Haul Out

Finally, haul out day. We topped up the water tanks and pickled the water maker the night before. But there wasn't time to do much more preparation for hauling out, than that. The sails were still rigged, we'd drop them in the yard.

We were scheduled for the first haul of the morning, so the bay was still calm, the wind hadn't really picked up, yet. We'd been moored just outside the boat yard, so just a short little motor to back into the travel lift dock, and we were done.


The boat has been coming to Peake's yard for many years before we bought it, so everybody knew the boat, and we found out that "it's usual space is available". So, that's where it was parked.

Luckily, my foot seemed to heal just in time for the haul out. I was hopping around on crutches for a couple of days on land, but then found I could walk on it more and more. Soon the crutches were relegated to a corner of the room.

We decided to spend a couple of weeks in the yard, to get as many of the big jobs done as possible, in the hope that we could return keep the yard time as short as possible when we returned. Of course, most of these quickly stalled when we found we needed parts or people that weren't immediately available. Some of the big jobs were:

  1. Flush the diesel engines with fresh water and coolant to preserve the salt water system. Take old oil samples for analysis and do oil changes while they were warm after running.

  2. Replace the fuel return line that had leaked, and replace the bolts on the alternator arm that were stuck and making it hard to adjust the belt tightness correctly.

  3. Drop the sails and get them to a local sail maker, to restitch and replace the UV covers, as appropriate. Sails that live on roller-furlers have a strip of UV-protective material along the edge, that's exposed to the sun when they are rolled up. These wear out, and their stitching gets degraded in the sun.

  4. Replace the stack-pack sail bag. The old one already had a few repairs, and the sun-worn fabric was starting to rip. The sail maker would make one.

  5. De-rig the boat, putting mouse-lines in place of halyards, to save them from sun-damage while on the hard.

  6. Get rope clutches around the cockpit that had broken springs off, and replace the cams. A local rigger helped get some seized bolts out, and get them apart.

  7. Service all the winches. The same rigger took on the job.

  8. Re-install the old gas sprung vang. We had found it still lying in the boatyard in Grenada, where we had replaced it. Some fittings needed to be re-created to re-fit it.

  9. Service the hydraulic back-stays and deal with a slow leak somewhere in the system. The yard had a hydraulic shop that could handle this.

  10. Remove and service the anchor windlass, there was some corrosion on the deck around it, that needed to be dealt with. A rigger got it off, and took it to service.

  11. Remove the bow thruster, so that corrosion inside the cavity could be dealt with.

  12. Remove the propeller, and replace the cutlass bearing, behind it. The yard propeller shop could check the balance to see if that was causing the vibration issues.

  13. Re-work the fresh-water plumbing around the tanks. The fridge is keel-cooled with the drinking water, on this boat, but the return feed to the water tank went into the tank vent, which stopped the vents from working properly. The tank valves were corroding and needed replacement, but we couldn't find BSP-threaded valves locally. So, this project got deferred.

  14. Get the washing machine out, and repair / replace it. With the help of a local carpenter, John Francois, we figured out how the cabinetry came apart to get the washing machine out. The local appliance repairman thought it was a lost cause, so we'll have to look for a new one in the French Antilles (where they use 220V).

  15. Clean and pack away everything. Get rid of any open food that would attract rodents or go off.

  16. Do some touch-up fibreglass on the dinghy, and repaint it.

  17. Repaint the transom, which had collected quite a few dings. And some other areas on deck where paint was coming up.

  18. Repaint the bottom. The yard would handle these paint jobs while we were away, just in time for our return.

Of course that's just the biggish things, there were many more small jobs too. We were much more ambitious than the previous haul-out in Grenada, where we'd deferred some jobs to deal with in Trinidad. We didn't get everything we wanted to done, but got most of the important jobs started, and found local contacts to help.

Of course, we also found some time to get out of the yard and explore the island. The peninsula with the boat yard used to be a British Naval base. It was handed over to the US, as part of the Destroyers for bases deal in WWII. The US had an air strip where the boatyard is and a missile radar tracking station on the mountains behind it. It was all handed back to Trinidad in the late 80s. Some of the old facilities are used by the Trinidadian Coast Guard and Police, others are now sheds for the marine industry.

We hiked up to the old abandoned radar station above cathedral grove. Visited a few other historic sites, and ate a lot of local roti.

John headed back to Canada for a couple of months, and I headed to Europe for some conferences and travel, then South Africa.

