Taking a new direction in life we share our travels S/V Lost Loon
Author: Nancy Magnine
We are empty-nesters with the desire to see a different part of the world by sailboat.
We have started our journey by acquiring Lost Loon the Summer of 2015. We continue to work on our plans to be sailing full-time.
Oh my goodness! This was a post that I thought was posted in December…..with the internet coverage it’s sometimes tough…..please forgive me for the delay dear friends!
With old man Winter on his merry way to the Midwest, we are making plans to head as far south as we can early December to get Lost Loon in the water (Grenada!) But, before hurricane season would be over, we made plans for some fun in the sun in Florida. We are fortunate to have friends, Jeff and Cynthia, who kindly shared their perfect location in Punta Gorda ( and boat!) from which we launched a multi-couple trip to the Florida Keys for fishing, golfing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking and just relaxing. It was a fun time to reconnect with good friends from across the country.
Upon our brief return to Punta Gorda, (before we would make the 24 hour interstate trip back to Minnesota) I was offered a chance to head out for a daysail with a friend we met on a sailing excursion to the Bahamas a few years back. Tim has a Tartan 30 that sits in his backyard in Punta Gorda.
We left the dock by 0830 and because he is minutes to the Ponce Inlet we were “sails-up” in beautiful Charlotte Harbor in no time. The sky was bright blue without any evidence of clouds. The temperature had hit 80 by 9 am, but we had a nice southwest breeze for cooling effect and pleasingly built from 8 to 13 and peaked out at 20 knots!
There were a few tender moments we contemplated having to reef the mainsail for better control, but enjoyed the 20 degree heel as the boat sliced through the waves. We watched fishermen as they headed out to their different spots for the day and other sailboats appear in the distance. From Ponce Inlet we sailed southwesterly on a course toward Burntstore Marina.
Stig, as she was aptly named by our friend the ophthalmologic surgeon, surged forward approaching 7 knots of speed. We made one tack and with the wind at our backs the relative temperature now soared. We were lucky to have wished for and received just a few bits of cloud cover as the morning turned to afternoon and our breeze settled to just a whisper. With the water turning to glass, our speed settled to under 3 knots (a speed at which we could likely swim faster). We discussed the chances of getting more wind to get us back “home” and adequate cloud cover to keep us cool before we would have to turn on the engine. In moments, we caught a few minutes of light 7-knot breeze to get us close to the inlet.
The Genoa is furled and mainsail flaked on the boom as we enter the maze of canals that make up Punta Gorda Isles.
We sailed 28 nm according to the iPad tracking course! It was a surprise opportunity to whet my whistle for our upcoming winter season of sailing!
We were up at 0500 on this January 28 morning to start our day’s journey from Martinique to Dominica. It is a 50 mile sail north. We calculate that with an average speed of 6.0 knots we should be sailing for 9 hours..assuming we sail and not have to motor much.
Despite the hour, it is still a night sky. There is a sliver of a moon, which doesn’t provide much guidance as we try to differentiate sky from sea heading off the anchorage in the direction that will see a night sky a bit longer. We spy the Southern Cross in the Southern horizon. It disappears quickly though as light appears from the east, along with all the constellations. We have not done an overnight sail this season, and with conditions like this there is a yearning.
As more light appears, we are now able to see to open the sailbag and attach the halyard to raise up the mainsail. As we motor a bit further, we begin to feel the breeze. It’s not for another hour until there is enough wind to catch the sails. Like that first snow, or the first jonquil of Spring, there is an ease of spirit and frank happiness we feel every time we turn off the engine and the sound of rushing water past the rudder takes over.
We leave Martinique after a very busy couple of weeks. We had spent most time in the southernmost anchorage of St Anne after our January 15 arrival and have enjoyed a busy social calendar since. We have played in a few bocce games, Mexican train dominoes, completed numerous hikes, rented a car with friends and spent time in the mountainous, windy, twisty gorgeous green rainforested regions that with every turn there is an ocean view. We consumed baguettes, Brie, and some of the best, but least expensive French wines! Many days we took the 2 mile dinghy ride to the bustling marine city of Le Marin for provisions and to search out parts. As I have mentioned before, due to the stress and strain on a sailboat, many things break. It is an uphill battle some days confronting the challenges of keeping everything running in good form. Our snorkeling proved to be quite successful most days, enjoying some beautiful reefs and the fishes that inhabit them.
We took one awesome hike to the Canal de Beauregard, aka Canal of slaves. This is an ancient aqueduct built by slaves in the mid 1700’s extends several miles through the rainforest to supply fresh water to the village of St Pierre. It is literally built along the slopes and you walk the wall, sometimes looking at thousands of feet below in obstructed. The wall is about 18 inches wide and the aqueduct is 2-3 ft wide and 3 ft deep.
Before taking leave of Martinique though, we had made a few stops on St Vincent and St Lucia.
The island of St Vincent has a bad reputation for crime towards boaters as well as in general. As of late, there are people concerned about the tourism industry there and they are cleaning up their act. They have somewhat organized individuals into safety and security groups in many anchorages like that which is done in Dominica. The locals are trying to be there for the boaters assistance, and have tried to keep out the nuisance. We had heard from other cruisers over the last year they found it safe and so we left Bequia and decided to make a stop north of there in St Vincent. We had 3 other boats that we had been traveling with and they had made the trip the previous day. Our arrival to Cumberland Bay was on a light winded sunny afternoon. We had a nice sail and ready to anchor. Due to the volcanic formations, the anchorage are quite deep, even very close to shore. We were greeted by smiling faces and instructed on coming in stern-to. This is where you put the stern to the shore, let out chain enough to set the anchor from the bow and then back to a distance where one of the locals grabs a line from the stern and takes it to shore. Here he promptly ties it to a big rock or substantial palm tree. Quite the interesting process and used most exclusively in Europe. But, it’s like parallel parking, a bit more complicated than just driving into a parking slot.
This is how it goes…..we turn the boat facing out of the anchorage, and at the given moment I begin to let out chain. When we’ve hit 125 ft, Mike begins to back the boat. Now, Lost Loon is a great boat, but as heavy, nearly full-keeled boats go, they don’t back up worth @#$% ! But slowly and given no opposing wind, she begins her backward progress. We eventually see the anchor rode straighten out. We now give the longest piece of line to the fellow to take to shore. I then begin to let out a bit more chain so the line reaches shore. When our new friend has us tied to a big rock ( yep, I said rock…roughly 5 ft across and 2 ft tall. Listen they do this all the time, right ? I’m saying to myself), he yells at Mike to yell at me ( over the sound of the diesel) to take up some chain and thus secure us both stern and bow. Well, as I begin to take in chain I notice that it now doesn’t seem set. I feel the chain jumping, but it is taut. I relay my misgivings about the anchor being set to all hands. Of course, our concern is that if the anchor isn’t set in mud or sand or grass and we get a headwind, we’re on the rocks and Lost Loon is in trouble. Not a good scenario. So, our fellow unties the line to the rock and we begin to take up chain to re-anchor. I get to nearly 40 ft from the anchor and it won’t come up further. Mike maneuvers the boat a bit , I let out more chain and I try again, but it won’t come. I’m instructed to just keep pulling. The anchor windlass whines out trying its hardest , but it’s now obvious we are hooked, rather the anchor is stuck. We maneuver 2 or 3 more times, and turn off the engine. We now have a bevy of locals in their handmade boats circling. They finally settle and decide we need a diver. They can possibly get a guy for us. Mike gives me a reluctant look as he glances at the dive tanks we have secured aboard. I believe the first thing that crosses my mind is…we haven’t used the gear in a year or so and hopefully it all works.
