| 8:30 PM local time, Wednesday, February 19 (0030 Feb. 20 UTC) 12 30 N 070 02 W. Temp. 84, Humidity 67%, Cloud Cover 30%. At anchor in Paarden
Greetings from the crew of Maverick.
When last we wrote we had just launched Maverick and were at anchor in Tyrrel Bay. In addition to the hull repair, we had retuned the rig, installed a new knotmeter and transducer, added an alarm to the bilge, disassembled the monitor vane and installed a new part to replace the one that failed in the Atlantic crossing, replaced the prop shaft coupling to deal with the vibration that had prevented us from using the engine, installed a check valve in the exhaust to prevent seawater from following seas entering the engine, replaced the transmission cable, and disassembled the steering system in the binnacle, a job that took Mr. Shrode two days just to get to a set screw that needed tightening. And now we were afloat again.
It was a dark and stormy night, the night we launched, which is a well-used phrase that to my knowledge first appeared in literature at the beginning of one of the latter chapters of Dumas' "Three Musketeers," not a sailing yarn at all. But being warm and dry in the cozy cabin of a small boat anchored in a protected harbor on a stormy night, as long as it's not too stormy, is one of the snuggest feelings in the world. Theresa had long since returned home but had left with us a tape of Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes which, now having access to Maverick's stereo, we played for the first time as we hoisted a couple of beverages in celebration of being back on the water. Had I not the company of Ms. Fisher to look forward to, in comparison to which all other pleasures are but weak tea, I could have considered our situation heaven on earth.
The next day we made the rounds and said our goodbyes to all the good people we'd come to know in Carriacou. George and Uwe, who'd fixed the boat, were busy on a new project but stopped long enough to hear a brief word of gratitude from the skipper. Jerry and Roy, the owner and manager, respectively, of Tyrrel Bay Yacht Haulout, and their assistant Kisha had been uncommonly generous and helpful in arranging odd things for us, like a place to stay, which normally wouldn't fall under the heading of boatyard responsibilities. And we will never forget that when we first met Jerry and Roy, they were at the dock standing by with the Travel Lift ready to go as the ailing Maverick limped her way to the dock, and it was their quick action that saved the boat.
We bid farewells to Luciana, Daniella, and Benton at the Turtle Dove, a pizza place near the boatyard, and to John Smith, a real salt who's been cruising Central America and the Caribbean since 1968 in engineless, wooden boats. I think Trevor, who runs the Carriacou Yacht Club, and Harold of the powerboat "Hallelujah" were disappointed to see us go because they believed that they may have had a chance to convert the Captain to creationism, given just another couple of days. I told them that one small act of brotherhood was worth a thousand pages of theology, and since they freely gave the former the failure to make dents in the stubborn expostulations of the Captain in regard to the latter was of little account. Harold still sent me off with a piece of freshly baked cake.
In a couple of days we sailed to Grenada where Alan Hooper, the surveyor, had a final look at the repairs and determined they were top-drawer. There's a rule somewhere that anyone on earth is only five or seven or some other small number of phone calls away from anyone else. It turns out that one of our favorite correspondents, WWII and '79 Fastnet vet Hank Strauss, whose character is beyond reproach, solidly vouched for Alan, who had the highest regard for Roy of the boatyard, who had nothing but praise for Uwe and George, not that we needed anything like that string of recommendations to know that Uwe and George were good guys.
The Captain, ignoring warnings that the water in the lagoon at St. George where we anchored in Grenada may not meet the high standards of the EPA, dove overboard and when he got close enough could see through the murk that there were no new cracks around the repair, which would have been a bad sign. Although this may seem like an unnecessary precaution, we had a heavy trip in front of us and I wanted to see if the boisterous thirty-mile sail from Carriacou had given any indication of movement in the hull.
After having a couple of meals at the Grenada Yacht Club, and reprovisioning and checking out, on Saturday the 15th we sailed with the intention of going straight to the San Blas Islands of Panama, about 1100 miles. We'd read a lot about them and may still get there.
But the going was a bit on the heavy side. After sailing over 25,000 miles, much of it downwind, with little or no damage to the whisker poles, we broke both of them in two days. The seas weren't all that big, say ten to twelve feet, nor the wind that strong, say 25-30 knots. But this piece of water begins a somewhat treacherous patch.
We have four main known challenges between here and San Francisco, although many others may present themselves. One is Point Conception, off of Santa Barbara. Another is the Gulf of Tehuantapec in Mexico. The third is the Panama Canal itself, where things can go awry in the locks. The fourth is the passage from here to Panama, where the seas and currents of the northeast trades come up against a stone wall as they dead end at Central America. Our friends on the Canadian Cal-39 Delphis, who are now a little ahead of us and who have raved about all the islands we will miss visiting because of the repair, reported heavy, steep seas in this area, that they described as "scary." These guys are on the last legs of a five-year circumnavigation, so for them to have called the seas scary they must have been, well, scary. They were repeatedly pooped, took water down the companionway, and lost a solar panel when it was ripped off its mount by a wave.
So when we heard on a weather net, after three days of heavy going, that we could expect even heavier weather around the top of Columbia in the next few days, we elected to divert to Aruba to await better conditions. When we rounded the northwest end of the island to get into the lee, the wind that accelerated around the landmass hit thirty-five, then forty, forty-five, and finally gusted to fifty knots. We had a bit of a job close-reaching in that wind to get to our present anchorage. Even in here, it's blowing like stink but there's a sand bottom with good holding.
Mr. Shrode and the Captain spent the day kluging together one good pole from the remains of the two broken ones. It'll do fine, particularly as the five or six hundred miles we will sail from here to Panama will probably be the last downwind sailing of the circumnavigation. If we don't make a mistake with the pole, there's no reason it won't last that long.
Meanwhile, Ship's Chef Terry Shrode, who is required by regulations to wear one of those silly puffy hats I don't know the name of when making deserts, has taken inspiration from Harold and baked a cake tonight. He put it outside, so if it rains he'll be the one that left the cake, etc.
We put on the Gospel Harmonettes again. I once saw Dorothy Love Coates at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. She was, in her prime, an imposing figure. She looked like she could have played in the NFL, and if I were lineman on the opposing side and she looked at me with that, "Son, you might as well step aside 'cause I'm COMING THROUGH" look of hers, by God I'd get out of the way. She did for the street what Mahalia did for the concert hall and as long as she sang, you were a Christian. She's singing, "There's No Hiding Place Down Here." No sailor is going to argue with that.
Thanks to the many, many people who wrote notes of congratulations and encouragement after Maverick's launch. They are still a balm for the lonely sailor. Keep them coming to email@example.com and don't forget the website for pictures, links, maps, and archived reports at www.ussmaverick.net.
For those of you thinking of cruising and interested in how the insurance worked out: My premiums for $80,000 of hull coverage have ranged between about $2000 and $2500 per year. The deductible is about $5000, and the repair, which would have cost double in the US, cost about $6000. My premiums will go up as a result of the claim, so counting that I will have to pay all but about $500 of the repair. In retrospect it probably was not worth making the claim, but at the time of the damage I figured the cost of the repair would be far greater, as I'm used to US prices. The insurance does not cover living expenses while the boat is uninhabitable. Although the insurance underwriter, arranged through Bluewater Insurance, has been responsive and I expect to be reimbursed for the cost in excess of the $5000 deductible, the claim has yet to be settled.