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22 December 2013 Puerto La Cruz - Venezuela
We happened to be in a large supermarket a week ago when there was suddenly a “rush” on toilet paper and powdered milk. We were in the lineup and struck up a conversation with a local. He explained that they often send messages by text advising their friends and relatives that Supermarket X had just got a shipment of Product Y, and this can trigger a “rush”. In a matter of only a few minutes, the number of people queuing up at the cashier increased from 6 lines of about 4 people each, to accommodate a new long line (maybe 50 people) that had come in to buy one item - a single bag of powdered milk. The newly formed crowd was polite, and patient, very patient. Since arriving in Venezuela, we have learned that the Venezuelan people are polite and patient people. We see orderly lines at the bank (outside the bank), at the grocery store, at the bus stop, and at the taxi stands. If you’re not sure where you fit in the queue, they will politely guide you. Disclaimer - I didn’t take this photo.
Linda, who operates the “Dinghy Hospital” advised me a few weeks ago that the weakest point in a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) is the hull to tube joint at the transom. When the tubes are low on air, the increased pressure of the operator while sitting on the tube, as it bounces up and down over the waves, can cause the tube to separate from the fibreglass hull. This is one of the two joints she is talking about.
In order to strengthen this area, Linda recommended the addition of four plastic semi-circles, two on each side of the joint - attached with 3M 5200 and 1/4” bolts. This was a simple project that Diane and I did one afternoon. Now it is stronger at a trivial cost.
Although neither Diane nor I were “sick” per se, I did arrive with some skin cancer on one ear that needed attention. In my experience, very few people in the Venezuelan medical system speak English - and that made this situation a little more challenging than expected. English speakers at the Marina referred me to Dr Anna Velazquez who works out of Fundamigos H.L.P. She’s a very good Venezuelan Plastic Surgeon, who also speaks English. By Venezuelan law, even surgery that requires only a local anesthetic requires that the patient go through an extensive barrage of tests (blood, urine, chest X-ray, ECG, consult with a Respirologist, consult with a Cardiologist, and finally - a consult with the Anesthesiologist) prior to scheduling surgery. It sounds daunting and expensive, but in reality it is just a little frustrating and inexpensive. It took me a mere three half-days to get these tests done. Ultimately, I had a single minor surgery to remove a piece of Squamous Cell Carcinoma on my right ear. It was about the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil - but it was on the top of my ear and stitching is “challenging”. Medicine and medical supplies are abundant and cheap, and the medical treatment I received was very good.
Diesel is very cheap in Venezuela, only 1 Bolivar/litre at the gas stations ($ 0.017 per litre). However, it isn’t sold to foreign flagged yachts - at the marina pumps. The only way to get diesel, that I know of, is to go out to a roadside gas station and either fetch the diesel yourself or pay somebody else to do it for you. There is just that sort of guy in the Marina, and I asked him to fetch me 260 litres (I have four 20 litre cans, so that comes out to “over” three trips). My cost has now risen from 1 Bolivar/litre to 3 Bolivars/litre (handling fee) - but still pretty good at 5 cents per litre. In this photo, I’ve shown how I transferred this diesel, without spilling any - through the deck fill. Somebody recently showed me that if you insert a second hose into the jerry can (but do not immerse it in diesel, make sure it stays above the fluid line), you can blow into this second hose and the siphon will start, with diesel flowing down the tube. The “transfer” tube should be clear so that you can see the fluid moving. You need to close the jerry can air vent and establish a fairly good seal around the open neck with a tightly wrapped rag. Of course, I'm using my "Baja" filter but the diesel is very clean. Its magic!
We bought some local Christmas meals a week ago - “ayacas”, also spelt “hallacas". This Venezuelan cuisine typically involves a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, and olives (or any combination thereof) wrapped in cornmeal dough, folded within plantain leaves, tied with strings, and boiled or steamed afterwards. Unfortunately, I was seriously ill after eating one of these, likely because of the olives (I’m ok with olive oil, but don’t feed me olives) - because Diane ate three and never had a problem.
These iguanas get our food scraps every day.
In a few days time we’ll have Christmas dinner on the boat. Like every year, we’ve got a turkey saved in the freezer and will be inviting another cruising couple over for Christmas dinner. Our Christmas lights are up and shining every night. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish anyone who reads this blog - a Merry Christmas.
11 December 2013 Puerto La Cruz - Venezuela
While Diane and I were visiting Angel Falls a few weeks ago, we met a couple of guys who are driving motorbikes across South America. They are “Kiwis”, bought the bikes in California and are about a year into the trip now. I got an email from Aidan a few days ago, and highly recommend a visit to their website. Now that - is adventure.
We had to go back to Plaza Mayor a few days ago, and while its still fresh in my mind I thought I’d mention a few observations. You can drive here by road, but you can also follow the canal system and get here by dinghy. We didn’t take our dinghy, its blocked in because of the way we berthed, but the waterways and canals in this area are clean and very beautiful.
Surprisingly, there are lots of places that have posted “smoke-free” area signs. I can’t say I’m disappointed, but I am certainly impressed that this issue is being taken seriously here in Venezuela as well.
Here’s something that I also found unusual, people had to “pay and display” for parking at Plaza Mayor, a large shopping mall. This is fair game in Canada, when in the city centre, but somehow, this mall doesn’t seem to be in the city centre. In fact its not, but it is in a large and very developed area - and I suppose that’s why they charge for parking. It just struck me odd that locals were paying for parking.
At a little hardware kiosk exterior to the mall, you can find lots of little odds and ends, plumbing fittings and electrical connections that are tough to find. I bought a tube of 3M 5200 marine adhesive/sealant. It wasn’t particularly cheap (normal chandlery price), but I was glad to get some. This store seems to be a knock-off of “Showtime” in Canada, where they sell things that are found advertised on the Shopping Channel.
At lunchtime, Diane and I treated ourselves to some Venezuelan fast-food chicken. “Arturos" seems to be the latin American version of KFC. Diane had a 2 piece dinner and I had a 3 piece dinner. The total cost was about $ 5.
Even with the very low cost of gasoline and diesel, I’ve seen several vehicles fitted for propane. Maybe for the range? Here’s a fairly new pickup truck fitted for propane - and it is limited in speed to only 70 kph?
On the topic of fast food, Wendy’s is here.
I checked out the local McDonalds. It’s open 24/7 and like every McDonald’s - has specials on: get a Big Mac and a large drink for 79 bolivars (about $ 1.30). I think that even at that price, its still expensive for many local people. In the downtown market, there are lots of sidewalk vendors that advertise for 2 hotdogs and a coke, for only 30 bolivars (about 50 cents).
There are lots and lots of old American cars on the road here, many of them taxis. Whereas Cuba has been keeping their fleet of 50’s era cars on the road, in spite of the US embargo, Venezuelans have been keeping thousands of 70s and 80s cars on the road - and many of them apparently in rough condition. This “fleet” if you can call it that, is gradually being replaced by Japanese cars. There are no cars manufactured in Venezuela. There are also NO CARS on display in any car dealer showrooms…….
Christmas decorations are up at the malls. Here we came across a group of people that were partying to Christmas music. On the weekend, there was a free concert and ballet with a live orchestra and dozens of ballet dancers at Plaza Mayor.
On the whole, we’ve found that the locals don’t speak much English, but they are very friendly and helpful. Everybody knows that there is a lot of crime, but you minimize the risk by steering clear of certain areas and “don’t go out at night”.
4 December 2013 - Puerto La Cruz Venezuela
We went to the local market again in Puerto La Cruz Venezuela this morning. I bought two 1L bottles of coconut rum for less than $ 1.50 each (and it wasn’t duty-free either).
We bought a bag of about 30 tomatoes for less than a dollar, a pineapple for about 50 cents and also lettuce, cucumbers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, bananas and passion fruit for similar, low prices. I bought a 3 pound slab of beef that I chopped up to make 4 good sized steaks - less than $ 1.50. No doubt about it, the markets in Venezuela have a wide variety of fresh produce, fruit and meat that would put any Caribbean market to shame, for a fraction of the price. I’ve been making fresh-fruit smoothies every day.
Here’s an interesting observation. We’ve been in several shops that are obviously owned/operated by Chinese people. These Chinese people are not speaking Chinese, or English, but rather Spanish…..
We’ve had a bit of boat work done while here. In the area of improvements, I had the marina welder TIG weld 6 pad-eyes (that I bought in Trinidad) to the toe-rail. This is to make rigging our Parasail spinnaker easier. The cost was about $ 58.
In the area of repairs, I had a local rigger (Jesus Calderon) remove and repair our Garhauer rigid boom-vang, cost of about $ 55. We paid Elias Garcia about $ 40 to polish the stainless steel - thoroughly over a 4 day period. While still in Trinidad, I added “negative isolation” to the bow-thruster / windlass circuit in the bow, and this past week while in Venezuela, I added “negative isolation” to the engine starting battery and house-bank. The rationale behind the negative isolation is to make sure that the “ground” for the AC and DC circuits is not connected in any physical way to the steel hull (which would be through the physical mounting of the bow-thruster, windlass, engine starter and alternator since their metal housings are form the negative) - which can be problematic when we’re connected to shore power and the ground circuit is “non-ideal”. The result can be that a bit of current flows through the hull into the water, which then starts the process of electrolysis.
As you can see, we’re doing our bit to contribute to the local economy.
Another change that we’ve noticed from the Eastern Caribbean is the change in music. For the past 3 years, the local music has been “BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-CHICKA-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM”. It was driving us nuts - in the taxis, in the stores, in the marinas, on the beach and consequently in the anchorage. Here in Venezuela, the music is decidedly different, with a pleasing latin-American flavour, much more pleasing to the ears. This is a nice shot of the pool at our marina.
Our marina sits at the canal entrance of the “posh” development area of Puerto La Cruz. Beyond this entrance lies a vast network of canals, bridges, condo and private home communities - and Plaza Mayor.
We’ve not yet taken our dinghy to the huge mall at Plaza Mayor, but we have taken private taxis (about a dollar) there and back.
I’m trying to get some minor plastic surgery done on my ear, as another basil cell carcinoma has been brewing there for the past year. I saw a Dermatologist / Plastic Surgeon last week, and prior to getting the actual surgery (which should only require a local anesthetic), I’ve had to run through a complete battery of tests, that took up the majority of 3 days (complete blood work including an HIV test, EKG and Cardiologist consult, chest X-ray and lung function test with a Respirologist). The work-up is all done, the next thing will be to schedule the surgery.
Our encounters with the local people have been very good. The people seem friendly, honest, and hard working. There is also a family of iguanas that live on the marina grounds, in the small mangrove area. We drop off vegetable and fruit cuttings and they seem grateful for that contribution to their diet. They don’t bother anybody, and seem to be not too fearful of humans, but I don’t think you can get close enough to pet them.
While in Puerto La Cruz, we have had the pleasure of being berthed alongside Guy and Laura on SV DAGDA, a very interesting couple (French and Russian) with extensive cruising experience. They have a very interesting, unique and very fast boat. We were treated to home made ice-cream, both banana and chocolate flavour!
