Friday, 25 December 2009

Marigot Christmas!

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
From Robert, Trish, Owen, Elliot and Daisie Dog, woof!

We're excitedly awaiting the arrival of our friends from Minnesota. Mike, Dawn, Nora and Ian are mates from the old neighborhood in Chanhassen, our first home in the USA. They've rented a lovely holiday home here in Marigot Bay for the week. Fun!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christening the New Spinnaker in St. Lucia

Beating to windward gets old fast. Bristol Rose has done plenty of that in the past 13 months. In anticipation of some downwind sailing across the Pacific, we had Soca Sails in Chaguaramas, Trinidad make us an asymetrical spinnaker.

These images captured our christening of the new sail and also a first for the crew; a new experience sailing with a spinnaker! Not bad for a first try in light winds, around 10 knots.

Owen and Robert hoist the new spinnaker as Elliot jumps in the dinghy to snap some shots.

Leaving Vieux Fort for The Pitons
Nice and easy, ok Elliot, time to get back onboard.

The Pitons are a spectacular sight.

Fishing village in Soufriere town at the base of Petite Piton. A stern anchor is necessary when anchored or moored off the beach.

Petite Piton in the early morning light, looking south from our mooring at "the Bat Cave".
We picked up a mooring ball in about 45 feet of water. Between us and the shore about 100 feet away, the water depth jumps rapidly to 7 feet with coral heads here and there. Once safely on the mooring ball we snorkel then explore the town of Soufriere. There's a distinctive sulphur smell in the air. They say you can snorkel over volcanic vents in the area.

St. Lucia has a dual French, English history having changed hands fourteen times!

After an early dinner in town, we spot a chorus line of cuttlefish off the dock. The picture was taken with flash a couple of feet above the water.

Schools of fish swim around the boat.

With very little wind overnight, we rolled from side to side all night as the mooring ball seemed determined to bash the side of the boat. Even running a third line from the end of the bowsprit made little difference. The mooring fee is $20 US for a 2 night minimum. One night is enough for us and we're on our way to Marigot Bay before breakfast.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A Dash of Nashville With My West Indies

The Carribean Islanders love their music and they love it played very loud and into the wee hours of the morning. Sound seems to travel better over an anchorage at 4:00am.
In the Dominican Republic and. Puerto Rico we enjoyed Salsa, the Leeward and Windward Islands imported Soca from Trinidad and Reggae from Jamaica. On hair-raising bus rides, we are comforted with gospel music in vehicles christened "God is Love" and "Jesus is on Our Side". During Carnival, Pan Bands work their symphonic steel magic along with Soca and Calypso performances. In Trinidad and Puerto Rico we were also serenaded with Karaoke. Leading up to Christmas, Trinidad rocks to parang, with a humorous twist on the Christmas theme with titles like "Santa got no wife".
We thought we had heard it all before we arrived in St Lucia. Sitting down to a local lunch in Vieux Fort the DJ cranks up the volume and out comes American Country and Western. This is not just limited to one venue, sounds of Johnny Cash and a host of the Nashville greats fill the air with classics from the past.
On Saturday, day and night, the anchorage is filled with C&W music; much more than a dash, we got the full menu until 6:00am. As we've come to expect, at full volume, making sleep restless if not impossible. The roosters' chorus is drowned out. It's 8:00am now and only the dogs are barking.

Friday, 18 December 2009

This Exotic Life... Searching for Meaning from Head to Tow.

Admiralty Bay, Bequia. Bristol Rose anchored in less than 10 feet and holding.
Voyager also rests at anchor reflecting the beautiful tourquoise water.

We talk about Boat Dollars being far more valuable than any other currency. We joke that the word boat is really an acronym for B-ring O-ut A-nother T-housand. Things invariably go wrong and when the “gotcha devils” bite, it’s gonna cost valuable time and money. It’s part of the sailing and cruising lifestyle and none of us are immune.

