The Wet Passage – Horta to Millbrook

Horta was lovely. We spent a few days recuperating after our Bermuda leg of the journey and then continued on with the last section to the UK.

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A stately building in Horta. The people were friendly, the cost of living is reasonable on all the important things, and the overall atmosphere is just great in Horta. I think we all enjoyed it immensely.

 

 

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The big pizza. The waiter here betted us that we would not be able to finish the large pizzas that we ordered. He won.

 

 

 

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Nick gets on the diving equipment. As we tried to pull the anchor up in Horta Harbour we discovered it was stuck. It turns out that the tip of the anchor had simply pegged into a mud mound very solidly.

We anchored in the Horta Harbour – mainly because the harbour was just so busy with cruising sailing boats crossing the Atlantic at this time of year that anchoring was all the space that was left when we arrived. It costs about 7 Euros a day to anchor in the harbour.

On a reasonably favourable forecast we left Horta for the UK. We expected the journey to take about 10 days and we did it in 9 and a half days. The first day or two out of Horta we had a pleasant sail, but then the weather changed to be a bit unpleasant. It turned out to be the most damp and bumpy trip we have had in HapiCat to date. We had some days of fog, some drizzle, some very cold, rainy, windy, splashy and bashy days.

Thankfully as we got to the actual shallows of the English Channel the last couple of days we had good weather again – the most glorious sailing. It was still a bit damp and cold at night, but the waves and wind were very pleasant. We arrived in Plymouth Harbour at just the right time to catch the rising tide. Here the tidal range is over 5 metres during spring tides, so you have to get your timing right. Millbrook, where we are currently situated, is on a tidal estuary so you can only get your boat up here at high tide. The rest of the time your boat is sitting in the mud.

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But what a pleasant spot out here in the country. Here are some of the new neighbours – a family of swans that visits the moored boats on a daily basis.

 

 

 

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A family of kayakers enjoying the weather and countryside. This is what it looks like at high tide.

 

 

 

 

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And this is almost the same spot of water at low tide. The little black-hulled boat in the right of this picture is the same one that is to the left of the previous picture. In this picture HapiCat is sitting on the slipway at low tide waiting to be pulled out of the water. As you can see here, my lovely Hanna has finally joined me again after 5 months of being apart.

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Nick and Matt, two brothers who operate things in the yard around here, came down at low tide with the tractor and catamaran trolley and hauled us out. Start to finish, less than 2 hours. Very nicely done, gentlemen. Thank you. And the balding guy in the gumboots is me in my new mud uniform. Hehe.

 

 

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And here we are in our new spot and me with my current mode of transport. HapiCat needs some attention and some modifications to deal with the new climatic realities of life at 51 degrees north.

Cheers for now.

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In Search Of a Boat…

In the previous post I ended up by introducing Nick and Ross, two professional sailors who had arrived in Bermuda needing a lift halfway across the North Atlantic to pick up an abandoned 60 foot racing sail boat. The boat had been abandoned a week or so beforehand due to the single-handed racing sailor getting a bloody head injury during the middle of a solo trans-Atlantic race. Nick and Ross knew that the Atlantic crossing season was in full swing for cruising yachts, so they had come to Bermuda looking for boats that might be going their way.

The racing boat was being tracked by a satellite tracking device, and its position was right on the route I had plotted for our Atlantic crossing. It also didn’t seem to be moving too quickly for us to catch it. The last photos we had of the boat as it was being abandoned showed it to be in pretty good shape and the area it was hanging around in was an area normally dominated by a high pressure zone, which means the winds should be light and the seas calm. So overall it seemed that it would probably be a simple matter of our sailors jumping across to the boat, making sure that it was all safe to sail and then all of us getting on our way again. That’s what I had in mind as we left.

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Ross on the deck under the spinnaker.

One of the many benefits of having experienced sailors, Nick and Ross, aboard is that we tried out HapiCat under a spinnaker for the first time. It went really well in the light winds of one section of the journey and gave us a very pleasant boost for a couple of hundred miles of the sailing.

The first 3 days out of Bermuda we made very good speed. On the 3rd day of the passage we did our record day of mileage on HapiCat so far – 180 nautical miles (333 kilometres) or an average of 7 and a half knots for 24 hours. On the 4th day out Jean-Gabriel caught us a good-sized tuna. Much appreciated by all.

On the 7th day out we arrived close to the area where our abandoned boat was reported to be. Once or twice every day, Phillippa – a very experienced sailor friend of Nick’s – would sms us on the satellite phone with the reported satellite tracking position of the boat. We also had Phillippa and some friends in South Africa smsing us weather updates for the journey. The North Atlantic route from west to east has much more variable weather than the trade wind route across the South Atlantic so we were very thankful to have our weather forecasters on shore warning us of the approaching weather systems.