24 November 2013 Angel Falls, Venezuela
We were planning for, and took the opportunity to visit one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, Angel Falls (the highest in the world), deep in the heart of Venezuela - this past week. Diane has been wanting to visit this site all her life, although I have to admit that I never really knew about it until I saw the Disney animated film “Up”.
Anybody visiting Venezuela has to visit Angel Falls, although it is a bit “out of the way”. It is one of Venezuela's top tourist attractions, though a trip to the falls may be a complicated affair. The falls are located in an isolated jungle and you couldn’t possibly “drive by” like you do with Niagara Falls, for example. Our trip began at the marina, where we were picked up at 0600 for a nearly 5 hour ride to Ciudad Bolivar (in the interior), where we stayed the night at a local pasada (amateur hotel). We stopped at a “truck stop” and had “lunch” consisting of two empenadas and two fruit juices, for the dirt cheap price of less than a dollar.
The next morning, we joined 3 other couples who had stayed at the same pasada, and then caught a plane (well, actually two different planes) traveling deep inland to Canaima.
After exiting the plane(s), we boarded a dugout canoe with a single 48 HP Yamaha two-stroke engine (seating 9 passengers and 3 crew). Sitting on the canoe was cramped and very wet, at least if you sat at the back. I had to sit at the back because I’m “heavy”, and it was like being in a constant shower for about 5 hours. Diane sat in the front and was occasionally sprinkled with water (at least that’s how it looked to me).
The best time to visit Angel Falls is during the rainy season, July to December, although we still had to portage (exit the canoe while the crew went over the really rough stuff) a few rapids.
We arrived at the base of Angel Falls at approximately 1500, and then made the walk through the forest to get closer, higher, and to a really good vantage point. The walk was really tough, as the “trail” was heavily overgrown with roots and there were lots of rocks and things to stub your toes on. Thankfully, we only saw one small snake, but we were told that it was a poisonous one.
That night, we slept in hammocks, protected by mosquito nets and were serenaded by the continual noise of the falls. Surprisingly, there were no mosquitoes and only a few “no-see-ums”. Sleeping in a hammock is different than “lounging” in a hammock as you need to be a bit “askew” so that your back doesn’t get a bad arch in it, but it wasn’t bad. The home cooked meals was pretty good and so was the view from the camp.
The next day we travelled the return leg in the same canoe but when we reached Canaima, we stayed at “the lodge”, owned by Bernal Tours. There, we walked around the local area, saw the sites and swam in the refreshingly cold water.
In the afternoon, Diane was fortunate to be able to return on a small Cesna plane, affording her a “fly-over” view of Angel Falls, for an additional cost of about $ 30. Here she got the best view you could expect as the plane flew first North from Canaima, buzzing the Falls, and then flying South to Ciudad Bolivar to link up with me.
Late in the afternoon, we were whisked back to Puerto La Cruz, together with 2 other couples (who were flying in to visit the sailboat berthed next to us, and had also made the pilgrimage to Angel Falls with us) in a comfortable van. Overall, I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to visit Angel Falls, at the bargain basement price of only $ 191 per person. However, the trip was somewhat of an arduous journey, missing many of the “comforts of home”. In retrospect though, I wouldn’t have missed it.
16 November 2013 Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
We made it …… safely. After months of planning and preparation, we have exited Trinidad and are now in Venezuela, our first country on the continent of South America - but not without some drama ……
For several weeks, I had been “trolling around” looking for a “buddy boat” or two to accompany us on the 211nm journey. Well, actually, the route could have been as much as 270nm or as little as 211nm, depending on the agreed route and boat(s). Many people have criticized us for choosing to go to Venezuela and for looking for a buddy boat. Over the past 3 years, Venezuela as a cruising destination has suffered because of many armed attacks, boardings, murder etc - more so than the Eastern Caribbean (where this also happens). It has always been dangerous, but in the past few years has become even more so. This is not a good place for visitors, by the way, but apparently the whole country is not so bad. This link gives an honest Venezuelan perspective on their own national security.
Once we found a willing and capable buddy boat, we agreed on the route, speed, timings and actions in case of emergency. Before leaving the Scotland Bay anchorage at 0745, we had pre-positioned two flare guns, spare rounds, two searchlights and a horn - at the ready in our cockpit.
Diane and I believed that if we were approached by a suspicious boat, we would fire one or more flares in their direction to try and discourage them from coming closer. Shortly after we had cleared the Boca Channel, and passed through the rough waters, we then test fired the flares (years past their date) and settled in for our passage and routine. We set our sails and ran the engine (the wind was very light) at 1200 rpm and motor-sailed at 7 knots. We were 100% attentive and never left the cockpit. We were very serious. Unfortunately, our buddy boat never kept up to us, and never responded to our calls on the VHF radio. After 3 hours, since we could not longer see him, I dramatically reduced our speed to only 5 knots for the next 4 hours. At 1500, I received a VHF radio call (now nearly 50nm from our start) from the Trinidad Coast Guard to advise us that our buddy boat had experienced a “pirate incident” and returned to Chaguaramas. Although we were shocked (we believed that we were dependent on the presence of our buddy boat for our own security), what could we do? We ramped up the speed and continued for the next 21 hours to our destination. Our trip was completely uneventful, although it was stressful.
We passed by many Venezuelan fishing boats, and a few were quite close, but we had no security incidents. The other boat was not so fortunate. The Captain was apparently taken by surprise, beaten and robbed - 3 hours out of the anchorage. They are now in Trinidad recovering from the incident. We very much regret what has happened to our friends, but I suppose this goes to show that buddy boating just provides the illusion of increased security.
Our first impressions of the Marina at Bahia Redonde are good. Hardly anybody speaks English, but we seem to be able to get by. Our boat is “shoe-horned” into a Med style stern-to mooring.
There are plenty of unique lizards on the ground - after all, this is South America.
With further posts, we hope to do some exploring - including the famous Angel Falls - at discount prices! Although the official exchange rate is 6:1 (Bolivars to the US dollar), there is an active black market with the current exchange rate of nearly 60:1 (just 5 months ago in June 2013 the exchange rate was 40:1). Local fruit and vegetables, and basically anything produced in this country is going to appear very cheap to us. To give an idea of the marina costs, last month in Trinidad, we were paying about $ 40/day. That is fairly cheap compared to European, Canadian or US norms - and just a little more than what we paid in Cuba 3 years ago. Yesterday, I paid ahead for the first month, at a cost of only $ 4.65/day (and this includes electricity, water, wifi, garbage, security, taxes and a very nice pool). This morning, we went to the fresh market (daily). It is without a doubt, the cheapest and best quality market for fresh goods that we have ever seen. Dirt cheap. I just made our first, of many, fresh Venezuelan smoothies (pineapple, banana, passionfruit) - Oh, so tasty and fresh. Our initial impression is very favourable.
7 November 2013 Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago
Wow, it has been nearly 3 weeks since my last post. Next week we’re sailing West for Puerto La Cruz (near Barcelona) Venezuela. Venezuela used to be a very popular cruising ground in the Caribbean more than 10 years ago, but with the Chavez government (and post-Chavez government) crime rates rose and cruisers left. Apparently, the attitude toward Americans “is particularly bad”, although I don’t think there is any real evidence to support this. Apparently, the number of cruisers in Venezuela these days is only a fraction of what it was. The official exchange rate for the bolivar to the US dollar is about 6:1, although the black market exchange rate is now more than 60:1, and inflation is very high. The black market exchange rate was 40:1 only two months ago. This is a sign of a broken economy and we’re going to find out more next week.
When we set out from Canada 4.5 years ago, we purchased a life-raft and had it serviced in January 2013. We also made up a “ditch-bag” that included an EPIRB, GPS, hand-held VHF radio, hand-operated water desalinator, as well as some basic food, water and medical supplies. It is the bare minimum for survival, in the event of a total catastrophe.
It was time to re-open that bag and verify that the contents were still usable. Much to my surprise, the sealed packages of AA batteries (6 for the GPS and 9 for the VHF) had both spoiled. It would appear that we need to review the contents of this bag more frequently........
We added some water-proof matches, just in case we get stranded on a desert island and want to cook a coconut. The EPIRB will have to be replaced next year, and I’ve found that its nearly as expensive to replace the batteries as it is to replace the whole EPIRB (around $ 600).
There are no boat projects (repairs, maintenance or upgrades) outstanding. We have been thoroughly enjoying several relaxing, no-stress weeks at Crews Inn. We’ve gone to a few pot-luck dinners, played dominoes, read lots of books and watched a number of TV shows and movies. I’m nearly finished reading the Stephen King anthology “The Tower”. We swim in the pool at least once a day.
We’ve also made quite a few smoothies using our new Hamilton-Beach blender. The best concoctions seem to have coconut flavoured rum - always a hit!
It feels like we’re on holiday at a resort in the tropics, especially since it is hot, humid, sunny and rains every day.
Its definitely time to move on.......
18 October 2013 Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago
One of the maintenance jobs that has been completed is that I’ve changed the water-maker membrane. A salt water desalinator works by pressing salt water through a very fine membrane (in our case - 2.5” by 40” Dow Filmtec SW30-2540) with a high pressure pump (running at 850-950 psi). As long as you don’t run diesel, contaminated or chlorine filled water through it, the membrane should last 4-5 years. Our membrane had met its lifetime and was due for a change. It wasn’t making fresh water anymore, just less salty water. The water-maker manufacturer is ECHOTec, right here in Chaguaramas Trinidad. While we were posted to Brussels, Belgium I had a look at their models at the Dusseldorf boat show in February 2007 and bought one on the spot. You would think that being situated in Trinidad would give me an advantage to buying a replacement membrane, but it didn’t. Hardly any of the components in any water-maker are unique, and most are off-the-shelf components. In the case of the replacement membrane, ECHOTec wanted $ 495 - a price that I scoffed at. In the end, I bought one online from Rich Boren, the owner of CruiseRO Water for $ 187 plus $ 100 for shipping to Trinidad. I can understand paying 15% more for the convenience, but I refused to be “gouged”. I will say though that it was convenient to be able to bicycle over to ECHOTec to seek clarification on how to actually remove the membrane from the high pressure housing. The job was all finished in a day.
A job that qualifies as a boat improvement project is our Automatic Identification System, or AIS. According to international regulation, all commercial ships (except Coast Guard and Navies) 300T and greater are required to transmit using a special AIS black box their ship particulars (name, MMSI number, dimensions, etc and of course to include position/heading/speed information). This way, our chart plotter gets populated with AIS targets and we have very good situational awareness on the sea - particularly useful at night. About 6 years ago, I installed the first generation of NASA AIS engine, and then 2 years later replaced it with the latest model - although still only an AIS “receiver”. This summer, while in Kingston visiting West Marine, I felt compelled to buy the new Em-Trak B100 Transceiver. It is a Class B Transceiver, but of course also receives Class B signals. It took me nearly 2 full days to do the install, even though it looked like a pretty quick swap, “out with the old - in with the new”. I had to run a new coax cable for the integrated GPS and this is hard work.
