2013 - 2015 Gibraltar to the Caribbean (in reverse order)
Better Late than Never....New.....Grenada to Trinidad (June 2 - June 29, 2015)
It has been a year since we last updated the site...much has happened over the last year including selling our cabin "The Big Red House" in Big Bear, CA and purchasing Ranch d'Esprit in
Hamilton, Montana - story & photos to follow with our next update! Although we did not sail this cruising season (2016), we first wanted to update you on the grand finale of last year's (2015)
cruising season - so here you go!
Caribbean Adventure Video
June 2015 - We departed Rodney Bay Marina and St. Lucia Tuesday June 2. Although the first few hours looked like we had a motor boat trip ahead of us, the winds finally settled in and we arrived in
Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada early morning after a fairly comfortable sail south. The bay was more crowded than when we departed in April, but we were able to find a good spot to anchor. The next few
days were spent cleaning and provisioning in anticipation of the arrival of our daughter Amy, her husband Beau, and our granddaughters Trinity and Tasha. We chose this anchorage because it is
reasonably calm, and we wanted to ease the kids into gaining their sea legs. Although curious as to what it would be like with six of us on board, we were looking forward to showing them what life on
board Esprit is like, and to watching the cruising experience through four fresh sets of eyes.
The kids arrived late on the night of Friday June 5. Shademan was our taxi driver and the kids got a kick out of his Reggae like van! On that dark night we took them in the dinghy from the dock to
Esprit which was out in the bay on the hook. After a preliminary safety briefing by Chay, who the grand kids call Big Daddy, we had a late happy hour with rum punch to officially welcome them to the
Caribbean. After dispensing Bonine to the new arrivals, we all settled down for their first night on board.
Grenada Airport Arrival
The next day we woke the “new crew” up early for a morning of city shopping with Shademan. We played tourist at the market in St. George, did some last minute provisioning, and introduced them to the traditional tub of ice cream consumed in one sitting. The kids were amazed at the difference between what they saw on the on line tourist sites and what it was like for real!
Beau, Trinity, Amy, Tasha, & Katie at open market in St. George
Snorkeling was the next item on our agenda, so that afternoon we all donned our gear and headed off to a nearby reef in the dinghy. After instructing them on how to enter the water off the dinghy and how to snorkel in the currents, we all enjoyed the snorkel, even if it was windy and a bit rough.
On Sunday we dinghy'd through the reef to Hog Island for the local's beach barbecue so the kids could experience a part of cruising which sadly is rapidly disappearing. Trinity and Tasha had fun exploring the island and beach.
Katie & Beau at Hog Island BBQ, Grenada
Amy, Trinity, Beau & Tasha, Hog Island, Grenada
Shademan gave us an excellent island tour on Monday which included the volcanic lake, chocolate factory, rum factory, lunch at an excellent local restaurant with delicious homemade ice cream, and a swim at the water falls including some cliff diving by Chay and Beau. We all enjoyed Shademan's banter of local knowledge, and especially enjoyed the custard freeze in a baggie, a local specialty, which he treated us to at the end of the tour.
Beau, Chay, Tasha, Amy, Trinity & Katie, Island Tour of Grenada
Cuban airplane from the Cuban invasion of Grenada
Tasha, Beau & Trinity at chocolate factory
Cocoa beans roasting in the sun
Chay & Beau cliff jumping
After waiting for two hours for immigration to arrive, we cleared out of Grenada on Tuesday morning for St. Lucia. That afternoon we sailed to Moliniere Point where we picked up a national park mooring ball for the night so that we could snorkel the underwater sculpture park. This snorkel adventure turned out to be a critical one as Katie was able to use some personal storytelling to help Tasha get over her fear of deep/dark water. We all enjoyed the sculptures, reefs, and sea life!
We were off the mooring ball by 4AM for our passage to Clifton, Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. What we expected to be a rough passage based on our previous experience, turned out to be the best north going passage we had all season! When we arrived at Clifton, we picked our anchoring spot, only to have a drunk Finnish cruiser tell us we would be too close in front of him and that there was a gale warning. There was no gale warning in effect, but so as not to cause any trouble, we did move to a different spot where Chay dove and set the anchor. We then put the dinghy in the water, and went to the airport to clear customs and immigration. We wandered around town a bit after clearing in before heading back to Esprit for dinner.
Arrival at Union Island, St. Vincent & the Grenadines
On tour in Clifton, Union Island
The next morning we motor sailed to Tobago Cays where the anchor set the first time with no help from Chay! That was the first time it's done that in a long time. However, the wind sensor at the top of the mast broke during this very short passage – we were surprised to discover that the stress level actually goes down a bit when you just use the feel of the boat and aren't watching the wind speed numbers creep up.
Ready to sail to Tobago Cays
We were approached by one of the locals, Neal, in his boat “Handy Man”. Neal is the young man for whom we filled 3 dive tanks last year (2014) in exchange for a fresh lobster. He remembered us from last year, even the fact that we stayed for several days and had our son with us! Neal is one of the local entrepreneurs who does the beach barbecues at Tobago Cays, and he does an incredibly awesome job! We had dinner with him that night which was enjoyed by all. The spread was amazing and delicious! Neal then made sure to stop by Esprit each day, no matter which anchorage we were in including Salt Whistle Bay, Saline Bay and Clifton Harbor, to see how we were doing and if we needed anything. It's nice to know that there are still some honestly good people in the world.
Before the beach barbecue we snorkeled with the sea turtles, and then the kids spent some time on the beach while we cleaned the salt off the boat.
Ready for our beach BBQ in Tobago Cays
In anticipation of some stronger winds arriving with the next set of Tropical waves, we moved to Salt Whistle bay on the island of Mayreau. Chay dropped the kids off on shore for an afternoon of exploring while Katie hoisted Chay up the mast so that he could repair the wind sensor. Fortunately we had a spare that Chay was able to use to repair the wind sensor. When the kids returned the wind sensor was repaired and the girls all had Caribbean braids!
Anchored in Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau
The anchorage was starting to get rollie, which is what happens in this anchorage when the trade winds pick up out of the North. We asked Neal if Saline Bay would be better and he said yes, so we changed anchorages (just a few miles). The first thing we did after getting the anchor set was to go snorkeling off the point. Although the current was strong, the snorkeling was great! The kids thought this was their best snorkel yet. The next day was Sunday, and this little island of Mayreau has a very quaint, small stone Catholic church so we asked around as to what time Mass was only to get a variety of answers. Sunday morning Neal stopped by to check on us on his way to drop a gentleman off for a baptism at the church; he confirmed Mass was at 8:00 AM. Although Mass was at 8:00, it didn't start quite on time. The church was packed and the Mass was nice. There was indeed a baptism; when the priest asked for the Godparents to come up with the parents about 10-15 people went up. Apparently they have multiple Godparents. The community is small, but very close. The priest had all the cruisers come forward to receive a blessing at the end of the Mass.
