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2011 Ships Log

This page is the 2011 Ships Log.  To see previous years, press on the hyperlink below.

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31 December 2011 - The year end. Rodney Bay, St Lucia




Well, the year has come to a close, prompting a bit of refection and some forward thinking. As to the reflection, this map sums it up nicely. We left Florida on 16 December with the intention of getting into the SE Caribbean before hurricane season (15 June). By 9 June, we had made it to our hurricane hole at Mount Hartman Bay in Grenada. As I write this text, we are anchored in Rodney Bay St Lucia, having pre-positioned ourselves for the upcoming visit of Diane’s brother Henry and his wife Marilyn. Our intention this winter is to travel less, visit countries we haven’t seen before and dive more.


To reward ourselves for our travels, we decided to trade in our dinghy (AB RIB, 9.5’) with a new one (Zodiac RIB, 10’2”) that is slightly longer, has larger diameter tubes and appears to be of a sturdier construction. We did this deal through the Liferaft and Inflatable Centre at Rodney Bay, managed by Francis Lucas. Francis is also an agent for Budget Marine, so we upgraded our motor, from a Tohatsu 4-stroke 9.8 HP to a Tohatsu 2-stroke 18 HP. Sure, I know that 2-stroke is old technology and that Tohatsu is phasing these things out. In fact, you can’t buy one of these engines in Canada, USA or Europe. You have to buy a 4-stroke. However, the fact of the matter is that 2-stroke engines are stronger and lighter. Yes, I have to mix the oil and gas and it is a pain, but we now have a dinghy that will plane at 20mph just by cracking the throttle. With the previous dinghy, it was a stretch to plane with Diane and I and a few bags of groceries. I’m positive the new one will plane with 3 people on board and probably also with even more. The Caribbean tropical sun is hard on inflatables and the hypalon fabric used by Zodiac appears to be much heavier than that used by AB and other companies.




On the technical side, we had snubber problems two days ago. We have a 12 foot length of 3/4” twisted rope attached between the anchor chain and a heavy chain plate welded to the bow at the waterline. The effect is that it dramatically lowers the holding angle, increasing holding strength. In the early afternoon, we found that our boat motion felt a little strange so we went up on deck to have a look, only to discover that the snubber was hanging “lifeless” from the bow chainplate. That meant that the snubber had “fallen” off the chain and had no load on it. Using a boat hook, I reached down and grabbed the snubber and hauled it up to deck level to inspect it. The culprit was the WICHARD SS hook, which was completely mangled and unable to hold onto the 3/8” BBB chain. We launched the dinghy, replaced the snubber with another that I had previously fabricated (as well as using a different model chain hook) and reattached the snubber to the chain. This should have been “the end of it”. Eight hours later, we heard a loud BANG and then the boat motion changed again. At 8 pm, we again went up on deck to investigate the problem. Now, we discovered that the heavy SS shackle attaching the snubber to the bow chainplate was missing, apparently having broken or worked its way out. This is a SS shackle with a 7/8” pin! Now, the snubber was hanging from the chain, but not attached to the boat -  the complete opposite situation from earlier in the day. So, we dug out some heavy mooring lines and took the easy way out, attaching the snubber to a bridle of two mooring lines attached at deck level. When the winds subside (they have been 20-30 knots), we’ll reattach at waterline level with another heavy duty shackle.





23 December - Rodney Bay, St Lucia

 

 

PROBLEM SOLVED


I had a new pole and two support arms fabricated onshore at Technical Yacht Services. Lawrence (aka “Chinaman”) runs an excellent shop and is really gifted with stainless steel. One of his staff came out in my dinghy to eyeball the boat when it was anchor (although they did initially want me to come alongside to get the work done). Based on my drawing, they made up a single 10 foot pole, and welded a stub (1.5” ID, Schedule 40) to attach the wind generator. They also welded on a fitting so I could attach the base of the new pole to an existing unused chainplate on the transom, as well as two tabs to attach support arms. After a few trial fits and final welding, the pole was ready for installation. From the time I walked into the shop with my plan in hand until the pole was installed and generator running - it was less than 48 hours. You can’t complain about that.



Diane and I are now enjoying boundless electricity since the Christmas trade winds have setup and both generators are spinning full out. The Spreco Silentwind, in particular, has been seen to put out as much as 27A before it cuts out. With the internal controller user interface, it is possible for me to adjust this as high as 35A.


19 December - Rodney Bay, St Lucia 

We’re still here. I did finally make contact with Rudolf Sprenger, the owner and General Manager of Spreco, manufacturer of my Silentwind generator. He was in Martinique, getting some work done on his boat. He was a little late, but he did sail South to St Lucia to meet us and delayed his onward flight by a week to help me troubleshoot this issue. He flew back to Europe today, having spent several hours per day over the past week working with me on my vibration issue. He verified that the blades were balanced. He replaced the azimuth bearing with a later issue one (tighter tolerances) and he swapped out the rotor (just in case the shaft was bent) with another one. In the end, the situation didn’t change much. 

Our assessment is that my Spreco Silentwind generator is perfectly fine, but that a resonance builds up (as the generator spins up in the building winds 8-12 knots) due to natural harmonics with the solar/radar/wind structure. I’ve been thinking about this since the day that Merritt and I installed it, back in April 2011. Diane predicted this months ago. The problem is that the whole structure was originally designed and built to accommodate 2 solar panels, 1 wind generator and 1 radar. Since then, I’ve added 4 more solar panels and a 2nd wind generator. Every structure has a natural frequency and it just so happens that as the Silentwind generator “ramps up”, it causes the Rutland 913 (on the other side, and attached to the same structure) to rattle - not continuously mind you, just for a few seconds. Another thing that I’m planning to do is to replace the azimuth bearing on the Rutland, since it is obviously too sloppy!

In the meantime, we did a lot of troubleshooting and testing. In the photo below, we completely removed the Spreco from the solar array, and using ropes and webbing, fastened it to a 12 foot long whisker pole borrowed from Jeff and Pam on SV FOGGY MOUNTAIN. We left the Silentwind generator on this pole - lashed to the pushpit - for several hours, and there was clearly no vibration transmitted below.



So - what to do? We’ve decided to have a new pole and supports fabricated locally. The material will be 316 stainless steel - and very heavy duty. Photos to follow when the project is done. In the meantime, Diane and I are enjoying the glitz and glamour of St Lucia. Oh yeah, on another note, we’ve decided to trade in our AB RIB (9’6”) with Tohatsu 9.8HP motor on a new Zodiac RIB (10’2”) with Tohatsu 18HP motor. Once this deal is complete, we should have no problem getting up on a plane, even with other passengers!

11 December - Rodney Bay, St Lucia

 

 

We’re still here, and haven’t yet made contact with the owner of Spreco - to discuss our vibration issues.


On the other hand, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is proceeding well. This annual transatlantic rally starting each November in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, has now become a very popular way to cross the Atlantic. The largest trans-ocean sailing event in the world, every year the ARC brings together over 200 yachts from all over the world. The Caribbean destination is Rodney Bay Saint Lucia (just happens to be where we are anchored), one of the most beautiful of the Windward Islands. The 2700 nautical mile passage on the NE tradewind route takes on average between 14 and 21 days. Conceived as a friendly race for cruising yachts to make the Atlantic crossing both safer and more enjoyable, participating yachts are obliged to meet a full range of safety standards. The ARC combines racers with cruisers, old with young, and provides entertainment for all. A wide ranging programme of entertainment takes place both before the start and after the finish. This year, 213 yachts were at the start line. At the time of writing this blog, 140 ARC boats have arrived, as well as their 750 crew. Needless to say, we try to avoid the crowds -- which are centered around the IGY marina itself -- and the docks are filling up. Sailing Yacht Ocean Wanderer is still more than a day away. Sadly, it is carrying the body of a crew-member that died of a heart attack on passage, just two days ago.




Yesterday afternoon, we walked to the peak at Pigeon Island, just at the NW corner of Rodney Bay. Once isolated from the country in the Caribbean Sea the island was artificially joined to the mainland in 1972 by a man-made causeway built from the dirt excavated to form the Rodney Bay Marina. Composed of two peaks the island is a historic site with numerous forts such as an 18th century British fort and Fort Rodney both used by the British to spy on French Ships from neighbouring Martinique. It wasn’t too hard of a climb up the hill, but the views were worthwhile. Looking North to Martinique, you can see why the island of St Lucia was a key military location.




As we looked South, (with the bulk of the anchored boats out of view to the left) this is a good photo of Diane and Annette on SV Tempest (out of Louisiana).





5 December - Rodney Bay, St Lucia

We left Tyrrel Bay at 0600, and motor sailed 55nm to Chateaubelair St Vincent. Surprisingly, we had Internet. We never cleared in, or went ashore. The next morning, we left again at 0600, and sailed to Rodney Bay in excellent conditions. Now, we will try to make contact with the owner of Spreco, the company that makes the SilentWind Generator. While we're here, we'll observe as the Atlantic Rally Crossing (ARC) arrives. 217 boats, more than a thousand participants, all coming from the Canary Islands in the annual rally to the Caribbean.


3 December 2011 - New Davits, SCUBA diving and time to leave (Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou)

As planned, we’ve stayed here for two weeks and completed work on the new davits. It was a pleasure to meet and work with expatriate Frenchman Dominique Weber (Carriacou Aluminium Boat Works). He has operated a floating shop on his trimaran for the past 25 years, and is well known throughout the community. He is able to weld with stick, MIG and TIG, and has most of the tools that you would expect (pipe benders, drill press etc). On first discussing the project with him, Dominique said to me: “the more work YOU do, the less I do....”, so you can understand what took place.

 

 


 

The final product is extremely strong and very well finished. Dominique is a very capable craftsman, able to produce an excellent product at a very reasonable price. He is also a very busy man. As you can see in the photo below, we have raised the lifting point of the dinghy and substantially reinforced the davits. There is really no comparison to the old ones. These new davits are made of polished anodized aluminum, all round pipe, schedule 40.

 


 


 

Although we were only in Tyrrel Bay for two weeks, we found the time to do a few other things. Of particular interest, we discovered LUMBADIVE, an PADI Dive Resort operated by Richard and Diana, from Quebec. I taught Diane (my wife) to dive more than 10 years ago and issued her an ACUC OpenWater certification card. However, other than 4 dives in Cuba, ten years ago, she has not had any other diving experience. Here, Diane took the opportunity for a “SCUBA tuneup” and had personalized instruction for the PADI Advanced Diver certification. She did five dives, experiencing a wreck, several reefs and even compass navigation. The water was very clear, the dive sites teaming with fish! This is just what we were looking for since one of our objectives for this winter is to dive more.

 


 

In a few days, we’ll be in Rodney Bay, St Lucia, and hope to have the opportunity to speak to the Wind Generator manufacturer (Spreco) about vibration. Right now, we’re waiting for a suitable weather window, and good Internet.

20 November - On the road again ........Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou

 

We got itchy feet and sailed out of Mount Hartman Bay on Thursday. We wanted to leave a week earlier but suffered a matrimonial catastrophe - my wedding ring broke. We took it in to a jewelry shop at the Spiceland Mall and they sent it out for repair. Five days later it came back, completely repaired and looking better than new - at a cost of 38 EC ($ 14.23). We couldn’t have asked for better.


This is a good photo that Bill Dietrich on SV MAGNOLIA took as I was putting a reef in the sail while we were motoring in the harbour. Maria and Cathy on SV JOANA ONE (aka JO-JO) were also weighing anchor and sailing North at the same time. In the background is the luxurious, unique and expensive Mount Hartman Bay Estate - well above our price threshold!




So, we were able to leave on Thursday morning.This was a 40nm trip North to the island of Carriacou (the Northern reach of Grenada). Now that winter is here, the “winter trade winds” have set in with a predominately NE direction. Unfortunately, we had to travel NE to get to Tyrrel Bay, which meant motoring with the mainsail up (and one reef). Not only was the wind against us, but so was the current. Nonetheless, it was a good trip to shake things out and remember how to do this. The engine temperature gauge seemed to be malfunctioning at first, but the temperature gradually creeped up. Possibly it was a thermostat issue?


Once we arrived, we anchored in 21 feet of water, put up our sun shades and were treated to fresh mahi-mahi caught by the crew of SV JOANA ONE. This was a beauty, and it tastes so good when its fresh. We also trolled a line, but had no bites. When cruisers travel together, they often share their catch, particularly when its too big to fit in the fridge. Here’s a photo of Maria with their catch, and Cathy smiling in the background.




We have a practical objective for being in Tyrrel Bay. We have been plagued with an annoying rattle/hum/shake - ever since installing our second wind generator when in St Martin back in March 2011. About a month ago, I decided to shut it off, and tie the blades down until we could sort it out. On Friday, we spoke with Dominique Weber (a Frenchman that operates a welding and sail repair shop from his trimaran anchored in the bay) about setting up a separate mount for this wind generator. In very clear words, Dominique told us that this was completely unnecessary and that the vibration issue was with the generator itself and that the mount was perfectly adequate! However, he did want to work on our davits - long thought to be inadequately designed and not strong enough.