As the “jobs list” dwindles down to nothing, seriously - nothing ----- we’ve been able to get around for some more touring. A few days ago, we went on a trip to the Northern coast, the well-known Maracas Bay beach. This is a beach that is about a 40 minute drive from Port of Spain (the capital), but nearly a 2 hour drive from Chaguaramas. I wouldn’t dream of visiting this beach on the weekend, it is just packed with locals.
To get there, we had to drive up and over the mountains, during and after a big rain storm. The rain and winds brought down some big trees onto the road, but by the time we returned a few hours later, the emergency workers had already cleared the road.
As we were driving through the mountains, we came upon some very pretty vistas, and a little shop that specialized in locally made sweets. We tried the coconut fudge, amongst other things....
Finally, when we got to the beach, we found just what we were looking for at Richards Bake and Shark. This is a locally made delicacy, basically a fish burger, using shark instead of fish. It was very tasty, and very cheap. Here, Diane is seated with her meal ready for consumption, together with our friend Gert, a South African cruiser. I, of course, was taking the photo.
A few more kilometers headed East and we were nearly at the end of the road. Here, we stopped to see the famous “spring bridge” just outside of Blanchisseuse. Although the people in this video only crossed the Spring Bridge three years ago, it has since been replaced with a new structure. The old bridge is still there, but there is no way that I would drive a car across it now.......
10 October 2013 Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago
I hired “Mr Clean” to polish the topsides last week, and with a bit of elbow grease, my 9” polisher and some Starbrite cleaner/polish - the result was actually quite good. Unfortunately, a few days later, we took the dinghy off the deck and Diane gave both the dinghy and the deck a really good clean. All the dirt migrated down to the topsides and afterwards it looked as though we’d never polished at all.
The main reason that we hauled out this year was to make a change to the cockpit drains and to relocate the generator exhaust hole. When I first installed the exhaust outlet, I had it exiting the transom locker on the port side, just above the waterline. However, on occasion, this has been found to be too close to the waterline (particularly in a following sea) and the generator shut down from too much back pressure. So, with the boat on the hard, this was the time to relocate the hole, weld up the old hole and redo the exhaust.
While still “on the hard”, we took a morning to tour the Angostura Rum Factory with Steve and Liz Coleman on SV MAKOKO (an Australian flagged Amel 53). It was tough to get photos in there because the tour guide was all twitchy about either trade secrets or safety. No photos allowed for safety reasons? Angostura bitters traces its history back to the year 1824 when Dr Siegert (Austrian) perfected a formula for aromatic bitters, used in his medical practice as the Surgeon General to the armies of Simon Bolivar. The flavour is quite unique and it is know around the world - either as an additive to alcoholic drinks or in the kitchen.
On 7 October, we were ready to launch - pretty much on schedule and more than a month earlier than last year (although we did have less work to do).
Diane found us a berth at our favourite Chaguaramas marina - Crews Inn, and we are continuing with small jobs (putting the sails up, checking the plumbing, testing the genset exhaust etc). We particularly enjoy the pool and can be found lounging there most afternoons after 4 pm.
23 September 2013 Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago
We returned to our boat on the hard at Peakes, on 11 September. We had an outstanding summer, visiting friends and relatives and drove our car from Ottawa West to Victoria and then back to Calgary. Some of this trip was chronicled on Facebook. The car is currently parked with John and Joy in Rocky Mountain House Alberta, and we’ll drive East to Ontario next summer.
Leaving the boat “unplugged” for two months in Trinidad is risky this time of year. It is hot, and humid - creating prime conditions for mould. On return 12 days ago, I’ll admit that we did find a couple of small areas where mould had started, but that appeared right next to the heads - where there was standing water in the bowls. Next time, we need to leave the toilets dry. Just how hot is it?
It’s hot enough that some guys are naked both inside and outside their boat. We caught our neighbour yesterday sawing a plank in his cockpit, naked. This reminds me of a Seinfeld episode.
The daily temperatures are in the 30-33C range, but since the humidity is usually 90-95%, it makes it feel more like 40C. How do we cope on the hard? Surprisingly, its much easier when you have an A/C unit. Many of the boats on the hard have A/C rental units ($ 120 per month, plus $ 180 monthly for the electricity) that are placed centrally in one of the hatches. We use a portable A/C unit (9000 BTU) that we bought at Best Buy in Florida three years ago for $ 350. The hot/humid exhaust is fitted to one of the aft port-lights using something like a heavy-duty dryer hose. It does an excellent job of cooling the aft cabin down to 21C, making it very comfortable to sleep. The only time we use this A/C unit is when we’re on the hard, or at dock for an extended period of time. Normally, it is stowed in the forward shower. Boats that have water-cooled A/C units (which is by far the norm) are “shit-outa-luck” on the hard, because there is no water cooling......
Ian came across some fresh tuna yesterday, so we had fresh grilled tuna on the BBQ. Diane does an excellent job with the cooking, and even when we’re on the hard we can enjoy gourmet meals.
I’ve been doing touch-up paint, first with the bottom of the keel, and next with the topsides. Last year when we were towed into Rodney Bay, the marina towboat left many scratches as it towed us “alongside”. I recently bought a little Preval Spray Gun (for only about $ 25 at Budget Marine) and it is the “next best thing to sliced bread”. Oh, this is so easy to use and clean.
The only issue is that I got a little carried away with myself and this little sprayer, and touched up dozens of spots on the dark green hull. Now the hull is left with dozens of little blotches where it is obvious that I’ve been doing this touch-up. I’m not yet sure, but I think that I’ll have to use a rubbing compound to “take down” the new areas, and then polish everything to try and make it look the same.
1 July 2013 Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago
We’ve been busy, but no site-seeing this time, focusing on boat repair, maintenance and upgrades - our usual mode during hurricane season. We’re leaving the boat on the hard at Peake Yacht Services, and flying back to Canada for “a while”. Every time we’ve gone back to Canada (we don’t own a home in Canada), we’ve had a fixed return date and focussed on visiting friends and relatives all over the place - which is a good reason not to own a home in any one place.
I completely repainted the deck, and refinished the teak dorade boxes. This was mentioned in the last post, but the work is now done.
About 6 months ago, I tried to use the “Bose Environmental 151” speakers in the cockpit (installed about 14 years ago and occasionally used) and after a bit of troubleshooting was disappointed to see that both speakers had failed. The decision was taken to replace the speakers and also to change the way we do things. I often like to listen to local radio stations when at anchor so I installed a marine stereo (car stereo with a few waterproof connections) and CD player under the TV where the VCR used to be. Diane convinced me a few months ago to finally get rid of our remaining VCR tapes and the multi-system VCR that I bought years ago when in the Netherlands. The stereo installation proved a little challenging to actually find an appropriate antenna - I ended up splicing into the amplified TV antenna. The speaker installation was also a little challenging because the new speakers were a little smaller than the old ones, so I had to improvise using copious quantities of 3M 5200 sealant.
One of the most valuable tools on SV Joana is a simple vice. People living a shore-based life would probably take this for granted, but on a boat -- this is a luxury to have the space to install one on a permanent basis.
The most popular way of connecting wires on a boat is to use crimp connectors, preferably ones with waterproof shrink wrap tubing. However, there is a better way - and that is to solder the wires and cover them with shrink wrap tubing. The salt water marine atmosphere is hard on electronics, wires and particularly connectors. Soldering is the better way, at least for the “lighter” cables.
Diane took the opportunity to remove, clean and modify the dinghy chaps that we had made last year. We noticed that under some conditions, the water tended to collect and spill over into the hull. Therefore, Diane punched some holes in the rear of the chaps to try and prevent that. We’ll see how it works out “in the Fall”.
We had our standing rigging replaced last year, but as we were dockside, one morning last week I looked up at the lower spreaders and to my horror -- noticed that one of the upper shrouds had “popped” out of the spreader forks keeping it aligned. Nothing happened - but this is an accident “waiting to happen”. Ian, a local South African cruiser (on SY LEILA)
with a great deal of rigging expertise was happy to help me. I hoisted him aloft and he relocated, reoriented and locked down both the upper and intermediate shrouds - hopefully preventing this from happening again.
We hauled the boat a few days ago, and what a treat it was to haul in the same yard as last year - a familiar place. With a slight scraping and a good pressure wash, we were able to ascertain how well the CleanABoat ultrasonic antifouling has worked over the past 8 months. Mind you, the ultrasonic was working in parallel with our Coppercoat antifouling (applied in September 2008), but I think it is fair to say that there was a noticeable difference. The worms and barnacles in Chaguaramas, active in the warm summer water dockside at Peakes are - “legendary”, more so than any other place we’ve been so far. The last time I snorkeled on the hull was about 6 weeks ago, and aside from a bit of slime on the waterline, it was very clean, not a barnacle to be seen. However, after being in the warm, barnacle and worm infested waters of Chaguaramas for the past 3 weeks, I was disappointed to see lots of hard growth, although none of it was “well entrenched” and easily came off.
Despite boat yard work, we’re still able to play a weekly game of Mexican Train Dominoes with our friends “Uncle” Bob (from the Maltese registered SV EXPLORER) and Sue (from the UK registered SY PIANO) - and afterwards take a swim in the pool.
On 3 July, we’re flying back to Canada for about two months of visiting with friends and relatives - a holiday you might say. This blog will be suspended for that time period, while SV JOANA fights off the rain, heat, mould, Saharan dust, cockroaches and ants in Trinidad.
13 June 2013 Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago
We arrived safely in Chaguaramas on Thursday 6 June. It was an excellent SAILING passage. With a distance on the rhumb line of only 120nm, I had suggested a 1000 am departure time in order to be able to arrive at 5 am (dawn?) “if” we achieved a 7 knot average (which is not the usual). However, much to my surprise, the winds were steady at 15-20 knots from the East and the seas were actually getting lighter as we went further South (4-6 feet diminishing to 3-5 feet). We had to loosen the sheets (in other words, sail poorly) in order to slow down. We could have easily arrived at 2am, but delayed our arrival time in the last 3 hours, slowing our speed to only 3 knots! At 0645 we berthed at Peter Peake’s private dock and then proceeded to clear in at Customs and Immigration. Welcome back to Trinidad!
While still at Union Island last week, we took the opportunity to take a water taxi over to visit Petit St Vincent, Petit Martinique and Palm Island - 3 more islands that we’ve never been to.
Petit St Vincent (part of St Vincent and the Grenadines) is a private island (in other words, way out of our price range) that offers exclusive and very private cottages for rent. We walked around for an hour, had lunch and a beer, and then went over to Petit Martinique. I took a few photos, but the Internet link provides a much better description of the island.
They use these little buggies to get around, on the very few small roads that exist.
Petit Martinique (part of Grenada) is a very quiet island, with only 800 inhabitants. We’ve never been there before and we were glad to have been able to take a short walk at the waterfront. People on this island make their living from the sea, either as fishermen, professional mariners or boat builders. It is a very small island....
On the way back to our boat on a mooring, we also swung by Palm Island, yet another private island in the Grenadines, accessible only by boat.
Since arrival in Trinidad, we’ve been picking away at some boat jobs - in between the rain. On our arrival, I noticed that the bilge pump had cycled on a few times - sometimes this should be checked out. I discovered in the engine room that two hose clamps on the Volvo exhaust hose had corroded through and let go. This resulted in a little bit of exhaust gas and salt water leaking into the bilge - as evidenced by the black stain in the water. An easy, and cheap fix, but disappointing that it happened.
