June 17, 2008

Self Reliance

Wow, where to begin....so much occurred yesterday, so many stories to tell, so much adrenalin, so much emotion. I am not a writer and I hope that I can do it justice.

Yesterday we made the journey from the Grenadines of Grenada to our final destination of Prickly Bay, Grenada, to join my Dad and Cheryl. We left at about 6am and arrived at about 3pm. The first 7 hours were great. We slept, had lunch, watch Reba, played games, hung our feet over the side of the boat...pretty much perfect. We sailed down the west side of the island, starting from the North and heading South. We needed to reach the very bottom of the island and then turn up the east side a little bit. Now the thing to keep in mind is that we sailed down the west side, so the wind was blocked by the island. When we would round the southern tip, we would be getting the wind head on, without the blockage of the island and then we would need to beat against it to get to our little bay, only a few miles up. So we knew the last hour would be a bit of a tough slog.

As we came to the end of the island, we told Amelia to come back into the cockpit. We tethered the kids and we talked about our plan. We had been sailing with only our head sail, so we decided we should furl that in and then put out only main sail so we could sail close into the wind, pretty much head into it. Well the plan was good but just as we rounded the island and started to execute the plan, Graham says "We are going to get a squall". I look up and the kind of skies you never want to see coming at us. Well the wind picks up asap. Amelia says she is going down below. Alex is excited and stays on deck. I am unfortunately at the HELM. Graham decides we are just going to have to run with it, since the winds were STRONG and the waves were HUGE, seriously they were so big and the rain was blinding. Well, we got hit with two squalls. The only nice thing is that behind these squalls in the distance you can see blue sky, so you know if you can just endure the pain for a while longer it will end. I kept yelling at Amelia down below, "Are you ok?". She would yell back that she was or I would yell "Hold ON", as we could see the GIGANTIC waves coming at us. I guess she was shot across her room but only injury was a bump on her foot. As the rain is pelting me and I am saying to Graham you should take the helm and he is saying no you are doing good, Alex asks me if I want him to take the helm. He always knows exactly what to say. He saw I was scared and he wanted to make it better for me. Again I sucked it up and dug in and held the helm as close to that damn wind as I could get it.

So once this ended we were all the way hell and gone in the opposite direction from where we were going. We had to now beat into the wind for even longer. We were going only about 2.5 to 3 knots, it felt like forever. During this time we were all taking deep breaths, talking about the size of the waves and talking about what we learned and what we would do differently for next time. Amelia even came back upstairs.

We made it to the point where we were in sight of the bay and anxiety was still high, since we weren't making hardly any speed and we were being pushed by current into a rocky island. Finally we are past the tiny rock island enough to breath and then the worst happened.

Graham had the helm and he turns to me and the look on his face turned my world upside down. He says we got nothing, nothing, NO STEERAGE and as he is doing this he is just swinging around the wheel and nothing is happening. You cannot imagine what it feels like to see your 'Rock' scared. He doesn't get scared ever. He jumped into game mode immediately and said he was going to find the emergency tiller. Amelia jumped below and was crying. Alex stayed on deck with me and we talked about impending dangers. We had only our main sail up and the boat was holding us into wind and we were making time towards land and this was not good. All I could think was we gotta get this boat stopped. I knew we had to get the main sail down. As Graham came tearing up the cockpit with all the heavy pieces of the emergency tiller I said we have to get the main down. He tries to and ...IT IS JAMMED for the first time ever! So he continues with the tiller and then Alex says to me...maybe the auto pilot still works......I press the button and we wait to see if it is working, I press the button to head us up 30 degrees and hallelujah it works. You cannot imagine what that felt like. I yell at Graham, enough with the tiller, I see some boats anchored not too far ahead and we are going to anchor this puppy NOW. So he comes up on deck and I say I don't care how but that main sail is coming down now. He grabs a spare line and he is going to just loosen the outhaul and then just tie it to the mast, since it won't furl in. Now that we have the auto pilot I yell, let's give it one more try first and as I take us into wind, it finally furls in.

So with auto pilot we try and anchor. Unfortunately when you drop below a certain speed auto pilot kicks out and when you anchor you have to come basically to a stop. I am sure an old seasoned pro could have done this no problem but you have to remember our blooding was pumping and our hearts were thumping. We were having a hard time getting it to set, it kept dragging back into the channel. In the meantime I am also trying to get ahold of my dad on the vhf. Finally on the radio I hear 'Artemo, Artemo, Artemo this is Mystic Journey, Mystic Journey, Mystic Journey'. Even though we were already the safe, the realization that Dad was close and was coming to help, caused me to cry. It was just a release of emotion.

They arrived on their dinghy, fast and furious. The kids were SO HAPPY. Only time for a brief hug and then Graham and Dad got to work on the steering components. They found the problem and got to work fixing it. All the time the boat is drifting a bit and we are watching and waiting for steerage.

They managed to fix it, which is also amazing to me. We then pulled up the dragging anchor and motored in to a more protected spot and tied up to a mooring ball.


.....Grampa Griff and Cheryl kept the kids for the night and as Graham and I dinghyied back to our boat I said to him, have we taken on more than we are capable of and he says....look around at all these boats, do you think any one out here is any more special than us?


  1. It was great hearing Julie's voice answer our call. Seeing them on the deck of their boat waving to us was fantastic. Didn't realize how much we had missed family.
    We are going to enjoy the next couple of days with them.
    Grampa Griff and Nana Cheryl

  2. Hey mom
    10/10 blog
    and i like the way you made me sound like the hero who saved everyone
    alex to the rescue
    dan dan dan.

  3. how julie - amazing. what an experience. glad you are all safe.

  4. wow, great post. scary stuff. I could picture the radio finally coming through in my head. "Artemo, Artemo!".

    Great job on saving the day Alex!:) Sounds like you guys learned a lot and got a little taste of how nasty the ocean can be.

    Sigh, you should have signed a reality tv deal before you left. This would have been a great episode.

  5. Hi Julie and family,
    I am not sure if Julie will remember me , we went ot high school together I was Brenda Campbell them, but I wanted to let you know I am following your lives on this fantastic journey and I think you are living an amazing dream. I think you are all heroes for following your dreams. Have fun and stay safe. Brenda Gerrard

  6. Hi
    Alex you are my hero! You saved my family with your quick thinking. I am so proud of all of you.
    Be safe and I will see you on FRiday.
    Love you all.

    Nanny Donna

  7. Wow! What a day!
    Alex you are definately the hero!!
    Can't wait to hear all your stories Friday :)

  8. Wow guys, what an amazing but scary
    set of events you had there, I am glad everything turned out fine. You guys sound like experienced veteran sailors with all the lingo. Way to go Alex! Can't wait to see you at the cabin.


  9. Way to go Alex!! Julie you should write a book when this trip is over. You have such a way of describing things. I felt as though I was right there and believe me I was shaking in my boots. Have a safe trip home and see you Saturday at the cottage.

  10. What a great adventure! This blog had me reading on the edge of my seat! We're glad you are all safe.

    After reading this though it kind of makes living here boring!

    Mike & Charlene

  11. Well done Perrys!! Steph says that it was just Grenada's way of welcoming you. Give me a shout when you are back in Toronto and we'll hook you up with some native Granadians to help you settle in.