Its been nearly a year since we were last here, and 4 months since hurricanes IRMA, MARIA, and JOSE passed through here and left devastation in their wake. These are the supposed 100-year hurricanes, and they did some significant destruction.
We knew that there was some damage and we didn’t know what to expect, (whether we could get food, fuel or water if needed, but reassured by several accounts on the internet) We had discussed with family and friends about a place to pick them up to sail, and this is still one of the best places we have found to cruise around a few days for sailing, snorkeling, diving, beaching, and of course Rumming (is that a word?…it is now!)
We approached Virgin Gorda, the North Sound late in the afternoon. I called into Leverick Bay Marina and got an immediate response. I inquired as to whether the channels were clear and if there were any obstructions to avoid. I was told “all is clear and we are glad you are here!”. As we made the approach, we could see the destruction. The Bitter End Yacht Club was as awful as we had seen on TV, and Saba Rock nearly gone. It was like a ghost town from the Wild West, and just as eerie. There were still curtains hanging and blowing in the breeze, chairs and metal strewn up the hillside. The abandoned shorelines were littered with debris. There were countless homes without roofs and structures that appeared to be homes with just walls standing. Normally we would have seen 50-200 boats anchored in the entirety of Leverick Bay, but today we could count 15.
Upon anchoring we were made aware of the sounds of chainsaws, hammers, and heavy equipment hard at work to repair the chaos. Our afternoon took us into the marina to patronize the bar. They were putting on new roofs, painting the dive shop, and repairing the electric that supplies the dock. We were among 3 other couples and families there. We had a long discussion with the bartender there about the events of hurricane Irma. He retold the story of moving boats out of the bay, preparing the marina buildings, and his own home for the storm. He told us that the only information they received on how bad the storm was to be was from information received by others from outside the island. Apparently, the notification system did not prepare them for the onslaught of 150-180 MPH winds. We heard that they couldn’t believe that the storm lasted 6 -8 hours. Our bartender explained that with each increase in the wind speed he was certain that it couldn’t get any worse and yet it continued to build. One woman, he told us, lost her roof and was jogging down the road looking for shelter, a neighbor called to her to come into their house just as a refrigerator passed her going down the street taken by the forceful winds. A woman, a local, sitting at the bar as well while her child swam at the marina pool, told us that the children are especially affected. She explained that they get very scared now with any approaching storm. They have lost their school, which we would eventually see on a walk we would take the next day. The school had to relocate to another school on the island and share supplies amongst double the number of students.
They all recounted that the rising water came up 10-12 feet above the sea level, washing away anything left sitting around and most of the beaches in its wake. On that same walk the next day, we passed so much that was destroyed, previously million-dollar homes overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. We met a couple from New York that were there for 6-week and had just had their water and electric resumed that week. They indicated they had good insurance, but pointed to neighbors that didn’t. A crude for sale sign was posted on what must have been a lovely hillside home. We saw from high above the marina fishing boats, sailboats, and commercial vessels shipwrecked on shore. There were downed utility poles and wires that were tangled to incredible masses.
Yet, at the end of the many conversations we had, all part of the healing process after such a trauma, we heard the same words “we’re glad to be alive…we will rebuild”. It was that positive attitude that impressed us. We know that so many people are out of work in the hospitality industry, businesses literally gone, and so many that have relocated elsewhere because of having no place to live.
Our visit in the BVI’s took us in the next few days to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. Here we did find gasoline for the dinghy and a great food store open. Along the shore the boats that were taken out of the water to ride out the storm were sitting like dominoes, toppled over upon one another. We saw sailboats, with no masts, motoring in the bays (we suppose waiting out the season for a new rigging).
We sailed past the empty anchorage at the Baths onto Norman Island. We chose to anchor out, but found that mooring were available throughout the Bight. We witnessed the shipwrecked Willy-T’s bar as well.
On Jost Van Dyke, Foxy was there to greet the good number of folks who knew he would be open, but the town there is quite the mess. The old yellow church has no roof, the stained glass is missing and the beautiful gardens are gone. The dive shop and other small shops are also destroyed. We did find ice at Cool Breeze, where they were also running a bar.
In the Virgin Islands, at St John, we had our pick of mooring balls in St Francis Bay and for an afternoon of snorkeling at Trunk Bay. Pizza-Pi is now open on Christmas Cove as well. We have found ourselves in St Thomas for the last couple of weeks to be here to pick up family and friends for a few days.
Currently we are waiting out a big blow at Charlotte Amalie. We have found that although the cruise ships still come in 3-4 days a week, the number of cruising vessels is fewer than in years past. We were lucky to be able to get ice, great provisions, be able to find someone to replace our freezer condenser (it’s always something), and have some really great meals at restaurants that are re-opening (Café Amalia!! On the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie). We are happy to be here. The damage and destruction are sad, but the attitude of the people and the effort that is going into rebuilding is amazing. We have had to do without 4G data due to lost cellular service, but we have found free WIFI set up on parts of the islands. We see more and more charter boats every day, so hopefully the word is out. The weather is gorgeous, the water a clear turquoise, the beaches are cleaned up, and the sunsets still happen every afternoon! Oh, and the Painkillers taste as good as they ever have!
A year ago we were convinced, by whatever information we had heard about St Lucia, that there may be some concern for safety to cruisers, and on our way to Grenada in April passed right by the island in the middle of the night. We were in awe of the Pitons that were illuminated by the moon that Good Friday night and continued on with concern for safety at some of the anchorages. But, here we are 6 months later, with updated information, and day 4 in Marigot Bay and loving it. We passed the Pitons now sailing north in the morning light against the rising sun…still pretty magnificent. Marigot is a pretty small anchorage that is populated by many cruisers and charters nightly. There is a large marina and resort facility that make up most of the harbor. We have been greeted by a few of the locals in the row boats selling fruit and other services, but in no way feel safety is a problem. We have even seen a patrol boat out at night (Christmas Eve!). We had an easy check-in at customs upon our arrival and found that the marina staff and other local personnel very helpful.
