Monthly Archives: December 2016

One day turns into many.. Dominica

Our one night early explore trip turns into many by the hospitality and cordial guests of the island of Dominica. At first we signed up for one night on the mooring ball, an inexpensive $12USD per night and a 30ecd trip to customs, but then an “indian river” trip sounded fun so we signed up with “Providence” for a 7:30am trip the next day. Yes either we are old or we don’t sleep much at anchor, but by 7:30am we’ve already accomplished many boat chores and stuff.  Providence is slowly motoring up, a head of schedule and we board and head to the ‘canoe trip’ up the island sanctuary.

Its a national park and river, so no motorized vehicles past the bridge, we stop lift the engine and Providence rows us up river, not a class 5 rapid, but there is still current. A quick trip to the left and you can see the home of the witch Calypso from the the movie the Pirates of Caribbean. Unlike down island the shack is well preserved, but I wouldn’t want to walk on the dock. Rumor has it, Johnny is still sleeping up in there, and it was all that I could do to keep Christine from jumping over board to take that chance.

On the way back down the tributary, Martin ( “Providence’s real name” ) snagged a daddy crab from the shore to show us the biological parts of a crab, this one was male – proven by what the crab had hidden in its cod piece. Large pinchers could have easily removed a finger but since they have gills, and can live underwater, he was released with out injury.

Lots of botanical knowledge (Providence is a botanist) and quietness shared as we were the first on the river that morning.  All the way to the end and found the bar, the downsides of early risers is the bar isn’t open yet.. Doh!. Hiked a bit, heard the national bird, a parrot on the flag after all, and some large trees and beautiful flowers. Definitely worth the trip. As we were just finishing our tour we could hear the next boat approaching, turns out it was another guid Martin (Providence) trained.. Cracked a fresh coconut from the river and shared the water, and meat – never really a fan of coconut in cookies, but fresh like that – I cleaned it out.  Came away with an herb for my cough, a bouquet for Christine and a magical leaf that will sprout roots without water or soil.

Back to the boat after a 2+ hour tour and… and we decided to stay and explore .. after a few boat chores of course.

Joker man, Joker I am…

Why they call it a joker, i’m not sure – but its the valve that keeps the nasties from coming back up in the toilet. They need replacing every year or so, and its time. So that was the *shitty* boat task that is now complete – but we’ll be revisiting it later as I think the diverter value needs some attention too as the holding tank was also full. Check back in January on this pleasant topic.

Tired of being confined to these 2 hulls and cleaning up and that darned fort staring at us. Let’s go. Dinghy to PAYS dock, and walk right to the fort. Got there around 4pm, they only had 1 ticket, so we got that one and said we’d pickup another on the way out. As we walked to the gate we were accosted by someone asking if we were going to do the hike. Yes, which one? Dunno, we’ll figure out. Turns out he was they guy taking tickets, not trying to provide us a,chaperoned trip. We go up, Christine all bound up with her lost surgical garment and long sleeves and pants but wanting to go — we go to the right to the east hill as the guy taking tickets said thats the most scenic. We thought we would do both after all, 30mins up and 30mins here and there and it started to get dark. Guess we won’t make the second summit, as we neared the fort on the way down.. I stubbed my toe, drawing more blood than the fish guts we sent overboard. Oh well, sucked it up and squeezed it for a bit and hiked down to the bar for a cold beer and gingerly walk back to the dinghy.

Quick pIzza on board, and Christine made me a Donald Rum and Coke and I completely forgot I had toes. Pass out.

Lazy day.. still here trying to figure out when church starts and what to do today…Christmas Eve.

Time to explore town, found the Church for Dec 24th midnight mass. Mid Night? Hmm.. we barely make 8pm, now midnight? How is that going to happen? Ask about 25 different folks about what time midnight mass starts, and got 24 different answers. The 2 that matched were, duh – midnight.

Chilling on the boat, a neighbor swims over and introduces himself. Been out sailing for years, 8 with this boat. 3 daughters on board 2 of which have only known this boat. Chatted about the challenges of raising a family and keeping a boat cruising. Very nice. From Vail Co, boat from St Johns.

Turns out the PAYs boat boys were having a benefit to support the nightly patrols, starting at 7pm. Perfect timing for dinner, all you can eat fish and chicken, all you can drink rum punch, and music till midnight mass. PartyTime and for a good reason.. 100ec ($40 USD .. and I don’t have to cook – done!)

