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Leg 6: Caribbean Cruising


Part 2: Grenada


Monday 30th January – Friday 2nd March 2012

 

Grenada is our very favourite of the Caribbean islands. This is fortunate, for we ended up staying there for rather longer than intended due to that rumbustious engine of ours.


To Grenada, Sunday 29th – Monday 30th January 2012

 

Leaving Carlisle Bay early afternoon was not straight-forward as the engine took forever to get going and once it did would run only on two cylinders with the revs going up and down and black smoke billowing from the exhaust. Another yacht had dragged back and was sitting over our anchor, so they had to motor forward – just as a squall of up to 30 knots of wind and heavy rain hit!


The passage was rough and rolly, but with the wind mainly F5 (with a bit of F6 overnight) we had a good downwind ride under jib alone. Our telescopic pole would not telescope, so we had to boom the jib out. Not ideal, but the fresh wind helped to achieve a reasonable set to the sail.


During the night the mast started creaking very loudly, from movement where it passed through the deck. I had whacked some hard wood chocks in between the mast and the deck aperture, but they were not working all that well. Later during our stay in Grenada I found the missing rubber chock (which had disappeared when the mast was unstepped during our refit) lounging in a rarely visited bilge compartment (no idea how it got there!) and replaced the wood chocks with the rubber ones. The mast never creaked again after that. Whilst en route to Grenada, though, it seemed prudent to roll in a bit of genoa. The mast promptly quietened down, but our speed remained good.

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Base map from the CIA; modifications by and (c) G P Caesar 2012.


Over the final eight hours of the passage our speed over ground averaged 7 knots, for which there must have been some current with us. We had not had any discernable current in our favour for the first few hours of the passage, so we could only conclude that as we were heading south-westwards, from 13°N to a little under 12°N (the furthest south we would go) we must have sailed into the North Equatorial Current, which sets to the west at 0.5 to 1.5 knots and which, with the trades having been strong, was probably running close to full speed.


Around noon on the 30th January we closed the very green SE coast of Grenada, bathed in the bright sunshine of a beautiful day. I tried to start the engine. It was having none of it. It would only crank with one cylinder compressed and then would not get up anywhere near enough speed to fire.


‘The Plan’ had been to drop the hook in Prickly Bay and maybe spend a couple of weeks there before moving on. It was apparent that once again ‘The Plan’ would change.


We had heard that a boatyard, Grenada Marine, was based in St David’s Harbour, which would be one of the first bays we came to along the south coast (Grenada’s south coast has a bounty of lovely bays and inlets whose shores have fine beaches backed by hills of sub-tropical forest). We sailed into St David’s Harbour where we would clear customs and immigration and avail ourselves of the services of Grenada Marine.

 

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St David’s Harbour, Grenada


Grenada Marine, Monday 30th January – Monday 27th February 2012

 

The afternoon of our arrival, a mechanic, Pascal, came out to Gulliver G. After having a go at starting the engine to no avail, then squirting WD40 into the air intake whilst I cranked the engine, still to no avail, Pascal determined that the next step would be a compression test. As compression testing involves taking out the injectors and taking various tools aboard, Pascal asked that we see about getting the boat alongside.


The next day was a Saturday, so we stayed put over the weekend. On Monday we discovered that, Grenada Marine having only one dock and this being in use, it would be quickest if we got hauled. Another sailor came over with his tender and between our two tenders, and the marina manager at Gulliver G’s helm, we managed to guide Gulliver G into the travel hoist.


Fortunately, Grenada Marine had a large work force so there were plenty of people on hand to take lines as the lifting strops were adjusted. Much to our surprise, one of the workers donned a mask and dived in to inspect the hull and the position of the strops before they started lifting. 


Once lifted, we were pleased to see that Gulliver G’s hull had remained clean. Grenada Marine did a very good job of ensuring that the boat was entirely level as they laid her up outside the engine shop. This was a relief as we would be living aboard ashore for a while and back in the UK we had seen her left at some pretty crazy angles by yards over the years, which is enough of a pain for working on her let alone living.