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Preparing for the forecast gale. 3rd reefed main and storm jib up.

 

We arrived close to the reported boat position on Sunday evening. At the same time a nasty gale was forecast to arrive in our area. So Nick showed me a new trick with HapiCat – heaving-to. We put up the storm sail and had the main sail down to 3rd reefed position and everything went so very smooth and quiet inside the boat – for the most part – while we were hove-to in the gale. In looking at the log I see we got bashed by a big wave at around midnight which upset an awful lot of things inside the boat.

On Monday morning as we got up after heaving to all night, we discovered that one of the main sheets had been washed off the back platform of the boat and had got itself well and truly wrapped around the starboard propeller. So, for the second time in the North Atlantic I jumped off the boat to untangle ourselves and to cut ourselves free from a rope around the propeller – this time in 30 knot winds and 5 and 6 metre seas. There were also a lot of Portuguese man-of-war stinging creatures around. Hmm.

Under 3rd reefed main and storm sail we set off on Monday morning to find our lost boat in the gale, which reached a peak in the afternoon with some waves out there that looked like they could have been up to 8 metres high – more than twice the height of our cockpit roof. HapiCat handled it all just fine.

Later in the afternoon the gale started calming down a bit and at 8 o’clock in the evening we finally caught sight of our abandoned boat. It was not a happy sighting, as it was in such a sad state that I think it was a bit of shock to all of us. The mast was down and the boat was low in the water with all sorts of obvious damage.

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Since it was 8 o clock at night (still light in the northern summer) and since the waves were still quite high at this time and we could not transfer anyone across to the stricken boat, we hove-to again for the night. Once again we had a comfortable night hove-to, with some 25 and 30 knot winds outside and the seas still producing up to 5 metre waves.

By the morning time HapiCat had drifted some 20 miles downwind of our troubled boat and we once again had another rope blown overboard and around our propellers – this time around both propellers. I was getting pretty used to this diving overboard in the big waves and wind and man-of-war swarms by now.

After freeing our propellers from the rope we got underway again. We had to motor for several hours against the wind and waves to get back to the racing boat. We finally found it again towards the late afternoon. The only way to get across was for Nick to get in the wet-suit and jump in the water and swim across, which he did. At this stage there were more man-of-wars around than ever. Thankfully nobody got stung in any of our swimming expeditions.

The rest of us then spent the next few hours until dark tacking back and forth on HapiCat close by while Nick frantically worked on the 60 foot race boat to cut away all sorts of un-needed wreckage and to get the boat ready for a jury rig. At this point we were all pretty convinced that Nick would be able to set up a jury rig using the carbon boom, and then the boat could be pumped out and emergency sailed in convoy to the Azores. As it came towards dark we on HapiCat got in the hove-to position again and we kept our boat emergency search light on Nick and the racing boat every few minutes. Our communications since Nick had gone across to the other boat had been difficult, as we could only briefly get in a few shouted words as we passed close by every tack or two if Nick was on deck. We were not sure if Nick had said something about the boat sinking, so we were a bit worried when it got dark and he chose to stay on board overnight to work as long as he could.

Around 10pm a fog came in and we lost sight of Nick and the boat, which was even more worrying for us on HapiCat. In the dark and the fog we couldn’t get moving to go and find him and keep him in sight as we might collide or pass him altogether, so all we could do was wait until morning.

At 5 am Phillippa sent us another satellite tracker position for the boat. Thankfully, since the sunken mast and main sail, which had been acting as a sea-anchor, had been cut away, our two boats had not drifted so far apart this night. We were only 1 and half miles away, so we managed to get back to the boat and find Nick within half an hour.

Work started early again to rescue the boat. However by mid-morning we found out that another low-pressure system and gale would be coming our way again. It had also become obvious that the water had got in the racing boat and drowned virtually all the systems – the engine, batteries, electrics and electronics. The steering system was only partially working with one of the 2 rudders ripped off the boat. After a status report and consultation with the boat owner it was sadly decided that in view of the various circumstances our instructions changed from rescuing to scuppering (sinking) the boat so it presents no further hazard to other boats.

For the next several hours I have no photos as I was chained to the wheel of HapiCat as we motored and maneuvered around Nick and boat. Nick inflated the one remaining life-raft of the boat and Ross sat in the life-raft while we used it to shuttle as much equipment as could be rescued from the sinking boat onto HapiCat. By the late afternoon the deck of the imoca 60 racing boat was under the waves and Nick finally transferred back on board HapiCat and we got underway to the Azores.

