1 year anniversary

Yesterday marked 1 year exactly since leaving our home port of Poole in England.

This photo was taken in September 2017 just after we’d signed up with ARC+ to cross the Atlantic.

Since then we’ve sailed just over 6500 miles, stopped at 86 places & visited 20 islands/countries at least once. We’ve had no wind & gales, calm seas & rough seas, plenty of sun & not too much rain!

We’ve seen whales, dolphins & turtles, including catching a huge fish mid Atlantic.

We’ve had tears from laughing at ourselves & with new friends we’ve met along the way, and tears of sorrow as I said farewell to my Dad.

Whatever dreams you may have, try your best to make it happen because life isn’t a dress rehearsal for something else……

Here’s to adventure  !

 

Back to St Lucia

The promised wind shift to a more easterly direction was short lived but it did give us the opportunity to sail straight to South Friars bay in St Kitts. As we approached the channel between St Kitts & Statia the seas really kicked up. As I was bending down in the nav area an unsecure drawer flew open and gave me a bit of a wake up call….. when am I going to learn to secure everything before heading off?

We didn’t check into St Kitts as we were heading straight off to Montserrat, another 50 mile sail sadly yet again hard on the wind. The nearest we could get to Little bay was 5 miles off as the wind kept shifting so had to motor the rest of the way and arrived just as a huge squall swept through! We checked in through customs first thing in the morning & to quicken the process I’d pre-cleared using sailclear which holds all our information. When I got to customs they said their computer wasn’t working so we had to do it the old fashioned way !

After the volcano destroyed the capital “Plymouth” in 1995 most of the population fled the island primarily to the UK leaving about 1200 people on the island, today there’s over 6000. We would’ve liked to have done a land trip to Plymouth but at 200 USD for a morning we couldn’t justify it out of our budget. When we left for Guadeloupe we did sail through the exclusion zone and took a few pictures. You can see the lava flow and to give you an idea of how deep it is take note of the church!

The sail to Deshaies in Guadeloupe was “again” hard on the nose and very lumpy & we couldn’t get above 6kts as we didn’t want to have to tack back in. We genuinely thought the journey south would be easier with NE winds not E-SE !After checking in we immediately set off again down to the Cousteau marine park which we’d stopped at on the way north. The anchorage is very protected and we enjoyed 3 calm days there before heading off to Portsmouth in Dominica with a great beam on wind of 20kts… caribbean sailing again. Dominica use Sailclear as well, so I pre-cleared as we were approaching the island to find when we actually got to customs/immigration that their system wasn’t working either !!!

The bay is great with no hassle from boat boys. They set up PAYS and organised themselves into offering services and security meaning we felt and were very safe. Without exaggeration everyone on the island smiled and said hello which was quite something to be a part of. The hurricane in 2017 pretty much destroyed the Island and even today there’s an American ship at anchor helping with medical advice for the locals.

We wanted to do the Indian River tour which was a 3 mile journey by rowing boat stopping half way at a bar for liquid refreshments. Our guide suggested I try the Dynamite punch… damn can they make strong drinks!Rowing up and down the river is the only method allowed to save the banks from wash, the results are stunning. One of the Pirates of the Carribean films was made here and the eerie feel to the place was clearly why it was chosen! We also attended the local beach BBQ organised by PAYS and it was a great opportunity to meet and chat with other cruisers.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the Island and headed back down to Martinique, checking in at St Pierre. After doing a big food shop in Fort de France at the well stocked Leader Price we headed over the bay to Anse Noire which has to be one of the most beautiful secluded bays we’ve seen so far, complete with bat cave ! Another 1 night stop in Anse D’arlet and we said goodbye to Martinique and had a very spirited sail back to our “home port” of Rodney Bay in St Lucia.After a few days relaxing in the bay it was time to have Silhouette lifted out for some much needed maintenance. Our bottom rudder bearing had loosened up again, we last did it almost 3 years ago but have done about 6000 miles since then. We had a rumble on the prop shaft too and hoped it was the cutless bearing which again was replaced at the same time.

The next part of this blog is for the benefit of boat owners with the same type of rudder set up. I’ve checked the stats on our blog and “bearings” is high on the search list.

Once all the steering quadrant, autopilot rams and steering cables are removed it is only a small stainless pin which holds the rudder stock in place. Driving this pin out and the rudder drops easily so make sure you’ve propped it up first with blocks. Once down far enough the bronze sleeve literally drops out of the fibreglass tube, this sleeve is what should be bonded into the tube. Personally I think its a bad design as you’re relying on the sealant/adhesive to keep it in place and the constant beating a balanced rudder gets breaks the sealant down. I suppose you could say 6000 miles would take a weekend sailor many years.