I go below to dig out the dive gear while Mike dons his swim trunks. We are pleased when it’s hooked up and it inflates the BC as well as provides air through the regulator. As we are doing this our new friends in Cumberland have devised a plan where Mike will take a string with him to the anchor or rode and when all is clear yank on it and we will begin to raise it from the bow. This now requires me at the helm and one of the guys to come aboard to run the windlass. I give him instructions on the operation as Mike descends to whatever depth he needs. I am at the helm with diesel running, there is a guy feeding Mike string, another guy beside me watching for bubbles so we know where Mike is located, and 2 others giving encouragement from alongside as well. It seems like an eternity before there so a yell to take up the anchor. My guy at the bow does this perfectly…and we wait…as the anchor is seen below the surface there is another yell. Mike is soon to follow. Cheers go up from the crowd around us. We are thankful there is NO wind to move the boat and I can help Mike get aboard.
He tells us that the anchor fell to about 75 feet , but the chain was stuck in a crevasse where the wall came up to 35 ft. He just needed to pull the chain away as I moved the boat a bit forward to get the anchor straight up from the depths.
We promptly request to move from this spot to a flatter location on the far other side of the bay. We repeat the same process, but this time are now in sand and grass before we backed the stern to shore. It was beers all around for ourselves and friends as a thank you when we finally turnoff the engine. The next few hours we washgear with fresh water, hang it to dry and watch the little ones swim off the stern line. More boats came in that afternoon, but there was no one instructed to anchor in the location where we had trouble. A good learning experience….watch severe depth changes…they mean sheer underwater cliffs that really can screw up anchoring!!
The next day we enjoy a tour of the island by bus ..taking a hike, seeing waterfalls, petroglyphs, and some gorgeous mountain scenery. We even pass by one of the movie locations for Pirate’s if the Caribbean!
We move the boats in our newly formed Canadian-American rally to the next bay Chateaubelair. Here we check out of customs in preparation to head to St Lucia. We spend a lazy, rainy day, reading and find a break in the precipitation to snorkel the north east part of the bay. There is little in the way of coral, but manage to see much reef life.
We make our next stop in St Lucia and we spend a number of days hiking a favorite spot in Marigot Bay, visiting rum factory, a banana plantation and take a bus trip to the bustling commercial city of Castries.
One of our full day’s hikes is along the very rugged northeast part of the island from our base on Rodney Bay.
St Lucia’s rugged northeast
Finally, after enjoying the long day’s sail from Martinique to Dominica, we are greeted by Alexis, a PAYS ( Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services) member. These are a group of men with their own boats who have formed a consortium to provide yacht services ( gas, laundry, water, tours) as well as patrol the anchorage at night.
Alexis gives us a wide smile, and says “Welcome back, my friends!”.
It’s lovely , as you might imagine. The colors of blue are beautiful in contrast to the deep green in the hills of the islands. Yes the palm tree lined beaches have been right out our ‘back door( in fact we just finished a swim to shore and back after a full morning hike to the other side of the island. We have travelled from Grenada to Carriacou. We stayed here a few days for hiking, snorkeling, and beaching ( our reward for so many days of labor before splashing Lost Loon again). We stayed in Mayreau ( where we literally had a 1/2 mile beach to ourselves!) and finally made it to our current location in Admiralty Bay Bequia.
I wrote much of this post in the days during our stay in the boatyard. More about that experience in a later post.
10 …EC ( Eastern Caribbean dollars) or $4 US ….the cost of an amazing lunch for 2 of local steamed fish, a helping of vegetable rice and beans, callalou, and cucumber salad! This was from a lady who prepares meals from her house, and sells them to locals until it’s gone. We walk by her place every morning and evening to and from the boat. She also made terrific Lambi noodle salad ( that’s lobster!).
6 ……the number of days we spent washing, sanding , painting, polishing, reorganizing, and putting up sails….among many other tasks..8 hours sanding( mike) 4 1/2 hours painting, 3 1/2 hours waxing.( until we decided hand waxing wasn’t quite looking so great..and we hired 2 guys to buff the whole thing and they were done in 4 hours!)
3…….the average number of times you must move an item on the boat before it finds its rightful place. Except for the flat head and Phillips screwdrivers…they get a real work out so rarely get more than a few moments in their designated space.
1400….the number of miles we drove from MN to IL to NC and to FL before we flew the near exact same air miles to Grenada.
2…. the number of hours it took to do a load of wash at the apartment we stayed in while prepping the boat. It only took 1 hour to dry in the 85 degree sun. So 3 hours to oversee one load of laundry takes a lot out of an attempted productive day.
14…minutes to walk from the boat to the apartment we rented while working on the boat( most importantly it was a few days of air conditioned respite we had from the hot dusty days in the boatyard) …a little longer if it has rained and we have to dodge the mud puddles, or if we stopped to photograph the baby goats at play, or stop to let all the cars pass at quitting time.
36 …..loose ties that secure the winter cover. And keep showing up everywhere even after the cover was removed and stowed!
14 …throw pillows on the boat that get moved around until everything else is in place….also 13 too many according to Mike….until he needs one and I have a few already.
200…number of boats that they store on land at Clarke’s Court Marina during the summer.
12…the number of full and partial rolls of tape aboard..Gorilla( 3 rolls…the stuff holds like crazy) painters, original masking, duct ( in 3 decorative varieties), two sided, plumbers, electrical, and cellophane. They are housed in a bag behind the port settee, and seem to successfully escape out into the spaces behind there somehow, so we are always chasing them down. Tape is an important temporary fix for many things on the boat, and in some cases permanent.
3 ….miles to IGA from our anchorage in Prickly Bay. Mind you on foot one way isn’t so bad, but after the grocery stop, one stop at Ace and True Value, and we’re in need of a taxi ride back….20 EC. A well spent 8 dollars in 80 degree afternoon heat!
15…the number of hats we have aboard, including 1 “Gillian hat”, a nice fisherman’s rain hat ( that turns inside out with the lightest puff of wind so really doesn’t work well unless we have just rain and no wind) 9 golf caps ( in varying stages of use…some for painting and heavy work and others for general sailing and hiking), 2 straw hats, and 2 Santa hats ( we’ve been tempted to wear this holiday, but they are quite warm after even 5 minutes in this climate). I know this isn’t important, just that going through the stash it was interesting…we’re always losing a hat so it’s nice to have a few around.
23 …the number of feet that a HAM radio antenna needs to be to match the wavelength most often used. It can be longer but must not be closer to the mast than 5 feet. ( it extends from the day it’s in the back to a line from nearly the top of the mast) We found this out when our antennae broke between Grenada and Carriacou. We were lucky to find another 23 ft of spare wire in the “extras supply” under the guest bunk, behind the water heater, alongside the spare headsail. It was successfully wired back up by Mike who says he loves to climb the mast. ( well love wasn’t the word…he’s getting good at going up, my job is to winch the climbing harness, and then let him down..he’s been up there more times than he really likes this season already).