We have decided to anchor and could have spent $30 for a mooring bouy, but after our anchor was firmly set in sand we are comfortable where we are. We can swim right off the back of the boat and snorkel to some reefs. It is a busy place as some of the cruise ships docked in Castries ( a mile away) bring boatloads of travelers to see the beautiful port, and there are the comings and goings of local fishermen and dive charters.
We are about 100 ft from the northern rocky shore lined by mangroves and palms. The landscape quickly rises to nearly 900 feet. To the north it is rainforest, to the south it is populated with villas and luxury homes. To the east we can see the massive luxury boats and sailboats moored and at dock. And to the west is the Caribbean blue sea.
Our sail here was a bit eventful. We left in 15-18 knot winds just off the quarter bow and were so glad to be on the water with the sails up and moving somewhere. Overnight we found ourselves driving straight into the wind with variable winds from 10-22 knots. The seas were a bit challenging. Initially, coming from a few directions (called confused) and the building for a few hours to 6-10 ft , then settling by early morning. I think it was about the time we both thought of the possibility of rouge waves and made sure we were clipped in. It definitely kept us on our toes! We also had the cruise ships to tend with. They were coming out of Grenada, heading to Castries or out of Castries heading to Grenada. We both tried sleeping below for a while and when it was too rough came to the cockpit. There comes a time when sleep is so desirable that a rolling sea and rough waters don’t matter….. you have to sleep, and trust the boat…….even dreams come easily. We took our usual turns on watch and by morning light we were excited to arrive at the south end of St Lucia and the Pitons.
Above the anchorage here in Marigot Bay is a trail. We read about the challenge and were up for it. It starts at the garden gate behind the Mango Inn and ascends quickly. We stopped at the inn to get directions and who we presumed were the owners gave us valuable information for our hike…take a stick at the garden gate and “take your time”…oh and they also told Mike to fasten the straps of his Crocs! We looked at each other, recalling an energetic and muddy hike to waterfalls in Guadeloupe last year, wondering if that was what was in store???? We passed through the garden and the gate (locked to keep the dogs in….we never saw them??). We picked out a walking stick and headed vertical right away. It was fairly easy until we came to the ropes alongside the trail set there to assist one to move from rock to root to root again. The vegetation was dense, but we were relieved that it was so shaded. As is our usual, we hike midday…the heat of the sun at its highest. The challenge soon became hanging onto the walking stick, the Go-pro and the ropes! We ascended nearly 900 ft and were rewarded by a beautiful lookout over the harbor and the shore to the south of the inlet to Marigot Bay. We found the meditation platform and then headed to Oasis Marigot, down the trail to the west. One more stop gave us a nice rest on a handmade bamboo bench and a short rain shower provided some cooling effect. We descended through thick palms, cacti and yucca. We were lucky to be THE only ones on the trail that afternoon…all to ourselves!
We were ready for a swim, but needed to investigate Doolittle’s Restaurant and Bar. We heard over the loud speaker of one of the tour boats passing us in the anchorage that this was the location from which the seaside scenes from the original Dr. Doolittle film in 1967 were made. It was a cool and eclectic establishment and we decided we had intent to return, but so needed a swim and returned to the boat!
We also had a visit from the “Black Pearl”, a local day charter! Pretty ominous on arrival though!
We spent Christmas here! With our white twinkle lights up the flag halyard we made our (now traditional) holiday dinner of homemade cheese ravioli, fresh baked bread, and salad. Between the heat in the galley and the frequent downpours..it was a challenge, but worth the trouble. Best meal yet. We called family and enjoyed Christmas over the miles.
Hope your holidays were terrific!
We keep moving north…stay in touch!
It has been a summer away from Lost Loon here in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. As our boat awaits our return in Grenada, we have been busy with our “land-life”.
We arrived back in the upper Midwest in mid May to await the arrival of our first grandchild in early July! We were notified of this miracle in waiting last November the day before we left Florida for the Bahamas and Caribbean waters. We have followed the pregnancy via emails and satellite phone calls.
Our family in Wisconsin welcomed us into their home with open arms. We have appreciated the hospitality and feel that the time spent has been an opportunity to get to know our family better.
We made our way to open our lake home in northern Minnesota for the summer as well. We have owned this property for nearly 20 years and have made only a few improvements over the years. We have however, promised ourselves when we get “the time” (which translated means more than short 2 ½ day weekend stays) we will make some changes. Mike will say it was the failure of the small apartment-size stove that started the renovation…I say it was just the right time. Well, as the pictures will show we have definitely transformed the cabin on the lake into a spacious summer cottage. We knocked out the original front cabin wall and opened it up to the porch. After adding windows across the screened porch and a new front door, we have a new usable space during inclement weather. We replaced the failing stove, gutted the ancient mis-matched kitchen cupboards and replaced them with a clean new cabinets…we even finally removed the old carpeting and laid fresh floors as well!
We spent may long days deconstructing and then reconstructing, but we still had time to get out and do some fresh-water fishing as well as just relaxing on the lake.
In order to keep myself a licensed Physician Assistant, I decided to work a few hours a week through most of the summer. It was a great return to my former work-life and great to see some old work companions as well as patients I know very well. Much of the summer, Mike stayed at the cabin working while I put the hours in at the clinic here in Wisconsin. We were very fortunate to be able to stay with family during our return to the area. We also made ourselves “at home” in a few locations. The summer would find us traveling quite often. We even took the time one week to count the number of different beds we had stayed in during the previous month. I honestly believe we came up with 13. It was then that we became known as the vagabonds of summer!
Our travels took us to North Carolina to visit the Ransdells and build a fence at our daughters house…for the “grand dog” Ernie.
To Annapolis for the grand US Sailboat Show…..