Anyway we cleaned the tube up of any remaining sealant (not much at all) and then placed a jubilee clip around the sleeve to tighten it up on the stainless steel fixed section on the rudder, and tightly wrapped some electrical tape in the middle to hold the bronze sleeve in place once the jubilee clip was removed. We used loads of 3M 5200 fast cure adhesive sealant and at the last moment, released the clip and pushed the rudder back in place. Lining up with the top bearing is just luck/perseverance, but as soon as it goes up someone inside the locker just puts the retaining pin back in. There was a lot of excess sealant which was wiped up and then left for a minimum 24 hours to set. Trust me when I say if we can do it anyone can !

We also swapped out the cutless bearing which meant removing our maxprop. This is a relatively easy job except I forgot to take note of the pitch settings 🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️

An emergency call to Darglow Marine in the U.K. and their hugely knowledgeable and patient technical team soon bailed me out.

Antifouling and hull polishing was carried out by a local guy called Benji who worked extremely hard to a tight schedule finishing just as the hoist arrived to put Silhouette back in the water.

A final visit to the Friday jump up at Gros Islet followed by a sail down to Soufrierre where we caught up with “Crean” and are heading off to Bequia together.

Our Atlantic crossing

We’ve been playing around with photos and videos, not to mention trying to get an idea how to actually edit them into short YouTube clips.

These 2 are our first attempts at bringing it all together. The beauty of the ocean along with the relentless rolling is clear.

 

Thanks to:

Charlotte & her keen camera eye

AND

crew/chef/cameraman/fixer/tactics officer/entertainment officer and friend Nick for providing the photos & video !

St Martin/Sint Maarten & Anguilla

The sail from Statia to St Martin/Sint Maarten was a beautiful trip in glorious sunshine, the 36 miles taking just under 5 hours with 20 knots on the beam. We were going to anchor in the Great bay at Philipsburg where the cruise ship terminal is, but reports said the waters were very rolly with ferry traffic all day, so we dropped the hook in Simpson bay near the lifting bridge which gives access to the large lagoon and marinas.

Check in was easy with a dinghy dock right next to customs. The Dutch system charges per week in their waters which for us was roughly 50 US dollars, if you stay for 8 days you’re charged for 14! The anchorage is next to the Juliana airport which is certainly the busiest in the Caribbean. Youtube is full of videos showing the Maho beach where people stand and feel like they can touch the planes as they land. The wheels look like they only just clear the perimeter fence and the beach is right next to it. A visit to this beach was promised to Charlotte when we realised she would be with us…and just a little bit of excitement from me too! We took the RiB round and initially had trouble getting ashore as the beach was very steep with heavy swell. In the end we drove in quick and hoped not to get pooped !!!

Watching the planes approaching was great fun and they really were very close, pictures don’t do it justice. When the jets leave, the full force of the engines is felt on the beach, there’s warnings everywhere about possible injury but to be honest no-one takes any notice and quite a business has been set up by local bars! This is our first attempt at adding our own video to the blog…. we’ll get better, promise!

We also took the local bus to Philipsburg and found the front boardwalk to be typical where cruise ships dock. Casinos, jewellery and perfume stores everywhere with bars every few paces. We did see the main Carrefour supermarket whilst on the bus and both Caroline & Charlotte did a big shop whilst I carried out boat maintenance duties. The main dinghy dock from Simpson bay is next to the Buccaneers beach bar, a great place with happy hour from 11am till 7pm….. it was rude not to 🙂

This is a very commercialised area certainly popular with superyachts and their guests/crew. We thought Antigua was popular for them but Simpson bay is in another league. The mega yacht “A” was anchored in the bay along with another “The Big Blue”.

Having stayed for a week, we left the Dutch side and moved round to the north of the island which is part of France. Check in is by computer in the “island Water World chandlers which costs 2 euros regardless how long you stay….. remember now the Dutch side was 50 US dollars a week !!

Most people know about Hurricanes Irma and Maria which struck this area in September 2017. Irma hit St Martin and Anguilla full force with sustained wind speed of 180 mph (285km/h) with gusts reportedly up to 250 mph. The lagoon which both countries share was decimated and boats still today lie sunk at anchor. Some have been damaged badly but remain afloat, some with people living on board. We’re guessing they had no insurance cover, no money to fix and just exist now unable to move, it brings a tear to the eye of the most hardened person. Buildings completely destroyed are everywhere, many with no roofs, it just looks like the remnants of a war zone. Being at anchor with 40-50 knot winds is an unpleasant experience as everything shakes and rattles… these boats and homes had no chance.


