Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jibs and Anchors and Guadeloupe

Well here we are swinging at anchor in one of the loveliest parts of the Caribbean, Iles des Saintes. Cruisers say that once you're here you know what it means to "go cruising". We know that the cruising lifestyle DOES NOT mean you are on a perpetual vacation. Time on the water can seem to stretch out like long slow rollers or go to quickly like the small waves at the seaside. Today it feels like forever...
Sailboats on mooring in the harbor at Iles Des Saintes
We are tired and bleary eyed from being on anchor watch all night and now at 1:30 in the afternoon we know it will probably continue until early tomorrow morning. All we can see of the Saints is blustery white caps, several boats dragging and rain squalls. But worse is what happened as we were approaching the islands. During what should have been an easy 25NM crossing from Point a Pitre Guadeloupe to Iles des Saints our jib reefing/furling mechanism blew out.

What's a jib reefing/furling mechanism you are probably asking.

The Reefing/Furling Mechanism - broken
~Most modern boats have a gismo that allows you to keep your jib (that's the forward sail) always raised but not always flying out there. The sail rolls around the forestay, a wire cable which goes from the bow up to the top of the mast. The really good ones also allow you to reef your jib and are called a reefer/furling thingy. This means that you can roll out as little or as much of the sail as you want. When the wind is really high you might only want enough sail to steady you and keep you moving forward. That's what we were doing when the reefer/furler gave out. This let all the jib out which was more sail than we wanted but also meant that we would have to roll it up by hand from a pitching deck before we could enter the anchorage and get our anchor down. As we approached Iles Des Saintes, Roy got his life jacket on and snapped a connecting line from the jacket to the deck's safety webbing, then made his way forward until he reached the jib. It took him awhile with vice grip in hand to get the sail furled (rolled in). Meanwhile I kept the boat pointed downwind to minimise the seas and wind while he worked.

Once anchored he went to take a look at the problem. We were hoping that the furling line, which is the line that controls rolling the jib in and out, had broken. This had happened once before and while it would have been a surprise as Roy had inspected that line just a few days ago, its what we figured had happened. This was a new reefer/furler that had been replaced in Feb of 2012. It has a lifetime warranty so clearly we didn't think the problem was there. But it is and now, unless we can find a way to fix it down island, we need to send the whole thing back to the States! Meanwhile we'll be sailing with just the main sail. C'est La Vie!
Winding street in Bourg des Saintes

Once anchored the wind continued to increase and by last night was accompanied by squalls. The Caribbean version of a cold front. One of the many fronts that have been plaguing the East Coast made it down to the islands. Because it's so windy, we are not willing to leave the boat in case we drag or, more likely, someone drags into us. Luckily we had a little time ashore yesterday to enjoy this pretty, pretty little town. Which brings up another important part of cruising.

Anchoring, anchors and what makes a good anchorage.

~Anchoring itself is an art form I've come to believe. The anchor(s) you carry must hold you safely in place through all kinds of upheaval. You want your anchorage to offer protection from wind and swells, with a bottom that has good holding for the anchor and not too deep so you can dive the anchor and see that it's set properly. While you can control the anchor you carry (we carry two for different bottoms and greater holding) and learn good techniques for getting the anchor to hold you often have to take what you can get when it comes to an anchorage.

Making the problem worse is that all over the Eastern Caribbean harbours have put in mooring fields in the most desirable part of the anchorage. Good for the harbour as they can charge for the mooring ball, good the the vacationing cruiser as he doesn't have to be good at anchoring (and so many aren't), but awful for the live aboard cruiser who rarely has the budget to pay for a mooring every night of his life. This is exactly the case here in Iles des Saintes. The 80 or so mooring balls fill up fast and at $12. a night, are a little costly. There is a place to anchor but its exposed to wind and seas plus the depth runs 35 to 40 ft. This is something Roy & I have had to adjust to. We were used to anchoring in 12 to 15 ft of lovely clear water until we arrived in the Virgins. After that anything less than 30 ft was a plus.

