Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Carriacou July 15

Carriacou (Carry a coo) July 15

We raised the anchor at 0600 on Wednesday 29th July in a light shower and were sailing with one reef in the main and the full genoa in an easterly F4. We soon put in the second reef as this really helps the electric autohelm as we were now sailing on a very broad reach. We had choppy quartering seas with the odd big swell  and the wind more or less behind us. After Union Island we could change course slightly so the wind was more on the beam and a much nicer sail. As well as Terns, Noddys, Frigates and the usual Brown Boobys we saw a few Red Footed Boobies too and a few small dolphins in the gap between Union and Carriacou.

Magnificent frigate bird

By 1515 we were anchored in the centre of Tyrell Bay quite far back as the bay was very crowded. Even so we were only in 6.3m of water and right next to Exit Strategy!  We saw Remedy as we came in and Dick told us Coho are here too. By the time we had tidied the boat away we decided it not to rush and try and check in – still had to lower the outboard onto the dinghy – we do not tow the dinghy with the engine on.  This meant we would not be able to go ashore for the BBQ, but we were quite tired anyway. We had  sailed 47 miles in 9 1/4 hours. So Dan came over and we had a nice quiet catch up.

The crowded bay from the dinghy dock

Thursday was the day of the Carriacou Childrens Fund Auction. This charity was started by cruisers and the funds collected help needy children with uniforms, lunches and anything they need to help them attend school. We had a few things to donate and dropped them off after checking in. We met Coho for a drink and then back to Galene for lunch and a swim.  At 3pm it was off to the auction, a whole hall of items for sale and then a bit later bigger things on auction ranging from paintings to a haul out donated by the boatyard. We ended the evening with pizza and live music at the Lazy Turtle.

Yet another beautiful sunset!

Friday was the start of the regatta here and being at the back of the fleet we had prime seats for the start and finish of the races. It rained on and off so we rigged our raincatcher and while we have not caught a lot while we have been here it has mostly kept our solar shower full.

At Anchor with the dinghy raised  - Always at night and when we are not using it to help prevent weed growth.

More racing on Saturday and then we decided to go to Hillsborough on Sunday  with Exit Strategy, Remedy and Coho to watch the work boat regatta.  These are locally hand built wooden boats traditionally used for fishing, whaling and trading between the islands but are now just raced. There is fierce competition between the islands and a great atmosphere. 

Merry Regatta Mayhem

The smaller boats are started from the beach with the last man or boy pushing and leaping in at the last moment, sometimes being hauled in by his shirt.

And the're off!

There was two days of racing and the grand finale on Sunday afternoon brought out all the island it seemed, dressed in their finery to watch egg and spoon, needle threading, bicycle and donkey races. 

When did you last see this?

The last and most hilarious was the greasy pole with cash at the end in coke bottles and all the hopefuls trying to reach it, some running, some crawling but all falling off spectacularly.

More like 'walking the plank' then climbing the greasy pole

Old and young equally enthralled!

After the regattas the bay emptied quickly , Dan leaving too and we had a nice sociable time with our friends including an excellent lamb BBQ on Coho. We tried several of the local restaurants, all very good and reasonably priced.  We had a bus trip to Hillsborough one day for some grocery shopping as the shops here have quite a small range. There is Patti’s Deli where you can get almost anything you need that the others don’t have like freshly cut ham, cheeses, bagels, etc.

Snorkelling the Barrel

We dinghied over to The Barrel on the south side of the bay with Coho for a nice snorkel. Quite deep in places but we saw many white spotted filefish, fingerprint Cymphoma on sponges, reef squid and two octopus as well as all the usual creatures. The topography is interesting too with big rocks and channels for fish to hide. Sadly on this dive my little Sony camera, supposed to be waterproof to 10m let water in and that seems to be the end of it. My lovely Fuji with its underwater housing is also malfunctioning at times so I really have to look at a new underwater camera. Any suggestions?