Out to the far reaches of the Virginia coast to Chincoteague….
…To Florida for an early Fall, warm weather respite…
To Illinois for special family time
Somewhere in all our travels and labors of the summer the greatest labor of all happened on July 5th. After numerous hours, our latest love, sweet Amelia arrived!
As new grandparents, we are head over heels…to the moon and back…and forever in love with this little baby girl. There is something very special that happens when you see your children having children. It rekindles memories of our own children as babies and toddlers. We continue to spend time remembering the sweet, funny, and touching moments. We cherish every minute spent with her and her parents as we know that we will truly miss her over the winter. Our hope lies in the reliability of frequent Internet service.
As we watch early snowfall here in Wisconsin, (slipping and sliding on the winter roads) we realize that in 2 weeks, we will be in Grenada. We have researched extensively the conditions at the various anchorages in the Leewards. It appears that many locations are ready for cruisers and vacationers. We are anxious to resume our voyages in locations we have previously visited and new anchorages such as Antigua, St Kitts, Nevis. We are also looking to helping renovation or restoration of the islands as may be needed. Shortly, our lives will be consumed with getting Lost Loon ready for launch . Our task list continues to grow daily…we have painting, cleaning and organizing to do. When we last left her, we had removed most of the exterior equipment. …sails, wind and solar energy components…we sanded “our bottom” in preparations for painting…and minor repairs ready for completion.
At this writing today, we give thanks for family, friends, happy babies, new houses, new boats, deer camp, good fishing, yoga, warm fires at night, beautiful sunsets, friendly farm animals, beaches, boats and the fortunate opportunity to be able to live out our dreams.
We wish you a good Thanksgiving.
May your turkey be delicious your pumpkin pie scrumptious, and your time spent with family or friends priceless.
Please come back and join us in the Caribbean!!
So, back before we had hauled out for the summer, I penned a few notes on some things that I feel we would miss on a day to day and general basis from our life on Lost Loon….
We sit in the cockpit in our usual places with a beautiful view of the Western Atlantic. The sun is setting and casting its usual crystal glow on the ripple of ocean before us with shadows cast by the surrounding clouds. There is a warm, light, easterly breeze that is so familiar now in the tropics. The sailing vessels heading here for a night’s rest are anchored now. A faint rhythm of wooden drums from the village of Tyrell Bay here in Carriacou come from shore (Seriously we would be there had we known there was a performance AND we had not spent so much of the day in the water snorkeling….now tired to death!) Its amazing to think that the only land mass west of here is Panama, several hundreds of miles, should we decide to head off in that direction (not impossible really, as we contemplate our future sailing plans). This voyage however will soon come to an end as we set Lost Loon on a cradle out of the water for the summer. We have exactly 10 days before we are off the water. It has been a fantastic voyage. I has been our dream come true.
This dream that started as a way to “just charter in the Virgin Islands” has become so much more.
As crazy as it first sounded to quit our jobs, sell the house (and many belongings), and head off into the sunset on a boat in search of a different way of life for a while, that is exactly what we did. Initially, we had thought that we might bring the boat back to the US after reaching Grenada. But after “beating into the wind” (it’s a nautical term!) for so much of the trip (getting far enough East ) we are finally enjoying the day and overnight sails with the wind on the beam or in the right direction to propel us forward efficiently (these last 3 weeks of May we have only used the engine to get on and off the anchor; otherwise we are “Sails UP”) At last calculation, we are at some 2400 miles from our jump off point in St Mary’s GA. We have stopped at some 40 islands on the way here!!
It is difficult to describe life aboard…day to day… for 5 months. We are working (navigating and setting or resetting sails) to get to the next island or anchorage. We spend time maintaining the systems and fighting the effects of wind and salt on all systems. There have been many things to fix: toilets, propane systmes, boom vang, outboard motors, wind generators…etc ( so we spend time finding parts to replace or tools to remove the parts to be replaced). We have learned to conserve water and energy on the boat, something we have taken for granted our entire lives. (sometimes spending an entire afternoon filling and transporting 6 gallon water jugs to the boat to replenish the freshwater supply…we are now contemplating a watermaker) We are more respectful of the weather and never realized that we would be so dependable on the direction and force of th wind. We have come to enjoy a dip in the ocean whenever we please (of course clean water dependent!!) We have become accustomed to being rocked to sleep most night, as well as being ready to jump out of a sound sleep to close hatches in the event of evening rain. Waking to roosters crowing from the villages, church bells sounding out the hours on the French islands, and goats braying from some distant hillside are now routine. Our favorite sound, however is that of water rushing from the stern as we have sails set and turn off the engine. (we are now able to guess the boat speed with fairly good accuracy by the sound of the water rushing at the stern!!!)
We don’t worry about squalls, we watch for them, steer clear or reef the sails and push on. We have learned a bit more conversational French (Madame you would be proud of me!) as I realize some of that learned in high school. Our time reading has been manuals on marine electricity, plumbing, and diesel systems. I have ready exactly 1 novel and 4 guidebooks on the Caribbean island travels.
I make a list of what I will miss most….no particular order (updated note: I truly have often found myself daydreaming of each of these)
Sailing in a gentle breeze and on settled seas at night.
Waiting for sunset
Morning coffee in the cockpit watching the birds feed on the surface fish.
Making landfall at a new island
Delicious cheap (ok “inexpensive, Sheila) French wine and Brie cheese
Sunsets (all of them)
Long walks on beautiful sand beaches
Watching the stars on an overnight passage
Seeing porpoises approach and greet us in the middle of the ocean
Meeting sailing friends at the beach bar to chat about travels
Observing the other sailboats, sailing in the distance, thinking how lucky I am to be doing the same…..
Our last night at anchor in Grenada, (May 2) there is a calm in the warm air. Of course it’s still 84 degrees at 7 pm. We are leaving for the marina tomorrow near Clarkes Court where we take out the boat to get some serious decommissioning done before haul out.