It doesn’t help to search for meaning in the sudden setbacks that befall us as sailors. Despite the constant vigilence, caring for all the various systems and the attention we lavish, boats always seem to want more from their caretakers. It’s a tough life for a sail boat so the care is more than warranted.

Plumbing systems seem to attract an unfair share of attention from the evil “gotcha devils”. But the head is not our only vulnerability. Lately, we’ve been targeted by the devils on a number of fronts.

The day started off well, with a plan. That’s always a good start even for “carefree” cruisers who appear to just go when and where the wind beckons. We’ve been staying put in Bequia for too long as the winds gust to 50 knots for over a week. The ever-cautious weather guru, Chris Parker, warned against leaving the anchorage. Thursday should be a good day to head north to St. Lucia, Chris advises.

The sight of one boat returning to Admiralty Bay yesterday with the results of wind-induced trauma; detached headstay and sail in shreds, is confirmation that squalls and wind gusts are not to be taken lightly.

So we wait and with every confidence, spend the morning working through our “to do” list to prepare for a 6am departure tomorrow for St. Lucia. We feel good about crossing off most of the 17 “to do’s” including taking Daisie for a swim, giving her a bath, buying water and food and checking out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We’re on a roll.

We’ve tried to put annoying little setbacks behind us; for instance, the problems with the head (never an easy or pleasant fix) that stopped us in our tracks in Petite Martinique. It wasn’t until we reached Bequia that we really got it sorted out. Luckily we have 2 heads on Bristol Rose but problems have to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Clearing the blockage caused by insidious calcium buildup in the discharge pipe, giving the head a new lease of life when we’d rather be snorkeling or exploring served as a reminder. Obviously we’ve been too light handed and too irregular, so to speak. We vow to give the head it’s medicine (a good dose of vinegar through the pipes) much more regularly from now on. Our memories of Petite Martinique will forever be marred by thoughts of the head.

Water delivery in Bequia

With all that behind us, we’re thinking of St. Lucia. We have a busy time ahead of us; Christmas with friends in Marigot Bay then up to Rodney Bay for all the World ARC activities. We’ll leave early in the morning for the sail north. It should take us about 10 hours from Bequia to Vieux Fort at the southern end of St. Lucia.

The gotcha devils still have a hold on our 2 hp outboard and our Honda generator. We think the problems are due to some bad gasoline we got in Grenada. We’ve tried but have not been able to get them going again. More investigation needed. So we start the main engine to charge the batteries and cool down the refrigeration.

Owen is the first to notice it. Smoke! coming from the engine compartment. We’re quick to get the situation under control but not before (we learn later) the starter motor is fried. What, why? Robert figures out the start switch is faulty and it’s sticking in the “start” position. That will do it. We put our preparations to leave aside for the remainder of the day to focus on the engine.

Turtle at the OldHegg Sanctuary in Bequia

As nice an island as Bequia might be, it’s not the place to be when you have serious engine problems, requiring parts, and you’re on a schedule. After a night of tossing and turning, we decide at 5am that we will sail to St. Lucia as planned to improve our chances of getting parts if necessary.

With no engine, we’ll conserve the batteries and sail without electronic aids. Then we should have enough power for our instruments and charts as we navigate the anchorage at Vieux Fort. With wind to sail, and with the Monitor self steering, we hope to make it in daylight.
Thursday morning, we quickly bring the 9 hp outboard and the dinghy onboard and prepare to weigh anchor by hand. Can’t use the windlass without engine power. There’s very little wind in the anchorage but we should feel the Trades once we are out.

We raise the anchor and the sails and slowly move away. Where have the 30 knot winds of the past week gone? There’s barely a breath and by the time we make it to the channel over one hour has passed. We must pick up some wind soon. Should we call one of the boats back in the anchorage to tow us back? We are ever hopeful. If we take the windward side of St. Vincent we should do better but if we encounter storms and we can’t sail out of them we are courting serious danger. We'll stay the course, the windward side of St. Vincent.