3 bottles of RUM….the important stuff…the good kind from Grenada, until we get to the St Lucia…then the French islands……..
Hope you enjoy. Leave me a message…stop again. We will be sailing this season North along the Windward and Leeward chain of Caribbean islands. I will try to post often.
So last January, sitting in the Islands I began writing of our fun in Grenada. We have attended a few HASH events…. wait… nothing to do with mind altering substances!!! These are walk-in , hiking, running events that take place on the countryside of the islands.
Well, I had this hair brained idea to see if any sailing publications were interested….. fast forward after several revisions and help from some close family members in editing I HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED!!! It’s Bluewater Sailing magazine, September 2018.
Thanks for the support that gave me the courage to submit and thanks for coming back!
So the pics you see here in the beginning of this blog show us closing Lost Loon in May at Clarkes Court in Grenada. We were fortunate to have an uneventful process. The “carefree” sailing days are replaced with a few tolerable hot, dusty days in the yard. Bittersweet, we need to return to land life and see family as well as manage other parts of our life. As of this writing, we are now about 4 weeks from returning to spend another Winter in the Caribbean! The count down has begun!
We continue to live as vagabonds from one short term habitation to the next (or as gypsies..so well put by a close dentist friend of ours!) For the summer, we spent most of the time at our 3- season place on Lake Vermilion. We have completed the renovation we started last year transforming a 1950s cabin to a nice comfortable lake cottage. We also traveled to Illinois and North Carolina and spent valuable time with family in those locations. And of course passed several weekends with our Minnesota family and precious growing granddaughter! ( permission granted by the parents allows me to share one of my favorite pics!!)
They have been gracious to provide us with a warm bed and sustenance throughout the last few months, as well as priceless moments with “nos petite fille”!
The summer passed quickly. We spent time fishing, hiking, harvesting wild blueberries, and putting a new steel roof on the cottage.
Our life on the lake is challenging because we are on the north part of the lake further than the road extends. We have to boat everything in we use. This includes ..yes even the new steel roofing supplies. Thanks to Mike and Chris…their ingenuity made this possible.
In making our new cottage unique, my friend Cynthia and I decided to paint a door. this was a very enjoyable weekend project..and priceless piece of art!
There were a few days we did get out fishing…a passion of Mike’s and caught some beauties, northern Minnesota walleye! We also received our scout firefighter’s badge one day. There was a slight breeze that afternoon as we headed out to Big Bay on the lake for musky fishing (truth be told Mike fishes and I make sure I have a good book). As the breeze picked up and the afternoon progressed, we noticed a plume of smoke coming from a small island. It became darker, and in seconds we could see flames from about 1 mile away. We quickly proceeded to the location, where we expected to find someone burning a huge fire. To our surprise, there was no one around and a large part of the island was covered in fire. I tried calling 911, but with variable cell service cut out. Mike drove to a close spot where we thought it would be better and 911 was calling me back! I spent some precious 5 minutes telling the dispatch person the locations of the fire, knowing he needed to communicate this with the fire boat. I was assured they were on their way asap and told not to put myself in danger. We ran across the bay and procured two 5 gallon buckets with the intent of saving the island. We returned and inched the boat as close to the rocks without damaging the boat so we could get off. We were soon running a 2 person bucket brigade. We did have one other boat show up and with their 2 gallon bucket they had aboard, assist in putting out some of the “small stuff”, but there was a huge tree on fire that would take the professionals. Soon we saw them coming. as the fire boat approached we got off the island, noticing a small area where there may have been a campsite in the recent past….. Most of the fire was doused by the sole volunteer fireman.
During the months in Minnesota, I was able to work part-time at a local clinic. ( a shout-out to my new colleagues in Virginia , MN!! thanks for a great summer!) I worked in the family practice and urgent care areas 2-3 days per week. This afforded me the opportunity to maintain my license and continue to do something I truely enjoy. It was a mere 30 minute drive, but that was after the 20 minute boat ride acrosss the lake to get to the vehicle. This was not unlike our travels to get anywhere on Lost Loon. It was a great plan, most of the summer. I had only one late afternoon storm to wait out before getting Mike across the lake to pick me up. It wasnt until late September…my last days of work…and late days getting off work at 7 PM when arriving at the boat landing some days at 7:45 were getting chilly. By the first of October the days were chilly. We were having some night to 30 degrees and daytime highs of 40.
Yes, this is a picture of a 3 inch snowfall. Quite unusual and unexpected for this time of year. Mike actually had to snovel snow out of the boat for the first time since we have been coming to the cabin We are usually lucky to have until the middle of October to close things down, but by October 9th, we woke to temps in the very low 30s overnight and one partially frozen pipe. After Mike returned from thawing this with a hairdryer, we made the obvious decision to pack-it-up and head out. We had spent the last few nights, waking to check the water in the faucets and were not in the mood to wake to more pipes to thaw or worse broken ones! The job is fairly straighforward: pack clothes, clean everything out of the refrigerator, turn the water off and drain off the pipes, take apart the dock and lift it out of the water, cover the single pane windows with shutters. We have done this in an afternoon and were able to complete everything in about 3 and 1/2 hours. The sun provided us some warmth, but for this time of year, unexpectedly cold!
So the next question…..where to go? We decided to remain “off the grid” and head for a shared cabin in Superior Wisconsin …intended for deer hunting. It sits on 100 acres of woods in the most northwestern part of Wisconsin, along the Minnesota border. We had a few hours to prepare ourselves for the primative living…no plumbing, no running water, heated by wood burning stove. It happens to be just 8 miles south of the city of Superior, so not so far off the grid as it sounds. We stayed here 4 nights before moving on. We enjoyed a few nice Fall days of hiking and bird hunting (the guys…not me).
After a couple of days with our family, we have traversed south for a few weeks with friends in Florida, boating and diving, where we will escape the onslaught of cool temps in the Midwest and dream of sailing days to come!
Here is an update on our Spring 2018 travels…best intentions have fallen a bit short. Thanks for coming back! I need to get this season finished before Season 3 begins in November!!!! As the days get shorter here in northern MN, so the temperature drops. As I finish adding my pics to this blog, I listen to a local weather report predicting snow fall tonight of between 1-3 inches! Yikes…so far from our other home with warm water and soft breezes!
Our travels for the spring have nearly come to an end as we approach the first week of May. With our friends on SV Artemis we make our way to the northern end of the island of Grenada with enough days to explore the western coast before our haul-out day. We spend a night at Halifax Harbor, once known to be smelly and Smokey it turns out to be a quiet anchorage with some nice snorkeling and calm overnight waters. ( well we do experience an odor of smoke in the middle of the night… it’s not so hot and we close a few hatches and manage to sleep) we have been lucky again this year to have only a handful nights that we have had restless sleep due to wind and waves. ( I recall a night or possibly 2 in DeShais Guadeloupe where we rocked and rolled like a bucking bronco at the county fair because of high winds, And we may have had a night or 2 as well in the islands if the BVIs during the Christmas winds that lasted through most of January!)