Therefore, after an hour of discussion, we came up with a plan for re-doing the davits. With Maria’s help, we chopped off the existing davits (substantially welded to 4” by 4” posts) and are now left with the “bare butt look” on our transom. Hopefully, in a week or so, I’ll be able to report how the new structure looks. 


A few hours after Dominique left, I tightened the blades on my Spreco Silentwind - and the vibration practically all disappeared!


On another note, the perpetually annoying drunken Norwegian also left Mount Hartman Bay (actually, the marina, not the anchorage) on the same day as us. You can read all about his antics on Ken and Lynn’s SV SILVERHEELS III posting.


9 November
- Lobster for Dinner

 

Yesterday, we went lobster hunting. Since we arrived in Grenada we have always bought the local catch, but yesterday we wanted to catch and then eat - fresh. On the recommendation of John (SV PURRFECT), three cruising boats (SV JOANA, SV JOANA ONE and SV PURRFECT) went to a secret location (by tender) to find and secure lobster for our evening meal. It took the morning, but was good exercise and safe hunting. Some even got a sunburn. We were divided into two groups, scuba divers (the lobster finders) and snorkelers (the lobster catchers). The visibility was pretty good (strong sunlight) but there was a lot of sediment in the water (apparently due to the drainage of rivers from South America).


This is a good shot of John, looking for lobster - and Diane scanning the horizon. 
















After about an hour of scrounging around, we were lucky enough to have caught five lobsters, in fact - all of them caught by Maria. She is an asset to be sure, in any activity. 















At sundown, the three boats enjoyed lobster fettucini on SV JOANA ONE, together with a broccoli salad and Oreo cookie dessert. This is a good life to be sure!

 31 October - Halloween

When people leave their home country, they take their traditions with them - even cruisers.


Two weeks ago, we celebrated Canadian thanksgiving dinner aboard SV JOANA ONE. This past Saturday night, Diane and I went to the annual Halloween party at Clarks Court Bay marina. Photo evidence is below. Diane went as a Cruise Ship Tourist and I was a Conspiracy Theorist.




Last night, we celebrated Halloween in the anchorage. On the 0730 cruisers net (channel 68 on the VHF), cruisers with children aboard announced that they would be coming around to Trick or Treat in the Clarks Court and Mount Hartman Bays. They gave the timings and asked that people who did NOT want to be visited say so in advance. They didn’t want to impose this custom on someone who didn’t want to participate. Much to our surprise, one boat in our bay called later on the net and said that they were not accustomed to this festivity in their home country (the UK) and did not want to start (in pretty stern words). OK, everybody to his own.


Maria and Cathy on SV JOANA ONE got into the swing of things. They dropped by in their dinghy en route to yet another party, a Halloween party at Port Louis Marina. Maria was dressed as a Viking Warrior and Cathy was a 70’s Disco Queen.




The real fun part of this event was the kids Trick or Treating and us handing out candies. Diane made special cookies for them in the morning. Ruth and Charles on SV ASTRAL WIND played loud spooky music on their catamaran, and this echoed throughout the anchorage. There aren’t very many kids cruising, but they all piled into one dinghy and came alongside. No North American kids. These were 2 Brits, 2 South Africans and 2 French kids. Isn’t it great that they could experience Halloween?







18 October - Fishing School - With SV Campechano


Sunday, we (along with Bill on SV Magnolia and Maria/Cathy on SV Joana One) were hosted by Ronnie and Babbie Ramos on SV Campechano




Ronnie and Babbie are fun-loving Puerto Ricans who love to go fishing on their beautiful sailing catamaran. Diane and I were in for a double treat since we had never actually been on a catamaran underway. The winds were 15-20 knots, gusting to 25 at times. With these conditions, their Catana 47 easily reached 10-12 knots under sail - and is capable of much more when the conditions are right. Here is a photo of the intrepid Captain Ronny:




The problem though was to throttle the speed back so that it wasn’t too much of a chore to real the fish in. At one point, Ronnie had a huge wooden lure (it must have been about 5 pounds) out, trolling for marlin. When he brought the lure in, our speed over ground was only 8 knots but you could see that Ronnie really had to put effort into hauling in the lure.


We found the motion of the catamaran to be quite a bit different than anything we have experienced in the past. While its quite true that cats don’t heel like monohulls, they do tend to have a jerky side-to-side motion, and when the wave height increases, so does the slap on the bottom of the centre cabin. We have talked with people who have sailed cats long distance. If you’re in the market to buy one, I do recommend that you try it out first. Its not for everyone. I found the boat to be quite stable and walked up to the bow seat on the starboard hull. Here, you can see me trying to coax Diane into walking out to the bow (there is not much in the way of support structure to hold onto).




Diane did make it though.




We had an excellent day fishing, pulling in three Rainbow Runners and two Little Tunies. Ronnie was pretty busy just filleting the fish, while Maria, Cathy and myself pulled in the catch. We basically sailed on a beam reach away from the island, turned around and sailed back several times. We passed over a ledge of about 300 foot depth where the island’s shelf fell away. On the shelf, the fish were just waiting to be caught!



  

16 October - Steel Drum Band at the Tikki Bar


Last night we did something different. We walked over to Prickly Bay Marina/Restaurant and took in the activities at the Tikki Bar. This place is about a 20 minute walk from our nearest dock at Secret Harbour. 




Happy Hour prices were in effect, giving us gin & tonics for 5.25EC ($ 1.97 US) -- and not too heavy on the tonic! We bought and shared a pizza. This is one of the advantages of getting older. Your metabolism slows down and you can easily share a meal. After the meal was over, we were entertained by a steel drum band. Apparently this is a regular thing at the Tikki Bar, but a first for us. As you can see in the photo, people were up and dancing, enjoying the rhythm of the night!



 

11 October - Canadian Thanksgiving


Mt. Hartman Bay Grenada was the setting for this years Canadian Thanksgiving for the captain and first mates of Windsong, Magnolia, Purr-fect, Astral Wind,  Joana, Campechano, and Joana One. Seven sailing vessels - of the 43 anchored in the bay. The golden turkey was prepared by Diane and the cooking was done by Maria on the host boat Joana One.  All guests brought a main dish to share and an appetizer. There was an abundance of food. We were all very grateful for our wonderful celebration of giving thanks for what we are experiencing at sea.

The Venue: SV Joana One                                                            Maria cooking the turkey.
















Charles and Ruth from SV Astral Wind.




















 
3 October - And the Survey Says ......

 

 Last week’s topic on boat naming has made a natural segue into today’s dissertation. I’ve been disappointed for months in the poor markings of many of the boats that we’ve come across in our travels. It is starting to looks as though some people are hiding. To be honest, I’ve also been under the impression that Americans, by and large, do not display their flag. Americans are amongst the most patriotic people I’ve come across, but when outside their country, they appear to be much more sheepish than you’d think. This thinking is the basis for a survey that I undertook over the past week. Diane and I drove around to three easily reachable anchorages - avoiding the marinas altogether. Surveying boats that are tied up at a marina, I figured, would skew the results. My goal was to determine what proportion of boats were registered in what countries. What proportion are sail versus power? Who flies their flag? What percentage of cruisers are on catamarans?





It was a little bit fun, a little bit difficult and occasionally challenging to complete this simple survey. Would you believe that out of 120 “surveyed” or “examined” boats, two boat owners were rude and unpleasant with me. I didn’t actually need to talk with anyone, I was just going with the markings on the boat, but two unnamed individuals swore at me, quite rudely. 


Of the 120 boats surveyed, 63 were occupied (meaning that 57 were unoccupied, perhaps for weeks or months while their owners returned home), 12 were catamarans and there was only 1 cabin cruiser (power).


Mount Hartman Bay: 43 boats: 26 of which were occupied, 5 were catamarans

Hog Island: 43 boats: 15 of which were occupied, 5 were catamarans, 1 was a power boat

Woburn Bay: 34 boats, 22 of which were occupied, 2 were catamarans


 Nationality Distribution:


USA: 36 (13 flew their flag)

Canada: 17 (16 flew their flag)

UK: 16 (10 flew their flag)

France: 3 (3 flew their flag)

Germany: 3 (none flew their flag)

Australia: 3 (1 flew a flag)

British Virgin Islands: 2 (2 flew a flag)

New Zealand: 2 (2 flew a flag)

South Africa: 2 (1 flew a flag)

Netherlands: 1 (flew a flag)

Norway: 1 (no flag)

Switzerland: 1 (no flag)

Portugal: 1 (flew a flag)

Denmark: 1 (flew a flag)

Grenada: 2 (1 flew a flag)

Unknown nationality: 29 (these are the boats that are very poorly marked, so badly that I couldn’t figure out their origin)


One should take into account the fact that unoccupied boats rarely display a flag (although the nationality should be deducible based on the port of registry). What’s the point in putting up a flag if you’re going to be away for months? It will only be tattered in the wind anyway. When we left our boat on a mooring for a month and returned to Canada, we took our flag down. 


Therefore, I went back to the raw data and looked at how many of the American occupied boats had a flag. I found that 14 occupied boats had no flag, whereas 13 occupied boats did fly a flag -- and 9 were unoccupied. From my perspective, this did confirm my earlier suspicion - that Americans are sheepish about showing their flag. As a follow-up, I asked several American Captains why they didn’t bother to fly a flag. The answers I got were invariably:


1. US flags are very expensive.

2. I don’t bother to put up a flag during hurricane season, since the boat is stationary.
3. I’m trying to keep a low profile.

 

 26 September - What’s in a name?




I’ve been thinking of writing on this topic for a long, long time. Its about boat names; the good ones, the bad ones, and the so-so - at least in my humble opinion (IMHO). In the 2.5 years since Diane and I left Canada, I have seen a lot of boat names, from many different countries. If someone actually reads their boat name in this post, please don’t take any offence, I mean only to inform and hopefully, give some positive tips. As food for thought, from a US website, here is an apparent collection of the 10 most popular boat names (there is more than one site that proclaims to be the authority on this topic):


1. Serenity (Seen one)

2. Happy Ours

3. Feelin' Nauti 

4. Family Time 

5. Liberty (Seen one)

6. Black Pearl (We’ve come across several of these)

7. Andiamo (What does this mean?)

8. Knot On Call (Seen one)

9. High Maintenance (Aren’t they all?)

10. Just Chillin (Seen one)


I find it interesting that not a single one of the so-called top 10 even remotely resembles the name of a woman. In case you haven’t already figured it out, our boat is named after my daughter - Joana. I’ve always thought that nautical tradition meant using the name of a woman. After searching the Internet for tips on naming boats, I discovered that there is a lot of crap out there, but I can recommend as a starting point - this site at http://www.frugal-mariner.com/Boat_Names.html. 


There are many boaters who think that these names are really cute: MOM’S MINK, WET DREAM, or how about -- DIXIE NORMOUS. As a cruiser, you have to realize that when people meet you, they will recall your boat’s name and your name. Do you really want to be remembered as Bill - The MASTER BAITER, or George from BREAKIN WIND? My concern is that while a name may appear cute in your home port, this may not give the same message in other ports - especially foreign ports. We came across a boat called PILLPUSHER while in the Bahamas. We heard that the owner is a retired Pharmacist. While this name may seem cute in his hometown of Aurora Kentucky (Look it up, the boat exists), what kind of a message do you think it gives when you’re arriving in Miami, Florida, after a 7 day passage from Cartagena Columbia? This boat was previously registered with the name HIGH COTTON. What’s wrong with that? 


Here is a South African boat in our anchorage with no markings at all. It does have a national flag, but there are no markings anywhere on the boat, dinghy, sailcover or elsewhere to indicate the name or port of registry. In some countries, this would get the attention of the coast guard.




You also have to consider that one day, the cute or unpronounceable name of your boat may serve to your disadvantage. Someday you may be calling in a Mayday while your boat is sinking, on fire or being attacked by pirates.  How would this work on the radio?


 "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is the LALEA PITANYA PROKENZA."  "Um, could you spell that, please?" 


Johnny Depp’s boat (which we’ve seen in the Bahamas) is named VAJOLIROJA (when pronounced, it sounds like The Jolly Roger). This boat name makes a lot of sense because it is comprised of the first two letters of his wife’s (Vanessa) name, his name (Johnny) and the names of their two children (Lili-Rose and Jack). When you see the boat at the dock, passersby are perplexed as to how to pronounce it - even if their first language is English. Do you think that it is easily spelt or understood on the radio?


There are some boat owners / cruisers who make up a name, based on a clever play on words, such as: KNOT TIED DOWN, or ULA-G, for example.


Some people have named their boat, taking into consideration their change in lifestyle from a shore-based life to that of a cruiser, such as: BOLDLY GO, ZERO TO CRUISING, GOOD TO GO, CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE (Saw this one on the hard in NC), or DON’T LOOK BACK (Why not, are your creditors chasing you?)


If you’re Canadian or American, you’re not supposed to check in at a foreign port unless your boat is federally registered. For example, boats that are licensed in the Province of Ontario, are not supposed to leave Canada, unless they register with Transport Canada and get the right documentation. The names of Canadian boats must be unique. For example, there is only one Canadian JOANA. The next closest one is JOANA ONE - which happens to be anchored right next to us in Grenada.


