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Friday, November 11, 2016

Trinidad north to Martinique




On Tuesday, 2 November, we were up at 04:00 to begin the process of leaving the dock at Crews Inn Marina in Trinidad.  This marina does not simply pro-rate the electricity for the final night docked as is common; they want an actual meter reading when that power cord is unplugged.  We, of course, wanted air-conditioning for our final night at dock; hence, the extra early wake-up time.  What’s an extra hour of sleep!  Plus this provided the advantage of enjoying our morning cups of coffee before the last-minute rush to depart. The hotel desk is staffed 24/7.  Bill had to awaken the dock master so he could read our electric meter; the front desk clerk prepared our final invoice; and at 05:00 we were finally ready to depart the dock.  We waited around for another 15 minutes until sky was light enough to see well in this crowded narrow bay. 

BeBe went around the moored yachts rather than go through the middle of the mooring field in the still somewhat darkness, then headed straight for the Bocas channel.

We were sailing this day in company with 7 other northbound yachts.  We all had filed float plans with Trinidad officials with destination of Grenada.  No Venezuelan pirate worries this day.

Weather was great for the initial part of this passage.  Cloudy skies, but plenty of bright clear blue patches, about 15 knots wind from SE on our starboard aft quarter, and positive current assisting us with an extra 2 knots of SOG.  BeBe sailed and/or motor sailed for about 6 hours at over 8 knots SOG.  We dropped a fishing line to trail once we had passed the Hibiscus gas platform.  A couple of hours later that line sped out extremely fast!  We had a bite and it must have been big!  Within seconds the line snapped.  Whatever it was had taken our newest and best lure -- what I call a treble treble.  One that swims 10 to 15 feet below the surface and had 3 treble hooks.  I prefer this type lure because, after all, the more hook barbs increases the likelihood of keeping the fish on the line until it gets gaffed and aboard BeBe.  Goodbye best lure.  No more fishing for us this day.

And then our pleasant passage all changed.

We had been watching the sky over Venezuela off to our SW all morning.  The sky looked very strange – an odd cloudless solid dark steel gray-blue.  Around mid-day the wind died to nothing; to pick up soon thereafter coming from the SW!  That is really weird!  The wind just never comes from the west in the Caribbean except during storms with circular motion like hurricanes.  (Except for 1 day in February; almost every year for 1 day in February west winds usually surprise sailors at some point in the Eastern Caribbean.)  In all our years of sailing in the Caribbean we have never experienced westerly winds or southwesterly winds during November.  That weird inversion over northern Venezuela caused some strange weather.  The SW winds stayed up for hours.  As we approached the SW tip of Grenada the winds switched to come from the NE at 18 knots.


Another sunset
This was one strange day of Caribbean sailing.  We changed sail configuration more frequently than ever has been needed in the Caribbean on one day.  We started off with jib to port; then jib poled to port; then jib poled to starboard; then to starboard without pole; then back to port as we beat into 18-knot headwinds and 2-knot adverse current for the final few hours.  We sailed 91 nautical miles, arriving in the St. George’s anchorage at 19:00 in pitch blackness -- no moon and no stars, with many strikes of lightning off to the west.  It was impossible to see some of the boats as we slowly crept into the anchorage.  Boat owners who use those garden lights have no idea how poorly lit their boat appears as someone approaches an anchorage in pitch-black darkness with the shore lights in background.  When I suddenly saw a boat to our starboard because it swung a bit and the shore lights displayed the motion of that dark boat, I pleaded with Bill not to attempt to go any further.  We dropped anchor at that point in 8 meters depth and put out 55 meters chain.  Ended up being the boat farthest out in the anchorage and that was fine with me.  The next day I saw that the boat which we could not see at all in the darkness was painted a bright orange on port side and dark blue on the starboard side.  We could see neither color at night and this boat did not display any form of anchor light.  It was pure luck that we did not have a collision.

This was not a fun day of sailing.  It was very tiring and hot.  Downwind sailing always is hot because the boat is moving with the wind and you do not feel much, if any, breeze.  We were beat and too tired to care about dinner.  We each grabbed a shower and felt good enough to share the last can of chili on the boat.  (We are slowly eating our way through my over-filled food lockers since will be selling the boat in a couple of months.)