By the end of our first night in the boatyard we had learnt a very important lesson: whilst mosquitoes do not tend to be a nuisance at anchor, when ashore the buggers’ll eat you alive. The next day we set about mozzie-proofing the boat (or attempting to, the odd one always got in!).

 

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Ashore at Grenada Marine.

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Mozzie proofing.


With Gulliver G nicely laid up, Pascal was able to get on with the compression test. Off came the injectors, on went the compression tester. Pascal told me to push the starter. The engine spun. And a load of water shot out of the two cylinders which did not have the tester hooked up to them, and all over Pascal. Fortunately, the tester appeared to be undamaged.


“There is a lot of water in this engine,” said Pascal, “it might be cheaper to replace it than to fix it.”


This, of course, was not what we wanted to hear at all. We cranked the engine some more to get as much of the water out as possible. Then it had to be left for a couple of days to get it to dry out so that it could be tested – though even in my state of optimistic denial it was obvious that things were not looking promising.


How all that water had got in there can only be a matter of speculation – some might have been left in following the repairs in A Coruna; some may have got in through cranking the engine for too long (which seems quite likely, the over-cranking itself being a result of poor compression caused by the water ingress in the Bay of Biscay); or, more water may have got in through the exhaust. Whatever the source, salt-water is highly corrosive to the insides of engines and the holes that the injectors screwed into were looking a little rusty…


Whilst the engine was drying out we got a quote for a new engine, which would be a Yanmar 3YM30 (replacing the old 3GM series). The cost would be about $7,000, including import taxes, and with labour in Grenada being much better value than in the UK it would certainly be significantly cheaper to buy and install a new engine there than in the UK.


It was a cost for which we had certainly not budgeted and going down the new route would have a significant impact on our finances.


A second option presented itself in the form of a couple of old Yanmar 3GM30s in the workshop which had been taken out of a cat a year or so earlier when the owner had upgraded to bigger engines.


Whatever happened, it was clear that we were to be at Grenada Marine for a little while yet, but consoled ourselves that there were far worse places to be hauled!


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Clockwise from top left: the boatyard featured a bar on the beach; was amidst beautiful countryside with lovely bays and a great beach for swimming nearby; had a little dock for our dinghy; and plenty of exciting flora and fauna – so we were happy enough!


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The compression test confirmed that our engine was officially dead. All three cylinders were below the compression rating, two of them incredibly so. The yard recommended that replacement of the engine would be far preferable to running up more bills attempting repairs; given the leaking oil seal and other problems which we’d had we conceded the point.


The old Yanmars in the workshop looked a bit rusty on the outside and would, of course, come with no guarantees though Grenada Marine could compression test them. Good compression generally means that an engine is in good internal condition.


Practising the fine art of (self) persuasion we convinced ourselves that a brand new engine would be the best course of action, rather than replacing with an engine that was even older than ours and would probably need replacing again in a few years’ time.


Then we found out the lead time for a new engine: 8 weeks. Add on time to clear customs and installation and we would be looking at nearer three months – or our entire time in the Caribbean.  I can still vividly recall the sticky, sickly feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when I found out how long it would take for a new engine to arrive. Was this it? Was the whole of our Caribbean cruising time to be spent ashore at Grenada Marine? Sure, we liked it there – but not so much that we were happy to miss out the rest of the Caribbean.


Once again we practised some self-persuasion. It was highly effective as it did not take at all long for us to become convinced that the only viable course of action was the second-hand route. In hindsight this was very much the right choice and it seems hard to believe that we had such good luck as to have the option available to us at all.


It took a few days to make contact with the vendor as he was off sailing, but eventually he emailed us back and said that he was looking for $2k for each engine. I offered $1,500 for one of them; a week or so later the acceptance came through. This was a relief as Pascal had already compression tested the better of the two engines, found it to be in good condition and had busied himself with treating the exterior for rust and repainting it. He’d also serviced it and run it for extended periods and it seemed that it was all systems go.