South of Halifax we cruised to the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. How cool. We negotiate to a spot near the suspect grounds and are early enough in the morning to find a couple of mooring balls available. Once secure we are snorkeling above some very neat concrete structures. This was one of the first of its kind. Open in 2006 and thanks to British sculptor Jason deClaires Taylor there is a garden of figures to view. Apparently a local sculptor has added structures in the recent years. I wish I had pictures to share but my GoPro was out of battery charge. I can direct you to the Pure Grenada website for pictures of the Underwater sculpture park. And coming back in the Fall, I know we will stop there and this time be prepared to take some pics!!
We moseyed on just a mere mile to the anchorage at St George’s. This is a nice spot to get to Grand Anse beach and the major part of town. We stayed long enough to make a trip to Island Water World… one of our favorite marine supply stores throughout the Caribbean. We had pre-ordered our expensive bottom paint so we have it upon our return in November.
We also made it a point to take a walk to the beach. By this time of year it really heats up and most of the tourists are gone , the beach huts are closing, and the students at the University are making their last trips to this wonderful beach. We ran into a few locals enjoying the warm calm waters.
As much time as we spend in these beautiful waters we can still get a sense of relaxation walking in the soft sand playing with the waves that gently crest at our feet.
After 3 days we were back on our way to the final anchorage of the season. Clarke’s Court Bay is about 6 miles but the sail is a challenge. We headed out of St George’s bay to the southwest on a down wind run in 10 knots of breeze. As we made a turn to the south and as usual found the easterly trades coming face on! As it happens the waves here are making their way around this shoreline and tend to add to the mess. In addition there is one large reef to avoid making this turn, and so it’s called our Final Challenge. We end up tacking back and forth enough times to make even the most seasoned sailor dizzy. Heaven help us should we encounter another vessel making the opposite trip!! We usually have to turn on the engine to assist our travels through this maze and are grateful when we thread the needle between the rocks and shoals to Clarke’s Court Bay.
We spend more than enough time this morning trying to find a spot in the bay that appears to have clear water, but is also out of the prevailing east-southeast winds. In fact, we fall back to a location we have been before and find it comfortable, however a bit murky.
It’s the beginning of bittersweet moments we will experience as we prepare to leave Lost Loon for the summer.
Over the next week we spend our time making lists of boat items we need, repairs to be done in the Fall, and rearrange as we begin packing up. It’s not all work. We meet other cruisers and enjoy 2 great Hash events in some awesome places around the island. The first is on the north east coast that is littered with waterfalls. The red van is full of passengers all decked out in walking and hiking attire. We head out to the tune of Hello by Kes . Typical Trinidadian music…..but…over and over! By the time we arrived at the event site we were ready to be walking but patiently wait with other hashers and locals for the “send-off”
There was a disclaimer announcement that this was an extraordinary long hike/ run. How true. We started in St Andrews and went as far south as Mt Carmel waterfalls and back north again.
The route took us over and through the woods and past overlooks like we have never seen.
One lookout along an old rock fence we could see Marquis island along the eastern shoreline.
And took us past some local wildlife, just enjoying their afternoon as well.
We took our time to enjoy this lush tropical region, but after nearly 3 miles ( maybe more?) we were exhausted. Following a brief meal and a few beers we loaded our stinky selves back in the van for a stop at 2 rum shops the Bumpy Corner Bar and one other along with more Kes!
The fun gave us just the ambition to tackle the jobs ahead for the week…remove and wash sails, clean and polish all stainless, remove settee covers , wash, replace, remove solar panels, clean our dear Patches , the dinghy, and retire her to the forward deck, reorganize a multitude of storage bins,mend boat covers, check outdates on batteries, medication, and Epirbs (the units that will send an emergency satellite notification should we need rescue!), and make lists of all the equipment we need to bring back.
With our friends on Artemis leaving we decide to rent a vehicle together and see some of the island. We take a long day in search of waterfalls. We have a crude map and make our first turn outside St George’s and find ourselves at the end of a short road. We are surprised that we don’t see signs, but we head up on foot now toward what appears to be a trail.
We pass cocoa and mango trees, see where there is obvious clearing. After about 15 min think we hear water rushing and feel we’re on the right track, until we see a local farmer tilling up the hillside. We question him about the falls and he tells us we are on private land and must head down the road further for the entrance to Concord Falls. We proceed back on the trail enjoying the tropical forest. We get back on the road and realize we needed to just head only a 1/2 mile further and we would have made our first destination.
Concord is beautiful from the road, but to get a better view we pay a small fee and descend to one of the small pools that make up this attraction. The water is crystal and there is something about water falling from a height that is pretty darn incredible.
We buy a beer and chat with some of the vendors who set up shop here during the day. Back in the car, we head up the west coast stopping at Gouyave for a picture of a beautiful church and stay for a beer and lunch.
We sat in a restaurant along the street side in the hot sun, where the breeze didn’t reach us so another cool beverage was welcome. With our nutrition replenished we carried on northward. We made it as far as seven sisters Falls.
A quiet respite all to ourselves. We enjoy the cool FRESH water. Our guide we have hired to take us here tells of the history of this area and some interesting facts about the nature.
He commented off the cuff that he sees monkeys quite often feeding in the trees, and lo and behold we are walking back to the vehicle on a beautiful footpath and hear a rustling, high overhead. we watched 2 monkeys playing and feeding on the tender branches of the trees. (sorry, there are no good pictures…just very cool memories!)
Next up…a Chocolate HASH, and our final week in Grenada.
April 2018……I am trying to catch up on things…thanks for hanging with me!
We leave Martinique and pack our French flag away for the season. We are heading to Bequia by way of St Lucia for an overnight. We stay in Marigot Bay at anchor long enough to take dinner and sleep. By 0430 we are up in the dark making coffee and raising the anchor. It is a clear, cool (70 degrees…that’s relative, I know) morning. We try to maintain the peacefulness with low voices so as not to awaken our neighbors. Once the anchor is stowed, we make a heading west, out into the Caribbean, we must cover 55 miles today before we set anchor again.
We find wind immediately outside the harbor, raise the sails, and head off. Our day passes quickly as we sail in the shadow of the Pitons at sunrise
and get to see the island of St Vincent in the daylight (we have passed here twice in the dark of night). We average 6.0 knots of speed during our trip, encounter some incredible current between St Lucia and St. Vincent,
along with considerable 5-7 ft waves, and arrive in Bequia in time to take a nap and swim before sunset. We will make our customs stop the next day because if one arrives after 4pm, we understand customs charges double, even though they are open until 5:30!
A year ago when we came to this island (again heading south) it was Easter. We stayed long enough to watch the Easter Regatta here and left on Easter Sunday. We spent all of 6 hours ashore then, and vowed to take more time this year. Since that time, we have been told of the great hiking, wonderful people, and whaling history of this island.
Our friends on SV Honey Rider loaned us a movie called When the Wind Blows. (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/whaling ). It is a documentary on the tradition of whaling on the island and took nearly 25 years to complete! It was just 59 minutes long, but in that time we came to understand the longstanding tradition of the island. The inhabitants have been a peaceful people who survived on what the sea would bring them. The deep ocean around Bequia sees whales moving north and south particularly in January and February. They have harvested whales in small numbers over the years and share the catch with all the islanders. They will now lose their rights in July as the foundation that regulates this has imposed heavy fees to continue. They typically get 1 whale every 2-3 years using only a simple hand-thrown harpoon, lately this is done more as a tradition than for sustenance. With this knowledge we had a different impression as we approached the island and its high cliffs where we imagine whale watchers sitting and waiting for a spout to appear on the horizon, and the moment when they release the sailing dinghies to head out for the hunt.