Because it is a video and wordpress doesn’t allow video links in free blog accounts, I have had to chop up the web address here for the video that Nick and Jean-Gabriel put together concerning the finding and scuppering. http://www.facebook.com/nick.leggatt.9/

videos/10156986559195721/        In order to watch it you have to paste the link together and sign into facebook.

The next day, as we tried to hoist the spinnaker again the halyard came off the winch and got fouled up. Jean-Gabriel shredded his hands on the halyard, and the spinnaker went overboard and ended up wrapped around both propellers. I dived into the North Atlantic for the 4th time to cut the spinnaker with its sheets and halyard from off the 2 propellers. We learned several things about flying a spinnaker on HapiCat. The halyard routing has to change so it goes onto the winch from the correct angle. Twice the halyard got a fouled riding turn on the winch while we were handling it. The first time I ended up flying several metres up the mast in the air while trying to sort it out, and the second time Jean-Gabriel’s hands got badly hurt. A couple of other lessons for our next spinnaker is that an asymmetric spinnaker is probably better and that I would like to have a sock on it to control it for easy raising and dousing.

We were now just a couple of days away from the Azores. The remaining highlights of the trip were that HapiCat passed 10,000 miles on the log and one of the solo Trans-Atlantic racers passed by less than half a mile away on his return trip to Europe. We sailed into Horta harbour in the Azores in a 30 knot wind again, and dropped anchor. Altogether it was a 15 day trip including the 3 days we were stopped attempting the boat rescue.

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Vincent Riou on PRB racing boat passing us on his way back to Europe.

 

 

 

The Bermuda Triangle

OK. Very cliched, but in this case we almost did a triangular route to Bermuda. More like the Bermuda dog-leg. Our intention had been to leave from St Martin at the beginning of May when a reasonable 3 day forecast of south-east winds arrived, as that would give us hopefully the correct angle to the wind to make our way directly east-north-east to the Azores.

There are a couple of recommended routes to get across the North Atlantic from the Caribbean. The traditional route followed by sailing ships over hundreds of years is to go up north towards Bermuda or to get up towards 40 degrees of latitude and then catch the westerly winds and currents towards Europe. A more modern route that relies a bit more on engines to get across zero-wind high pressure and doldrum zones is to go directly from the Caribbean to the Azores.

I had in mind to try and go directly to the Azores. There were 2 reasons for this. Firstly Bermuda is west of St Martin and I wanted to go east, so it would add several hundred miles and sailing days to our journey to go via Bermuda. The second is that the further north you go the stronger the weather gets, so I was hoping to go across the Atlantic on a more southern route in fairly gentle weather. However we ended up traveling via Bermuda, but more on that a bit later.

We got our favourable weather forecast and left St Martin on the 6th of May headed directly for the Azores. It was a bit ambitious as it would most likely be a slower trip with lighter winds and we therefore calculated it would take anywhere from 18 days to up to 28 days to do the 2200 nautical mile trip.

Within the first few hours of sailing, as we passed between St Martin and Anguilla, we had got our propeller caught up in a fishing net which the local fishermen had left attached to a buoy some miles offshore. Our forward motion came to an instant halt. After unsuccessfully trying to get ourselves off with the boat hook it became obvious I would have to dive down to get us extricated. So we dropped all the sails and I went in. Thankfully it was not too badly wrapped up and a single rope cut was all that was necessary to get us free. So off we went again.

The wind turned out to be a lot more easterly than southerly, so despite us sailing as close into the wind as we could, we still ended up traveling more north than east. And sailing into the wind is certainly less comfortable than sailing with the wind behind the boat. After 5 days of bashing into the North Atlantic we discovered that all our fruit and vegetables had rotted already, we were further north than hoped for and we had reached a dead calm zone already. So we were already starting to motor and use our fuel. At this point we had a crew discussion and decided that perhaps it made more sense to head for Bermuda and break up the trip into 2 smaller journeys. So, we did a virtually 90 degree turn away from the northeast towards the northwest.

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The wind and waves starting to calm down. At this point we still thought we were on our way to the Azores.

 

 

 

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Jean-Gabriel undertook the fishing duties – seen here with a barracuda. In the South Atlantic it was Mike who was our fisherman, so I am jolly glad to have got another fisherman on board for this trip.

 

 

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About 5 days out this happened – no wind and glassy seas.

 

 

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The glassy seas continued for several days – it made for beautiful scenery.

 

 

 

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A small rainbow over the glassy seas.

 

 

 

 

The calm weather continued for the next several days almost the whole way to Bermuda, so we ended up motoring most of the 500 miles to Bermuda.

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Entering Town Cut, St George’s Harbour, Bermuda.

