Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Season's Wrap Up!



 So, last report, April 4th, Cat Tales and Peace & Plenty were in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou.  We received a good weather report and decided, for the first time, to attempt to go down the east, or windward side of Grenada.  We were rather nervous, since Dawn and I had attempted the east side of St. Vincent a few years ago with s/v Free Spirit.  We had found outrageously confused seas as the waves and wind reverberated off the steep island.  Worse, the wind that should have kept us going came and went as it got backed up from the hills, and the current constantly hauled us nearer shore.  Ultimately, we motored through the awful waves and thrashing.

But this time, the trip down Grenada wasn't bad at all.  We chose to stay at least 4 miles away, the waves were manageable, the wind was constant, and it was better than having to motor down the west side.   We pulled around the corner into St. David's harbour after only 4.5 hours. 

The plan allowed us to visit a number of harbours on the south coast, and travel downwind to Prickly Bay.  It was nice to have avoided the upwind slog from St. George's to Prickly; and the visiting was fun too.   We only actually stopped in St. David's and again in Clarke's Court; but got to see the two other boatyards, clean up our boats in the flatter waters, visit with s/v Tiger Lily II and s/v Sittatunga (and others), and try out many of the eating and drinking spots we had heard about over the years.

We love the creativity on these islands!

Laurie and Brian tying and locking dinghies while we go to lunch.


We thought it was just a sign, but it really was an iguana crossing!
The bays themselves are no great shakes:  wind blows through them, waves are rather constant except in a few corners, and the water is tremendously polluted and cloudy.  Some of the water problem is simply because of mangroves that line almost every bank, and the freshwater streams that come in from every cleft; but not completely.  These streams run far inland, and are polluted by sewage and, in the case of Clarke's Court Bay, by the industrial runoff of the island's largest rum distillery.  Not a place for swimming, although I did get in and give the boat's bottom a final scrape and wash in St. David's.
Laurie working on the washing and waxing of Cat Tales while out in the bay.  We leave wax on for the summer season and then wash is off with soap and water on our return.

Even more than Tyrell Bay, the Clarke's Court area is the last stop for a large population of very crusty old sailors, from Canada, US, Britain, and parts of the EU.  Mostly male and alone, they spend their days at the rum shops or enjoying the community gatherings.  They head back to their boats at night in dinghies that should have or actually were thrown away, and dare to sneak through the speeding local pirogues in the dark without lights.  Their boats all seem to be old and in need of work, much like their dinghies, and we imagine their banter at the rum shops might be about how they intend to find a solution to a major problem on board ...maybe next year.  We took a dinghy ride around to see some of these boats.  Most appear to show scars from the 2004 hurricane, with some just plain neglected but lived in.  There are retired couples betwixt and between; keeping the community together with jam sessions, pot lucks, beach barbecues, trivia games and the absolutely necessary weekly domino games. 


I think you can close the curtains on this boat!
We organized at least three wonderful lunches ashore, some with other boats, before we made the last jump to Prickly Bay.  Dawn and I had organized a full week ashore, while Lorna and Brian did a great job of getting the boat ready on the water, and pulled out only 2 nights before joining us on the same flight home on the 20th of April.  Of course, we got together for a night at the craft brewery, two meals at the new Prickly Bay restaurant, and one meal at the Greek restaurant at the University.  Eating out is a pleasure of ours on ALL the islands!

We are now back in Canada enjoying the coolish spring weather and all the fun stuff, like a car, washer/dryer, hot running water and a flush toilet!!!

Since we never did find our leak, we're hoping the tarp has covered it!

One more sexy catamaran!  This one is called Helicat Red.  Yup, that's a helicopter landing pad on the back end!
TECHNICAL

Biggest news is that I was introduced to a new tool, an impact driver.  It is like a screw driver except that it turns when you hit it with a hammer.  Two different boaters came to me in the yard to ask that I try it after hearing me tapping at a large screw on my traveler every few hours, attempting to drive in the penetrating oil.  They knew I was in trouble, and indeed, it might have been a lifetime of tapping without the tool.  As it was, the little hammer that came with the boat actually broke from my efforts before I tried the driver.  I promptly ran down to Ace Hardware and bought my own, I was so impressed.

The usual maintenance and decommissioning work was done, but we also began in earnest our efforts to stop up the leak that is delivering water to the port hull at the forward bulkhead.  We used a combination of butyl tape and 3M 4000UV on the port pulpit, toerail and one stantion, all the toggles of the windshield, and all the snaps of the window sunscreens.  We also wrapped the salon in tarp to attempt to minimize the water that might cause mould while in storage.  More rebedding will occur in the fall.