Whilst all of this was going on I was able to get some jobs done on Gulliver G, including replacing the mast-head incandescent bulb in the tri-colour with an LED, which represents a huge power saving when sailing at night. I considered tidying the wiring behind the switch panel, but that is one of those jobs I periodically look into doing and promptly decide that if it ain’t broke, it is definitely better not to try and fix it!


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With the all clear on the new old engine, Pascal completed the refurb and out came our old old engine. For many boats removal of an engine involves significant dismantling of engine compartment and environs, but fortunately ours was able to be hoisted out of the companion-way on the end of a crane without any problems.


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Old engine before I stripped it for spares.

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Newly refurbed replacement engine.


The boatyard gave us a few days before fitting the replacement engine, which gave me time to give the engine compartment a good clean-up. I also checked the cabling for the engine, replacing one of the wires which had almost corroded through – something which would have been virtually impossible to spot with the engine in place but which could have caused engine failure at any time. Shows the importance of checking the full length of all cables and hoses periodically.

 

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Engine bed.

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Checking the cabling.


Valentine’s Day 2012 was a big day for Gulliver G – only two weeks after arriving in Grenada the replacement engine was ready to go in. Being exactly the same as the old engine, no reconfiguration to the engine compartment was necessary, for which we were extremely grateful.


Grenada Marine suggested installing an electric diesel lift pump in place of the engine-mounted diaphragm fuel-lift pump. Because our fuel tank is far below the engine, this was a modification which I had been thinking of doing for years in any case, so readily agreed. The diesel lift pump is the brown cylinder on the left of the right-hand picture below. 


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There was a final piece of work for Pascal to complete: he had identified a couple of fundamental flaws with the manner in which the exhaust system ran, such that Gulliver G was susceptible to sea water ingress again. Grenada Marine were very keen that we should get the exhaust configuration fixed so as to avoid losing another engine.


The exhaust problem was one with which Grenada Marine were very familiar. When we were there, two other boats were having to get flooded engines sorted – fixed in one case and replaced in another. These were both large boats with engines in well excess of 100hp, so a pretty big deal!


Having done some research on the internet I found that the problem of water flooding back into the engine through the exhaust is not uncommon – but does not seem to be widely publicised.


Nigel Calder covers the subject in his excellent Boat owner’s Mechanical and Electrical Handbook, in which he writes: “Every year I get a number of emails from people with flooded engines… More often than not, the engine has functioned fine for years, but then a long-dreamed-of cruise was undertaken and at some point the engine flooded. The common thread is that on an offshore passage the boat got into rougher conditions or bigger seas than it had seen before. The large waves rushing past the boat set up hydrostatic pressures that caused water to syphon into the engine.” So, ours was a textbook example of this not entirely uncommon problem!


Calder’s advice on exhaust installation was exactly the same as Pascal was recommending: we needed an inverted U-shaped mixing elbow on the exhaust manifold. Also, the anti-syphon valve needed adjustment as (a) the hose ran from the valve to the bottom of a cockpit locker before rising to the outlet on the side of the hull, making it ineffective and (b) the outlet on the side of the hull had been painted over – also making it ineffective.


We were pretty disappointed that Gosport Boatyard had not identified these issues since I had paid them a king’s ransom to extend the exhaust hose and move the anti-syphon valve, having anticipated that there may be problems but lacking the technical knowledge or experience to understand exactly what needed to be done myself.


The one mitigating factor in Gosport Boatyard’s defence (despite being a lawyer I had no intention of spending our cruise locked in a dispute with a boatyard, so was perhaps a little too keen to think up excuses on their behalf) was that Marina Seca had not identified the exhaust configuration as the cause of the problem either, instead looping the raw water inlet hose above the waterline as a fix.


