A disturbance

This started as a particularly pedestrian blog post.

Now I’m writing it sitting on the leeward berth, the laptop sliding off my knees as we race south – and it is a race: Me and Samsara against the “tropical disturbance” which may or may not develop into a tropical storm or even a hurricane. One way and another, it is not to be trifled with.

But it is stomping across the Atlantic at 20 knots – straight for me.

I am relieved to report that the map shows it is still 1,500 miles away. But there is no doubt that it is coming and since I am rather new to sailing the Caribbean during the hurricane season, I have convinced myself that it is coming for me!

So, this is not going to be a post about how these delightful islands are becoming as familiar as my local high street. I was going to say that Instead of the Co-Op for Pringles and Timpson’s for more front door keys, it is St Lucia for the watermaker and Dominica for the Kindle repair. Actually, it was supposed to be Martinique for the watermaker repair but the company there was useless (never returned calls, didn’t acknowledge emails, had no idea when they might get round to it…)

So, as you might try the cycle shop if you can’t get what you want in the hardware store, I sailed over to St Lucia where Jon White of Regis Electronics fixed it in no time at all (and told me I was operating it all wrong).

I stayed just long enough to give it a quick test in the marina and drink several bottles of Piton aboard a big boat called Stargazer with some lovely people called Andy, Jo and Jo’s sister Vicky. Jo had given Andy Old Man Sailing and now Andy gave me all the electronic charts for the whole world!

After that, it was time for a proper sea trial of the watermaker.

Also, the Kindle needed to go back to the repair shop in Dominica. They said they’d fixed it a month ago – and it packed up the very next day on the way to Antigua.

So now – by this somewhat circuitous route – I was back in Dominica, anchored off the fishermen’s shacks in Roseau and Maria at Compusol said to come back tomorrow.

Then the Hurricane Tracker app opened with a big red X. A red X means “seven-day cyclone chance greater than 60%”.

I turned to Facebook (when you don’t know what to do, turn to Facebook.)

The advice was as universal as only Facebook advice can be:

Get into the mangroves in Martinique.

Get into the mangroves in Antigua.

Wait and see.

Go south now.

Watch YouTube videos about hurricane preparation.


“Go South” is the standard advice. Even I know that – but the predicted track for this disturbance covered the coast of Venezuela. There wasn’t any gap to “go south” into. Maybe I should go north instead – there was plenty of room to the north.  Come back when it’s all over… The Facebook seers didn’t even dignify this with a comment.

Meanwhile, I had to change the freshwater pump or I wouldn’t be able to flush the watermaker even if it was working. The pump is under the sink. Changing it took the whole afternoon. With the cabin temperature at 38°C, tropical disturbances didn’t seem so urgent.

But by five o’clock, a new Windy prediction showed the storm passing north of Grenada. Suddenly Trinidad was shown in blue which means “light winds”. Now it made perfect sense to go south.

This was on Thursday evening. The disturbance/storm/hurricane wouldn’t hit until Monday afternoon. That gave me three and a half days to do 300 miles. With a trade wind on the beam, I could average 100 miles a day, no trouble.

I did spend some time working out that if I left in the morning, I’d still have three days and that way I could stock up with beer and buy a 7mm spanner which, I had discovered during the water pump replacement, I am lacking.

You can just see the headlines, can’t you: “Sailing pensioner drowned in hurricane. Beer and spanner blamed.”

So, I left. Waving to the Frenchman anchored next door, I pulled up the anchor and the sails all at the same time and hastened south.

The Frenchman raised his glass. The French don’t worry about hurricanes. Why do you think nobody bothers to translate sang froid?

And so, as I say, here we are on target, tramping along at five knots with the super zero flying in nine knots apparent – 122 miles to the turning point at the bottom of Grenada. ETA Trinidad midday Sunday.

I wonder if I can buy a new Kindle in Trinidad?

And a spanner?

6 Responses to A disturbance

  • Glad to hear that everything is ‘under control’ JP. Upon arrival in Trinidad, after resting, could you cast you eye over my Moody 422 and send me a couple of pictures to update me on the condition of ELLEN II. Kind regards and Onwards and Downwards to T&T

  • Your more amazing, mad, but amazing, I am a gog at your exploits.

  • Good Luck you lovely man!
    You’re bold and brave and practical too. Wonderfully evocative writing.

    I sailed with a friend a few years ago, from Antigua to St Lucia and back. We had exciting adventures through Guadalupe, Dominica Martinique and St Lucia, but nothing like the prospect you are contending with.

    Thanks for writing!!
    We’re with you

  • John,

    If you survive, transit the canal and get to NZ, I and Cavalier of Cowes (Rival 32) will be waiting for you off Auckland NZ along with all you desire, free mooring, cold beer, showers and big washing machine.
    Must go now, kettles just boiled and I’m going to sit on the deck and drink a fresh coffee……………mid-winters week, 16c and sun shining, you’ll love it here!

  • Thank you
    Always nice to read what you’re up to. Hope you outrun the storm

  • Great read as always

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.