Thursday, December 15, 2016

When Your Country Hands you Limes...

Add a little rum.
Beautiful Ile A Vache at Port Morgan

It should be no surprise to anyone who knows Roy & I  that we where dismayed at the election results and even more so with all that has followed.

Wire for streetlights - It's da Caribbean
loading up Wahoo
SO, we decided to do some good and try to spread a little cheer in the world we actually live in. Our plan to sail back to the Western Caribbean takes us on the Southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola before we get to Jamaica and Cuba. These are the islands of the Greater Antilles as opposed to the Lessor Antilles, where we've spent the last two years. A look at your map will remind you that Hispaniola is composed of two nations, Dominican Republic and Haiti. A search of the part of your brain that remembers hurricanes will remind you that Haiti was just visited by another major disaster when Mathew came ashore as a Cat 4 storm this year. The part of the island that suffered the most was the SW coast where the small island of Ile a Vache is located. Ile a Vache, like the NW Haitian island of Tortuga was once the lair of pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Henry Morgan used it as a base to attack ships throughout the Caribbean. He also managed to blow up two of his ships right in the harbor. One, in 1669, while celebrating a successful pirating jaunt and the other when he stopped here in 1675-6 on his way to be governor of Jamaica. (What a varied life he had).

 Today the island is home to two villages and cruisers regularly use the harbor at Port Morgan as a safe refuge on the edge of the Windward Passage (the passage into or out of the Caribbean that lies between Cuba and Haiti). Wahoo spent a few days here in our Spring 2014 trip from Belize to the Virgins. We brought supplies to the orphanage run by Sister Flora, a Franciscan nun from Canada, in the village of Mdm Bernard. We ate at the French Hotel that overlooks Port Morgan and were appalled by the poverty of the villagers in Kakoch and Mdm Bernard. But we couldn't help being amazed at the beauty of the area. Ile a Vache is considered one of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean.

Looks Idyllic! Sailing fishing boats at anchor in Kakock But life is hard - NOYC has sent a pallet of used sails.
Being from New Orleans we are deeply aware of what a hurricane and tidal surge can do, so we knew what had happened on Ile a Vache. Being an online supporter of "Friends of Ile a Vache" we eventually saw the photos and knew that no International Aid had reached the island though some aid had gone into the main island. The main island town of Les Cayes,  6.5 miles N of Ile a Vache received a lot of news coverage.

Local boys come by to ask for boat work, sometimes to sell fish, sometimes for a handout and sometimes just to talk but all are in their leaky Mango tree pirogues - word soon went round that we were handing out brownies!

The fish farm. Cleaned up & waiting for the trees to grow.
Luckily no lives where lost on IAV but subsistence gardens were all washed away and the soil salted from the surge. The lower wells were also useless as they too had sustained damage which allowed saltwater to infiltrate. Houses, roofs, boats and trees, including mango, pawpaw & coconut trees were seriously damaged. All the trees that shaded the fish farm were blown down or so damaged that the fish died. Only one well in the center of the island still has potable water and food supplies as well as housing are in short supply. On Ile de Permatois, an even smaller island near Ile a Vache, things are even more desperate.

The only help was coming from "Friends of Ile a Vache". Two boats sailed in as soon as possible with water makers and used them to make water to fill jugs and cisterns. But the boats couldn't stay long because it was hurricane season and both were risking their own welfare. Money from donations went to pay local villagers $12/day to clean the beaches and paths as well as to start the recovery of the fish farm and put roofs back on homes.

Haitian houses along the waterfront - some repaired some not. Much work still to be done.