We had mostly cloudy skies with no sunset today….a rarity. We can hear the dogs barking ashore, the water lapping up against the stern and the dinghy that’s floating off there. There is a surf against the beach due to a bit of a swell coming in today. The boat rocks gently and then quite rolls at times putting us on guard to maintain balance as we attend to our chores.
We spent the day organizing the boat, random maintenance, and cleaning the cupboards and stove. We will be in a marina tomorrow to start the final process of closing the boat for summer.
We have been on the boat for nearly 150+ days, and feel so comfortable here. People tell us that we were lucky to have such great weather and weather windows for our first year traversing the Caribbean.
We have covered about 2400 nautical miles in the boat since our launch in St Mary’s Georgia on November 24.
As I go about the day, I think back on how we anticipated this year of sailing, and all the preparation that went on to get us here. Our home was sold as well as 90% of our belongings. I see many gadgets ‘ from home’ that have now made their place here on the boat, and think of how much ‘stuff ‘ ( for lack of a 4 letter slang word) we have been able to do without. There are simple kitchen utensils ( seriously….we have 4 forks, knives and spoons…3 chopping and cooking knives, a set of 4 dinner plates and snack plates, a small teapot, indispensable coffee press, a set of stainless cookware and a blender used twice! I shudder to think of the stuff in boxes in Wisconsin…..that I can now do without most likely. I have lived in basically 4 pair of shorts an assortment of tanks , t-shirts and 1 of 3 swim suits. However, since we are leaving the boat in the tropics for next season, we are bringing back many of the cold weather clothes we loaded aboard in November when we left the cool temperatures in Georgia. This will fill nearly 3 suitcases!! What were we thinking? …that would take a wrong turn and find ourselves at the North or South Pole! There are hats and gloves, wool socks ( for heaven sakes!) and …..get this….long underwear!!!! In our defense, we did hear that the winter of 2015-2016 in the Bahamas was very cool and we wanted to be prepared. Moral of the story is don’t load up your Suburban with everything you own and drive it to the boat…pretend you have to bring it all back in the luggage. The good news….we now have an enormous amount of locker and closet space for other things….like spare parts.
A sailboat takes quite a beating on the ocean, unless you sit in a marina all the time. Even at anchor this thing is in motion. So things move and settle and twist and break. And it is always the screw or washer we need but don’t have. So….the spare parts list is growing. We need replacement screws, toilet parts, special glues, and propane tank parts. There are door locks and diesel parts we must have on hand as well. There are a few marine stores located in the chain of islands, but many parts are less expensive in the US despite the import tax we will pay bringing them in compared to a lot of the local prices.
That brings me to the regular maintenance that we must do , like a home on land, to keep us afloat. ( no grass to mow, leaves to be raked or painting to be done, relief!) Much of what we will do in the next week will be regular ‘upkeep’ and ‘preventive medicine’. There is the care of the exterior hull for barnacles and such growth, fiberglass and stainless polishing. The diesel needs an oil change, the sails need washing, folding and storage out of the elements, the through-hulls ( the intentional holes in the boat we can close off) need greasing, and the list goes on. We have our lists and hope to get it all done. And one more thing…..The LEAK needs fixing.
Yes…we have sprung a “small “leak. Isn’t that a boaters worst nightmare?? Ours come true. ( No, Mom, there was no danger of sinking, that’s why we never said anything!) We first started noticing that the bilge pump was running intermittently about 2 months ago. It is a suction device in the sole of the boat that automatically goes on when water collects here. We initially assumed we had water from the mast collecting after some time during spring rains in Guadeloupe. The pump would go off 3-4 times daily. But it was when the thing would suddenly work every 12-17 minutes we became concerned. ( yes we timed it. If there is no other reason to wear a watch on the boat than to time the discharge of the bilge it is worth it!) oh, and it is amazing how that little slurpy motor will wake us out of a peaceful sleep, and at which time Mike would ask me the time ( it’s good to have a lighted watch as well for night sailing and bilge-timing) and then wait, wait, wait until it went off again and I would give him the interval. Anyway, as soon as the frequency increased we would open the floor boars to check the collection container….we would see less than an inch of clear water sloshing to and fro, and when enough collected it would set off our Slurpy! We were not sure the quantity and so Mike even positioned himself in the dinghy and waited for the discharge to go off and measured the quantity. We used this to determine our 24 hour output. Not worrisome, unless the bilge motor burned out !
Now the scientific part….we had to determine if this was fresh or salt water…essentially was our leak from within ( a leaky water tank) or from the millions of gallons of sea water surrounding us on a daily basis? Of course, the first option was to taste it, but being the medical mind and far from any good healthcare, I made the decision this would. It be a good first step. We poured 3 glasses; two we knew were fresh and salt water and compared these to the bilge sample….no difference. The smell was the same. And it dawned on me to spread the 3 samples on a surface in the sun. I had noticed in the last 4 months that dried salt water leaves ….SALT crystals! BINGO! The bilge was salt. We were relieved we didn’t have a breach in the fresh water system, but we now had to find the point of entry of sea water. Well, the most obvious place would be a leak through hull joint. These were all checked (numerous times) and found dry. The next place where water can enter is the point at which the propeller shaft enters the boat. Mike crawled as far back as he could to see if there was water and he didn’t see any. Now this was an issue for a couple of weeks, until we noticed that Ole Slurpy would go off at more frequent intervals after we made a transit sailing or motor-sailing. Another look at the shaft and it seemed dry. One day we pulled all kinds of equipment from storage to check for water or leaks: behind the engine, deep in the rear storage, under the pile of equipment in the extra berth to check the hot water heater. We even snorkeled under the boat to look for holes….nothing. Very Frustrating!!!! It was about 4 weeks into this waxing an waning problem that we happened to recheck the propeller shaft and something called the dripless (quite an oxymoron) or stuffing box. ( ok there indeed a mechanism in place to keep water from coming in where the shaft enters the boat and it is quite common to have to replace these every few years….our was done in 2012) Mike put his hand under it again and felt an actual drip, and as he moved this around a bit…. there it was…and dripping faster.
