Thursday, March 31, 2016

Holy Moly Its Roly!

The Black Pearl?
Is this the WINDIEST Spring Ever?!

I guess you figured out we escaped from Wallilaboo, SVG with no ill effects. We were glad to hear that the perpetrators of that horrendous attack are in custody. There’s a wonderful site for cruisers called SSCN (Safety and Security Cruisers Net) which keeps us up to date on Safety issues affecting the cruising community throughout the Caribbean. We’re glad to note that the Net has been quiet since the attack in Walilaboo. 

Leaving St Vincent we sailed on to Rodney Bay in St Lucia, sailed passed the mighty and beautiful Pitons, passed magical Marigot Bay and on into Rodney Bay under full sails on a close reach. We were trying to get ourselves situated as a "whole lotta wind" and NE swell was working its way down through the islands. Chris Parker was announcing this as the highest wind we were likely to see this season!

Pitons in St Lucia
Rodney Bay is a mecca of sorts for cruisers. It's home to the ARC (Atlantic Rally of Cruisers) which brings about 200 boats from the Canary Islands across the Atlantic to St Lucia every year in October. Rallies work well as the cruisers involved get to travel with a lot of support services meaning they are "together but alone". 

Rodney Bay is huge with good holding, a wonderful white sand beach and a fort overlooking the Caribbean. From the bay a canal leads to an inner harbor and the world class Rodney Bay Marina. As you can imagine, for a marina that is home to the ARC, it includes a boatyard, shops, watering holes and restaurants, all the amenities a waterlogged sailor and crew could want. But we are not only on a schedule but also on a budget so we didn’t stop in the marina but went on to the small landlocked lagoon to pick up a mooring. Here we were snug and secure as the wind howled and the surf roared from the swells rushing in. Our 1 night stay turned to 5 as the wind just wouldn’t let up. A little boring, yes, but we got on with the boat chores we’d hurried through in order to leave Granada.Things like super thorough cleaning of the bilge, and the entire galley, even the nooks and crannies. Then I went on to give Wahoo’s beautiful teak cabinets a waxing while Roy changed hose clamps and did general manly stuff to the engine. We both attacked the stainless steal on the outside of Wahoo which was looking so grungy after the lay up in Grenada. Taking advantage of the wonderful array of shops in Rodney Village we filled both the clothes lockers and the food lockers. Sailing duds get to looking pretty worn out and you can’t just hop on down to the mall. I know we need stuff when our good clothes are the ones that "only have holes in the back".

Anchored at Anse Matin, rain covers the sunset - still beautiful!

Finally the wind started to go below the mid-twenties. So, even though Chris Parker was saying wait, we just couldn't. Itching to go we  filled up with water and fuel and headed  across the St Lucia Channal on Saturday the 12th. On to Martinique! We ended up in Anse Mitan, a small French tourist village in the Trois Ilets area, across the bay from Fort de France, capital of Martinique. There is a large local cruising community in Martinique which isn't so much interested in us "foreigners", especially if your French is less than adequate. Even so we liked this area last year so we stayed a couple of days and did a little more shopping. We revisited a favorite shop for Roy’s shorts and my bikinis, so bought several. But we weren't into lingering so we headed across the bay for a day in Fort de France before continuing our journey North. The Martinique market was a marvel but it was outside on the street that we finally found a few avocados. Last year they were everywhere, this year the pickings have been slim. We’re thinking it’s due to Erica, the storm that hit Dominica so hard last summer. Dominica and all those Rastafarian farms that supply produce, up and down the island chain, were decimated. 
Quaint, Tragic St Pierre

Mt Pelee
Our last stop in Martinique was St Pierre. This is the site of  Mt Pelee and a visit here is a reminder of the 28,000 who lost there lives to its eruption on the Easter Sunday in1902. We remembered to clear out (so easy in the French islands) and we were on our way to Dominica. 

More than just a 40 mile crossing - this journey across the Dominica Channel means we're leaving the Windward Islands behind. Probably never to return. This season is a journey of endings as we move up through the islands, leaving behind the sights and smells and laughter carrying with us wonderful memories. I try to keep focused on the fact that getting back to Belize lies in our future, but bittersweet thoughts hover.