We anchor in Admiralty Bay alongside other sailboats and catamarans who have made their stop here while travelling up and down island. The water is so clear we can see 25 ft to the bottom. The anchorage is protected by very high hills on 3 sides and is dotted with pastel houses and hotels amongst the deep greenery and palm tree lined soft sand beaches.
Shortly after we anchor, another monohull arrives alongside us and we see their hailing port inscribed on the transom is Burnsville, MN! Someone we must meet. We actually run into them while doing our customs and immigration detail ashore. We find out they have just returned from several years in Europe! The boat they sail is named Artemis and she is a Mason 43 ketch, a beautiful and very seaworthy bluewater cruising sailboat. We decide that we have enough in common to take in some of the island together.
Peggy’s Rock (aka Ma Peggy) Hike
Our cruising guide instructs us on how to ascend to heights above the anchorage to get to this hike…and so we set out. We pick up our friends, Sally and Al and motor a short way to a dinghy dock. We walk down the expansive Princess Margaret beach and then up a steep set of rock stairs to the Lower Beach Road.
We continue up the road and over the crest of the first hill. We pause at the bus stop to inquire about the route to the trail and find out we must head down the road and at the 3rd driveway look for the telephone poles on the ridge and begin our ascent. It is a steep road for the first 100 yards, in the hot sun. We arrive at the telephone poles and again talk to some locals cleaning out a shed. Pointing still further uphill, we are instructed to head up the grassy slope to the 100-year old tree and into the brush.
The brown grassy trail is well worn by other visitors, and littered with a few sharp cactus for which we must be alert. This winds through only a moments of shade where we stop for a much needed water break, then head off up a meadow of sorts to the next grouping of trees. We notice an overlook off the trail and find we are just above the airport looking toward the Grenadines.
As we head into the trees we are relieved to again be out of the full sun. There is a slight breeze that seems to get stronger and feels good. As the trail continues to slowly rise we must now find our way over large boulders and tree trunks. The route is obvious, but it is marked with white painted arrows to show us the direction. We pass a sign showing another “short-cut” back down and vow to take that on our return. The trail remains fairly wide and turns to a ridgeline with steep drop offs on either side, protected by heavy trees and brush. Peggys Rock is a group of large boulders that one must negotiate with a few large steps and accurately placed handholds, but quite a beauty.
There is a nice breeze to cool the perspiration. The view of Admiralty bay is pretty stunning from here. We can see islands to the North as well on this clear day. (Cameras never do justice in these places, they have to be experienced.) We begin the journey downward and do take the “shortcut- goat-trail, but find that is is nearly a gully at times and quite steep. We are back at the beach in half the time. Our first stop is a local restaurant, Keegan’s, open now for lunch and we settle on a couple of beers after we consume several cold glasses of water.
The afternoon back at the boat is restful after we cool off in the water we are surrounded with on Lost Loon.
The Whaling Museum…and a local education
With images of the whaling movie in mind we wanted to get to know more of the this tradition. There was to be a whaling museum on the east side of the island for which we were headed on this morning. Today, we were picked up by our friends on the boat Artemis and landed the dinghy ashore for another days adventure. Down the beach and up the rocky staircase and to the street, we made our way through the hilly pass, we began to descend along the coast. The views were beautiful on this, the rugged side of the island. We came by Toko’s bar, which we were instructed to make sure we stopped, as it was to be itself a miniature whaling museum. A little further on we came to the airport, no museum. We hailed a local and he indicated that the museum was several miles north of where we were and that we should get a taxi. Being without a good island map did put us at a disadvantage here. But in true cruiser spirit we decided a stop at Toko’s was in order.
The bar is set along the southwestern shore of the island, there is a sheltered landing closeby. Evidence of years of whaling paraphenalia litters the brightly painted establishment.
When we arrived Toko himself ( a weathered man in his late 70’s we surmised) had found a restful spot in the shade and was ready to tell us of his whaling experience and his grandfather’s as well.
We listened intently as he told of being the jib man on the whaling dinghies. He informed us that they still have whaling rights through the month of July. and in a “by-the-way” attitude tells us that one (a whale) had been sighted this just this morning, but the seas and wind too high to safely pursue the mammal. We bought a few beers and shared our life story with him as well. He brought out regular and fig bananas and mangoes for us, fruits from his own trees. We tasted the sweetness of fresh tropical fruit like none before. Fig bananas are much smaller and firmer, but have a nutmeg like sweetness. As the morning turned to afternoon, we decided to continue on our return.
We stopped at a nearby marina where many of the whaling dinghy sailboats were ashore. We did get to see Perseverance, the whaling dinghy featured in the documentary we watched.
And we again struck up a conversation with one of the whalers. A face, well worn by the sun and sea, told us of the difficulty now getting their permit to continue whaling due to the millions in fees they would have to come up with. It is likely that this would be their last year of whaling. Many years there were no whales taken, and most years only 1. They share every part of the fish with the island people. Now considered just a tradition and not a way of life, they have come to expect this would happen. It was enlightening, and like a living history lesson on the island. No we didn’t make it to the museum, but feel we received more of an education getting lost with the locals as it were.
Later, back “home” we enjoy snorkeling and make several attempts at spearfishing for fish and lobsters in the afternoon with our friend Randall on the boat Fine Companion. He was showing us some of the local spots for fishing. The water was relatively clear and lobsters present, but my skill level needs work to harvest the quick spiny crustaceans from the rocks!
Bequia Day 5 – Turtle farm
We are intrigued by the fact that there is a conservatory and farm for the sea turtles on the island, but it is again on the opposite side of the island. Directions are obtained from a kind gentleman in town, who tells us to head down the street past the customs office, turn right and follow this to the next intersection in the road. We are instructed to take the middle road. We head off on a cloudy morning, good for walking here in the Caribbean. We head up the first hill to the pass and then make our turn onto the road heading north. Cars and trucks move at varying speeds along the heavily shaded road and we move off in life preserving manner as they pass. We take time to notice the bamboo, mango trees, bird of paradise and explosions of bougainvillea with towering palms along the way. About 2 miles out of town we stop at the Firefly Plantation to check on the possibility of getting a tour.
At the restaurant we are told it would be several minutes while they find the curator to take us out. Ezra shows up with his basket and we head out to see Chinese apple, mango sweet smelling Fragapani, banana, wax apple and papaya trees.
There are Caribbean flowers of all kinds tantalizing our noses. We are escorted through the herb gardens with fresh lemongrass, huge thyme, and lime leaf trees (we are offered and take samples!). We eat sweet juicy mangoes and have fresh coconut and coconut water under the cool shade of the mango trees.
Our walk continues on down the road further to the turtle farm. We enter a metal building with several concrete pools filled with turtles of all sizes. We are asked to pay the fee, but are told we need the exact amount as they do not have change for us. (Unfortunately, we have just been to the ATM and al have very large Eastern Caribbean bills). We deposit a small donation and leave. They are doing a good job of raising the turtles, but the “tour” would have been self-guided and a disappointment since the owner was not present. For lunch we return back the way we came toward town, but stop at Sugar Reef resort for adult refreshments and a midday meal……
We sit in a beautiful dining room with high white ceilings, enormous driftwood chandeliers open to the Atlantic Ocean. Mike and I share delicious Mahi Roti and Callaloo soup. We return to Lost Loon in the late afternoon with 6 mile-tired-feet for our usual post-hike swim and watch the birds feeding over the jumping schools of fish out toward the open ocean as the sun sets.