Over our 5 months of sailing, we were hit by other boats numerous times, and these hits have to be addressed.  One was just a propeller cut of the anchor bridle, and I spliced the ropes.  The Hobie Cat 16 hit to the stern was repaired in the Saintes, but the colour match was made with spray paint.  Since another hit, one causing leaking at the swim ladder, is going to require some gelcoat, I'll redo that one as well next season.  A starboard bow scrape also needs gelcoat.

Other pending plans include replacing all the emergency u-bolts at the waterline, regluing bilge switches that let go, replacing dodgy-looking hose clamps, non-skid on the swim steps, reloading the bearings in the traveler car, and other things.  Who would have thought that 7 days in a boatyard would make such a small dent?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Grenadines



While we were arranging what to put in this weblog, Lorna published a fantastic blog for Peace and Plenty.  You ought to take a look at it, as they have been along with us these last few weeks.  Click on the link on the sidebar after you are finished here.

We're having a slow day at anchor in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou.  The wind is blowing 14-18 knots, the sea has a gentle swell, and the cabin is around 29 C.  Dawn is going in with Lorna and Brian to play dominoes, and I will continue with my boat chores: making water, unsticking bolts and screws, touching up gelcoat areas, transferring fuels, finalizing the work list for the boatyard.

We left Ste. Anne, Martinique on the 13rd of March, with Peace and Plenty just behind us, and had a lovely sail over to Rodney Bay; just a bit of water on the deck.  There were large enough waves, but they were with rounded edges in the 15 knots of wind. No fish, however.

Rodney Bay was a whirlwind of activity, with us staying only 8 days until the next weather window allowed us to sail to Bequia.  Still, we hit the highlights: a lunch, a supper, and a happy hour with John Fallon, a bit of hiking, buying boat parts, celebrating Lorna's birthday with a big party at a bar on the marina boardwalk.  Brian and I also hiked to Vigie Light one day and left Lorna and Dawn to shop all day with no time limits and no bored men waiting by each store door.
In Rodney Bay, Johnny spends most of his day paddling around selling woven straw hats and whatever he can sell.  Laurie is often seen taking Johnny back to the shore in rough weather.

One of many birthday celebrations for Lorna.  This one was with old friends in Rodney Bay on the Boardwalk.  Lorna and Dawn are at the far end of the table on the left.  Across from them is Laurie and John Fallon.
 
The Vigie hike was a "do-over" from the previous year, as I intended to write up a story for a magazine on it, but had a poor camera.  Vigie Light is on top of a minor 320' hill at the mouth of Castries harbour.  The light guides ships, but a radio operator constantly monitors and guides marine traffic into and out of the tiny bay opening to coordinate the boats with the airport.  The end of the runway is at the edge of the bay, and the smallest sailboat mast could be clipped by an airplane.  The hill is well littered with historic buildings and gun placements, dilapidated and repurposed barracks, and an archive.  The archive itself has good information on the hill and the structures, as well as an original of the military report of the WWII submarine attack  (U-161) that sank two boats at the dock and killed a couple of dozen people.  One of those boats was Canada's Lady Nelson: built by CN in England in 1928 for passengers and mail between Canada, England, Guyana, and the Caribbean.  After it was refloated, it was taken to Alabama to be fixed, and was converted to a hospital ship and made 30 crossings, carrying 25 000 wounded to Halifax.  The approach to Vigie also includes a large graveyard, where some of the crew of the two ships are buried.

Hilariously, the Archives was closed this time.  Maybe, with some internet work, I can grind out the article during the summer anyway.  Otherwise, I will make the hike again next fall.

Entrance to Castries Harbour from Vigie Lighthouse

Married Quarters at Vigie Light

Other embassies, Vigie Light

Upper Meadow's Battery
We arrived in Bequia on the evening of Tuesday, March 21, after 14 hours of very nice sailing.  Peace and Plenty arrived an hour ahead of us, as the last bit of sailing had the wind close hauled, and his boat demonstrated superiority at that angle.  Bequia, too, we did in a rush; getting quickly into the favourite restaurants and doing a few walks to stay healthy. 

Cute signage along Lower Bay Beach in Bequia!
 Seven days later, we had another fantastic sail, and anchored for two nights at Frigate Rock, Union Island.  We were joined there by an acquaintance, Mark of Toronto, who was solo-sailing a Catalina 38 "Current Affairs", through the region before heading back to Canada.  With Mark, we hiked up a steep trail to the top of the 800+' "Big Hill" which towers over the little village of Ashton.  We also sailed over to Petit Martinique, and anchored almost a half mile from shore in 12 feet of sand.  It has to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the world, but the currents go so fast under the boat -east-then-west- that jumping overboard is hazardous.