Catholic Church on island of Mayreau
Tasha & Trinity petting one of the local's goats
After a nice lunch at one of the local restaurants and a quick internet fix to check the weather we returned to Esprit to clean her bottom, but not before Chay took each of our granddaughters down to the bottom with him to give them a taste of scuba diving. They both loved it! All of us helped clean the bottom in preparation for our passage to Trinidad. The funniest thing happened to Katie after cleaning the bottom of the boat – what she thought was stubborn water in her ear turned out to be a tiny crab! It fell out of her ear onto the deck after she had been out of the water about an hour!
The next day we returned to Clifton to check out of the country. We barely got the anchor down and set before we were hit with a rain storm with 37 knots of wind! So the kids got to experience a rolly anchorage, green water over the bow, and gale force winds! The next morning, Tuesday June 16, we cleared out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, put the dinghy on deck, and were underway to Trinidad by 3:00 PM.
Amy had requested to do a night passage during her visit, so we timed this passage to meet her goal. The passage to Trinidad was rougher than we expected. It is a good thing it was the last passage of their visit, and not the first, or we probably would not have left Grenada! As we've written previously, it is difficult to time the currents right, which at this time of the month were extra strong because we were sailing with a new moon and more extreme tides and currents. Everyone stayed in the cockpit except for Chay & Katie who tried to sleep down below when off watch only to experience the worst bumpiness they had ever felt when sleeping below. Under rough conditions the crew held tight with only the Captain succumbing to sea sickness. The winds picked up to over 27 knots at around 1 AM, so Chay, with assistance from Amy, changed from the Genoa to the Staysail. On Katie's 3-6 AM watch the boom vang failed startling everyone with its loud boom. Fortunately, it was not something that needed to be repaired right away. As we approached Trinidad, just before day break, the winds and seas had dropped so Chay, Beau, and Katie brought in the Staysail and put out the Genoa.
As we ghosted along the north coast of Trinidad at dawn we were greeted by a pod of playful dolphins. They jumped and played around Esprit for about an hour giving the kids a real show – seeing dolphins was the last item on the kid's bucket list of things to do and see on their Caribbean adventure!
Although we averaged 7.5 knots on our passage to Trinidad, we had a couple of hours when we were going over 10 knots!!! Esprit still has it!
As we entered the Chagauramas anchorage we were relieved to be able to pick up a mooring ball. We met with Jessie James of “Members Only” to arrange for taxis and tours before clearing into Trinidad. Except for the gestapo security lady in immigration who would not let Katie, Amy, or Tasha stay in the room because they were wearing tank tops, our clearance in went quite smoothly. Chay simply gave Katie his T-shirt to wear over her tank top and waited outside shirtless while the paperwork process proceeded without a glitch. Immigration even cleared the kids out “early” rather than have to return the next day. That was a good thing as we were going on an island tour the next day! That evening we enjoyed a Wednesday night BBQ dinner at the Wheelhouse Pub with ribs and swordfish before crashing after our long passage. None of us got much sleep on the way to Trinidad.
Celebratory dinner at the Wheelhouse Pub, Chagauramas, Trinidad
The island tour included the ASA Wright Wildlife Sanctuary where we did some bird watching and had lunch. In the late afternoon we did a swamp tour at the Caroni Sanctuary to see the red Ibis birds that are indigenous to Trinidad and South America. These birds are very, very red, and there are thousands of them that migrate between “islands” in the river swamp at sunset. In addition to the birds, we also saw a snake and some owls. Our tour guide for the swamp also shared a local snack they call “chow” with us – it was yummy!!
Learning about flora & fauna of Trinidad
Amy & Beau
Touring the Caroni Sanctuary, Trinidad
Red Ibis birds, Caroni Sanctuary
The kids departed Friday morning – all in all it was a wonderful adventure that we are very glad they were able to share with us. It gave them a totally new perspective and understanding of our cruising life during the last 12 years.
Next step was to get Esprit ready to haul. The first task was to get the sails down. We had to time taking the sails down with the rains and winds. First we waited for a decent rain during which we opened the foresails to give them a fresh water rinse. Then we had to wait for a long enough period of no rain and no wind to open the sails again to let them dry out before we took them down. The weather cooperated quite well and the sails were stowed dry.
The last week included refueling, hauling out, putting the sun covers on, and all the other many tasks we need to do to put Esprit away for an extended time during hurricane season. We said good bye to the real world and flew home to Boulder City on Sunday June 28th, and Katie went back to work on Monday the 29th.
St. Lucia, Martinique, and back to St. Lucia (May 12, 2015 - June 1, 2015)
Jamie arrived after 32 hours of traveling on Thursday, May 14th, in the afternoon. One of the locals, “Vision”, drove us to the airport to pick up Jamie. Vision's price was half that of the taxi drivers for the round trip! The taxi drivers seem to think they should be paid to return if there is someone riding along, even though the taxi drivers from Rodney Bay can't pick up at the airport. The route Vision drove took us across the center of the island to the east coast so we were able to see more of the interior of the island.
On Saturday, May 16th, once Jamie was over jet lag, and our life raft was back from servicing, we left the marina to anchor for a night to help him get his sea legs back before making the 20+ mile trip north to Martinique. The passage across the channel to Le Marin and St. Anne's on Martinique was typical of most of the passages between islands this year – fast with choppy seas and green water over the bow.
Katie & the life raft opened up for us to see before servicing
The Black Pearl that was used during filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean
The fruit man at the stern of Esprit
Jamie underway to Martinique
We navigated our way through the pass amongst the reefs to the town of Le Marin – one of the largest yachting centers in the Caribbean. There were probably a thousand boats either in the marina or in the anchorages. We found a nice spot to anchor and cleared in the following morning. Clearing in is done via computer and is easy and straight forward. We did some exploring of the town, including a jungle dinghy ride up a small river which ended at a shopping “mall”, with a Carrefour grocery store nearby. After picking up a few things, including our traditional “Nueva Vida” tub of ice cream which we consumed on the spot! Once back on board Esprit, we were approached by the marine police who informed us we were anchored in an area where anchoring was forbidden – of course so were at least 10 other boats, but only two of us were asked to move! So we picked up anchor while the police watched, and moved to St. Anne's anchorage. After a few attempts, we finally were able to get the anchor set. Although the anchorage is supposed to have a sand bottom, there are spots where the sand is too thin over rock, or is flat rock, which does not allow for the anchor to set. We were glad to have Jamie on board to help find a good spot to set the anchor.
