Packing away for the hurricane season by Jojo

Passage from St Lucia to Grenada, May 2015

We were making our way slowly down the Windward Islands towards Grenada, where it was planned that we would leave Island Swift for the hurricane season. The hurricane season goes from the beginning of June to the end of November.  Although we are not planning on working this summer, we still needed to go home for important things like peanut butter and family weddings!

Sunset in the Caribbean

One morning I awoke early to listen to the weather forecast.  We had messages from home, and our plans suddenly changed.  Simon's Dad was very ill.  We changed our flights and made ready to sail south.  At 4.30 the next morning we left St Lucia to sail south to Grenada without delay.

Island Swift waiting to come out of the water
The bottom is not too bad, all that underwater scrubbing helped!
The wind was in our favour which was very lucky, but the north-going current was not.  We had one reef in the main, with jib and staysail, reaching along on the port tack.  Throughout the first 24 hours the north-going current was very strong, but we were heading south.  We were sailing well, going at about five knots through the water, but only making about one or two knots over the ground. There must have been a three or four knot current against us!  This was not good.  The passage was 120 nautical mile which at 5 knots an hour should take 24 hours.  We had planned mentally for the passage to take a day, maybe a bit longer.  Leaving in the early hours of Saturday morning meant we should have arrived at some point on Sunday.  This was not to be.  We realised that we were going to spend two nights at sea.  We made very slow progress for the first day, then the current slowly reduced in intensity and we started to make better time.  It was a frustrating sail.  First we were going too slow then we were going too fast.

During the first night at sea, I was on watch.  It was very dark with no moon and I could only just make out the lights of St Vincent to starboard.  All of a sudden something fell into the sea from the mast!  In a panic I shone my torch into the sea.  What could it be?  With visions of broken rigging and other disastrous calamities I looked.  There, in the warm Caribbean sea, was a struggling bird - a Brown Booby.  It managed to break free of the sea and catapulted itself into our cockpit and onto my lap!  I screamed.  Simon, who had been asleep, came charging up the companionway alarmed at my unusual behaviour.  I quickly reassured him that all was well, and he went back to bed.

Sir Robin Knox Johnson's Haven
Sir Robin Knox Johnson and his boat Haven
I however was left with this rather large creature in our cockpit.  He looked at me indignantly, as he tried to keep his balance and the boat rolled and lurched in an unexpected manner.  He was a beautiful bird.  His beak was a wonderful steel-blue grey colour and he definitely had a sense of humour.  He  clambered up onto the cockpit lockers, then used his wings to balance himself and his neck to pull himself up onto the side rail.  Another wave rolled the boat sharply to port and he fell off, back onto me.  He was a big bird and it was quite worrying looking at him eye to eye, inches away from my face.  He then attempted to climb onto the port rail and was this time washed off by the sea.  On his third attempt he finally made it onto the rail and looked at me triumphantly.  Then very slowly and carefully, he walked along the rail to the stern of the boat and onto the boom gallows.  Here he paused to look at me again, as if to say goodbye.  He seemed to have no fear of me at all.  Then, all of a sudden, he launched himself into the air and flew away!

By day-break we finally started to make headway.   Throughout the day we passed all the islands of the Grenadines to starboard.  We could see them in the distance, but I did not want to get too close to the lee shore.  We arrived off the south coast of Grenada in the middle of the night and hove to for four hours waiting for first light before approaching the land.  We dropped the anchor in four fathoms of water in St David's Bay.  We had made it.
Meeting up with friends Jabis and Philip

We had tea and cake on deck as we watched the boatyard slowly come to life.  We finally received messages from England that all was well, which was a huge relief.  Then went ashore to make arrangements.  We arrived on the Monday and they hauled us out of the water early on the following morning.  This was good timing because on Wednesday and Thursday the slipway was in use by Sir Robin Knox Johnson and his boat Haven.  Customs and immigration were very relaxed, they only come twice a week, so we did all the paper work after the boat was on dry land (something that some countries would not like very much).

All strapped down and secure
The next few days were a whirlwind of work packing up the boat safely.  She was placed in a cradle (rather than the normal props) and she was strapped down.  We stripped the rigging and deck of everything possible and attached the remaining two halyards to chains imbedded in the ground.  We hope that if we are unlucky and a hurricane hits Grenada (an unusual event because Grenada is towards the south of the hurricane area), then Island Swift will survive without damage.  But we also had to implement measures against cockroaches, crabs, ants and the humidity.  Simon was a hero over the three days.  He worked so hard and managed to paint the boat and treat any rust patches that were visible.

Finally Saturday arrived.  We had done all we could and we left our beautiful boat.  What a wonderful time we have had and lucky, lucky us, we will be coming back in November.

Throughout this mad week we were getting regular updates from home. Simon's Dad was now at home which was good news, but we still desperately wanted to get back in time to say goodbye.
Written by Jojo, May 2015

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