A good query based website for Canadian boats is the Canadian Registry of Ships.


In the US, you must have a unique name, for a given port. Therefore, you can call your boat WANABEE, as long as its the only WANABEE in your port of registry. The US Registry of Ships.


In my humble opinion, here are some of the less than good names I’ve seen for boats:


PFIFFIKUS (I can’t spell it, pronouncing it is even more difficult)

OH, MY! (Sure, try and tell the Coast Guard in Cuba this one)

WE’RE NOT SURE EH! (This can be very difficult over the radio, particularly with emergency services)

UP IN SMOKE (Are you kidding me?)

WHERE TO? (Are you serious?)

WHICH WAY? (Duh?)

HENUS (It was pronounced ANUS with an “H” over the radio this morning.)

TEMPEST (I think its bad luck to name your boat after a storm)

FURY (Same as above)

PATRIOT (OMG, if this isn’t a magnet for pirates, I don’t know what is)


People who have catamarans are in a different world, and many try to name their boat with the theme of a cat. Here are some that I’ve seen:


COOL CAT, DOUBLE TROUBLE, TWO MUCH FUN, PURR-FECT, HAIR BALL, NAUTI-CAT, KNOTTI-CAT, TWO-SOME


Considering that naming a boat is very subjective, here are some of what I think are the good names:


SILVER SEAS

FORTNIGHT (named after the owners, Vince and Linda Weeks)

BORROWED HORSE

RONDO (I don’t know what it means but its easily spelt, and pronounced in many languages)

NINO

MARY T

MAGNOLIA

MEREDITH


Regardless of how you name your boat, there are regulations pertaining to the markings, where and how big. In the anchorage, I’ve found two good examples of well marked boats.















At the end of the day, throwing tradition to the wind, I think that a boat name should be pronounceable, not too difficult to spell -- understandable in several languages. Perhaps we should be taking a cue from the automobile industry, who try to come up with clever model names that can be recycled in different countries with no hangups with language or culture.

 

18 September - Excitement in Paradise


We were due for some high-paced drama. On Thursday afternoon, Diane and I finished the last of the canvas project. We made a nice triangular piece that shades the foredeck and allows us to keep the hatch open in mild rains.




To celebrate 3 weeks of successful canvas work, we went ashore to Secret Harbour Marina to play Mexican Train Dominos on Thursday afternoon. Its a fun game when you get 6-8 players. This game eventually morphed into happy hour, where you can buy three beers for 10 EC (that’s $ 3.75 for three bottles of Carib or Stag). We were planning to dinghy over to Island View Restaurant for a cheap meal (ribs/chicken/fish with side dishes) for only 15 EC when the wind whipped up in a frenzy. For about 2 hours we looked down at the dock and bay from our high vantage point in the restaurant. The sides are all open to the environment, so everybody huddled to the centre to avoid wind and rain. Boaters on the dock told us that they recorded 60-65 knots of wind. One boat had their furled jib blow out. There was a lot of traffic on the VHF net as boaters in several of the nearby anchorages were being called out. Boats were dragging and sinking and things were getting very tense.


At 7 pm, the wind dropped to only about 15 knots and hardly any rain. Diane and I could clearly see our boat across the bay since we had the anchor light on. Everything looked fine. In fact, we reached our boat on the mooring and climbed aboard, hoisting the dinghy for the night, as per routine. We then watched a movie. At 9 pm, we went out on deck to have a look around and things looked somehow different. The boats around us were a little displaced, and then we realized that we had shifted about 3 boat lengths down the coast and were NOT in the usual spot, and obviously stuck in the mud. The tide was falling (only about 1.5 feet) and then we started to list. Our buddies on SV JOANA ONE (Maria and Cathy) dinghied over and set our Bruce anchor with 100 feet of chain off our starboard bow. I snorkeled under the boat and removed a black plastic bag covering the prop. By the way, this works great to keep barnacles and weeds off. Then we went to bed to wait for high tide (predicted at 5 am). Unfortunately, even with only a 4 degree list, it was difficult to sleep. We were both too stressed and lied awake, sweating what would come.


At 3 am, and again at 4 am, Diane and I tried to motor out of the mud on our own steam - to no avail. At 5 am, Maria and Cathy came over in their dinghy (hard bottom with 15HP motor) and lent assistance. With their help, as well as Lynn on SILVERHEELS III (also with a 15 HP motor on their dinghy), we were able to motor out of the mud and finally anchor in a safe place.


As I write this blog, it is Sunday morning and our mooring owner (Dennis) still hasn’t showed up to repair his mooring - despite 2 phone calls to him. Early Friday morning, Diane and I actually secured one of his boats (he makes a living renting moorings and taking care of boats) that broke free, wandered through the anchorage and rested against the mangroves. Three days have passed, and he hasn’t stopped by....... We’re not impressed.


One lesson learned: For all those people who have a little wee dinghy with a 2 HP motor, or even worse - no motor, but proudly row ashore  ------ I don’t know how they would have done this. We have a 9.8 HP Tohatsu, but when it comes time to replace it, I think I’m going for a 15 instead.


 
12 September - Let there be SHADE


Nearly two years ago, we had a hard bimini (Divini cell foam and fiberglass) made for to provide shade and rain protection to the cockpit, while we were docked in Beaufort NC. We always intended to build on that, to improve our QOL when staying for extended periods on anchor. It took time before we could conceptualize what exactly we wanted, and how best to build it. The truth is, that erecting canvas (well, its really Sunbrella) takes a bit of time. If you’re always on the move, who wants to put it up? With that in mind, we didn’t want too much.


So, here we are in Grenada, essentially from mid June to early November, and we want to maximize sun protection. We ordered the necessary materials from Sailrite and precisely two weeks ago, Diane and I started on this project. At this point in time, we’re “nearly finished”. The only area that I’d like to see more cover for is the foredeck area, something that we’re still discussing how to best do. Here are the results to report:


The first thing we had to do was to design and fabricate a vinyl windshield to seal the area between the hard bimini and the hard dodger. Since the boat points into the wind when at anchor, this stops 90% of the rain from blowing into the cockpit. We can now sit in the cockpit when it rains! This simple windshield took us 5 days to design, fabricate and install.




The photo below best shows what we’ve done, looking from the port side. You can see how important the windshield is. You can also see the port and starboard side flaps that provide more protection to the cockpit. This view also shows the size of the large cover aft that provides protection to the poop deck. This cover was made mostly from recycled materials that we had on board.






Speaking of the poop deck, I thought this photo was very revealing because it shows just how much space we now have (in the shade) on the poop deck. We can now setup a hammock, or a folding lawn chair. We have both on board. If you look to the aft end of the cockpit (forward of the poop deck), you can see a green roll of Phifertex tied to the bottom of the hard bimini, this is our sun shade, that we can unroll when the stern is pointed West - just at sun-downer time.




Did we save money doing this project? You bet. While in the Dominican Republic this past Spring, we spoke to one canvas maker who quoted us $ 4,000 to build the windshield alone. We figure we built it for about $ 300 in materials. We figure that we have invested about $ 600 in materials, with the results presented in the photos above. The labour is of course, not included. Diane was the chief seamstress, with me in assistance.

 

 

1 September - Shark For Dinner

A few days ago, Diane and I were relaxing in the cockpit, enjoying the shade in the afternoon sun and breeze -  contemplating what to cook for dinner. We have a well stocked fridge and freezer, and like landlubbers, we try to vary our meat dishes. 

A few minutes before taking out some fish to defrost, Gabriel (the son of Dennis, who rents us our mooring) came by in his skiff. He and his buddy had been out fishing and wanted to sell us some of their catch. So, he showed us his catch of red snapper, and then I had to do a “double-take”. I asked - “Is that a shark in your boat?”. Gabriel replied, yes - and he patted the head of the nurse shark laying next to him. The shark’s head then bobbed up and down - obviously still alive. It was a comical and typical Caribbean scene. I ran back for my camera to take a few photos. What you see below is a staged shot of Diane buying a pail of red snapper, with the fishermen in the boat. Running the length of the boat, and laying next to Gabriel is the nurse shark that they had speared and then lifted into their boat.

 



In addition to the red snapper, of course - we were keen to get some of this shark. So, Diane gave them two large freezer bags and asked them to return later in the day with shark meat. Two hours later, we hunted them down on shore, still hacking up their shark with a machete. We bought two bags (about 10 pounds per bag) for 40 EC each ($ 15 for 10 pounds). Since this was far too much meat for our needs, we promptly off-loaded one bag to another cruiser, before even returning to our own boat. In the photo below, Diane poses with our 10 pound bag of shark meat. Since buying this meat, we have had shark twice on the BBQ. Diane uses her favourite website for discovering recipes - www.allrecipes.com. The meat has the texture of chicken, or lobster, but it must be well cleaned and marinated to have the best taste.




22 August - Grenada Island Tour


A few days ago, Diane and I joined in with three other boats for an island tour. One of the local cruiser’s shopping bus drivers (Joe) took us on a full day tour (8am to 6pm) to see the sites of the island. The tour started at the capital, St George’s Town - where we drove up to the high point where the fort is. Like many Caribbean nations, this fort has changed hands between the English and the French - many times. There was a coup here, ending on 23 October 1983 when the Prime Minister and a number of his closest followers were executed. The US invasion of Grenada followed shortly after, on 25 October, with the restoration of democracy. These two photos show both the harbour at St George’s and boats that are anchored/moored.






Cathy and Maria (off Joana 1, a Canadian registered sailboat) were on the tour with us. I took the opportunity to take this photo of them with their ship circled in the background. These two girls have both circumnavigated on the Picton Castle. You can read more about them, their boat and their travels on their website, Sail-Joana.




On the West coast, we stopped at Leapers Hill, a place that got its name in 1650. As the story goes, the French gave the Caribs a few bottles of Brandy, and some beads in exchange for the right to settle Grenada. It didn’t take the Caribs very long to figure out that they were swindled by the French. Eventually, the Brandy finished, and the Caribs grew bored with the shiny trinkets, so they attacked and killed several Frenchmen. Of course the the French did not take this lying down and decided to wipe out the Caribs. The Caribs last stand was at what’s now the town of Sauteurs in St. Patricks. As the European historians tell it, the few Caribs that were not killed refused to surrender to the French, and instead leaped to their death over the precipice.




Next stop was the Rivers rum distillery at River Antoine Estate. This is the only rum distillery on the island where they make rum from local sugar cane, as opposed to imported molasses. As an aside, here I discovered the longest stretch of working railway in Grenada, and as you can see, its nothing much.






On the road, we stopped by a local home, where the driver told us was the only working example of a bread mud oven. Apparently, this wood heated mud oven produces bread on a daily basis for the locals.




Next stop was Concord Waterfalls. Here, Diane and I took a fresh-water swim/shower in the falls - together with the other cruisers on our mini-bus. The water felt so cool and clean, compared with the warm salty ocean water. The bottom was very deep, and there was quite a current.




At lunch-time, we ate at Belmont Estates, where they grow, harvest and process cocoa into chocolate (and of course we bought some). Diane and I sampled some fresh cocoa plant, and I took a photo of one of the employees walking over the cocoa beans - an important step in making organic chocolate.






Next, our tour took us along the East coast, where we stopped for a few minutes at this local beach, at Antoine Bay. Here, we saw locals (not tourists, and not cruisers) swimming behind the protected reef. Apparently, there is a strong rip current on this Atlantic facing beach.




Nearby, is one of several inland lakes - Lake Antoine.




On our return leg back to St George’s, we stopped (pretty well in the centre of the island) at Grand Etang Lake. The lake is surrounded by plantations, not a home or cottage to be seen. Isolated, but peaceful.




That concluded our first island tour. Although we’ve been here since mid June, it gave us very good exposure to our surroundings, and tempting us for more exploration.

 

 

 

13 August - Grenada (Clark's Court Bay)
Dinghy Concert


Diane and I went to this cool dinghy raft-up concert the day before yesterday in Grenada (10 minute dinghy ride from where we are anchored). No cost. Great tunes. Wonderful easy times. Have a look at this link. If you look closely, you’ll find Diane and I in the back corner.


Dinghy Concert


10 August - Grenada (Mt Hartman Bay) - Carnival Time


It is carnival time in Grenada. Tourist season is LOW, but this is the annual carnival season and many of the expatriates return to visit their friends and family. On Monday, Diane and I took the cruiser’s bus into downtown St Georges to observe some of the activities. 




One of the first Carnival events is the J'ouvert that takes place early in the morning. Blackened with stale molasses, tar, grease, creosote or mud, and wearing little more than their horned helmets, these masqueraders in previous times set out to terrify onlookers with their grotesque appearance and repulsive dances. In modern times, the traditional dancers have mutated into other creatures of colour, with Blue, Yellow and Green Devils. These colourful devils dance through the streets to the rhythms of the accompanying drums, steel bands and calypsos from huge DJ trucks - and I mean HUGE.









































With Pageant Mas in the afternoon, the Carnival Devils Disappear With The Rising Of The Sun, Making Way For The Traditional And Fancy Mas Bands. Each parish has its own brand of traditional mas usually represented by Short Knees, Vekou and Wild Indians. With Arab-like head coverings, jumbo collars, batwing sleeves and three-quarter (short knee) baggy trousers, the Short knee Bands are now the most prevalent of the traditional masqueraders. Almost identical in appearance, they dance through the roads from their respective villages, into the town of St. George’s, passionately chanting, boxing the air and scattering baby powder with abandon.



Next come the modern costumed bands of revellers, who cross the stage at the National Stadium and then parade through the streets of the capital city of St. George’s in the afternoon sun, gyrating to the beat of the year’s most popular calypsos. Costumed bands are often heralded by the arrival of the King and Queen of the band, the large costumes which vied for King and Queen of Carnival during the Sunday night Dimarche Gras.



In the afternoon, we met up with Cathy and John on SV Oceana. We first met them in Georgetown Bahamas last year. Its really not that big of a community.




I took many pictures, but still photos aren’t sufficient to describe the energy. I also took a few movies with our small digital camera. I’ve collated them into a single 3 minute video that you can watch from YouTube, here

 

 1 August - Grenada (Mt Hartman Bay) - Collecting Water


A little over two years ago, when we were anchored in Bermuda, we came across some seasoned cruisers who educated us on the merits of collecting rainwater. Although we had installed and regularly used a watermaker, the reality is that some anchorages are just not suitable for running a desalinator. Therefore, when we were in Beaufort NC in October 2009, we had a hard bimini made, including an engineered 1” rain gutter around the top edge and two stainless steel pipes protruding through to the bottom, where we attached 3/4” hoses to our jerry cans. All cruisers carry jerry cans on deck. We figured we’d carry three, 6 gallon cans - and so far that has worked out pretty well.


This is a top view of our hard bimini, looking forward - while it is lightly raining.




This is a closeup of the hard bimini, port side, aft corner. You can clearly see the rain gutter and one of the two drain holes.




This photo shows what the underside looks like, with the 3/4” garden hose connected to the drain. We joined both corners together and made the hose long enough so that it can be plugged directly into the deck fitting for filling the water tanks - although in practice, we’d rather collect the water in jerry cans.




Today, it rained hard for about an hour. During that time, we easily filled all three of our 6 gallon jerry jugs, and then a small 1 gallon pail that we use --- and then it overflowed for 15 minutes. 
















This is more than our daily consumption. It rains nearly every day, and its fairly easy to collect water in this fashion. We use curtain sheer material as a strainer and the water is very clean. Since we returned from our month long holiday to Canada last week, we haven’t yet resumed using our watermaker. It is currently pickled, and maybe it will stay that way while we are in the rainy season...... 

 

14 July - Grenada - on our mooring




Life on a mooring or at anchor are nearly the same. It costs nothing to be on anchor. Whether you’re on a dock or a mooring, it does cost money. We figure that it usually costs us $ 100 per day to be docked - and that doesn’t usually include electricity or water charges. Of course, if you stay longer, you usually can get better rates. For a month long stay, this can drop as low as $ 30 / day. At dock, you have the freedom of going ashore, but with this comes the same ease for thieves, rats and cockroaches. Life dockside isn’t without its negative points. On our current mooring, we pay $ 70 EC (Eastern Caribbean dollars) per month - or about $ 26. We figure this is very good value. Our anchor and chain don’t get covered in barnacles. If a big storm comes, Dennis (the owner of the mooring) will come by and give us a hand to tie our stern to the mangroves and even give the bow more of a footprint by webbing it to the unused moorings in front. Being on a mooring or at anchor provides the ultimate in privacy, and the bow is always pointed into the wind. At dockside, its always hotter and much less wind. If there is wind, it won’t be on the bow!


It has rained a fair bit since we arrived, and I expect this to continue right through until November. Since it is hot (varies between 32C and 29C), we need to keep the hatches and port-lights open as much as possible to gain from any breeze. However, when it rains, we may get rain in the cabin unless our hatch covers are in place. Needless to say, we never leave the boat with the hatches open. If the rain is light, the hatch covers will stop rain from entering, but if its heavy, nothing does the trick like the hatch being closed.


We’ve got a “canvas” project planned for the August/September period. Two years ago, we had our bimini hard-top built in Beaufort NC, and have been tying in place sunbrella side flaps to shade more of the cockpit and side decks when anchored. Next month we’ll make these side flaps more permanent by fitting them to the hard-top, and close in the area between the dodger and the bimini with a flexible vinyl product. I’ll post more on this in the coming months.

 

 
1 July - Mount Hartman Bay, Grenada

 Happy Canada Day! (144 years since the birth of our nation)




Mike (from Zero to Cruising) took this great photo of our boat on our mooring. Things look safe and sound, and its a good depiction of the location of both our wind generators. It just occurred to me that one of the tasks we were intent on doing once we got to Grenada was to wash the boat, with soap and water. A few days after we arrived, we gave up on this task. It rains about 3 times a day, so there is no requirement to scrub the decks!

 

 22 June - Mount Hartman Bay, Grenada


Maintenance or projects undertaken while at anchor sometimes comes with challenges. Here’s an example of the challenges I sometimes face. A few days ago, I started on a minor project to remedy an occasional deck leak. In this case, I have three Nicro day/night plus solar vents installed in the fore-cabin area, all of them are in exhaust mode. These are great vents because they work nearly 24/7, depending on available sunshine. They help to keep the air in the cabin moving, and keep things reasonably fresh. However, over time, I have noticed that the vent installed in the hatch never leaks, while the other two do leak when we get green water breaking over the bow (even with the shut-off damper closed). That is to say, when the wind and waves are high, and we’re sailing into the wind (45 degrees and closer), we get green water over the bow, and these two vents leak! My remedy involved re-bedding the vents on a 1/2” donut that I made from Starboard. I reasoned that perhaps the reason the vent installed in the hatch never leaked is because it is elevated, reducing the hydraulic pressure of a green boarding wave. Between rainstorms, a few days ago I removed the vents and installed the new 1/2” elevated disc. Monday morning, while completing the installation, I fumbled with one of the vents and the white plastic shut-off damper (an essential part of the vent) rolled into the water, just off the bow. Acting quickly, I peeled off my T-shirt and sunglasses and dove into the water, over the bow pulpit. The white plastic part  (about the size of a water bottle) was being carried by the tide and sinking fast into the water - too fast for me to grab it. I quickly scrambled aboard at the stern (even though the swim ladder was not deployed) and put on my snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel and fins) to have another look. I dove down to the bottom at 16 feet, but could only see about one foot in front of my face. Now I needed to act fast. Soliciting Diane’s help, we got out the necessary scuba gear - a tank and buoyancy compensator. Now here is where the fun starts. I’m sitting on the swim platform with my gear on, and the regulator hose to my mouth seems a little weird - perhaps a bit short. So, I call Diane over and say “this is why you should always have a Dive Buddy” and ask her to check my lines. She sees that I’ve got the tank valve pointed backward, when it should be pointed forward. She releases the pressure, turns the tank 180 degrees and recharges the lines - and then the regulator starts leaking air. I took off my rig and had a look. Maybe it was the tank O-ring? I swapped out the tank with a fresh one, but it still leaked. Must be the regulator! I scrambled below to the aft cabin and retrieved another regulator - this solved the problem. Between other jobs, I dove back and forth in this area for over several hours, but to no avail. The shut-off damper was lost. Later in the afternoon, I returned to the leaking regulator and easily repaired it, loose fitting. On the positive side, I contacted Marinco, the manufacturers of Nicro vents, and they offered to mail me a replacement (no charge) to my home address in Canada!

 

15 June - Mount Hartman Bay, Grenada

We’ve been in this well sheltered bay on the South coast of Grenada for precisely a week. It has hills surrounding it, and reefs protecting the entrance. We’re on a mooring in a well sheltered corner, where there is nearly no swell from the ocean, and the winds are attenuated by the surrounding hills. As of this morning, there were 25 other sailboats in the anchorage (no power boats of any description) and still room for more. Some are on anchor, some on a mooring. There is also a marina in the corner, Martin’s Marina (formerly known as Secret Cove Marina). In some cases, the owners have already left and gone home for a while - so there is no visible activity on the boat. At this time, there are at least 3 Canadian sailboats (Silverheels III, Higheeled, and Joana). We’re renting a mooring from a local by the name of Dennis. The cost is quite good at $ 170 EC / month ($ 63.75 US). Dennis has plans to tie our stern to the mangroves, if a storm comes up. The only downside to this mooring is that we’re just a little too close to shore (mangroves). When the tide is very low, our keel touches bottom - but the tide always brings us up. The bottom is not rocky or with coral, or even sand - its a soft bottom (mud). 




From a logistical perspective, this anchorage (and many like it in Grenada) isn’t ideal. In a perfect world, we’d like to dinghy to a dock and then walk ashore to do our shopping (groceries, hardware and chandlery). The reality though is that when we dinghy ashore, we can tie up at Martin’s Marina, but its at least a 30 minute walk (up hills and in heat) just to a chandlery, never mind the grocery store. I can’t imagine carrying back groceries. Therefore, we are tied to the bus schedules. A cruiser’s bus is organized every Wednesday and Friday morning that takes cruisers to all their shopping destinations for a modest $ 10 EC ($ 3.75) each. We took this bus once last Friday, and Diane took it yesterday. We haven’t done the long walk yet, but probably will in a few days (but not in the afternoon sun). There are cruisers activities in the works, but it will take us a little while to get in the groove. From the perspective of boat work, maintenance and projects - we’ve done a little of that too. From a social perspective, Wednesday night, we went over to Clarks Court Bay Marina (10 minute dinghy ride) for burger night. We had 3 cheeseburgers/fries and 4 rum punches for $ 100EC ($ 37.60) and got to mix it up with some other cruisers, some of whom we’ve met before.


Reading (through Internet, hardcover and Kindle) take up a good portion of our day. By the way, I should put in a plug for how much I like my Kindle - so much that Diane now wants one too. I read a daily subscription of the Toronto’s Globe and Mail, delivered through the GPRS cell phone system (at no cost to me) for $ 15.99/month. This is a great deal, and I’ve also noticed that electronic books are cheaper than hardcover. As an added bonus, Amazon has also made their experimental web-browser work through the same GPRS cell phone system. If we can’t find free wifi, I can always find the news through my Kindle, and its free. 



 

 8 June - Tyrrel Bay, Island of Carriacou (part of Grenada)

Another destination, another blog entry.


We’re now anchored in Tyrrel Bay, waiting for good Easterly winds so that we can SAIL our last bit to the island of Grenada. We cleared in yesterday, and realized that we have to pay for a cruising permit, $ 75 EC per month ( $ 28.12 US / month).


Looking back, there was something that I was meaning to post, a photo of a “Wanted Poster” for Christopher Columbus - yes, 1492, he sailed the Ocean Blue. I saw this on the wall of a bar last week in Bequia. You should have a look at this, it may give you a moment to reflect, and consider how some people view that it impacted the lives of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. Nonetheless, here it is for your consideration. I express no opinion in this matter.




Today, Diane and I took a “taxi” tour with Simon around the island. Simon is one of the locals who comes out in a skiff and tries to sell oysters (we had some), Chilean wine (we bought one) and taxi tours. For $ 150 EC, he drove us around the island (2.5 hours) to see the old lime estates, the new housing suburbs and this wood boat building “shop”. They were making this racing yacht hull using South American red cedar, as well as local wood (for the frames). There is mahogany on this island, quite a bit of it, but they don’t permit cutting of mahogany trees in the rainforest.




 

It has now been more than two years since we left Canada sailing on our boat. There has been a thorn in my ass ever since about a subject that I will finally disclose today. This subject is the issue of Canadians who have similarly left Canada on their private boat, yacht, sailboat, sailing vessel - whatever, and do not fly the Canadian flag. I figured that it was high time that I mentioned it. The photo below is just one example of dozens that we have seen. In this case, you can see that the owner has chosen to fly a big honkin Fleur de Lis (the provincial flag of Quebec) at his stern. This is where the national, not provincial flag should be flown. In case you missed this flag, he has also chosen to fly the Fleur de Lis at the first set of spreaders, on the port side. This is where a yacht club flag should be flown. Unlike everyone else in the anchorage, he has chosen not to fly a Grenadian courtesy flag, indicating that he is a visitor to the country of Grenada. I went to the Canadian Transport Canada website and verified that this boat, appropriately named as “Wind Master” is registered to an individual in Quebec, Canada.  What a shame.




6 June - Admiralty Bay, Bequia Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines

 After leaving Rodney Bay, we sailed South and anchored overnight at Chateaubelair, St Vincent. We only anchored, and didn’t clear in. Security on the island of St Vincent has been questionable over the past 5 years (lots of stories of break-ins) , so we decided to hire George, a 16 year old “boat boy” to provide security overnight. As agreed, George came by at 9pm and basically sat in the cockpit overnight. We paid him $ 40 US to watch over our boat and SV Higheeled, anchored right next to us. George did as we expected, sat in the cockpit and every 30 minutes or so scanned the two boats with my floodlight, watching for thieves. Not that he could have done anything about it, but my theory was that if there was obviously someone awake on the boat - the thieves would not visit. Now I’m not being paranoid, because just the previous night a German flagged catamaran was boarded by thieves who made off with their passports, among other things - while the cruisers were onboard and sleeping. This was not “armed” or even “confrontational” robbery. The cruisers never saw the thieves. We decided to err on the side of prudence.