Le Marin, Martinique
Catholic church in Le Marin (undergoing renovation)
Jamie navigating the jungle trip up the river
Up the river on our jungle trip
Katie & Jamie enjoying their portion of the traditional tub of ice cream
The town of St. Anne is quaint. It has a beautiful square in front of a church of European architecture.
We snorkeled one of the reefs separating the St. Anne anchorage from Marin and saw lots of colorful tropical fish of all sizes. There was so much sea life right around the boat that we decided to scuba dive right off the boat where we saw lion fish and a large lobster– it wasn't too bad for being right in the middle of an anchorage! We also cleaned Esprit's bottom for the first time in three months.
Sunset over St. Anne's anchorage, Martinique
We rented a car for a day and toured a good portion of the island. Martinique is overall very clean and very lush. We drove up the west coast and back down the central portion of the Island, through the national park. Our stops included St. Pierre, the old capital that was destroyed during the 1902 volcanic eruption of Mt. Pelee, where we wandered through some of the ruins. From St. Pierre we headed inland to Mourne Rouge, the highest city in Martinique, where we enjoyed a pleasant lunch before heading back to Fort de France, the modern capital. Along the way we stopped at the Sacre Couer Catholic Church; it is a slightly scaled down replica of the famous Sacre Coeur church in Montmartre, Paris. Fort de France is a crowded, busy city; after much searching and inquiring, we finally managed to find a place where could exchange US dollars for Euros which we needed to be able to pay to clear out of Martinique as we only had 70 cents Euro!
Catholic church along the way during our road trip
Chay & Katie at the theater ruins in St. Pierre
St. Pierre ruins with cloud topped Mt. Pelee in the background
St. Pierre ruins
Jamie at the theater ruins, St. Pierre
Jamie amongst the ruins of St. Pierre
Mt. Pelee from Mourn Rouge
Sacre Coure Catholic Church
Last stop on the road trip - Salinas Beach - the nicest beach on Martinique
On Sunday May 24th, Pentecost Sunday, we attended Mass at St. Anne's church which is situated just off the town dock where we land the dinghy. We arrived 10 minutes early to a standing room only church – people were sitting and standing outside the church as well. The usher managed to find each of us a seat. Although not together, we each had local take us under their wing to guide us through the handout which was written partly in French and partly in Creole. The music was great – the songs sung in French were more serious, while those sung in Creole were very bright and cheery. And for those of you who think one hour is long for Mass, this Mass was two hours long! After Mass we climbed the hill behind the church following a zig zag path with the Stations of the Cross up to a small shrine. Definitely an experience to remember.
Katie & Jamie on the "Zig Zag" hike to the shrine
Jamie & Chay at one of the Stations of the Cross on the "Zig Zag" hike
Sunday brunch in St. Anne
On Monday May 25th we departed Martinique for Pigeon Island at Rodney Bay in St. Lucia where arrived in time to snorkel the reef off the point and climb the hill to the top and Fort Rodney with Jamie. The next morning we headed into the marina to prepare for Jamie's departure on Wednesday May 27, as well for our departure south to Grenada where we will pick up our daughter Amy, our son-in-law Beau, and our granddaughters Trinity & Tasha. The 140 mile passage to Grenada will be our longest single passage this year! What a change from previous years!
Sunrise at Pigeon Island Anchorage
Getting ready to bring up the anchor
Bringing up the anchor at Pigeon Island
Jamie enjoying his last "passage" into the marina
Getting the lines ready to tie off Esprit in the berth in the marina
Dennery - the main city on the East Coast of St. Lucia
It was great having Jamie on board again! We will surely miss his energy, banter, and of course his seamanship. And for those of you worrying about home schooling you children while cruising, at least in Jamie's case, it has worked out very well. He completed his freshman year of mechanical engineering, before he turned 18, with a 3.97 grade point average! Even more amazing is that on his last two Calculus finals he has pulled off a 100% on each of them. So if your worried about home schooling, you shouldn't be.
Katie, Jamie & Chay on the way to the airport
Last dose of beach for Jamie before he flew back to Montana
Once cruisers find out about our extensive cruising experience they start asking us many questions. The most common question that people have asked is “has anything changed over our 12 years of cruising”. Our initial response was that at least until the last few years the boats kept getting bigger and there are a lot more cats, especially in the Caribbean. But on further reflection, the biggest change we have seen, is the lack of apparent camaraderie amongst cruisers. It used to be you met people via the VHF or SSB radio nets which everyone listened to in order to hear the weather report. Then you hailed them on the radio, chatted on the docks when in a marina, dinghy'd over to boats in an anchorage to introduce yourselves, etc.... This is the exception now more than the rule. We believe this is due to the internet and cell phones. Twelve years ago you were lucky to have access to an internet cafe; now you can have wifi access almost anywhere. Now you see cruisers dinghy into shore to go to a cafe with free wifi and spend hours there checking weather and doing whatever else they do on the internet. We've also noticed that the internet adds stress to the cruising life that didn't used to be there. When we crossed the Pacific we went almost 6 months without hearing the news and all felt very relaxed. Now it seems we can no longer escape the news! Just think of the stress it adds to life on land! We find ourselves falling prey to the same temptation to feel we need to always be “connected”, and have to remind ourselves that, most of the time, nothing really changes if you miss a few days, weeks or even months.
After reading our email about comraderie amongst cruisers, we received an email from Dick & Lynn of "Wind Pony" with whom we crossed the Pacific in 2006 - they totally agreed with our observations about comraderie and the negative effects of being "connected".
Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and St. Lucia (April 16 - May 12 2015)
The cruising community is very active in Grenada. There are shopping trips and tours almost daily. One treat while in Mt. Hartman Bay, was a fresh lobster from one of the local fisherman. It was delicious. We stayed in Mt. Hartman Bay on Grenada until April 21st when we headed north 35 miles to Tyrell Bay on Carriacou. It was an uncomfortable passage with the tidal current against the wind. However, it was a fairly quick passage averaging about 8 knots while close hauled in lumpy seas.