Our 5 days in Bequia are great! We intended to see more of the island, and the people and we did just that. We have met new sailing friends who we will now travel with further down through the Grenadines. Making our way through the Grenadines…we return to Tobago Cays and points South toward our final Summer destination of Grenada.
As I have said before we love these French islands.
Upon our arrival to St Anne anchorage in the southern shores of Martinique we notice the incredible number of boats here. More than any other anchorage we have seen on our travels. AND there are actually 2 anchorages in this area one near the large shipping and boating bay Le Marin and the one we are in near the village of St Anne. There are every size and shape of cruising vessel..catamarans from 30-60 feet, monohulls with cutter, sloop, and ketch rigs, cruising motor yachts, and mastless, portless, washed up and apparently abandoned boats in all parts of the anchorages.
It was a nearly 4-hour trip from Anse Chaudrie around the large Diamant rock (where the British actually set up a fort during the wars to fight off the French!) If the picture comes through you can see this was a feat next to building the pyramids in getting cannons and equipment up this rock!)
Sunset with Diamante Rock
We feel a bit at home here as we have stayed a few times. We know where to get our groceries, The Le Marin market we use has a huge dinghy dock! We can even take a grocery cart out to the dock and load right into the dinghy…this is a luxury that only a cruiser can appreciate. Well, imagine that you head off to the grocery and have to bring enough bags (they don’t give them to you here) to load up your groceries. You have to make sure that you don’t buy more than you can carry that day without a cart sometimes 2-3 blocks ….in the hot sun…if you are not smart enough to go shopping early in the morning or late afternoon…thus I digress), we know where the chandleries are for our boat parts and supplies, and where we can check in and out of the country the easiest. What we are looking forward to is seeing more of this part of the island from a hiking standpoint. We look forward to a walk to Grand Anse, the most beautiful and idyllic beach on the island.
Day 1 – We must tend to our windlass.
We think that we may need a new motor and possibly a new windlass. So, we go shopping. We make our rounds to several of the specialty marine stores in Le Marin and price them out. We also look for new and used motors that could work as well. The last place we stopped, we inquired about availability of a motor and the nice fellow (that is there to sell things ) actually said, “did you take the motor apart and clean the brushes?” Well that was all we needed to hear, maybe it can be done. A little elbow grease and she can be repaired. We made a few other stops in that sailor’s paradise of equipment, looking at new chain for our dinghy, Patch’s anchor, chaps (or cover) for her, and a few other odds and ends.
We also met one of our sister Caliber boats anchored just ahead of us, Honey Rider. We introduced ourselves to Tom and Sabrina and actually got more information about the “goings-on” in St Anne. There is such fun in meeting folks with the same boat, you just feel like family.
Day 2 – St Anne – Windlass Repair
This piece of equipment has given me fits for the last few months. I literally need to have a hammer at the bow to “tap gently” on the motor housing when it slows up a bit. According to the resident windlass and motor expert, Mike, this loosens up some of the debris that is causing the “brushes” to fail. (lesson #1 small motors….brushes do not have bristles..they are pieces of metal that brush against a rotating cylinder in succession to make the thing work!) So, when I am letting out chain or bringing it in and the windlass slows or comes to a halt, a few taps gets her running again.
Mike removes the motor and the moving parts of the windlass and literally takes it all apart to find the “brushes are coated with debris, barely making contact” and there is oil in the motor thicker than black strap molasses. He polishes the brushes and drains the oil and replaces it with fresh clean 90 weight stuff. Once the housing is back together (nearly 5 hours later) he decides we might need a gasket or 2 to finish the project….we need to go back to Le Marin for this. We had seen the repair/maintenance kit for $80. Which is quite a savings over the price of a new windlass at $1200!
Day 3- St Anne- Windlass Works!
After a nice morning with our new friends on Honey Rider, talking everything Caliber and more. They were a wealth of information on sailing the Caribbean, communications and gave us information on other Caliber boats in the Caribbean. We left to get a few things accomplished like cleaning the boat and getting the windlass back together, with great hopes it worked better. It was a glorious moment when, after just a few slang words, Mike had the motor and housing back in place and it pulled the anchor chain up and down like a child with a new yo-yo! It is times like this I am thankful for the small motor knowledge and ability to tackle and fix many things that my husband has acquired from his dad and his experience! For it is truly vital that we are able to put down and retrieve an anchor successfully. Whilst Mike was busy at the bow I spent a few hours of scrubbing the boat with Dawn detergent, I had the fiberglass hull cleaned of the salt accumulation and the green hair-like algae growth at the waterline. We were happy with the accomplishments that day.
Day 4 – St Anne – Sunday Funday
We celebrate the day by doing laundry in the morning. We had a few loads of bedding to get done from a few weeks ago and knew this was a good place to get that done…well so did many others. The little laundry just up from the beach at Anse Caritan was busy! We waited for a couple of machines and spent 2 hours getting this done. We also met a couple that we had made acquaintance with last year, and come to find out he was a telecommunications specialist. He knows HAM radios! In fact, he was THE person that installed the radio on our boat when it was with the previous owners as Sea Kite! We arranged through his wife to talk at some point about my concerns.
Our afternoon was spent with several other cruiser couples from Canada, US and Germany playing bocce ball and swimming at the calm Anse Caritan beach. We joined the German couple, Isla and Stefan, for the evening on their boat Sabir to discuss their world travels through the Pacific and East. Many thousands of miles later they encourage us to head to the Pacific, head west!
Day 5 – St Anne
We rarely stay 5 days in one location unless something needs fixing. Our fixing is done and we take a rest day. We look at the weather and find that there is a window in the next 4-5 days for making a trip further south on our journey to Grenada. It is a Monday and our plans are to make the move by Friday.
Day 6 – St Anne -Hiking Day
We join some of the same bocce ball clan for a hike up a mountain. We get on a bus for $2.50/person and ride for 15 minutes. We exit and have a good 20-minute walk up a country road before we arrive at the trailhead. We hike about and hour to a gorgeous overlook and then descend back to the hot country road and the bus stop for our return.
Honey Rider and Lost Loon
We reward ourselves with cool drinks, beers and roti. Mike and I share one of these unique wrapped delicacies. They are meat and vegetables in a thick sauce wrapped by a dough. They are usually made of beef chicken or fish. The thick sauce is spicy with turmeric, garlic and other herbs.
Upon our return to the boat, we are lucky to have Denis over to look at our HAM radio and give me a few tips and he helps us set up a connection so that I can send position reports to WINLINK.org. If you access this site, look for N9ANC (my call sign) and you can see our latest position in the Caribbean! (you will find out that we are just a few steps ahead of this blog!)
Denis the HAM master at work
Day 7 – St Anne – just another day
We find other things to reorganize, defrost the freezer (because the door won’t close properly), and work on the HAM radio. We continue to watch the weather for that “window” to head to St Lucia.
Day 8 – St Anne – Really, we are here 8 days??