Beautiful, Magical Dominica

Titus welcomed us back!
We did a 2 night stop in Rouseu and said hello to SeaCat, Beans and Marcus. This time no Titou Gorge, no Waterfalls and Rasta lunches but we did walk into town and had a curried goat lunch at the Fort Young hotel. We even found some Absinthe in the market (aiming to treat our friends to Sazaracs). While the winds had abated somewhat the swell was still so bad that we ended up tying Wahoo’s stern to SeaCat’s dock to keep her bow pointed into the waves. Of course, this was not without its own problem when it was time to go. We had lifted and stowed the dinghy before we remembered to untie the stern line (think there’s pattern in this forgetting thing?). Thankfully Marcus, who provides security in the Roseau anchorage, came to our rescue. A leisurely sail that we extended in the vain hope of seeing a whale, brought us to, our top of the list favorite place, Portsmouth!.  

Titus checking on "his cruisers"
Portsmouth is what I think of when I imagine island life. A beautiful bay with a sandy beach, dinghy docks, beach bars and restaurants. Its small, neat though kinda shabby village has a great market and a place where the local fisherman offer their catch. In addition to these perks you’re in Dominica which is lush with palms, ferns and flowering plants everywhere. To top it off you have what no other harbor offers - the service of PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security). Organized by the boat boys to bring service and security in an orderly manner to all visiting cruisers. Fun to watch them  buzz around the harbor checking on us, offering assistance or just visiting. It's also one of the best sunset watching spots we've visited. 

We've seen more green flash sunsets here than anywhere else. No, it's not just the rum! A perfectly clear horizon, a brilliant sun and you're gonna see it. Though "flash" might make you misinterpret. Green dot or green glow is more like it. Just that split second as the sun sinks below the horizon!

You can't see it but the flash was there

All too soon we needed to move on. Trades were going back into the high 20s, seas building to 6ft and more. Soon it would get worse so we wanted to make Iles des Saintes, the islands that are south yet part of Guadeloupe, before that happened. It was a calm crossing of those 20+miles. A beam reach all the way. Most waves below the 4ft mark.

Sunset so amazing it knocked me flat!
One of the important lessons we've learned is that the forecasts gives the gradient wind and seas. But the islands create a different climate. As you watch one island disappear and another rise to greet you the tips of the islands create strong currents you must adjust for, plus they make waves more vicious as they cut down on the seconds or period between each wave. Between the two islands you experience both the full force of the trades and often an added increase of wind speed ( as much as by 1/3, which makes 20 knots go to 30, yikes!). This is  due to compression as the wind squeezes between the islands. Then just as you think the worst is over and you've reached the leeward side of the next island expecting to experience calm you find that the wind can quickly go from very calm to extremely high as it gets caught up in the mountains then hurtles down to the sea.  
(NOTE: Leeward side is the Caribbean side as opposed to the Windward or Atlantic side) This Ventura effect is seen in several harbors that are otherwise wonderful places to stay. Most notably Bequia, Portsmouth and Deshais. Surrounded by hills and mountains these harbors can be even windier than being out at sea. Meaning your ground tackle (anchor and rode) had better be up to holding the boat in place as the wind can easily reach above 40 knots. 

"The Brits"

Our anchorage at Terre Den Haut in Iles des Saintes
Once we reached the Saintes the weather took the expected turn for the worse. We waited but certainly didn't expect our friends, Harvey and Rita (the Brits) aboard Almacantar, to sail 130NM in 30 knots winds, mostly on the nose from St Barths to meet us. That was a plan made in Grenada over rum, no one can blame you for making or breaking those kind of plans. But meet us they did!! So while we all waited for a weather window the 4 of us enjoyed being together again in the charming village of Bourg de Saintes. 

A breadfruit tree, a piece of rebar...

 Roy & Harvey are determined.


Deshais, Guadeloupe
Now here we are a week later in Deshais, Guadeloupe. Our last little French village. We're having baguettes and pain de chocolate delivered each morning. Stocking up on French island specialties like pate, cheeses, wine and rum agricole.  Watching episodes of the BBCs "Death in Paradise" as it was filmed right here!. 

The winds will supposedly "collapse" on Saturday and we'll take that opportunity to sail the 45 NM to Antigua. Perhaps we'll stop spending days and nights rolling about.