Tyrell Bay was more crowded than last year, but we found a “hole” in which to anchor. Due to junk on the bottom of the anchorage Chay free-dove the anchor to be sure it set properly. We spent a few days in Tyrell Bay mostly doing chores – Chay continued his varnish project on the exterior brightwork and continued to trouble shoot the refrigeration system which he's been doing for the last month – it will not work the same two days in a row. One day it works great, the next it won't bring the freezer below 30 degrees! Very frustrating.
Chay spent one whole day replacing the water filters because very little water would come through them any more. It seemed like we replaced them yesterday but when we checked the log it was in 2012 while we were in Turkey! Time sure flies on the boat. They were located in the engine room (hot and cramped) behind the water pump and engine exhaust (wrapped in fiberglass). By the end of the day he was so cut up and prickly from the fiberglass he couldn’t stand it anymore. His quote, “I am getting too old for this stuff!” There is a positive side to this story – we now have lots of water pressure which makes showering a whole lot easier!
This part of the Caribbean is known for wicked currents due to the strong Atlantic current and the tidal flows. For the passage from Grenada to Tyrell Bay we didn't quite time it right. We still got pushed further west than we would have liked. So, we did a closer examination of the currents and tides using the data from our Navionics software which we have on our phone and iPad. We came up with an hypothesis for how to time the passage to work as good as possible with the currents, and to involve more sailing vs motoring. We tested this theory on our passage from Tyrell Bay to Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It worked pretty well – we had a beautiful, quick sail to Bequia, with only a little bit of unwanted westing at the very end of the trip.
We arrived in Bequia on Friday April 24th, did a tour of Admiralty Bay to pick the best anchoring spot, anchored near Princess Margaret Beach (Chay free-dove the anchor again to be sure it set properly), and then we cleared customs and immigration. The town has a charm of its own, although it seemed a bit “quiet”, perhaps because it is not high season for cruising, and there are a lot of empty moorings.
We've been trying out a few of the local establishments, mostly to get wifi access. The locals are very friendly! We've had a couple of bread men come by the boat – one on a surfboard, the other in a small motor boat – selling fresh bread, croissants, and banana bread.
On Sunday the 26th we went to St. Michael's Catholic Church. It is a small, stone church, with a small congregation who made us feel very welcome. The music was mostly a capella and had an island flavor to it.
St. Michael Catholic Church at the top of the hill, Bequia
While anchored in front of Princess Margaret Beach in Admiralty Bay on Bequia Island we enjoyed boat watching as yachts came and went always doing an interesting anchoring dance – some came from the north, some from the south. We had a turtle swimming around Esprit on several occasions, although Chay was the only one who got to see him; Katie was always a second or two too late.
We dove Devil's Table, a reef across the bay from us, on Monday, April 27. Although a short dive, due to equipment issues, it was a beautiful dive – the best underwater life we've seen in a long time! The dive also allowed us to refresh our diving skills since it had been a year since we last dove. Both of us were having difficulty going deep and staying down, so we will add weight on the next dive.
After the dive, we brought the dive compressor on deck to refill the tanks – including the one that released all its air while we were still in Trinidad. However, as it often goes while at sea, the compressor didn't want to cooperate. So, Chay had to troubleshoot the problem (a plugged main jet – same as the dinghy engine had the first time we went to use it in Trinidad), and then repair it before filling the tanks. Last year before leaving Esprit for hurricane season, Chay had added gasoline stabilizer (Sta-bil) to the gasoline for both the dinghy and dive compressor engines. Looks like that didn't work – the only time in our 12 years of cruising that we have had a problem with the jets was after the only time he ever added stabilizer. He won't do that again!
Before leaving Bequia, Chay was able to complete this season's varnish job on the exterior brightwork! One of the local varnish guys in Bequia came by and was admiring Chay's work, as well as trying to find something wrong by pointing out little minor drips and offering advice. Chay does a beautiful job!
Bequia has a cruiser's net run by a wonderful net controller from the Fig Tree restaurant. She greets you with a gentle Caribbean accent and makes you feel so very welcome. We met her one Tuesday when she was supposed to be closed while we used their wifi. She let us buy a beer and shared some stories with us. She also told us that if you are cruising there, to make sure you respond to her radio checks, or she won't do the net if she thinks no one is listening.
Next stop Wallilabou Anchorage on the island of St. Vincent – the film location and set of the Pirates of the Caribbean! Wallilabou Bay was the location for the shooting of the first Pirates movie, and was used for some scenes from Pirates II & III as well.
Our trip north to Wallilabou Anchorage on the island of St. Vincent was delightful – fairly calm seas and mostly gentle winds. We arrived before noon and as forewarned in the cruising guide, we were met by several locals in their boats and surfboards either wanting to help us with our lines or to sell us something. They were pleasant and weren't pushy. We tied up to one of the moorings and stern tied to one of the pilings left over from the set of the Pirates of the Caribbean!
Esprit moored to the remains of the dock in "Port Royal" where Jack Sparrow arrived on his sinking boat
A good portion of the buildings on shore are the facades of the buildings of Port Royal. The natural occurring arch off one of the points is where the bodies of the executed pirates were hanging in the opening scene of Pirates I. The locals say that when they were filming no yachts were allowed in the bay – the only boats in the bay were the British warships, the pirate ships and the security boats!
The movie set facades of "Port Royal"
The arch where the executed pirates were hanging in Pirates of the Caribbean I
Remains of the movie set where Jack Sparrow escaped while handcuffed
Katie in "Port Royal"
Another part of "Port Royal"
Chay at the entry gate to "Port Royal"
A few boats came in later in the day near evening, and they were deluged (and of course we were too) with locals either selling fruit and jewelry, offering services to wash the boat, or just simply begging. It was crazy! As we already mentioned, the locals that met us in the morning were very friendly and alert; most of the locals that were greeting the afternoon arrivals were high – either on rum or ganja (marijuana). Marijuana farming is one the main sources of income for the locals and they seem to be quite proud of it and are apparently sending all their profits up in smoke!
After a short hike to a local waterfall, we had a wonderful dinner at the Wallilabou Anchorage Restaurant as we watched the sunset surrounded by the set and props from the movie. We had a great time and met some nice people in Wallilabou. The cruising guides state that you can clear in and out in Wallilabou which is only partially correct. You can clear customs between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM on overtime, but must go to Barroulle to clear immigration. This is about a 2 mile hike up and down the hilly road. We met one of our favorite boat boys along the way and a group of very pleasant young girls joined us and escorted us to the police station to check out.