We awake and feel the need to make a move, but not today as the weather is still a bit unsettled with showers and squalls. Winds are up in the 20’s and seas quite high with 7-9 ft waves. It is not impossible to make the trip we need to, but we are looking for more pleasant conditions. And, unless we were getting paid for the trip its not worth the grand hassle. So, we decide to get our hike to Grand Anse des Saline accomplished. It is nearly 4 km there and 4km back, so we start out after a sufficient lunch. We enjoy the hike around the southern tip of this big island and appreciate the wind and waves out on the open ocean. We swim off the white sand beach and rest under huge palm trees in the stiff breeze. We swim again after returning to the boat and our hot hike back. After which we head off in the early evening to stock up on the last of the French wine, Belgium beer, pate and cheese we will be able get in the islands.
Day 9 – St Anne – Friday the 13
We awake to squalls and heavy rain showers that frequent the morning. After listening to the weather report from Chris parker and perusing our other reliable weather sites we make a decision to leave in 24 hours. There is an old sailor’s wives’ tale that you never leave for a passage on a Friday, and this being Friday the 13th we postpone the trip. Nah, we needed to check a few things we had forgotten to and need the day to check out with Martinique customs.
We spend our last evening in the French West Indies at a local bar listening to local music with our new friends Isla and Stefan on Sabir.
Day 10 -Time to leave!
Retiring the French flag for the season
We are awake to get weather, make coffee and have the anchor stowed by 0815! We hastily motor by and say our goodbyes to Sabir and Honey Rider and we are off to St Lucia. We have a 20-mile run to Marigot Bay. We max our speed at 7.5 knots in 18 knot winds with 22 knot gusts with a second reef in the main and partial headsail. We see frequent waves 5-7 with a few to 8 or 9. It was a nice sail and it seemed to feel so good to be back out in the water after so long at anchor.
Upon arrival we make 2 crazy anchoring attempts (because it is mostly rock and rubble on the bottom unless you find a small spit of sand), but the most rewarding part was the excellent performance of the windlass!
We watch the relatively small anchorage fill up at dusk and I finally make a radio contact with my uncle in Kentucky!
Next up Bequia…a small island that is really a Caribbean secret!
We are practically Martinique citizens now! Just kidding! We have actually been in the country 2 weeks!!
We arrived in St Pierre, one of the oldest french cities on the island on March 28th in the shadow of great Mount Pele.
As the story goes, the governor and a science teacher headed a committee who knew of the impending eruption of this great volcano. It had smoldered for days, giving off ash and gasses frequently. They failed to adequately warn the people fearing a mass exodus from the city and harm to the local income. On Ascension Day May 5th, 1902, the mountain let forth with an eruption that has been likened to an atomic bomb , covering the city and taking the lives of nearly 30,000 local inhabitants. The only survivors were a cobbler and a man in jail who survived because his cell faced the opposite direction of the lava flow. It is said he became a legend and finally joined the circus after his fame waned. Ships anchored in the bay were destroyed as well. People from far off cities climbed hills to see the incredible destruction.
We arrive at the dinghy dock and in typical French fashion as the St Pierre church bells are ringing 4 pm. We make our way past Rue de Victor Hugo on to the tourist office where we quickly check into customs on the computer. Our next stop is the ruins of a grand theater which is next to the ruins of a prison.
We can see throughout the city what has been left of the volcanic ruins that have not been rebuilt on.
The village was an elegant city in its day, one of the finest in the West Indies. It was a center of commerce for Rum, sugar, cocoa and spices. We see old structures that line the narrow cobblestone streets and imagine the beautifully dressed townspeople strolling to dinner or the theater.
The bougainvillea hangs from everywhere. The real voices of children calling in their native french language fill the air. For a brief moment we are transported back to French Martinique in the early 1900s.
Our stay here is 2 days because we want to have a meal at Tamaya restaurant, rated one of the best in Martinique! There are 6 tables at this small restaurant, all set with white table clothes. We are the first arrivals of the evening and it’s 7pm ( most French dining establishments don’t open until 6:30 or 7) We are greeted by one of the owners, Peggy, who thankfully speaks English. She takes our order for a bottle of wine. We peruse the menu and see her husband the chef peeking out from the kitchen .
He waves a ‘hello’. We are instructed on the specials and other menu items and she interjects her preferences. After she returns from the kitchen, we hear her story of starting the restaurant, the ups and downs of the business and sailing. She spent many a day in her life on a boat as well. Our dinner is delightful. I have dorade with vegetables and Mike has a delicious veal, all truly French… with Easter chocolate eggs from France as a kind gesture! We stroll through the lamp lit village back to the boat on a full moon night and decide to stay another day and hike.
We make our way in typical Mike and Nancy fashion ( late hot morning) to the statue of Virgin Mary. She overlooks the anchorage and the sailors coming and going. It is a nice street that takes up high above the water and has a great view of the city and Mt Pele
The afternoon is spent making water and looking at the map for the next day’s short motor to Fort de France, the capital of this island.
Upon anchoring and with the engine off we can hear mass being said this Good Friday from the speakers of the Catholic Church that looms over the city. It is enchanting. The bells ring upon conclusion and we remember all the Good Friday masses we have attended, the soberness present in this beautiful bright Caribbean city anchorage.
We get reacquainted with a neighbor boat from Canada we met last year in Guadeloupe and enjoy an evening with them taking sailing and travels. We spend time along the waterfront watching the people and listening to the local music that afternoon.
Saturday morning we attempt to take a bus to the shopping center and get on the 421 instead of the 420 bus. We have been told of a great sports outlet store and enormous grocery here. When it is clear our bus isn’t going the way we intended we ask to get off and have a 3 km walk to our destination. Good thing for phones with GPS that we used to follow the bus route!!!
The shopping was magnificent. We found a real mall with clothing, jewelry and electronics stores. The Hyper U is one of the largest in the Caribbean. And being the day before Easter, it was packed with shoppers!! We like to check out the French wines… they are quiet grand and , well cheap!! The sports outlet store Decathalon we find great deals on some nice performance clothing. Coincidence, but we arrive at the bus stop to return to the boat and unbelievably the gal who spoke English and told us bus 420 was standing there, she laughed heartily when we told her of our mistake!
After being awakened by glorious church bells at sunrise we have coffee and decide to head for another anchorage along the western coast of Martinique. We check out anchorages of Anse Mitan and Anse Noir, and decide on Anse Dufour for an afternoon of snorkeling and hiking in the rain. We are amazed at all the locals on the beach for Pacques( Easter) swimming, barbecuing and dancing even in the rain!!
We chose to move anchor a few Mike’s to Anse Chaudrie. A grassy bay where we must find a spot of sand to successfully set the anchor. The snorkeling here is great, but in getting to the snorkel reef I feel I have observed to many sea snakes below for my liking. That afternoon we meet up again with fellow cruisers on the boat Tasman. They sail our sister ship a Caliber 40 as well. In fact, their boat spent the summer cuddled right next to Lost Loon in Clarkes Court Marina!!
We find some great seashore hikes here several hundred feet above the water with great views. We found another spot to snorkel this was for the hot afternoon.
That brings us to our current location at St Anne, Martinique. Currently the Mecca for hundreds of sailboats moving North and some moving South, as we are.