The next day, we had a very pleasurable SAIL from the island of St Vincent further South to Bequia Island. We anchored in 16 feet of water, right next to the fuel boat. This could be convenient for our departure. Diesel fuel, by the way, costs $ 11 EC / US gallon at this boat. This works out to $ 4.12 US / US gallon or $ 1.09 US / litre. This is a very good price, cheaper than back home in Canada.




After clearing into Customs/Immigration, we took a stroll ashore and found that Bequia looks like many other Caribbean Islands. If you rent a car, you definitely want to be careful you don’t wander into the drainage ditches, designed to carry the high volume of water in the rainy season. We also ran into Mike and Rebecca on SV Zero to Cruising - who are also headed to Grenada.




Like many islands in the Caribbean, Bequia produces its own fruit and vegetables. We bought fresh banana, pineapple, passion fruit, oranges, grapefruit, star fruit. lettuce, tomatoes, beans and more. There is much more produced, we were just selective in what we bought. No shipping or spraying, pure natural, as organic as you can get it. Here, I took a photo of my afternoon snack. If you’ve never eaten fresh passion fruit, you don’t know what you’re missing!




With our trips over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that the engine’s 2nd alternator (a 200A alternator in addition to the Volvo’s 50A alternator) output has been dropping, eventually to intermittent low and then nothing. After a few hours of investigation, I traced the problem down to a bad connection (oftentimes with DC, this is the problem) - a poorly crimped terminal lug. Here is a photo of the 175A fuse holder and fuse. As you can see, the fuse never blew, but the fuse holder melted because of a bad crimped connection, causing excess heat. I didn’t find a replacement fuse and fuse holder (175-200A) on the island so it will have to wait until we get to Grenada. In the meantime, I just remade the connection and bolted the leads together, without the fuse.



 

 1 June - Rodney Bay, St Lucia

We’ve been here since Sunday. Clearing in was easy, even on a Sunday afternoon. There is a daily cruisers net on Channel 68 at 0830 and there are lots of international cruisers around, in the anchorage and the marina. The marina, by the way, is first class, low season reasonable rates with floating docks - yes, floating docks. Internet isn’t fast, but its free, even in the anchorage. If you need boat parts, Island Water World operates a duty free chandlery here, part of their network throughout the Caribbean. I didn’t need any parts per se but I did change the oil in the Volvo, so I bought 2 gallons of Shell diesel motor oil at a gas station, and was surprised that the price was nearly the same as stateside. We found two easily accessible grocery stores (one was an IGA) and topped up with provisions.


Secluded Bay

Together with Chris / Jackie on HIGHEELED (2 years cruising - from Hamilton) and Lloyd/Val on PUDDLEJUMPER (6 years cruising - from Pickering) (all Canadians), we took a full-day taxi excursion to see the St Lucia sites. This was a personal/custom tour ($ 35 / person in a 7 person air-conditioned van) from 0900 to 1800. The taxi driver was Eddie (Rodney Bay Marina Taxi Service) (phone 758-520-2929). We drove South along the coast to Castries (the capital), Soufriere, Vieux Fort and then North along the East coast to Micoud, Dennery and back to Rodney Bay. Eddie stopped at all the sights, including the Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall, Sulpher Springs and Mineral Baths (a volcano with bubbling water and steam), and a very local restaurant/bar in Soufriere. All in all, it was an excellent way to see the island of St Lucia, in low season.


Diamond Waterfalls


The Pitons


Volcano


Tomorrow we’re heading to Vieux Fort on the Southern tip of St Lucia, and then Friday to Admiralty Bay, Bequia (part of St Vincent and the Grenadines). 

 25 May - Portsmouth, Dominica


We left Antigua as planned on 20 May, but followed a slightly different strategy as we moved South. We don’t think that we can afford the time to stop at every island. So, instead of checking into Guadeloupe, we just anchored for the night. The next morning we left and did the same thing in The Saintes, the Southern islands that are also part of Guadeloupe. That brought us to 22 May when we sailed in to Portsmouth, at the NW corner of Dominica. 


Portsmouth Dominica


Dominica has resisted the tide of commercialism that has swept much of the Caribbean islands. There are no big glossy resort complexes offering all-inclusive holidays. Dominica has tried to keep itself as an eco-tourism destination, with nearly 75% of the island covered in rainforest. We arrived on Sunday afternoon, so just stayed aboard with our Quarantine flag up, and cleared in the next morning. We were met by Alexis, a “boat boy / tourist guide” who helped us onto a mooring ($ 10 US / night). Monday afternoon, we took a local bus to the capital at Roseau. While there we took lunch at a local restaurant and visited the Botanical Gardens, which were unfortunately under construction. The next day, back in Portsmouth, we took a tour with Alexis up the Indian River ($ 50US), to see birds and crabs in their native environment. Supposedly, Dominica has over 365 rivers, some of which provide hydro-electric power. These are a couple of the photos that I took.


Alexis rowing up the Indian River


Rainforest Overhead Canopy


On Wednesday, we did another tour with Alexis ($ 350 EC) through the rainforest. He picked us up with his 4X4 and drove us up into the mountain rainforest. We passed by many plantations as we drove and eventually had to park the vehicle and walk the rest of the way in to a waterfall. No handicap access here. We picked bananas, pineapple, mangoes, grapefruit, oranges, limes, nutmeg, ginger root and leaves, lemon grass and cinnamon bark -- all in their natural environment. We also stopped at one of the plantations (farm) and bought lettuce, tomatoes, celery and green peppers right from the farmer.


Pineapple


Bananas Anyone?


Fresh Cinnamon


We’re planning to leave here on Friday, making quick rest stops in Martinique but not clearing in again until we get to Rodney Bay St Lucia, Sunday afternoon. 
 

 19 May - Falmouth Harbour, Antigua


Merritt and Sandy left yesterday morning, returning to their home in Greensboro North Carolina. The quiet in the boat is peaceful, perhaps a little unnerving. It is great to have company, particularly people who have had their own boat and gone cruising. As we prepare to leave Antigua headed for Guadalupe tomorrow, I thought I’d run through more of our photos and visit here in Antigua.


For example, at this end of the island (the South), there are two big anchorages, English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour. Both share a common strip of land, a park known as Nelson’s Dockyard. The government levies a charge to anchor here, I suppose to recover their costs. At this time, there are probably about 40 boats on anchor (mostly sail) in Falmouth and a similar amount at English. At dockside, there are dozens of super and mega yachts with their crews. Millions and millions of dollars in mega yachts - and no sign of any owners. Many getting work done, many are provisioning for further movement either South or North. Here is an example of someone’s boat that won’t be going anywhere soon.


Bad Anchoring


There is a very scenic but rugged path that you can walk, connecting the two anchorages and giving you a beautiful view from the hills. There are many wild goats that roam freely, all over the island. In fact, a few nights ago we went to a boaters’ organised “Goat Roast”. Apparently, there are so many goats on the island that they are encouraging people to eat them, as there are just too many in the wild. The path was only a mile long, but it covered some arduous terrain. As we walked, we were overwhelmed with the strong scents coming from the different trees and plants, and the vistas from the hills.


View from the Hills


On the other side (English Harbour), I caught a view of this sailboat (First Light) getting work done on the topsides. I’ve heard that they move the boat over to the mangroves and actually spray the topside paint while the boat is still in the water. No haul-out or scaffolding required.


Topside painting while in the water.


Two days ago, we took a local bus ride to the capital, St John’s. It was cheap ($ 3.50 Eastern Caribbean dollars, or about $ 1.25 per person) and we saw half the island getting over there. We roamed around through the city, had lunch where the locals ate, and picked up some fresh fruit and vegetables from the market. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this woman asleep on the job. Sometimes the afternoon heat just forces you to take a nap.


Asleep on the job?


Two weeks ago, while we were in Sint Maarten, I picked up and installed my latest alternative energy device - a Spreco SilentWind Generator. Now that the winds have picked up again, we are really meeting our requirements. Now, with two wind generators and 6 solar panels (560W), we are really in good shape. Although the installation looks finished, and it produces lots of amps - there is a harmonic vibration that rumbles through the “solar platform” when the wind is light (6-8 knots). If the wind fluctuates up and down it causes some rumbling noise that causes me some concern - particularly with the source of vibration just a few feet above my head while I’m sleeping. I’ve tightened up all the hardware, but I think I’m going to have to come up with another brace or two to firm it up.


Alternative Energy

 

13 May - Falmouth Harbour, Antigua


We anchored in Antigua today at about noon, with an “eventful” passage from Philipsburg St Martin. We left at 0300, with the intention of motoring directly to Antigua, a planned passage of about 15 hours. An hour later (0400), the engine high temperature alarm started buzzing and I quickly went into the engine room to investigate the problem. I discovered the Volvo engine discharging sea-water into the bilge. Since the motor was off, Diane and Merritt started sailing the boat slowly back to our anchorage (the winds were extremely light). Meanwhile, I crawled over the steaming hot engine and found that a Volvo hose clamp had come loose and the hose from the raw water pump to the heat exchanger was off and about 15 gallons of sea-water was in the bilge. After about an hour, I managed to get it back on (the engine was very, very hot). I should mention that this was a hose and clamp that I had never before touched, factory installed. Just as we were approaching the anchorage, I announced that I had finished the repair and we could resume motoring and turn around and aim for Antigua again. 


Ten minutes later, the engine high temperature alarm came back on. This time the engine room and cabin interior was quickly filling with smoke. I shut off the Volvo and turned on the bilge blower exhaust fans. Diane and Merritt started sailing back to the anchorage again......


At 0530, we sailed into the anchorage again and dropped anchor under mainsail alone (first time for us). At daybreak, I started back into the engine room to find out the problem. This time, I discovered that the problem was an exhaust hose connection that had come apart, and the reason was clearly my fault. I had neglected to reopen the sea cock, the one that I had closed while reconnecting the raw water lines. The engine was no longer pumping water, the exhaust was at high temperature and pressure and forced the exhaust hose to separate. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried ........


After an hour, I got things cleaned up and we resumed our passage to Antigua, this time leaving at 0630, and not 0300. While on passage later that afternoon, we saw the weirdest thing, a bird (some kind of sea gull) desperately trying to catch/snag my fishing/trailing lure. When we’re underway, I usually drag a lure or two, with the hope of catching a fish. This bird flew over and dove in trying to catch this lure, at least a dozen times. Stupid bird!


Stupid bird tried to catch my lure


With a reversal in fortune, we did manage to catch a tuna a few hours later. Merritt and I prepped the fish and we put it in the refrigerator - and cooked it the next day on the BBQ. 


We had Little Tunny for dinner


We will be here in Antigua at least until 18 May when Merritt and Sandy are planning to fly home. Right now the winds are from the South, and they are due to switch to the Easterly trades mid next week.


Making landfall at Antigua


 

11 May - Sint Maarten, Simpson Bay


We had an easy run from Virgin Gorda to Sint Maarten and have been here on anchor for 3 nights. It cost nothing to clear in but $ 40 / week for anchoring fees in Simpson Bay. If we went into the lagoon, it costs another $ 21 to pass under the lift bridge. First order of business was to get to Island Water World to pickup my 2nd wind generator (Silentwind by Spreco) and then install it. Since it is dead calm, I can’t do much of a test, but it seems to now be installed correctly. In addition to the huge chandlery at Island Water World, we also browsed the isles of Budget Marine. Both are extremely well stocked, with fair prices. We bought some groceries but were really unable to find a good grocery store adjacent to a dock. Merritt and Sandy are due to fly out in a week, but we just can’t get wifi and are starving for Internet access. There are plenty of signals, but they are either encrypted or there is nothing behind them. I can’t explain it, but Sint Maarten ranks with Cuba and Haiti (IMHO) for wifi access. This afternoon, we moved 5nm South along the coast, anchored at the capital, Phillipsburg - and easily found wifi and Internet.


Sint Maarten / Netherlands Antilles


 

 6 May - Road Harbour, Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) North Sound, Virgin Gorda

 

As the trade winds have lightened up for the next few days, we used the opportunity to get some miles. The next morning after arriving, clearing, anchoring and re-provisioning in St Thomas, we hauled anchor and set for the BVI. Since we only had to motor against light winds (10-12 knots), we easily made the distance of 25nm in about 4 hours. After anchoring, clearing in, and having lunch - we hauled anchor and set out a little further East down the coast. We were intent on making miles and getting closer to Sint Maarten.


The next day, we motored to North Sound, Virgin Gorda. This is a beautiful, very well protected multi-facetted anchorage. We saw turtles, stingrays ........ The bottom is sandy. There were many charter boats from Sunsail and the Moorings present, but also at least a dozen real cruisers - either staging to or returning from Sint Maarten. 