Just after Irma went through, Rebecca Bullen who is one of Nick & Carols daughters (our Atlantic crew) visited Anguilla with a film crew who were there to document the resilience of the islanders and how they were going to rebuild. 1 1/2 miles north of Road Bay the capital there is a tiny sand bar called Sandy Island. A bar/restaurant had been on the island for many years and was an idyllic location & very popular. Irma had washed it away leaving absolutely nothing behind. We wanted to visit and see how Anguilla and Sandy island had recovered too.

Once we’d anchored in Road bay in beautifully clear water, I went ashore to find customs which was at the end of the dinghy dock. The last time I walked on such soft sand was back in our home port at Poole and the famous Sandbanks beach….. anyway back to customs, who were extremely officious and the first time since arriving in the Caribbean that I actually felt like we were a nuisance. Check in was free but if we wanted to move away from the anchorage at Road bay and anchor at other beaches we had to have a cruising permit.  These permits run from midnight to midnight so if you want to anchor overnight you have to pay for 2 days at a price of 150 EC dollars a day….. that’s 84 British pounds a day times 2 for overnight. So the British overseas territory of Anguilla wanted the equivalent of 168 pounds to anchor overnight in their bays. When I said we couldn’t/wouldn’t pay that and would stay at anchor in Road Bay for free they demanded to know exactly what time of day we were leaving. Interestingly, the pricing system isn’t size related but weight related too ??

We did visit Sandy Island by using our RiB, (probably should’ve paid) & the bar/restaurant is back running along with newly planted sea grass & palm trees. A beautiful place for sure but it looks so exposed, we wish them well.

In the end we left Anguilla after only 2 nights there and are now back anchored in Marigot bay St Martin having paid 2 euros ! We now start our journey south revisiting islands, we will stop at Rodney bay in St Lucia for a few days as we need to have Silhouette lifted so the rudder bearing and cutless bearing can be resealed and changed. We’ll probably antifoul too so a very busy 2 days ashore to look forward to.

We have strong southeasterly winds here so can’t leave until the winds swing round to the east, which should be in 5 days time. A deep clean of Silhouette is in order !

 

Farewells

Our arrival at the anchorage in Nevis was important as this was the last time we were likely to see Steve & Helen on Allegrini for at least 18 months. They are moving on to the USA whereas we’re going south. We have been cruising in company a lot since we both left the UK & it’ll be strange not to meet up for beers and wine. We had an impromptu BBQ on Allegrini and the following morning said farewell to great friends.

We sailed up to Basse Terre the capital of St Kitts and found the anchorage absolutely open to the wind and swell. Customs is where the cruise ship terminal is & 2 ships were in. The area was packed with passengers looking in the many shops for “bargain jewellery” and perfume. We quickly moved 3 miles south to South Friars bay and had a beautiful quiet night at anchor. A decision was made to crack straight on towards St Martin as this was very much a must visit island (aren’t they all!). We sailed up to Statia and dropped anchor keeping the yellow Q flag flying as we weren’t stopping, and found yet again a very uncomfortable night rolling all over the place. Back in the 1700’s this island was the centre of the caribbean islands for trade and shipping stopped here all the time, today what stands out is the huge commercial port with tankers at anchor waiting to drop off petrochemicals… not very attractive at all which could be why there were only 6 other yachts in the anchorage.

We left at first light and headed straight to the famous St Martin and “that airport runway” !!!

Antigua

Approaching Antigua, we were met by the sight of huge racing yachts gliding effortlessly with crew sat on the sides. One cut across us way too close making us alter course even though we had the right of way. They actually waved as they passed so I gave them a universal salute in return! As it turned out we’d arrived during the build up to the RORC Caribbean 600 yacht race, this is a world class race attracting multi million pound yachts to race 600 miles around the Caribbean islands. We saw the Maserati trimaran too which we last saw in La Rochelle France.

We anchored in Falmouth harbour which is where we ended up staying for nearly 3 weeks. Check in was done at Nelsons Dockyard in English harbour, a 10 minute walk from the dinghy dock. The dock was part of the Antigua yacht club who were the organisers of the race, we even managed to gate crash their pre race party by sneaking in by dinghy avoiding security (who weren’t very good) and had a great evening pretending to be crew !!!