Time on the water: 0:19
Distance covered: 0.2nm
Avg speed: 0.8kts
Max speed: 2.4kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track

Engine Test

Finally, we got permission to come ashore and complete immigration and customs paperwork at Crews Inn. It doesn't usually take this long, but apparently we were unlucky. There were a couple of guard pelicans on duty at the customs dock.


Every now and then we've been feeling some vibrations when running the engine, that just didn't feel right. They tend to happen when offshore in a strong current, so it's hard to debug and put a finger on them. But we were fairly confident that they were coming from something in the wet part of the drivetrain, under the boat. You could feel it below your feet, in the engine room.

So, one of the last jobs to do before hauling the boat for the season was to get an engine mechanic on board to try to hear and diagnose the issue. Then it could be dealt with on the hard.

Raymond, a local diesel mechanic, was happy to come out and have a look. We did a quick test drive, while he sat down in the engine room and listened to things. He was quite confident that the sound was just a worn cutlass bearing, which was something we were planning to replace anyway. A fairly straightforward job to do, out of the water.

Time on the water: 0:28
Distance covered: 0.9nm
Avg speed: 1.8kts
Max speed: 7.3kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track


Trinidad is just offshore from Venezuela. The crossing from Grenada to Trinidad has had some piracy issues in the past, from entrepreneurial Venezuelans, so we planned this one a little more carefully than a typical crossing of that length. Many sailors had advice to offer, but really the precautions to take aren't that complicated, and the risk seems pretty minimal. We hear rumours that there have been more recent incidents, but officially it's a been a few years since the last one.

We filed a float plan with the Trinidadian coast guard, telling them when to expect us and how to contact us. And we sailed at night, where it's far harder to spot a vessel and board it. We went dark on AIS, too, but that was probably an unnecessary precaution. AIS is a very useful anti-collision mechanism. Some sailors had suggested running completely dark, without lights, but that seemed a little too extreme. If on really needs to escape something, there's always the option to douse the lights and hide in the dark.

After clearing out in Port Louis (a taxi ride away), we planned to set off in the late afternoon, so we could get out of Woburn Bay before sunset. It has some reefs at the entrance, marked, but it's always good to treat reefs with respect.

As usual, before starting the engine, I went down to the engine room to check oil and coolant. It smelt of diesel, not a good sign. The bilge looked milky, clearly some diesel had leaked into it. It didn't take long to find the source, a rubber fuel return line that had cracked from heat and age, and there was a nice pool of fuel on the engine. While we knew we probably had some spare line on board somewhere, the return lines are low pressure and I could easily jury rig a repair with some heat-shrink over the line, where it was cracked. We only had to get to Trinidad, where we'd be hauling the boat in a couple of days. A full repair could happen later.

This took half an hour. By the time the engine was ready to run, and the bilge was mopped up, the sun was setting. But that was fine, we could still make the trip to Trinidad that night.

The sail was easy enough, we had a good wind on a beam reach, most of the way. We took 4 hour shifts on watch, if I remember right. There were a few other sailboats visible on the crossing. And some coming the other way.

Half way between Grenada and Trinidad are some gas fields, with well lit platforms surrounded by tankers and other support ships buzzing around them. We kept our distance, about 7nm away.

As we approached Trinidad, the water got busier, traffic from the platforms and elsewhere converging on the Bocas del Dragon. This is the gap between Trinidad and Venezuela, leading into the bay of Paria. Approaching the Bocas, we lost our wind, and picked up a pod of dolphins for a while.


We headed through the Boca de Monos, the Eastern-most channel. The landscape of Trinidad appears immediately different to the other East Caribbean islands. A thick jungle above cliffs that were slowly collapsing into the ocean.

And suddenly we popped out into Chaguaramas, a busy industrial harbour, with lots of oil industry support vessels, and a few big boat yards. We anchored out in the dirty bay, and waited for permission to come ashore and clear in.

Later we found out that the spot we'd anchored in has a wreck, that's known to eat anchors. It's best to take a mooring ball in this area.

This a couple of days to get, but that was fine, we caught up on some sleep while we waited.

Time on the water: 15:08
Distance covered: 85.2nm
Avg speed: 5.6kts
Max speed: 10.7kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track


The last leg of our push down to Grenada, to meet an appointment with Aaron, a marine electrical specialist on the 29th.

We tried to leave early, but it was raining, so we had breakfast while we waited for it to stop. We motored downwind out the bay, and then picked up the wind around the corner. Sailed down past Les Tantes to Grenada.

Good wind most of the way, but it died a little as we turned the corner round the South end of Grenada. Still, we were able to sail until our entrance to Woburn Bay.