The good news: it was about a cup an hour and the bilge was working fine. The bad news: Mike was unable to remove this corroded thing while we were on the water,(after several hours lying flat on the good old Yanmar…it would give) it would have to wait until haul-out. It was quite funny that EVERY ONE of the cruisers we happened to mention the problem to said ‘stuffing box’ but it wasn’t for weeks we could actually prove it.
It’s getting darker earlier as the earths trajectory changes and the longer days appear in the North. We celebrate an awesome voyage, that started as a little winter dream. We discuss what islands and anchorages we missed this year and where we want to go back and spend more time. We think of all the cruisers we were fortunate to meet, some already out of the water and back in Canada or the US. The discussion leads to ideas for different or change in equipment when we return in the Fall. Finally, we briefly consider what to do with ourselves in this new life back in the US. This means finding a place to live, besides the summer cabin in Minnesota.
The stars present themselves finally on a dark night. We hear roosters still active ashore, and reggae music in the background. We get out the iPad and the SkyView app and work on our astronomy, identifying Cancer, Gemini, Orion’s, always on the lookout again for the Southern Cross. We savor the experience.
Our work for the day finally brings fatigue and sleepy eyes. We retire to the comfortable berth with a gentle breeze still present through the overhead hatch window. We are thankful.
Stay tuned! We have more summertime blogs to come….just belated in getting them posted!
We made it!! GRENADA
(April 27…thanks for hanging in there with us this summer getting these posted. Hopefully this next Winter we have better access to the WIFI and the posts come in a more timely manner)
This our final island destination on this Winter journey through the Caribbean !
We arrived from Carriacou on a terrific morning sail. We made about 30 miles in under 4.5 hours. That means we were doing some great sailing. We left the anchorage at Tyrrel Bay at 0815 and by 830 had sails up in a sweet 17 knot breeze. With a 1 reef in the sail ( which reduces the sail surface and in higher winds….which we expected….improves comfortable control of the boat) and a full Genoa, the wind lifted us to a record 8.1 knots!! ( ok, I think we hit 8.5 or 9 knots returning from the Bahamas last year as we hit the fast current in the Gulf Stream, but that was then….this is NOW!). That is cause for celebration alone. Caliber is listed by the brokers as a safe and sturdy sailing vessel, not known for speed. But she showed us this day, if given the right winds and sail she can fly!
As we sailed south, before we started southwest to make it around the northern tip of Grenada there, we passed a few small rocky islands then an area with a submerged inactive volcano , known as Kick’em Jenny.
The map has a 5 km radius of exclusion around this volcano in case she were to become active. We were cognizant of the restrictions and sailed outside the radius. One scary thought is that when a volcano is active and submerged, it changes the botany of water and ships sailing or motoring over such an area will sink. Also we found that the ocean floor comes up from 4000 + feet to 350 ft in this area and it causes the waters to be quite confused. With a 18-29 knot wind and a bit of an ocean swell we had a short choppy ride through the ‘ volcano waters’. We imagined that someday there would be a small …or possibly large island here. Well, 3 days later, we are doing our morning chores aboard with the radio on and we hear that according to seismic recordings done in the last week there is evidence of possible volcanic activity and subsequently they strictly enforced the 5 km exclusion zone!!
We approach the lush mountainous island of Grenada and it reminds us of Guadeloupe, typical West Indies. Known as the Spice Island for its nutmeg, cinnamon, and tumeric. We see the steep-to shorelines and deep green color of the inland landscape. We round several bays and find our way to the major port of St George’s. It was here that a lot of the conflict happened during the coup of 1980s. Grenada was a strife ridden island that was at the time inhabited by Cubans who decided to take control of the island. Apparently, the prime minister was assassinated by his cabinet when the government fell into leftist hands. Realizing the possible problem with Cuba having 2 ports at either end of the Caribbean and then one so close to Venezuela ( petroleum rich) waters, we sent troops in to return the nation to Grenadians. We met a fellow on the beach, one afternoon,that told us that US and allied troops went through the country and tried to weed out the Cubans. They were assisted by the Grenadian who exposed their neighbors. Some locals lost their lives when found out, but at the cost of recovering control of their country. He told us of US helicopters that were shot down right in the bay we are now anchored. This was the same guy that came out to tell us the lounge chairs we stopped to sit on would cost us $10 EC ($4.50 US) per day if we wished to stay. Mike stood up (de-occupying his lounge chair) and talked to him about the history of the island.
St George is an old city. There are high cliffs upon which rest a prison and at the other end a hospital. The Carenage is the city that sits right on the waterfront. There is also a part of this port that accepts large cargo ships which bring supplies and food from Venezuela and Europe. There are fishing and transport boats moored up 3 fold waiting to take supplies to the out islands and Carriacou. The buildings are reminiscent of an old European village with old brick and stone fronts. There is a center city full of open markets selling fruits, vegetables, clothing, and other souvenirs.
During the week the city is bustling with traffic, but by Sunday as we made our way through nary a sole could be found. It is a family oriented society and by mid-afternoon they were on the beaches and back at the parks enjoying life.
We arrived about 1 week prior to taking the boat out of the water. It is here that Lost Loon will wait, out of hurricane waters for us to return in November for another season. We decided that it was time to tarry as we began the process of readying the boat for haul-out. We spent most mornings cleaning and re-organizing supplies, deciding what things we would want to take back to the States and what things could remain safe for our 6 month hiatus. We would make a trip to shore to find our way to the marina where we would leave the boat. One morning we made our way to the dinghy dock, stopped at the chandlery and off across the island for Clarkes Court Marina. We figured we had about a 4 mile walk. We had great marine maps, but to find an accurate land map was nearly impossible. We did make our way to Lost Loon’s previous home at Spice Island Marina, and were lucky to get a shuttle ride to Clarkes. It was a sweltering day by the time we arrived. We were greeted by some great staff and showed around so we knew where we were headed on our approach. As luck would have it we were able to catch a bus ride most of the way back to where we left the dinghy that morning.
