Boats on the loose and heavy weather sailing

We have taken some sailing courses along prior to setting off in 2016, but one important trip in particular with John Kretschmer (www.yayblues.com) really solidified our desire and confidence in buying a boat and heading out on our own to sea. He offers a variety of sailing experiences around the world and I bet our 9 hour trip yesterday from Chateaubelair St Vincent to Rodney Bay, St Lucia in some pretty “salty” conditions would qualify as a day in the life of one of his heavy weather courses! Another thanks John, for your wisdom and on-going advice to give us the confidence to make this journey.

Our day started long before we had anticipated for such a weather-filled trip. With frequent showers and very little wind overnight in Chateaubelair it was mostly quiet. We had swam over the anchor to assure it was held in sand and some grass near the idyllic Caribbean backdrop on the north part of the bay. The numerous heavy downpours would be a foreshadowing for things to come the next day.We had not anticipated that the 50 ft Amel that dropped ( operative word- not backed down on) anchor 100 ft or more from us at 1800 would bump into us at 0400 the next morning.

Mike and I awoke immediately at the sound of metal knocking on metal, like the alarm going off at the firehouse, to sailors. Its an ominous sound. In the dark, we raced out to the cockpit to find the bow pulpit of the Amel peaking over the railing of our port stern. It’s truly a sleeping sailors nightmare to see another (huge) boat encroaching in on our space. Our brains attempting to clearly think …what to do? You dont just give her a shove, however we tried instinctively. Fifty foot boats dont just move when pushed by hand. We immediately started the engine and pulled several feet away from it. We know the lay-out of the boat and the owners cabin is in the stern of the boat, so likely they didn’t hear the noise until the engine started and we were talking and calling somewhat for them. The other option would have been an air horn, but we figured that would wake everyone in the anchorage. there was no use in that, yet.

Moments went by and she was creeping closer to us again as the sleepy captain and first mate of the Amel came on deck. Most cruisers can tell me what their first words were……… yep, “oh it looks like you have dragged anchor, ” as they calmly went about retrieving fenders from somewhere and placing on the port side of their boat as we watched. Mike was the perfect gentleman. I have seen him more riled up at catamarans anchoring in “our space”, but he just as calmly said, “well I’m not sure but I think WE are right where we have been all night in reference to other boats.” There was no accusation, no laying blame on anyone. They lit up their deck lights and examined the bow pulpit for damage, which we assured them didn’t exist and how lucky we both were. And again she creeped close enough for us to restart the engine and pull forward. In the calm of the windless night, there was a current, a strong one to pull them toward us. Our anchor we figured was already strung out as far as it would go, as were the other boats anchored near us we figured. The Amel’s approach was relentless. Despite the fact that they indicated they put out a good 160 feet of anchor chain, they were sure she was still set. Yet, they were reluctant to start pulling anchor as they silently realized that it may not be where they “placed” it the evening before. So we all sat patiently, as the current propelled her again closer, enough for a third start of the engine. It was now 0545 and there was a very little bit of light discernible in the East. We were all waiting for daylight in order to locate the position of our anchors, and for the Amel to make a move out of our space.

What is the best thing to do at a time like this? Well, make coffee of course. We knew we would not be going back to sleep and should get on with the caffeine fix for the day. As daylight proceeded to filter through the clouds, a few rain drops fell. We went about prepping the boat to sail. As I came out of PJs, I noticed the boat of the other crew had done the same and were collecting fenders. They were still only 10 feet to our stern. They asked if we were leaving and we indicated “at some point, but not immediately.” They told us they would begin moving and needed to anchor closer to shore to check into the immigration office there.

Now mind you, 160 feet of chain, right? Well, if they had put that much out and WE had dragged, we would see him moving quickly away from us as they collected chain to where he was “anchored” ( the previous night) nearly 100 feet away, but no. As they retrieved the anchor they pulled it up right there next to our boat and not anywhere near 160, or 130, or even 100 ft of chain retrieved. They had clearly dragged anchor on us. We bid them a good day as they motored away. No foul, no harm, thankfully.

With a hot cup of java already taking its affect on our senses, we waited out another shower, double checked that everything in the cabin was secure, readied the mainsail, and weighed our anchor. We had motored 10 minutes out of the anchorage before we began to feel the wind, swell and waves. We raised the main with 2 reefs, and put out just a “bikini bottom” of a genoa and set a course north. We tried to stay close to the shore thinking our heading across the St Lucia channel would be a better angle, but found that the waves and swell were actually playing off that shoreline slowing our progress as they continued to build on the nose. We turned just a bit more downwind and were able to turn off the motor. Despite the 5-9 ft waves at 6 second intervals, the 22-25 knots of wind was taking us at an acceptable 6.5 knots per hour.

The waves continued to build as we headed into the channel between the islands, as it usually does and we were occasionally hit by some huge ones breaking over the bow, and onto the boat. We counted four that soaked the cockpit, thankfully we had the companionway closed off. Winds were steady from the East, putting us at a good 25- 30 degree heel, which puts the downwind rails underwater and makes getting a good stance challenging while manning the sails. It meant being ready to let out sail if the winds were overpowering our set up. If the sea salt soaking wasn’t enough, we contended with 3 squalls with winds up to 27 knots, ……but of course its fresh water we say, cleaning the salty sails!