Bristol Rose is becalmed. Not wishing to dwell on negative self recriminations, we’re willing the wind to return. At this rate, about one knot when we’re lucky, we’ll never make it in daylight. Our wind generator can’t help us to recharge batteries for our electronic charts if we don’t have any wind to power it. We won’t be able to rely on our eyes in the dark. If nothing else, it means Owen and Elliot will gain some added night sailing and charting experience.

St. Vincent passes slowly as we check our paper charts and portable GPS and search the horizon for signs of other vessels. Only fishermen in small boats are out here, perhaps wondering if we are mad, flailing about. Light fades, it’s painfully slow going. Time to cook up some sausages and hot dogs. It will be a long night, come what may.

We take 3 hour watches in pairs. Once we leave St. Vincent behind we pick up to 4 knots, off and on. Then as we get closer to St. Lucia we’re sailing at 6 knots. We turn our instruments on as we approach St. Lucia’s southern coast.

It’s 1:00am on Friday. It’s taken us 18 hours but we’ve made it safely into Vieux Fort. Fortunately, this is one of the easier anchorages we have negotiated in the dark and there are only 3 other boats anchored. As Robert and Owen drop the anchor, Elliot drops the mainsail. Nicely done, and no tow needed after all.

Sad looking Starter Motor

Monday, 7 December 2009

Swimming with the Turtles of the Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays are one special place and a favorite of ours.

On our way south to Trinidad we had a wonderful time here and wanted to share the experience with our sons, Owen and Elliot.

Sitting at anchor in Mayreau this morning, the weather is not cooperating; high winds and building seas. I have been thinking that our stop in the Cays may be a disappointment. After a short beat of about an hour from Saline Bay, past Saltwhistle Bay and around the northern tip of Mayreau to the mooring area of the Cays, we found the water looks as perfect as we remembered. The boys jumped into the dinghy to secure our lines to the mooring ball and once that was done, dived off Bristol Rose into the tourquoise water.

Within minutes they were swimming with the turtles. The turtles, large and small, graze peacefully on the turtle grass. This is a marine park and they seemed perfectly comfortable with their audience. Elliot and Owen were able to gently touch their backs as they grazed on the turtle grass.

We picked the boys up in the dinghy to snorkel further out on the reef. Despite the windy conditions the water is quite clear. Trish snorkeled with a nurse shark today, although she didn't know it until later!

To finish off a perfect day in the islands we cooked fresh fish we purchased earlier from one of the local vendors who come along side in their boats. Tomorrow morning we are off to Bequia, about 20 miles north (23 degrees).

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Miss Daisie

Sweet Little Lamb
Its Sunday Morning: Its hot hot hot in the tropics. Miss Daisie likes to sleep on the floor where its a little cooler.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

This Exotic Life... New Crew, One Year Anniversary, One Unwelcome Disruption, One Day Off for Shark and Body Surfing.

Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. BR is third boat from left. Tyrrel Bay Yacht Haulout in the foreground.

The small islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique are part of Grenada. We sailed passed in July heading south so we decided to stop at both on our way north to St. Lucia. After a thankfully quiet hurricane season spent partly in Grenada (5 weeks) and partly in Trinidad (3 months), we're on the move again, this time with a couple of new crew members.

A happy reunion; Robert, Owen and Elliot at Grenada airport.

Owen and Elliot joined us in Grenada on November 19, the one year anniversary of our departure from Maryland in 2008. What a year it's been. We've enjoyed recording our adventures through the camera lens, writings and ramblings whenever a wifi connection becomes available. It means a lot to us, just to know that friends and family are checking in on us through the blog from time to time and we love to get your messages.

Keeping the blog up to date has been difficult in the past few months. Here's a catch up and a last look at Trinidad.

Bristol Rose on a mooring in Chaguaramas.

You can see how the Power Boats yard originally got its name - go-fast boats speed to and from their perches.

