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 currently sail the Caribbean winters and live in northern Minnesota during hurricane season in the summer.
As I write from Chatham Bay on Union Island we watch others coming into the anchorage trying to find the perfect sandy spot to drop the hook. We made a 11 mile sail from Carriacou this morning under a hot sun, bright skies and 12-17 knot winds.
We have been in Carriacou for a few days enjoying the hiking, swimming and, and traveling around on island buses to see parts of the island. We celebrated last night with some known and some new cruiser friends..Star Shot and Aphrodite. After a nice dinner at Tanty Mavis restaurant, we took a few drinks at a new French bar above the Frog Dive Shop. We were greeted with local hospitality and a few appetizers while we shagged to some American favorite music hits!
We ended the night , well past cruisers bedtime, at Aphrodite’s Boat.We chatted, as we usually, do about people we have in common, places we’ve been, and places we want to go. No fireworks here this year we were told by the bus driver earlier in the day, just a few random flares and horns went off along with cheering from boats welcoming in 2020.
Random kindness in the new year
In this brand new year I need to share 2 random acts of kindness that have happened in the last 24 hours.
During our travels around Carriacou yesterday we were on a couple of different busses to get to our destination on the windward side of the island to see a local boat building site and remote beach. The busses are just large vans equipped to carry about 10-15 people… depending on the size of the people. And like any bus they will stop at predetermined stops, but also will stop for anyone walking in the same direction if they have room and are hailed.
We had seen the boat building and found the bird sanctuary and Carenage beach.
Afterward, we were picked up in Windward by a bus with only a few people aboard. A young man, a middle aged woman and a young boy about 10.
We picked up a young woman and her about 4 year old daughter along the way. Now the ride is about 25 minutes over bumpy and sometimes gravel roads, over hills that give us a gorgeous view of surrounding turquoise water and other islands of the Grenadines. As we are traveling, this young boy opens his backpack and takes out a new bag of chocolate chip cookies. Before he takes one, he offers them to each of the passengers and the driver. We watched his eyes grow big when the little girl took 2, but he continued to offer more cookies to everyone. He took a couple then put them away. Our friends paid for his bus trip when we made our transfer in the next town. We find the people of the Caribbean islands are so kind and helpful, and it’s also evident in what they teach their children.
Today, we had anchored and one of us usually dons snorkel gear to check the anchor status. Mike was first in the water and gave me the thumbs up that we had a good hold. We had noticed a couple working on the bow of their boat with the anchor chain. He swam over to offer assistance. He was welcomed aboard and quickly went to look at the problem. Finding that their windlass wasn’t working, began to help them pull the chain and anchor in by hand. The owner was driving the Boat foot by foot closer to the anchor while Mike pulled in the heavy chain and the owners wife hand cranked the windlass to get the chain into the forward locker. It took them 30 minutes or so and they were off. Mike jumped back in the water with a huge thank you from the 54 ft boat’s owners and family. Mike told them both that we have been in some situations where a helpful hand was usually there, it what you do!!
So blessed to witness much kindness in such a small part of the world 2 days in a row.
In this new year I would challenge you to pass it on!! Maybe you have a great story to share here?? Please send for a posting!!
The rear airplane door opens and there is a rush of hot moist air that is typical of Grenada. We are back and anxious to claim our bags of US goods to move back onto Lost Loon. There is that time we must wait getting through immigration and then the potential for getting stopped at customs ( it has happened before) . But Luck is with us as we manage to exit the airport in about an hour with just a nod.
We are only 10 min from the boat, but it’s rush hour in Grenada and our driver takes a short cut through dirt and water rutted roads. However efficient we think he is, his real intent is to get back to the airport for one more fare. He drops us at the Spice Island Marine hate and we collect our apartment key and unload our bags there. Despite the setting sun, we are anxious to see how Lost Loon has fared over the last 7 months!!! Yes, it’s been that long. We decided to stay for the birth of a grandson in Minneapolis and so happy we did!!! But truly the longest stretch we have been away from our second home in the last 4 years.
