We are back into boat work mode, meaning tools out, unwalkable floor in the quarter berth, and the overwhelming view of all the things we could do to take better care of our dear boat. A few days ago - it'll be a week tomorrow - our anchor windlass refused to work and we had to retrieve the anchor by hand. It wasn't as hard as anticipated, so we decided it was going to be a good workout for the next few weeks. Also, I think we felt confident in our ability to fix it as we have access to a lot of boat parts here in the Caribbean, and because Yalçın already repaired it once and knows the system quite well. Deep down it felt sad though, as, for once, we were planning for a real vacation, where we'd enjoy the turquoise water and beautiful landscapes of the Grenadines. The windlass didn't agree, or maybe it wanted to take a break with us!? But we tried not to care and most importantly, not let once again boatwork become the priority. And it worked, for almost a week...

We found this beautiful Chatham Bay, in Union island, the Southern side of the Grenadines, and dropped our hook there. Of course, it didn't end up being much of a vacation as I had an article to write and Yalçın came down with a bad toothache. I feared for a bit that we'd have to sail all the way back North to Saint Vincent to find him a dentist, fearing that something will come in the way of our tropical break again. "Luckily", it was "only" a gum infection and the antibiotics recommended by his mom had a radical effect, we still hope it will be enough.

Nonetheless, we had the chance to swim in the gorgeous turquoise water. We can see the bottom from the boat, it's literally like a swimming pool. By the first day, I had seen 4 turtles breath out of the water and while trying to meet one in the water, I encountered an eagle ray (they are smaller (but still with a long stinging tail) black rays with white spots), which itself encountered a sting ray (round darker and even smaller ray at the bottom - really looked like it was vacuuming the bottom to be honest) with a fish bugging it from the top. I was eager to see how the encounter would happen as they were clearly on a collision course, despite the eagle ray being a little higher up. What happened is that the sting ray stopped - the fish on top of it seemed to panic not understanding what was going on - to let the eagle ray fly above, and then resume its operations as usual - with the fish following. It was amazing. I followed the eagle ray for a bit, hoping roaming might lead me to a turtle and swam back to the boat. Not bad for a first day, and that's without mentioning the amount of starfish laying at the bottom, so many that I worried we might have dropped our hook on one of them. Luckily, it wasn't the case, but a few days later, we found the anchor of a German boat (which actually anchored quite close to us) dead on a starfish, it was heartbreaking! Yalçın who can dive deep enough, moved the shaft gently (I mean, there's not much you can do with somebody else's anchor, right?) freeing the starfish partially and when we came back, there was no starfish. The anchor had dragged a little, so either the starfish had been crushed :( or somehow, it had (been?) moved away.

While Yalçın was suffering from his infection and while I was working, we still went explore the beach and took a walk at sunset. It must have been on the third day, as we left the dinghy solidly tied to the deck from our previous sail for two entire days. The beach was gorgeous with a few shacks on one side and a fancy resort on the other. The wave rolls breaking on the beach displayed how transparent the water is. Right before it breaks, when the roll is formed, you can see through the wave! Purely amazing... I swam/snorkeled for a bit in the shallows and found the largest school of fish I had ever seen: It was difficult to swim out of it, given how big it was! I wondered how many nervous systems had processed my presence to create all these coordinated avoiding movements. Truly magical and fascinating when you know that this, in the same fashion as the flock of birds flying synchronously, is a topic of study for physicists like my humble self!

When Yalçın got better, we dinghied to the beach again one morning with the intention of going hiking. Cowen from the shack Sunset Cove indicated the path to us after showing the baby turtles he gathered from the forest and his picture in a Dutch journal with a cruiser (probably the writer of the article) and a big spliff! With Cowen's advice and the help of satellite images, we took the steep path up where we got a gorgeous view of the anchorage, and always "one's boat"! We then hiked some more for a view on the Tobago cays, the pearl of the Grenadines, which just implemented a new anchoring fee (a bummer for us, I guess we're cursed: it happened to us in Bonaire too). We could have taken a path down to a beautiful beach, but cows decided otherwise. The other path led in front of a house with two dogs, which barked at us ferociously, so we simply decided to walk back and finish our loop to the beach. The path going down in the forest was most welcome as it was already 11 and the sun was high. We went back to Tirb fulfilled for the day.