As we approached the southern tip of St Lucia, near the Pitons, we were greeted by a huge school of dolphin. They seemed energized by the crazy sea and weather. They followed only for a few minutes, cresting and jumping across the bow and alongside the boat. With all that we were doing to keep on course, I couldn’t get my camera fast enough for any photos, sorry. It was a great distraction from the constant watch for the sea state changes.

The sun came and went, drying us off for another approaching squall, the last one, really a mere shower. We learned our lesson on previous trips here where the winds tend to scream around the pitons surprising us on even very settled days. So we sailed off shore a couple of miles giving the dear wind plenty of berth. With the protection of the island now, the seas settled and we found more comfortable sailing conditions. We had passed our refresher in heavy weather sailing.

We pulled into the huge anchorage at Rodney Bay by 4 pm, nearly 12 hours after wrestling with a wayward Amel. With the anchor safely set in sand, a bit of fresh water to rinse the cockpit, the stainless and windshield, we were finished for the day. The Lost Loon had performed well , seeming to say thank you for keeping her safe from harm that morning.

Peace and Love ❤️

Crew from Lost Loon wish you Happy Valentines Day!!!

Southern windwards and chili killies

One of the most beautiful spots in the southeast Caribbean, the Tobago Cays. It is a destination for charter and long term cruisers as well. The reason is the crystal clear water, sand beaches, an abundance of turtle life all protected by a huge reef. That makes it special because we are usually anchored or moored behind an island in waters protected from the Atlantic waves and swells, but here we have full view of the great ocean. This morning’s sunrise was then extra special as it was beautifully clear. And because it is such a desirable location, there are many boats here! They start coming shortly after noon and continue up to sunset.

During the day we see turtles pop up for a breath and a peek around. We watch snorklers follow the sea life around the anchorage. There are turtles everywhere, just a quick snorkel around the boat and they are feeding on the grass below. One afternoon I counted 6 during a 10 minute swim. There is a cut through the surrounding reef to deeper waters for snorkeling and diving when the seas are calm. Here we see bigger pelagic fish, sometimes sharks and rays.

We are lucky to have our friends Rick and Mimi aboard again. We picked them up at the ferry dock in Carriacou, ( after a cancelled flight to Houston, made Charlotte, then Miami to Grenada where then spent the night so they could get the one ferry to Carriacou!)

Carriacou is part of Grenada which is celebrating independence Feb 6th. They are already decked out for the affair!

We have sailed as far north as Bequia with a stop in Mayreau and now, on the way back south, we stop here in the Tobago Cays a small archipelago of islands that are part of St Vincent called the Grenadines.

Last night we enjoyed a fun lobster beach barbecue with so many other cruisers. We saw piles of lobster being served and wonder how this is sustained day to day month to month , year after year. But this didn’t spoil the delicious taste of the crustacean served with local provisions of plantains, rice pilaf and grilled potatoes. We were enlightened by other cruisers who brought appetizers and bottles of rum, wine and even a couple with champagne!

We snorkeled, hiked a couple small islands close by and people -watched… an activity that comes naturally as boats come and go in the anchorage. We play ‘what flag is that?’ as well as ‘where will they try to anchor ‘ guessing games. After being on the water long enough down here it’s pretty easy to predict. Our week took us to the islands of Palm, Mayreau and Sandy.

Our last day was a perfect bright snorkeling stop just off Hillsborough of Carriacou. We swam for over an hour seeing 2 octopus, numerous sergeant majors, angelfish, lobster den, and porcupine fish to name a few. This area is also a protected marine area and despite reports of declining coral reefs in the Caribbean this one was beautiful. There were huge stag horn coral, fans, purple tubes, and fire coral .

Best breakfast recipe!!

Chili Killies

According to our guest Rick, this Men’s Journal recipe is good for hangovers. We just love it when our guests like cooking.( recipe is our version)

1 bag of plain tortilla chips

1 jar of picante/ salsa

1-2 cups Shredded cheddar

4-6 eggs

Combine the chips and most of the picante/ salsa stirring so most of the chips are coated. Let sit while shredding the cheese.

Preheat oven to 375.

Pour the coated chips into 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle cheese on the chips evenly. Break eggs atop the chips, evenly in pan.

Bake for 10- 15 min, then raise the oven shelf and turn on the broiler to cook the eggs as well done as preferred. Watch constantly to prevent burning.

Serve each person with egg. May use additional picante/ salsa.

We think sour cream would be great but don’t usually keep on the boat.

Restaurants this week:

Tobago Cays Beach Barbeque- lobster!!!!!

Laura’s in Bequia – excellent tuna and mahi

Tainty Mavis in Carriacou- fresh wahoo and nice provisions ( sides)

Best Beach bar:

The Ranch Escapade- this is a kick off your shoes, enjoy the beach deck and swing, walk the sand, endless ocean view beach bar!! It is on the windward side of Mayreau, a short walk to near paradise for a cold beer and awesome view of paradise!

That’s a snapshot of our last week.

We are currently in Bequia , again, doing laundry, filling propane tanks and provisioning… off this next week to stops in St Vincent and the St Lucia!

Thanks for stopping . Leave us a message or comment.

Fair winds and following seas!

Happy New Year!

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!!

Much love in the New Year!!

Hard work pays off to get in the water!

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.

Day 2

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,

Day 3

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.

Day 4

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!!!

Day 5

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.

Our celebratory dinner!

Happy Holidays friends and family!!! XOXO