Thursday, 24 August 2017

To Dominica.

Saturday 24th June 2017 to Dominica.

I don’t know how weather forecasting is done these days, but I believe the forecasters are a highly educated bunch, cocooned in air conditioned rooms, surrounded by the latest ‘super computers’, with access to the latest meteorological data from around the world?

So the forecast is, wind East F3/4, seas slight to moderate, chance of an isolated shower.

Bashing away in the trades again!

It is just over 25 miles to Portsmouth, Dominica; pretty much due south so should be a nice sail. Ha! Sailing gently out through the Passe du Sud Ouest we turn south to be confronted with a SE wind F5 and rough seas of 2 metres plus. Oh well only five hours of bashing to windward. Why do we do it? I suppose because we have checked out so we are obliged to leave the country. Really? I am sure it will be much nicer when we get to Prince Rupert bay (aka Portsmouth).

We sail to Prince Rupert bluff (the north point of the bay) and motor in. The bay is a sea of ‘white horses’ we had expected it to be calm. We are met by Titus, dressed head to toe in yellow waterproofs, he gets drenched several times as he manoeuvres alongside. Unable to hear each other over the wind we gesticulate that we will take a mooring (Lots of ball shapes between us and thumbs up signs). Poor Titus, he obviously drew the short straw as duty ‘boat boy’ this morning.  

Titus helps us onto a mooring in front of the PAYS building and then assists another boat onto the mooring next to us. We agree that he will take us to customs to check in. At XCD 30 for the round trip it is better than getting a soaking in our dinghy. We agree to take the mooring for a week as this is the best deal. Titus will be back later to collect the money.

Before Titus comes back we have a visitor it is Martin (Providence). We have known Martin for many years and have a long chat, it transpires that it is his mooring we are on not a PAYS mooring. We confirm Titus has put us on the mooring. It is not a problem as the beauty of the PAYS arrangements is that everyone works together. The weekly deal just got better. Thanks Martin!

Not quite the only boat in the anchorage!

Settling down for the afternoon we get another visitor, this time it is Alexis, “welcome home” he says. I think we have explained here the town is Portsmouth. Our home port is Portsmouth. Everyone here still thinks it’s a huge joke. Even the customs are joining in! Ah well it is always nice to be home even if it is windy and a bit rolly but that just makes it feel even more like home!

The following day things have calmed down, no ‘white horses’, the bay is calmer with a gentle offshore breeze and it is raining (at least they got that right!) Still at least the rain has almost filled our water tanks. There are a few cruising boats here but things are winding down for the summer. Many of the beach bars are closed and the PAYS BBQ has stopped, there are just not enough boats to make it worthwhile.

South Africans get everywhere!

There are a couple of boats that we know here and we agree to meet at the Madiba bar for a sundowner. If it ever stops raining, which it eventually does.

Ashore we meet the crews of ‘Overstreet’ and ‘Shameles’, they have planned a trip to Wotton Waven sulphur springs near Roseau and invite us along. The plan is to go by public bus, we will have to change busses in Roseau but as seasoned island travellers we are looking forward to our adventure. While we are planning the trip one of the locals overhears our conversations and says he can arrange a driver for the day at XCD30 each. This seems even better as it will cost over 20 dollars each on the buses. 

One of many broken bridges

The following day, we all (7 of us) climb into Charlie (Sunshine tours) taxi. It is a bit of a squash but no worse than a local bus. We have the scenic route south to Roseau. On the way there are several detours via Bailey bridges, crossing rivers where the road was washed away by the floods caused by Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. Subsequently one of the Bailey bridges was washed away as well! Crossing that river we had to use the old stone bridge that was built on the plantation in the 1800’s. Still standing but just wide enough for a car. Larger vehicles have to ford the river.

Town hall cum Courthouse cum Police station

We passed through many villages discovering another side of Dominica – a great range of architecture from colonial public building to traditional shingle houses.

We detour to drive the original old coast road which is only wide enough for one car, sometimes with the forest brushing one side and the sea right next to the wheels on the other. This used to be the only road between Roseau and Portsmouth.  