Remains of an old sugar cane mill
Tropical waterfall park
The next morning Ronnie, one of the local boat boys and restaurant owners, untied our stern line promptly at 8:00 AM as promised the day before. We sailed north to Soufriere on the island of St. Lucia with 15-20 plus knots of wind and choppy seas. On our approach to Soufriere and the Pitons (beautiful tall green peaks) Chay skillfully used the gusts off the Pitons to sail us right up into the anchorage/mooring area.
The Pitons on approach to Soufriere, St. Lucia
We're getting closer....
This area is a national park so anchoring is prohibited, but several official and unofficial mooring balls are installed. We were met by a local boat boy who helped us onto a mooring; we launched the dinghy and then headed into town to clear into the country. It was May 1st – the Labor Day Holiday in St. Lucia, and also the first full day of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival with the day's venue being held in Soufriere. So, the town was crowded and bustling with people celebrating. Fortunately, clearing in was straight forward. We paid the new standard rate of $100EC for anyone clearing in.
View from Esprit while on a mooring ball in Soufriere
While ashore, Captain Bob greeted us, asked if we needed a taxi or tour, and answered several of our questions. We learned that we were not on an official mooring, so when we returned to the boat we moved, with the help of yet another local boat boy, onto an official SMMA (National Park) mooring.
It turned out that this anchorage is very effected by currents and gusts, and can get very rolly when the tide changes. This often made for uncomfortable conditions, and not the greatest sleep, especially the first night when we also had extremely loud music and a fireworks display at 1:00 AM as part of the jazz festival!
Sunset over Soufriere
The next morning we went into town which was totally different than the day before – very quiet and not so many people. We walked around, did some shopping, and arranged for a taxi with Captain Bob to pick up our friend Renee who arrived the afternoon of Sunday May 3rd. Renee survived her first night on board in spite of the uncomfortable conditions. Since we were expecting higher winds and bigger seas the next day or thus rollier conditions, we decided to move north to what we hoped would be a more protected anchorage in Marigot Bay.
Our 3 hour trip north was part motor sail and part sail – we wanted Renee to experience some sailing! So we ran out the genny (foresail) in 20 kts of wind, turned off the engine, and had a nice close reach up to Marigot Bay.
Marigot Bay was a good choice – it is very protected (it is an approved hurricane hole by many insurance companies) and is very pretty. After following a narrow channel into the bay you come to a small white sand beach before heading into the inner lagoon. The inner lagoon is lined with mangrove trees, several restaurants, and an upper end resort.
We were entertained by light jazz music (part of the jazz festival) which was playing at the Rainforest Hideaway restaurant, which is hidden in the mangroves, for most of the evening. The next day we got our aerobic exercise as we hiked the Goat Trail straight up (literally) to the top of the ridge and out to the point which afforded great views of the bay.
Although Marigot Bay isn't known for great snorkeling, we decided to give it a go anyway. We went out past the beach and into the entrance channel where we anchored the dinghy. We back rolled into the water and snorkeled an underwater breakwater that was teeming with several species of small fish, including a Lionfish and several efflorescent blue ones.
Renee wanted to go on a local adventure so we took a local bus to the capital city of Castries. The bus was packed but the locals were very friendly and helpful. We visited the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Carnegie Library and the city Square. The Cathedral is an interesting blend of French architecture using Iron pillars and trusses and local island wood, stone and art. Many of the buildings around the square have a “gingerbread house” appearance. We then wandered our way through the city to the bus stop to catch the bus back to Marigot.
The entrance to Marigot Bay
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Castries, St. Lucia
Interior of the Cathedral in Castries - note the use of island colors in the paintings
Interior of the Cathedral in Castries - not the iron posts and trusses
Lunch in the mangroves after our local adventure - Katie & Renee
On Thursday May 8th we had a beautiful sail to Pigeon Island at Rodney Bay. We wanted to give Renee at least one sail with both the main and genoa up now that she had her sea legs! It was a nice close haul sail with 20+ knots of apparent wind. We anchored just off Pigeon Island off the Sandal Resort beach. We hiked up to the British Fort which was built in the 1700's to protect the island from the invading French of Martinique.
Rodney Fort on Pigeon Island, St. Lucia
Esprit anchored off Pigeon Island
Pigeon Island Anchorage in Rodney Bay
Chay atop Fort Rodney
Renee, Katie & Chay, Pigeon Island with Rodney Fort in the background
After the hike we refreshed with a snorkel which the guide book described as “passable”. It was actually a pretty nice snorkel with a variety of tropical fish. Chay free dove down deeper amongst the valleys between the brain coral where he said the sea life was even more abundant.
Because Renee would be departing on Saturday, we moved into Rodney Bay Marina to facilitate getting taxi's etc. We did a little “tourist” shopping, enjoyed the pool, and had dinner out at Bosun's, a Thai restaurant in the marina complex. It was a pleasure having Renee on board and watching her experience our sailing life. She was able to experience a rocky rolly anchorage on a mooring at Soufriere, a very calm anchorage in the lagoon at Marigot Bay, a beautiful but windy night on the hook at Pigeon Island, and a night in a marina. We also threw in two days of sailing, taught her to enter the water for a snorkel off the dinghy, had a couple of good hikes, and a did local bus trip! We don't think we could have squeezed much more variety in her six day stay with us!
The fresh fruit and vegie boat that comes through the marina and anchorages!
The other reason for coming into the marina was because Jamie arrives on Thursday May 14th for 2 weeks! We haven't seen him for over two months so we are looking forward to his time with us. We will get the boat all cleaned up and explore the area before he arrives. Once he joins us, we will move out to the anchorage and then north to explore the island and waters of Martinique.
Trinidad & Grenada (March 19 - April 15 2015)
A lot has happened since we last updated almost a year ago! Jamie graduated Seton Home Study High School, worked at Vons grocery store over the summer, and started his Freshman year in Mechanical Engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman MT in August – and now he's just finishing up his first year! Time flies!
Chay, Jamie, & Katie May 2014
Sadly, Chay's mother passed away in October 2014 after a battle with Alzheimer's – she was a strong woman with a strong faith who loved the outdoors, so we are comforted knowing she is in a better place now.
Chay, Chay's Mom, and Jamie
Chay's Mom doing one of the things she loved best!!
Other news...Katie is now working part time at the Boulder City Library which helps fill the homeschooling void...Chay's busy restoring his 1931 Ford Model A Victoria and inventing designs with Jamie for various things for which Jamie then applies for patents...Chay, Jamie, Beau, & Tasha went hunting in October and we are all, including our granddaughters, now licensed and trained for the next hunting season!...We enjoy our weekly family fun night with Amy & her family...
