Monday 17 April 2017

Grenadines to Grenada

Canouan harbour 

Petite Ste Vincent from Petite Martinique

Small houses with beautiful flower gardens on Petite Martinique

The Maltese Falcon anchored behind us in Carricou. Largest sailboat in the world and has three unsupported masts. Very modern inside - you can Google it!

New marina and haulout yard in Clarke's Court Bay, Grenada

View of Prickly Bay, Grenada

Grenadines to Grenada

April 16, 2017
Easter Sunday

We enjoyed the remaining time spent cruising through the Grenadine Islands. After Bequia and Mustique, we spent time on Canouan,  Petite St. Vincent, Petite Martinique, Union Island, and Carriacou, some which were new stops for us. The distances between them is so short that it was no more than a morning's project to move. That is what makes this area popular for charterers. Although the wind blows hard, the islands break up the waves. The islands of Petite Martinique and Carriacou belong to Grenada, and the rest to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This presents interesting situations, like being able to dinghy between countries from PSV to PM. Fortunately they are not strict about formalities there. But we did have to travel back to Union to clear out and to Carriacou to check in to Grenada. There have been a few changes  in the 3 years we have been gone, especially some new developments. Unfortunately prices and crime are both a bit higher. A frustrating change for cruisers is the placing of mooring balls in prime anchorages. Now you have to pay to be there. The question is who owns the water to do that.

  PSV is another private island, like Mustique, which is one high end resort. ($1500 a night) But only guests are allowed to leave the dock and restaurant area. On Canouan, the whole north end of the island is a private resort area. But at least you can hike around the south and over to the Atlantic side. Union has the best airport, so has the most tourist businesses. Most people come to tour and dive around the Tobago Cays.

Starting in Carriacou, most of the boats in the anchorages have been live aboard cruisers. We have had a chance to meet some interesting new people as we did activities ashore. There are quite a few Canadians around. We sailed 32 nm along the east, then south side of Grenada to Clarke's Court Bay. Since we were here last, a new haulout yard and a marina upgrade has happened there. We wanted to see it, in case we chose a different yard another year. They are providing some competition to Spice Island, which seems fairly empty. But it is still early for hauling out. We are now anchored in Prickly Bay, waiting for haulout on Tues morning.

 In Grenada there is a VHF net every morning giving you weather, announcements, events and commercials. There is also a facebook page for cruisers. That makes it easier to have activities that cruisers from any of the anchoring areas can participate in. There is more interaction with the local population, too. Usually there is an inexpensive bus with pick ups from several bays. We have been to a jazz jam at a Brewery, and a full moon party with bands and food and drinks on a beach. There are some great jazz players around among the cruisers, local business people, and staff at St. George's University.

There has been special music every night somewhere this week in the lead up to Easter. Kite flying is traditional here for Easter, with kites for sale in the markets. We may take a hike today to see them. They are not allowed near the bay as we are on the airport's flight path. We listened to a church service and music on the radio this morning, with eggs for  breakfast. That will be our celebration. Sundays are family days here so no restaurants are open.

It has been since Nov 2015 that Maggie was launched from Spice Island Marina, two and a half years ago. She hasn't been stored since then, so we are working through a list to prepare her for sitting in the tropics for 8 months. We did make 4 trips home while she was in  marinas. I'm looking forward to a flight this year that is in the same time zone. Our flight home is Sat, April 22.

All that traveling takes its toll on a boat, so we are slowly doing repairs and cosmetic work. An engine mechanic has come out and repaired the tachometer and 2 other gauges. The fridge stopped working with only a week left. At least the timing wasn't bad. The heads both need work. The canvas on dodger and bimini are worn out. And lots of small things.

But despite the work, and occasional frustrations, we do still want to continue sailing next season. But now we will be making up the plans as we go along.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

The Grenadines

Mustique Harbour

View from "The View" - a local Mustique rewtaurant

Enjoying the beach! - Endevour Beach - Mustique

The Grenadines

 March 27, 2017

We are spending a few weeks exploring around the Grenadian islands which belong to St. Vincent. After leaving Marigot Bay in St. Lucia, we stopped one night off Soufriere in the south. From there we spent a long day, from 5:45am, to arrive in Bequia about 5pm. As the weather was quite settled we sailed along the east coast of St. Vincent. The seas are higher but the wind more consistent. The new autopilot was a treat. As the wind decreased, we decided to motor to arrive in daylight. Soon after, the engine stalled. Rob replaced the fuel filter and bled the system, then it worked fine for us. This is why you don't often travel on the lee shore!