Music starts at 6pm, I’m are we late.. ?
We show up 7pm and sit with some crew.. odd situation on the boat and owners. Leave it at that.

As dinner is winding down, time to remove the tables and the dance floor opens up. If you know me, you know that my only move is the volume knob. Crank it up, but it’ll be a cold day before I get on the floor. However there were plenty of others who do not hold the same shame. Oh my. They had plenty of others who were not as modest. I would say russians stomp the sand like its been bad, and egg on the others to do the same. Our wallflower neighbors were plenty light, and at least a decade past ours. The local egged him on, he couldn’t resist, think limbo game, the 20 something rhythm gifted and the german holding on to youth by a follicle. Well every 10 mins someone had to help our german friend up off the sand floor, and eventually when we were heading to church for midnight mass at 10pm we gave his “lady friend” a ride back to the boat, and the PAYs boys towed the dingy and the other guy back to the boat. Note: When I started “sweet and low” (our dinghy) her eyes lit up and said in .. crossed eyes.. what is that.. I mentioned 25.. and she understood – we had the POWER.

Good deed done on Xmas eve, we sung by the boat for cold beverage for the ride to the church. Is that wrong? The fishing dock is a bit a way, and after so many rum punches, needed something with less booze in it.

We get to the fishery dock, lots of boats in there at 10:30pm find a spot for sweet and low, lock her up and tied loosely to the dock. Martin (Providence) had said NOT to lock it up, but it was so late and no one seemed to be coming in, so to hopefully have a ride home.. I locked it up.

We walked down the dock, and arrived the locked gate and then out of the darkness. Tim Burton could not cast this guy so well. Dark full length leather jacket, shinny completion and scary as Laurence Fishburn from the Matrix asked if I “Lurked the dinghy” ? Yes I translated that to “I’m sorry sir, I’l unlock and be right back” ..

Fixed the errs of my ways, and we are off to Church, and we find the place by the music. We arrive at 11p and its in full swing already. Christine gets ushered in, I look in my right hand and its a 1/2 full beer. Something wrong about going into the church with a beer, so I step back. Listen to the sermon outside for a while, and decide its rude to not be a part of something that Christine enjoys so find a hiding spot and hide the beer and wait for a break to find the pew. All good, 2 hrs later its wine and cracker time – my cue to split. She goes forward for Communion, I go back .. and the beer is gone – no worries its the fresh long horn coozie thats missing is disappointing.. oh well.. back to the boat.. another great evening to sleep…. early for the next adventure.  I might add that church started at 10p and finished around 2a. We were an hour late and left 30 minutes early and still sat through 2.5 hours of sermon.

North bound and down – Dominica or Le Saints

The WWW will be against us. Thats Wind, Weather and Waves not some silly opinionated social media fury. We are heading north the winds and waves are coming just north of east, thus we well be covering the boat with salt on this north bound adventure. The winds in Chatham bay are always swirly and pretty much its like chasing your tail to raise the anchor from all the twists and turns the boat goes through over night.

Trying something new, we planned on an over night, skipping the normal day stops, this allows the waves and winds not to be directly on the nose but more of a 45 degree angle, which is more pleasant. No internet in Chatham bay as we didn’t visit the fancy bar, and the old code wasn’t working, so we are going with the same Christmas winds and starting out double reefed. This means we are good for up to 35 knots of apparent wind.

Clear the bay raise the main and set the jib with no issues, and the boat takes off. We had plenty of electricity and topped with water, turn the engines off and sailing along at mainly 9knots. Wasn’t feeling the fish in the AM, as I hadn’t even put the rod holders out. Couple hours later after some breakfast and nothing else to do slowly, rigged up for fishing – first the holders then pulling the rods/reels out of storage.

Located a shiny orange lure for the starboard side, and re-skirted AHI for the portside. No real rhyme or reason, just the pretty colors looked tasty.

Dropped the starboard in, on the smaller reel. Then dropped the port one in, let it go back about 100M from the boat and went to get the teasers, which run about 30M back from the boat. Was dropping the first one in, and Christine yelled fish on.. I’m like “yeah right” so continued to futz / untangle the teaser. Finally I looked up and saw that the starboard orange lure was indeed bending the pole, so dropped the teaser in the water and went starboard, as I got there to kick up the drag the pole went limp. Wow, that was strange. Heading back to attend the the port teaser, the bigger reel starts to sing. Reach it and lock in the drag, but its full drag is no match for whats on the other end, and of course the boat speed. So leave the pole in the holder and pull in the teaser, have Christine pull in the orange starboard side lure, and the game is on!