On March 19, 2015, for the first time in the 15 years since we have owned Esprit, we traveled back to her without Jamie. After being on the hard for 10 months, Esprit was was overdue for maintenance and a sea trial. We were pleased to find Esprit in excellent condition.
After spending a few nights in a hotel, we moved onto Esprit on the hard Monday March 23rd. Fortunately, although the days can be steamy and very hot, the evenings cool off and are comfortable for sleeping with the fans blowing. Each day Esprit came back to life a little bit more, so that by Thursday we were ready to “splash”. Being concerned about the wind, current, and Esprit's propeller’s tendency to “walk” us to port (left) when we are moving in reverse, we planned carefully as to how we would launch and move out of the slipway. We were pleasantly surprised that they launched us bow out which made the launch much easier and a lot less stressful! The guys at the Peake yard really know what they are doing! After scoping out the anchorage we chose a mooring to tie off too. Much to Katie's relief, she successfully grabbed the mooring (quite heavy), while Chay tied Esprit off to it. It is nice to be back on the water!!!
Esprit on her way to launched
Sunrise in Chagauramas, Trinidad
For those of you who have never experienced life on the hard (when the boat is stored on land) we thought we would share with you one of the many inconveniences that living on the hard can cause just to give you a flavor: the dreaded middle of the night bathroom run. You have to first crawl out of the low overhead berth, duck as you walk through the low companionway, remember to get the key to the bathrooms, climb up the companion way ladder to the cockpit, climb out on a deck 20 feet off the ground in the dark, climb down the 20 foot ladder to the ground, walk half a block through the yard to the bathrooms, and then do it all in reverse when you are done. Isn't life on a boat fun!
Katie climbing down the ladder - aahhh...life on the hard
As we wrote last May, Esprit's dinghy which we had had from the start of our cruising in 2003, took its last breath. So now we have a new dinghy which took all day our first Friday here to get through customs without paying duty and on board Esprit. Fortunately, the folks from Budget Marine inflated the dinghy for us and brought it directly to Esprit in the yard on their truck. From the truck bed, we were able to raise the dinghy up onto the foredeck while still in the yard.
Routine chores continue while new jobs pop up. The generator, which was leaking at the raw water pump when we left Esprit last May, continued to leak after replacing the pump when we started it up the first time while on the hard using fresh water to run through it. As a matter of fact, it blew a hose and slightly flooded the interior of Esprit! At least it was fresh water and not salt water! After much sleuthing, Chay discovered not only the root cause of the leak, but also where old impeller blades go when the impeller fails! He found 20-30 old rubber blades inside the heat exchanger boot!! Then as he continued to trouble shoot he observed that the brass pipe connector for the inlet plumbing line into the heat exchanger boot was cracked. We were lucky the generator worked at all last season! So, now it is all repaired, running well, and pumps out water better than it has in years!
The next unexpected repair was the dinghy engine. First we had to change out the fuel line – the rubber pump had hardened to the point of being un-squeezable. Then the engine would not start. It turned out to be a plugged carburetor main jet, which Chay cleared, and voila, the engine started. Thank God that Chay is mechanically inclined!
One never knows what one will find in the bilges of Esprit. Esprit gave up one of her ghosts here in the Chagauramas anchorage – back during our Pacific crossing in 2006, Chay lost a socket to the netherworld of the bilge while working on the autopilot. Well, guess what he just found 9 years later!
We found a very nice Catholic Church to attend Mass – St. Finbar's. It is a 10 minute maxi-taxi ride and a 10 minute walk from the anchorage. Maxi-taxi's, which are actually vans, are the local public transportation which run 24/7. The church grounds are large and beautiful – it appears to be an active and vibrant parish.
We've now tried & enjoyed two of the local traditional “Trini” foods. The first is “Shark 'n Bake” which we had the opportunity to enjoy with some fellow cruisers at The Wheelhouse Pub, a local spot here in Chagauramas Bay. Shark 'n Bake is a fried shark sandwich on a specialty bread. It was quite good. The second delicacy is a called a “double” and is served at breakfast time. It is a crepe like bread with a chick pea mixture in it – we added a green hot sauce to spice it up. It was very yummy!
An iguana that joined us while we were eating lunch one day!
The anchorage is pleasant – most of the time. On weekend nights the two local party boats go for a tour out to various islands and travel through the anchorage with their music blaring unbelievably loud!! Some nights they run until 4 AM! Not good for sleeping.
The weather from Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning matched the tone of each Holy Day. Around 3:00 PM on Good Friday the sky turned dark, the wind picked up and it started to rain. It rained all day on Saturday, but we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning on Easter Sunday. We attended Easter Mass at St. Finbar's in Diego Martin – it was a great way to start the day and share in the Resurrection.
While watching the movie The Passion on Good Friday, we suddenly heard this very, very loud bang followed by a very loud static sound. At first we thought something was wrong with the speakers until we remembered that we weren't using the speakers. Then Chay walked to where the sound was loudest and realized one of the dive tank pressure relief valves let loose. Needless to say, it scared us half to death, and now we have one less full dive tank. Oh, and we get to add another chore to the list – check and repair all dive tanks as needed. We moved the remaining two full tanks from the interior dive locker up onto the stern deck tank brackets– just in case!
One Saturday afternoon, despite the rain, we went on a hike through the jungle on the north coast of Trinidad. The giant bamboo were beautiful particularly where they formed bridges over the path. We crossed the paths of an army of ants which turned out to be biting ants! Fortunately we only got a few bites on our feet – but we still felt the sting, the burn, the ache, and finally the itch of each bite. Nasty little buggers! We also saw Capuchian monkeys, a variety of birds, and a gorgeous red & black butterfly. Although we were soaking wet from the rain we were never uncomfortable!
