Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Curacao to Los Monjes

We finally left the yard in Curacao a week after we arrived - four days longer than our original plan, but with all jobs complete, (there's a job list at the end of the entry, for those interested in the details). The Curacao marina yard was small, but all the better for it as we quickly got to know the other cruisers working on their boats. I drilled my first ever hole below the waterline and despite checking and rechecking with others in the yard I was still apprehensive as the drill attacked the hull. All seems well as although returning Kika to the water was more nerve-racking then normal we didn't spot any new leaks.

We celebrated our much-postponed re-entry into the water by inviting the other cruisers to celebrate our new fridge with cold beer. Sadly by the time I'd finished the wiring, the beers didn't have long enough to cool, so it was the usual Kika warm beer party. Although we were pleased with our efforts, they seemed insubstantial compared with some of the projects being undertaken; rewiring after engine room fire, installing a new engine, removing a layer of the hull then applying an epoxy barrier, gearbox overhaul etc.

Finally by 2pm the next day, we'd transformed Kika from workshop into ocean going sailing vessel and were ready to depart. The other cruisers gave us a great send off as we went astern with our now customary pirouette. We waved goodbye to Ken and Beth on Eagle's Wings, Piet Hein and Tori on Double Dutch, Jasper and Astrid on Antares, Frans on Gemini and Lucas and Matti on Lambada.
We planned our next stop to be the San Blas islands, just east of Panama. It's a six day sail and passes the Colombian coast - renowned for its bandits and dangerously large breaking seas, brought on by the strong winds and counter currents. We'd missed a calm period over the weekend, and with little prospect of the wind easing in the near future we thought we would sail 120miles to Los Monjes, a small island west of Aruba and wait for a weather window there. As Ellen mentioned in the previous entry, our pilot guide finished at Bonaire and the next one doesn't pick up until the San Blas islands. The entry without pilot guide to Spanish Water in Curacao was our first taste of finding our own way in. It was exciting winding our way up the beautiful twisting entrance unsure of what we'd find round the next bend, briefly feeling like navigators of old discovering land for the first time - spoilt only by the occasional shack. For Los Monjes our charts provided no detail of the islands, the only information we had was a sketch map of the anchorage from an ancient pilot book. Nevertheless we had a great overnight sail and arrived at the anchorage to find one other boat; Ouf with Michelle and Isabelle who we'd met in the yard in Curacao. Los Monjes turned out to be little more than a rock with a coast guard station, but we had a fantastic time in the company of Ouf and the Venezuelan fishermen whilst we studied the weather and planned our escape. The fishermen gladly traded fish and lobster for a few dollars and with Ouf's fabulous French cooking they were transformed into the best food we've had so far. We returned the favour, and although a difficult act to follow, Ellen produced some delicious fish and pureƩ pommes de terre.
The only down-side to our stay, which could have been much worse, occurred when the dinghy capsized with Ellen aboard. She quickly swam back to Kika towing the dinghy, but subsequently the submerged engine has failed to show any signs of life, despite the best efforts of the crew of three yachts and off-duty members of the Venezuelan army. The outboard is still in intensive care, having frequent treatments of oil and starting attempts, but it feels like we need to see if our finances will fund a replacement engine and possibly dinghy. Unless we get the engine going while we're on passage we've decided to head directly for Panama rather then the San Blas islands in the hope we can find someone in Panama who can bring the engine to life.

As the passage is notoriously dangerous we decided to contact Herb who is routing us 100 miles north to 14N then west until we reach the longitude of Panama; when we turn South. We're routing around the stormy region, but its adding at least a day and half to the trip.

We set off yesterday (Tues 14th) at 6am and had a fantastic sail in the morning. We were briefly joined by dolphins and bizarrely nearly netted some pineapples which floated past. The wind increased in the afternoon and evening as we headed north on a fine-reach. We made great speed, averaging around 6.8knots and gorged ourselves on lobster we'd purchased the day before. The drains got a good workout overnight with breaking waves putting a couple of inches of water in the cockpit from time to time.

This morning at 5am we made 14N latitude and changed course west. Unfortunately George (the self-steering) wouldn't keep the course, causing the main to jibe a couple of times. So we hove-to and I spent a couple of hours hanging off the back of the boat, fixing the self-steering which had jammed when a bolt had worked its way loose. Once the steering was fixed, we resumed our westerly course and have had a beautiful down-wind sail.

Position @ 15:45: N13°59', W73°25'

We completed the following in the yard:
  • Cleaned, sanded and applied new highly expensive tropical anti-fouling (stops marine life growing on the bottom of the boat)
  • Dismantled and greased sea-cocks.
  • Cleaned, polished and waxed the top-sides.
  • Installed a foot pump for the salt water tap.
  • Self-steering:
    • Shortened the mounting tubes, and drilled to make more secure.
    • Dismantled, cleaned and oiled the bearing.
  • Installed the new fridge:
    • Removed old fridge and filled holes left with polyurethane foam
    • Drilled hole for new through-hull fitting incorporating cooling circuit for fridge.
    • Sealed inside of hole with epoxy - to stop moisture seeping into the hull.
    • Installed new through-hull with generous quantities of polyurethane sealant.
    • Added sea-cock
    • Made new supports for the cooling holding plate in fridge box
    • Plumbed in fridge
    • Re-plumbed the sink.
    • Wired in fridge controller and power to the fridge compressor.
  • Our stern no longer incorrectly reports us as members of the Lymington or Thames yacht clubs
  • Repaired the bilge pump pipe, which I incorrectly routed so that the propeller had cut through it.
  • Organised sail repair to a split in the main.

No comments: