Schooner Ruth Saga – Part 1

Posted on February 26, 2018 · Posted in SV Ruth Updates
Peace All,
After our passage south, heading north was always going to be a challenge with the polar NE trade winds blowing truly crispy across the notorious Bay of Biscay straight for little leeward and windward islands. It became more of a saga (in three parts) than a passage.
With weeks of F6+ forecast, we had to go. Our new (temp) Bosun, Jake,  was committed to joining Schooner Avontuur for her return journey from Marie Galant, Guadeloupe to La Ceiba, Honduras, Havana, Cuba, Halifax, Canada and back to home port in Germany. Plus, Avontuur was going to load Rhum barrels by ferrying them on a barrel and bamboo raft from the beach in Saint Louis, and we had to be there for that.
This all sounds like great sailing, but Canada, Germany on the edge of winter. Let’s just say RUTH is not going anywhere the temperature goes lower than 10 degrees, i.e. where body heat is not enough.
Schooner Ruth
Ok, so sitting with all the crew in the Grenada Yacht Club, I tried to steel them to the beat to windward for maybe 90 hours that we were facing to get to Marie Galant.  It did not go well, the last sail spoiled them.  Also, we would be short by 2 crew, Kaya from Carriacou, was going to Disney World with his family and Olivia found some Swedish guys that were going to sail to Columbia, her ideal destination.
On a brilliant Sunday morning, with two reefs in the main, one in the foresail with the Staysail and Jib only (No Fly);- bottom-line it was worse than expected. Our pointing was miserable, tough helming close haul for hours and hours and seas building over 4m was putting us on a heading for Saba.
Of course, that’s when Albert’s Law shows up … ‘Murphy’s (Law) an optimist, he’s never been to sea’.
First, the block in the starboard main topping lift comes apart while there’s no main up (gusts were building to 35+ knots). The centre pin pops through the quarter size fastener on either side and the whole lot falls bang on deck with the new lazy jacks.
Second, during a wind lull we put back up the main, we were barely doing 2 – 3 knots SOG, only to have the mast hoops shatter with a freak gust. They were on their last legs being the original ones from launch day, three years earlier.
So, we were back to foresail reefed, staysail and jib in F6 NE winds trying to get to Marie Galant (which is in the East of the Island chain) averaging 3.5 Knots and no possibility to raise the main.
Schooner Ruth
All things considered, we were in good shape with clear skies and lots of wind. Clearly, they were other sailors not doing well, since we saw two Coastguard planes fly over really low.
To keep crew spirits up, on the 3rd day, I made creamy mash potatoes with a seafood vegetable soufflé. It disappeared in record time.
The sailing was becoming more painful with the slow speed and big swell, by now we were over 80nm west of Guadeloupe and tacks were just driving us back over the track we just came over.
That was that. If we were to have any chance we needed to stop and make repairs to the main and get the topping lift off the deck and out of the way. The solution was to go for the north of St. Kitts, Sandy Point anchorage in a deep sheltered bay at the foot of its tall beautiful hills.
We hardened up and made the best approach, but ultimately had to motorsail for 4 hours to make the bay during the night.
Anchoring with RUTH is problematic (long topic for another special blog post) and we did so with only warp on the 5m contour line.
Now, safely on anchor, everyone got some solid sleep and woke up the next day to a stunningly beautiful isolated anchorage in Sandy Point and ready to get RUTH back to full strength.