We find her sitting in a different location, nestled between 2 other lonely monohulls. With a ladder we make our way aboard. We know what to expect now… yes she’s a bit grimy and dusty , but the insides look fine and the whiff test meets with approval. You see, a boat tends to become moldy or mildewy when closed up in hot humid weather for so long. We do our best to isolate the insides from the harsh outside weather, but find occasional problems. Little did we know that the ants are a problem in this marina. They found me first in the grass and them I found a few in the boat the next day. And aside from a few pieces of clothing that might have been left damp, we were in great shape.Dinner is at a restaurant at the marina.. expensive but delicious coconut carrot soup and salad as we make our mental list of the next day’s work. . We also discuss better dinner plans for the following day. We do t have a place to cook, aside from the boat, but that’s so crammed with equipment it would be nearly impossible.
Day 1 …we put away the boat cover we had spent time rinsing off the night before, sanded the boat bottom and did a good rinse of the topsides. I spent time de-anting a few spots and throwing out some food items that looked invaded as well as re arrange the plethora of sails and equipment that we store inside for the summer. We did most of the work through rain showers all day..lunch : simple local made ham and cheese sandwiches from the pharmacy mart. Dinner is at Dodgy Dock resort for a smorgasbord of local foods.. pork, chicken, fish, conch, lasagne, ham, etc. Local restaurants bring their food and patrons can pick up a variety of meals . We had whole snapper baked and local vegetables, and chicken curry. Half way through dinner the skies opened up and it poured. And kept pouring for 2 hours. Lucky again some friends of a couple we had walked there with gave us a lift back to the marina.
Painting day. This is an important part of keeping our hull clean during the season. We apply 1 good coat of heavy copper paint to resist grow of all kinds of critters. Mike does most of the work in a paint suit in 85 degree heat and I get some of the details. We were blessed with clear weather until 1 hour after we finished and had a downpour! Lunch : Grenada National fish Oil Down. Usually chicken or pork and starch veggies in a Tumeric broth. Dinner oasis for lamb,
We did a thorough scrubbing of the topsides, moved equipment on the deck and started waxing the fiberglass part of the boats’s hull. I spend 3 hours prepping and patching huge areas of wear on the dinghy. Laundry and more re- arranging. All again between rain showers. Lunch is Roti we buy from the vendor at the ACE Hardware store where we walk looking for a few parts.
By evening we had begun to see the sole of the boat’s inside. Dinner was at the container park near the university. There are restaurants converted from transport trailers and they serve everything. We opted for lamb wrap and lamb dinner. The container park is usually mobbed but we found with medical students leaving for break it was pretty quiet.
Mike is in the bosuns chair 3 hours replacing the stainless mount for the radar. I am at the deck Manning the halyard that keeps him suspended up there. Repair of the anchor windlass. The dinghy is now inflated and scrubbed. Mainsail and staysail get put on and all sail parts inspected and greased.More re arranging and preparation to move aboard Day 5 and splash. We think maybe we need to get more done and can put this off another day, but we so want to be in the water. Lunch is the 2nd chicken roti warmed up from yesterday and a bag of microwave popcorn. Dinner: popcorn and well the pizza and wing place doesn’t look inviting and there is nothing much open on a Sunday …..and we are soooo tired we go back to the apartment and crash after 4 days of sun up to sun down work. By now I have made countless trips up and down a 20 ft ladder, mike has spent more time in the bosuns chair that he has since we bought the boat, our backs and feet are beat!!!
The plan is to reschedule for launch on Day 6, but day 6 is full, so at 0830 we decide we can be ready by 2.. really? Mike quickly finishes putting up part of the dodger, mounts the solar panels, puts on the wind generator. I meanwhile schlep 5 bags of clothes and supplies we have brought from the US in 4 trips from the apartment to the boat and try to make some semblance of order of it all. We move the dinghy from the ground to the davits on the back of the boat and secure it. By 1230 things are as good as they will get. We shower have more popcorn and get a quick meal from a local vendor at the marina.
While Mike meets the crew, I settle our finances with the office. As I’m getting done I see Lost Loon in the slings waiting to be launched.
It’s a great moment when she’s hanging over the water and they move the ladder close enough to step aboard!!!
Engine all full once we are set into the water. With a bit of forward motion the crew throws us the lines and we are once again sea-born!!!
Five full days of nothing but work, and all for the love of sailing.
We are grateful for family and friends! We are fortunate for some great life experiences this last year!
While we await the arrival of a new little family member, as we spend time traveling between Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois to be with family and good friends. Yes, we are living out of a 4 wheeled vehicle until we can get back on the water and to Lost Loon.
We are thankful for all the friends and family that have given us a warm bed for a night or more along the way since we closed the Lake Vermilion place in late September.