The foot was making some progress, but still not useable. We found a doctor who could see me (finally, an English speaking doctor) in St. George's. He thought it was looking fine and told us to just keep on with the vinegar baths.

The meeting with Aaron was brief but fruitful. We didn't have time to do any real work, but planned some work to carry out in 2023.

Time on the water: 6:04
Distance covered: 38.3nm
Avg speed: 6.3kts
Max speed: 11.2kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track


We left early, to get to Carriacou and clear in, before they shut for lunch.

The wind was behind us most of the way, so we were running. The morning started with a gybe at the end of Bequia, then a broad reach South, into a misty squall. Slowly the wind shifted and it morphed into a downward run, again.


Managed a little wing-on-wing sailing, maybe for half an hour, but it was too unstable, without the whisker pole.

We made our lunch deadline in Carriacou and cleared into Grenada. In the bay we ran into Michael, previously from Brickhouse, now on his own new boat, Amiga Mia. A friend, Elena was on board helping get things organized. We had tea with them on his boat, and they brought a freshly caught barracuda to our boat for dinner. It was lovely to see the boat and catch up.

Time on the water: 5:27
Distance covered: 39.7nm
Avg speed: 7.3kts
Max speed: 11kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track


Continuing on South. The wind was forecast to be mild, so we decided to sail down the windward side of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent. It probably helped a bit, but we still ended up motoring almost all day. We were on our own on the windward side, didn't see any other yachts around.

There was some light rain.


Eventually, as we rounded Saint Vincent and headed towards Bequia, some wind picked up. We arrived in the bay in the dark, but we know our way around it (to some degree) and after a few attempts found a secure anchorage. It was quite far out of the bay, so we got some swell in the night and it was quite rolly.

Time on the water: 15:29
Distance covered: 99.5nm
Avg speed: 6.4kts
Max speed: 10.2kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track


We were on a roll now, and keen to keep moving South. So, we got up at 6am to depart, but realised our anchor was underneath another boat and we'd need them to move before we could pull it up and leave. Fortunately, someone on that boat got up to have a pee off the stern, and we got his attention. Turned out, he didn't need to move, after all :)

We motor-sailed all the way into Le Marin, because the winds were ahead of us for a lot of it. We were luck, and caught the tides fairly well, through the bay.


As we were coming past Rocher du Diamant, the local cruiser's net started up on the radio, and we got advised to try to see a doctor based in the Marin marina. He was known to be willing to see sailors at short notice.

Cul-de-sac du Marin is an enormous anchorage, and well protected. Sometimes too protected, it gets hot. We anchored quite far back, just inside the channel where there's more wind. I think we may do this again in the future.

The doctor saw me, and suggested trying to remove the remaining spines with a hyperdermic needle and some tweezers. But this was too big of a job for him to do, we'd have to handle it ourselves. Helpfully, he prescribed some crutches, which made the next weeks a lot easier. Should have got some much earlier!

At the local chandlery, we bought the bits to make up a new snubber line. And we picked up a (low-cost, but hard to find) engine part for a fellow sailor, to carry to Carriacou. We'd heard about this request on the cruiser's net that morning.

Time on the water: 3:48
Distance covered: 22.8nm
Avg speed: 6kts
Max speed: 9.7kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track

To Martinique

We weren't stopping in Dominica, just overnighting on the way down. So, we awoke at 4am to depart again. We set the 1st reef on the main sail, because the weather prediction was for some reasonable wind.

Dominica looked spectacular in the morning sunlight, we'll have to come back here, next year.


We were treated to a pod of dolphins jumping, hard at work fishing. Later, in the north of the Martinique channel, some whales breaching.

It got quite gusty in the channel, we ended up on the staysail for most of it. Once behind Martinique, suddenly we were becalmed again, and motored into St. Pierre on what looked like a mill-pond. There, there were more dolphins at work.

The check-in computer in St. Pierre is at a restaurant, so we'd hoped to get lunch there, but sadly they were fully booked. So, back to the boat.

I wasn't walking, but could get around on our folding bicycle, with some help.


Our throttle handle got loose, somewhere on the way in. It got cleaned up and reattached later, but there was a temporary pair of vice-grips as throttle, that day.

We continued on down to Fort de France, motoring. The French Antilles have a lot of lobster pots in the sea, that you have to keep an eye open for. You don't want to get the line from one wrapped around your propeller. I was so busy watching out for lobster pots, that I missed a little sailboat that got incredibly close to us. Whoops!

Fort de France was very crowded. We ended up anchored right in the corner of the anchorage, where the ferries come past you at high speed.