We enjoyed three days in Bequia. You need to stop there to check in if you don't stop in St Vincent. But it also is a pleasant place to spend time, with lots of services for yachts, and not crowded. We managed to get chaps (sunbrella cover) made for the dinghy pontoons and motor. We also managed to arrange a swap of our sewing machine for that work. That's what came of taking the machine in for repairs. All future sewing work will have to be contracted out. (Too bad?)

Sat. morning we took a short sail across to Mustique, where we are now. I'm beginning to think that all passages will have some drama or trauma. The wind was almost on the nose, so eventually needed to motor into it. The engine was again not too happy, but we kept it going. But the autopilot stopped working. After taking everything out the next day, it seems like the motor has burned out. Rob has installed a spare and we will check that out tomorrow.

On a happier note, we are enjoying the stop off Mustique. This is one of the islands in the world for the "rich and famous". It is privately owned by the Mustique Company. There are about 70 private homes and 2 small hotels, all in the "money is no object" category. One of the estates rents for US$150,000 a week! We have been on the trails and at 2 of the beaches, but if someone famous were about, I'm sure I wouldn't recognize them. It costs $100 Cdn to be on a mooring ball for one to three nights. If there are no available balls, the price is the same for anchoring. We are obviously here for 3 days, although I'm surprised at how many charter boats come only for the day.

Today is my 69th birthday. For years now, we have been on passage or in an isolated spot for my birthday. Tonight we are going to have a romantic dinner overlooking the anchorage in a beautiful (and I'm sure $$$) restaurant. I'm also enjoying getting so many birthday greetings on the cell phone. It is great to be back in the land of internet access. Thanks everyone!


Friday 10 March 2017

St. Lucia - Work Weeks

Saying goodbye to the crew or Tahawus

View of Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island

Local youth enjoying the steel band

Vincent installing our newautopilot

St. Lucia
Work Weeks

March 9, 2017

It seems hard to believe that we have been in St Lucia almost two weeks now.  Most of that time has been spent doing boat projects, especially the ones that get put aside when you are travelling as much as we did. The layers of ground in salt have been removed and new polish put on the hull. We have stripped the teak in the companionway and doors and are now building up to 8 layers of varnish. Each storage area has been emptied and cleaned and organized. It is amazing the things you find! Many minor items have been repaired or replaced. We had planned to do most of our work here, as the marina is easy to get into, and there are many services and a chandlery on site. Even a swimming pool!

The remaining work on the engine has been done. We have purchased our new dinghy and set it up for raising on the davits. We also purchased lots of thick chain to get everything locked up well. After a service call on the autopilot, we decided to purchase a new one. That is why we stayed longer to wait for delivery. It is being professionally installed right now, but not without some challenges. Hope it all works when done.

Right before leaving Martinique, a bad weather system came through that brought the winds into the west for a day. This is rare and dangerous as most anchorages are open to the sea in that direction. Even the morning's weather forecasts didn't see that frontal system coming that far south. A few boats dragged up onto the beach in St Lucia and Martinique, and a number of dinghies were damaged. It was stormy about 5 hours with the choppy seas that come with high winds. No one was getting much sleep. The winds are now back into the east but have been higher than normal. So we are enjoying being in the marina for some of that.

We can usually count on meeting someone we know in the sailing community here. That has been the case, again, so have enjoyed a few "happy hours". We had another chance to visit with Tahawas as they passed this way.  For years there has been a ladies' lunch at one of the local resorts. And there is a cruisers' net in the mornings. Both are good ways of finding out who is around. There are a surprising number of Canadians at the moment.

We have taken a few hiking and shopping breaks, as well as trying some of the local restaurants. But it is not a sightseeing stop this time. When we leave here we would like to visit the anchorages at Marigot and between the Pitons.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Maggie Closes the Loop

Our track across the South Indian and Atlantic Oceans - each small sailboat represents one day. We can't explain the boat three thousand miles away in the Bay of Guinea off Africa showing up on our AIS!
Martinique sunset with Tevai in foreground

View of Ste Anne anchorage

A local youngster dressed for Carnival

One of many bands practicing for Carnival

Kiters on Saline Bay on north coast of Martinique

Carol, Tim and Patti on our nine mile hike! Most of it was much more scenic than this stretch!