We see our sailing friends head offshore via text and social media making their way to warm locations in the Caribbean……envious? Yes, a bit. But we will get there. Still trying to get all the boat parts and stuff together to schlep to Grenada. Until then we pack a duffle and unpack every few days, hoping we have enough warm clothes to battle whatever Winter throws at us until we leave.
So we hope this finds you surrounded with friendship and love .. as we move into the downhill run to Christmas.
With Lost Loon out of the water and meticulously stored for the Summer, we travel back to the US in mid-May to see family, enjoy the cooler climate, and yes, avoid hurricane season in the Caribbean. After a hot and busy week organizing on Lost Loon at Prickly Bay Marina in the south part of Grenada, we are ready to close the hatch and board our plane for US mainland. Its pretty strange to get in a car and drive 1300 miles (after spending 6 months sailing…not driving at all!) from Florida to North Carolina, to Illinois and finally Minnesota, our summer destination. We are thankful again that the weather has turned nice for our return to Lake Vermilion. As I write, we sit comfortable from our lake home in Minnesota and see that Hurricane Dorian has literally demolished the Abacos, and we monitor a few other tropical disturbances in the Caribbean.
In a matter of 2 weeks, we are back to work on land this time, putting in the dock, starting up the sand point well, taking off the winter shutters, picking up sticks, cleaning gutters, raking the leaves left over from the Fall before, and settling in for a few months to what we call our summer home. The water is chilly as the days have just warmed into the 60s. We are welcomed back in the evening by the call of the Loon. Most days are quiet as there are few residents that stay around on the lake all week. Coffee in the morning on the deck is highlighted by watching a mama duck bring her little ducklings around, eagles soaring high looking for breakfast, or listening to distant motor boats revving up for a morning fishing expedition.
We have owned this place since 1998 and being here full time in the summer we have finally had the opportunity to make some major renovations. Its truly nice to come back to more of a home than a 60’s vintage cabin.
So, in effort to continue the improvements we embarked on a project this year to renovate the lakeside boathouse. This structure has been home to a small aluminum boat, all the fishing equipment, water pump, lake toys, woodworking materials and outdoor implements. Literally, a catch-all, but this functioned as Mike’s workshop the last 2 years of the cabin re-do. It needs a facelift as well as repositioning. It happens to sit right in front of our sauna\fish cleaning building, and also blocks a lot of the lake view to the west. Built of sturdy rough sawn 2x4s, beams, and covered in corrugated gray steel, its a beast!
The first project at hand is to move the STUFF out, but we don’t have anywhere to move the STUFF. Enter project 1A…a new storage building. For 6 weeks this summer we (I use that pronoun loosely, because Mike did 99% of the work) cut trees, burned brush, fashioned useable timbers, and put up a storage shed.
Again this summer, we took many trips across the water and drove to our local Menards for the building materials. We were lucky to have Dave and Nate (Mike’s brother and nephew) here to help with walls one weekend! I was able assistant when things needed positioned, measured or held in place. We are finally ready to move equipment out of the boathouse, so we can start on that. Summer has segued into early Fall and were not sure we have time for that now. Of course, we will return next Spring and get that underway. Just as it is on boats..we always have a project!
On to weather and hurricanes… I find the subject quite interesting. Being on the boat full time and relying on the weather so much to move us from point A to point B, we have to have the information on wind, waves, and precipitation. We are lucky to have several resources we utilize to make the decision on if we are sailing to a location or staying put. I listen to Chris Parker and associates on Marine Weather Center nearly daily. Usually tuning in at 0700 for his forecast of the Eastern Caribbean, we hear a 4 day compilation of his interpretation of the grib and surface analysis maps. This gives us a good indication of the conditions we can expect in our location. If I have decent cellular signal I can look at a few apps we use to confirm the information. Marine Weather Center had a website with all the information.
We use Windy (free app to download and obtain GRIB information) Predictwind( there is a free version, but for $99. /3 months we can get 3 weather models, destination planning and weather routing) and windguru. The disclaimer is that these sites ( except for Marine Weather Center) present you with computer generated information and there is no human interpretation of the data. That’s our job. And honestly the models are pretty ‘spot-on’, however we do find that there are errors…mostly not as much wind or different wave patterns than predicted.