Anse le Roche

One day Coho invited us and Remedy to sail with them up to Anse le Roche, a nice snorkel spot to the north. We had quite an exciting sail to windward in their Hinkley 42, quite a bit bigger than Galene! Unfortunately the viz was not very good so we did not see much of interest, but there are some nice big elkhorn corals and Gordon spotted an Eagle ray on the grass but it shot off when he arrived.
After a tasty potluck lunch we had another fast sail back – a lovely day with lovely company.

Elkhorn coral

We booked Galene in with the boatyard to be lifted and antifouled on Monday 17th August and Uwe, a well recommended engineer came to look at our slow start problem. The conclusion is it is the injectors. We must get all the parts from the UK and then we will come back here for him to do the job. Progress at last. 

Remedy and Coho moved on so we just passed the time with small boat jobs and local shopping. Whenever we walk down the main street, the local busses always stop and ask if we are going to the “City” – Hillsborough, the capital of an island with 6000 inhabitants!

Purple peppers from the local veggie stall.

Sunday was a big day here – the new bar we had been watching being built had their pre- opening opening!  We had a couple of beers to support them and then walked up the back street for a delicious dinner at Tanty Mavis accompanied by live Blues. Of course, we met some more cruisers and only got back to Galene at midnight, and I don’t mean cruisers midnight!

So Monday arrives – lift out day! Richard goes to the boatyard as requested at 0800 to see what time we should come over. They are not ready for us, two boats need to go back in before there is room – it is a small yard. Probably Wednesday now.

Caribbean  1  Cruisers  0

We pass the time again – have a look at the new Sealife underwater cameras at the dive shop, take the laundry and then Wednesday dawns. Richard goes over at 1000 as requested. They are still not ready. 

Caribbean  2  Cruisers  0

At least we have something to keep us amused while we wait. There is a hurricane forming out in the Atlantic and is the hot topic of discussion ashore. All the predictions say it will not make landfall till much further north, but at the moment it is still south of us, and 1500 miles away out in the Atlantic.

Friday, 14 August 2015


Bequia (Beck-way)

Sunday 19th July. We raised anchor at 0530. It was already light with no wind as we headed south but by 0700 we were sailing with a reefed main and full genoa in a nice E F4, another pod of dolphins cavorting in the waves!

For breakfast we had porridge. We tried instant oats and instant grits (known as mealie meal in SA!). Not bad, nice and easy but not as good as when it is properly cooked.

Bu the time we neared the top of St Vincent the wind had picked up to a F5 and gone north-easterly, the seas a bit bigger. The electric auto helm was having difficulty steering; we had too much weather helm as the main was overpowering the genoa. Richard went forward to put in the second reef, the boat speed picked up and we were sailing nicely again. The wind died for a while in the lee of the island, so the ‘iron topsail’ was employed, but we were sailing again when we reached the gap between St Vincent and Bequia. There was a huge dark cloud so we quickly reefed the genoa as well, but the squall went by ahead of us. Whew!
 After yet another pod of dolphins, including one totally airborne right next to Galene, we were anchored in 5.5m off Tony Gibbon’s beach by 1730, just behind Coho! 63 miles in 12 hours.

What happens if you drink and sail!

Next morning we had to go ashore to check in and then had a nice leisurely catch up lunch with Coho at Gingerbread. There are tables under a huge almond tree right on the shoreline, very pleasant. We had an excellent braai on board with them on Tuesday night and sadly they left on Wednesday. Never mind, we will probably catch up somewhere later.

Beautiful Tony Gibbons beach

There is a great cruisers net here run by Cheryl of the Fig Tree Restaurant so we have weather forecasts every morning and lots of local information. 

