29/12/2016 – Rodney Bay

Where have the last three weeks gone? Sorry there have been no updates, I won't bore you with excuses. Our first shift on the ARC Finish Line was really busy. I think we registered more boats (34) than any other crew. We took over from our friends on Chat Eau Bleu at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday 10th and had our first boats about half an hour later. The busiest two hours was 2200 to midnight when we had seven boats crossing the line, made rather difficult by the lack of moonlight! At least these days we have the advantage of AIS and Yellowbrick. All ARC boats carry a Yellowbrick and their position gets updated every hour as they close in on St Lucia so we know who we are expecting. Not all boats transmit an AIS signal but those that do were often picked up on Marine Traffic so, again, we had a pretty good idea when we could expect boats. They are supposed to radio in when two miles from Pigeon Island then again as they come around the point and can see in to Rodney Bay though not all did. Modern technology plus local data cards for the iPads made our life much less fraught. We had a gap between midnight and about 0230, so time to grab a short sleep, except you are mindful that they might actually arrive a bit quicker if the wind suddenly perks up and we were both awake well before the alarm went off! After that one there was another gap of about three hours, so a bit more sleep. This particular boat seemed to have decided to arrive in daylight and we were up well over an hour before they arrived. A chap came up in a dinghy to find out when we were expecting a particular boat as he wanted to welcome them when they crossed the line. We invited him on board to wait. We discovered that we had both crossed with the ARC in 2009. After he'd left I finally remembered his name and that of his wife! We subsequently met Gerald at the final prize giving party and on the marina pontoon. When we were relieved at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning we re-anchored in the bay, not without a couple of problems. Problem number one: the alternator charging light and temperature warning light both came on. A slipping fan belt could cause the first but not the second while motoring about a quarter of a mile wouldn't cause the second. The second problem was setting the anchor. In the end I pulled it back up, or rather the windlass did, and discovered a very large, heavy fish trap impaled on the anchor which I couldn't shift. Eventually John freed it and we dropped it well inshore, close to some fishing pot markers. The next few days were spent on boat jobs. An Internet search revealed that the two lights meant that the alternator was dead, bad news because it was New in Annapolis less than two months before. It was doubly bad news because there isn't a replacement in St Lucia. John took it ashore and Egbert of MarinTek sent someone to collect it. The next day was a public holiday so we didn't find out about it until later in the week. Our problem was that without the alternator the fresh water cooling would not get pumped around the engine because we couldn't fit the belt, this meant we were stuck out in the anchorage and needed to be on the Finish Line again on Friday. John made a shorter fan belt using fairly chunky bungee, sewn together and the joint protected with some heat shrink. It worked! Our second shift on the Finish Line was very different! Officially the line closed at noon on Friday but several boats were expected before about 10:00 on Saturday so we were asked to man the line and welcome to St Lucia. We did get a bit more sleep this time. Once we dropped the mooring we made our way into the marina where we were allocated a berth. The prize giving party was held on Saturday evening, it was very strange knowing so few people but recognising the names of boats which we 'finished' when they were awarded prizes! The following week passed fairly rapidly. Egbert sent a mechanic called Gary to replace the crankshaft seal on Wednesday. He thought it should take him a couple of hours, in the end it was nearer seven, not helped by the number of times he had to return to base to collect extra tools or search for information on engines as old as ours! Fortunately John has a lot of tools which saved some return trips. We now have an engine which doesn't leak oil to be sprayed around by the fan belts. John spent a number of hours touring Castries in search of a replacement alternator while a recommendation, just up the road on Gros Islet, attempted to repair ours. Fortunately he succeeded because John failed! It possibly won't work for long but at least it is now in place so its double belts will power the water pump. An aftermarket alternator in the U.K. will cost 40% of the official one available 'locally at some time in the future-1 week, 2weeks....'; we'll see how long this one lasts. Provided that we can keep the waterpump turning a failed alternator is not a serious problem, the engine battery alternator can be switched to charge both batteries and either the main generator or the Honda can power the battery charger; double redundancy system. We spent Christmas Day with Deb and Pete on Chat Eau Bleu, a catamaran with air con. Pete cooked lamb, roast potatoes, squash and green beans while we provided roast turkey, stuffing and Christmas pudding. Deb made gravy and I made custard. We also took along a box of crackers. It was a very civilised occasion with plenty of lubrication. I had also made mince pies and a Christmas cake which we are still eating. We had bought a whole turkey but John jointed it because we could never have cooked it in the boat oven. I cooked up all the bits first, leaving just the boneless crown for Christmas Day. All we have left now is some turkey stock with lots of little bits of meat in it which should make a tasty soup. We finally cleared out of St Lucia this morning and left the marina at about 1330. Our destination is Bequia but we have anchored for the night in Anse Cochon, ready for an early start tomorrow. Sent from my iPad

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