If I don’t have any cellular service and on a passage offshore, I can use my Ham radio modem and connect to email services from NOAA and not only get text version of the weather in a particular lat/long region, but I can download surface analysis maps. Reading surface analysis maps isn’t difficult, but learning how to read them is vital, along with understanding how the current, 24,48, 72, and 96 hour interval reports give further information on developing weather systems. So, in order to keep up my skills in the off season, it is very cool to watch local weather or the development of tropical storms and how they die out or progress to full blown hurricanes.
The other resource I use is monitoring cloud formations. I learned a lot of this from an ASA Sailing course on weather I took in 2016. There are so many different formations day and night to watch. It is get so caught up in the formations I forget that I’m watching clouds. There are two basic resources at Weather works and Instructables, but the ASA course is worth the time if you need to learn weather for cruising purposes.
Best Summer Recipe Find
Carrot Hummus!!!!! Sounds crazy? Well it is!!! Delicious roasted carrots combined into a great hummus recipe. And its good for you!! First introduced to this by my daughter, who is great whole foods cook.
6-8 peeled whole carrots
3-4 Tablespoons Olive oil
3-4 peeled cloves of garlic (a few more if you love garlic)
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
15 oz can chickpeas (drained, but reserve the liquid)
Table salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Set oven at 400. Coat the carrots and garlic with 1-2 T olive oil and place on cookie sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic about 10 min after starting the carrots, until soft when pierced with a fork. Allow to cool. Place the carrots, garlic, tahini, chickpeas, 1/2 tsp of salt and lemon juice in blender or food processor. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Begin blending and add the reserve liquid from the chickpeas slowly until the right consistency is achieved. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover and put on refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
This is a great recipe to have with veggies or pita chips. It is also a great substitute for mayo on a sandwich! Enjoy.
Thanks again for stopping….up next Fall happenings as we await a precious arrival before we set off sailing!
Before we get to the travelogue portion of the blog, I wanted to let you know I’m working on the image here. I’m excited to share some of a new platform for Apparently Sailing. I will be adding interviews with sailing folks, recipes, podcasts and books we’re reading. Of course, I’ll keep you up on the latest adventures both land and sea.
So, an interesting aside…
There is this whole world of blogging experts (podcasts, websites and of course bloggers blogging about blogging!) out there ALL over the world 🌎! And they actually make money helping us write better, get more followers, and for some …..MAKE Money! Ha! Well, I just want to have fun and share our experiences in hopes that we can inspire others to throw off the lines and sail away! So, it doesn’t have to be sailing. You say really? That’s why I’m reading… No! I would hope that this can inspire anyone to take that opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and head East… or West… or start a blog, apply for that dream job, take that well earned vacation, or create a lifestyle you have imagined!!!
Just today we were at Menards ( Home Depot of the northland) and noticed this gal parked next to us with a gorgeous red golden retriever. I commented on how much he looked like our first golden Buck.
We shared our love stories for our dogs and she asked us if we had thought of adopting another. We explained that we lived on a sailboat for 6 months out of the year and taking care for a big dog would be difficult (/however we do have friends that do it quite well) when she exclaimed ” how did you get that gig?” We gave her the abbreviated version of our transformation from land-loving Wisconsinites to vagabonds. She commended us on the courage to make that change. We’ll both admit that the lifestyle isn’t always roses and champagne, ( like trying to get to Menards today from our lake cottage a story for another blog post) …but it’s what we dreamed of and were sooooo fortunate to make a reality! Did we have a fortune? No! We made our sacrifices paid off the bills and took a chance. A chance that we would love sailing, be a bit less construct in our plans, and be able to tolerate each other 24/7…… literally. We have found a lifestyle that fits us both. And, that is what I hope, that someone who happens onto this blog might be inspired to achieve as well.
Ok, on with the travel update…..our sailing season in May ended on a beautiful note with meeting some great friends and doing some awesome diving. We met Brian and Shelly on SV Aria in Bequia. They love diving as much as we do and had planned an outing upon our arrival in Carriacou, Grenada.
We signed up with Lumbadive ( check them out here)to take us on a full 2 tank dive at the Sisters Rocks. Diane was a superb dive master and assisted by Raquel we were in excellent hands. We explored some awesome underwater topography seeing tons of lobster, rays,and reef fish!
On the second dive of the day, Mike was given the opportunity to hunt lionfish! These pesky creatures and serve no purpose but to destroy much of the marine life in the Caribbean. So with a pole-spear in hand he carefully eliminated over a dozen of these predators.