Traditional boats off the beach

By Friday one of the hot topics is Kick-em-Jenny, an undersea volcano just off the north coast of Grenada. It has been rumbling for a while and now there is an increasing chance of an eruption. There is always an exclusion zone of 1.5 kilometres over the volcano but this has been increased to 5K. This is because Kick-em-Jenny can release so much gas into the water that the water density can be reduced to the extent that boats simply sink! There is also the possibility of a tsunami if there was a big eruption. We decided to stay in Bequia until things settle down a bit!  Here in Admiralty bay (Port Elizabeth) we are 40 miles away from the volcano, tucked into a nice beep bay with a few islands in between to hopefully break up any wave! As usual we managed a few boat jobs between shopping in the lovely craft shops and galleries here and a bit of snorkelling. 

Scrubbing the dinghy with a little local help
We beached the dinghy to scrub the bottom. Even though we lift it every night it still manages to go green and even collect a few barnacles. Richard fitted our new rev counter at last. We have not had a working one since Dartmouth! (In my defence m’lud, it has not been the highest of priorities and the replacement instrument only arrived last July!)
While doing this he discovered a split fuel hose, but we managed to get a replacement here and Kenny redid the ends. We got all excited as we thought maybe this had been letting air into the fuel system causing our difficulty in starting. I think this is the first time we were pleased to find something broken on the boat! Sadly, this was not the case. The mystery remains unsolved.

Typical local house

After some more scrubbing of the hull we have decided that the antifoul really needs doing as soon as possible. We will see about it in Carriacou or Grenada. Now that hurricane season is upon us we need to be further south before we stop for a while.

Fishing with technology old and new - note the mobile phone!

The Fig Tree Restaurant does a good Fish Friday BBQ outside and live music with a view over the bay. A great evening, D Real Ting acoustic band a jaunty background during dinner, then a few dance tunes and ending with traditional Calypso. We bought their CD, but have not really listened to it yet as our CD player is playing up (!!!) and keeps ejecting the CDs at random. Another job on the ‘to do’ list.

D real ting

After a weekend of more snorkelling, turtle watching from the boat, a walk ashore where we found more Pawpaw leaves for tea and keeping an eye on Kick-em-Jenny we decided to leave on Monday. This got changed when the propane gas ran out on Sunday! We have a spare cylinder but we always fill the empty one at once if possible and we can’t remember what happens with gas in Carriacou.

Galene from the beach

Monday Richard takes the cylinder to GYS, it will be ready Tuesday! As he is walking back with the newly filled cylinder the pressure release valve blows! We sit looking at it at the dinghy dock, not sure what to do, as it blows again and then keeps hissing slowly! Back to Galene and we leave it on the aft deck while we do some last minute shopping. When we get back it seems to have stopped, but we are not very happy. We have to check out from St Vincent and the Grenadines (still sounds like a 1980’s punk band to me) Our propane cylinder is left out all night and we decide that if by morning it still seems stable we will head for Carriacou. We still want to make the Regatta at the weekend. 

Bunkering with fuel and water before we leave - Bequia style!

Wednesday morning dawns and we have a propane cylinder that has stopped venting; we suspect the cylinder was slightly overfilled. So Carriacou here we come.

Our last night in beautiful Bequia

 If we can get there early enough we can make the Carriacou children’s fund pot luck BBQ.

Monday, 10 August 2015

St Lucia – Back where we started (again)

St Lucia – Back where we started (again)

July, stand by, as the rhyme says. So far this season we have had no tropical storms in the Caribbean but we should be moving south just to be safe. The Grenadines are always a good place to go for the summer and the further south we go the safer we are likely to be from any bad weather. We are also now cruising with a purpose, our bimini and sprayhood are in urgent need of repair as the zips holding the two together are falling apart. Our roller furling genoa is also in need of the sailmakers needle as the UV strip that protects the sail when it is furled has got several tears in it. A half decent blow will reduce it to tatters and then the repair could really be expensive.