We are anchored to the right side of Frigate Rock pictured here.  You can also see the beginnings of a marina intended for this space.  Unfortunately, we see too many failed projects on these islands.  Let's hope it's a good spot for fish to breed.

After the hike up the mountain, we stopped by a little rum shop for a few cool ones.  Lorna and Brian are on the left, with Mark from s/v Current Affair.  Beside Mark is our new friend of the day, Eddie!
Anchored between  Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique, we found a lovely patch of sand at a perfect depth to drop the hook.  The water colour is so beautiful and clear, you can see your anchor from the deck!  We hiked around the entire Petit Martinique and then had a fabulous lunch at Melody's on the beach.
Tyrell Bay is being rushed as well, with a quick walk to Paradise Beach for the view and a few cold beer with Curtis at "Off da Hook", and an early supper at Lucky's Bar last night.  Tomorrow, we hope to sail down to Grenada.  We are watching the weather, and hoping to sail down the east side if the wind and weather are conducive.  This will allow us to gunkhole along the south shore of Grenada, going downwind between the bays.  If not, we will stay on the lee side and anchor tomorrow in St. Georges.

TECHNICAL

Our Amiot main traveler is spitting out plastic, meaning the high density plastic bearings in it are shot.  I am attempting to source new bearings while I use penetrating oil and tapping to release all the fittings to allow access.

We have been attempting to end a leak that is puddling fresh water in the port hull.  I have rebedded over 20 fittings and am waiting for another rain to see if I got it.  In the meantime, a puddle showed up after a very minor rain to keep us confused.  Then we left the boat for a day with vinegar trapped in the bathroom drains to remove soap scum.  Well, when we smelled vinegar in the bilge, we knew that some of the water is related to the drains.  I was able to tighten the shower drain to stop that, and now we wait.  Interestingly, while I was filling the sink drain with vinegar, a poor little 30 mm crab jumped up and into the sink.  I immediately flung the little guy into the ocean, hoping he survives.  Imagine being an aquatic creature and immersed in vinegar - all your sensory organs and the rest.  I cry when I get some in a tiny cut!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Return to St. Anne



We are in a battering series of windy days now, in St. Anne, Martinique; and today is the most rainy of the series.  The weather has been seriously different this year, with cooler temperatures, higher winds, fewer safe sailing days.  Indeed, typical March weather in the Windwards is calmer and dryer, with some islands turning from the emerald green to dusty brown.  Not this year.  Oh well, great day to write a weblog.

We left Dominica on February 24th, but not before taking part in numerous hikes.  We had reported our retracing of Waitukubuli Trail segment 14 last weblog.  We also rehiked the route to Chaudiere Pool on the east coast and found a way to do a very difficult but enjoyable portion of Trail Segment 11; starting from Granby Street in Portsmouth and ending up crossing a beautiful suspended walking bridge inland from the IGA supermarket in Glanvillia.  This last one, led by Anina of s/v Prism, was super; but since it was expected to be a 3-hour walk and turned out to be a 5.5-hour hike with severe climbing and even some rappelling on a rope, it was a spirit-crusher for poor Lorna.  Brian had stayed at s/v Peace and Plenty to catch up on sleep after a GI bug kept him out of bed all night.  At the end of the day, we all celebrated our successful finish of a crazy long hike.  Good on ya, Lorna!!

Notice the hikers are still smiling...it must have been early in the 5.5 hour hike!

Lorna walking the suspension bridge.  Although it terrified her, she knew that the alternative was 5.5 hours back, so OFF SHE WENT!

We also again enjoyed the Cruiser Appreciation Week, co-managed by members of the Salty Dawg Rally and the PAYS service group; attending meals, bar meetings, hikes, and impromptu musical jam sessions.

The return trip down the coast of Dominica, across the Martinique Channel, and into St. Pierre was not all enjoyable.  Winds were too light to do anything but motor behind Dominica, and a strange set of confused waves made the last hour of travel behind the Mount Pele volcano bad enough to rattle out the fillings in our teeth.  Interestingly, the open-water sailing was about as nice as it could get, albeit with no fish wishing an escape from the sea to our table.  As Lorna and Brian were with us, you might check their weblog to see how they found it.  http://peaceandplenty2012.blogspot.ca

Upon our arrival into St. Pierre, Lorna and Brian hosted us for a supper of barbecued pork chops in the anchorage, but the event was on Cat Tales as the irregular wave pattern was even splashing water into their cockpit.  Ever versatile, they showed up with the food, the plates, the cutlery, and even the barbecue; assembled it all and served us.  It was a great night, made more surprising by a radio call at 0730 hours the next morning saying they had left over an hour and a half ago in an attempt to gain calm conditions to round Diamond Rock for St. Anne.  We stayed, with plans to welcome Bill and Lynne Cabel on board in 2 days.