"Oh please, don't you rock my boat, 'cause I don't want my boat to be rockin". Bob Marley must have spent a weekend on a mooring in Chaguaramas when he wrote those words. You don't want to be on the mooring just off the Power Boats ramp. The boat traffic gets crazy!

Pirogue (local boat) up close.

Iguanas hang out in the trees by the roti hut, waiting for lunch.

The majority of our time over the past few months has been devoted to work. There's really no escape. Contrary to popular belief, cruising around sun drenched islands is not all beer and skittles. No whinging or whining here. I get a smile on my face when I remember a quote from my friend Wendy in Adelaide, "look at you and your exotic life". Boat maintenance is our reality check.

Here's Fred, who took care of our brightwork in Trinidad and had Robert working as go-fer. In Trini it's not unusual to purchase materials separately and pay workers for their time.

Sterling from Fortress, (one of the businesses in the Power Boats yard), enjoying a Stag beer after work, at the family-size table he made for our cockpit.

With just a little over a week before Owen and Elliot are due to arrive in Grenada, and most of the items required to comply with the World ARC's safety standards sourced, purchased and installed (quite a challenge when situated in the Caribbean!), we do some last minute provisioning, order our duty free alcohol and say our goodbyes to friends.

Just as I was stowing provisions and doing a thorough cleaning to ready the boat for the overnight to Grenada, I discovered a small leak in our mid water tank. The tank holds 60 gallons of precious water and is located under the cabin sole, between the settees. Others may live with leaking tanks because nothing short of a total refit of their boat will fix the problem. With a Pacific crossing in front of us, this is not something we can ignore. After talking with another Shannon owner, John of Alouette, we decide Trinidad is the most likely place to find the expertise to help sort out the problem. It took us a day to determine that Tripleweld, located at Crews Inn, could help us.

The thought of tearing into our beautiful teak and holly sole is a little distressing. This is an unwelcome disruption to our plans. We are grateful at least that Bristol Rose was built with the idea that all systems should be accessible. With advice from the folks at Schulz Boat Company in Rhode Island, who generously gave us their time over the phone, answering all our calls and questions, we begin the process of gaining access to the tank.

Carefully, the teak bungs are removed to expose the screws securing the sections of teak and holly that must be removed to access the water tank.

Bookcase, table and cabin sole are removed. The tank lies on its side before being removed through the companionway.

The whole process takes 5 days from meeting with a welder to re-installing the tank and cabin sole. Many thanks to (and a boatload of admiration for) John of Alouette and Geoff of Beach House and to Sterling who came in after work on a Friday night to help us. If not for their help and encouragement, we could not have done the job at all, let alone in fairly quick time, allowing us to get to Grenada before Owen and Elliot arrived.

Before leaving Trinidad we finally took a day off to explore some of the countryside. We rented a car and drove with Geoff and Pat, through the capital Port of Spain and the rainforest to Maracas Beach on the north coast.

Port of Spain's new Performing Arts Center. Hints of the Sydney Opera House in the design?

Some interesting architecture seen on our drive around Port of Spain.

The road to the beach takes us along narrow, winding roads through lush mountain rainforest.

A stop at the highest point provides little in the way of a view but lots of other things to see. "How does this one look, Pat?" (photo by Geoff)

Maracas Beach, Trinidad

C'mon Mon, this one is perfect for you.

Geoff and Pat

Body surfers. A couple of Aussie blokes get a chance to catch a few waves.

Not babies, Geoff tells me these are a type of shark that don't grow much bigger than a couple of feet. These are on sale at the market and destined for bake and shark somewhere.

I'm shooting the line up for Bake and Shark while Geoff is shooting me.

The "buns" are fried then split in half before the fried shark and fixin's are added.

Sauces and fresh vegetables - take your pick but if you take even a little of everything, you'll have trouble holding it all together.

See what I mean?

A day shared with friends, the sun and surf, good food; it's an Exotic Life!