A few months ago, one of our toilet lids developed a crack, something that needs attention since these are vacuum flush toilets. I was able to make a quick fix with slow-curing epoxy, and then ordered a replacement from the UK. I also installed an HF digital noise filter produced by BHI in the UK (again, sent by post).
I am currently painting the deck, or at least the raised cabin area. I paid someone to do this last year, but I was never happy with either the paint used, or the quality of his workmanship (this was Uncle Sam, aka Sloppy Sam). You know what they say, if you want something done right, sometimes you just have to do it yourself. This gave me the opportunity to remove the teak dorade boxes and refinish them as well.
Since we bought a new pressure washer, we decided to put it to work cleaning our anchor chain. We stretched out one chain at a time, to be washed, coated with touch-up spray galvanizing and remarking. I like to see bright fluorescent marks every 50 feet.
2 June 2013 Union Island, part of St Vincent and the Grenadines
We’ve spent the past week exploring Union Island, the Southern most part of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Union Island has about 3000 inhabitants and has supposedly been called the Tahiti of the West Indies. The prices of goods and services are noticeably higher on this island, likely due to its high tourist activity.
We first spent three nights at Chatham Bay. This is a huge, mostly shallow bay, with very good sand holding. The winds can be fluky and our boat moved/jerked around a lot, but the holding was very good and there was nearly no roll. We slept well. One day, we made the 4 mile march into Clifton with Ken and Lynn. The first part is a very, very rough uphill “road” climb until we reached the concrete road and then on into civilization. The island itself is sparsely populated and depends heavily on the tourist industry. One night we splurged and ate ashore at the Aqua Restaurant. Once you get over the sticker shock of the high menu prices (and undisclosed 25% service charge), the food and atmosphere were really good. Our pork chop dinner, including two glasses of wine and two beer, was 276 EC ($ 102). Not bad when you consider Canadian “fine” dining, but definitely the most expensive meal we’ve had in the past year. There were always 7 - 10 other boats anchored in the bay. The dock in front of the Aqua Restaurant .....
We noticed something about the roof of the Aqua Restaurant and asked the bartender. Sure enough, the roof shingles are made of a synthetic material, made to look like a tropical palm thatched roof - and get this ---- MADE IN CANADA. We found a pile of left-over building materials and I just had to look at this more closely.
Next, we moved down to Clifton Harbour to become fully immersed in the enhanced trade winds. At this time of the year, they’re normally about 14-16 knots, but due to a tropical wave bringing high pressure, Sahara dust and haze, the wind was steady 18-20 knots (and often times gusting much higher) for nearly a week. At Clifton, we were full in the wind, taking a mooring just behind the reef. Our battery banks were constantly full with the wind generators spinning. The downside was that the squalls, bringing high winds and rain storms made it a little un-nerving, particularly since we were “moored” (and not anchored) at “the front of the pack” just behind the reef. We ALWAYS prefer to anchor, but I did inspect this mooring at the beginning and twice a day while we were on it. I installed two separate lines attached to two different pennants, and even snorkeled down and attached yet a third “just-in-case” line (with a shackle) directly to the heavy chain about mid-way down. I figured that at least there was an UPSIDE to being at the front of the pack, it would be very unlikely that some other boat would break free and bump into us in the middle of the night!
This can be a crowded anchorage. A few hours after we took this mooring, this boat anchored right in front of us, less than a boat length away. He’s got some balls!
We leave tomorrow for Petit St Vincent (after clearing out) and then for a straight run to Trinidad (on Tuesday or Wednesday). Most people sail further South to the Southern bays of Grenada and make their run from there. I, however, believe this to be a mistake. This is my logic. First, you MUST clear in immediately after arrival in Trinidad. Second, the distance, even from Grenada - is too far for a monohull to make it in daylight hours. Therefore, you either have to leave in the dark (dangerous with the reefs in the Southern bays of Grenada) or you have to arrive in the dark. Even though we’ve been there before, this is always a bad idea to PLAN to arrive in the dark. If you leave in the dark, then you can’t see the reefs and rely 100% on your electronic chart. The third factor is “course”. If we sailed from the SW tip of Grenada, the course will be slightly SE. If we sail from Union Island, the course is South, and even very slightly West of South. The trade winds are always from the NE/ENE in the winter and E/SE in the summer. Therefore, if we sail from Union Island, we have a good chance of sailing all the way. Whereas is we sailed from Grenada, I’m pretty sure it would be a noisy motor sail bashing against the wind and waves. We’ll see how this strategy pans out .....
Here's a shot of one of the many little Union Island lizards we came across.
27 May 2013 Saline Bay, Mayreau - part of St Vincent and the Grenadines
After leaving Bequia, we wanted to go someplace new, so we anchored in Canouan, an island 20nm South of Bequia, but still North of Mayreau and Union Island.
Canouan is quite a big anchorage, with depths of 15-18 feet. The holding is mediocre though, with sand and coral. The winds in this bay are very fluky, and I think we rotated on our anchor (360 degree turns) at least 12 times in a 24 hour period. It resulted in a frequent and annoying roll, particularly evident during the night. That, coupled with the spotty and weak Internet prompted us to leave the next morning. We did go ashore though, and had a bit of a walkabout.
Some local fishermen stopped by shortly after we arrived to sell us some of their catch. Although we do throw out a fishing line “between” anchorages (and sometimes catch a fish), we never fish “on” an island. We believe that this takes away from the livelihood of the local fishermen. We can afford to buy their catch, so we do. In this case, we bought a lobster and some conch.
I took a photo of the police station, a regular fixture on even the smallest of islands.
Of course, things still need maintenance. On SV Joana, all the greywater (sinks and shower) gravity drain to a 35 gallon “grey water holding tank”. This “water” is pumped out with a Whale Gulper 220 diaphragm pump. This pump is pretty well the best pump that money can buy - to pump what you would expect from the galley sink. Once every month or so I used to have to prime it because the sensor would be full of grease and the pump would just keep on pumping even where there is no water. Now, I clean the sensor every month and I’ve installed a good one-way valve so the pump doesn’t lose its prime. In this case the rubber diaphragm just wore out and I had to replace it with a service kit on hand.
Next on the agenda was Saline Bay, on Mayreau (pronounced MY-ROO), population 305. Saline Bay is well sheltered and has very good holding in sand, but you have to avoid the turtle grass.
From our anchorage at Saline Bay, we walked over most of Mayreau and had a good look at Saltwhistle Bay, which we’ve never anchored in. More than half of the boats there (8 out of 16) were anchored, and not tied to moorings.
We don’t want to go there because this is a highlight for “credit card Captains” and is heavily frequented by “tourists”. You see, we don’t consider ourselves tourists. Saltwhistle Bay is “chock-a-block” with mooring balls, balls that cost 60EC ($ 23US) per night. That adds up over time! Balls that are so close together that if boats were actually on all of them, during the night when the winds drops - for sure boats are going to be bumping into each other as they drift around on the mooring. Saltwhistle is an absolutely beautiful bay, but there is hardly room to anchor there amongst the moorings. Its like a “rats nest” of lines and balls, things to get snagged in. The beach, however, is stunning - as Ken and Lynn on SV SILVERHEELS III pose for the photo.
Walking on Mayreau means walking up and down hills, very steep hills. Unless you stick to the beach, you’re always ascending or descending a hill.
There are a couple of phone booths on this island. In this photo, you can see Ken placing a call. The phone is a solar power cell phone, in a fixed installation / phone booth. Interesting concept. I can’t say that I’ve seen this in Canada.
We shopped at the local grocery store. Although its tough to buy local fruit and vegetables, the store did have yogurt and eggs (amongst many other things), just what we were looking for. We’ve stayed at anchor through the second “tropical wave” of this season. This is a harbinger of conditions in the coming months. It can get a little rolly, but we’ve still got Internet and the wind generators are turning - so we’ll hang on a little more. Next stop will be Union Island, Clifton.
21 May 2013 Admiralty Bay, Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines
We’ve been to Bequia before. In fact, we’ve been here four times before. We’ve usually treated it as a “whistle-stop”. In the past, we’ve picked up groceries, bought some fish from the locals, had a meal ashore, maybe taken some money out of an ATM, but this time we were curious to SCUBA dive here. This past winter, we have already dove in St Lucia and Dominica - and we figured it was high time to dive in “The Grenadines”.
Walking down the shoreline, we discussed the rates with one dive shop, but they were too pricey for us. We settled on Bequia Dive Adventures, primarily because of the cost. They were able to come down from $ 54 to $ 40 per dive (our equipment, their tanks, their boat to take us to the dive sites and their guides). So, over the past few days we dove on 4 different sites. There were noticeably LESS Lionfish than we had seen elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean and lots of fish, particularly small reef fish. The reef is very alive and is a very good dive site.
In a few days, we’ll be heading further South through the Grenadines. The first “tropical wave” of the season is already here, bringing squalls (rain and gusty winds) weeks ahead of the normal routine. Tropical waves are air masses that move West from the Sahara and greatly influence the creation and movement of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes. NOAA predicts more storms than the usual, so we need to make sure that we’re down in Trinidad by mid-June.
15 May 2013 Chateaubelair, St Vincent
On 13 May, we finally left Rodney Bay Marina and headed for Chateaubelair St Vincent. We motor-sailed down the coast with blue skies and light winds. We had just a wonderful sail - one of those afternoons where you could really enjoy this cruising life. As we approached the island, we marveled at the natural wonder of this largely unspoiled island. We’ve anchored here twice before, but never went ashore, so we were keen to stay a bit.
On arrival in Chateaubelair at 5 pm, suddenly the wind piped to over 40 knots. To make matters worse, one of our electronic charts was way off and it was very confusing in the lack of visibility (high wind and rain). We motored back out of the bay twice until the wind dropped and then we came back in to anchor in sand, in 27 feet of water. One chart was “bang-on” and the other 500m off. That’s why we use two chart-plotters at the same time, and rely on visible signs. Much to our delight, there were many unlocked wifi networks, so we could connect to the Internet after dinner.
George took us to the Darveo (Dark View) waterfalls, only a 40 minute hike from the waterfront. This was an easy hike, and took us through the natural rainforest, a place that is much copied but never duplicated. I did not take this video, but it is very representative of the falls but without all the people. On our trip, we were the only visitors there.
The falls actually had an upper and lower portion, containing two falls “for the price of one”. These waterfalls and the natural beauty around them certainly stand out in the Caribbean.
Next stop is planned to be Buccament Bay, St Vincent - another place we’ve never been to.
9 May 2013 - Rodney Bay St Lucia
This post is a technical catch-up. There is not much to report on St Lucia and in particular Rodney Bay since we’ve been here several times before. We have been dockside near Ken and Lynn on Silverheels III as well as Steve and Meg on Suzie Q, and enjoyed their company. Diane also organized and executed a well attended dock party. The number of boats is diminishing, as the seasonal yachties are laying their boats up and returning home for the summer. The full-time live-aboards (like us) are still around and still migrating South, primarily to Grenada and Trinidad.