WE would spend the next week and a half getting the boat ready for the BIG HAUL..cleaning and forever organizing.
Next up….decomissioning the boat for the Summer…and things I miss…a new family member (!)..summer projects.
Thanks for stopping and reading. Please find the comment section …leave your thoughts Love hearing from everyone!
We found paradise! Of course, this journey has taken us thousands of miles to many islands…. some of more fame and fortune than others. We have seen poverty and prosperity cohabitate on many of these countries. But, until we made it to the Grenadines, we had not appreciated the West Indies Caribbean atmosphere. We were back to island hopping, like the wonderful time spent in the Bahamas, appreciating the warm blue waters and now golden and white sand beaches.
Palm island is situated just a morning sail South of the beautiful Tobago Cays archipegalo and within view of Union Island. April 20, (OK , OK! I’m catching up….or maybe making this trip last as long as my summer back in the USA???) we make lunchtime anchorage just off Palm on a bright afternoon. This island is actually a private resort, but will allow cruisers to come ashore, buy a beer, and enjoy the beach. So, after a brief lunch we ventured out in the dinghy for a snorkel and stop at the beach. This was nearly the most beautiful sand beach where the water dropped off quickly into a pool like environment. We lingered in the coolness, then made our way around the small island for our beach walk where we encountered resorters relaxing along the waters edge. We would make a return here several times before we exhausted the beauty.
That night proved to be quite rolly at anchor. Our friends on Northbound informed us that they would be moving to Union in hopes of a day or 2 settled nights. You see there are varying degrees of “rolly” and depending on your location at an anchorage you might be making a fore and aft roll ( kinda like rocking chair motion) or the starboard-portside roll (similar to the action on a hammock in full motion). However, severe action in either direction can promote sleepless nights. There were nights that I had to prop pillows on either side to prevent from rolling into Mike.
We hesitated making the move as we felt comfortable but showed up the next day at Union to give it a try. We were greeted by the local boat boys that are trying to “sell” their moorings (a mere $60 per night! – quite the most expensive we found anywhere-and no that didn’t include a 4 course dinner, bottle of wine, or even a couple of mangoes!); we had just planned an overnight and easily found a place to anchor outside the mooring field on our own accord. We were sort of hassled about this and made the decision we didn’t feel quite welcome and wouldn’t stay the night.
Our plans were to obtain some fresh supplies and head out for Petite St Vincent and Cariacou in the next day or two. We were greeted by eager fisherman at the dock carrying their catch in hopes of selling to early morning customers. Just a “no thank you” and a smile, sent these kind souls off without a bother. As we approached the many establishments (t shirt shops, bakeries, and bars), we observed the concrete streets were littered with locals and cruisers with the same intent.
We made a quick trip stopping at the numerous fresh market stands trying to find cilantro (for the ceviche and fish tacos) but ended up only finding some fresh lettuce (a commodity!), tomatoes and our new favorite fruit …delicious mangoes! Our tour of the town was short-lived as the day was hot…no, it was literally scorching with little wind present to cool the skin. However accustomed to this, we made tracks back to the boat so we could pull anchor and head back to Palm Island, just a jump across the bay, and we were back on our favorite beach. We had also found a great reef for snorkeling and lobster hunting. It was see and not touch in this part of the Grenadines…no harvesting of lobsters allowed.
It’s late morning and we have weighed anchor and set our sails for the Grenadines of Petit St Vincent and Petite Martinique. The day is spectacular for sailing, however quite a short 4 NM trip. We make our way through the Martinique channel south to Crazy Corrigan’s Crooked Passage to an anchorage situated between Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique. There are a few other boats here as we anchor facing the East.
There is a nice Caribbean breeze that keeps us cool (with the dodger open and all the hatches open) for our afternoon lunch before making a journey ashore. Again, this island is a private resort, but we are welcome to tarry along the beach, just not venture far into the resort facilities. We meet other cruiser families also making this afternoon excursion. The following morning we have made plans to visit one of the world’s smallest island, Mopion.
We are eager to get out to this snorkeling island and investigate this tiny speck of sand that gets the designation of island because of the permanent umbrella structure. Our gear is loaded into the dinghy, we have made radio contact with our friends on Northbound and are ready for adventure.
We are able to anchor in shallow waters just outside the reef surrounding the island without difficulty. Snorkeling gear intact and camera ready we are overboard. The water is warm and so clear. It is quite reminiscent of the Bahamas waters we left so many months ago. The reef makes turns and twists, some so shallow I suck in my breath in hope of not scraping the coral. We all find our way through different shallow trenches observing the aquatic life below. There are many coral fishes, lobster, crabs, eel, and octopus! At first I see this body that is camouflaged against the brown and grey ocean bottom, but as I dive for a closer look it begins to move in that characteristic tentacle fluid wave. He (or quite possibly she) hides safely under the coral.
We all find our way to the small sand island for a mid morning rest. This place is so interesting we spend the next 2 hours just exploring and swimming. The water is warm and the ocean life so interesting and abundant! Soon, our privacy is invaded by other explorers and we make tracks back to the boat for our lunch and siesta.