It has been great to be back on the water for the winter. That feeling when you have put some sail up and headed in some direction propelled by the wind with the engine off is heaven. There is a yearning for that gentle ocean lull and wind that sings through the sails that we have come to love. The clear blue skies and ocean to match or revel that becomes addicting. We have grown to adore the part of our lives on the ocean. It is however wonderful to spend time with family and friends in the Summer off-season
We are by far not as experienced as some of our acquaintances on this vast ocean, but feel that we have accumulated some liquid miles and continue to accept the lessons from the sea.
Our boat is built and outfitted for heavy ocean conditions and we like to think that we are becoming better at adjusting her to tolerate and sail these different situations. “She”, Lost Loon, teaches US as well. Nevertheless, we have developed some qualifications for a great sail.
First, we have intent. This meaning that we have a destination in mind but rarely a time frame. (This season is a bit different with guests coming aboard, time was of the essence, but it is not typically the case. For when they have come and gone we will be left to decide on the journey). We have limited our travels within the waters of the Leeward and Windward islands of the Caribbean and our eventual goal is to be in Grenada in May.
So, this means that we can travel as fast or as slow through the islands as we chose in a given time period, with the goal of exploration. We have done quite a few “overnight passages” some great and some we would rather forget, but we enjoy the daylight scenery when we can make it from anchorage to anchorage before the sun sets. However, all that being said, we are quite compelled by settled seas, good winds and the phase of a full moon to set sail!
Mike and I would agree in the nearly 2 winters here in the Caribbean we have had a handful of REALLY GREAT sails. On leaving Antigua for Guadeloupe 2 weeks ago we found such conditions. Previous to this we had time to spend with visiting friends on and around the beautiful island. We also met up with “old” cruising friends from last year for a few sweet days of boat talk and sea slang, and were fortunate in just a few days to meet new cruising couples.
We had said our temporary good-byes (as they always are for seafarers) the evening before the sail, and settled in early to preparr for our day ahead. We had not made many day sails in the last couple of weeks and were quite anxious to get back into the open water again.
In our sail plans, we usually calculate our motoring speed at 5 knots as worst conditions. We had hoped to have and were rewarded with favorable easterly trade winds for our 70-mile rhumline South from Hermitage Bay, Antigua to Deshaies, Guadeloupe.
With coffee brewing in the press, we had the trusty 25 kg Rocna anchor up and secured on a very calm morning by 0530 and had begun our daysail on an early moonless morning, still with darkness. And to demonstrate how clear these waters were, with just the light of my headlamp I had enough visibility to see the anchor coming up from 20 feet below.
We were soon quietly motoring through the anchorage as other sailing acquaintances were finishing the last of their dreams for the night.
Once we were out of the anchorage, we turned into the little bit of a 9-knot breeze to raise the mainsail for the day. We insured we had 1 reef in the sail, despite the call for 12-15 knots of wind. This decreased the footprint we would use to propel the boat in the event we found some spirited winds over the 20-knot range. The sail is sometimes difficult to raise quickly due to the presence of lines that hold up the large sailbag on the boom (aka: stack pack lazy jacks) and the batons that firm up the body of the sail get caught here from time to time. But on this day, the first sign of our good luck, the massive sail went up without a hitch. We eased off on the sheet as we fell off the wind, heading more in the direction of our destination.
We spent the next 20 minutes going further offshore to see what the winds had in store for us that morning. As much as 20 degrees and sometimes 10-15 knot differences in the wind direction and force can be found offshore. Once we had a feel for the general, and consistent direction of the wind which was more like 45 degrees off the bow of the boat, we released the giant genoa. As I cranked on the winch to pull this sail in off the starboard side of the boat, we first felt the slight surge through the water and then the gentle heel to that side as Lost Loon gained speed.
Once the diesel was turned off, we heard the familiar sounds of first gurgling and then rushing water coming off the rudder behind the boat as we gained speed. This 13-ton vessel takes a bit to get going, but within minutes we were moving at nearly 6 knots in 12 knots of wind as the first sign of daylight became apparent over the mountains of Antigua. We set the staysail, to give us just a bit more lift before we felt we had maximized Lost Loon’s potential.
We were the only vessel moving that morning and felt we owned the ocean for a time, passing anchorages of sailboats sitting or rocking calmly until others became apparent on the horizon several hours later. We moved through the crisp, salty sea now with intent to make anchorage in DeShaies, where the space can be limited, by mid-afternoon. The water made several color changes as we headed from shallow to deeper waters between the islands. The waves we had expected to be in the 4-6 foot range, barely made 1-3 feet. This allowed Lost Loon to move as swiftly as she could without the backward push of the waves or swells.
As the morning became brighter, winds increased up into the 15-17 knot range propelling the boat into the 6.5 to 7 knot sailing speed! We were two pretty happy sailors. After just 3 hours we had covered nearly 20 miles, far out-reaching the conservative 5-knot per hour speed we had anticipated! We watched as sailboats in the distance came closer and passed making their way to Antigua and the outline of Guadeloupe appeared on the horizon.
We lunched on sandwiches and cokes, enjoying the easy motion of the boat. We were able to use the autopilot steering with someone at the wheel to monitor direction and speed. We rested in shifts as Lost Loon moved up and down the waves and through the wind. Nearly half-way between the islands of Antigua and Guadeloupe, in the early afternoon, I was at the helm watching for on-coming traffic or obstructions when I immediately spied water spouting right in front of the bow. I had seen a days-worth of flying fish skirt the surface as they so gracefully can. I took a second glance, and then realized that roughly 200 feet off the bow were a couple of whales moving very slowly across our path. It wasn’t immediately obvious, as sometimes small breaking waves can look like spouts, but it was definitely a whale. This would require quick action to avoid a collision. I quickly called to Mike and simultaneously took the steering off autopilot and made a redirection to starboard enough to clear these enormous fish. We passed within 40 feet to see 2 (likely humpback) whales just enjoying the sun-drenched afternoon. Many whales inhabit the Caribbean, finding the warm currents perfect fishing and spawning grounds. Pictures? They will forever be ingrained in our memory, as I barely had time to avoid hitting them let alone get a good picture with the camera while Mike took over the navigation.
As we continued on toward our destination, the one-dimensional grey outline of Guadeloupe slowly developed into two and three dimensions. The colors also changed from the grey to blue and hues of green and brown became apparent as the mountainous outline appeared to take shape.
Our approach to the island from the north also provided us with some nice winds to carry us close to DeShaies anchorage before starting the engine. Since we have been at this location several times we know the good places to set anchor and tried spying with the binoculars to see if “our spot” was available. It wasn’t until we were much closer that we would need to find another sandy spot.
We have worked out a procedure for taking down the sails. Once the genoa and staysail are safely furled, we wait until we have room to turn in to lighter winds and lower the main into its sailbag for the night’s rest. We can now concentrate on where to anchor. We have the advantage with an early arrival that the sun is still nearly overhead and we can see sandy spots easily. We are anchored easily today, as our luck continues. Once we have the lines tidied and equipment stowed, its time to relax, rest and watch the others of the sailing world come to find a place of rest for the evening.
It was a great day of sailing. It erases the memory of the “not-so-great” sails (with that eraser that has sat in the drawer for years…they become blurry) and so we chalk it up to experience. It is from whence we can appreciate the good days. We watch the sunset and are thankful for each one.
Sorry for the missing pictures! Must be a data problem.