Here's the anchoring technique we use. I'm on the wheel after Roy has selected the spot, he goes up to the anchor and as the boat slows he drops it with enough chain to reach the bottom. I then slowly backup as he plays out the rest of the "rode", that's the nautical term for the combination of chain and line that attaches the anchor to the boat. You need enough chain to keep your anchor at the right angle to bite into the bottom and stay there. The anchor should "set" so that the more it's pulled by the force of the boat the more it digs into the bottom. Optimally you want a 6:1 ratio of the amount of rode to the depth of the water plus the height of the bow above the water (5ft). if we are anchoring in 20 ft we want to have a minimum of 150 ft of rode out. After I've backed down and the Roy feels the anchor is set he instructs me to increase the engine speed so that we force the anchor down, down, down into whatever the bottom is. I used to then snorkel over the anchor and check that it wasn't hooked on coral or something else that could give but in 30 to 40 ft of water that does't work so well. So now we wait and watch. And I should add, hope no inexperienced sailor anchors too close to us (you can swing into each other) or anchors over our anchor meaning that if we need to leave first we can't.

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Rum offerings on grave sites in Deshaies
Hiking along the river
~Guadeloupe has been very nice - it's French you know. So lots of crusty baguettes, croissants and pain de chocolate for breakfast. Fricassees, cassoulet, pate, terrines and great cheeses are in every little market. It's also the largest island after Trinidad (which is or isn't part of the Lessor Antilles), the largest island with the largest population. The coastal towns are picturesque in their Frenchiness with small winding streets filled with sidewalk cafes and small wooden houses climbing up the hills. We particularly loved our port of entry, Deshaies (pronounced day-ay). Not only was it charming, including other cruisers to have fun with, but we had just started watching a BBC production named "Death in Paradise" when we arrived and recognised the town. The show, now in it's 4th season, is filmed there!
Market in Point a Pitre

Rum Box!
Martine and Cedric our wonderful hosts.
Once we tore ourselves away from Deshaies we headed down the coast with stops at Pigeon Island for a chance to snorkel in the Jacques Cousteau Nature Preserve. Then on to a rolly two night stop in the capital, Basse Terre, and finally around the southern coast and to the oldest and largest city of Guadeloupe, Pointe a Pitre. Here Martine and Cedric, folks we'd met back in St Kitts, were waiting. How wonderful to have locals show you around! They couldn't have been more generous. When our friends from LaDivina arrived with their onboard guests we just continued having fun. Cedric and Martine took us to their house for dinner and to visit a rum distillery. We discovered that not just wine can come in boxes and they introduced us to our new favourite drink, Ti'Punch. Roy & I hosted Mardi Gras aboard Wahoo complete with Jambalaya (I'd been hoarding my Louisiana smoke sausage just for this), King Cake and beads.

Looks like home - except for the palm trees
Part of the fermentation process

We could just wander all over and even taste the raw rum
He didn't drink ALL of those!

Classic Ti'Punch Recipe

1-1/2 oz Rum Agricole 
(This is a special rum mostly from the French islands that is made from pressing water out of  sugar cane not after processing the sugar cane into molasses as is done in the English Islands)
1/4 oz cane syrup or cane sugar
(this is NOT Keens syrup but more a simple syrup)
1/4 oz freshly squeezed lime

You mix the cane syrup 
and the lime juice then you add the rum and lastly, maybe ice.
Served before dinner as an aperitif not after dinner as a digestive

This is a highly individualised drink and the recipe is just a starting point. Usually limes, sugar or cane syrup and rum are set out on the table. Everyone takes his own special Ti'Punch glass, bigger than a jigger - smaller than a rock glass, and starts mixing.

A bowl of ice on the table is nice for us Americans who like ours a little chilled. Don't add much it messes with the flavour.

Flying the Colours - Mardi Gras Aboard Wahoo