Katie & Chay in the jungle on a rainy afternoon
The giant bamboo & Katie
Just as we were sitting down for Easter dinner, Chay noticed a boat drifting west out of the bay. The boat belonged to a local named Simon who manages a number of the moorings in the bay. After turning off the BBQ, grabbing a dock line, and putting out a call for assistance to the fleet over the VHF radio, we quickly jumped in the dinghy and raced to the drifting catamaran. We tied the dock line onto the boat and realized that between the current and the wind she was drifting at about 5kts. We tried to tow her, but she was bigger and heavier than she looked. So, Katie climbed on board, sorted through the lines and anchors on deck and found that there was a large spare anchor and fortunately a long enough “tow” line to hook up to the anchor and tie off to a cleat, which Katie did with the handy dandy bowline knot that she had just mastered the week before. After ensuring that the line wasn't tangled, she managed to maneuver the anchor over the bow – and the anchor hooked! The boat stopped drifting just before it would have run into a large pylon. Because of the wind and current, Chay who was stilled tied off to the boat was given quite the ride when the anchor hooked. Katie then untied the dinghy from the boat, Chay came around front, Katie climbed down and into the dinghy, and we returned to Esprit. Sean on Pussy Galore (It really is his boat's name!) had gone to find the owner, Simon, who came out in his dinghy and eventually towed it back into the anchorage and tied off to one of his mooring balls. Kind of ironic that the person who manages and maintains several mooring balls in the anchorage, had his anchor line part!
On the way back to Esprit, Steven (a local who lives on board a ferry boat in the anchorage) hailed us over to him, shouting “I love you, I love you!”. He was impressed and thankful that we had cared enough to take the initiative to save the drifting boat. Other than Sean who went to find Simon, no one else, cruiser or local, came out or stopped to help us!
We departed Trinidad at 5:00 AM on April 8th and arrived at Prickly Bay, Grenada at 3:00 PM same day! We averaged just under 8 knots (saw 9 knots a few times) over our 78 mile passage on a close reach. Esprit performed flawlessly and has a hard time giving up her racing heritage! After catching a lot of seaweed, Chay finally had fun bringing in a Barracuda a couple of hours out of Grenada. Because they tend to be a bony fish, and not one of our favorites, he let it go.
Chay with the catch of the day just outside of Grenada
We used SeaClear to notify Grenada of our arrival, and it worked wonderfully – eliminating filling out all the paperwork in the customs and immigration office upon arrival! How refreshing to see an improvement in the process.
It is great to be in a nice anchorage where the anchor hooked first time and the water is fairly clear! The trade winds are blowing steady keeping Esprit nice and cool!
Prickly Bay Harbor
Prickly Bay became very rolly as the winds turned more Southeasterly so we took a walk to the next bay – Mt. Hartman - to see if it was having the same conditions – it was much better! Then we went on a shopping trip with “Shade Man” the taxi guy and two Canadian cruisers who were anchored in Mt. Hartman Bay. They highly recommended moving over, so we did. Much calmer!!! Once anchored, the folks on the boat next to us dinghy'd over to invite us to a pig roast on Hog Island that afternoon, and to tell us that they were on a mooring and were concerned we wouldn't swing together. The mooring ball was not visible, so we assumed they were anchored. Given that they were on a mooring, we did the right thing – we moved.
Esprit in the foreground anchored in Mt. Hartman Bay (Secret Harbour)
The pig roast & pot luck was on Hog Island at Roger's Beach Bar and Restaurant – it is one of the last true beach bars left in the Caribbean -no power, no floors, and cold drinks from an ice chest. No shoes needed! There were about 50 cruisers and a dozen locals there and it was great fun! It is the first true cruising beach party we have been to since Tonga in 2006! And once again we learned how small the world is – one of the guys looked familiar from our stay in Tanna, Vanuatu in 2008, and sure enough it was him! We had all ridden in the back of a pickup through the jungle to the other side of the island to check in. He went south around South Africa when we went north to the Mediterranean and here in Grenada we meet up again! It was great catching up.
The pig roast on the beach at Roger's Restaurant, Hog Island
Chay at the pig roast
Cruiser's chillin' - the gentleman on the right end of the bench is Peter whom we met 7 years ago in Vanuatu!
Katie getting acquainted with fellow cruisers
The dinghy parking lot - which one is ours?
We also enjoyed a jam session with several of the cruisers who are quite accomplished guitarists and singers, while having the opportunity to meet some new folks. The Grenada cruising community is a good one!
But we don't want you to think we are just having fun – no, we are doing what cruiser's do best. Fixing the boat in an exotic place. We discovered a plumbing leak at the galley sink which required a new fixture to repair, which fortunately we were able to get at the Budget Marine store after a refreshing 30 minute hike each way. So, that problem is now successfully repaired. Chay repaired the anchor chain wash down pump as well. We discovered that it didn't work when we brought up the chain with mud on it and the wash down wouldn't work! We hate it when we have to watch a dirty anchor chain drop into the anchor locker!
It is different being on Esprit without Jamie – we miss his energy and lively conversation.
Esprit April 2015 - Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada
Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad
(April 2 - May 6 2014)
After 4 months at home in Boulder City, we are back on board Esprit in Grenada. Our time at home was busy with Christmas and the holidays, homeschool, working on the 1931 Model A Victoria, stamping cards, visiting Montana State University so Jamie could meet his future roommate, and the most important thing - spending time with family and friends at home, in California, and in Buffalo.
Chay, Theresa (Chay's Mom), and Jamie on Grandma's 90th birhday!
Chay working on his 1931 Ford Victoria
We attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in St. George’s - it was 2 hours long (normally Mass in the States is an hour) and include many prayers we hadn’t heard in years, as well as a special blessing for those celebrating birthdays or anniversary’s, as well for first time visitors to the church - that’s us! They even sang Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary! The Cathedral is undergoing renovation/restoration, as are the other two large churches in St. George's - we don’t know if the damage was from the most recent hurricane, or from the Grenada Conflict a few decades ago. It is always interesting – there is always some “surprise” - and comforting to attend Mass in foreign countries.
Chay & Katie at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
The beautiful altar of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
In the days following our arrival on Wednesday evening (April 2) we got the auxiliary, generator and refrigeration going, repaired our genoa and jib sails, restitched the dodger and bimini, gone up the mast to check and lube the rigging, repaired one of the toilets, and added a world map to our salon table where we have drawn the course of our circumnavigation - we have sure covered a lot of water and visited a lot of places!
We couldn’t complete some of our other chores because the pieces and parts were in the bag that did not arrive with us - it apparently was not put on our flight from Miami. It was then sent to Trinidad where the airlines hoped to find another carrier to send it to Grenada. That didn't work so they then sent it back to Miami where it missed the next flight back to Grenada! The bag did finally show up!
We spent a day touring the island of Grenada by rental car – we took a pleasant 2 hour hike to the 7 Sisters Waterfalls, stopped by a rum factory, and toured a chocolate factory where we also had lunch (they served more than just chocolate!).