In thinking of what to do we decided to get there with supplies as soon as possible. We got in touch with Wagner Tanis, local agent and one of the creators of FOIAV, who directed us to get in touch with three other boats who were headed that way. SV Tandemeer, a 56ft International Aid boat was coming in with a large water maker and much needed tools as well as food and medical supplies. The 50ft catamaran, Bamba Maru, was coming from Luperon, DR with $4,500 worth of tools and supplies that they had raised through a Go-Fund-Me account which reached into their homelands of Germany and Switzerland. One other boat had to change plans and gave their supplies to Bamba Maru to bring in. What we did was appeal to our friends through a blog email and also a Facebook request. Together with our own donation we ended with nearly $1,400. Let me tell all of you who donated how much what you gave helped and with what appreciation it was received.

Supermoon while crossing the Mona Passage
We had a "little trouble" getting there as our auto-pilot broke as we crossed the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It was so frustrating to have to wait 3 weeks for the part to reach us and even then it would never have happened without our dear son, John Edward. He facilitated a (nearly) overnight delivery from Houston to the DR after the part finally arrived first in Florida from Europe, where it is manufactured. The Florida facility couldn't ship directly to us so we had it delivered to John Edward. He then went to FedEX and used their Expedited International Service to get it to us. It was a perfect example of the definition of cruising: "fixing your boat in exotic locations at exorbitant costs".

While waiting at Marina ZarPar in Boca Chica, DR Thanksgiving came and went without much thought as there was still a lot of work that needed doing aboard Wahoo. But our 42nd anniversary needed a little celebrating so we found a delightful waterfront restaurant for our only wonderful meal in the DR.  We've visited so many Caribbean countries and only the Dominican Republic gave us that yuk factor. Hard to put a finger on why but surely something about the fact that you feel ripped off by just about everything there. Customs is especially ridiculous at Marina ZarPar, interestingly not so much in Barrahona where we cleared out.

Finally we were able to set our sights on Haiti. An easy sailing 124NM, about 20 hours, saw our arrival in Port Morgan. We were delighted to meet the folks on Tandemeer and Bamba Maru and also the locals who created and work with the Friends of Ile a Vache. Captain Sequoia Sun of Tandemeer had the whole crew over for dinner our first night there.

Wagner, who runs the local arm of the organization, was an exceptional source of help and information. We were delighted to find a friend from our first visit, Jean Villem, helping him. Samuel, works with the community center in the village of KaKoch at the waterfront and is indeed a man of great compassion who takes the troubles of his community to heart. These are all young men but we saw eons of warmth and understanding as they explained about the villagers and the hurricane. We saw the respect from the villagers as Samuel took us on a tour and showed us what was being done with the fish farm and the village repairs. After a discussion between Wagner and Samuel it was agreed that some of what we brought would go to the even smaller and more devastated island of Ile de Permatois near Ile a Vache. Here the 12 or so families live in coconut frond huts and literally have lost everything. Photos of the distribution are on Facebook

A video of Wagner showing the island of Ile de Permatois is here:
Time to get those supplies ashore.

Off of Wahoo

No dock

Here they come! 
Kids are hoping for a treat 
Samuel and his 2 year old daughter

After loading some things into Wagner's boat for Ile de Permatois everything else went into the Community Center for distribution.
Samuel arranged for Felix and I, to hand out the bags of candy I had made up for the children. As we stood on the verandah of the community center, with all the hands reaching up, I felt like it was Mardi Gras. Lots of smiles and laughter. But we know it was the fresh vegetables, dried rice & beans, fishing line & hooks and other supplies that the adults were most interested in. We also brought in lots of school supplies. They needed things as basic as notebooks, pens and pencils but we added coloring books, crayons and colored pencils as well as construction paper, glitter and glue for art projects. After all we want to keep Haitians making wonderful Haitian art. The soccer balls will go to a school in each village. The set up and way the distribution works is to give to the most needy but also to make the families do community work for their supples. That way everyone benefits because the community benefits.
A gallery of vibrant Haitian Art right on the waterfront

We are so glad to have come, so sorry to leave. Certainly a life affirming time spent with people who make you ache inside from the smiles, warmth and appreciation for the littlest of help. We felt we were offering a small drop in a deep ocean. In watching what's happening both in Washington and on Ile a Vache I have to quote Roy; "Both cream and scum rise to the top".