All rooms with a view

  We see the changes Erika made to the coastline. In some places villages on the sea have now got a beautiful beach that they previously didn’t have, while others have had the beach taken away, the sea is right up to the wall. It is all very interesting.

The Old and New - Note the novel planters, recycling Dominica style!
Abandoned rum distillery outside Roseau

Wotton Waven sulphur springs is deserted and we are the only visitors. The hot water bubbles and  boils out of the ground in small pools and there is the smell of sulphur everywhere.

Sulphur springs

 Charlie shows us a rock with a ‘mouse hole’ in it you can put your finger in it and feel the very hot air coming up from the ground. 

Even the shops were shut here

From Wotton Waven we went on to Ti Kwen Glo Cho. 

These rodent like creatures are called Agouti - Not sure if they were part of a 'Zoo' or a larder? - The locals eat them.

This is a beautiful spot with lovely  landscaped gardens and hot volcanic baths.

 The baths are fed by bamboo pipes with the hot spring water. Afterwards you can wash off in clear very cold spring water from the waterfalls in the gardens. 

The freshwater showers are also fed by bamboo pipes making it look all very natural. Antheriums grow all over, I have never seen so many in one place.

A Different Helliconium

 We are shaded by huge trees and tree ferns as we go from pool to pool up and down steps cut into the hillside edged in bamboo or wood.


Refreshed by our sulphur baths we adjourn for lunch to a lovely local restaurant with a view of the Trafalgar falls away in the distance up the river, River Rock Café and Bar.

A Purple throated Carib - seen on the terrace over lunch.

We return to Portsmouth late in the afternoon and have a late beer at the Madiba bar. 
An excellent day out. We also were lucky with the weather as it stayed dry for the whole day. Tomorrow we will be back to sunshine and showers again!
Apart from the rain the forecast looks good for a passage south on Friday. We plan to make an early start and go all the way to St Pierre in Martinique. It will be a full day sailing.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

South to Guadeloupe 16th June 2017

South to Guadeloupe 16th June 2017

It is Friday, I know you shouldn’t start a voyage on a Friday but it looks like a good forecast and we need to get going.

We are woken at 0330 by 2 boats anchored close to us talking on the VHF. Now we always leave the VHF on Ch. 16/68 just in case someone has a problem and we may be able to help. But really guys if you are planning to leave early and need to talk to each other why not agree a ‘working channel’ before you go to bed, not wake everyone up by discussing your plans on a hailing channel at zero dark thirty! (No names no ‘pack drill’ as they say but you know who you were!)

With our sleep disturbed we are up before it is light and away by 0600. We motor sailed for a while then with all 3 sails set we were on our way. The log shows nothing exciting except that we handed the mizzen at noon as the wind had gone further forward of the beam and it was permanently being back winded by the main. Seas were slight to moderate for the whole trip and the wind was Force 4/5. Tamarisk passed us just north of Tete A L’anglaise and we sailed right to the entrance of Deshaies Bay before furling the genoa and dropping the main as we motored in to anchor.

A rare sight with our mizzen up

As usual there were no available moorings, most of them being taken by long term residents. We found a spot to anchor close to Tamarisk on the north side of the bay. It is now just after 2pm so we put the sails away, had a quick swim and a late sandwich lunch with a cold beer to celebrate our arrival. The log records 53 miles in just over 8 hours, 6.5kts moving average.

The very modern Library building in Deshaies

At this time of year we pay particular attention to the weather, it is now officially ‘hurricane season’. Our plans had been to rush south but with TS (Tropical Storm ) Brett looking to pass between St Vincent and St Lucia we might as well stay here. We seem to be getting plenty of wind and rain. Dave on Tamarisk recorded 39Kts the other night! Very choppy in the harbour and we seem to get a soaking either going ashore or coming back. At least it is warm rain! 