 

 

 

Before the trip I had not prepared for the possibility of diverting to Bermuda, so Hanna (and her son) had to research the various customs, immigration and boat regulations, and sms me the details on the satellite phone. The regulations sounded quite tough – particularly the no-black-water-discharge regulation. So I disconnected all the sink outlets and rigged up a lidded bucket as a black water tank on the one toilet. Another unusual thing about Bermuda is that they require you to radio them at least 30 miles out, which we did. Hanna (who was in France at the time) had already filled out the arrival form on the internet, so they knew we were coming and had all our important details.

So you radio the control tower from 30 miles away (nearly 60 kilometres) and then it seems they put a pin on you on their radar and they can follow your progress all the way in. When we got close to Town Cut, which is the entrance to St George’s Harbour, we radioed the tower again and they said they could see us. We were wondering if they had extra powerful binoculars but I think the theory that they pinned us on their radar from 60 kilometres away is more likely. The whole immigration and customs procedure was very friendly and straightforward. We then went and anchored out in the harbour for the next week we were there.

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Immaculate Bermuda

Bermuda was a revelation. It sits at 32 degrees north and is warmed by the effects of the Gulf stream. It is a low-lying coral archipelago. It is hard to figure out because you have temperate pine trees and tropical palm trees all growing side by side. I have called it immaculate Bermuda because all the buildings and streets are so well taken care of. There are no slummy areas or shacks visible anywhere – just very neatly painted buildings and well-manicured gardens. All the roofs are painted white throughout the whole chain of islands. For yachties and tourists they have a space-age, stainless-steel-covered, electronically-activated-flush, public toilet block by the dinghy landing. This is a good thing bearing in mind the no-black-water-discharge regulation for boats within 12 miles of Bermuda. They also have a yachties-only refuse collection spot at the dinghy jetty. The Bermuda Yacht Services lounge provides various services for cruisers including wi-fi. So overall we felt very well taken care of as cruising visitors by Bermuda.

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Here a group of tourists are gathered around a street theatre re-enactment of a historical scene from the town square.

 

 

 

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Town Hall – St George’s Square

 

 

 

 

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Clean streets and freshly painted buildings only, please.

 

 

 

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The lady in the corner of the green building is busy repainting the green building, the paint job of which seemed to be in quite good shape already.

 

 

Prices in Bermuda. Hmm. I think it is the highest priced place I remember visiting. Public transport costs at least 3 times what it cost in Grenada. The tomatoes and most fruit and veg were on the order of close on US$10 per kilo. The cheapest bottle of wine I remember seeing in the main supermarket chain was US$11. Enough said. They have an interesting website with all the costs of the supermarket stuff – http://www.bermuda-online.org/costoflivingguide2.htm

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A little park in St George’s Town.

 

 

 

 

While we were waiting for a suitable weather window to head off to the Azores we met Nick and Ross. Nick and Ross were on their way to rescue a 60 foot racing boat that had been abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic, and they were in Bermuda looking for a lift to get to their boat. The satellite tracker showed that the boat was directly on the blue line I had plotted from Bermuda to the Azores on my chartplotter, so we agreed to take them out to their racing boat. And that is how we became 5 crew on HapiCat.

 

Grenada to Martinique to St. Martin

As the middle of April approached it was time to start moving again from Grenada. Sailing small boats across oceans depends a lot on the seasonal weather patterns around the world. The ‘correct’ time to cross the stormy North Atlantic is somewhere between May and July. This time of year is the crossover time between being hit by the winter gales and storms which come across the Atlantic from North America, and then the later you get into the northern summer the greater the likelihood of being hit during your crossing by a hurricane.

Since Mike and Hanna were not with me for this journey, I had to look for crew. The website service that worked for me was findacrew.net . On there you are asked all sorts of questions about various aspects of who you are looking for etc. and they do a pretty good job of matching you up to crew whose profiles match your needs. And I did indeed get a fantastic crew – a young Belgian couple, Jean-Gabriel and Antoinette. After doing their masters in sociology and all sorts of other degrees they had decided to do a 2 year round-the-world trip with an emphasis on learning first hand various social, cultural and political aspects of all the various countries they would visit. So my journey across the North Atlantic coincided with the last leg of their journey – Colombia to Europe. They had quite an adventure coming overland from Colombia (through rebel-held territory and a recently closed border), through troubled Venezuela, catching a ferry from the Orinoco delta in Venezuela across to Trinidad. From Trinidad they hitch-hiked/crewed on a luxury 70 foot sailing yacht to get up to Grenada where HapiCat was. So by the middle of April they were installed on HapiCat and we were ready to go.

Our first trip was round the corner from Prickly Bay to St George’s anchorage. There we got the water tanks filled at the Grenada Yacht Club and also did an adventurous ride in the dinghy to go to Grand Mal Bay and get our gas bottles filled. The next day we sailed the 35 miles to Tyrrel Bay in Carriacou. It seems to be excellent holding for anchors in this bay – just drop and set. It is also the place where we found the cheapest duty-free fuel of our whole trip, as mentioned in the previous blog entry.

