Marina Cay, BVI to Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI: March 11, 2008

Conditions Preceding Departure: High winds (15 to 25 knots) have been blowing for days, but the forecast for our departure day was 10 knots and clear skies, not the ideal conditions for our boat, but considering we had two unseasoned passengers (my mother and my nephew), it would prove to be a fine day of slow sailing in the normally calm Sir Francis Drake Channel.

We rounded the northern side of Marina Cay under motor and raised the only two working sails we had rigged at the time (the main and the staysail) and progressed down the south eastern shore of Tortola at three knots in very calm seas. My mom and Cole enjoyed the trip very much, but the slight rolling motion eventually sent my drowsy mother to my “sea bunk” about half way through the voyage for what appeared to be a very serene nap. It took a couple of hours longer to arrive at our destination than I had anticipated so we overshot our ETA in Nanny Cay Marina by about an hour and a half. I radioed the marina and told them of our schedule and turned on the “Iron Wind” (the engine – something I don’t like to do very often, diesel being over $5 a gallon in the Caribbean) to get there before the crew went home.

But when we arrived just outside the breakwater (as we were taking down the sails and being blown into the jetties) our hydraulic transmission just stopped working. In a state of “high anxiety,” I woke up all the snoozers on board and ordered Sara and Alexis to the windlass to drop the anchor on my command, and then I pulled the floors in the salon and dove into the engine room. After checking the oil level in the transmission, I discovered that had it not only lost all its contents into the bilge, but we also confirmed that we indeed had lost all ability to maneuver. I quickly poured (an oxymoron) more oil into the transmission (so it could eventually all end up in the bilge as well), and we were able to limp into the harbor only to find a German-registered sailboat spinning around in the basin trying to back into the lift.

Though we were late and I officially lost my “slot,” I got on the radio and called the dock master and told him that not only were we dragging the bottom of his tiny harbor, but we were at risk of losing our maneuverability and he needed to get that boat out of the basin if he didn’t want me to “rake the harbor.” The very professional dockhands calmly instructed the captain of this errant vessel to tie off to a nearby dock and let me into the travel lift slip. Preston, in the dinghy, acted as my bow thruster and maneuvered the bow as I eased her into the travel lift’s slip stern first, and just as our lines were caught by the hands waiting on the docks, the transmission sputtered into permanent neutral.

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