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!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Wasting away in Tyrell bay again!

Wasting away in Tyrell bay again! (Apologies to Jimmy Buffett!)

Up early and away. Yes we are going sailing, well motoring, until we get to the north of Grenada. With 15Kts slightly south of east forecast and our course 020 True we put a reef in the main as a precaution. As we are on a reach we decide to use the mizzen as well. 

With the full genoa we are having a storming sail, up to 8.6 kts at times. As we approach Diamond Rock the seas become very lumpy and the wind is increasing and becoming gusty. We hand the mizzen as there is too much weather helm and put a second reef in the main. A good job we did as the autopilot manages to loose the plot in the gusts sending us off to the west! Rolling in some of the genoa restores the balance and reduces the speed a little as a wind shift almost causes an involuntary gybe.

With all of the excitement we notice water in the engine bilge, it appears the grease cap on the brand new not to leak very much stern gland has come loose and we pump out 3 buckets of water! In the space of 20minutes we have gone from a fun exhilarating sail to a rough lumpy ride. Who said sailing in the Caribbean was boring?

We arrive in Tyrell bay at 12.30 with the wind from the south! All the boats are facing the ‘wrong way’ but we find a big space to safely anchor with plenty of swinging room. Our 33 miles was covered in just under 5 hours! An average of over 6.6 Kts!

From a 'racing snake' to a houseboat! Note the rain catcher. The water often goes straight from the catcher to the solar shower so we have fresh hot rainwater for our shower, such luxury!

A lovely refreshing swim and supper at the Slipway restaurant with Peter and Cathy, it really feels like ‘home’ here.

Our plans were to spend some time diving with George and Connie at Arawak divers, unfortunately we discover that George is terminally ill and going back to Germany, Connie is selling the business so sadly we will have to rethink.
Baby crayfish, arrow crabs and butterfly fish seen snorkelling just off the dive shop

Tyrell bay has suffered from hurricane Matthew, many tons of sand were washed from the beach onto the road along the sea front which has changed the beach in places. In some places it is no longer a gentle slope but a steep step into waist deep water with exposed rocks.

The dinghy docks have suffered as well, only the boatyard and Lumba Dive docks have remained unscathed. The dock at Lambi Queen is damaged and the Gallery cafĂ© dock doesn’t exist! Going ashore has become a bit of a challenge!

After the Lion fish hunt

We quickly settle into a routine of Water aerobics 3 mornings a week, Mexican train dominoes Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, Levi’s music jams on Monday evening, Pizza and music on Thursday evening. When you add coffee mornings, sundowners, dinner at Luckys and Tanty Mavis plus other ad hoc social events we are kept pretty busy.

A musical soiree at Diane and Richards!

The skipper has taken on the job of net controller 2 days a week, everyone wants him to stay forever and play music! Rowena is helping with the local children’s swimming classes, we are hunting the Lionfish to save the reefs, perhaps we should take up residency?
All that is visible is the cabin top and the mast stump!

Excitement of the day, Oscar’s boat Marsvinet has sunk on its mooring just behind us. It is a real hazard to navigation and more than one charter boat manages to get snagged up on it.

It makes for a good snorkel site and it is unlikely to be removed despite several attempts to re-float it.

It doesn't take long for the fish to move in

The wildlife both above and below the water never fails to amaze. Terns, Laughing gulls, Pelicans, Boobies and Frigate birds, all chasing the fish swirling around in the feeding frenzy below the water.


We even saw a pregnant shark swimming through the anchorage one evening! We believe they go to the mangroves to give birth.

While we are here Rowena has a BIG Birthday. Supper at Bogles an excellent evening.Say no more!

Iguana bar gig!

We have decided to stay for Xmas and wait for more of the skipper’s music pals to arrive.

And again!

We have also been invited to an Old Years Night party (as they say out here) and Levi’s New Year’s Day bash (along with half the island!) There is only one slight problem, our 3 month Grenada visa expires on the 27th December so we either have to renew or leave the country.
Galene has a lovely day sail to Anse la Roche with the crew of Ansari and Coho
With some great snorkelling!

Our plans are to leave and spend a week at Union island for a change of scene, then come back and we will be fine for another 3 months, not that we plan to stay long after Xmas and the New Year, but you never know!

Seen at the Iguana bar - not all the wildlife is in the band!!!

Carriacou is such a laid back place, slightly bonkers in many ways but with real charm. Almost unspoilt by tourism, the sort of place where you really are made to feel welcome. Here we are a visitor not a tourist!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Back ‘home’ to a hurricane!

Back ‘home’ to a hurricane! September 2016.

Leaving the UK in the throes of an ‘Indian summer’ we are back to Grenada and a week of hard work ready to go afloat or splash as the Americans like to say.

Really, with the gentle care the boatyard took of hauling us out and the equal care we expect in returning to the water I expect there will be hardly a ripple as we majestically glide back in.

Our old and new windlass gypsy - note the wear on the old!
Still we have some serious work to do. Seacocks need servicing, the bottom needs painting and the anodes replaced. We have to plumb in our new propane gas bottles and while we are doing all this the yard will fit a new stern gland and we will engage some help to polish the hull. Yes the never ending saga of the leaking stern gland. We are finally going back to an old fashioned stuffing box, sure it will probably drip a little, but it is adjustable and easily fixed. The modern dripless gland seals never worked and dripped! (We couldn’t get a Volvo one to fit the stern tube and shaft combination).
Grenada at the end of September is hot and humid with a fair chance of rain. We are booked to launch on the 28th of September, we arrived on the 22nd  at 15.15 local time so we have 5 days to be ready (nothing like being under pressure!).

Another new fruit - Golden apple, slightly tart when green. I grated it and added carrots and fresh ginger to make coleslaw. Very nice.Love the wierd seed.When ripe it is mostly crushed for juice which is good too.