Nice view after a steep ascension

Despite the rays and turtles (and don't get me wrong, it's already very unique!!), the snorkeling wasn't great inside Chatham Bay itself, all the coral was dead and fish was sparse. But since we had seen a snorkeling sign on Navionics, we didn't give up. Usually, the good spots for snorkeling are located at the extremity of the bay. It was a little far to swim to, so we went for a dinghy mission! We gathered our equipment - nothing fancy: fins, snorkels and the dinghy anchor - and went for it. But at the tip, we discovered (rediscovered I should say since we sailed in front of it) another smaller bay passed the tip. We decided to go explore! It turned out even more transparent than the anchorage. The reason? Coral was alive and reef fish was abundant underneath the surface! The garantee for a beautiful snorkeling session - which we had! - but also, a real nightmare for anchoring the dinghy without damaging this stunning underwater world. After many trials, we finally set off to explore and look at everything. Another experience that makes a day worth living!!

Sadly, the GoPro with which I was doing the underwater footages also decided to die on us, so nothing to share here... Still saw a small moray crawling through the rock, our first lobster, and red urchins which looked a lot like the coronavirus 🙃

Does it make the boat work worth it? Probably at a higher level, but when you're into it, it's sometimes hard not to feel like you're traveling by places without really having the possibility to enjoy them fully. Very likely an issue on how to balance life with full time travel... A friend on the phone told me "oh yeah, the FOMO!". The Fear Of Missing Out. Maybe. Which kind of makes sense if you consider we are living on our savings for a few years. Anyway, getting a bit deep here, so instead, let me feed you with the windlass details.

When we opened it yesterday, we found it full of salt water, a huge bummer! We are not sure how it happened exactly. We suspect the "wiper seal", supposed to insure the water tightness around the shaft that rotates when the anchor goes up and down. But it could also be a faulty seal when we closed down the windlass during its last repair in Colombia. Or even a pre-existing problem: with all the beating up we did since Colombia, we discovered a new leak in the V-berth that had been there forever, so why not in the windlass?

In addition to rust and salt build-up, the part which broke last time, bearing and washer, broke again. For that, at least, we have a replacement (luckily, we bought a few in Colombia). What we feared for the most was the electric motor as it sounded bad in Bequia where the badkindness happened! What Yalçın found out when opening it (he is the electric soul onboard!) is that the brushes supposed to make contact were jammed in place, as if they had melted in their plastic holders. Unsticking them turned out impossible as the holder broke before the new bound.

In conclusion, we have no motor for sure. We may clean and reassemble the windlass to use it as a rachet, allowing us to lock the anchor while it goes up and down. But sadly, we found out that the gear we had remade in Cartagena has also damages in its threads, again. At this point, we are seriously considering getting a new windlass instead of pouring more money in this one, which has a faulty seal, faulty gears (the main gear has already a grove in some teeth) and needs a new motor. We are both all about repairing our equipment as much as possible, both for money and environmental reasons, but at some point, maybe we should invest in renewing what we have on the boat when everything is falling apart.

"We are both all about repairing our equipment as much as possible, both for money and environmental reasons, but at some point, maybe we should invest in renew what we have on the boat when everything is falling apart."

In the meantime, we will have this good arm workout I was taking about in the beginning, a rad preparation for the Atlantic crossing! Let's pretend we're gonna winch the hell of everything like offshore racers! Joke aside, time will help us reach a decision as well as the practice of not having a windlass. We had decided to lift anchor in the next few days to keep exploring the Grenadines but strong winds and the likelihood of swelly anchorages aggravated by the wind waves isn't all that encouraging... Might enjoy the beauty and peace of Chatham Bay for a little longer.

The person (or people) who came up with the saying "cruising is fixing a boat in exotic locations" couldn't be more right!

February 2o23

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