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Carriacou – the fuel dock and customs is off to the right of this picture in the south of Tyrrel Bay.

The next day we did an overnight sail to Martinique. We bypassed St Vincent and the Grenadines. I was surprised how much motoring we had to do. I obviously didn’t get the distance or routing from the islands right because as we passed in the lee of every island we ended up becalmed and had to motor for several hours at a time. Anyhow – all went well and we sailed in a good stiff breeze into the Cul de Sac du Marin on the island of Martinique around lunchtime.

This is a very large lagoon, but it is also full of anchored boats – hundreds and hundreds. So we wandered around a fair bit inside the lagoon before finding a good anchoring spot. We then got in our dinghy and headed off for the port captain’s office. In the port captain’s office the clearance procedure is all computerized. You sit down and fill out all your details on the computer. I was very thankful for Antoinette who whizzed through the filling in of the French form in seconds. You then go up to the front desk, the lady stamps your printed out form and collects the 5 Euro fee. And that was that. Now we were in the French department of Martinique.

09-martiniquesquarerigInteresting local sailing boat – square sail and all the kids hang off the side for ballast. They were practicing for a race I think.

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The hills of Martinique in the background.

 

 

 

 

Martinique was very pleasant. I am sorry that we only spent 3 days there, but we were on our way up to St Martin to be ready for the right weather window to start our North Atlantic crossing. In this Cul de Sac du Marin there is a great supermarket – the Leader Price. Martinique uses Euros. Prices are good for most things in this supermarket. There is no charge for anchoring out. Internet is expensive. If you have a wifi booster I think there is a wifi service you can get in the anchorage, but otherwise you will have to use cellular 3G or 4G, and this comes at E20 per gigabyte with Digicel.

But it really is true what everyone says – here you get the full deal as far as French delicacies – so many varieties of cheese, wine, baguettes, croissants etc. that I have never heard of before. And mainly it seemed to me to be quite affordable. So we enjoyed baguettes with French cheeses and other delicacies for the whole time we were there.

11-boulangerie12-diamondrockmartiniqueThis is Jean-Gabriel and Antoinette treating me to Pain au Chocolat in a genuine French/Martinique boulangerie. Yum yum.

 

 

Farewell, Martinique – going past Diamond Rock.

After 3 days we were on our way again – a 48 hour journey up to St Martin. Again, the winds were very variable as we passed in the lee of the various Caribbean islands, although we motored a bit less on this journey. Once we got past Guadeloupe the wind shifted behind us and we had a fairly straight sail up between the islands to St Martin.

We arrived in St Maarten – the Dutch side of the island – firstly because we heard the draw-bridge was easier to get through on the Dutch side, but also because you have to time your arrival to coincide with the opening times of 1 of the 2 bridges that open to allow you into Simpson Lagoon. The Dutch side charges US$7 to go through the bridge, but you can freely go through to the French side of the lagoon once you are inside. The French side does not charge to go through the bridge, but it is slightly narrower and once you are inside the lagoon there is a seemingly unmarked channel of deeper water surrounded by very shallow water, which can be tricky to navigate through. While we were anchored in the area we watched several boats run aground on their way to the French bridge.

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Anchored in Simpson Bay (not the lagoon), St Maarten, waiting for the drawbridge to open so we could go into the Simpson Lagoon.

 

 

We motored into the lagoon and then through the causeway bridge to the French side of the lagoon. There are a fair number of boat wrecks in the lagoon, most likely from the various hurricanes they have had through there over the years. St Martin seems to get hurricanes fairly regularly. We signed in at the Budget Marine in Marigot. Marigot, the capital city of the French side, has a very different atmosphere from Martinique. Perhaps it is because the island has always been a more free-spirited type of place (pirate haven 🙂 ). The French Super U supermarket was great – pretty much the same variety and prices as Martinique – perhaps a bit more choice. Internet same as Martinique – 20 Euros per gigabyte on Digicel cellular. Of course you can get wifi at all the cafes and restaurants if you get a drink or something to eat.

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Yes indeed. The good life in the French islands – celebrating our arrival in St Martin.

 

 

We spent a week anchored in St Martin in the Simpson Lagoon. We had heard that the French authorities are charging to anchor in Marigot Bay, so we stayed in the lagoon, which is free. However at the Budget Marine in Marigot (very helpful and friendly proprietor there) we heard that there is no charge for anchoring in Marigot Bay. So we stayed there our last 2 nights. It is more busy with anchored boats than the lagoon, but it is not overcrowded. The water is so clear in Marigot Bay you can see 5 or 6 metres down to the sandy bottom very easily. It was very pleasant. There are several places to get ashore and tie up the dinghy around Marigot, and overall for a liveaboard cruiser it is about as good as it gets.