Laurie catching another lionfish in St. Pierre, Martinique

Snorkeling on a wreck close to the beach made for interesting fish hideouts.
The arrival of the Cabels was during the peak of St. Pierre's Carnival; and we whisked them from their taxi straight to a street-side bar to enjoy refreshments and watch the silliness.  It was Red and Black Day of the Carnival, in which men and women alike tend to wear red and black lingerie, and too many people just looked like New Orleans transvestite hookers and male (virgin?) brides.

Next day we toured the village with Bill and Lynn, paying attention to the ruins and the terrible history of the 1902 explosion, and including a rather steep half hour climb to the Depaz Rum Distillery and a cool river valley walk back to town.  Their visit also included sails around the west edges of the island, stops in a few sandy bays, numerous French lunches with feet in the sand, and a hike from St. Anne to Anse Saline for a meal and swim in the large surf.  Lynn got rather beat up by a series of two waves, and tells us she is still finding sand at the bottom of her soak tub in Fredericton.  The seven days went way too fast, and they were soon back in a taxi to the airport. 

We saw over a hundred dolphins along the coast of Martinique!  A wonderful treat for Bill and Lynn!  We certainly feel pretty lucky at any time we can see such a display!

Dawn captured this photo of a turtle in Grand Anse D'Arlet.

Lynn, with a view of some of the many boats in the harbour of St. Anne.

Lynn and Bill, sipping water after our hike straight up a steep hill of the 'Stations of the Cross'.
Our time in St. Anne is much as it was earlier in the season, with many people to visit, hikes to enjoy, lunches to eat, and - if the rain ever stops - sunsets to toast.  However, many of us are entering the last few weeks of our season down here; and looking for weather windows, repair parts, and final adventures before the bitter-sweet time in the boatyards and the long flights back to our other lives.

After our visitors left, Dawn attended a weekly 'Ladies' Luncheon' at the La Dunnett restaurant.  This is only half the women in attendance!
Laurie had an article on Rousea, Dominica, published in the Caribbean Compass this month.  You can find it here:



TECHNICAL

We've been plagued with a loud, irregular, chirping sound from our port engine control panel for weeks now.  The guilty buzzer is wired to: a water temperature sensor, an oil pressure sensor, an alternator exciter circuit, and a water leak sensor located between the saildrive seals.  It shares a lot of harness wires with the tachometer device as well.  After consultations with friends and internet allies, I determined to go at it systematically and scientifically, testing one thing at a time.  I dug my way to the saildrive seal sensor and pulled it out, cleaned, tested and returned it.  No change in symptoms.  I leaned back in and disconnected it from the engine wiring harnesses, but noticed that I had easy access at this time to the large negative bolt that connects the negative from the batteries as well as some other circuits.  It was all in good condition, but I dismantled, burnished, regreased, and reassembled it.  Returning to my original resolve, I reconnected the saildrive sensor - then realized I had still messed with two different variables, even if I did not clean the sensor connector to ensure salt was not the culprit.  Well the chirping has ceased, and the conclusions are compromised; but I'm okay with it all.

Except for a baffling but small ingress of rainwater into the bottom of the port hull, all other systems are working well.  We are planning to clean and reinstall all hull fittings this spring in the boatyard to solve the problem, a rather daunting task.  However, water ingress could lead to us returning to a boat full of black mold next fall - another of the Admiral's nightmares.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Back in Dominica



Well, we've been busy.  Still, we could have written!  Does it justify a long blog?

We finished up our adventures at Marie Galante, revisited Les Saintes, and have been in Dominica for over a week.

After we caught and enjoyed the monster mahi mahi with the crew of Charlotte D, we rented a car with Jim and Cristine of the boat Ullr.  Ullr is an Island Packet 38, but a version with a weighted centreboard housing and centreboard.  The crew is one more set of friends we have met through the "Friends of Denis" group of people who get their weather each morning from Denis Webster of Tiger Lily II.  The trip around the island was a fun thing to do, with interesting, quiet country roads and an interesting French-Caribbean cuisine lunch.  We also did a hike with them and the crew of Discovery, Bob and Anita, and a rather poor attempt to find a good snorkeling area. 