When I had contacted Gosport Boatyard from the A Coruna their advice to prevent further ingress had been, when shutting down the engine, to close the raw water intake valve, run the engine for a further 10 seconds to clear the line, then shut the engine down, then close the seacock on the exhaust outlet. GM’s view was that whilst closing the exhaust outlet seacock was a good idea for longer passages (and something which we had done religiously since A Coruna), it being rather hard to reach it was not something we should have to do for shorter hops – hence their insistence on a permanent fix.

The U-shaped mixing elbow was on order from Yanmar long before the replacement engine went in, but would not arrive for a few more days. We were keen to get back afloat as the exhaust could be sorted out on the water, so we were relaunched.


In we went, on went the engine. We motored out into the Bay … and the engine stopped! Damn! We promptly dropped the anchor, having fortuitously come to a standstill in the very best spot (someone later commended our skills at locating the best place to anchor, cough, cough).


We tried re-starting again, but the engine would not run for more than a few minutes before cutting out. It sounded very much like a fuel supply problem as it would hunt and then die.


I went in search of Pascal.


It did not take long to figure out the most likely problem: the only difference in the new installation to the old was the use of the electric diesel pump in place of the diaphragm engine-mounted lift-pump. Everything else was the same – including the fact that the fuel return from the injectors was blanked off. As the electric pump pushed the diesel through at a much higher pressure than the previous arrangement, it seemed likely that too much pressure was building up in the lines to the injectors, causing the pump to stop pumping fuel, eventually resulting in a lack of fuel to the engine. The addition of a fuel return line back to the tank fixed this problem.

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Friends look on as Gulliver G is splashed.


Finally the mixing elbow arrived from Yanmar and poor old Pascal spent a very hot afternoon upside-down through the hole in our cockpit sole fitting the new mixing elbow and reconfiguring the exhaust and anti-syphon hoses.


The second-hand engine, all of Pascal’s very high quality work carried out refurbing and installing it, and the storage ashore at Grenada Marine, cost less than the fairly basic few jobs carried out back in the UK. More importantly still, because I was on hand and Pascal was happy for me to help out I got first-hand instruction in how diesel engines work, which consolidated perfectly what I had taught myself, learning from the Yanmar workshop manual and various books on board, as I’d had to fix various problems with the old engine between A Coruna and Grenada. The net result was that I came to enjoy diesel engine maintenance rather than viewing it as a black art only to be practised by a select few who could name their price.

 

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New exhaust configuration. Previously, the exhaust hose ran straight from the exhaust manifold to the 

water trap (muffler), which is level with the engine and well below the waterline. 

There was effectively no antisyphon valve, since it was installed incorrectly and blanked-off with paint.


Out and About

 

Whilst we were based at Grenada Marine we made a number of trips to St George’s by bus, often stopping for a lunch of local cuisine at the Creole Shack canteen above the main supermarket by the bus station – a favourite with locals.


Grenada’s transport service is second to none with a near constant stream of mini-buses passing along the main road it is rarely necessary to wait more than a couple of minutes to get transport to virtually any destination on the island. This enabled us to take some trips into the interior.

 

Seven Sisters Waterfalls

 

Five of the Seven Sisters are hard to reach, involving a scramble up near-vertical paths through dense vegetation. These are best visited in the company of a guide after it has been dry for a while.


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The other two are more accessible, though still involve a lot of muddy scrambling through lush sub-tropical rainforest.


Once at the falls it is possible to cool off by swimming in the fresh, clear pools into which they cascade. Trying to swim toward a waterfall is like a swimming equivalent of running on  tread-mill – you never reach your destination! Fortunately the smaller of the falls can be approached from the side of the pool, allowing one to cling to the rocks and receive the best massage of all time!


 

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Grenada Chocolate

 

Grenada is known as the ‘Spice Island’, being the world’s biggest exporter of nutmeg amongst other spices.


Another popular Grenadian product is chocolate, the Grenada Chocolate Company having been a pioneer of organic chocolate.


Up on the Belmont Estate in northern Grenada one can learn about the chocolate making process, from the fe