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Marigot Bay.

Last One on Grenada

Well, again it has been a long time. Somehow it seems easier to update the blog when we are traveling and there is action. I spent 4 and half months in Grenada. Originally I had not expected to visit Grenada as we passed through the Caribbean, as I had in mind to go directly to Martinique. However, once we got there, Grenada turned out to be a very friendly, welcoming and convenient place to live while waiting for the North Atlantic crossing season in May. Of course, the fact that Hanna was in Germany and I was alone on the boat was also a deciding factor in staying put in one place for so long, as I did not relish the idea of single-handedly sailing HapiCat. And Grenada speaks English, so that is a major convenience for me.

Now some details of life in Grenada. For the nearly 5 months I was there the winds were very steadily coming from the east – sometimes a bit northeast and other times a bit southeast, but dependably from the east. They were generally moderate winds, so although the temperature rarely varied from 27 to 30 degrees I cannot remember a time when it was uncomfortably hot on the boat as the breeze kept conditions pretty perfect. When we got there, the first 2 months (December and January) we had small rain showers pass over every day – and we had at least one rainbow per day. Suddenly at the end of January the tap in the sky switched off and we had no rain until I left – perhaps a couple of showers, but nothing much.

01-superyacht1Superyachts. The anchorage off St George’s sees a lot of superyacht activity. This one was the biggest we saw while there – it was so big that it could not fit in the marina superyacht berths and had to occupy the container ship wharf. The building behind it and to the right is the main hospital.

For a yachtie the officials in Grenada could not be nicer. We came in, filled in all our details, paid our fees and were out in about a quarter of an hour. For a 40 foot boat there is a cruising fee of 50 Eastern Caribbean Dollars per month – EC$2.7/US$1 – just under US$20 per month.  The first 3 months of visa are free, thereafter a EC$25 per month extension fee applies. 6 months is no problem whatsoever, but apparently this can be extended.

Grenada is also considered to be out of the hurricane belt – although it was hit pretty badly in 2004 I believe – so a lot of people leave their boats in Grenada during the hurricane season – either on the hard-parking at one of the several boatyards on the island, or even on a mooring, or at anchor. The mud in Prickly Bay seems to be very good holding for anchors. I certainly didn’t move at all for the 2 months while I was there, even when we had some stronger 25 and 30 knot winds. The holding around the corner at the St George’s anchorage is not so great, but you can get your anchor wedged behind a rock or a ledge and then you will stay put. We were securely anchored there with our anchor wedged under a rock for about 6 weeks. There are 2 or 3 more major anchorage spots for yachts in the south of Grenada, but I didn’t try them out. Make sure you have several thick coats of antifouling on before you arrive in the Caribbean – the strands of algae grow prolifically, and with rubbing your boat down regularly you will wear through your antifoul paint quickly.

For the whole south of the island, where most of the people, services and anchorages are, you can either walk everywhere, catch the local mini-buses (EC$2.50 per ride) or catch a taxi. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and I never felt unsafe at any time. That is not to say it is crime-free. There were a couple of incidents while I was there – one murder of a tourist on a deserted beach by a deranged fellow. But overall you can walk around and go almost anywhere without any worries.

04-grenadabus2Just so us Africans don’t feel homesick. The public transport bus system in Grenada consists of these mini-buses. Each one has its own unique flavour. Usually there is a loud sound system running. All music is Caribbean, but the Caribbean music industry is incredibly diverse. You get really laid back reggae music, reggae covers of all the latest western commercial pop music, gangster rap etc. So each ride you take is different. There were a couple of rides where the rap music, tinted windows, back to front caps of the well-built conductor, and the general urgency of the hustle to pick up passengers and heavy gas-pedal driving style made me feel like I was taking part in some sort of a ‘drive-by’ mission. Hehe.

06-internationalmusic1I felt very thankful and fortunate that while I was there in Grenada on my own I met some fellow cruisers who had been attending the local university Christian Students Union Sunday fellowships. So I was invited to attend the Sunday fellowships at 07-internationalmusic2the local medical university. It was very inspiring. The photos are from the international music evening they held at the CSU – the Caribbean group and then the African group. Such incredibly talented musicians and 05-beachbaptismpeople overall. There are students there from all over the world working very hard to become doctors and vets.

Beach baptism held by the CSU. There was always something interesting going on.

Some more general information on Grenada for those intending to sail there.

The airport runway takes off directly over Prickly Bay and there are several international flights per day. Flights are generally costly by South African standards, but you can look out and get reasonable deals if you can wait and watch for them.

