. Anjea is dragging very close to his boat and the last thing I want is a second collision! We work fast to replace the fuel pump but by the time the job is done the other boat has upped anchor and gone. We get Anjea's anchor up and move further into the bay. It's tight but we find a spot near Roy's boat and re-anchor.

If this was a typical sailing day I would long since have given sailing away as poor entertainment. Stuff goes wrong on boats all the time but I have never experienced such a run of problems and bad luck, made worse by tiredness. With help from friends, some quick thinking by the owner of Alimar, a big yank from the coast guard, and some luck, we muddled through without too much damage to anything but my ego.


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    Aahhhh! Living the dream!

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    Problems seem to come in sets and this recent set sounded like a tiring scary challenge which..... you overcame as usual!
    Sorry to hear that you are sailing single handed again.

    Great story and pics.

    Where to next?

    Wishing you smooth sailing



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    Hoi brother .... I thought sailing was all about bikinis and G&T ... sounds like a character building sail!!1 One love from Chiang Mai ... Fantastic sail in 63 foor Wharram from Tanga to Sumatra ... 4,000 miles 4 weeks of beam reach then 5 days to do the 50 miles across Malacca Straits to Phuket where I bumped into Gene nelson!! ... Just spent a week meditating in a buddhist monastery

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    Oh dear! That’s a lot of bad luck. You have my sympathy. I’d give most of the rest of the East Caribbean a miss.

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    The joy of doing what you love best. Being free, living your dream.

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    Wow I am feeling it with you. A tough 24hrs hours. Very nicely written Dave.
    Good luck with the rest of your jobs, island hops and see you soon!

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    The entry is a blueprint of Cameron's midnight arrival in Tanga - except.rhere was no Coastguard to assist. Furrunately the Tange Yacht Club staff was extremely helpful.
    Good going Dave. I am a big admirer of off single-handers.

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    Dave. I feel for you. As sailors, we've all had shit like this happen... many times. Fortunately, no one badly hurt, no major damage, but pretty embarrassing all the same. When safely anchored, I hope you poured yourself a good stiff drink to settle the nerves.

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