Sometimes Saildrives Suck!


Wednesday morning arrived and we motored across from Anse Mitan to Case Pilote. I had planned to throw up some sail, but the line of squalls coming over Martinique prevented me (I was just lazy). No matter we were still make 6-6.5 knots under a single motor with no canvas. Its amazing how much faster trips are when the wind and waves are behind you.


About 45 min out, we radioed Last Tango and had them phone Inboard Diesel services to let them know we were coming. Frank the owner agreed he would come out and meet us once we got close. So about 5 min out, he comes out on a power boat but decides since we still have 1 motor and the docking is straight forward he would be more use on the dock (we don’t stop well under 1 motor).  So he powers off and we make the slow approach, a simple turn to starboard, then slowly power up to a concrete wall (with rubber protectors), then back down before running into the boats in front. Everything went fantastic till the back down (COMING IN HOT)! You see its very tough to back down a catamaran with one motor as once you back down the boat will start to spin (stern in the direction of the motor backing). So I wasn’t able to fully bring the boat to a stop using the motor and Rhonda and Frank had to be “on the ball” and use the lines to stop her (remember she weighs over 18,000 pounds and even moving at 1 knot is a lot of energy). I just stood at the helm with crossed fingers that Rhonda’s line throw would be true and Frank would get the line wrapped quickly. I’m happy to say, in the end everything went better than expected and no gel coat was lost.


Upon arriving, Frank headed back to the office to put an official quote together while we got settled. Quincy and Daphnie quickly noticed people fishing off the dock and had to bust out the hand line. Despite fishing for hours, they was unable to catch anything. Apparently the Martinique fish are quite smart and knew how to strip bait. After watching Quincy being frustrated (Daph didn’t care and happily fed the fish), I decided to head out myself and see if I could catch anything. After 45 min and about 5 different baits, I was able to catch a single trigger fish. Yay, I thought, now I have some better bait (fish worked really well in Bahamas). Damn, those French bastard fish were still having none of it. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t catch anything. By the time I gave up it was just about dark and time for dinner.


The next day the technician arrived and promptly got to work taking out the clutch parts. Within 5 minutes it was very very apparent that I had come to the right place. Sedgwick, knew exactly what he was doing and had the parts removed within 1 hour. He informed us he had another job to attend to but would get to our gears in the afternoon. So I waited around until about 1pm and then walked over to the office.  Frank met me at the door and I could tell by the look on his face that the news wasn’t good. He informed me that not only was my clutch shot but the actual shifter mechanism in the drive was physically damaged. He had never seen another drive with this problem. The good news was they had a used drive to take parts from but it would cost more money. We headed upstairs to tally the new cost. Sigh, it was really bad news and Frank seen the look on my face. After some talking he offered a discount if I remembered to use him in the future (I can’t speak highly enough about him or his company). Although it was still painful, it was a pill I could swallow (with about 6 gins). $1650 Euro. Yup Euro… Sigh… Unfortunately the extra work would mean another delay as Sedgwick couldn’t finish it that day. F(**&ing boats….


The next day Sedgwick arrived at 8:00am with the repaired clutch mechanism (he worked late the day before to put it back together) and got to work immediately. 2 hours later he the motor running and was testing the thrust. Everything appeared to be working fine and 1/2 hour later he declared the job done. We promptly got on the VHF with Mike and Gigi and made plans to head over to Grande Anse. We made the boat ready to leave, but popped over to Inboard Diesels Office with a little token of appreciation. Frank and his boys got to experience home made perogies for the first time.  After that, we threw the lines and powered out the bay.


We set the compass for Grande Anse running just the motor that had been repaired (a sea trial). However about 1/2 way across the bay the wind was great and I started to feel like a bad sailor. Eventually I popped the Genoa to ease my conscience.  We motor sailed the rest of the way to Grande Anse and were rewarded with a picturesque bay once we rounded the cape.  Although it was fairly crowded, the views were stunning and town looked fantastic. We could hardly wait to drop the hook and head ashore. Unfortunately that is where a small problem began. For the first time in our trip we had a hard time getting our Rocna anchor to bite in. We had to reset once and then let out over 140 feet of chain with a  2000 RPM backdown (both motors) before I felt comfortable. However, that 140 feet of chain made our swinging room and issue with the other boats. We would need to keep an eye on things.


That afternoon and evening we went swimming (the water was as clean or cleaner than Bahamas) and then early to bed. Unfortunately the next morning that 140 feet of chain came back to bite me. Rhonda called me up on deck at about 6:30am. “Travis, we seem awfully close to that other boat”. I came on deck and indeed we were damn close. I could have pulled their dinghy over with our boat hook. The owners of said boat were looking over our way with a bemused look. I pointed to the distance between and said “too close”. He just shrugged his shoulders and said with a heavy French accent “Ya, tide!”. Damn, the French don’t really get stressed by much. In the end, I surveyed the situation and decided to wait it out. Everything went back to normal once the winds started blowing.


After the anchor fiasco, we had a couple of good days in Grande Anse but kept watching the weather for a good window. It was clear a good window (but short) window was coming. After discussion we decided to check-out the next day and head for St. Lucia the next morning. Now I could write a whole blog post about our adventure to check-out since we didn’t realize it would be Saturday. Lets just say Mike and I had to hitch hike 40km across Martinique without speaking French or having the correct assets (we were 2 white dudes without boobs). Lets just say it was an adventure but again French hospitality kicked in and we met some truly great people (I owe some payforward tickets now). It took almost a whole day, but we arrived back at the boats with our check-out paper in hand. We went for a few beers ashore and talked about the plan. We agreed a 10:30am departure would be good as it wasn’t a long run (about 25 miles).


The next day dawned and I checked weather with the our Orange data card (damn still had 900mb left thanks to Opera Mini, it would be useless after Martinique). Shit, it looked like the weather window was stable and would hold for about 48 hours. Rhonda and I talked it over and decided Party of Five needed to jump on that window and head directly to Grenada (165 miles). We contacted Last Tango and let them know we couldn’t pass this window up, but would understand if they didn’t want to run with us. The radio was silent for 30 seconds before Mike came back and said “Lets do it”. So our easy 25 mile run turned into a 165 mile 28 hour run, but we would be drinking beer in Grenada at the end of it! Giddy Up!



So what actually happened to your saildrive?

I thought I would post this as I have heard a few incorrect things leaking out on Facebook. After much discussion with the technician and head scratching we came up with a theory. You see, we know our boat had a incident with a reef in Cuba. During that incident we know that this sail drive had a serious prop strike on the reef. This prop strike was strong enough to actually break teeth off gears in the lower unit that we discovered in Key West. Dad and I changed the entire lower unit but never took the upper apart to inspect it. Sedgwick believes the upper was damaged as well (the physical damage they found) during that strike. Then later after the lightening melted our shifter cable it caused the motor to bump between forward and neutral. Even though we caught this quickly, that extra strain was enough to cause more damage and lead to the ticking time bomb of the clutch pack. It was just a matter of time for the clutch pack to fail, and it did. So there you have it, no the lightening didn’t directly damage the drive, but contributed to the damage. No I don’t hate saildrives and believe any boat that prop strikes a reef is going to have some serious damage.



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Grande Anse


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