The storm has passed and all is calm. We plan to have a braai and invite Dave and Anna over from Tamarisk. There is a good meat selection in the supermarket so we have lamb chops and steak! What we don’t have is propane for the gas braai. The little Camping Gaz cylinder has run out and the supermarket that usually stocks the cylinders won’t have any until next week. Never mind we will have to cook on the stove. Still a great evening with plenty of French wine!

Blue headed wrasse

With calmer weather we can go snorkelling. It is usually nice here and from where we are anchored it is an easy swim to the reef on the edge of the bay. It seems to us that there is a lot more algae covering everything and that it was not as pretty as we remembered from two years ago. There were plenty of different sea urchins but no parrot fish at all. We only saw one turtle. Maybe its just the season.

Magnificent sea urchin

 The highlight of that night was a ‘Mayday’ call on the radio. This was handled very professionally by the French coastguard who eventually sent a helicopter to rescue the crew of a yacht that was sinking. We heard the helicopter pass over us on the way out to sea and then on the way back. A real life drama from the scene of ‘Death in Paradise’. We trust the people were OK.

Our very own 'RNLI' Richard rescues another dinghy that was floating off the dinghy dock. We returned it to the dock, I suspect the owner didn't even know it had gone for a jaunt on its own.

With the storm safely passed we are on the move south to the Saintes. As always we either have no wind or too much. This time we have very little wind as we motor down the coast of Guadeloupe. What was I saying about too much wind? Yes we have it in the gap between Guadeloupe and the Saintes, wind, rain, big seas, then more wind and rain. The visibility was down to 100metres at times in the rain. Fortunately it cleared as we arrived, in time to pick up a mooring just off the town jetty.

Galene from up the hill where we take the rubbish and recycling is. Note how empty the anchorage is. Plenty of mooring balls but not many yachts.

At least the boat has had a good wash! We have named the harbourmaster here ‘Hawkeye’, as we had only been on the mooring for about 10 minutes when he turned up for his money! The moorings here are actively managed. A bit different from Deshaies. The wind has moved a bit north so the moorings here are a bit rolly. The wind is forecast to go easterly later in the day and it does, so it all calms down.

The perfect end to another day in paradise! Time for a cold beer.

The town (Basse Terre) is very quiet in spite of the multiple ferries plying between the islands all day long. They have funny opening hours here. Not just the usual long lunch. Some establishments are open in the morning, others in the afternoon! Makes shopping a bit tedious but remember it is paradise! (Well that’s the name of the local ice cream anyway!). 

The highlight of our shopping is that we are able to exchange our Camping Gaz cylinder. This is the same cylinder we exchanged in the Cape Verde islands in January 2013! It was very rusty and had been repainted several times but was exchanged for a nice clean one without question. I feel a braai coming on!

Very pretty!

An interesting aside is that our UK O2 sim works here in the Saintes. As we still have time left on the plan we are on the same deal as we would have been back home. 

We have paid for 2 nights and as the weather looks good we will be off to Dominica on Saturday.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

A Curtailed Season - June 2017

A Curtailed Season - June 2017

In February, Rowena’s dear sister-in-law Louise died suddenly and totally unexpectedly. We received the news in Bequia and sailed up to Antigua to leave Galene in Jolly Harbour Marina while we flew back to the UK. After a couple of months in England mainly with Rowena’s brother we returned to Galene at the end of May.  

It felt like we were visiting a holiday town out of season. The marina was empty. Classics and Race week had been and gone, many of the boats we knew were safely tucked away in the boatyard. Several of the bars and restaurants were closed for the summer. There were just a few stragglers left. This all added to our sense of desolation and we found it hard to get back into normal cruising life.
Still the weather was pleasant, although we seem to have plenty of rain. We had some work to do, repairing the boat and recommissioning before we could head south for the ‘safe havens’ of Carriacou and Grenada.

A dolphin visited us early one morning, never saw it again though

The first and most important job was to repair the engine controls. The lever that controls the throttle and the gears was the first project. It took a lot of effort to get the old stub off as many years of corrosion was holding it in place. Eventually we had to cut it off the shaft. Fortunately the splines were unharmed and the new lever installed. 