Time on the water: 12:36
Distance covered: 67.7nm
Avg speed: 5.4kts
Max speed: 11.3kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track

Heading South

My foot still wasn't healing, but it was time to start heading South. I finally had an appointment with a local doctor in Buillante, to look at my foot, but he didn't turn up. so we stopped waiting around, and set off.

We motor-sailed South, with some on-shore (Westerly) wind until we passed Basse-Terre, then the wind started to pick up from the East and we could sail South.

We stopped in Terre-de-Haut, to check out of Guadeloupe. It was still early enough in the day to make Dominica by sundown, so we headed off again, through Passe des Dames. We were joined by some dolphins, through the Passe.


We arrived off Dominica, just as the sun was setting, and anchored off the beach in Prince Rupert Bay.

I was a little aggressive in setting the anchor, and snapped our snubber line, when the anchor suddenly took and we were moving too fast. The snubber line is an elastic line that we run from the anchor chain to a deck cleat, to smooth out loads on the anchor. We use a chain hook that holds on the chain when under load, but isn't positively attached to the chain, so it flew off with half the snubber line and was lost in the deep.

Time on the water: 6:38
Distance covered: 41.3nm
Avg speed: 9.5kts
Max speed: 6.5kts
Crew: John, Stefano

Navionics Track


Time to head back to Basse-Terre, to go do some more hiking in its mountains, and visit the hot spring at Bouillante.

This was a comfortable downwind sail, across the bay. Once we rounded the corner behind Basse-Terre, we were in the wind's shadow, and had to motor-sail up the coast to Bouillante.


Bouillante is named after the hot spring on the mountainside, that it taps for geothermal energy, and pours a river of hot wastewater into the sea. You can swim in the sea, where this torrent of hot water arrives, and enjoy a hot spring in the sea.

We've visited the bay before, but hadn't tried the springs, yet. You can't keep my mother away from a hot spring, so in the evening we set off in the dinghy to try them out.

The hot springs are something quite special. The hot water current is strong, you have to stand to the side of it, to keep your footing, on the rocky bottom. There was quite a crowd on this side, so I swam across to the other (almost empty) side. This was great, until I stepped on something sharp, a black sea urchin. There was a reason everybody was on the other side...

I pulled as many of the big protruding spines out as I could, and we headed back to the boat. In the light, we found around 40 spines stuck in my foot, and after an hour of poking around with tweezers, we'd hardly got anything out.

So, quickly organized a car rental from the local mechanic that we'd used before, and went into the hospital in Basse-Terre to let the professionals have a look. The nurses at the hospital have seen it all before, and said nothing can be done. Getting the spines out would butcher my foot. The spines are almost entirely made up of calcium carbonate, which the body can absorb over a couple of weeks. They sent me home with Microlax, a topical laxative cream meant as a suppository for babies, and instructions to apply the cream to the wounds and change the bandage daily.


We heard a variety of home remedies for the urchin spines:

  • The mechanic suggested soaking the foot in petrol.

  • A drunk sailor on the dinghy dock suggested getting drunk and tenderizing the sole of the foot with a rock. To break all the spines, so they dissolve quickly. This is apparently the Polynesian way.

  • Various people suggested peeing on it.

  • A local remedy was pulp of green papaya, wrapped onto the foot under cling-film, where it would ferment. We tried this at some point.

  • Soaking the foot in hot vinegar can help dissolve any exposed spine. Did this regularly, later on.

  • One can wait until some pus builds up around the spine, and then squeeze them out. A few weeks later, some of them came out like this.

Surprisingly, there was no pain after the first hours. As long as I kept all weight off the foot. This meant I was boat bound, and hobbling on one foot for the next few weeks. When it didn't seem to be healing, we tried to find doctors to look at the foot and suggest things to do, but we ended up just having to wait, and re-dress it daily.

While I was kicking my heels on the boat, everyone else went hiking in the mountains of Basse-Terre. And swimming in the hot springs (on the safe side).

One evening the dinghy, that they'd anchored near the springs on a rocky bottom, dragged its anchor, and drifted out to sea. John realised it was gone, swam to another yacht at anchor, woke up their French charter captain, and asked for help to go looking for the dinghy. They found it :)

And then everyone started heading home. First my parents, back to South Africa, then Clare back to Canada. John and I would take the boat down to Trinidad to haul it out for Hurricane season.

But first, we waited for my foot to heal...

Time on the water: 6:14
Distance covered: 37.9nm
Avg speed: 6.1kts
Max speed: 9.5kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare, Sandy, Ugo

Navionics Track