Virgin Gorda BVI

 

4 May - St Thomas, US Virgin Islands


We made landfall at 1030 this morning, after a 5.5 hour daylight (imagine that) passage from Bahia Salina del Sur, the most South Eastern anchorage on Vieques. The winds were only 15-20 knots, and sea state under 4 feet. A very easy crossing, particularly in light of the winds we have been pushing against for the past several weeks. 


Arrival at St Thomas USVI


We filled up with diesel ($ 4.99 / gal) at Yacht Haven Marina and are currently on anchor. This afternoon, we launched launch the dinghy and went in for some more provisions. 


At Anchor St Thomas USVI


We may set out tomorrow, pushing to the British Virgin Islands and further East. If the weather holds out, we hope to make Virgin Gorda and then Sint Maarten in a few days. More to follow. What a beautiful sunset.


Sunset at St Thomas USVI


 

30 April - Trying to leave Puerto Rico


After moving from dockside to the anchorage, we waited two days for our opening in the weather. After a few hours of being on the hook, I realized that I had left open a valve for the watermaker flush line. I heard the water pump running, but nobody had opened a faucet. The result was that our desalinated water completely emptied its 100 gallons back through the pre-filters and the seacock...... This was not disastrous, but certainly a nuisance. I switched over to the alternate tank (another 100 gals) and then spent the next two hours getting the watermaker high pressure pump primed. Not a good start to our intended voyage. Over the next two days, it was an easy matter to refill the tank with newly desalinated water.


On 26 April, we tried to leave Ponce headed for Punta Tuna (on the East coast). Following the well proven strategy of motor-sailing at night, we did make good headway for a few hours, but the winds and waves were just too strong, making it particular rough for some. The land breeze only abated the trade winds for a few hours. At 0345, we pulled into Cayo de pa Jaros, just about the half-way point. On 28 April, we moved even deeper into the anchorage as the wind would build up in the afternoon to the mid and high thirties. 29 April, we set out again for Punta Tuna during a night voyage. This time, we arrived at 0130 and set the anchor. The fetch was so strong I could hardly stand up on the fore deck. We made a collective decision to run back over our trail, heading West to the next best anchorage at Puerto Patillas. This night, we drove 25nm, but only made headway of 15nm - not well received. 29 April, we again tried to depart, this time leaving the anchorage at 1815, and motoring with an average speed of only 3 knots - arriving at Ensenada Sun Bay, Vieques Island, part of the Spanish Virgin Islands - at 0330. It is really beautiful here, and remarkably, there are few other cruising boats. The next day, we had to run the washing machine as one of the vents in the fore-cabin leaked during the crossing, covering the bedding with salt water. This was yet another indication of how difficult this crossing was, and how much salt water washed over the bow. Another telling sign was that Sandy was sea-sick, but Diane was rock-steady. This was one of many unspoiled beaches/bays at Vieques.


Vieques Beach


While at Sun Bay, we went ashore and one day rented a taxi-driver to give us a tour of the island. Not that it was a big island, but we did see a lot more from his van than we ever could have walking around. The island was about 22 miles by 11 miles!  Here, Wade/Diane and Merritt/Sandy pose for a photo at the old fort in Isabella 2 on Vieques.


Vieques Isabella 2

 

24 April - Puerto Rico

 

We are leaving Ponce tomorrow night, headed East to the Spanish Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra. With Merritt and Sandy onboard, we did quite a bit of touring around with our rental car over the past few days. We drove West to Boqueron, and East as far as Fajardo. It was quite interesting to drive in the mountains, rather than on the express roads, I’m reluctant to use the term “hills” because they really are mountains. The roads are in very good shape, and the drivers courteous. This particular village stood out in the distance, and the scenery was spectacular. 

Village in the hills

In a few of the small towns in the hills, we were quite nervous at driving up and down the streets. Some of the streets were at slopes that we were sure we had never experienced before. Photos don’t adequately portray the degree of slope. We did not stop the car and try to walk about.

Downhill

Merritt pointed out that there were bamboo trees at the roadside and in the distance. I hadn’t expected to see bamboo in Puerto Rico, or even the Caribbean. He was right, there was lots of bamboo, and they grew very tall and thick. This clump was just at the roadside.

Bamboo growing wild

Before arriving in Puerto Rico, we heard from one European cruiser that she didn’t like the country because of all the security fencing/bars. What you will find is that wrought iron work on private homes and industry is nearly at 100%, causing one to get the feeling that there are concerns for security. However, we didn’t feel that this was the case, but were amazed at the detail of the wrought iron work on homes. With some people’s homes, they must have felt like they were living in a birdcage. This was an extensive example. Many homes were not this thorough.

Living in a birdcage

20 April - Ponce, Puerto Rico

Upgrades While Dockside

In addition to boat maintenance, from time to time it is important to do upgrades. As I have mentioned before, one of the problems of building your own boat is that there are hundreds of things to be bought ahead of time, so that one knows how they will fit together and what wiring/plumbing requirements are outstanding. In 1997, while stationed in the Netherlands, I bought a battery charger / inverter combination (Heart Interface 2500W inverter, 100A charger) that I installed in 2000. This was the best technology available at the time, but unfortunately not good enough for my Bose stereo system, since it needed a pure AC sine wave, and not a modified sine wave. It caused my Bose stereo system to fail, requiring service on 3 occasions. I also discovered a few years ago that although the battery charger was rated for 100A, it was not power factor corrected and Xantrex advised that it would never deliver full load with my 6KW genset, it needed an 8 KW genset ---- go figure. The result was that the charger would start out pushing 77A but then drop down quickly to about 50A, and only 40A when the hot water heater was off. I realize that this all depends on the state of the batteries as well, but I didn’t like the fact that the charger was so easily influenced by power factor. The charger needed a resistive load in order to deliver high charging current.


The time has come to change this system out for new technology. I chose the Magnum Energy MS-2812 Inverter/Charger (made in USA). It delivers pure sine wave AC, 125A charging current (corrected for power factor) and the Inverter puts out 2800W. I installed it together with the Battery Monitoring Kit (BMK) and the Remote Control (RC) unit. It took about 8 hours yesterday, while dockside, to change this system out. Now, I realise that I have yet to fully test it on anchor, and see how it responds with my house bank and genset, but that opportunity will come next week. Another plus is that I was able to “recycle” the old inverter/charger, selling it to a local for $ 150 (off-setting my cost of $ 2000 for the new one).


We also bought another wind generator, to be picked up at Island Waterworld in Sint Maarten when we pass through there in a few weeks time. Believe or not, my intention is to have 2 wind generators available to charge the house bank. This is in addition to 560W of solar, a 200A alternator on the Volvo, a 6KW genset and of course my new Magnum Energy 125A charger/inverter when at dockside. In preparation to install this 2nd wind generator, I’ll have to run 3 parallel 60 foot lengths of 8 gauge wire (not yet acquired) through the interior cabinetry, relocate the radome a few feet (this is done and took 2 days), install a mounting bracket/pipe (not yet built) and connect to the electrical system.


Today, we’re driving North again to San Juan, this time to pickup our friends and guests for the next several weeks - Merritt and Sandy Wayt of Greensboro NC. They’ll be sailing with us through the Spanish Virgin Islands, USVI, BVI and onward to Sint Maarten (and maybe more).


14 April - Puerto Rico (Diane's birthday)


Sadly, Joana’s visit came to its natural conclusion yesterday, and we dropped her off at the airport in San Juan. We had a good drive (about 2 hours) from the South coast to the North Coast. Surprisingly, there is a marked difference in the terrain. The South coast is dry, and the North coast looks like a rainforest in comparison. As we passed through the mountains, the change was remarkable. 






While in San Juan, we took the afternoon to tour the old city, including a carriage ride. In retrospect, the carriage ride was an expensive tourist trap. It cost $ 60, but was only 20 minutes instead of the advertised 35 minutes. It was frustrating to realize that the flaps on the sides were too low to see or take photos from - and is was a bumpy ride over the cobblestones!






We’ve been here for a few days and before I forget, I want to outline some of our first impressions of the major differences between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic’s roads/streets/towns are littered with garbage, an amazing quantity of plastic & paper, strewn along the edge of the roads. The only exception we saw in the 5 weeks we were there were the heavily visited tourist areas at Punta Cana. In contrast, Puerto Rico is remarkably clean. The people in Puerto Rico certainly seem more affluent, with better clothing and nicer cars. Drivers in both countries fail to use their signal lights when turning, probably because they’re on their cell phones ALL THE TIME.  More English is spoken in Puerto Rico, but its certainly not a given. In the Dominican Republic, the roads are in much poorer shape, and the drivers reckless, even scary. I wouldn’t rent a car in the Dominican Republic but its easier to drive here, much less daunting. In both countries, people play their music louder than in Canada, but the Dominicans are louder yet, and fiercely proud of their national music. There were times that we couldn’t talk to each other, over the booming loud music coming from someone’s car on the beach, when we were sitting next to each other in the cockpit!

In Puerto Rico, the road signs are calibrated in Kilometres. The speed limit signs are in miles per hour. They sell gasoline by the litre, and by the way, the price of regular unleaded is $ 0.97 / liter. And ..... the car dealers advertise gas mileage as miles per gallon, not litres per hundred kilometres!

 Bottom line - we like Puerto Rico. We’re currently docked at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club (weekly rates) and expect to stay here for a week, or so.  

 

10 April - Ponce, Puerto Rico


We arrived in Ponce, on the South shore of Puerto Rico at 2200 hours, after an uneventful MOTOR-sail of 34 hours. Chris Parker had forecast winds of only 10-15 knots for the Mona Passage, but unfortunately “on the nose”. Nearly all the journey was made with the motor pushing us against the wind and waves. Fortunately, the waves were low (3 - 4 feet). The worst part was along the South coast of the Dominican Republic, when the wind pushes higher in the afternoon (20 - 25 knots), with higher waves as well. We have yet to clear customs and get a berth, but we are in a new place!

 

8 April - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic


Still here. The highlight of this past week has to be our trip to Punta Cana to join my two brothers and their wives (Brian and Leisa  from Sudbury / Mark and Anne from Timmins) at their 5-star holiday resort. If you’ve ever read the sailing magazine “Attitudes and Latitudes”, you may know Bob Bitchin’s phrase: the difference between an Adventure and an Ordeal is only Attitude. We left on Sunday for a two-day holiday at Punta Cana. Despite asking many different people here for bus directions and advice before leaving, it seems that it was impossible to get the same answer, so we had to set out for ourselves. We took 6 buses (none of which could be called Express) to travel the 170 km to Punta Cana. Although it only took  6.5 hours, both Joana and I were in rough shape on arrival -- due to “severe intestinal cramping” aggravated by bumpy roads and non-existent washrooms. Long before checking in, I raced to the toilets, arriving in what can only be described as a surreal setting, more like Disneyland than reality. I didn’t take a photo of the bathroom, but with marble floors and real toilet seats, I’m sure you get the picture.




Before commenting on our stay, I have to say that the return trip was nothing like our trip up there. On Tuesday, we were driven by the hotel staff to exactly the right town and bus stop and managed to get on one express bus that drove us right to Boca Chica, within a 10 minute walk of Marina Zarpar. It was absolutely wonderful to have 2 relaxing days at a 5-star resort. It was also a great experience to be able to spend this time with family. 








We had meals together and sat around at the edge of the pool, or beach, or at an evening show - it was a great time. Very relaxing, just what we needed. Maybe we can do this again next year?

 
30 March - Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic

Yesterday, we took a “city tour” of Santa Domingo from a tour operator in Boca Chica. We were led to believe that this was going to be an air-conditioned taxi, with a detailed tour (1330 - 1900) of the city sites. Unfortunately, this was not how it turned out. We (Diane, Joana and I) were herded into a small taxi, together with a pleasant American fellow (Thomas) for what appeared to be a short ride either to the “main tour” or at least to the city, where we thought we’d join a tour group. After about 30 minutes (with a taxi driver who spoke no English at all), we figured out that we had been taken. We were in a personalized tour, a cramped taxi with a driver who spoke no English, driving around the city. By 1700, the tour was essentially over. He couldn’t think of anywhere else to drive us, and we couldn’t think of anywhere else to go - or even communicate with him. We returned to Marina Zarpar (at least we got a ride directly back) and met with our friends there. Joana took a lot of photos and although most of them will be available on her Facebook page, I thought I’d put up a few of the interesting ones here.


Joana poses in front of the Hard Rock Cafe
Nice tree in the park
Joana poses in front of the "marina"

We pose with a Fresco in the background

 

27 March - Marina Zarpar - Boca Chica, Dominican Republic


Joana arrived yesterday from The Netherlands, for her holiday afloat. After a 30 hour journey, she had her first swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. Here, Diane and Joana prepare for swim.


Joana and Diane ready for a swim


In the afternoon, we did a little administration and formally added her to the “crew list” (an immigration issue) and then went around to visit a few of the cruisers, but not before Joana did some yoga and stretching on the foredeck.


Joana stretching


I’ll post more as the next two weeks unfolds.