Next on the list was the engine control panel. The original panel had a ‘window’ with the warning lights behind it, the window no longer was waterproof and water had got into the alarm module causing it to malfunction. First we lost some of the lights then we lost the audible alarm. We were really running blind with the engine.

Replacing this panel was not as difficult as had been imagined as fortunately we have the engine wiring diagram so rewiring was a fairly straightforward task. This time we have sealed around the panel so no water should get in from the front to compromise the electrics behind. Still it is not plain sailing just yet as we are not sure that the high temperature alarm is working correctly (it doesn’t auto test). We have a new sensor but fitting it is a little tricky. We will wait until we are down island and have our tame engineer look at it for us. 

The next big job was to get our wind speed indicator to work again. 

Skipper scratching his head while the crew decide what to do!

It is at the top of the main mast! We decided Rowena would go up on the Masta Clima and Richard would be on the winch with the safety line. 

View towards the anchorage

Great views from up there so of course, I had to take some pictures. 

Vuew from the top

After spraying lots of WD 40 it seemed to be going round again – hooray. I also took pictures of the fittings in case it gives up again. The Richard will have to go up and remove it and fit the new bearings.

Beautiful 'sausage tree' flowers on the way to the supermarket

We spent a week unpacking and tidying things away. Putting things back where they should be and generally getting ready to go sailing. We deliberately left the boat empty of food and so every other day we were shopping for something. There is now also a good Farmers Market at the marina on Saturdays. I got nice little round squashes (a bit like Gem squashes ) and we tried Cashew nut fruit – bit sour – but meant to be really good for you. I think I will stick to the nuts.

So this is what Cashews look like!

The local supermarket (Epicurean) sells Waitrose products and we were recommended to try Waitrose own brand gin. Well we were very pleasantly surprised. At less than EC$14 a litre (£4.30!) one could become a connoisseur! They also sell Waitrose Portuguese rose wine at EC18 a bottle (£5.60) and local rum at EC$26 a bottle, hum; we couldn’t work it out either! Suffice to say we are stocked up on Gin and Rose wine!

Threatening sky with an empty anchorage

 Finally we got back out to the anchorage. Much cooler than being in the marina, with a nice breeze at night and no mosquitoes! 18 boats in the anchorage but many seemed unoccupied. We had turtles to watch as well as the seabirds. Most interesting was a Laughing Gull that visited us most nights. The lights from the cockpit attract small fish which in turn are hunted by big Tarpon that come rushing up from the bottom to catch them. 

Laughing gull hunting at night

The Gull was then swooping down and catching the little fish from above – nowhere was safe for them! I have never seen a gull fishing in the dark before.  

In spite of our new ultrasonic antifoul there was quite a lot of growth on the hull but we think less than we would have had without it.

The bottom after 8 weeks in the marina

So we had an afternoon scraping and watching the little yellow tail snappers and yellow fin tuna eating the tiny shrimps and other creatures we were knocking off. When we got out we had hundreds of the little shrimps clinging to us as well! Fortunately the fresh water in the shower gets them off quickly.

Providing linch for the yellow fin tuna

We had two nice Wednesday afternoons at the Underdog Bar where the Jolly Harbour Ukulele Band have a practice and jam session. Richard had done a gig with them before he left.

De Underdog bar!

 It has been quite windy so we are looking for the best day to cross to Guadeloupe. A good job we waited as heading back to the boat from what was to be our last shopping trip the dinghy just slowed down unexpectedly. We thought we had something around the prop, nothing seemed amiss there, started up again plenty of engine revs but the prop didn’t go any faster.  We puttered slowly back to the boat. It looks like we won’t be leaving until the outboard is fixed now.

The outboard mechanic immediately diagnosed the problem; the splines had worn out on the prop. It is a common occurrence. Fortunately Budget marine are a Tohatsu agent and had a prop in stock. US$150 later we have a new prop, Ivan the mechanic fitted it immediately for a modest EC$50. (US150 for a prop you can see why we need the gin!)

Worn splines on the prop

Still at least we are fully mobile again.
At last we are ready to go. Guadeloupe here we come!