We had to change the name of the ships master in the customs office too as I needed to fly home and Silhouette must have a master onboard. Sadly I had a call from my brother Steve to say that our father had died on Sunday 17th February. That evening along with Jeremy from Right Turn we went to the jump up party at Shirley Heights where we watched the sun go down over the hills and toasted my dad. 2 days later I said goodbye to Caroline & Charlotte leaving them at anchor as I flew back for 7 days.

Silhouette was well behaved and stayed in the same place, why doesn’t everyone have a Rocna anchor? despite some very strong winds. During my absence the girls hired a jeep together with Jeremy and visited some other bays around the island including the huge supermarket for a full re stock. Dickinson bay was the favourite with this beautiful scene…

The day after I got back we went to the yacht club for a drink and unbeknown to me a surprise was in store as 2 friends Alan & Julie appeared. They were on holiday and searched for us on vesselfinder, realising we were on the same island, a reunion was in order including another visit to Shirley Heights and a sail round to English Harbour anchoring off a beautiful beach.

Our petrol generator has been very temperamental, so together with Jeremy from Right Turn we set about a permanent fix. We quickly realised there was a fuel blockage so stripped all the fuel line out. Perhaps you needed to be there, but we made it like a surgical procedure with clamps to stem the fuel/blood, 2 pairs of hands buried deep in the bowels of the generator/patient and way too many medical terms we didn’t understand plus beer …. but fix it we did! After saying our goodbyes to Jeremy, who we hope to see in a couple of months as we both head south, and checking out of Antigua, it was time to move on, with Nevis being our next anchorage, a 52 mile downwind sail just as it was when we crossed the Atlantic…… very rolly !

As we looked behind us watching Antigua slowly disappear we all agreed this was a special island and yet again realised just how lucky we are to be here. Continue reading “Antigua”

Racing north

After Caroline’s sister flew home we sailed back to Martinique and based ourselves in Ste Anne at anchor as Caroline and Charlotte needed to fly back to the U.K. for 10 days. We looked at every option to get them to the airport, the main problem being they had to leave Silhouette at 5am! In the end a private hire taxi took them for 90 euros… ouch!

This left me on board with a list of jobs which would certainly keep me busy, including stripping back the teak decks and resealing. This alone took nearly 3 days, mainly because it was so hot under the Caribbean sun I kept diving for shade! The end result though was great and Silhouette once again has beautiful decks. Other jobs included oil change, saloon covers washed, waterline cleaning (never ending task) & lots of small jobs I can’t remember.

Steve on Allegrini needed to reseal his bottom rudder bearing, so as I’d done ours 2 years ago I said I would show him how to do it. This meant me sailing Silhouette back to Rodney bay solo (first time).

The trip was an easy reach in 15 knots of wind in lovely sunshine, made extra special by a pod of dolphins arriving, our first pod on this side of the Atlantic.

Rodney bay seems like our home port, we’ve been back so many times now, there are certainly worse places to anchor off though. We met up with 3 other arc+ yachts, Crean, La Boheme & Passat II making a 5 boat reunion. Even Ithaka anchored behind me for one night, so the arc+ legacy continues.

Partying over, it was time for me to head back to Martinique to pick up the girls. I picked them up from Fort de France as it was the easiest as its quite close to the airport, a quick restock from the very busy but well stocked Leader Price supermarket and we were  off Dominica.

The 3 of us made a decision to head north to Antigua quite quickly as it was looking like I would need to return to the UK soon as my father was extremely ill. This meant the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe would only be overnight or 2 night stops. We would explore in depth on our way south in April. It would be unfair to comment on these islands as we literally anchored and moved on, in fact we never lowered the Q flag in Dominica. We did spend 5 nights in Guadeloupe 2 in Deshaies where the tv show Death in Paradise was filmed. this area is a wind magnet and we can confirm it blows there all the time. The wind bowls through the mountains causing huge gusts and choppy waters, even in the bay.


We did manage to stop at the Jacques Cousteau marine national park to snorkel. This protected park is full of aquatic life, on our way back south we will spend more time in this beautiful area.

We found a window in the weather (or so we thought) and left  Deshaies at 7a.m. This wind remained on the beam but kept building up to 32kts with a confused sea. Silhouette absolutely loved it and we reached 9.2kts at one stage, and averaged just over 7kts for the 43 miles.

As we approached Antigua, we started to see very large racing yachts practicing, but for what………