It has been quite a while since I detailed any of the maintenance work that we do onboard. Its an obligation, but certainly not a burden. Since replacing the leaking fuel tank in Florida 5 months ago, there is really nothing of significance to report. Diane and I try and wash the salt off the exterior of the hull/deck when we’ve done an arduous passage (unless it rains first). We polish stainless steel every month or so. Every 3 months or so a bit of touch-up paint is required in various places. When the engine gets 100 hours of operation on it, I change the oil, and check the transmission oil (the Volvo engine now has 1020 hours). I change the generator engine oil every 250 hours (it now has 334 hours). The winches and windlass need to be serviced every two years, but I did that last summer. Today, I took on the job of doing the valve tappet clearance adjustment on the Volvo engine. With 1020 hours on the engine, this simple maintenance job has never been done. It was actually pretty easy: remove the valve covers, rotate the engine (Diane’s job) with a big power bar and socket, and then adjust the clearances on each cylinder/valve until they are all about 0.40mm. This is required to reduce engine mechanical noise and keep parts in tolerance.


Volvo valve tappet adjustment


On a walkabout in the neighbourhood, we spotted this funky looking tree and thought it was worthy of a photo.


Funky looking tree 
 

17 March 2011 - Marina Zarpar / Boca Chica (Dominican Republic)


Well, it’s St Patricks Day, but I can’t see any evidence of it ashore. I guess there aren’t too many Irish immigrants in the Dominican Republic. We’re quite comfortable here on our mooring ball. The marina/anchorage is well protected from prevailing winds. Daytime temperatures are 25 - 28C, but at night it drops down to about 22C, very comfortable for sleeping. It is very pleasant. Every few months, the local sugar cane harvesters burn the sugar cane stalks, unfortunately depositing bits of black soot on our deck - but it blows or washes off easily.


Wade and Diane shopping


We’ve been to the local supermarket (Ole - pronounced Olay) a couple of times, and have been impressed by the cleanliness and quantity of things to be found. The isles are wide and the shelves well stocked, although some of the items are not what we would find back home. The prices are good, particularly if you’re not focussed on buying only American products.


Ole Grocery Store


On a local walkabout through the Boca Chica area, we found a local butcher and thought this photo of Norm and Diane posed in front of the vegetable stand looked informative.


Diane and Norman in front of the butcher


I was also impressed with this local house, one of the nicer ones.


A nice house in Boca Chica


We think there are somewhere between 5 - 10 cruisers who pass through Marina Zarpar, mostly heading West (to Cuba), but a few heading East (to Puerto Rico) and the odd one heading to Panama. This is in addition to the approximate 40 boats that seem to be permanent residents. We’ve met cruisers from Canada, Spain, France, UK, South Africa, Argentina, Italy and the US. Its a pretty good cruisers community, although small. Last night, we were hosted about Two Ticks a James Wharham designed wood/epoxy catamaran - by South Africans Adrian and Lisa. We had an excellent dinner of curried wahoo. This Google map image shows just where Marina Zarpar is in comparison with the local Club Nautique - and we’re on a ball immediately South of the docks.


Google Image of Marina Zarpar's Location

 

9 March 2011 - Marina Zarpar / Boca Chica


We arrived in Boca Chica on 6 March. Yesterday, following another one of our goals for this cruising season - we went to a local dentist. When we left Canada 2 years ago, I declined to participate in the dental plan offered to retired military members. The cost was only about $ 30 / month, but we had to get the work done in Canada and there is the 20% co-pay and annual deductible. We figured it just didn’t make economic sense. We went to a recommended local dentist here in Boca Chica. His office and waiting area were definitely not glossy, and not in an upscale neighbourhood. He was a one-man show, but he had all the necessary equipment, except perhaps X-rays. For 8,000 Dominican pesos ($ 213), he filled 6 cavities, did two inspections and two cleanings. It was an experience. He was definitely skilled in his trade and had a gentle approach, using just the right amount of freezing. However, he didn’t speak a word of English, having learned Dentistry in Spain and the Dominican Republic.


Waiting for the Dentist


We are keeping the boat on a mooring ball here at Marina Zarpar. The rate is $ 18 / day, giving us dinghy rights / free water / use of the toilets and showers / fast wifi and courtesy driver. I think its a very reasonable deal, and as you can see from the photo below, we keep Joana right in front of the marina on our ball. Joana is pointed into the wind, providing good air circulation, day and night. At night-time, the cold air comes down from the mountains and makes it much easier to sleep.


On a mooring ball at Marina Zarpar


Today at lunch time, we took advantage of the weekly free lunch and rum punches provided by the Marina. Its a real family atmosphere here. We’re getting to know the staff’s names, and learning a bit of Spanish along the way. In the photo below, Frank Virgintino is on the left flank - the author of the free Dominican Republic Cruising Guide (on the Internet). At the lunch were two cruisers from the USA, two from Canada (Diane and myself) with the remainder from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Argentina, Sweden, and Switzerland. We’ve been to the bank, the large grocery stores and walked in the downtown area. Its interesting, and safe - at least during the daytime. Things are looking pretty good.


Free lunch at Marina Zarpar

 

 5 March 2011 - Las Salinas, Dominican Republic

 We’ve been anchored out in front of the Salinas Hotel and Restaurant now for 3 nights. The owner, Mr Jorge Domenech, speaks very good English and is very helpful to visiting cruisers. The holding is good. The bay is well protected. We’ve been able to take our trash to the hotel for disposal, buy wifi from them, and eat/drink at their restaurant several times. We hired a driver to takes us to the nearby town and used a bank ATM, bought groceries and went to a bakery. The prices are good, and the people are friendly. I recommend this anchorage to fellow cruisers.

We’ve now started the routine of locking our dinghy. We met Chris and Anne of S/V Mr Mac (www.sailmrmac.blogspot.com) in this anchorage. They informed us that they had their dinghy and motor stolen in the Dominican Republic (North Shore) at Monte Christo just a week ago. Normally, when sailboats pass from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico, they go through the Turks and Caicos and then drop down along the North shore of the DR to Luperon. The North shore is a lee shore, has big Atlantic seas and is nearly untenable in daylight hours. Nonetheless, I’d say that 95% of the people making East passages through to the Caribbean follow this route, as proposed by Bruce Van Sant in his book - Passages South. Chris and Anne decided not to go East from their first point of arrival, Monte Christo, but instead to head West and around the Haitian coast to arrive at the South Shore of the DR. We did something different by dropping South from Bahamas through Great Inagua, then to Haiti and reaching the South shore of the DR.


Remember that octopus we bought for $ 20 from the swimmer a few days ago? Diane cooked it up last night using a combination of recipes from www.allrecipes.com. It was an excellent, tasty meal and we served it up to include our new friends Chris and Anne.


Our daughter Joana will be visiting us in the DR during the period 27 March to 13 April, dovetailing nicely into the simultaneous visit of my brothers Mark/Brian and their respective wives Anne/Leisa on 1 - 8 April. Family reunion time! Tonight, we’re going to make a night-time sail 69nm East to Boca Chica, expecting to arrive at Marina Zarpar (http://marinazarpar.com/) tomorrow morning.

2 March 2011 - Las Salinas Dominican Republic (South Shore)

We arrived this morning after an overnight passage from the last anchorage. We had to wait until darkness, when the howling E and SE winds subsided, and motored all the way. The good news is that we are now cleared into the DR, and a mere 60nm W of our proposed destination of Boca Chica. The bad news is that the boat is heavily encrusted in salt, either we wash the boat - or it rains heavily. We went ashore to the Salinas Hotel and Restaurant and shared a huge dish of freshly made paella. We found free Internet. In a few days, we’ll head E again.


28 February 2011 - Anchored in Bahia de Las Aguilas (Dominican Republic)


We made the 125nm trip to this anchorage just inside the DR, but not without some excitement. The winds were directly on the nose, and steady. Initially, the winds were 20-25 knots, but the next morning it blew up to a steady 40, gusting to 50 - a gale. In the end, we were only a few miles from the anchorage but decided to lower all sails and motor directly into winds and waves, a very slow process - but it did get better as we approached the shoreline. Finally, we anchored after a grueling 33 hour passage.


On the third day in this anchorage (we were planning to leave in the evening), a young man (who spoke no English, and we speak so little Spanish) swam up to the boat “out of nowhere” and offered to sell us lobster and octopus. He was on his own, there was no sign of anybody either in the water or on land. In Spanish, he told us that he lived on the other side, but used his motorcycle to drive over to this beach. Then, he spent the day swimming around catching lobster, conch and octopus. We bought 7 small lobsters and one octopus for $ 40. This was all the lobster that he had, but only 1 of 7 octopus. We put the money double wrapped in zip-lock bags. We were amazed that he had the strength to dive down to 25 feet, catch these animals and drag them around all day. We also gave him some cold water to drink and M & M’s for strength. The photo below shows his writhing mass of seafood, about 40 pounds in all.


Mass of lobster and octopus


 23 February 2011 - Isle a Vache, Haiti


We made a safe passage, arriving last night at 2330 hours. As we passed close to the SW shores of Haiti, we were overwhelmed with the change in terrain and the smell of brush fires or burning garbage. While the Bahamas is low-lying with sandy beaches, the Haitian mountains loomed over the distance and the shoreline was deep. We were close enough to shore that we passed amongst the local fishermen working from their dug-out canoes, many waving at us, trying to get our attention - but we pressed on. 


Haiti Shoreline


At one point, the engine was noticeably strained, and then resumed its speed, obviously having snagged one of the many lobster/crab pots that are strewn about the shores. None of these pots was marked with more than an empty plastic Pepsi or 7-Up bottle. The colour of these bottles was either clear, or green - how brilliant. The first order of business the next morning at anchor was to cut the lines free that had snagged around the prop shaft. I have a rope and weed cutter attached to the shaft, and it mostly did its job, but there was still some rope coiled around it that needed to be cut free.


The next morning, we awoke to be greeted by several young Haitian men looking for work. We employed two men to clean the boat and polish the stainless (they did a very thorough job, making it last 2 days). Another man we gave our laundry to (yes, we could have washed it) for his sister to clean (no machine). Diane went to the market with two young men to buy some local produce. I stayed behind to complete some tasks on the boat. There were two other boats in the anchorage, both French. We understand from the locals that there are often 2 to 5 boats visiting at a time. Its quite a contrast to have 2 boats per week passing through, compared to the hundreds we saw in the Bahamas. On one of the boats, the owners had gone for a visit to Port of Prince, while they hired a local to sleep on their boat in their absence. We even gave a young fellow a bag of garbage and a dollar disposal “gift”. 


Giving donations at Isle a Vache


Overlooking the bay is the hotel Port Morgan which is tastefully built into the hillside (www.port-morgan.com). The buildings blend nicely into the landscape. The market is held on Mondays and Thursdays. With its spicy smells and hustle and bustle, the market is something to savor; a moment right out of National Geographic. Diane went and was overwhelmed with the number of donkeys.


The market at Isle a Vache


Since going ashore, we have gained insight. Apparently, there are no vehicles on the island, other than a few farm tractors. The people here are hard working and happy, but incredibly poor - much poorer than what we found in Cuba. They are very happy to work for money, but there is nearly no work. They also suffer from lack of education. As a cruising destination, Isle a Vache isn’t even on the radar - but it should be. We found it highly preferred to the standard tourist cruise ship destinations. However, you able to be able to take being inundated with people who come out to your boat in dugout canoes, hanging on to your toe-rail and pleading for your sympathy. As planned, after 3 nights, we lifted anchor and headed East to the Dominican Republic.

  
20 February 2011 - Great Inagua, Bahamas

We made it, we sailed the 147 mile leg from Clarencetown to Matthew Town, Great Inagua, and are finally on the last leg of departing the Bahamas. This morning, we anchored in 16 feet of water, with a good sand holding bottom, in Man of War Bay, just North of Matthew Town.  Miraculously, I found an open router and have Internet. Its blowing like stink out there, and we're safely tucked away. We’re now on the route not frequently travelled. We’re going to be studying the weather and hoping for a safe passage through the Windward Passage to Isle a Vache, Haiti - sometime in the next few days.

The next leg to Isle a Vache Hait


14 February 2011
- Clarencetown --- Waiting for Weather

 

We’re still at anchor, and have been for the past 6 days. We’ve got wind, but too much and still not from the right direction. Too much means the sea state will be rough. From the wrong direction means we’d have to sail close-hauled, into rough seas. We listened to Chris Parker this morning, and it looks like we may have to wait through the week for a reasonable opportunity. The frontal boundary is not well defined, making forecasts unreliable. We need a 36 hour window to make it from Clarencetown to Great Inagua. In the meantime, we’ve got Internet, and lots of books.

  
12 February 2011 - Dean’s Blue Hole

 

Long Island - Bahamas


We’re currently at anchor in Clarencetown, waiting for a cold front to blow in. Instead of hunkering down, when the wind is right, we’ll lift anchor and sail South on a NE wind, possibly in the company of SV Novia (Brian and Gayle) and SV Mary T (Amy and Ken). Its a waiting game, and every boat makes their own decision. In the meantime, we did the tourist thing yesterday, by renting a car and seeing the sites. 


