Eowyn helps with Mayday on route to Grenada

So we have finally arrived at Grenada - although we still have to sail up to St Lucia to finish the rally as Eowyn was laid up in Grenada we actually started from here so have completed our own personal circumnavigation.
The final parts of it have certainly been a mixture. I don't think I was quite at one with the sail from Cape Town to Salvador because of things at home. However St Helena was an experience. Someone in Cape Town advised us to set our clocks back about 50 years, which was good advice. The carnivals in Salvador and Recife were good fun.
We set off on the last long leg to Grenada on 10 March expecting to arrive about 26 March although with the possibility of a quicker passage if the current was favourable. The forecast for the first couple of days was for light winds so we expected to be motoring. In the event we had a good sail, albeit beating. The following few days were a mixed bag with some squalls and rain but we sailed nearly all the time.
Six days completed and we had made good progress and then we heard a freighter calling 'ship in distress come in' repeatedly. At the same time we had several calls on the Iridium phone but couldn't hear anyone - the only conclusion was that one of our yachts was in trouble so we turned on the SSB and called World ARC Yachts - immediately we got a faint signal from Basia, a MAYDAY they were dismasted and starting to cut away the rigging and needed help. We were two hours away but probably the nearest yacht so off we set - on the way Basia updated us that they had cut away the rigging but were taking on some water and we learnt they had been in a collision with a freighter.
When we arrived we circled the boat looking for damage. Although there was considerable damage to the front of the port hull, Basia and another ARC boat of the same manufacture advised that there was a crumple zone at the front and should be watertight. There was considerable hull damage around the waterline fron the mast etc. As Tucannon was due shortly and they carry their dinghy on davitts we waited for them. Once they had launched the dinghy the picked me up and I inspected for a leak - there was one obvious hole just above the waterline but I also saw considerable damage below the waterline. I put on a mask and hung over the side of the dinghy inspecting but concluded that although there were large areas where all the gel coat was gone and some fibres there was only one hole. We had enough underwater epoxy putty so I plugged the one hole.
We then started moving jerry cans of fuel from ourselves, Tucannon and Destiny when she arrived - 250 litres to Basia gave her a total of 650 litres certainly enough for French Guyana. So off we set. Although my repair held, Basia did get another couple of leaks but their pumps coped fine. Following further offers of fuel Tucannon, Basia and Eowyn set off in formation planning a further rendezvous in a couple of days with other yachts. We had to sail quite close to Basia as their lights were transom lights to the rear and dinghy nav lights. Whenever we picked up a commercial vessel coming anywhere near we called and explained - all gave a very wide berth. Basia at this time had no VHF and weak SSB so we had three hourly SSB contact.
The second rendezvous came and we moved another 250 litres to Basia - enough fuel now for them to reach Grenada and with good current, after 9 days of escort duty and 1200 miles were we all glad to arrive! The rest of the ARC fleet turned out in dinghies and we had a great reception.
So now we relax and enjoy ourselves - St Lucia on 16 April is the final party, then home.

Michael Birch, 30.03.2011 | More from Michael Birch’s blog