All stop

We are now in Grenada having spent a few days in Carriacou where we met up one last time with Jeremy from “Right Turn” who we’ve spent a fair bit of time with since Portugal last August. He had organised one of the fleet trips south to Trinidad, this is due to the piracy issues by Venezuelan’s in the area. With at least 8 boats travelling together, the Trinidad coastguard sends a vessel out and escorts them into safe waters. Many boats go on their own whilst some prefer safety in numbers. Sadly it only takes a couple of boardings to make cruisers think twice about going to Trinidad.

You need a cruising permit in Grenadian waters which is renewed monthly at 75 EC dollars. We anchored in Tyrell bay as it looked more protected and enjoyed a week there including a walk to paradise beach and then on into Hillsborough the capital. There we saw quite a few businesses all called Bullens, which incidentally is the same surname as Nick & Carol’s (our Atlantic crew)….. they get everywhere!!

There is an underwater volcano called “kick em Jenny”which is quite active meaning there is an exclusion zone around it. This varies in size depending on how active it is, for us it was only about 2 miles as it was quiet. The route from Carriacou to Grenada is straight over the area, this picture from 2017 shows why you should listen to the locals. The name says it all as if you’re too close when she rumbles, the sea lets you know about it!

We anchored in St George’s the capital to get our bearings and also checkout the Carenage where all the shops are. It’s a commercial port with large ships entering through the tight channel daily, delivering everything this island needs. There’s 2 marinas here, the small Grenada yacht club which does a fantastic BBQ on Fridays for 15EC (less than ยฃ5) and the very smart Port Louis marina owned by Camper & Nicholson. Whilst in the anchorage Christoph & Angela from Ithaka arrived, we hadn’t seen them since January so a catch up was certainly on the cards. Also Brendan & Brenda from Crean arrived ……. more drinking! Potential cruisers beware, there’s a theme running here ๐Ÿ™‚

Apparently after a few drinks I’d volunteered to check out the top of Ithaka’s mast for an electrical issue…. really!

Most cruisers who stay on island throughout the hurricane season tend to stay in the bays on the south of the Island, so we checked out Clarkes Court bay, Hog island and eventually settled on Prickly bay. There are social activities in most bays if you want to join in, from jamming sessions in Rogers beach bar & Nimrods to dominoes in the Tikki bar Prickly bay! 6 mornings a week there is a very active cruisers net on ch66 giving security messages, weather, social & business information along with treasures of the bilge where cruisers sell buy or give away boat stuff. We’d heard about this long before leaving the UK but to actually be here now listening to it is quite surreal! We will use this during our stay… more on that soon.

We decided to do a private taxi tour of the island so together with Christoph & Angela along with 3 unexpected stowaways  from Trinidad (who were lovely though), we were driven around the island by Tom who was very informative. Leaving the dinghy dock in 30 degrees we quickly climbed into the rain forest, past a delightful place dubbed “Hotel California” by the locals. This was the main Prison and most definitely not our kind of hotel, a reminder to stay on the right side of the law!

Stopping at the viewpoint the temperature had dropped to about 18 degrees, the coolest we’d been since Europe, and the air felt damp & so refreshing. After a stop to find “George”one of the local inhabitants, we moved on to one of the islands Nutmeg factories. This was stepping back in time as everything thing is done by hand from the moment the local farmers bring in their bags through to sorting, separating and grading.

It was certainly an eye opener BUT nothing had prepared us for what we were about to see at the Rivers Rum distillery!We actually thought we’d arrived at a derelict set of buildings initially but this was the River Antoine estate, a Rum distillery which makes Rum in exactly the same way as they did when first opened in 1785 with the same equipment!

We can’t do this process justice on a blog but hopefully the pictures will help. The huge wheel is turned by water supplied from a stream, this wheel drives a conveyor belt which transports the sugar cane into crushers and melting pots. The “alcohol” is sent to huge tanks and the alcohol is actually then moved by hand ladle to other tanks, unbelievable in today’s automated world. The Rum is then sent to underground storage where it is manually tested and a percentage proof decided (tough job) before being bottled. They make 500 bottles a day here and all is sold locally. With investment they could easily make this 5000 bottles a day but you know, small is good and it wouldn’t taste the same either!

 

We then went on to the Diamond chocolate factory to see how it’s made. My cousin Kerry is a chocolatier (chocolates by Miss Witt) in the UK with international awards so this was something of interest too. The process here was very automated with large machines which make bars of different cocoa percentage and very clever…. I do think Kerry’s chocolates are better and certainly made with love! Didn’t stop us buying some chocolate though ๐Ÿ™‚

Our final stop was to the Concord water falls……enough said!