Following the dive, we made plans to celebrate Shelly’s birthday. We were delightfully surprised to get the lionfish filets, a few limes ( from Diane’s tree) and have our dive master join us for the party! We had a grand turn-out hosted by Brian who cooked for us. Mike made lionfish ceviche. The evening ended with Brian on the ukulele and banjo as the rest of us singing away in the cockpit of their spacious Hylas! A memorable night!
Lionfish ( or other fresh fish ) Ceviche
3-4 cups of chopped fresh seafood or fish
Juice from 3-4 fresh limes
3-4 cups of an even mixture of chopped cucumber, avocado, onion, tomato, seeded jalapeño( amount depending on your desire for the heat) red or orange pepper. ( feel free to add mango or papaya!!)
Several sprigs of fresh cilantro or shado benne, chopped.
First, stir the fresh and chopped fish into the juice of the limes. Let this sit for 10 min to 30 min in the refrigerator. You can chop and prepare the other vegetables at this time and combine in a separate bowl until the fish has cured in the lime juice.
When the fish has cured, it turns from a transparent to a translucent color and more firm texture. It can now be drained and combined with the chopped vegetables, salt to taste, and more jalapeño ( as desired). Serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer or on a bed of lettuce as a salad. See the post from Serious Eats for a compendium on ceviche.
Hey guys, this blog was written last Spring, but somehow never posted on the site. So here she is a blast from our recent past…
With friends, Rick and Mimi, aboard we make a quick morning trip into the sleepy little village of St Anne on the Southern tip of Martinique.
We are headed for St Lucia today and need baguettes and customs clearance. ( Need is the operative word, we won’t see these precious bakery goods for several month when we return in the winter…there is nothing like them , except for in France I guess) It’s crazy, but again we arrive after 8 am and find the first round of baguettes and pastries are scarcely available. We are not the only connoisseurs. We scramble from shop to shop get lucky on a warm crispy baguette, and spend a few moments looking at local art and craft. Oh and just a couple more bottles of French red wine, as well, to get us to Grenada!
Once the anchor was up we had sails out and with a 190 degree heading for our 20 nm sail to Rodney Bay. The seas are 4-6 ft and wind 15-17 knots from the East, so we have a nice reach with all the sails, as we cross the Martinique-St Lucia channel. We always hope for comfortable sailing for our friends and are kindly rewarded this day. The water is that deep blue as the gentle swells and waves ride up under Lost Loon, taking us on what we used to call ‘whoopsie hills’ in the car as kids. The air is warm and comfortable at sail. The hours pass quickly as we discuss weather, life and the dreaded subject of politics! We manage to make St Lucia in just under 4 hours and find a good anchorage spot off Reduit Beach. There’s a good showing here and the resorts seem active along the water. By late afternoon we managed to get into customs, the hardware store, and the huge Massey grocery for some of the foods we’ve missed over the few months, and back to the boat for sunset. We are rewarded for our efforts with a lovely evening seascape…hues of pink and orange set the sky afire as late coming ships make anchor for the night.
The following day we would move along south a few miles to Marigot Bay for hiking, swimming, snorkeling and happy hour with a couple games of pool at Doolittles Bar. We have found this great hike from Mango Inn to the ridge that overlooks Marigot. As instructed, we close the gate (to keep the dogs in) and gather whatever walking sticks are available to assist our morning adventure. The trail manages to gain elevation quickly as you walk up the steepness, stepping up onto the rocks, holding on the roots, and finally near the top there is a rope that runs laterally to pull oneself up huge boulders. The blue sky quickly comes into view above head as we take the last giant steps. We are appreciative of the folks at the Inn who maintain this trail. The ridge trail now take us to what is known as the meditation platform, a beautiful overlook of Marigot Bay.
We can see the sailboats moored and at anchor, along with the enormous motor yachts docked in the marina. As we walk westerly on the trail,it takes us on a gentle downslope back to the bay where we are anxious to get back to the boat for a swim. This afternoon we make our plans for heading to new anchorages in the south of St Lucia near the Pitons.
We count 5 trips north and south we have come past this island in the last 3 years and sailed right by the huge Pitons that stand guard off the southwest coast of the island.As in other locations, we have heard of some unsafe locations for anchoring and probably been overly cautious. But, we have recently talked to other cruisers who have been here and said it was completely safe we pick up anchor the next morning for one of 2 anchorages..between the Pitons or one north of Soufrier. The weather is overcast with a few scattered showers. This doesn’t change the beauty of the land and sea, but gives it a unique ethereal appearance.