St Lucia will be a good place to get some repairs done, we also want to get to Carriacou by the end of the month for the Carriacou regatta, so we really should get our skates on. It is only about 110 miles from Rodney bay St Lucia to Tyrrel bay Carriacou and Bequia in between, but at the rate we sometimes travel it could take us more than a month then we would miss the regatta. (For those wondering why it takes us so long to travel such short distances, it is not the speed that we make while moving that slows us down, but the distractions ashore that tend to keep us in one place for a while.) 

Thursday 2nd July. With a forecast of 15-20 knots and moderate seas (1.5m) we have an early start from Anse d’Arlet. We know the wind is always stronger than predicted and especially at the northern end of St Lucia. We have set the working jib on our inner forestay, partly in anticipation of the higher than forecast winds but also to save the genoa from any more damage.

Bonjour le flics

The first couple of hours are slow going as the wind is only 10-15 kts and we are punching a bit of tide along the south coast of Martinique. Ideally we should have more sail up, in the first two hours we are only making 4 kts, then the wind picks up and we are making 4.5, then 5.5kts. That’s much better. Our speed is increasing and so are the wind and waves, crashing towards the north of St Lucia in a F5 gusting 6 with the waves up to 3m. We are glad of the small headsail. (So much for the forecast!) Looking behind we can see a helicopter coming right towards us, we have already had a good show of sea birds, red billed tropic birds, brown noddys, boobies and frigate birds and now the French coastguard helicopter! 

We think they are looking for a missing boat as there has been a lot of radio traffic. The ‘chopper comes low and close making a complete circle around us all the time taking photo’s. We wave politely (not the Agincourt salute) and they are on their way back towards Martinique.

Sailing from Martinique to St Lucia the current sets you to the west but you always manage to make it back east around the north of St Lucia, the wind tends to follows you so you can point up high. Sailing right into Rodney bay we anchor south of the marina entrance off the yacht club in 5.5m of water. The log shows we sailed 34 miles in 7 hours, a moving average of 4.8Kts, not too bad in the end.

Flamboyants in bloom rounding Pidgeon point

Friday we are off to check in, arrange our canvas repairs, collect our new portable generator, sort out internet and telephone connections, refill our propane bottle, get fuel for the outboard, Gregory comes by with fruit and veg . St Lucia is as hectic as ever.

Gregory 'flamboyant ' as ever!

We are pleasantly surprised with the sail repair. While the sailmaker is busy, he can fit us in on Monday and we will get it back Tuesday afternoon. He will look at the bimini and sprayhood once we are in the marina as it is easier. Hopefully the wind will drop so we can get the genoa off easily.

On Tuesday we moved into the almost empty marina, now for the big jobs. Kenny the sailmaker inspected our bimini and sprayhood and declared that the canvass was still serviceable, all we needed was a couple of zips and some reinforcing at the pressure points. Re assuring in one way but looks like we will still have mis-matched canvas for a while longer. We cleaned up the canvas before giving it to him for repair -it will look much better when finished.


Onto the next job, replacing the galley tap, sounds simple really but without a basin spanner almost impossible. Fortunately the marina handyman was available and had the right tool. Between us we managed to do the job. At last we can fill the kettle under the tap and don’t have to worry about knocking plates and glasses against it when washing up!

And after

We engaged some local help to polish the hull and took the outboard for a service. A shiny hull, repaired and washed bimini, new tap in the galley, we won’t recognise the ‘old girl’. The outboard service was a bargain, ES$90, it would have cost EC$30 to buy a bottle of oil for the outboard leg, besides which I couldn’t undo the screw anyway!

Without our bimini and sprayhood we have rigged up the boom tent awning, it will give us some shade and a bit of protection from the showers. Roll on Saturday when we get our canvas back. 

So with our canvas back eventually, (there was a delay due to a power failure so we had to wait until mid afternoon) we are back at anchor in almost the same spot in Rodney bay. Four nights in the marina for a bit of a rest and we did nothing but work our socks off on the boat although we had long hot showers and did take time off one afternoon for a swim in the pool. At least now we can relax a bit at anchor. 