 

 

 

The Grenadines

After spending a couple of days at the Pitons we said goodbye to St Lucia until December as we will be back to the ARC+ finish line to welcome our friends James & Bex on Hepzibah & hopefully Tony & Sue on Mirabella who are booked in the main ARC but on the waiting list for ARC+

We had a great sail down past St Vincent into Admiralty bay at Bequia. We decided not to visit St Vincent as reports from cruisers have been less than complimentary with theft fairly commonplace. Whilst this may be unfair on the island we decided to take a more security based view.

Everyone’s view of a destination is personal, for us we absolutely loved it. The moment we arrived at the anchorage it felt homely, and by pure coincendence we anchored just behind Bar one…. a floating bar !!! We sailed in company with Crean who arrived a little after us, who said cats were faster than monohulls ๐Ÿ™‚ We absolutely flew down past St Vincent rarely dropping below 7 knots and mostly in excess of 8kts.

Once there it was really good for Charlotte to spend time with Ciara as they are the same age. This meant they could talk about stuff we didn’t want to know about !!! The only town on the Island is lovely with shops, well stocked supermarket, bars and restaurants most with free WiFi. You could tell the bay loves its sailing visitors as there were so many dinghy docks available, most leading to a bar!

Together with Brendan & Ciara we hired a taxi for an island tour, this being the best way to get about. We were taken to all points on the island including the highest and at my request we went right down south past the tiny airport to see the development called “Moonhole”. The best thing to do is google it as it’s really odd but if you’re wanting to live a simple life with no frills you can buy a unique dwelling quite cheap…. forget your hair drier though as there’s no electricity!

We also visited the turtle sanctuary, set up to help protect these wonderful creatures. This was a prelude to when we headed down the Tobago Cays.

Eventually time ran out and Crean headed back up to St Lucia as Ciara had a flight booked back to Ireland as she had a summer job waiting. We should meet up with Brendan in early June though in Grenada. We moved on down to Canouan, finding for us a very very quiet island with closed hotels no “safe” place to land our dinghy. Chris Doyles guide mentions the wind can howl through the hills, he was right as it was one of the more uncomfortable nights at anchor ending up with me napping in the cockpit incase we dragged. At least the batteries remained in float phase all night!!! In the morning one of the local boat boys came out to ask if we were ok as it was so windy, if they thought it was then it certainly was & we’re not in hurricane season yet! One night was enough so we headed down to Mayreau looking for calmer conditions.ย 

Mayreau is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the Grenadines with about 1000 permanent residents. We’d hoped to get into Saltwhistle bay but its a really small bay and was filled with cats so ended up in Long bay just a mile to the south. This is the main bay with a pier for the ferries, the stunning beach fringed with palm trees an easy swim away and calm waters! This is a laid back island and the first time we found the local supermarket to be as we’d expected before leaving the Uk. Visiting huge supermarkets with so much on offer makes you forget not everyone is so lucky. I will never moan again if Asda (Walmart) are out of a particular item! I was in particular looking for yoghurt to go with the chilli being cooked and was told “I stock it but am out, next delivery in 2 weeks”.

Around the corner from Mayreau is the famous Tobago Cays, a reef protecting some very small islands which have some of the clearest water you’ll see. This was also the place we were likely to see turtles up close. Access to the area is surrounded by rocks and with strong currents accurate pilotage is a must! It was worth the visit……

After Mayreau it was a 6 mile sail to Clifton in Union Island, the last of the Grenadines. Clifton harbour is protected by reefs (yes there’s a lot of reefs around here!) and has a small but pretty town with plenty of dinghy docks including one by the Bougainvilla which is accessed by an arch just wide enough to get a dinghy through. With the swell you have to line up and just go for it then brake quickly once through…. good fun. This was also where we all celebrated Charlottes 21st birthday, and had a lovely meal in the restaurant there, with the very friendly staff even decorating our table with balloons. In the town there’s at least 3 supermarkets although all sell pretty much everything making them look more like jumble sales! We did notice just how many stray dogs there were wondering round, all looked well and didn’t bother anyone. We were in the sports bar and one decided to lay down at our feet in the shade, not even trying to get food from us.

These islands are so different from where we used to live, a traffic jam here is created by the most unusual events !!!ย 

After 3 nights in Clifton we checked out with customs & left the Grenadines heading off south to Carriacou which is part of Grenada and hopefully our base until November.

 

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 adventureย  !

 

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 ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Statiaย 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” !!!