                        Standing on dock in Le Marin where we left on the BPO - witgh a brand new BPO flag courtesy of Jimmy Cornell in Barbados

Ste. Anne, Martinique         

 Maggie Closes the Loop

Feb. 15, 2017

For Rob and I, being back in Martinique, feels like we have returned home after the circumnavigation. For the past week we have been anchored off the town of Ste. Anne, which is one of our favourite anchorages. Ste. Anne was the location of the starting line for the Blue Planet Odyssey just over two years ago, although earlier that morning we had left a slip in the marina at Le Marin, a couple of miles east of here. There must be about 200 boats here, a far cry from some of the anchorages during the trip. If you count the neighbouring Le Marin anchorages and marina there are over a 1000 sailboats. We are enjoying an extended stay and working on some much needed boat projects. Besides good boating stores, there is cheap and good French wine, bread, pate and cheese.

We can again listen to our weather forecasters on SSB. Dennis is still running his net. He is a retired meteorologist from Toronto, so many Canadian boaters check in with him. We can hear where some of the cruisers we have met previously are in their travels. On our second day here, Tevai pulled in and anchored beside us. Tim and Patti were the first cruising couple we met when we started down the Erie Canal from Canada. We have crossed paths a few times since. It has been fun to catch up with them while doing some things ashore.

That last passage from Barbados is one we are glad to have behind us. The autopilot worked for the first half hour, but not for the rest of the voyage. So it was another day and overnight of hand steering. But this time the wind and seas were higher and on the beam so it was hard work. It also rained a fair bit. When we motored out of Barbados, the engine was making some strange noises, and smelled like burning rubber when we turned it off. When ready to take down sails here, the motor wouldn't start at all. We managed to sail into the back of the bay off Ste. Anne and drop the anchor. We were happy that this is a harbour where that can be done without an engine.

The next morning we took a long, wet dinghy ride into town, and then the bus to Le Marin to check in and try to find an engine repair mechanic. The symptoms seemed similar to the last time the starter motor failed. We were lucky to find someone competent and willing to come out to the boat by dinghy. Despite its being their busy season, he arranged to come out the next morning. We raised the dinghy out of the water overnight, just to make sure it would be safe to use. In the morning, when Rob went to leave, the gas can and fuel line had been stolen from the dinghy. Rowing in was the only option. With the long distance and seas in the anchorage that day, I don't know if he would have made it in for the appointed time. But other cruisers came to the rescue, several times, and he got towed into the dock. Jean Paul, the mechanic, was still willing to come to the boat. They got another tow out. After a morning of work, we had a new starter motor, switch and relay installed. The engine is working now, and we have reanchored closer in. The next day, it was off to the shops again for supplies to get the dinghy motor back functional. All is well now. We are really pleased with how helpful people have been.

On the weekend we saw the first of many Carnival activities. There was a costume parade with 9 bands which was fun. This weekend there will be the king and queen crownings and more entertainment. We took a full days' hike from here through the countryside, east coast, and south beaches. Quite a variety of scenery. Yesterday we spent a day in the capital of Fort de France, sightseeing and shopping. Next stop will be St Lucia, where we have ordered a new dinghy and motor. We also hope to get the autopilot repaired there. We thought we could learn more about the problem with an English speaking repairman. We'll likely remain in Martinique for a few more days before heading down to St. Lucia. It feels nice to be back in cruising mode - staying in one place until we don't want to be there anymore!

While this will wrap up our blog related to the Blue Planet Odyssey, we will continue with periodic posts to allow anyone interested to follow where we are and what we are up to. We haul out in Grenada on April 18 so have some time to enjoy the islands before heading south.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Barbados Visit Week 2

Carol aboard Ecstacy

Brightly coloured buildings of Bridgetown

Maggie and other anchored in Carlisle Bay

Large rubbish fire near the marina


Rob trying to get internet at The Pirates Cove

Jimmy Cornell with some of the younger crew of the Caribbean Odyssey

Barbados Visit

Week 2

Feb.5, 2017

Today is Sunday, and on Tues we will have been here two weeks. We are ready to set sail again. Hope to make the arrangements for checking out tomorrow, and then leaving Tues. We have decided to travel to St. Anne's in Martinique. Since we left from the neighbouring harbour of Le Marin Jan. 2015, it will feel more like we have "closed the loop". Besides, we need a spot to stock up on wine and cheese and pate and baguettes. Most stores here only sell rum, and more rum. Tahawas and No Regrets left Thurs for Grenada. We hope to cross paths again as we travel south and they travel north. Most of the islands are an overnight trip from Barbados.