A special gift from very special friends.  We will
think of Hassan and Zeyhra (and little Carlos
Santana) every time we look at it.
The following day we met up with Turkish friends Hasan and Zehrya on S/V KANDIBA.  They had returned from a summer in Turkey only the previous day and it was great catching up with them.  They presented us with a small silver dish for our home in Galveston.  It is stamped with the symbol of the Ottoman Empire as a remembrance.  Hasan and Zehrya plan to head to the South Pacific early next spring and it is very unlikely we will see one another again.  They hosted us for a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the Port Louis Marina.  I enjoyed sautéed shrimp and leeks and it was cooked to perfection.  The next morning we upped anchor and sailed to Carricou.
video

This time we sailed about 1 ½ miles off the western coast of Grenada.  This allowed us to catch more wind than if hugged the coastline.  We went west of the exclusion zone for Kick’em Jenny, the active underwater volcano situated slightly NW of Grenada; then angled to beat into Tyrrel Bay, Carricou, arriving just in time to launch the dinghy for Bill to zoom in to handle departure clearance from Grenada and Carricou before closing hour.
video

That evening we enjoyed a special treat of a lobster dinner ashore.  On the way to the restaurant we noticed S/V FROST and stopped to chat a moment with Mike and Rebecca.  We last saw them in Martinique last spring.  The lobster dinner was unusual, cooked differently than the typical boiling or grilling; these were pan seared tails.  It was good but did not compare to fresh cooked on our boat.  The highlight of the meal was dessert of homemade buttered almond ice cream.  THAT was delicious!  Roasted almonds cooked into a butter brickle and then broken into homemade ice cream.  Whoever invented this recipe has a winner.

Early Sunday morning we upped anchor and enjoyed a day of sailing perfection up to Bequia.  We went west of Union Island, skipping Mayreau and Canouan and Mustique.  We talked about going to Mustique once again because the wind was of good enough direction to allow us to sail that far eastward; but decided that we will cherish our memories of that special island.  We have visited Mustique 4 times.  Why chance a 5th visit and possibly destroy our good memories there if it has changed, which inevitably is the case.  We continued onward to Bequia where we anchored for only 1 night.  Good memories of that island many times too.  Thirty years ago there were maybe 5 cruising boats anchored in Bequia; today there were about 200.  Sigh….is this better for the local people?  I fear the island rapidly is becoming too dependent on tourism and they are losing their traditional ways of life.  I am not certain this is a good thing in the long run.

On Monday, 7 November, we departed Bequia at first light in company with several other boats headed north.  The Salty Dawg Rally BVI had a rum punch party scheduled for Tuesday night and everyone was invited, not just the rally participants.  But the wind was right to sail this day and would not be right if we waited to attend that party, so off we went.  Since this would be a long day (70 miles) we opted to motor-sail until lost all wind in the shelter of beautiful St. Vincent; then we motored until just past the northern side of this very high island.  There we again caught the wind and were able to sail to St. Lucia.  The topography of the island of St. Vincent is gorgeous.  It might be the most beautiful of all the Caribbean islands --  but we have not once stopped there because of the high violent crime against cruisers.  This is well-known and has gone on for decades.  Too many sailors have been attacked by men wielding machetes and guns for us to consider stopping there.  Such a shame.

Anchor was down at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia at 16:15 so this was an excellent day!  Motor-sailed or motored 56% and sailed 44% of the 70 NM trip.  We were happy with that.  This time we anchored closer to the beach than ever before.  We cleared in and out, saying we plan to depart early the next day; then we hit the supermarket.  That supermarket was the primary reason for coming here.  I found 1,000 EC currency in a purse a few months ago.  That currency is good only on certain islands of the Eastern Caribbean.  We blew some of that EC cash on those lobster dinners at Carriacou and would spend the rest of it here in St. Lucia buying whatever.  That has now been accomplished and it is time to move on to Martinique.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016 – We stayed put for at least 1 more day even though we had already cleared out of St. Lucia.  Our propane solenoid failed and the only replacements available in St. Lucia were the standard cheap models; we wanted the German produced original part (which costs about 6 times the price of the common solenoids sold in marine chandleries).  We contacted Amel in Le Marin and learned they did have this part in stock; so, to Le Marin it would be – even though we had not planned to go there. There was a LO system which passed through on Wednesday and it would have been a miserable day at sea.  When this weather system passed we sailed up to Martinique.    