I hope each of you who helped can see how much your support was appreciated. We thank you for your generosity from the bottom of our hearts!!

                 If you want to donate to Friends of Ile a Vache, every dollar is used for the villagers, Here     is the link to their website.

                If you want to see Friends of Ile a Vache on Facebook where there are photos and videos of the ongoing projects.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Islands Farewell

Here we are, having come full circle on what are circles within circles. We are back in Puerto Rico which in May of 2014 was both an ending and a beginning. It was the end of our Eastward trip from Belize through the islands of the Greater Antilles and the start of our amazing time in the islands of the Caribbean known as the Lessor Antilles. For two years we have sailed, played, been amazed and grateful for this time in our lives. Back in 2011 when we first set out and could have been settling down to a good life in New Orleans we instead opted for new challenges and adventure! We took for our own, the words from "On the Road Again"...

Goin' places that I've never been

Seein' things that I may never see again

All Aboard!!

Alexis at the bubbly pool
dancing at the Trellis Bay full Moon party
Sarah & Alexis
But before this circle ended we had the great fun of having family aboard for a week. Our niece, Angela and her family, paid us a visit and we got to spend more time showing off our favorite spots in the US and British Virgin Islands. They were a treat to have aboard. The two girls, Sarah and Alexis (13 & 11) were up for whatever got thrown their way (even a broken head and rainy nights) and Dave and Angela settled easily into life aboard. Dave and Angela had sailed with us twice in the Keys when we were all newbies and new to Wahoo. Now several years later we are all more seasoned sailors. For the girls this was their first time aboard but as Sarah kept threatened to stow-away we got the feeling it won't be their last.
Dave & Sarah picking up a mooring

There's always goats

And a rainbow at the end!

After their departure Roy and I immediately headed to Isle Culebra, a good stop before moving on to Fajardo and Puerto del Ray Marina in Puerto Rico.  Wahoo was hauled out on Monday, June 27, to finally have the warranty bottom job that she'd needed since last summer in Grenada. It was touch and go even after Sea Hawk Paint agreed to the work so long as we came back to the original shipyard. Not until Tuesday morning did the final "i" get dotted and "t" get crossed on who is paying for what. THEM!!!

Repainting the boot top
The bad and the good
Splash day was Friday, July 1. We sailed for a brief visit to Vieques and Roy enjoyed some much needed down time. Unfortunately the Trades and SE swell did not allow an overnight stop at any of Vieques' famous bio-luminescent bays. We stayed snug on a mooring at Esperanza. Our July 4th started with a 55nm romp in 30 - 35 knot winds and 5 - 6 ft seas (nicely, mostly downwind) to Salinas our "hurricane hole" for this year. It ended with cocktails and manatees. Pretty cool.
Cane Garden Bay and Calderwood's Rum - there's aways time for rum!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

St Martin = Boat Dollars

Iconic St Martin photo - planes landing so very near your head at Maho Beach
We left Antigua with our Toronto friends, Dave and Jane on their chartered boat Castillo del Sol. They were flying out of St Martin April 28 so we bid everyone else farewell and begin the voyage that would eventually bring us to St Martin. For us the last island, as it was our first island, in the E Caribbean chain. We had arrived St Martin mid-November, 2014. We would be leaving May 30, 2016.

Monkeys, beach bars, friends - ahhhh!
But lets not jump ahead too too fast. For the last couple of nights in Antigua we wanted to be somewhere quiet so we sailed around to Five Island Bay while we waited to see what the weather would do. We were hearing awful weather forecasts like 40 kt winds, slashing rain, high seas, so we were more than a little concerned. But each day came and went with mild winds, cloudy skies but no rain. We decided to risk it and just GO! What we got was a nice beam reach in about 15kt winds under cloudy skies for our Tuesday run to St Kitts. A close reach with 26kt winds under partly cloudy skies brought us to St Barths on Wednesday. On both days the seas were under 3ft and from the North which meant we were riding nicely over them. Sometimes you're just lucky! (Though ours was about to run out.) 
Dave & Jane from Toronto