Windlass: As I mentioned in a previous blog, our windlass has given us some trouble. The issue was tracked to a dirty electrical motor, something that was easily cleaned with Ken’s help nearly a month ago. Since then, the windlass has worked flawlessly (isn’t it always like that?). However, in order to improve reliability, we took the decision to upgrade from an IDEAL Vertical V3C to a V4C. I extracted the “newly rejuvenated” electrical motor for a spare. The motor is the same for both windlasses. The gearbox, however, is quite a bit bigger and heavier, as you can see in these photos.
Getting the old one out wasn’t too hard, but getting the new one in was more of a challenge. The new windlass case and motor weighs nearly 120lbs. I devised a system using a web strap and a halyard to hoist the assembly up through the deck flange. This way I didn’t have to bear the weight while scrunched up in the forepeak on my back. The end result is a solid installation, one that I hope will last a decade at least. Now that we have sold off our Rocna 33kg (73lb) and will be acquiring a new Rocna 40kg (88lb) in Trinidad, we’ll be better positioned to haul up the heavier gear.
Lithium Batteries: We are very very pleased with the installation of our Lithionics Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries (380Ahr) that we completed in November 2012. I did some final tweaking of the Blue Sky Energy controllers, adjusting the Float voltage to 13.6V and the Acceptance voltage to 14.2V. I had to install an IPN Pro Remote in order to do this, but I now have the ultimate of control and monitoring capability over my 560W solar array.
Ultrasonic Antifouling: Although our four 50W transducers have only been in and working for 5 months, the effect is very noticeable. Whatever growth is on the hull is predominately at the waterline and can easily be wiped off with a cloth. This system works as a compliment to our Coppercoat antifouling and is a good system for a steel hull.
We will be leaving dock in a day or two, and heading further South.
4 May 2013 - Roseau Dominica (but posted from Rodney Bay St Lucia)
We spent only two nights on a mooring ball at Roseau (with Pancho Yacht Services), and had to leave at 0400 because of the swell, constantly rocking the boat from side to side. Sometimes that happens. The reason we were in Roseau was to try and see some of the sites on the Southern part of the island, and we did that with a tour guide named “Jones”.
The first place we went to was Scotts Head where we posed on this rocky beach. Apparently, there was a big hurricane about 30 years ago that covered this beach with smooth stones where it used to be soft sand. Bummer. I suggested that these stones have value, the government should offer them up for free to anybody with a loader and they’ll come and scrape it off.
Then, we drove to the well-known tourist site -- Champagne Reef. As I was walking along the boardwalk, I couldn’t help but marvel at the stone captured by this volcanic activity. Again, a good place for a gravel pit!
The reef itself was well “over-dived” by the hoards of tourists, but it did have the advertised bubbles. The subterranean activity results in boiling water rising to the surface creating the “champagne effect”. Much of the sandy bottom has turned a brownish or yellowish tint, likely due to the sulphur content of the released gas. I took lots of photos and I thought this one captured the effect the best.
Next, we drove to the Ti Tou Gorge, where there is a hydro electric generating station. I was told that 40% of the island’s power demand is met by hydro. We entered the water at the gorge and swam upstream against a powerful current to get a view of a small waterfall in the gorge. I took lots of photos but getting a good one was difficult. Afterwards, we rinsed off with a warm shower.
As we were passing through the rainforest, Jones stopped to point out various fruit growing in the trees. I thought these two photos of an apricot (left) and nutmeg (right) were good.
Next, we drove to the Rock Cafe for a pre-ordered lunch of curried goat. The meal was excellent and the atmosphere spectacular. Photos cannot recreate the scenery, but I tried. There was a running river, and a deep gorge with rainforest and birds all around. Of course, it was raining (we were in the rainforest).
We drove further up into the mountains, passing by the Rainforest Shangri-La Resort, with its steaming gas and sulphuric smell.
Finally, we finished off the day by going to “the spa”. We drove to Ti Kwen Glocho at Wotten Waven, and used the family owned spa, paying a $ 5 US entrance fee. This place had totally natural hot and cold baths using water that was piped (in bamboo trunks) around.
Diane got her “long awaited” tub bath.
As I post this blog, we are now in Rodney Bay St Lucia. We’ve had windlass problems over the past two months and have decided to move up from an IDEAL V3C to a V4C. This will solve the intermittent fault and give us sufficient lifting power to also move up one size with our Rocna anchor, from 33kg to 40kg. Therefore, we expect to be in Rodney Bay for a week or two, including some time at dock - before heading South to our ultimate destination for this season, Chaguaramas Trinidad.
27 April 2013 - Portsmouth Dominica
We’ve been in Dominica now for about 10 days. It has taken me a while to make up and post a blog. I’ll blame my tardiness on extended periods of rain, then inactivity, then too much activity. We’re now on a mooring ball just off the capital at Roseau, and expecting to sail South to Martinique in a day or two.
Dominica is an island of 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) in surface area with many high volcanic peaks (the highest has an elevation of 1,447 metres (4,747 ft)). 71,293 Dominicans live here. Dominica has been nicknamed the "Nature Isle of the Caribbean" for its unspoiled natural beauty and specializes in “eco-tourism”. All-inclusive resorts are not permitted - at least by the current government. It is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles, and is still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity. The island features lush mountainous rainforest, and is the home to many rare plant, animal, and bird species. Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it, a Sunday (dominica in Latin), November 3, 1493. In the hundred years after Columbus's landing, Dominica remained isolated, and even more Caribs settled there after being driven from surrounding islands as the European powers entered the region. France formally ceded possession of Dominica to Great Britain in 1763 and in 1838, Dominica became the first British Caribbean colony to have a legislature controlled by a black majority - and they finally became an independent nation on 3 November 1978.
Shortly after our arrival from Les Saintes, it rained pretty much non-stop for about 3 days. This made going ashore and basically any leisure activities undesirable. Although we did walk up to Fort Shirley for a visit.
After the rain stopped and the rivers slowed down, the water started to clear up and we were able to get started on SCUBA diving the Northern sites. We linked up with two local guys (Don Mitchell and Fabian Honore) of Island Dive Operation (IDO) (+17672762041)(DeeDee985@hotmail.com). These guys specialize in very small groups, one or two divers that the bigger operators aren’t interested in. Don and Fabian took us to 4 of the Northern Dive sites.
This first photo is of a small spotted ray (about 2 feet in length) that I took when we were at a depth of about 60 feet. I’ve seen many rays in the past, and I’m cautious not to touch any kind of sea life. When I was about 2 feet away, I waved my hand to make a small wave, and startled the ray so that he nudged forward. This was innocent enough, but unfortunately, I didn’t notice that my camera (suspended below my vest) followed up by touching his tail. The ray then shot off in a zig-zag pattern and immediately bolted back and flicked his tail at my right wrist. I got the unexpected shock of my life, at 60 feet! I rolled up my sleeve as I really felt like I had been bitten. No sign of blood, no sign of any bite mark. Wow, that shocked me! After about a minute, I carried on my dive with a very healthy respect for sting-rays.
Another curious creature that I saw was a group of garden eels. These little fellows live in groups, burrowing beneath the sea floor and poking their heads out. As I got closer, they then withdrew to the safety of their hole leaving no evidence of their existence.
There were lots of fish and we were often surrounded by hundreds of different fish.
Fabian took us through a cave/tunnel. Inside the tunnel he speared a lionfish and when we emerged on the other side, we later swam over the roof of the cave to see our bubbles leaving the coral.
We’re seeing more and more of the invasive species of lionfish throughout the Eastern Caribbean. On these reefs, our divemaster brought his hawaiian sling and speared dozens of them. After spearing one, he’d use a pair of surgical scissors to trim the poisonous barbs and then store the still living fish in his bag - for later cooking/eating.
Here are more photos that I thought were of interest.
Finally, this is a shot of Don, Fabian’s cousin and partner. Don also dives, but for our dives he kept himself busy trimming and filleting the lionfish.
We’ve moved down to Roseau, the capital and the next post will be about our guided tour of the south of the island.
11 April 2013 - Les Saintes (a part of Guadeloupe)
We have been moored (on a mooring ball rather than secured to the bottom with an anchor) at Les Saintes now for a week. Christopher Columbus discovered this small archipelago, on 4 November 1493. He named them "Los Santos", in reference to All Saints Day which had just been celebrated. Around 1523, along with its neighbours, these islands, which were devoid of precious metals, were abandoned by the Spanish who favoured the Greater Antilles and the South American continent. This, eventually was to the benefit of the French who took it over and made it part of the country of Guadeloupe. The harbour water is crystal clear and it is obvious that the townspeople want to keep it that way.
To get around on this island, you can walk, rent an electric bike or gas powered scooter. Yes, there are actually a few tourist taxi/vans as well, but they’re huge. We opted to walk. Its a bit of exercise, but good for you. I didn’t think this was a good place to use our folding bikes since just about every walk involved hills, and plenty of them.
The main street is a bit narrow, but very neat and tidy. There are lots of little souvenir shops, restaurants etc. My overall impression is very favourable. There are several grocery stores and even bakeries where you can get fresh baguettes just as they come out of the oven.
We stopped at a small restaurant and had bokits for lunch. This is kind of like a hamburger, but the bun is quite a bit different and the ingredients vary tremendously. Very tasty though.
On many of the hilltops you’ll find ruins of old forts, or old buildings of some kind, cactus and goats, although not necessarily in that order.
On one of our walks, we had a look at the beach and tourist area around Pain de Sucre. It seems to be a very secluded area and a popular place for a small, beautiful and protected beach.
On one of our walk-abouts we stopped for a photo opportunity in the town square. On the left is Lynn and Ken of SV Silverheels III. On the right, of course, is Wade and Diane of SV Joana.
We finally nailed down Ken and Lynn for a game of Mexican train dominoes (Diane’s rules)!
We’re now waiting for an appropriate weather window to move South to Dominica, and considering our options for a new windlass as it is giving me problems again, but this time its not the gearbox but the electric motor. I've taken the electric motor out, given it a good clean and checked all the contacts. The fault is intermittent, seemingly failing just when I want to use it, as opposed to “test it”. I think we're going to be buying and installing a new one, but we’re definitely on “our own” to make this decision and go with it. When it comes to boats and services, there is nothing to buy here, no boat services at all. You can't even buy diesel or gasoline! Lifting 120 feet (or more) of chain and a 73 lb anchor by hand is less than ideal. At the moment, we’re considering having a new gearbox and motor shipped from Rhode Island to Rodney Bay St Lucia, and installing it there as we move South towards Trinidad.
31 March 2013 - Guadeloupe
This past week, we have been anchored at Pointe-a-Pitre and visited the country of Guadeloupe, by rental car and on foot. We’ve never been ashore in Guadeloupe and were committed to seeing it. Guadeloupe is located in the Leeward Islands, specifically in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres (629 sq. mi) and a population of 400,000. Guadeloupe is composed of two islands in the shape of a lopsided butterfly, with a river separating the two halves. It is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. Guadeloupe is an integral part of France, as are the other overseas departments like Martinique. Besides Guadeloupe island, the smaller islands of Marie-Galante, La Desirade and the Isles de Saintes are included in the Guadeloupe department.
