I've been sailing with a double reef in the sail since it ripped a couple weeks ago while sailing around St John: no worries, but not the way I want to be sailing forever. So I called the only sailmaker that folks recommend, Manfred Dittrich, and he suggested I bring over the sail. So, on January 6th, I climbed the mast to check my roller furler repairs of the night before,
hauled the kayak onto the deck and lashed it down, set sail as the sun
rose, and sailed (mostly down wind) until I reached the main harbor in
So many boats about! I could see at least a half dozen within a mile or
so.... including a cruise ship coming into the harbor.
took a look at my sail and said he could probably do a good job on it,
make it work for me for another couple years. Sweet! I offered to help
out in any way I could and, slapping mosquitoes, did so for several
hours. Native tortoises wandered into the shop looking for handouts and I
tried not to step on the land hermit crabs, ranging in size from
thumbnail to fist, that foraged on the grounds and walkways.
The dog lay
on whatever was being worked on, apparently enjoying the attention.
Manfred patched the rip beautifully, reinforced the leech (trailing
edge) of the sail, provided a replacement batten (all three of mine were
cracked and this allowed me to cut each shorter to replace the next
shorter batten: now I have three wonderful and sound battens!), and
showed me a way to deal with the failed batten retainers. I even got to
do a bit of the hand work, sewing leather reinforcement where the
battens would chafe the sail.
also got to meet a couple German kids traveling about and staying a bit
with Manfred, next stop Costa Rica. I lent a hand to Bruce, Manfred's
assistant, for some awkward measurements for a big awning and chatted
with Bobby Ray. Manfred and I delivered a massive sail that the two of
us strained to pick up and delivered and installed a nice cockpit awning
for a UVI visiting professor and his wife. Jacks foraged aggressively
around my boat and chased (but refused to bite) my bare hook. Cruise
ships jockeyed for the limited port spaces, looking at night like
Finally, on the 8th, I set sail as early as I could see to sail safely and headed homeward.
Out of the harbor on light winds, past shoals (checking my charts
often), past the traffic and buoys. Soon the wind increased to the point
that the boat cold sail itself if I locked the wheel, so I read and
relaxed and contemplated. The wind picked up, so I put in a reef, then
sailed further, beating into the wind. by noon I had reached the sound
between St John and St Thomas and I let the boat point to the south-east
and sail endlessly over the rolling waves, hours passing, until my
chart told me I had gone over the cliff and that the bottom now lay 1100
fathoms below me.... that is 6600 feet! 1.25 miles! That is by far the
deepest water I've ever sailed.
In the distance to the
north I could see St John, even fainter to the south I saw St Croix for
the first time. (it is there in the pic, but only as a faint shadow)
The chart told me the time had come to tack, so I did, hoping to get
home that night.... but the wind shifted ten degrees and took a couple
hours of sailing progress and tossed it in the trash can, so I entered
Salt Pond Bay at sunset
and caught a mooring there for the night, completing my sail home the next morning a couple hours after sunrise.