Internet. I used Digicel cellular 3G for internet on the boat. 3 gigabytes for EC$79. It was pretty much always reliable. There is a commercial wifi provider that services the anchorages. If you wish to download movies and have unlimited internet on the boat then that is your better option – EC$120 per month for limitless wifi in the anchorages. If you want to take advantage of this then get yourself a wifi range extender and also get yourself a device that turns your boat into a hotspot off a wifi signal, so you can use your computer and phones and tablets off your own boat hotspot. Better get these items before you get there.

Bringing stuff into Grenada. I brought in a radio, and a sim card for the satellite phone. The sim card came by FedEx and was there in less than a week, with no duties or fuss. The radio came by US Postal Service and it took over 3 weeks until I got it – about 10 days to 2 weeks to arrive in Grenada and a further week to be processed through customs ready for the broker to pick up. You have to arrange a customs broker in advance and fill out a form or 2. The best deal for customs brokering is apparently the manager of the Budget Marine chandlery – and I did find him to be very good and reasonable. On this note, customs and VAT add over 30% to the price of anything you see in the chandleries, so you have to bring your boat papers in and register with the chandleries to get the duty-and-tax-free prices you see on the shelves. Otherwise you will be in for a rude shock at the till as the price you see is not the price you will pay!

Supermarkets. There are 3 major supermarkets – Food Fair, Foodland and IGA. Foodland and Food Fair have 2 branches each. By South African standards (as I remember them) you will gasp a bit. But overall, considering that your life is generally less complicated (no car etc etc) you will still be able to live very affordably if you are prepared to live quite simply.

Some examples: (ZAR5/EC$1) and bearing in mind a pound is less than half a kilo.

Pasta                EC$ 3.25  / 400 grams

Eggs                EC$10 / dozen

UHT milk        EC$3-5 / litre depending on where you buy and whether full cream

Milk powder   EC$6 / pound (not a bad deal – the best I found in my 3 stops in the Caribbean)

Canned Tuna   EC$2.50/ can (at food fair)

Mince              EC$16 / pound

Chicken legs    EC$2 – 2.80 / pound (most is around $8 per pound but you can find cheaper in food fair and IGA)

Potatoes          EC$1.80 per pound

Tomatoes         EC$5-7 per pound !!

Apples             EC$17 / 3 pound bag

Bananas           EC$2-3 per pound

Cabbage          EC$3-4 per pound

Wine                EC$17 per bottle

Juice                EC$5 per litre

Chocolate        EC$5/140 grams (buying the Trinidadian brand – otherwise 2 -3 times the price)

Biscuits           Various but the cheapest about EC$2/150 grams.

 

Fuel was generally about EC$13 per US gallon (3.8 litres) – so about ZAR 16 or 17 per litre. However the cheapest fuel we found in the Caribbean was in the little sister island of Grenada (still under the Grenada government) called Carriacou, where if you sign out of Grenada and bring the customs papers, you can get duty-free fuel at EC$6.50 per US gallon  (ZAR8.50 / litre). Water you buy at the various yacht clubs and marinas for between EC$ 0.20 and 0.30 per imperial gallon. Not sure why they use imperial gallons for the water and US gallons for the fuel but that is what it appears.

Gas. For cooking gas you can either drop your bottles off at one of several places (Grenada Yacht Club, Prickly Bay Marina), or have the one yacht service chap come and pick your tank up and deliver, or you can dinghy to the gas refill station yourself. It is about 3 kilometres from the St George anchorage in a place called Grand Mal Bay. If you take your bottles yourself you get the gas refilled at about half the price – we paid EC$40 for 10 kilos of cooking gas when we took the bottles there ourselves. That was about the same price as we paid in South Africa. Make sure you have a CADAC-to-big-bottle adaptor with you (and pliers or spanner) of you want to get a CADAC bottle refilled. The standard 9 kilo type fitting that is used in South Africa is used there in Grenada.

And that’s it for now. The next post will be about sailing again.

Grenada Scenery

I just changed the header photo from a boat building photo to a sailing (well – anchoring actually 🙂 ) photo. And then had to change the wordpress theme to go along with it. Somehow it seems to be quite difficult to keep the momentum going with this blog at the moment 🙂 . So perhaps keeping the posts short will help. On this one I am simply going to post the few photos of scenery that I have. So far we have only been into the interior of the island once, when Yonok was here. The rest of the time we have spent in the south of the island.