We spent a night in the southern part of St Kitts and went to one of our favorite beach bars where you eat with the monkeys and while there, luckily, remembered to use up our EC (Eastern Caribbean) dollars. We then spent a few days in St Barths though only one in the high end shopping port of Gustavia. The nights in Anse de Columbia were perfect. Dinners, cocktails and laughter on one boat or the other filled our days and nights. Its important to enjoy your cruising friends when paths cross. Holding on to cruising friendships can be like holding water in your hands. What you have left are the memories. 

Soon it was time to leave St Barths and sail to St Martin. We planned one final "blow it all out dinner" in Grand Case on St Martin, the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean. Once again the restaurant Oceans' 82 didn't disappoint us.

On the sail to St Martin Wahoo decided to start acting up. A huge, loud POP indicated something was definitely wrong!!! What's up!!! Seems we'd lost one of the intermediate shrouds connecting the spreaders to the mast. Luckily, due to Whahoo's B&R rig, which has lots of redundancy, the mast stayed up long enough for us to get the sails in. Also luckily we were only about an hour out of the harbor. Once the fun of Grand Case was over and Dave and Jane were on their way back to Toronto, we turned our attention to re-rigging. 

St Martin (or SXM as the double nation island is abbreviated) is a great place to get good work done. So we started getting prices. In our exuberance we thought we could get all kinds of stuff done. Once we started looking we realized that our girl needed a good bit of tender loving care. Her bimini and dodger were held together with patches in many places, her saloon cushions were showing the 24 years of wear and well the dinghy - we'd known forever and a year that Hoo-Dat needed replacing. 

Shrimpy's Crew Quarters a St Martin fixture. He does the net each and every morning  - couldn't do without him.
As Roy worked on finding vendors to do the work I tried to figure out how we could make the budget stretch to pay for it all. St Martin/Sint Marteen holidays played havoc, sourcing parts became a headache, disappearing riggers became another issue and as the month, we had to do the work, started dwindling we realized we'd be happy if just the rigging would finally get done. 

The mast comes off and Wahoo looks naked.

 When we started it was April 29 and we felt there was all the time needed before we had to be in St Thomas to pick up Dave & Angela and their girls. But as the time started dribbling away and the winds from TS Bonnie started affecting the Caribbean (can you believe that we felt effects this far away??!) we became more and more anxious. 

Watching the planes at Maho Beach

at Lagoonies
Of course, it wasn't all work - we spent nights listening to Stella and Snugs at both Lagoonies and the Pink Iguana. Plus were able to share work anxiety with Fred and Jo from Caribbean Dream, friends from Grenada who were also in SXM with a deadline to pick up guests and major repair issues.

The mast and rigging go back up. 

All back together!
 Finally, at the last possible minute to take advantage of the last possible weather window, things started moving. As Roy worked and worked and worked one problem after another appeared that needed overcoming but he pulled through and sure enough Monday night, May 30, we bid St Martin farewell and sailed the 75NM of the Anagada Passage into North Sound on Virgin Gorda. 

What a lovely dawn! As we turned to face the wind and get the sails down the beauty of the sunrise was a joyful sight after a night of 7 - 8 ft seas coming at us on our stern. Why oh why do people wish you a "following sea"? "Fair winds", yes we all want fair winds but who in the world wants a following sea!!! 

Its always wonderful to fall into bed after a overnight crossing and North Sound is a big, beautiful place to do it. We spent a couple of quiet days enjoying just being still after the hustle and bustle of St Martin. But soon we figured it was time to venture out to one of the many watering holes around the Sound. Our first outing was lunch at a beach restaurant then a walk on the beach, maybe a swim, and a Sundowner at Saba Rock Bar.  