We have booked to stay at Sydneys Apartments as living in the boatyard is not much fun and we don’t need any more run ins with mosquitos! It is a brisk 10 minute walk from the boatyard but we enjoy the exercise and all the houses and gardens as we walk by. It is quite rural, so there are goats, sheep and chickens wandering around, some tethered some not. The gardens are interesting mixed crops – pumpkin’s, callaloo, okra, bananas, pigeon peas and citrus fruit trees and the ubiquitous bananas and coconuts. We do enjoy the air conditioning and hot showers when we get back in the evenings.
We engage a team of locals to prep paint and polish. Of course we provide all the materials. At one point we have a team of four working on the boat, all the skipper has to do is ensure that the boatyard provide the staging for the polishers and move the stands for the painters, oh and of course make sure that the guys do what they are supposed to do! Managing projects in the Caribbean is not like the UK, you cannot just ask the yard and expect it all to be done, active hands on management is required. Still we manage to get it all done in the time, dodging a few showers along the way while carefully monitoring the progress of hurricane Matthew making its way towards the eastern Caribbean.
Well we may be ready to launch but ‘Matthew’ has other ideas. The forecast is not good and we prepare for 60kt winds on Tuesday night. The canvas we have put back (sprayhood and bimini) comes off again and we remove the summer cover from the cockpit. Everything is lashed down and we retire to our apartment with torches, bottled water, cold food, matches and three cases of beer!
I can hear people asking why so much beer? Well dear readers, beer is the one commodity that is always in short supply after a tropical storm so like good scouts we will be prepared!

Our hurricane hole - Sydneys apartments with a panoramic view down to the boatyard and out to sea so we will be able to watch the weather coming in.

Wednesday dawns with Grenada having declared a ‘state of emergency’, schools are closed and buses are not running, only essential travel is being recommended. What a beautiful day, light winds, fluffy clouds and no rain. The local children are having the time of their lives with a day off school in the middle of the week! Much to their parents’ annoyance.

Hurricane day +1 wet n windy! At times we could not see as far as the ocean.

Matthew fortunately has passed between St Lucia and Martinique. A lot of heavy rain and winds up there but not too much for us. Unfortunately our wind and rain came a day later causing traffic chaos, landslides but fortunately no loss of life unlike other parts of the Caribbean that suffered terribly.
With the bad weather a day later than predicted and the wind and swell now blowing directly into our previously a protected harbour no boats were being launched. We spent the day in the safety of the apartment watching the chaos unfold via the TV. We were really pleased that we were not in the direct line of the hurricane.

Launched at last!

Launch day was postponed until Saturday with the yard working all weekend to catch up on the backlog.

Testing the Danbuoy. It floated happily all day long so now it is back in place ready for anything!
Finally back in the water we can begin to put the sails on and return Galene to a cruising yacht again.

Enjoying the Hog island beach party with Marie from Mai Tai and Heather and Don from Assiance.

We soon moved from Clarkes Court Bay to Mount Hartman bay.

An evening race into the sunset

 Partly because it was rolly in Clarkes Court but also because there had been a number of robberies. Mount Hartman was perceived to be safer but still a bit rolly. There was plenty of entertainment when a charter catamaran ran up on the reef outside the harbour entrance. Nothing could pull him off until the tide did it the next morning! Pity there was a lot of damage to the rudders but the charter party seemed unfazed!

Cat on a reef! The barge is trying to pull it off.

We also install our new weapon against growth on our bottom, our new ultrasonic antifoul system.
Work continues apace including a few major shopping trips to restock Galene, water aerobics for Rowena and Tuesday evenings ‘Jammin’ at Secret harbour. The Skipper has got into a Rock n Roll lifestyle. Tuesday is jam night; Friday afternoon is music practice with the lads!

Jus jammin mon!

 Eventually all the jobs are done and we are off. After a couple of nights in St Georges the plan is to visit the sculpture park and then north to Carriacou to meet up with friends there.

Our pretty but rolly anchorage in Grand Mal Bay.
We spend one night at Moliniere Point. It is very rolly when we arrive but the wardens who collects our XC$26.70 mooring fee says it will drop later so we decide to stay. Bad decision!
 We go round the point in the dinghy to snorkel on the sculptures but the swell has made the vis terrible.

Rowena found this a bit creepy!

We manage to find a few murky sculptures which look like dead bodies lying on the bottom and the further out we go the darker it gets so we turn back to the shallows. We see a few fish, snapper and parrot fish, nothing very interesting and a few sponges and the odd sea fan. All in all very disappointing. Almost back at the dinghy we find a huge bait ball swirling round, quite dramatic and then excitement! A new fish!! A Flying Gurnard, the first one we have seen out here. It totally ignores us and we can follow it for a while as it sniffs along the bottom and digs in the sand with its pectoral fins which are almost like hands.

A flying Gurnard about 15cm long.
Back on board it is as rolly as ever as we watch a big tuna boat come right into the cove, a marine protected area, and throw out nets obviously after all the bait fish for his longlines! Where are the wardens now? We debate whether to stay or go back to St Georges but decide to tough it out. After a nice green flash it calms a bit but we go to bed early as it is more comfortable lying down than being thrown around the cockpit!

Dawn breaks and we decide to go. We are off at 0730 and sadly watch yet another boat netting for baitfish in the park. No wonder there are not many corals or sponges on the bottom here. Compared with the marine parks in Carriacou and Guadaloupe this is a desert.

We have to motor north until we are clear of Grenada, then the wind fills in from south of east and off we go! With moderate seas and a F4 we make Carriacou by 12.30 with a door to door average of 6.6Kts. I wish it was always this easy.

Carriacou in sight - we can't wait to get back to lovely calm Tyrell Bay.