Jimmy had a windup, celebratory cocktail party at the Yacht Club on Wed for the BPO boats and the Caribbean Odyssey boats. 13 of their 15 boat fleet were already here. Sat night, Feb.4, there was another rally party and dinner on the beach for the Caribbean Odyssey boats that arrived after last Wed. and any of us still on the island. We may meet some of them again around the other Caribbean islands.

When we first moved to the anchorage there were only 4 visiting boats anchored. Now there are about 2 dozen. Most of the Odyssey boats are moored in the careenage. It is interesting to see all the varying flags. All the boats have crossed the Atlantic to here. There are even 2 Canadian ones near us. One bought their boat in Greece and sailed here, but haven't met the other yet. We have met quite a few Canadians while touring around the island. Some have winter homes here, or are on vacation, or cruise ship. The cruising sailors we met in the South Indian Ocean were mostly planning to leave Capetown after Christmas. They would not be here yet.

It has been an unusually windy week, so the boats are really rolling out in the anchorage. But after all the passages we can sleep through this. What we are having trouble sleeping through, are the beach parties on the weekend. The nightclub just ashore has the music full volume until 3 am. Need to leave before next weekend, at least.

Pebbles Beach is a lovely beach during the day. We tie up in the harbour and walk over instead of beaching the dinghy. Right now we are negotiating with a dealer in St Lucia to trade our dinghy and motor for new ones. If we had a lighter 2 stroke engine, we could pull it up on the beach easier. And now that Rob has reinstalled the dinghy davits, we would like to go back to  the size of dinghy we had before the accident in Tahiti. We never liked the one we had to purchase there.

We have been doing lots of walking and taking the bus around to sights. We visited St Lawrence Gap, a touristy area on the southeast coast. From there we went to the Oistin's Friday night fish fry, with lots of vendors and music. There are good fish markets in each coastal town, but this is the largest. Another day we did the obligatory Mount Gay rum tour. It was actually very interesting with lots of history thrown in. And, of course, the samples. On Thursday, we went out on a 64 ft old wooden sailing vessel called "Ectasy". One of the owners invited us when we met at the customs dock rafted to his fishing boat. They invite friends and their guests out for a free 3 hour sail once a week, as a community service. Being on a sailboat is not a novelty for us, but it was fun to meet the other guests and learn more about the island. It's always nice when someone else is doing the work, too.

There continue to be many types of cruise ships in town. One night their garbage was burned at the end of a spit off the harbour. The flames were so huge I was glad it wasn't a windy night as we were nearby at the docks then. Of course, there are lots of shops in town for the tourists, but no good deals. We have been spoiled travelling in less expensive places.

Yesterday, in one of the parks, a stage and decor were being set up for Chinese New Year. I'd like to check that out. If we had more time, there is the museum, more rum factories, the garrison, cricket, horse racing, golf, gardens. Even a day spent swimming and reading on the beach would be nice.

Monday 30 January 2017

Island Tour of Barbados

Interesting stop at the oldest church in Barbados dating back to the early 1600's

Interior of St; James Church

Northern tip of Barbados

Limestone caves carved by the rough water off the north coast

Another beautiful beach at Bathsheba on the east coast

View of the flat lower east side from Gun Hill

Island Tour of Barbados

Jan. 27, 2017

On Friday, Zeke arranged for us all to go on an island tour. We had two taxis and guides. They weren't as knowledgeable as we would have liked, but we were still happy to have seen as much as we did. Between that overview and the guide books we have, we know what else we would like to see.

Barbados is a coral island, as compared to other islands in the Caribbean that are primarily volcanic. So it is not very high. We visited the highest point to take in the views. That was 340m. Because of the coral and surrounding reef there are great, light sand beaches and clear turquoise water. The fishing is supposed to be good, also. They have rarely had a hurricane. It is a tourist favourite also because of a low crime rate and friendly people.

The whole island is much wealthier than we thought, compared with the rest of the Caribbean. It also has a wealthy history from the colonial days when British ships always stopped here on the way to the "Americas". The architecture downtown, its commercial and government buildings and churches, are well preserved. We visited the oldest church on the island, an Anglican parish, founded in the 1600's. The guide there called himself a "retired member". (Can church members retire?) There were a lot of interesting things to read and see there. You could tell there was good money in the sugar plantations. But the life expectancy was short in the colonies.

We followed the coast road up the west side to the north of the island. This is the "platinum coast" where the most expensive resorts and homes are. You can stay at places for a $1000 a night, and pay $300 for a dinner. Most owners and renters are not locals. The first settlers arrived in this area. There is another marina/condo complex at Port St Charles that looked quite high end. But you could anchor there, and do your immigration work.

