For weeks we had been eager to get out on Camino, our Beneteau Oceanis 381 Clipper sailboat and sail, but we were busy working on boat systems, trying to catch up to a nice vessel that had been sitting and neglected for over a year. And we were not going to motor out of the bay on our own; it looked sketchy, and we were glad we did not. So we asked a friend with lots of sailing experience if he would go out with us. We are glad we did.
The sail began the way every sailing outing should begin, with a pre-trip of the boat and a safety inspection. Not unlike the routine I went through when driving a 35-foot Gillig bus, this focused on having and knowing where your safety equipment is, what it is used for, and how to use it: fire suppression, PFDs, Epirbs, MOB buoys, radios and more were inventoried and checked. The engine was next, followed by the sails and rigging, and a general appraisal of the cabin and heads.
Then it was time for sail planning. Knowing where you are going, what you are going to do, what to expect from the weather, and when to expect it, must be discussed before slipping the mooring. We decided to work on some skills in the bay, then go out and sail around to St. George’s in fresh breezes:
(Source: Ldecola - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74954408)
Finally it was time to start the engine, drop the mooring line, and engage the drive. That’s when shit went flying: the prop was encrusted with Spongebob’s entire neighborhood. The prop shaft shuddered, and we could barely make headway. We anchored.
First I tried to scrape anchor, but I could not stay down long enough on a lungful of air. So I motored over to our mooring guy’s boat and asked if he could scrape prop, but he could not. Our friend suggested Valentino, a young man living alone on a boat nearby. I motored over and woke him from a nap. He said yes, and for $100EC the prop was cleaned and we were on our way.
We practiced maneuvering around the bay, weaving in and out of moored and anchored yachts, drawing stern looks from bitch-winged cruisers. After we achieved a feel for the helm, we headed out. We were glad our friend was aboard. The channel into Woburn Bay is unmarked, lined with reefs, and it leads to a sporty ocean that blows and tosses boats around. It was a beautiful downwind sail on the genoa, and after we rounded Point Salines, we practiced tacking and sailing close to the wind with the mainsail.
We arrived at St. George’s before sunset and picked up a mooring ball in Martin’s Bay. Then dinner and drinks on the boat before an early bedtime. We were knackered.
The next morning, Chantal and I dinghied over to the Grenada Yacht Club and filled up on petrol, then we motored over to the Food Land dinghy dock and picked up groceries. We were back on the boat and under way by 1000.
We practiced tacking, jibing, heaving-to, and sailing through different points of the wind. Then we practiced again. One of the best things about sailing with our friend was that we were taught how to sail close to the wind, which is most of what sailing is. It is demanding of focus and energy, but it provides an exhilarating ride. Then we headed for Point Salines on a broad reach.
As soon as we rounded the point, we were slammed by a strong headwind, six- to eight-foot seas, and a current that ripped across the bottom of the island. For two hours we tacked and beat and made little progress. Then we set up for motorsailing: a reefed mainsail sheeted close and 1800 RPMs out of the engine. In that way we tacked on either side of the wind for two more hours.
At last we approached Woburn Bay, but seas and current were so strong that we had to overshoot the bay a little in order to come back to it. The channel, as I said, is not marked. The boat wanted to drift toward unseen reefs to port, and we fought our way in. We made it back, picked up the mooring ball, and tidied up. Our drinks and post-sail discussion focused on reviewing our experiences and looking to build upon them.
The biggest takeaway is that Camino is really two boats: the boat we live on, and the boat we sail. So far we had been dealing with the boat we live on. But the boat we sail has a wildly different personality. It seemed to grab the sea and the wind and play with it like an exuberant lover. The sails responded nicely, the boat sailed beautifully, and we were left with a laundry list of things that the shakedown cruise produced.
We were, finally, sailing.