The clouds holding onto the rainforest moisture hang over the high mountains and slowly sink dreamily to the sea. We try to locate the moorings just north of Soufrier, but the ones we can find are too close to a huge jetty, so we head for the mooring between the Pitons. Here we have to take a mooring because the water death is well over 50 ft. Since we need to have at least 5:1 ratio of chain to depth, our adequate 250 ft of chain in the locker is not quite enough. Like entering the Land of Oz our tiny sailboat glides between these huge mountainous structures.
From the bow and the stern we crane our necks skyward to get the full view and its pretty awesome. There are truly no photo that can really capture this.
We explore the ocean depths by skin diving and snorkeling along the Gros Piton, go ashore to check out the Sugar Beach Resort nestled here. The following morning Mike and I and Rick and Mimi have plans to walk to the hot springs. We get directions from trip advisor and also stop at the resort office to verify the plan. It is naturally a steep walk out of the resort with roads switching back and forth as well as straight up. To our surprise, once past the resort gate the road takes a turn left and steep downhill about 1/4 mile to the entrance to the hot Springs. It’s $5 dollars to enter and we can stay as long as we wish….and we do. The water coming out of the waterfall is nearly 95 degrees! The lush greenery surrounds us as the breeze comes and goes in this little tropical paradise. For several minutes we have this place to ourselves, relaxing. We are reluctant to leave because we have a huge uphill trek for at least 20 min in the midday sun. Our return is not as difficult as anticipated, as we take it 100ft at a time. We arrive back at the Sugar Beach and the ever present sea breeze. We walk through a cool, quiet, forested trail and then back across the sand where we beached the dinghy. Back to the boat for a great swim and late lunch on this the last day of Rick and Mimi’s visit.
The sun sets again beautifully on the calm ocean as we settle for a night tucked in between one of nature’s incredible scenes.
We leave the Pitons and head just a bit north to Soufrier Bay where we catch a mooring. Our first stop is customs where we must officially check our guests off the boat, then arrange for their ride to the airport. We survey the city, grab some cool drinks and then say our goodbyes!
Mike and I return to the boat for a quick swim, and leave for waters south, St Vincent!
You ask cruisers ( those of us that spend months putting up sails, reefing them down, plotting courses based on wind and wave direction, but literally slugging it out , mostly into the wind or waves, for the sake of enjoying the scenery and weather has to offer during North America’s Winter) what they enjoy most about this life and after the discussion about food or rum, (haha), there is usually a comment about the water. We see so many different hues of blue it’s amazing. Mostly it depends on the depth and bottom structure, but even in 3000 feet of water the color reflects the beauty of the sky in what is truest a deep blue ocean. As we sail from island to island and explore their anchorages we are pleasantly surprised by the many different blues.
Between visitors in Guadeloupe, we had enough time to make a run to Antigua, and then onto Barbuda. We had not stopped in Barbuda in previous years, but the word was out that since it’s destruction by Hurricane Irma in 2017, things were coming back to life. We knew we had to be provisioned and were prepared for enjoying some solitude and beautiful beaches. We found a gem of an island on the mend.
Barbuda lies 30 miles north of the island of Antigua, so a nice day sail is what it takes to get there. We were just 5 miles off according to the GPS and we sighted land. The island is so unlike the mountainous volcanic ones we had just travelled from in the Windwards. From the bow I was lookout, just like in the shallow Bahamas, to make sure we didn’t get a surprise coral head , not marked on the electronic charts. We anchored easily in deep sand that stretched nearly 6 miles! We were simply overcome by the beautiful turquoise water that covers miles of sand that surround this part of the island…again reminding us of our first year sailing through the islands of the Bahamas. A quick swim to check the anchor confirmed the clarity of these waters. What appears to be 2 ft from the bow becomes nearly 20 ft once in the water. Over the next few days we would swim, snorkel some incredible reefs of Cocoa Bay, walk the beach, hike the island, explore the frigate bird colony, and congregate with fellow cruisers for a beach sunset party.