As part of France, Guadeloupe is part of the European Union and the Eurozone (but not part of the Schengen Area - which would impact on our visas); hence, as for all Eurozone countries, its currency is the euro - and yes, everything is more expensive. The capital of Guadeloupe is Basse-Terre although the business hub seems to be Pointe a Pitre. The official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Creole and some have a limited knowledge of English. Having said that, it makes me wonder why Quebecers are so adamant about protecting the French language and using the word “stationment” for example, whereas the French are much more European or cosmopolitan about language ......
During his second trip to America, in November 1493, Christopher Columbus became the first European to land on Guadeloupe, while seeking fresh water. The island was first colonized by the Spanish, but they were eventually repelled by the indigenous Carib Indians. Then the island changed hands between the French and the British several times over the next 500 years, and believe it or not -- actually became Swedish for a 15 month period in 1813. Guadeloupe finally became part of France with the Treaty of Vienna in 1815.
From our very secure anchorage, we had a good view of the two marinas nearby, the city waterfront, industrial zones and plenty of vessel traffic (during daytime hours). The wake from ferries, cruise ships, tankers, barges and container ships was trivial.
We were particularly impressed with the quantity and variety of boats in the marinas at Point-a-Pitre, there are supposedly more than 1000 at dock. In this photo, you can see that the boats are all tied stern-to, Med-moor fashion, and look at the little sailboat in the middle. This little boat is only about 19 feet long. On the left is a 27 footer and on the right, perhaps a 36 footer. This little 19 footer is from Brussels Belgium!
With our walking tour of Point-a-Pitre, we found evidence of fast-food culture, with both KFC and MacDonald’s in the city. MacDonald’s, by the way, did not have wifi.
There are plenty of apartment buildings and the look of the surroundings is definitely reminiscent of the suburbs of Paris.
I found this city playground for children stood out. I can’t say I’ve noticed one of these in other Caribbean islands. It has rubberized surfaces and is well fenced.
City hall looks very dreary, although it should withstand the elements.
Like all tourists, we like to visit not only the churches, but the graveyards as well. The graveyard at Point-a-Pitre is located on a hill in the middle of the city with commanding views of the waterfront. This particular graveyard was nearly completely filled with crypts and it was difficult to actually find any dirt. Although the view looks like the city landscape, it isn’t. This graveyard is as big as a town, with small “houses” to match.
One observation that I’ve been dying to make is the absence of toilet seats. Yes, I did notice this in Cuba and both of us have noticed the phenomenon to the extent that in much of the Caribbean it is nearly impossible to find a toilet with a seat. Women, take notice. You really have to get into a hotel or nice restaurant to find one with a seat, and I suppose this might be true for much of Europe as well.
We rented a car for a self-directed two day island tour. We really did drive around the whole island(s) on every major road and many smaller ones as well. As expected, the leeward side is noticeably drier than the windward side. Our first destination was the Carbet waterfalls on Basse Terre. As we got closer and closer, the roads became narrower and we began to doubt our directions. However, we did find the site, and did manage the 1-plus hour hike in to the falls.
Like the roads, the hike in got tougher and tougher, the closer we got. In fact, when we were only 10 minutes away, and could hear the sound of the falling water, there was an ominous legal sign that said in French that the falls were closed and had been closed for the past 5 years. BUGGER! Nonetheless, we continued on, traversing hand over hand down the well travelled trail.
The water was cold, clean, refreshing and very private. Yes, we had a swim. As we were climbing out, other tourists were starting to arrive. I found it very curious that the parking lot had a space marked out for handicap parking, when it is quite obvious that nobody with a wheelchair could have even rolled around in the parking lot, never take the trail to the waterfall.....
Continuing on with our tour, we drove up and down, across switch-backs and along beaches. The scenery, to be honest, was frequently breath-taking.
One complaint about the French islands that I have is “crappy internet”. Although we have a good Bullet 2HP external antenna and amplifier, there are no unlocked wifi signals to be found. Therefore, in order to access the internet we have to revert to noisy cafes and restaurants with poor internet. Surprisingly, there are no entrepreneurs selling the service on shore that can be accessed remotely. Yes, there are proper internet cafes (open Mon-Fri from 9 to 5pm), but seating is crowded, the atmosphere is noisy and its expensive. There is a business opportunity here, and I can’t believe nobody sees it. I could raise another complaint - and that is the same one that I find in many parts of Europe, or at least the Southern parts. People don’t see the requirement to clean-up after their dogs. You must be careful walking the sidewalks during daytime, and I wouldn’t dare do it at night. If I step in some dog shit and then it tracks back into the dinghy and then the boat, it is very troublesome.....
Guadeloupe, like France, has a very good transportation network, very well signed. Also like in Europe, the gasoline at the service stations is a little more than $ 2 per litre.
The marina dock at Bas de Fort is very small and quite discouraging for a marina that boasts nearly 1000 dock spaces. You can hardly believe it, but several people raise their outboard motors (to prevent salt water deterioration) and this poses a serious hazard to other people with inflatable dinghies. If one of our tubes burst from being pressed against a sharp propeller, it will be difficult and costly to repair. Knowledgeable and considerate boaters do not follow this selfish practice.
While we were in St Lucia two months ago, Allan Dobson on SV Carrick gave us five diesel jerry cans (made in Spain and that he no longer needed after his Atlantic crossing). Although we’ve had these stored on deck and UV protected with sunbrella, two of the cans had plastic cracks forming and actually weeped diesel on the foredeck. Therefore, we’ve decided against storing any cans on deck, discarded these two bad cans - and have reverted to carrying four cans in total, all in the engine room. We figured that if we have to move fuel in our dinghy, four cans is a good compromise.
We figure that our time on the mainland of Guadeloupe is up. When the weather is favourable, we’re going to head South to Les Saintes - where we believe we can finally have internet on the boat, for a small cost.
23 March 2013 - Point a Pitre, Guadeloupe
After two poor night’s sleep, we finally slept well last night. We left Martinique on 21 March, having felt that we gave it an adequate look. We sailed to the Northernmost anchorage at St Pierre to stage for our next leg. At 2100, after we watched a movie, we came up on deck to find a French catamaran owner (not a charterer) who had anchored extremely close to us. It was way too close for comfort. I walked up on deck and tried to have a polite conversation with the owner, who was on deck with about 8 people laughing and having a jolly time. I asked if anyone there spoke English, and of course the answer was NO. So, in my best French, I told them that there was a problem. Their boat was currently sitting ON TOP of my anchor and they were too close. “Pay attention tomorrow morning at 0500, please”. We were awake and having breakfast at 0500, and at exactly 0600, I was up on deck and pulling in the chain. The owner was sitting in his cockpit, had the engine running and moved the boat forward a bit so that I could recover my anchor. We politely thanked him and then left. The French anchor a lot closer than North Americans.
On 21 March we sailed to Portsmouth Dominica, where we only anchored for the night. We were there 2 years ago, took 3 tours and really liked it - but we wanted to use favourable wind conditions to SAIL to Point a Pitre Guadeloupe. Unfortunately, we had a nuisance SW swell and it made sleeping difficult. The next day we had an East wind of 12-15 knots giving us a beam reach sail all the way to Guadeloupe and SOG of 5.5 to 7 knots. Landfall at Point a Pitre was interesting as we’d never been here before. Point a Pitre is the capital of Guadeloupe, another island that we had never visited, bypassing it on our way South two years ago. This is a photo I took of the approaching land.
After motoring into the very secure harbour, we decided to anchor near the Coast Guard facility, just North of the marina and South of the city. The bottom is cement-like mud. The holding is very good, but we did make three attempts at anchoring until our position was good, and not going to interfere with the well marked navigation channel. We were looking for a comfortable anchorage with an approaching North swell arriving this weekend - and I think we’ve got it. We’re going to stay here for a week or so, giving us sufficient time to explore ashore and will report on that with the next blog. The harbour water doesn’t look clean enough to swim in, and maybe not even good enough to run the water-maker.
12 March 2013 - Martinique, an Island Tour
One of the first unique things we saw after arriving on Martinique a little more than a week ago was this dry-dock set up in Le Marin. On the morning when we zipped by with our dinghy, there was a catamaran inside getting painted. Four hours later it was empty. I wonder what the charges are like, and it does look convenient.
Unlike every other island we’ve been to, it seems that it is next to impossible to arrange a guided island tour of Martinique. I don’t know if finding an English guide is the issue, or possibly its the cost. Since they use the euro, things seem more expensive, at least to me. Everybody we’ve spoken to has said “just rent a car”. So, a couple of days ago we decided to rent a car and do our own island tour together with Peter and Anne of SV Spice of Life (out of Toronto). We found a company that has cars as cheap as 35 euros per day, although the one we rented was 47 euros per day (all costs inclusive except fuel). Still, this is a very reasonable price when you can split it with another couple.
One of our stops was the St James Rhum Distillery. In the past two years we’ve also toured Rum Distilleries in Grenada and St Lucia and it is obvious that this one puts the others to shame. I found the St James plant to look clean, efficient and hygienic. Distilleries on other islands can’t compare.
Another stop was “Jardin Balata”, a botanical garden situated in the rainforest. At first, I was a little hesitant to visit this place because the entrance fee was 14 euros per person. Yes, we are on a perpetual holiday, but we are also “retired and on a fixed income”. I don’t want to spend “our savings” just to have a good time. However, after visiting the grounds, I came to realize that the entrance fee was good value, and the grounds were exceptionally well done. There was also a “canopy walk” where you could walk above the ground on suspension bridges.
We drove up to the Northern town of St Pierre, where we had lunch and visited the church. This church was the only building that survived Mount Pelee’s last eruption on 8 May 1902 when the entire city of 30,000 perished (except for one prisoner in the jail, can you believe it?). Twelve ships in the bay were also lost. Afterwards, the capital moved up to Fort de France.
This is a nice country view with Mount Pelee off in the distance.
In the afternoon, we drove as close as we could get to the base of Mount Pelee with our rental car. If you can arrive in the morning, it looks like a good walk up to the summit, but it was too late for us to start. The views were spectacular.
We went to the modern day capital of Fort de France on a Sunday, but all the shops were closed. Only a few restaurants were open. We were entertained by some local kite flyers at the waterfront.
The infrastructure, consisting of roads, ports, drainage, hospitals etc is quite obviously significantly better on Martinique than any other island. In fact, I would make the observation that the smaller the population, the less infrastructure there will be. To make it even more difficult to compete, Martinique is still a department of France and benefits from subsidies and assistance - including from the European Union (EU).
These apartment buildings, like many others - had solar panels on the roofs. We came across several solar farms with hundreds if not thousands of panels. Recycling is also common here, the only island that we’ve found it.
At Le Vauclin, we came across a local “Yole” race. Apparently this is a popular Sunday sport on the island, where the locals race on these wooden boats, with no keel - and they use their bodies as movable ballast. The sails are completely rectangular, wrapped around a gaff bisecting the sail at a 45 degree angle. The mast and gaff are simple bamboo trunks, painted for effect. We’ve heard that each village has their own races, culminating once a year in a race around the island for top honours.