We'll be excited to have our Grenada gang of 8 together again and even more so as our wonderful friends Jane and Dave Mitchel, last year on LaDivina, will also be meeting us as they have chartered out of St Martin for a month. We look forward to Classic Week, time with friends and calm quite nights. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Where are the Clearance Papers?!!

Did someone say "Green Flash"?

We arrived in Grenada Feb 16th, after our time in the States and what a time it was. Houston with John Edward and Laura, New Orleans at Sammye and Grouper’s then North Carolina to visit Roy’s sister Sandra and her family for Thanksgiving. Nov 29 found us heading back to New Orleans and, YIPPEE! home to 7th St where Austin had cleaned house after the last tenants left and was waiting for us!!! It was great to finally, after 3 years, have loads of time in our own house. We  had time to see friends and eat crawfish, poboys and oysters, go see the lobby of the Roosevelt (with Sazarac’s of course), go to Galatoire’s for Christmas Eve, have family around for the holidays and Mardi Gras, Oh Yeaaahhh.

Caribbean from the top of Mayreau Island in the Grenadines
But now we’re home again aboard Wahoo and on the move. This sailing season will only be about 6 months long and we’re doing the big No, No - sailing to a schedule. We’re aiming to meet up with our cruising friends in Antigua for Classic Yacht Race Week which starts April 13. Then, in June, our niece, Angela, and her family will meet us for a week in the Virgin Islands. Angela and Dave have sailed with us twice but this will be the first time for the two girls. Next, the plan is to head to Puerto Rico where Wahoo’s bottom will get a warranty paint job (hopefully). That’s a lot of schedule - I get really stressed just thinking about it. So I don’t.

Just to show you how much faster we’re moving than last year - we left Mt Hartman Bay, Grenada on Feb 26th, spent only 1 night at Sandy Island as opposed to, oh I don’t know about 10 days last year, skipped Union Island altogether but did get in a 1 night visit at Mayreau Island which we had skipped last year. Then a jump to Bequia and on that trip what a spectacular sight. Hundreds of porpoises swimming toward Wahoo, leaping, twisting, tail turning for nearly an hour. So amazing!! We spent five days in Bequia and met up with both Aviva and Lagniappe (bet you can't guess where they’re from). Had a birthday dinner for Roy at Papa’s, our favorite Bequia restaurant, and even visited the turtle sanctuary again. But it certainly wasn’t the month long stay we had last year. No,this year we’re on a mission.

And being on a mission resulted in our totally FORGETTING to CLEAR OUT OF St Vincent and the Grenadines in Bequia. Six years of cruising and NEVER, NEVER have we forgotten such an important step. For those of you who don’t realize it. Nearly every island is its own country and we need to clear in with Customs and Immigration every time we arrive and clear out every time we leave.

Bequia Boats
Roy, the folks from Aviva and Orton King
(Mr King has been saving turtles for 21 years)
Wahoo in the Bay at Wallilabou

"Pirates of the Caribbean" movie set

So after a 5am start we were sailing blithely along the leeward side of St Vincent about 3 hours out of Bequia and suddenly it hit me - No Clearance Papers!! Our plan of skipping the main island, ST Vincent (an aside, the country is St Vincent and the Grenadines with St Vincent being the main island and the Grenadines, including Bequia, being many many smaller islands that are truly picture perfect). So, just in case you have an eye in the sky you can see us sitting in Wallilabou Bay waiting for the Customs man to show up on a Sunday. Wallilabou!! I know you’re saying that word with a shudder and horror in your heart. That’s right - we’re right here where a German cruiser was murdered a few nights ago!!! St Vincent is one of the islands that most cruisers give a wide berth to. They do the long sail between St Lucia to the North and Bequia to the South. Things had been quiet here for several years and cruisers, including us last summer, were beginning to trickle in for at least an overnight. One of the fun things about Wallilabou is that it was a main settings in Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2 & 3 and  the sets and buildings are still here. But that boarding a few days ago that left one German cruiser dead and another seriously injured has everyone avoiding the island again. But yes, here we sit hoping that lightning doesn’t strike twice. The boat boys who helped us tie up said there’s police all over the bay but we haven’t seen any yet!! Oh well, we were able to trade some fishing line for a fresh tuna and I bought a Jack Sparrow necklace. 

I'm trying to embed videos - but, I can't preview them. They may or may not be working!

Porpoises in the Grenadines.

Turtles at the Old Hegg Sanctuary in Bequia