We spend the next morning confronting the reality that in 3 weeks we will be hauling out in Grenada. (can’t believe it!) We begin the task of unearthing all the extra clothes and some gear we have not used this winter in preparation for transport back to the states. Did we really think we would need 5 pairs of long pants, 4 heavy fleece sweatshirts, 2 jackets…including our foulies? Our intent is to pack away a few things every couple of days to keep on schedule. We know we will have our hands full those last few days de-rigging the boat and so getting a start feels good this day. Our end of day swim finds us at the Petit St. Vincent beach, feet in the warm sand, gentle sway of the ocean waters. We have an encounter with the concierge at the resort and he entices us with a lobster dinner…..4 pound lobsters..enormous creatures! We decline the price, but are encouraged that these edibles are local!
Next up Cariacou and final destination Grenada!
Saturday morning and its partly cloudy, there is a breeze out of the East (those are trade winds or “trades” as they are referred to here. It is the consistent and sometimes spirited wind that continuously flows through this region of the Caribbean). We are having coffee anticipating the 9 o’clock start of the Bequia Easter Regatta! We awake to find that the racing staff have placed the first turn bouys nearly right off the port side of the boat. Little did we know upon anchoring the day before that we would have front row seats at the start of the Regatta racing weekend!
We see boats of all classes out at 0730 testing the wind and warming up the crew with tacks in the outer bay. By 0855 they are lined up for the first class start. Horns blast and they jockey for the wind and best position on the tack toward the first turn.
There are usually experienced boats and locals that come every year in the various classes. It was so much fun to watch each boat pass, some making good speed and others who lose the wind or need to change course to avoid collisions. We cheered them on as they passed (some a bit closer than others) and enjoyed watching the different tactics. There was (what appeared to be) a very close call at the first turn in the cruising class, where this enormous yacht and several other smaller sailboats were trying to make the same tack. Then as they made the turn from heading into the wind, East , to heading downwind Westerly, we watched as they deployed the spinnakers (some with better precision than others). Spinnakers are huge downwind sails that literally push the boat into forward propulsion. They are usually brightly decorated very lightweight sails, not unlike a parachute. They are sometimes called “cruising-chutes”. There were several classes of sailboats that had separate starts we were able to watch all following the same course.
The race would take them a few hours offshore and to the other 2 turns before they would head back to the finish (essentially the start line). By 12 pm we started hearing the horns blast and watched as each one came across the finish line, trying to determine if our favorites had won.
That evening we took the dinghy in to the race headquarters with the Northbound crew, Jacques and Sheila ,to see the race results. We were invited by a race official and chap who lives on the island to stay for free rum and beer during the awards presentation. And we did just that! Maybe someday we will have our act together enough to enter in the cruising class for fun.
Bequia is a beautiful island and we found all of the people to be extremely nice and helpful during our short stay. We would continue to make tracks the following day, Easter Sunday to Canouan, just south of Bequia.
No Easter Bunny or hidden eggs this morning. The sunrise across the glistening water gave us reason to bear silent thanks for sacrifices, beyond which we can fathom.
We woke to bright skies which turn to partial clouds in that reliable blue water, and the perfect sailing breeze. We were off before the 9 AM start of that days regatta races. Canouan would be a short 2-hour sail , a place where we would hope for good snorkeling. Lost Loon had a perfect sail with an average 6 knots in 12-15 knots of wind on the beam. We arrived at Charlestown Bay at high noon, bright skies and sweltering heat, like we had not experienced. (we had been told weeks ago…”it just gets warmer, then hot…I think we found it!”. We had anchored easily in 15 ft of water a bit offshore, as we heard that there were likely crimes for those taking up residence closer. We had unfortunately, had put ourselves out of the natural trade-wind. Our friends on Northbound were the first to make a move. After brief contact on the VHF after they anchored, they reassured us there was a cooling breeze.
We were soon on our way as well. It wasn’t very far, around the coral headland about a quarter mile or so, and this time 20 ft of water, but a very little bit of breeze with the temp at 90 degrees made a huge difference. It wasn’t long before we had dinghies in the water and were headed out for snorkeling. Our ulterior motive was to find lobster, for this was one of a few of the locations in the Grenadines that we were allowed to hunt for them. We spent nearly 2 hours on our search. We found one fully inhabited lobster dwelling after another. Sometimes they were sitting 2 or 3 upon one another! The fishing rules do not allow for any breathing apparatus except snorkel, so we relied on our healthy lungs to take us 12-15 ft, with just a snare to first locate the perfect specimen, position the snare and then quickly tighten it around the carpace. We obtained only 3 or 4 that day. The water was a bit stirred up and murky (well at least that would be excuse we told ourselves). It wasn’t the prettiest reef we encountered on the trip, but with some good sailing friends we had a great time. Our afternoon took us to shore to investigate the island. We landed the dinghy at Tamarind Bay resort and made our way shore and found only a handful of staff about. It was very desolate this Easter Sunday. We decided to walk further toward the road and “into the town” but only found a few locals, some goats, and friendly stray dogs. It was mighty hot as well and since we didn’t find even a local bar open, we didn’t tarry long. However the Tamarind was a private resort (and quite exclusive from magazine advertisements we had seen), we were invited to stay and have a cocktail. We found some very comfy chairs under a palm-roofed hut, overlooking the water and watched the late afternoon sun begin to set.
The discussion that evening was to leave the following morning for the Tobago Cays. A trip that would be less than 5 nautical miles, but a place touted as the “Bahama-waters of the West Indies”! As we were making our way back to the dinghies, we began to see resort inhabitants appear (likely from their luxurious and cool accommodations) for cocktails and dinner. We, however, retired to a cool breeze and gentle rock of the westerly swell that night.
Tobago Cays and more of the Grenadines are next.
After nearly 4 months at sea, we now take for granted the presence of blue peaceful waters that surround our winter home here in the Caribbean. We awaken to sounds of water lapping at the sides of the boat, dinghy motors transporting other sailors to shore for provisions or land activities, seagulls calling their cohorts in the morning fishing expeditions, or the distant cackle of a rooster. Most days we are quickly alert to the responsibilities of the day and set in motion the tasks at hand before the heat of the afternoon takes hold. Today is different as we are leaving Martinique for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
This is a cruising area that extends south from St Vincent, through the islands of Bequia, Mustique Canouan, Mayreau, Union, Palm, and Petite St Vincent (to name a few main ones).