I’ve heard it said that “Tobago, at least the Northern part at Charlotteville (where we stayed last year for 7 weeks) - is the way the Caribbean used to be”. If that’s true, then “Martinique is the way that the Caribbean - should be, and all the other islands are “the way it is”.
Back home we frequently buy boxed wine because its cheaper. Yes, here you can get boxed wine, but you can also get boxed rhum (or rum) in the grocery stores.
Banana trees line the streets just like corn fields are at the edge of the road back home.
On another topic, yesterday, we ran into our friends Peter and Catherine Zarzecki aboard SV Charlotte D. We first met them in Kingston Ontario way back in 1999-2000 when they had brought their boat to Kingston Marina for some intensive work. They are now fully retired and have been enjoying every bit of the Caribbean aboard the Charlotte D in the winter, and living in Cape Breton Nova Scotia in the remainder of the year. It was great to catch up with them. They’re heading South to Grenada (for a haul-out) while we are heading North to Guadaloupe. Their blog shows that they’re really enjoying their cruising lifestyle.
4 March 2013 - Back in St Anne Martinique
This is a parting shot of St Lucia, in particular Soufriere. We’ve always found it interesting the way that the local fishermen stand in their pirogues both in the morning on the way out to their fishing grounds and later when they return. We’ve never noticed it on any other island. Stability? Optimal space? A curious behaviour.
We had a wonderful sail North from St Lucia yesterday. It was one of those trips where we used the motor when exiting Rodney Bay, and again when entering St Anne - but sailed on a close reach for the other 3.5 hours. The sun was shining, winds were 20-25 knots, and seas were only 3-4 feet - great conditions. Unfortunately, St Anne (and Martinique in general) is one of those places that despite the proliferation of wifi signals, none of them are unlocked. The tragedy is that we cannot get Internet from the boat, and we are forced to either buy time onshore in an Internet cafe, or take a meal somewhere that offers free Internet. Neither scenario is a real burden.
Its too early to write about Martinique since we just cleared in this morning - but I can step into the technical area and blog about our “new” water power generator. By the way, our Lithium batteries in the house-bank are working extremely well. Since leaving Trinidad in mid December, we’ve had two night sails and the voltage during the night passage never dropped below 13.0V, compared to 12.0V or 11.9V with the AGM lead acid batteries. Since we don’t have a wind vane, our electrical usage while sailing (day and night) is pretty high - because of the consumption of the fridge/freezer/instruments/lights and autopilot! High enough that I’ve always wanted lots of solar and wind to satisfy that requirement - and any other form of electrical generation will be considered......
While in Rodney Bay a month ago, I was extremely fortunate to be able to buy a second hand Hamilton Ferris water power generator (WP-200) from another cruiser who no longer needed it (at a steal of a price, $ 200 versus $ 1400 new). His one complaint was that his fishing line got caught up in the spinner and it was a “hell-of-a-mess” to try and untangle. I’ve been looking at water driven generators for at least 10 years. A friend of mine, Allan Skjodt, installed a shaft driven DC generator in the engine room of his Roberts 53 - The Great Dane. This meant though that his prop, shaft and transmission would all work when sailing. I opted for a “feathering” prop, the UK built Auto-prop - to get zero drag when sailing. As far as I know, there are only 3 commercially available water generators:
The US built Hamilton Ferris WP-200 (approximately $ 1400). Theoretical charging curve (into a half-full battery) shown below.
The UK built Aquair 100
The UK built Watt & Sea (new product and costing approximately $ 6000)
This water driven DC generator (12V, 4-10A proportional to speed) is used by many on long passages. The only obvious thing it needed after purchase was a paint job.
After giving my “new” generator a paint job, sourcing some mounting hardware and making up a “retrieval” funnel - I mounted it on the stern and gave it a field test on the sail North to Martinique. I needed to assemble the “spinner” (SS rod and propeller) and the line on deck. It was a little tricky actually deploying it because once the spinner hits the water, it starts to turn and twist the line. The objective is to toss the assembly in the water and NOT get it all tangled up. The photo on the right shows the generator ready for action, and the black “retrieval” funnel was not included with the purchase. Diane and I made this up ourselves, using an existing large plastic funnel, velcro straps and some rivets. Without this funnel ..... it would be very difficult to pull in the line!
Looking down the line, it was nice to see it continuously twisting and making current. The line is 75 feet long and I never really saw the propeller. It seemed to stay submerged for the 3 hour test. The manufacturer states that it will start to pop out of the water at higher speeds, and to counter this - you can add small brass weights. Although for this test, the boat speed was between 6 and 8 knots, current was 5 to 10A, and the propeller stayed submerged.
They say that “the proof is in the pudding”. While the generator was spinning and we were sailing at about 6 knots, I used my clamp-on ammeter to check the current and verified that we were sending 6A to the battery bank. This photo shows the voltmeter and idiot light that I installed to monitor this device. Rather than send a new wire pair all the way to the panel, I connected in to the existing water pump circuit in the engine room. This saved money and time in the installation.
Now that my newly acquired water power generator has been cleaned up, installed and tested, I can store it in a locker until a long passage (one of at least 3 days) comes up. When I came across this deal, the first thing I thought of was that perhaps this was an omen that our South Pacific passage isn’t that far on the horizon after all .......
20 February 2013 - Soufriere St Lucia
Last year while we were in Soufriere, we went diving in the marine park with Action Adventure Divers - run by brothers Chester and “Bones” Nathoniel. These guys operate a St Lucian “pirogue” and a PADI dive shop out of the Hummingbird Beach Resort. Its not allowed to dive in St Lucia (snorkel yes, but dive - no) unless you’re accompanied by a guide. Some people may look at this as a “tax” or a “way to get money off the tourists” but depending on the company, I believe there is great value in having a guide. Besides, most of the islands have this kind of arrangement. Chester and Bones picked us up on our boat each morning and brought us back after the dive. We supplied all the equipment, and they supplied the tank. Our cost was only $ 35US per dive. We didn’t have to look for the reef, or keep an eye on our dinghy (which can be difficult when you’re underwater). Sometimes when you surface, you’re a long ways from where you entered the water - and this is where Bones came in handy, by driving over to pick us up. I did 5 dives, one per morning - and Diane did 4 dives. I took 242 photos, and culled nearly half of them before starting to look seriously at what I had. There is a very good cross section of marine life on the reefs at Soufriere, with abundant live coral and species of fish. It would be foolish to post all of my photos here, but I’ll show a sampling.
There is an invasion of lionfish going on in the Caribbean waters right now. The lionfish is a popular saltwater aquarium fish with distinctive maroon (or brown) and white stripes, fleshy tentacles above the eyes and below the mouth, and an imposing fan of prickly venemous spines. Although not fatal, the sting of a lionfish is extremely painful. Because these fish are not aggressive toward people, contact and poisoning is usually accidental.
The lionfish's sharp, slender spines contain a venom, and a sting causes intense pain, redness and swelling around the wound site. Although the worst of the pain is over after an hour or two, some people report pain and tingling sensations around the wound for several days or weeks. On rare occasions, when the venom spreads to other parts of the body, people may experience headaches, chills, cramps, nausea, and even paralysis and seizures.
Lionfish are native to coral reefs in the warm, tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. They prey on a wide variety of smaller fishes, shrimps and crabs, and have few predators in their native range, where they occupy the upper levels of the food chain. At present, little is known about how other coral reef species in the lionfish's "adopted" environment of the Atlantic Ocean might fare against them.
On some of the dives, Chester brought his speargun with him and did his part to reduce the lionfish population. On one dive he killed 5. On another dive he killed 12. If the opportunity presents itself, he’ll offer the spear (with lionfish attached) to a moray eel for “breakfast”. This was very interesting to watch, but difficult to get a photo of. In any event, here are some photos of Chester’s contribution to controlling the lionfish population.
13 February 2013 - Soufriere St Lucia
Martin/Jane/Luke Robertson come for a visit
As planned, Martin and Jane Robertson (and their son Luke and friend Jordan) arrived on the island on Friday and took their rooms at the Coconut Beach Resort, about an hours drive from where we were anchored at Soufriere (at the base of the Pitons). On Sunday, they took a taxi from their resort to spend the day with us on our mooring. It was great to catch up with Martin and Jane, not having seen them since we left Europe 5.5 years ago. Martin has just taken “early” retirement after working with the British MOD for nearly 40 years! The first thing on the agenda was to take Martin, Luke and Jordan snorkeling on the nearby reef. Later in the week, Martin returned to nearly the same site with a dive operator.
Onshore, we walked around the town of Soufriere on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Surprising to us, there are nearly 15,000 inhabitants here, many employed in a variety of ways, some supporting the tourist industry. Soufriere is a Customs/Immigration checkpoint and serves as a convenient waypoint for those transiting to/from St Vincent. We’ve been here before, and particularly enjoyed the diving.
For the third time in two years, we did an island tour of St Lucia. Maybe next year we can start to give this tour ourselves? Having said that, we did enjoy the trip and beyond our belief actually saw/did many different things. Our tour guide was “King Nigel” of Memorable Tours (phone +1-758-720-0178 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Nigel’s claim to fame is helping people discover St. Lucia and escaping from the usual tourist traps and crowds. We first took the Tet Paul Nature Trail, a most enjoyable walk through the plantation and absolutely stunning views from the appropriately named “stairway to heaven”.
Next, we drove to the Soufriere sulphur mud baths - which was a first for us. We’ve walked by twice before, wondering whether this was pleasurable or not as we looked at the hordes of tourists. To our relief, we found that the hot mud baths were both soothing and rejuvenating.
We had a quick rinse off there and then went to the Petit Piton mineral baths for a more thorough clean in the naturally warm thermal water.
Then, we drove to Nigel’s Aunt’s home for a substantial, tasty and economical meal (one of the best we’ve had). The final bit of the tour was the Diamond Botanical Gardens, where unfortunately my camera battery died. However, we’d been there twice before so we didn’t need any more photos of the plants. Here's Martin demonstrating the correct way to blow a conch horn (something I've never been able to do yet).
Tomorrow, we’ll start SCUBA diving again with Action Adventure Divers.
4 February 2013 - Rodney Bay St Lucia
Yes, we’re still here. The weather has been fantastic, with mostly clear days, sunny with temperatures between 26C and 30C - and windy as well. We would have sailed North in the direction of Martinique a week ago, but we’re expecting visitors! A British colleague and friend from my Brussels days (2003-2007) Martin Robertson (and his wife Jane and son Luke) are coming to St Lucia to a resort on the South end of the island at the end of this week. We’re looking forward to seeing them.
In the meantime, we’ve kept busy with the usual day-to-day stuff, and occasionally something a little different. This morning, for example, on the cruisers net I asked if anyone had any positive experience with getting scissors sharpened on shore. I made the same plea in Trinidad last summer and in Grenada the summer before. It has gotten to the point where I use my Drill Doctor and sharpen my own bits. Usually, once a year I sit down for a couple of hours and work through 4 boxes of drill bits, sharpening nearly every one of them. Yes, it takes time, but I’d rather sharpen bits up before a future job than during the job!