One worth noting is Dean’s Blue Hole. This is known as the world's deepest known blue hole with seawater. It plunges 202 metres (663 ft) in a bay just NW of Clarence Town (about 2nm). Blue Hole is a term which is often given to sinkholes filled with water, with the entrance below the water level. They can be formed in different karst processes, for example, by the rainwater soaking through fractures of limestone bedrock onto the water-table. However, sea level here has changed: for example, during the glacial age approximately 15,000 years ago, sea level was considerably lower. The maximum depth of most other known blue holes and sinkholes is 110 metres (360 ft), which makes the 202 metres (663 ft) depth of Dean's Blue Hole quite exceptional. In April 2010, William Trubridge broke a free-diving world record in Dean’s Blue Hole reaching a depth of 92 metres (302 ft) without the use of fins. This afternoon, we snorkelled over, through and inside the Blue Hole, to a depth of only about 20 feet. It was very cool. In the photo below, the white platform tied off to the sides of the walls seems to be there test base. There will be more clarity of how this functions in the video links below:


Warning Sign


Top View of Dean's Blue Hole

World Record Dive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vF4PN8-2YSk&feature=related

350 acres for sale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_ytXXefDjo


Based on our knowledge of the weather window confronting us, it looks like we’re going to depart Clarencetown Sunday morning (13 February - or possibly Monday?), bound directly for Great Inagua, Matthewtown (the furthest of the Bahama Out Islands). At Great Inagua, we’ll have to wait again, possibly a week, before pushing onward to Isle a Vache.

 9 February 2011 - Barracuda for Dinner

Clarencetown, Long Island - Bahamas

 

It was a relief to get back sailing, when we left Georgetown last Saturday. With our sailing buddies Brian and Gayle Alexander of SV Novia, we first went to the Marina at Emerald Bay for battery charging and laundry. The next day, we sailed to the NW corner of Long Island, settling into a small anchorage for two nights, awaiting a change in wind direction. On Tuesday, without the benefit of favourable winds, we motor sailed directly to Clarencetown, with winds of only 6-8 knots at about 45 degrees. The wind helped, marginally. Along the way, with two lines trailing, we managed to catch this Great Barracuda, which according to our fish book is excellent eating. If you look closely, you’ll see that I’m about to squirt it with some liquid, some alcohol. A lot of people in Canada have never heard of this trick. Squirt some vodka, or any drinkable alcohol into the gills of the fish and it stuns them, no need to hammer the poor fish into submission. With Barracuda, you have to catch a small one, one that hasn’t enjoyed many reef fish and polluted its flesh with Ciguatera poison. This is a risk particularly for Barracuda that have lived off a reef where the small reef fish have been infected. At dinner time, Brian and Gayle turned down my offer of fresh Barracuda on the BBQ, and even Diane brought out an alternative from the freezer. I had the Barracuda, and it was delicious!

Fresh caught barracuda


4 February 2011  - Ready to Leave Georgetown

Our new Navigation Computer has arrived from Island Time PC. This afternoon, I configured it, and installed necessary navigation software charts and Airmail. We should be on our way, in a day or two -- and are finally watching the weather again.

 
23 January 2011 - Staying Busy in Georgetown

 

With hundreds of cruising boats on anchor, Georgetown has a very active cruising community and a regular schedule - to name just a few of the events in the weekly schedule:  Beach Volleyball (every morning), Beach Church (Sundays, of course), Poker Night, Bridge Night, Trivial Pursuit Night, Excursions to the Market, Art classes, Joga, Bible Study, Swim Lessons, Lectures on Boat Systems, a Pig Roast on Sundays and then there is the ARG (pronounced AARRRRGGGGHHH!).  The ARG is the Alcohol Research Group (bring an appetizer to share, your own research material - and bad people are not welcome) which meets weekly at Monument Beach.  I took the photo below, while munching on some appetizers and watching people assembling for the weekly ARG.


Alcohol Research Group (ARG) participants arriving

This photo can give you an appreciation of the wonderful sunsets we are blessed to experience.


Georgetown Sunsets

Georgetown is a mecca for cruisers.  Some stay a few days, some a few weeks, and some all winter long.  Some cruisers come back year after year and make this their winter destination.  This signpost, on the beach at the “Chat-n-Chill” helps cruisers to see where they’ve come from, or maybe where they’re going.


Georgetown Signposts

I thought I’d mention two of the things that work well on our boat.  I can’t take credit for inventing these ideas, but they’re not all that common.  The first one is hanging our dinghy/tender from a halyard.  We do have davits on the stern where we can hoist our dinghy when underway.  However, I’ve recently relocated the BBQ to the swim platform (to get out of the wind) and if we are going to store the dinghy on the davits at night, this means I’d have to first move the BBQ.  It only takes a few minutes, but why bother? Alternatively, we easily hoist the dinghy and motor using the main halyard and position it just at deck level. We saw some French cruisers do this in the BVIs a few years ago.  When we get to an area where dinghy theft is a risk, we’ll start using our lock and chain to secure the dinghy to the shrouds.  Doing it this way is quicker to hoist and lower than using the davits, but of course, we can’t sail like this.


Tender suspended by a halyard

 

The next thing that we’ve come to appreciate is our snubber line.  Boats lying to anchor have to use an anchor rode of some description.  Some people use all rope, some use mostly rope with some chain near the anchor end - but we use all chain.  There isn’t much “spring” in an all chain rode, but you do get some due to the suspension / catenary effect, particularly if a lot of chain is laid out.  A few years ago, I installed a 1/2” SS chainplate just at the waterline and drilled a 13/16” hole in it, to accommodate a big shackle.  Peter at Holland Marine Products made up a snubber for me based on a 14’ length of 1” mooring line, a rubber shock absorber and cables that attach to a SS plate to grip the anchor chain.  I leave the snubber attached at the waters edge all the time, and if I’m going to use it - I need only attach it to the anchor chain on the bow roller assembly and then pay out more chain.  The effect is that when fully paid out, the snubber completely takes the load off the anchor chain.  Instead of the load appearing at the bow roller assembly, it is now at the water’s edge and on a rope that can stretch.  This dramatically increases an anchor’s holding power because of the change in holding angle. Now, to be fair, a lot of boats use a snubber --- BUT, I haven’t seen any where the load is transferred to the waterline.  The cruisers I’ve seen with snubbers are able to introduce elasticity into their rode because of the rope snubber, but they don’t change the angle at all, since their snubber is attached at deck level, and not at water level -- which on our boat is a difference of about 6’.


Snubber

 

16 January 2011 - A Self-Inflicted Delay While at Georgetown (on anchor)


We took the decision a few days ago to replace the dedicated 12V fan-less Ship’s Navigation Computer.  This, by design, is a built-in computer used solely for Charting Navigation and Airmail through SSB.  This computer should not go to the Internet for other than updates.  This should make it more reliable, or at least - that’s the theory. 

Navigation Computer


The problem is that a year ago we bought what appeared to be a very good high performance computer that is designed for the automotive industry for this job.  This computer was expected to release a laptop from the task, and therefore gain some redundancy. Unfortunately, in the past year it has been returned for warranty repair three times and we now want to get rid of it, and replace it with a bullet-proof solution.  It has certainly been one of those “Windows” things.  50% of the time it won’t boot from the hard-drive, despite the fact that the hard-drive has been changed from a solid-state (like a big USB stick) 60GB drive to a spinning 250GB drive.  The power supply was changed because spurious voltages were suspected.  I even re-installed Windows XP a few weeks ago.  The monitor sometimes behaved badly, due to video problems either with O/S settings or the mother-board -- or both.  The computer often froze in the middle of an application.  Pressing control-alt-delete nearly 100% of the time would not bring up the Task Bar.  I had to run CHKDSK and a number of other commands from the DOS prompt - dozens of times.  I used the RESTORE feature and even used the RECOVERY CONSOLE on the Windows Install disk.  What is most frustrating is that I cannot determine what has been the root problem.  I changed virus scanning software and that seemed to cure it.  I changed charting software from MaxSea to OpenCPN and that also helped.  Nonetheless, my heart freezes every time I see, if only for a heart-beat, the infamous “blue-screen-of-death”.  All this came to a boil 3 days ago, and we decided to accept a delay of a few weeks -- and ordered a new computer from IslandTime PC, a company that makes its business selling PCs and wifi components for cruisers.  We have one of their wifi bridges and are very pleased with its performance on anchor, never failing to bring in an Internet signal, if available.  Here we sit on anchor (at zero cost), awaiting this new computer before proceeding South.  After all, the weather isn’t so bad with the daily temperatures in the 23-28C range and just slightly cooler at night.  As long as the winds aren’t too high, there are plenty of things to do.


On another note, I thought I’d post a photo of this little cruiser --  JUMBO.  This is a German flagged vessel, of unknown origin.  I’ve not met the owner, but I have heard him on the radio.  Obviously, crossing oceans is not what this little boat is designed for, but it may be well suited for the Bahamas.  When the tender is down, it looks like a European caravan or mini-bus, end-on.

JUMBO

 13 January 2011 - Anchored in Georgetown

Sometimes, it is just too blustery to even go ashore.  The picture below, hardly shows the conditions, but for the next 3 days the winds are 20-25 knots (40-50 km/hr) from the NE, not the prevailing SE 15-20 knot trades.  Another thing you might notice with this picture is that we’ve hoisted our dinghy (with motor), not at the stern with the davits - but “alongside” with a halyard.  This keeps it from slapping and bouncing around with the wind and waves. The NE winds can make navigation of many of the cuts/passes treacherous and can even make going ashore a wet/wild ride in the dinghy.  The result is that we catch up on reading and Internet, and avoid going ashore.  Diane did laundry this morning, and luckily it did not rain.  Maybe tomorrow we’ll go in to the Chat and Chill for a hamburger at lunch, the beach is really close.  The cruisers net yesterday announced that there are 150 boats now anchored in Georgetown. 


From our perspective

It looks like Brian and Gayle on SV Novia won’t be pushing further South from here. So, unless somebody pops up to offer their services as crew, it’ll be just Diane and I on the next legs.


8 January 2011 - Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas


We made it, this is the staging point for our passage South.  From here we plan to take a number of day and overnight hops to Isle a Vache (Haiti) and the South Shore of the Dominican Republic.  This is the path less frequently travelled.  Most people that leave the Bahamas South pass through the Turks and Caicos and then blow by the Dominican Republic (stopping once or twice) mostly at night, to abate the strong SE trade winds.  We believe that the Dominican Republic is also a destination, and not just on the path to the rest of the Caribbean.  We were last in Georgetown on 18 March 2010 when we left for Cuba.  This time, we hope to be out of here “in a week or two”, depending on weather and other factors ....

  
6 January 2011  - The Marina at Emerald Bay (just North of Georgetown, Bahamas)

 We’re back at the Marina (we were here last year on 21 February 2009).  This year it’s even better, $ 1.00 / foot plus water consumption (no electrical services at the dock). IMHO, the facilities here are the best that we have experienced, not only in the Bahamas - but ever.  The docks are floating.  The laundry and wifi is free.  At other marinas, they nickel and dime you for everything, including garbage for example.  To brighten up our day, a few hours before arriving at the marina, we caught a mahi-mahi on our yo-yo.  Diane and I filleted the fish on our poop deck immediately after capture.  Last night, we shared our fresh/wild fish (no preservatives, no refrigeration, no hormones) with Brian and Gayle - after it was cooked to perfection on our BBQ.  You can’t beat that.  After this cold front blows through, we intend to sail the two hours to reach Georgetown (the winter mecca of many cruisers) and solidify our plans for the next hops.  We intend to resurrect a planned route from last year, and pass South through the Windward Passage to Isle a Vache (Haiti) and then along the South Shore of the Dominican Republic.

1 January 2011 - Governors Harbour, Eleuthera Bahamas

As we make our way through the Eleutheras, together with our friends Brian and Gayle Alexander (of SV Novia) from Thunder Bay - we have “made landfall” at Governors Harbour, the first capital of the Bahamas.  We had a brisk motor (sadly, the wind was on the nose so we didn’t sail) from Hatchet Bay this morning.  We haven’t gone ashore yet but I thought I’d post what the shoreline looks like, from our perspective. I have my doubts if anything is open, after all, it is New Years Day .....
Governors Harbour


On the other hand, after we did go ashore, we bought lobster tails and more rum.  In one shop, we bought this 40 ounce bottle of Bacardi Rum for $ 8.95.

Rum Deal

Yesterday afternoon, we arrived in the settlement of Hatchet Bay.  It is a one-mile long settlement lined with Casuarina trees, and is situated between Gregory Town and James Cistern.  Hatchet Bay has a beautiful harbour that is shaped like the head of a hatchet with the handle being cut out by the sea.  During the 1940's, a channel was cut out to facilitate boats coming to shore.  In a word, priceless ......  Incredibly good, all round protected anchorage. No need to anchor because they supply free mooring balls.  If you’ve got a good wifi antenna and amplifier, you can even get free internet by connecting to the “Front Porch”, the local watering hole -- from the anchorage.  We went ashore for a few hours and found one of the best stocked grocery stores in the Bahamas.  We stopped at the “Front Porch” for the cheapest and strongest Rum Punch I’ve ever had, and we took out a take-out menu of cracked conch, salad and peas/rice for a meal back on the boat.  We could stay longer, but were keen to keep moving South.

Hatchet Bay

 

 


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