An empty bay - but which century are we in?

Relax, ha! With the bay almost empty why do charter boats have to anchor within a few feet of us? One morning we watched a large catamaran pick up his anchor from just ahead of us while we finished our breakfast. We went down below when suddenly we realised we were 20 yards back from where we should have been. Our anchor was dug in but somehow we had moved backwards, very strange. All I can assume was he had picked up our hook along with his but didn’t bother to tell us, then just dropped the whole lot just in front of the boat. Within a few minutes we were re anchored back where we were before - never a dull moment.

The weather looks good for voyaging south at the weekend, so we will have to check out of St Lucia on Friday (I hate paying overtime charges for a Saturday checkout). Between now and then we would like to fit in our walk on Pigeon Island. 

The Musket Redoubt with flamboyants in bloom

Pigeon Island is the site of the historic fort Rodney which was built in the 1780’s. Abandoned as a military base in the mid 1800’s it is mostly ruins apart from the rebuilt officers mess which are now the offices of the St Lucia National Trust.

The ingenuity of British military engineering and the Royal Navy never ceases to amaze. To fortify the hilltop the plan was to use the cannons from a decommissioned warship. How to get these 24lb cannons to the top of the hill? The answer was to anchor the warship close to shore at the bay below the fort, take a line from the warship’s mast to a tripod at the top of the hill, then all that had to be done was hoist the guns up the mast and then across the gap to the hilltop. Pretty simple when you think about it really. All you need is lots of rope and unlimited manpower. They called it the ‘gun slide’.

Below us is where the warship would have anchored

Military history aside, Pigeon Island is covered in Flamboyant trees and at the moment they are all in full flower. We walked under beautiful canopies of the red blossoms while watching birds in amongst the branches. We saw at least 10 different species including a new one for us, a Bare Eyed Robin. Not bad for a morning. Bruce of Wild Matilda was with us and got a great shot of a hovering American Falcon . I need a longer lens!

A Grey Kingbird - a commonly seen  flycatcher in the islands

A walk right along the shore line took us to the Carib’s Cave at the tip of the island. Various artefacts have been found here which indicate that the Caribs lived here for quite a long time. Not really caves, more like tumbled rocks at the base of rocky cliffs, but I suppose they may have collapsed over time. It is a very pretty place with a tiny bay giving easy access to the sea for fishing.

Tiny orchids on the cliff above the Caribs cave

We check out on Friday and have a lovely sail south towards Anse Chastanet with a pod of Atlantic Spotted dolphins briefly crossing our path. Anse Chastanet is in the marine reserve so we will have to pick up a mooring. On arrival we cannot see any moorings, just a couple of ‘grockle’ boats moored up so we carry on to the Pitons where we are met by an enthusiastic teenage ‘boat boy’ whose first question to us is “What time are we going to take an island tour tomorrow?” Really? We decline his offer and carry on sailing to be met by another youth who wants to help us onto a mooring. Not having been here for a couple of years we remember that the moorings are difficult to pick up so we engage his services. We needn’t have bothered as the moorings all now have floating pick-up lines so it would have been easy. We have the usual visitors of fruit sellers and trinket merchants. 

Gros Piton

After a lovely swim in Bombay Sapphire blue water against the magnificent backdrop of the Pitons, we watch the comings and goings of fishermen beaching their boats and off loading the catch. The attractive Jalousie Plantation resort on the beach with cottages all along the little bay does not intrude on our peaceful evening. As their lights begin to twinkle the sounds of birds and cattle ashore is replaced by a chorus of tree frogs.

The park ranger comes at dusk to collect the mooring fees and we ask him about Anse Chastanet. He said there are two moorings in place so these must be the ones the ‘grockle’ boats were on. Ah well maybe next time. We will just make sure we arrive really early to get a mooring.

Now it is time for an early night as we plan to leave for Bequia at first light.