Nobody could give me any tips on where to take my scissors for sharpening, so I pulled out my Lee Valley wet stone and sharpened them up myself, following some tips on the Internet. I don’t think its all that easy, and at least one pair of scissors were too dull to take the edge. We just threw them in the garbage. I did improve the edge on six pair of scissors.
While I had the materials out, I also figured that my chisels could do with sharpening. Now this is something that I’ll have to ask my friend Pat Imai about. He is ex-military (like me) and chiseling his way through retirement, working on wood, stone and even stained glass windows! I’ll bet that Pat Imai could show me how to get a good edge on these chisels.
After leaving the marina, I’ve given the hull a superficial cleaning to remove two months (one month at dock in Trinidad and one month in St Lucia) of marina growth - slime and a few barnacles. My impression is that the ultrasonic antifouling system that I installed in Trinidad is indeed working - but I’ll wait a few months before I give my endorsement. There is a 12V power consumption as well, estimated at about 22Ahr per day. Marina growth, particularly in Rodney Bay where the lagoon water is quite stagnant - can grow quickly and be difficult to remove.
And us - well, we’re out for dinner tonight, at Cafe Ole in the marina - good Internet (for a Magic Jack call and to update this page).
28 January 2013 - Rodney Bay St Lucia (anchored)
Having “The World” in your backyard!
We woke up yesterday morning to find that “The World” was anchored behind us in the bay. The World is a cruise ship (or more accurately - a floating condominium) serving as a residential community owned by its residents. The residents, from about 40 different countries, live on board as the ship travels the globe—staying in most ports from 2 to 5 days. The World flies the flag of the Bahamas and has a gross tonnage of 43,524 tons. It is 644 feet (196 m) long, 98 feet (30 m) wide, and has a 22-foot (6.7 m) draft, 12 decks, and a maximum speed of 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h). Compared to us, well SV Joana has a gross tonnage of 34 tons, is 53 feet long, 16’ 8” wide and has a 7 foot draft - and one deck - and a maximum speed of about 10 knots (downhill). The World has 165 residential units (106 apartments, 19 studio apartments, and 40 studios), all owned by the ship's residents. It carries between 100 and 300 residents and their guests - and is supported by a crew of 250. It is a fascinating and unique concept, truly for the rich and famous. Residents pay something like $ 20,000 per month as “condo fees”.
We are really pleased to be back on anchor. Staying in a marina has its pluses, but also its minuses. For example, it is nice to be next to a floating dock, where you can get off at any time and take a walk to see a friend or go to the store. It is nice to have the water and electricity hookup where you don’t need to be concerned about running the generator or the watermaker. However, being dockside means that you lose your privacy and can have unexpected visitors at any time. It means that I can’t prance around in my underwear all the time. It means that there is less wind for ventilation and we have to rely on either a big fan or an air conditioner. It also means an increased risk of pests like cockroaches, bees, ants, rats, mice or even house flies. Being on anchor is much cheaper, quieter, cooler and more private.
Now for something slightly technical. Most marine diesel engines (our Volvo and ONAN generators being examples) are sea-water cooled. The motor has a mechanically driven waterpump that pulls in sea water, circulates it through a heat exchanger - and then injects it into the exhaust system for exit at the stern. That is why marine diesel engines have “wet” exhaust. However, you must be careful with the installation. If the injection point into the exhaust elbow is below the water line, or even close to the water line, you must have an anti-siphon break in order to minimize the risk of seawater siphoning back into the exhaust and consequently into the motor. Believe me, this is not a “remote” possibility, we have spoken to many cruisers who have had engine failure due to seawater siphoning and there is a brand new Malo 46 in the Rodney Bay marina that had this happen on their Atlantic crossing. The engine is ruined and must be replaced. Therefore, it is important to get this anti-siphon break right. I have one in place with the Volvo and it doesn’t give me any trouble. It is simply a loop in the hose, with a smaller hose fitted to the top and running to the aft cockpit drain. When the Volvo is running, we can hear the water spilling into the aft starboard cockpit drain. It tells us that the cooling circuit is fine, and that the anti-siphon loop is not blocked. When I installed the ONAN generator, it came with a special anti-siphon loop (and instructions for installation) that had a small spring and valve built-in at the top.
I became suspicious of this anti-siphon loop and valve the day I installed it. Based on what I saw and what I read online, it was failure prone - and merited close observation. Over the last 10 years I have looked at this loop from time to time but only a month ago noticed that it was leaking (the bilge pump turned on). I removed the loop, cleaned it in muriatic acid (works well with bronze components), verified the spring and valve operated and then reinstalled it. For the next week or so, I looked at it every time the generator was running and much to my disappointment, the valve was again showing signs that it was leaking (just a drip every 5 seconds). Therefore, today I decided to get rid of the valve and spring mechanism altogether, replacing them with a 1/4” hose that drains into the aft cockpit starboard drain. No more leaking.
21 January 2013 - Rodney Bay St Lucia (IGY Marina)
Ready to leave dock .....
All the repairs are done. We picked up and hoisted the repaired mainsail last week (good repair and a fair price). On Sunday, Chinaman finished his role in fabricating version 3.0 of the 200A alternator bracket. He is a very busy man, with a lot of boaters and locals after him to work on jobs. His shop has all the big tools, but none of the fancy waiting rooms or free coffee dispensers!
I had to wait about a week to get him to start on this job, but he did finish it in about 7 days once he started. The bracket is built of very heavy steel, and made to last. The alignment is spot-on, just what you’d expect from him. I had to make 4 trips (walking about 2 km) to the radiator repair shop to get the right belts. Previously, we used 39” belts but with this bracket we’re now using 48” belts. The turnbuckle is a major advance in tension adjustment, and this was difficult with the previous bracket. With these photos you can see the front and top views.
We’re talking more and more about visiting the Western Caribbean, the Panama Canal and eventually, the South Pacific. When building SV Joana, I thought that we were carrying enough fuel at approximately 200 gallons. However, when talking to people who have ventured more off the beaten track, not only do they recommend carrying fuel, but they carry jerry cans on deck. I’ve never liked the looks of jerry cans of water, diesel and gasoline on deck, but many places just don’t have adequate marinas or docks to come alongside to get diesel. Sure, we’ve got a watermaker so we can make our own water, and we can easily carry gasoline in a jerry can or two -- but what to do about diesel? Even when we were in Tobago last year, we bought fuel onshore but there was no dock or marina to use. We were forced to borrow jerry cans and move them in our dinghy, since we only carry one 5 gallon “spare” diesel can in the engine room. However, all this changed a few days ago when our generous neighbour (Allan Dobson on S/Y Carrick) donated 5 plastic diesel cans he bought in Portugal three months ago in preparation for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) sailing from the Canaries to St Lucia. On arrival, all 5 cans were still full. Allan gave us all 5 cans, and 3 of them were still full. Since SV Joana has a 3/4 degree list to port, we decided to put all 5 cans on the starboard bow, appropriately covered (Diane made a cover our of Sunbrella) and lashed down. This still leaves 1 can in the engine room. I think that we could put all 6 cans in the dinghy for a refueling operation. We’ll see how this works.
We plan on leaving the marina on Wednesday, and them moving down to the Pitons for a week of diving. In a couple of weeks we’re destined to meet up with Martin and Jane Robertson, who are traveling to St Lucia on a holiday for cold and wet England.
12 January 2013 - Rodney Bay St Lucia
Yesterday, a Canadian couple stopped by our boat and we had a chat at dockside. Often, we’ll have people stop by and say “Oh, we’re Canadians from the Ottawa area and just wanted to meet you ....”. As it turned out, we had actually met this couple, Phil and Leona Morley - 2 years before. As we exchanged boat cards, I immediately recognized theirs (it had a large compass on it). Later, as I was looking through my plastic boat card organizer, I found their card, where I had written on the back “Georgetown Jan 2011”. Then we remembered that we had met this couple on the beach in Georgetown Bahamas, at a cruiser meeting (of some 25 to 30 cruisers) where people were discussing their goals of moving further South. Georgetown Bahamas is a well known turning point (nicknamed Velcro Harbour) and probably 90% of the cruisers who reach it, don’t venture further South. As it turned out, this couple did move South along the North coast of the Dominican Republic whereas we travelled the South coast. We try to keep boat cards that were given to us by people that we think we’ll meet again, writing a few keywords on the back to help us remember something about them. Since we’ve met so many people over the past 4 years, this is not an easy task, but is made much easier by using a container of some kind.
In any event, we invited Phil and Leona over for sundowners where we discussed sailing strategy and life’s turns. As it turns out, Phil is a retired Canadian Forces Chaplain, having spent time in the Airborne Regiment, the Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force. We never came across each other while “in uniform”, but we’ve been to many of the same places and have met many of the same people. As a Chaplain, he had a great deal of operational experience with the Army and Air Force. Like me, he reflected back on his time in both the Regular and Reserve Force with fondness.
After sundowners, we proceeded to Elena’s restaurant for some thin crust tasty pizza at Rodney Bay Marina. Diane had her favourite, Hawaiian, while I had the pizza quattro formagii (4 cheeses). This was not local cuisine (which is often cheap) but a tourist favourite (and comes with tourist pricing), but it was convenient and good tasting.
By the way, this is what our boat card looks like. In the beginning, I self-produced these cards using our own printer and special card paper. However, last summer I bought 1000 cards using Vista Print online, for under $ 30 including delivery and taxes. It just isn’t economical to do them yourself anymore.
5 January 2013 - Rodney Bay St Lucia
Another year away from winter!
Well, as I write this blog, it occurs to me that we’re spending yet another year away from winter, slush, snow, blinding snow, slippery walks etc. However, I’ll have to admit that there are elements of the winter season that I miss, like the brilliant sunny days and how beautiful the landscape looks when it is covered in a bright white snowy blanket.......
We’ve now been in Rodney Bay for two weeks. The mainsail has been taken to the sail loft for repair. The shaft coupling / flexible coupling was repaired and re-engineered yesterday by Lawrence, aka Chinaman. He is the very capable man (of Chinese / Guianese descent) who owns/operates the welding and fabrication shop on the Rodney Bay Marina grounds. He fabricated a pole for my Spreco wind generator last year. I turned to him for a referral to do the engine alignment, and he referred me to himself. Who knew you could get so many people in my engine room? As it turns out, he is quite good at it - and I understudied him for future reference ....
Now that the engine transmission and shaft have been properly aligned and the coupling re-fitted, Chinaman will be working next on Version 3.0 of the 200A alternator mount. I say Version 3.0 because Jack and I fabricated Version 2.0 while in Summerside PEI in May 2009. I’m betting that Chinaman will finally be able to fabricate a sturdy and sustainable mount.
We also brought our 3.5 year old Plastimo liferaft in to the Liferaft and Inflatable Centre at Rodney Bay for servicing. Francis and Debra Lucas are very competent at re-certifying practically any type of liferaft. This was the first time we’d seen our liferaft inflated and it was a comfort to see that it was in quite good condition. Some elements were beyond their shelf life and had to be replaced and it is necessary to have it inspected and repacked every 3 years. I realize that it doesn’t look very big, but it is authorized for 4 persons, offshore.