But more nasty weather followed for yet another day.  On Thursday we enjoyed a beautiful sail towards Martinique until the final 45 minutes.  Off to the east the sky was black as far as we could see.  We quickly took in all sails and turned on the engine and motored straight for St. Anne’s; no way we would attempt the long jagged narrow entrance channel into Le Marin during nasty weather.  We arrived in St. Anne’s in a 40-knot squall, dropping anchor near the stern of the first anchored boat we could see through the water-filled air.  We each grabbed something for a quick lunch while waiting for the squall to pass, then motored into Le Marin where we had arranged for a mooring for 1 night so we could pick up the solenoid from Amel.  Mission accomplished.


When we checked email we learned that the buyers of BeBe would like to have a rigging inspection performed by a rigger who was recommended by the Amel Service office here in Le Marin.  Today is Veterans Day (called something else in France) and the rigger said he could not do this inspection until Monday.  We talked to him yesterday afternoon and he said he would make an exception and come out to inspect the rigging this morning, even though it is a holiday.  As I type this blog posting it is now after 09:00 and we have heard nothing from the rigger this morning.  Maybe we are leaving today and maybe not until Monday or Tuesday.  There are far worse places to be ‘stuck’ than here.  We enjoy Le Marin very much. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Time to begin heading north

BeBe will be on passage north to Grenada when this post is published.  We are sailing in a little informal flotilla of 7 boats.  Hurricane season will not be over until the end of November but the Atlantic is calm at this time and all 7 boats are sailing up to Grenada.  We hope to meet up with friends there for a few days for the final time; they then will be sailing west to the South Pacific and we will continue north to the Virgin Islands.

We had planned to sail non-stop from Grenada to the British Virgin Islands, but now have had second thoughts.  There is no reason for us to hurry as the new owners do not arrive in the Virgin Islands until 11 January -- except that the wind traditionally begins to switch predominant direction during November from SE of the summer to NE of the winter and we do NOT want to be forced into headwinds because we dallied too long down-island.  Careful eye to the weather, as always.


Things I will miss about Trinidad:  the friendly people and flavorful ethnic foods.

Things I will not miss about Trinidad:  the heat, humidity and biting noseeums.  I swear Trinidad is as bad as Houston or New Orleans for heat and humidity.  Of course, this is no surprise as we are on the same latitude as Cochin, India.  I am holding out high hopes for cooler weather at 18N than it is here at 10N.  As we leave here I feel as though I have been eaten alive by noseeums.  Not a single other person around me has been bitten.  I have been covered with the strongest insect repellents available, yet I am the one who has dozens of very itchy bites.  PLEASE let there be no more of these noseeums at any of the places we stop going north!


After catching up with friends in Grenada we now favor island hopping north rather than sailing non-stop to the BVI.  Both Bill and I would enjoy visiting Ile des Saintes one final time, indisputably our single favorite island in the entire Caribbean.  If the wind changes direction while we are still island hopping north, we should be able to turn NW at any point and get on over to the Virgins without difficulty (or headwinds!).


Forward cabin is now a storage space.  Port side leeboard in place
and ready to set sail northward.  Should be a starboard tack for the
entire trip to the Virgin Islands; these boxes should ride fine.
And our destination has been changed from the BVI to St. John in the USVI. I have taken advantage of being berthed in Trinidad with no busy social schedule and have packed up boxes of things to be mailed back to Texas.  I have 9 boxes of media (books, CDs and DVDs) that will be mailed via the US Postal Service from St. John to Texas.  Love that domestic postal rate and especially that ultra-inexpensive media rate!  

According to the USPS website the post office in St. John should have stock of the flat-rate boxes in the sizes we need.  Rather than ship our things back to Texas we have decided to mail things home.  Bill is convinced that the post offices in the USVI will have stock of the flat-rate boxes which we need.  I am not convinced those boxes will be stocked in those locations.  So....in order to be prepared (as always; it is my neurotic weakness)...I have collected what boxes were available from the local supermarket.  The boxes were saturated with roach spray before being allowed on our boat.  These are reserved as our last resort in case the post office has no flat-rate boxes in stock and there are no small heavier moving boxes available for sale in the USVI.  Moving is stressful!!

Do not look for more postings on this blog for weeks.  As we will be island hopping, we will not purchase data sims because each island has a different system.  Therefore, unless we just happen upon some open WiFi somewhere, I will not be updating this blog any time soon.