But these fine plans where Not To Be - as we were getting aboard Hoo Dat she just blew up!! Big hole, then when we went to raise her on the dinghy davits so Roy could do get a good look at the problem - whoops there's an issue with the davits. No dinghy - stuck on the boat  - Oh Nooooo!!!!!!!

Is she dead???
 We quickly discovered that North Sound is not the place to fix stuff so we we raised the anchor and sailed to Road Harbor on Tortola. Thankfully, in the Virgins nothing is too far away. Now we're in a marina, trying to buy a dinghy or at least fix this one. But ohhhh the AC is wonderful!!

Couldn't find one to buy - see that big patch - once again my Captain is "De Man"!!!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Antigua Classic Regatta

We watched from our dinghies!
I've been told this is “sailing heaven” for yachties! Held every year in April, it’s a gathering of amazing racing yachts either actual old classics or modern “spirit of tradition” classics. These aren’t all large yachts nor do they have to be older, though there are plenty of those, but they MUST all be full keeled, heavy displacement vessels built with quality materials and the type of construction used in boats built during the heyday of sailing vessels. The varnish shines, the sails are pristine and they show there stuff during 4 days of racing off of Falmouth and English Harbor in Antigua.

All together - one mo time
We came to see the races and meet old and new cruising friends. Besides the racing there is plenty of partying going on. Every evening there are post race parties where the rum flows and the bands play. We found all of our "Grenada 8" friends ( Joanna & Billy on Baidarka, Fred and Jo on Caribbean Dream, Rita and Harvey aka "the Brits" on Almacantor), also Maureen and Bill on Kalunamoo, Willie and Mark on Liahona and Jane & Dave who sailed with us last year and chartered for a month this year to meet us here. It’s been wonderful on so many fronts.

Hand made on Carriacou
A highlight was the Sunday parade of Classics into English Harbor followed later that evening by an outdoor premier showing of “Vanishing Sails”, a movie about the tradition of boat building on Carriacou. Coming from a boat building family and having visited the boats in Carriacou Roy & I found it an emotional voyage. Judging by the reactions of the cruising crowd we were not alone. We watched the struggle to carry on the tradition of wooden boat building on an island we all visit. If you love boats and sailing do yourself a favor and watch the trailer now and get a copy once the DVD comes out.

Just a few of the 40 yachts that raced this year.

Carriacou Sloops at the Starting Line
Carriacou Sloops 42ft traditional hand made wooden sloops that once carried the trade of the Eastern Caribbean from bootlegged rum to cows and goats.

Mary Rose reaching for another win

Mary Rose a true classic built in 1928. She’s was the last schooner designed and built by Nathaniel Herreshoff. She’s 64.5 ft and was completely restored in 2004. She has won her racing class and the Concourse d’Elegance every year since 2011.

Adix built to an Arthur Holgate design in 1984 she and Columbia epitomize the Spirit of Tradition class. Adix is 214ft and the largest vessel in this years races. She’s a 3 masted schooner carrying miles of sails and a wonder to behold.


Be still my heart. Columbia an exact replica of the original Columbia, a 141 ft wooden Gloucester fishing schooner. The original Columbia was built in 1923. She wrecked and sunk during the August 1927 hurricane, killing all 25 hands aboard. The replica was completed in 2014. To read more about her

Island Swift

Island Swift is a “modern classic” and only 35ft. We became friends with the UK family aboard. JoJo, Simon and their 2 teenage sons sailed across “the pond” in 2014 to experience the Caribbean for a couple of years. They may have crossed the finish line last but they were dressed as pirates and playing traditional Irish instruments when they did it.

Pretend you were there-

Here 's 157ft Staysail Ketch Chronos as she approaches the mark from the downwind leg.   That's 75ft Ketch Dragonera with her spinnaker out for the downwind leg of the race she approaches on the inside. Sounded like a horserace!


See Dragonera dropping her spinaker

Dragonera rounds the mark on the inside and sails away - gutsy, amazing, but was it legal?

And there's always time for a beer.