These are destinations we have seen in the sailing magazines touting empty sand beaches and exquisite private resorts. It is our intention to skip through to see as many as we can. When we first started our voyage in last November, this area seemed foreign to us, and so far away. Honestly we were not sure that we had enough time to arrive here this Winter. So, we are excited like Christmas morning, not only to have made it this far, but to be fortunate to see some parts of the remote Caribbean.
We have premeditated this trip over a few glasses of wine and relaxing afternoons on the beach with our new friends on the sailing vessel, Northbound, from Canada. They too, have not come this far in their previous travels and share the anticipation.
We are leaving Martinique at 3 pm sharp for the Grenadines. (it became quite a joke with our friends on Northbound, because Mike and I were usually ready and “chomping at the bit” 15-20 minutes before our intended departure). We have done our provisioning and unsuccessfully located propane parts. We have some difficulty with the anchor. As I am running the windlass she conks out. I try to communicate this with Mike at the helm. First, I use hand signals then speaking louder, but have to run back and reset the windlass switch below deck. This requires me to run the length of the boat, from the bow back to the cockpit and down the stairs to the nav station…and then return to the bow…(you know how it’s just faster to do it yourself?). She restarts and draws in the anchor, but stops again. This time Mike understands and resets the switch. This is frustrating and scary. The windlass is the powerhouse that releases and hauls up the anchor for us EVERYTIME we make a stop. It would be near impossible to retrieve this 25 kg Rocna anchor by hand. It is essentially a very sturdy electric winch that pays out the anchor chain. As I slowed it down, it seemed to behave better. I believe that we I had run it too continuously for the length of chain we had out. As soon as I started pausing to organize the chain in the bow locker, she worked fine. Finally, chain and anchor are secure and the bridle stowed, and we make our way on a southwest heading. As we depart the Martinique anchorage in St Anne on this Good Friday, the sun is following its trajectory to the West and we begin our last night passage headed for Bequia. We are eager to arrive during the Easter holiday as we hope to see the Bequia Easter Regatta planned for the weekend. We have missed several Caribbean regattas (sailing races) on our travels sometimes by a day or 2.
This overnight sail was by far the most awesome. I use that term definitively this time. In all the great twilight sails, we both agree this was the best. It was heralded by a beautiful sunset, relaxed seas, and nearly consistent winds (well at least until the early part of the next morning). By midnight we had settled into our watch schedule and had the good fortune to witness a truly “Starry, Starry Night.” The Southern Cross is a constellation that is usually only visible as one approaches the latitude of the equator. It has been made semi-famous by Jimmy Buffet and others in song. We had a longing to get a glimpse as we eased Lost Loon into these lower latitudes. I as arose from a brief subconscious state between sleep and wakefulness to take over the night-watch, Mike was excited to inform me he had found the Southern Cross (with the use of our iPad app Skyview). We spent the next few minutes waiting for the light clouds to part to see the four stars making the crucifix. It sat at a 45 degree angle along a line just above the horizon. You can be sure that we kept a watchful eye on this through the night, somewhat amazed. Our amazement was augmented by the fact that it was Good Friday.
As I took over the night watch, we had begun our sail past the island of St Lucia. (We have decided to pass by the islands of St Lucia and St Vincent at this time, leaving it for exploration on future excursions.) We were nearly 7 miles offshore, allowing enough leeway to avoid any local night traffic, I could decipher the lights of Rodney Bay, them Marigot, and finally Soufreire Bay. As we eased by Soufreire, both Petite and Grand Piton (“pee-tawn”) were evident to port with the moon casting its intermittent appearance against these well-known and quite impressive shore-side volcanic formations. We had slowed to a near 4 knots and I resisted putting the engine to work lest I break the magic of the night. With heightened awareness as one experiences during a night-time passage, I began to sense movement off to starboard (ocean side). It was out of my averted vision I could see something (or things) breaking the water. We have flying fish continually making their appearance alongside the boat and onto the deck at night so I initially thought that was what I was seeing. But as my vision sharpened, it was much larger fish…they were porpoises breaking the water in a dramatic display of frivolity. There were nearly 8 or 9 of them cresting and jumping while trying to match the speed of the boat under sail. For several minutes of shear bliss I had towering Pitons to port and flying mammals to starboard, under a perfectly moonlit night. And for a minute, I could have sworn I was hearing the theme song from the movie Chariot’s of Fire !!! A moment I won’t soon forget.
As the porpoises returned to the open ocean, wherever they congregate, and we approached the southern tip of St Lucia headed more westerly to St Vincent the wind picked up and sails were adjusted. Within another 30 minutes, as we set our rhumb line along St Vincent the wind withered again, but this time varying between 3 and 4 knots. Adjusting the sails for the next half hour, to no avail our speed eventually dropped to 2.5 knots…essentially a standstill. I initiated the Yanmar. We would motorsail for another hour or so before the wind would pick up again and we could turn off the engine. I was retired to my bunk by then and remember feeling the gentle heel of the boat to leeward as I fell asleep again under Mike’s watch.
By mornings light and as the coffee brewed, we had made nearly 65 miles and had the sights of the island of Bequia in the distance. We were headed to Admiralty Bay, which is a huge bay on the west and south side of the island. As the night had progressed we had kept in touch with our friends on Northbound slightly ahead of us. We lowered sails by 0830 am as we approached the bay and contacted Northbound upon our arrival and found a nice anchorage spot close to them just off Princess Margaret Bay.
With Customs and Immigration check-in completed we relaxed with lunch and rewarding swim at the beach. Next UP REGATTA TIME!!!!
(PS Thanks for your patience….I continue to write and post…)