01-hannayonok

Yonok visited around the middle of January for just over a week. There are more than 7 recommended waterfalls on the island. We caught the local buses (more on this in another post) to Annandale Waterfall. It was enjoyable. It is probably the most accessible and ‘touristy’ waterfall on the island with an entrance fee and various tourist-centred things going on. We didn’t think to bring swimming costumes and towels, which was a shame because it was hot and I would have liked to tick the ‘swam-in-a-waterfall-rock-pool’ bucket list item. Among other touristy things here you can pay the local waterfall jumpers to do an exhibition jump, and there were some ladies selling some locally-made ‘spice’ necklaces made with a selection of Grenadian spices. Grenada grows a significant portion of the world’s nutmeg and mace along with other spices.

02-annandalefalls

 

The main waterfall and rock pool beneath it.

 

 

 

 

03-grandetang

Grand Etang Lake. At the centre of the island of Grenada is a smallish lake situated in the caldera of a volcano. We weren’t planning on coming to the lake, but at the waterfall we met a Grenadian who very kindly packed us in his car with his family and took us up to the lake. Joe (our guide) says that when there is volcanic activity in the Caribbean the lake reacts and overflows. He also says there is an unexpected undertow in the lake and people have lost their lives swimming here.

04-grandetangjetty

 

Grand Etang jetty.

 

 

 

 

06-joe

Joe. The very tall fellow at the back left is Joe, who lives in the States, but was visiting his country of birth for his father’s funeral. He met us at the waterfall and then packed us into the family RAV to visit the Grand Etang lake. Lovely man.

 

 

05-centreview

The view from close to the centre of Grenada. There are some pretty high hills here. I am not sure if 900 metres counts as a mountain or hill . Here we are looking out to the south of the island (where our anchorage is) and the airport runway extends down to the southern tip there. Often when visiting remoter islands you wonder why local agriculture is not a more prominent thing. However most of Grenada is mountainside, so there is not a lot of easily arable land. The weather in the centre of the island is cloudy and misty most of the time, as opposed to the coast where it is mainly sunny with some showers.

07-grandeanse

And this is Grande Anse beach. It is probably the most touristy beach on the island and it is very pleasant. Obviously not a surfing beach though. At the moment every Friday I go down to this beach to join with some of the other cruisers who volunteer to teach the local kids to swim. There is also free wifi here. 😀

 

And that about wraps up this blog post. Hanna’s eye seems to be recovering, very thankfully, but in the meantime due to some family commitments we have decided that she will not be returning to HapiCat for the trans-Atlantic crossing in May. So I will be putting out a crew advert shortly. Until next time, cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

The Neglected Blog

Well, the only way to start is to start. It has now been 7 weeks since I put anything on the blog. In that time a lot has happened, so I won’t be able to catch up with all the details. I also don’t have too many photos to carry the story with. So for a first blog post after so long a time I will do a quick news round up and then fill in some of the details in subsequent posts. 🙂

The last post was around Christmas. We had a pleasant but quiet Christmas here. Then New Year came and I must say that I have never been in a place where you get as regular and spectacular displays of fireworks as here in Grenada. At the St George’s anchorage where we were anchored for New Year’s Eve, we saw no less than 3 simultaneous and rather splendid displays of fireworks from the boat to usher in the New Year. Since then I have seen several more major fireworks displays – Grenada Day, Chinese New Year, the end of the Grenada Sailing Week and one or two in between that I don’t know what they were in aid of.

And these fireworks displays are no pokey affairs either – several minutes to half an hour of continuous, dazzling rocket displays. They must have some specialists here on the island that are called in for these events.

Weather-wise, the temperature continues to be very steady between 24 and 30 degrees. The wind is steadily from the East – mainly in the 15 to 25 knots range, and as from the end of January the big tap in the sky has been turned firmly off. It is now the dry season here.

Getting back to the news brief. Around mid-January we had our first ‘guest’ on board – dear Yonok who has been a friend and supporter of our mission work for a very long time. It was so very nice to have Yonok here and we also got to see a bit of the interior of the island while she was here.

Towards the end of Yonok’s visit, at the end of January, sadly Hanna developed a serious eye problem known as a retinal detachment, which left her without sight in her left eye. After getting a diagnosis here in Grenada, it quickly became apparent that the only option we had to get her to a specialist (there are none currently on the island) to deal with it, and where she could peacefully recover after the operation, was to get Hanna to Germany as quickly as possible. Thankfully it worked out for her to be in Germany and being attended to within a few days. She has now been there in Germany just over 2 weeks and her eye is gradually recovering some vision, very thankfully. We don’t yet know what the outcome will be, but for the moment I am here in Grenada on the boat and Hanna is in Germany, with a patch over her eye, and we are praying that her eyesight will completely recover. So far she estimates she has recovered about half vision in that eye, so she is trying to rest as much as she can and give it some time and space to heal.

Overall our goal is still to bring HapiCat across the North Atlantic to Europe from St Martin at the beginning of May. We will see how things develop from here though. That’s all for this post. I will put in some details and photos in subsequent posts.