Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wallilabou Bay to Young Island

Wallilabou Bay is infested with mosquitoes. In general, Caribbean mosquitoes aren't bad, but Lisa had so many bites that her legs were pock-marked with mosquito bites. The bay was particularly bad because the Illusion was moored stern into the wind, which meant that there was no breeze flowing through that boat. But at least we now had the entire boat filled with water.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Norman wanted to leave at 11am, but Alena, Josh and Noah wanted to wait till at least Noon, because they had wanted to take a shower, and use the internet at Steve's. Despite Norman's assurances that our travel dates were OK, it turned out that January 2nd was not a good date to fly out of St. Lucia—the customs office would be closed until 9am, and our flight left at 8:40am. This meant that we would have to depart the Illusion on January 1st, take the ferry from Bequia to St. Vincent, and then fly from St. Vincent back to St. Lucia so that Norman could discharge us from Bequia on the 31st. So we had to book an extra flight as well as a hotel room. Alena was in the same situation, so we bought our plane tickets and booked hotel rooms together.

At 10:00am, I saw that we had at least two hours, so I jumped into the water and swam out to the arch and back again. It was a surprisingly long swim, despite the relatively quiescent current. By the time I finish, it felt like I had a really good work-out. I had half an hour to dry off and change before everyone else came back and we got the boat ready to go. I was put on the helm, and skiff line got undone and replaced, and then Ron pulled the mooring line off. Unfortunately, when I put the engine into gear to move off our mooring position, the engine didn't engage. None of us noticed at first, but after a while when we saw the shore getting closer it became obvious what had happened. Norman ran down into the engine room, and came back up a bit later, declaring that the shearing pin attaching the engine to the propellor had sheared off. Apparently, the boat was designed for there to be a loose coupling between the engine and the propellor, so that fouling the propellor wouldn't damage the engine (or the propellor). However, during a recent incident, the loose coupling broke, and Norman did not have a replacement handy, so made do with a rigid coupling. As a result, you had to baby the throttle and the gear shift, and even then once in a while, even shifting gears could shear off the pin!

Well, with the main engine disabled, Norman jumped into the skiff and to start it so he could at least tow the Illusion back into deeper water. When he tried to start the motor, however, the choke came off in his hand! At this point, there was a crowd gathering on the shore to watch the spectacle as the Illusion edge closer and closer to the beach. I felt the rudder go stiff in my hand as it dug into the sand on the beach. Tony and a few sailors from another boat came up to the Illusion and tried to push it back off the sand, but with a 20 ton boat, a few hands just wasn't enough to move it. I saw Norman rip off the cover on the skiff's outboard motor and start taking the engine apart to try to cajole it into working. It took him an agonizing 5 minutes, but he eventually got it started, and he then drove up to the bow to pick up a towline and started towing the Illusion into deeper water.

At first progress was slow and unapparent, but a few pushes from folks ashore helped it along, and soon the Illusion was headed into deeper water—but with another boat in the way. I felt a moment of error as the wheel wouldn't respond to my efforts as the rudder was still in the sandbar, but after a bit I felt the rudder free up from the sand and I turned the Illusion away from the other vessel and into the middle of the bay, where the anchor was dropped. The relief on everyone's face was apparent, but that didn't last long, as Norman was livid when he came back on board.

"You're supposed to check that the engine engages before coming off the mooring!" he shouted at Allison. "That wasn't on the check list?" "Yes it is, but you weren't looking at it!" It turned out not to be on the crew's check list, and I do remember checking it routinely when I sailed other vessels, but if you ask me this sort of thing is the skipper's responsibility, not that of the crew.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

We turned off the Illusion's main engine, and Norman worked on it while the rest of us cooled our heels and relieved the exciting moments. Norman knows every piece of the boat well, including the engine, so it didn't take him 30 minutes to replace the sheering pin, and we were off again. After all that excitement, the sail down into Young Island was unexciting, taking only 90 minutes with the engine at a fairly slow speed. We pulled into the Young Island area around 4pm, dropping anchor close to the shore but further away from the dock. Lisa and I got our dive gear ready, and were dropped off at the jetty along with several others, but while they would return to the Illusion at 5:30pm, we would do the dive and then be dropped off at the Illusion by the Dive St. Vincent folks. Since Allison would be joining us for the night dive, she would be dropped off as the others were picked up.
From St. Vincent and the Grenadines

We walked over to the dive shop, and got everything ready for the dive. By the time 5:30 rolled around, we were on the jetty waiting for the night dive to start. We saw Norman drop off Allison and pick up the rest of the crew at a jetty not far from where we were, but on the return, the skiff had its outboard out of the water and folks were out rowing. We asked Allison as she came up what was going on, and she said that the outboard had gone out. She made the comment that she didn't think that they were going to do the charter on the 15th after all, as the boat was simply not reliable enough.

The night dive was on a site close to Young Island known as Critter Junior. We were each given a flash light by Calli, and went into the water for a fairly long, 50 minute dive at shallow depth. Night scenes are completely different from day scenes—lobsters, which are usually hiding in crevices at night are out in full force, and we saw large lobsters roaming about scavenging in the open. We also saw many shrimp, and lots of other creatures that I can't remember. Allison had been a little nervous about doing the night dive (it was her first one), but once in the water she was completely comfortable and had no issues at all.

Despite the wet suit, however, I got cold somewhere around 45 minutes, and wasn't unhappy when the time was up and we returned to the dive boat and the Illusion, where the crew had kept some spaghetti for us. We met our newest crew member, Mary from New York, and went to bed worn out after all the excitement of the day.
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