Engine trouble in St. Lucia kept us there about a week longer than we expected. Having cleared out a raw-water cooling hose one evening, we ran the engine for an hour or so. The next morning a routine inspection revealed a mucky sheen of oil in the engine room that took me by surprise.

Aleta has a Westerbeke 55C. It’s a four-cylinder, 55 horse power Isuzu tractor engine modified for use at sea. Marine engine’s lives are measured in hours and we think that ours has about 6,500 on it. Taken care of, diesel engines live for a very long time, but front seals dry out and need replacing.

With the help of Bill and his son Andy we correctly diagnosed the problem. To get to the front seal you have go the back of the engine room (we have a v-drive – don’t ask) and pull the camshaft pulley out. We yanked on things for an hour or more, but couldn’t get enough purchase or stop the camshaft from turning long enough to break the camshaft pulley’s nut. With all good intentions it was time to call in a professional.

Google can be a wonderful thing. Meet Alwin, marine engineer and proprietor of Quick and Reliable Mechanical Services – the best on St. Lucia. In my book a contractor has to meet three criteria: 1) answer their phone, 2) show up on time, 3) charge what they quote. Alwin turned up an hour early and assessed the situation on a Monday. He said he’d be back at 9AM on Wednesday. At 8:30AM he rolled up his sleeves and by 10:20 he was done. The new seal in place. If you have to break your engine, do it when Alwin’s available. Call him on: +1-758-520-6544.

In all we spent four days on the dock in Rodney Bay enjoying unlimited water and electricity and showers. We all felt very spoiled. We also hired a car and took in a quick climb of Gros Piton, a rather pointy mountain on the southern end of the island. Marlon, once again, made the climb look easy.

As soon as Alwin finished his repairs, we fired up our newly sealed engine and headed 120 miles south to Grenada. Despite not having done an overnight in three months, we soon fell into our three-hour watch routine. With favorable winds and quiet seas, we sailed into St. George’s outer harbor about 22 hours later.

US GrenadaIf you’re old enough, you may recall that Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada back in 1983. Ostensibly, the Americans charged in to rescue a bunch of medical students who’d holed up in one of the Caribbean’s better medical schools.

Like most things in the 1980s, that wasn’t the whole story. Four years earlier a Marxist coup ousted Grenada’s first (post-British independence) Prime Minister, Eric Gairy. Maurice Bishop took his place and quickly forged links with Cuba, Russia and Venezuela. When a new civilian airport began construction, well that looked to the CIA suspiciously like a refueling stop for Russian bombers.

As we know, the Great Satan never appreciated the game of commie [sic] dominoes. Particularly when played so close to home. Thus, even though Grenada was still a part of the British Commonwealth, in went the Marines. Suffice it to say, HRH Liz II wasn’t happy with Ronnie. Similarly underwhelmed, the United Nations also condemned the invasion. Mr. Bishop was arrested and new elections held. History has a sense of irony, however. The offending airport was completed and is today named for, yep, Maurice Bishop.

Grenada’s original airport was Pearls, about half way up on the east coast. Defunct since 1984, today it is part drag racing track and part cow field.

There are two crumbling Russian airplanes at Pearls. Both Antonovs. Both crippled during the invasion. The larger one is a Cubana Airlines AN-26 twin engine turboprop. The smaller is an Aeroflot AN-2 single engine biplane. AN-2s began production in 1947. The last one rolled off the line in 2001 and there are over 200 of them still flying. In addition to these pics, if you search on line you’ll find photos of both planes dating back 20 years or more; you can clearly see how nature is slowly breaking them down.




    1. Great up date. In the 1st superman movie. He flies the beach between the the grand and petite piton to pick the world’s most beautiful flower for Lois L.
      In the original Dr Dolittle the scene with the giant pink snail was filmed in Marigot Bay St Lucia.

      Little known trivias for you.

      Mark Tauscher
    2. Technically correct, however as a republican I reserve the right to mock the royal mammals. (Don’t tell Vicki!). This obscure quote should help clarify things: ‘HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh reviewed QE2 from the Royal Yacht Britannia…’

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