The poles themselves are tied to the boat for good reason, not even out of boxers yet. Not that there was any need to be dressed for this offshore adventure at this point. Grabbed the fishing belt and mounted the pole and pulled hard.. Okay this thing is going to need granny gear, switch reel in to low, and get 1 turn on the handle. Uh-Oh. I’m bracing with my feet but still feel like I’m getting pulled off the boat, a few more turns of the handle and this is going to take forever with as much line as has been run out. Slow the boat, that is the next task, so Christine heads up till the jib is just flopping, okay now I can get 3 turns. Remembering TIP UP, reel, TIP UP reel. Arms getting tired and still no sign of fish, start to wonder if we just hooked some seaweed or something. 45 mins later.. What the heck? Finally see a fin above water way behind where the line goes in to the water and no sign of leader yet. Then it gets close enough to see the pointy thing. Oh GREAT, NOW what?

Pull it close to the stern steps and think, I’ll just grab the pointy end. I get close and damned if that thing didn’t start freaking out like the fencing champion it is. I haven’t taken fencing since that PE class and there I had play swords and protective gear, gonna need a different approach here. Hmm, a gaff would be nice but the only one we have on board is for seriously big fish.. The hook measures 12 inches and the stainless is 3/4 inch thick, a big hook. Well I guess it’ll have to do, Tied a line to the hook and the line to the boat and hoped that would do the trick. Still couldn’t get the guy on board, The pointy end just kept getting all tangled up in the swim ladder or he wouldn’t stay on the side of the boat to use the halyard to raise him. Eventually where there is a will there is a way, halyard and whatever strength I had left, I pulled it up the stern. No way to clean on the stern he would just fall back into the water had to use the side deck and the processing table. Course had to try and get a good picture in there somewhere. 2 hrs of cleaning and during that time the wind had died, we had reached the lee of the next big island up the chain. Made some pizzas and we carried on.

Making good time it looked like we would arrive our destination Portsmouth Dominica, or the Le Saints in the morning around 8am, course thats widely variable based on boat speed and the waves.

We discuss the watch schedule Christine doesn’t want the transition from light to dark, wants to come up when the moon has light the horizon. Talked about dinner, but wasn’t terribly hungry so just snaked on things. Just as its getting dark, the rain comes off St Lucia, we can see the pitons in the distance and the wifi can see the Jade Mountain resort but 30+ miles is just too far to get wifi for free. The windspeed hits 34 with the rain storm, and its getting dark so drop the main to the 3rd reef position for the night and shorten the jib some, have the motors running at 1200 rpm as the backup plan with that port engine with the sketchy battery, just don’t want to deal with it not starting in the middle of the night when you we need it to.

Rain storm and darkness its getting cold and bouncy, Christine is laying down, I break out my Christmas gift – a nice DRY suit. My foul gear was soaked through and wasn’t doing its job, so dry off and get into dry clothes and put on the dry suit. What a world of difference, only thing is that the booties are slick on the deck .. will need some boots to match next time I put that thing on. Christine wakes up and sees what I’m wearing and dons hers as well, well the moon has come by now, it didn’t show up till 1am. Make it past the 2am, everything happens at 2am, still bouncy and windy, wavy. 3am I look at AIS, and a cruise ship is on the inverse of our course, aka a collision course. Look closer he is going to pass us with less than a 1/4 mile between us at 3:30am or in 20 mins. I fall off 10degrees, that increase the wind as we are pinching – staying close to the wind to head into the wind, falling off increases boat speed and apparent wind. Okay that changed it to 1/2 a mile, out here in this big ocean really? Okay 10more degrees. Oh my, now we have 38knots of wind and we are laughing off the waves and making general racket, but at least it puts us 1mile away from the cruise ship in the dark. As soon as we pass, take those 20degrees back and can start to see the Dominica in the haze. Happy to be at 3 reefs at that point.