On the north coast there are rocky cliffs, that are undercut by the wilder Atlantic side. We visited one spot where you can go down into caves and blow holes cut into the cliff. Following the road down the east coast, there are the surfing beaches. Most are not safe for swimming. The drive is more scenic here, with hills, rock, gardens and waves.

Driving back across the island, you can see the sugarcane fields and other farming operations. There are pastures for cows and goats. There are good rum factories. There are several gardens to visit, particularly on some of the old plantations. We had a stop at one of the old signal stations used for communications around the island in the past. Today it is a viewpoint, and history stop.

We would like to visit the museum in the garrison area, not far from here. We would like to go on the Mount Gay rum tour and maybe the Malibu one, also. And the rally is organizing a temporary membership at the Yacht Club, which would be nice for a beach day. And there is always duty free shopping.

Landfall Barbados

Approaching Barbados

Passing the cruise ship docks - several in every day 

The Jolly Roger - one of many outings for cruise ship passengers

Sailboats moored in the Careenage

Beautiful beach on Carlisle Bay where Maggie is anchored

Landfall Barbados

Jan.28, 2017

We have been in Barbados for 4 days already, but just haven't had a moment to do a blog entry. This is the official end spot for the BPO rally. We left from Grenada Nov 2014 and Martinique in Jan 2015. We haven't cruised in Barbados before, so it is another port to explore. We will feel like we have circumnavigated when we get back to Grenada. Haulout is already booked for April 18 and a flight the next weekend. Then we will be home at least until after next Christmas.

Since being here we have been sleeping long hours at night to catch up from the passage. The autopilot never did work for the last 500 nm, so we spent that whole time taking turns hand steering. At night, one person would sleep in the cockpit while the other was steering an hour or two at a time. We were lucky the weather was ok, the classic 15 to 20 knots,  on a beam reach. Rob got the only 2 hours of rain on his night watch. Some achy muscles for a few days, however. We passed 4 fishing vessels at night that did not carry AIS. That makes it difficult to know which way they are travelling. We had a much too close encounter with one of them.

We got in after 13 days which is a good speed for us. The "marina" where you go to check in with customs and immigration was a surprise. It is only a place where boats can tie between a buoy and dock. You then would need your dinghy to move from boat to dock as the surge wouldn't allow you to tie up close enough to get off. We tied to a local fishing boat that had its own finger pier. The owners were willing to let us stay there two nights. That gave us a chance to hose down the boat, do the laundry, and fill the water tanks while we had access to water. Also, it was an easy walk to town for cash and SIM cards and groceries.

We are now anchored out in the bay off town. It feels great to be back at anchor. We haven't been anchored since Rodrigues last June. The breeze is nice for sleeping. The water is clear to the bottom even in 40 ft. There is a small harbour in town called the "Careenage". No Regrets and Tahawas are in there. It is quite tight to enter and you need to wait for a drawbridge to open. Then you are tied "med moor" right in the middle of downtown. There are several cruise ships in the commercial harbour each day from Jan to March. Because of their tours, there are  boats of all types coming and going from the two harbours. The beach ashore is beautiful, but always full. The jet skis are circling around us during the day. And the bands play well into the night.

The dinghy motor didn't like sitting around for so many months not in use. It started but wouldn't keep going- not very convenient to have to row in. We were lucky to find a technician to look at it on Fri. He cleaned all the insides, suggested a repair on the fuel line and new, clean fuel and tanks. Now it is behaving like new! We need that reliable "car".

Thurs morning we had a chance to get together with Barry and Anne from Cat's Paw IV. Anne is the sister of Bob who crewed for us. They have been cruising for 10 years. Even though they were leaving for Grenada just as we were arriving, we really enjoyed the brief visit. Nice to see another Canadian flag in the anchorage.

We have no specific plans for leaving here. Having no plan is our treat for the end of the rally. The best autopilot repairman is away until after the weekend. Right now Rob is installing new dinghy davits that we had made and shipped here from Annapolis. The main engine didn't start when we tried it underway when the winds became too light. But Rob spent a day working on that while we were travelling, so it is in good shape now. The party to celebrate the end of the BPO is scheduled for Tues, Jan. 31. Some new and returning crew will have flown in by then. The first boats have arrived from the Caribbean Odyssey. The fastest one was a Swiss 48 ft catamaran, 17 days from Tenerife to here.