After the snorkeling, Bob and I made up for it by hunting an invasive species that is depleting the reefs of young fish - the toxic spined lionfish - behind our boats.  Bob had a long hawaiian sling, while I had a much shorter sling with a barbed trident that I had purchased back in Marin.  I had much more luck, but between us, we killed at least nine of the suckers.  None of the fish had enough meat on them to be worth snipping the spines and cleaning, so we just let them float away, dead or mortally wounded.  One fish just escaped my barbs by swimming under a rock.  As I awaited to see if I would be awarded another chance, it scurried back out of the hideout with a big bite out of its belly.  Back at the rock, a small moray eel stuck its head out with what looked like a self-satisfied grin on its face.  Dawn also circled around and found one of our wounded victims was partially covered by an octopus that was gently working around the evil barbs on it.  I really felt I was having fun like a little kid.
Both Laurie and Bob sticking it to the evil Lionfish!

Trying again to get the one that "got away" and slipped under a rock!
 The trip downwind back to Les Saintes was a dream, with us only using our jib.  We also refused to fish, as our freezer was still crowded with Mahi Mahi.  We were joined in Les Saintes by Al and Michelle of Tarantella, Chris and Fran of Changes, and again Peter and Catherine of Charlotte D.  We did some hiking as well as visiting each other's boats for sundowners.  Great reunions with lots of stories.

We had one bit of trouble while there, however.  While waiting at anchor for a mooring ball to become available, two novice sailors who were taking lessons on a Hobie 16 slammed into our starboard stern.  The wind was howling, they were out of control, and screaming towards us on a beam reach, the main loaded, the jib loose, and both heads down straightening up the ropes.  Had they stayed on their trajectory, they would have put two bows right through the boat.  Dawn's scream got their attention, they looked up, and the helmsman tried to miss us by steering downwind.  With an unbalanced sail plan, he could not clear us.  His starboard bow hit the very stern edge of us - likely the only place strong enough to withstand it.  We had the sailing school come out and do the fibreglassing, but the gelcoat work will have to be done by me in Grenada.

Damage done by an inattentive captain of a fast traveling Hobie Cat while at anchor in the Saintes (Guadeloupe)

Our sail to Dominica on Sunday, February 5th, was reasonable: a beam reach in large waves but only 15 knots of wind.  I attempted it with all reefs in, thinking I could get it done with a minimum of sail.  However, after going 5 knots at the bottom of waves and 3 knots at the top, I shook a reef out and put a little more jib out to enjoy a constant 6.5 knots, with some blowing spray.  So, it was salty but enjoyable, and Dominica's very common rains cleaned it all up by morning.  The number of boats in the Portsmouth anchorage leading up to Cruiser Appreciation Week has been outrageous.  Last year, the inaugural event may have had 60 or 70 boats, still an amazing number for the area.  By Thursday night, before the event even started, I counted 120 yachts; and this week there has to be 140 at least.  The yacht service fellows are having a great, but busy time with it all.

Lorna and Brian arrived on Sunday; and even though they had a rough crossing and a heart-breaking amount of leakage of salt water into the boat and bedding, they came to Cat Tales for a supper of mahi mahi.

Not much else to tell you.  We've been involved in barbecues, hikes, sundowners, and of course fantastic hikes.  Hopefully, the pictures can help tell some of this. 
Gorgeous scenery around Marie Galante while driving in our rental car!

If anyone ever wonders why we anchor on the west side of the islands, well, here's why!  This is the east side, and of course the wind blows out of the east almost all the time!!

Eight tired hikers after an 8 km of constant up and down !  We bused to the trail head in a bus (van) for a couple bucks a head and then caught another bus back down from another location for another couple bucks.  Lunch on the trail and scenery that would shock most!

Anina (s/v Prism), Cindy (s/v Sititunga), Lorna (s/v Peace and Plenty) and Dawn (s/v Cat Tales) attending the BBQ in Portsmouth put on by the boat boys who look after us here while in Dominica

The other halves of the girlie picture.  Charlie, Dan, Brian and Laurie all in the same order as the gals photo!
 TECHNICAL

One bit of hard work I've attempted since last report involves alternator work.  Cat Tales has two alternators: a 55 ampere, and a 80 ampere; each of which has a specially matched shunt and amp meter.  However, as alternators have been replaced or serviced, they got mixed up with the incorrect shunts; and one seemed to be putting out way too little "juice".  I finally re-arranged the installations, cleaning all contacts; and have the assemblies properly working and reporting.  One full work day, two rags, one emery board, and a few dabs of dielectric grease (and one small cut on my hand).

All other systems are working well also.