Sun rising over Dominica we contemplate Le Saints, but decide on Portsmouth for one night. Could have sworn this was where we stopped in Dominica last time we stopped here, but after searching for the hotel and good place to anchor in 26 knots of wind we took a ball from “Providence”, a PAYS boatboy the turned out to be excellent. Providence gave me a ride to customs, I cleared in and out, no issues, super easy and clearance is for 14 days. Since our time was limited we were going to organize a tour or something with Providence, but also wanted to walk on solid land for a bit, so we found a beach bar and wifi.. and we’re glued to the screens for an hour with cold beverages also counts as being on land.

Great town, super friendly, lots of small groceries, colorful houses, rivers, black sand beaches. Made some pasta on the boat, that was supposed to be the dinner while sailing and passed out from exhaustion and of course the cold beverages. Slept like a log.

Shake down cruise – Northbound from St Davids

So all stocked up, adult and nourishment and time to make a plan. As all good plans have a beginning, we timed it perfectly. St. Davids has customs and immigration on site on Tuesday and Thursday, so now we can check out at 8am. Freezer is holding, Freon comes by to check – all the provisions are still frozen – so lets get this show on the road.

As we are on the dock, its just a short walk up there .. only they aren’t supposed to arrive till 8am. So lots of other things to do as well like put the jib up. No biggie as the wind has cooperated and the sun isn’t up yet – easy task today except the pre-feeder got stuck and had to futz with it to get it out.

Last rinse of the boat with fresh water, and its now 9am, time to clear out.. or is it. Super friendly customs officer and one couple ahead of me, small talk – thank him for his service and happy holiday banter. Now the immigration officer had car trouble, and would be in shortly – so leave passports and head back to the boat to tinker by way of the boat parts store, needed some MEK for priming the glue I to fix the gas strut in the freezer. My christmas present, there was a 2 oz bottle that was left over that someone else didn’t need so a Christmas freebee. Thanked the lady for getting us the battery the day before, even if we haven’t used it, its on board .. just in case.

Thew down on some omelettes and noticed Immigration drive up, so headed up that direction, beating the couple ahead of me to the punch and go stamped out. All clear to go with a destination of Guadeloupe.

Another boat on the finger pier, “Privateer” was just pulling out too, they were on the downwind side and just released the lines and headed on out. We were being blown on to the dock, so time to pull the ole 2 engine routine. Released all the lines except for the starboard bow line and put the starboard engine in reverse and port in slow forward… should pull against the line and swing the boat off the dock. Well I guess the wind was a bit stronger as we just sat there. Felt perplexed, but then little more gas (er Diesel) and the movement started nice and slowly.. Christine added a second bow fender just to protect the bow. We started to spin then the dock handler flipped us off the cleat horns, okay, more throttle and and both in reverse we backed out at a 45 degrees missing the cat behind us. Off to adventure.

Engines in slow forward into the surge down the channel and we both stowed the fenders and lines that were keeping us reminded that we were tied to something, Privateer 1/2 mile ahead of us. We get all battened down, no sails raised yet as we were not sure which direction around the island we were gonna go.. Privateer went right.. hmm.. what do they know that we don’t .. if we go left, its shorter but lots bigger winds and waves directly from the Atlantic ocean, or go right and be sheltered by the island of Grenada. The being sheltered you also have to go more east into the wind.

Left was our choice, first day out big waves .. we went raised sail to double reef point, then 1/2 jib – and ran up the Atlantic side, heading to Saline Island and going to use the ‘yellow flag’ and just stay on board. Rocky boat ride, but moved along quite well, made good time for leaving at 10:30am, decided to push on an call the first day done at Chatham Bay and yellow flag here.

On the AIS system as we got close we could see ‘Privateer’ way to the west of us, the big monohull had gone the other way around the island and was heading to the same spot as we were, we ended up beating them there by about an hour as they tacked in, and of course we were charging batteries (read – engines running) .. but all is good.

Our friend Secki came out to meet us and welcomed us to the bay as usual, offered us dinner and Christine said I caved, but I do like dinner with them. Turns out Privateer was also at dinner so we sat at the same table, 60+ footer with 20+ pumps on board to run all the sails. Captain, Peter and 2 guest crew members, Makin and Johan who were v-bloggers RanSailing YouTubers – super nice folks .. great dinner and conversation about state of union island, Vanessa and how we all love their beach bar.

The dock is usable, so you don’t have to drag the dingy up on shore or across the coral that lines the beach there.  As usual the Chatham winds kept us cool providing a very restful night.

Great first day.