With Barbuda being our northernmost anchorage, we head south back to Green Island, Antigua. We spent a few sporadic weeks here last year and enjoyed watching the amazing kite surfers maneuver the wind and reefs. This year we focused on some great snorkeling at the south and northeast entrance to this protected spot. We took the dinghy through the south cut around the reefs to a secluded bay south and a bit east of Green Island ( used by one of the resorts for a “remote” luncheon/snorkel spot) We found a snorkeling/dive bouy to tie up to and headed off to explore. We saw spotted eagle rays, giant yellowtail and parrot fish, we even scared up a huge porcupine fish ( see the link…they are hands down my favorite and they always have a smile, however shy they are) in some of the clearest waters yet this season.
We left Dominica with the perfect wind to head to Marie Galante, one of the outer islands of Guadeloupe. We were enchanted by the white sand beach and gentle, friendly nature of this island. We stayed 3 days and had time to rent scooters to see most of the island. It’s beauty and easygoing lifestyle would bring us back, nearly 3 weeks later when we had time and the right wind to bring our daughter Kelsey and her friend Lee to share this island’s secret beauty.
After a pleasant sail from Il des Saintes the night before, we arise as the sun crests the palm-tree lined beach and prepare to take the dinghy to Port St. Louis (“sen lwee”) cruiser-early in the morning to rent the scooters, 0800. We found on our previous trip that the ferry arrives at 0815 and the scooters are quickly spoken for. We also have promised our guests fresh croissants from the boulangerie across the street from the scooter rental office.
We are kindly greeted by the proprietor telling us that they have only 1 scooter left. After several minutes of hilarious miscommunication trying to use Google translate, and the help of a kind German woman ( who spoke fluent French), we understood that another person would pick us up and take us to Grand Bourg ( 5 miles away) to get 2 scooters we needed for the 4 of us. We were out of luck on the pastries, unfortunately they had sold out long before we arrived. You know what they say about the early bird….these Loons didn’t make it. Twenty minutes later we were on our way to get the scooters. The forms0 had already been completed and we just needed to find helmets that fit and we were on our way. We planned to circumnavigate the island as much as we could in 6 hours. This would prove to be a challenge at times as the cycles did have speed governors installed. Not only did 5his prevent us from getting over 40km/ hr it also made going up some steep hills quite comical! We found ourselves several times inching uphill, as the engine whined to it max, then switched to a low gear.
We stopped for simple provisions ( baguettes, sausassion, fromage, et bierre), found a crowded beach park, where we had to take the last piece of table for our lunch. It is a beautiful spot on the northeast part of the island, Anse Canot. We watched experienced kite-boarders in Capasterre, and took a self guided rum tour and tasting at Bellvue Distillerie. The island is so varied…hilly, canopied, rocky Atlantic topography, and serene, turquoise Leeward beaches.
It made for a great day of exploration. We ended the day at one of the favorite sunset spots, Chez Henri. A quiet popular true beach bar in St Louis, where you sit with your feet in the sand and watch the sunset. Here we found great WiFi, good beer and relaxing Caribbean vibe.
Leaving Marie-Galant we sailed on a northerly course for Guadeloupe mainland to get our guests back to the airport. We would spend one night in this new location just outside of the bustling city of Pointe a Pitre…. Il Gossier. A quaint seaside village only 5 miles from PAP, we found a nice spot to anchor off the small island. We didn’t find much reef from which to do any snorkeling, ( Kelsey and I actually swam in 6 inches of water quite determined we were headed over a reef!) once ashore on this spit of land we found a trail that lead us to one of a few lighthouses in the Caribbean. From our unique vantage point we were struck by the power of this great blue water hitting the rocks and reef.
Southbound again to Martinique, we would take one of our first official dives of the season. We found a quiet anchor spot to the south end of Anse Dufour. The western side of Martinique, just a short motor from Fort de France. We found ourselves in 20 ft of clear water and within swimming distance of the reef.
We swam here last year and made note that it would be good to dive. With friends aboard to watch the boat, we donned our gear and made the plunge ( or ‘plon-jay’ as they say in France). We found a nice wall to explore that extended nearly 1/4 mile and we swam to depths of up to 60 ft. We saw so much healthy coral and sea life ( eels, huge porcupine fish, snapper, Sargent majors, big eyes, drum, and huge filefish) and some of the clearest blue water we have yet to find…with visibility at close to 75 ft. (wishing my go pro cover hadn’t rusted, no underwater pics this time).
Our search for more blue water and new anchorages continues as we spend time in St Lucia…between the Pitons, at the hot springs and some very nice resorts…. in the next blog entry.
Hoping to have more time and better WIFI to keep connected.
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.