Katie & Chay and our guide on the hike to the falls
Chay, Katie, and Jamie at the Seven Sisters Falls - Grenada
Just some of the beautiful flowers of Grenada
The super yacht Eos was in the marina – Thaddeus, the local Grenadan gentleman who did our varnish for us, also did the varnish on Eos. Keep in mind that Esprit is 46 feet long, and Eos is 305 feet long – that’s a whole lot of varnish. He said he was worn out from Eos – that the teak went on forever! Fortunately he wasn’t too tired to do our varnish work and he did a very nice job.
We left the marina on Friday April 11th for a short passage north to Dragon Bay where we picked up a mooring for the day so that we could snorkel the underwater sculpture park as well as bring the water-maker into operation. Two other boats were moored with us as well - Pelicaan and Sol Surfin; the folks on Pelicaan had all of us over for drinks at sundown. It is refreshing to be back in a cruising environment where people are friendly again. Pelicaan was in the Maldives with us before we shipped Esprit to Turkey to avoid the Somali Pirates; they sailed around South Africa to Brazil and into the Caribbean for the same reason. Sol Surfin came down the Pacific coast of the US, Mexico and Central America and through the Panama Canal – so many ways to explore the world on a sail boat!
The next morning we departed the anchorage for a 6 hour sail to Carriacou (the northern island of Grenada) – the winds were on our nose, the currents were running counter to where we were headed (at one point we were pointed southeast but were going southwest), and the seas were very square and choppy. We took lots of green water over the bow, and were very glad when we dropped the hook in Tyrell Bay on the southwestern corner of Carriacou. It seems our first longer passage of the season is always a rough one – we wonder why? We woke up the next morning realizing that we were gently and slowly dragging out of the bay, so we re-anchored and had Jamie dive the anchor. It was hooked on a long pole, so we re-anchored one more time with Jamie hovering in his snorkel gear over a spot with no debris. Although it wasn’t the prettiest anchoring dance, this time the anchor held until we left two days later. We had two “boat boys”, who were actually older men, come by; one selling wine and oysters and the other selling lobster. We purchased a bottle of wine at a reasonable price, and told the lobster man we would want some the next day. He came by the next morning to see how many we wanted – Chay told him 3 big ones because we usually get very small ones from the locals. So, off he went to check the lobster traps and returned with 3 huge – 2 feet long – lobsters!! They didn’t even fit in our pot – Chay had to cook the head first and then the tail. But they were yummy and ended up giving us 3 meals!
Freshly caught giant lobsters!
You may have heard of or seen the recent lunar eclipse or blood moon – well we woke up at 3 AM to watch it while at anchor in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. While it was not quite a complete eclipse where we were, it was quite stunning – particularly when it started to “un-eclipse” and you could see the contrast between the bright portion of the moon and the light blood brown color of the still eclipsed part.
We cleared out of Grenada for St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the afternoon of Monday the 14th and left the next day for a pleasant 2 hour sail to Union Island where we anchored in Clifton Bay just behind the reef and cleared into the country. This area has many reefs and is home to the famous Tobago Cays, reputed to have the clearest water and best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. We arrived in the Tobago Cays Wednesday, April 16, anchored, and then did some snorkeling. We got our exercise as there is quite the current running and it is quite hard to swim upstream, but quite the breeze to drift back to the dinghy/boat with the current.
Dinghy dock at Clifton Harbour
It was breezy with 15-20 knots of trade winds – keeps the bugs away and cools us down when at anchor. We noticed that the waters were less choppy further into the channel between the two small islands than where we were anchored so decided to move anchor – however, our timing was bad and we got caught in a current so strong that it would not allow us to pull into the wind. After a lot of frustration on Chay’s part, we finally succeeded in maneuvering into a position where we could re-anchor; once again Jamie free dove the anchor to ensure it was well set – which it was. We did a shallow recreational scuba dive that afternoon and saw a variety of fish, sting rays - including a spotted eagle ray - some coral, and several sand dollars. We also discovered that the bottom of the keel and rudder were extremely dirty – apparently the divers who cleaned the bottom before we left the marina in Grenada forgot to go all the way to the bottom of the boat! So we’ll definitely be cleaning the bottom before we head to Trinidad next week. The anchorage filled up with charter boats – the majority of them catamarans; one of them was skippered by a young man with apparently no sailing skills. He eventually got anchored, but not without some close calls with us and some of the other boats. We are amazed at whom the charter companies will allow to charter a boat. Shortly thereafter a squall came through the anchorage with rain and winds up to 27 knots. Fortunately, all the boats held through the blow.
One of the snorkeling highlights in Tobago Cays is the Baradal Turtle Sanctuary – just a 2 minute dinghy ride from where we were anchored. This is a protected area where we were able to snorkel with the green and hawksbill turtles as they foraged freely munching on the sea plants. It is so cool to swim alongside of them! There were also many conchs, both large and small, as well as large orange & brown starfish. The ocean floor is also strewn with sea urchins. We were also treated to sightings of several sting rays – they are so graceful!
Conch in its shell - they were everywhere!
One of many starfish
Since we’ve been back on the boat we’ve seen several beautiful boats including EOS in the marina, and here in Tobago Cays – she is a stunning, elegant yacht! We were especially surprised to see Rafoly pull into the anchorage – this is the catamaran that Jamie’s friend Jonny Duncan lives on! The last time we saw them was two years ago in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Croatia!
Don’t be fooled by our tales of clear water and desert islands, we have our chores as well. Our grey water pump stopped working and Chay spent several mornings troubleshooting and repairing it, while Katie wiped down all the stainless and brightwork with vinegar and fresh water to remove all the sea spray and salt deposits after each of our trips, and Jamie started waxing the hull.
Before leaving Tobago Cays we cleaned the bottom in preparation for our passage to Trinidad. It was so pleasant cleaning it in clear water! We watched several sting rays pass by as we were cleaning. When Chay was filling the dive tanks, our “boat boy” Neal came over and asked if we would fill his – Chay agreed and ended up filling 3 tanks for the local divers. They offered to pay us with a fresh lobster which they caught and brought to us the next morning. We enjoyed Surf and Turf for dinner – although the steaks we purchased here have been a bit tough, the lobster was quite tasty (better than the lobsters we had in Tyrrel Bay – possibly because it was smaller and actually fit in the pot).
Sunset at Tobago Cays
Colorful boat boy boats - Tobago Cays
We left Tobago Cays for Petit Tabac just a mile away – the island where Captain Jack Sparrow was marooned twice – but it was too choppy/rolly to anchor so we got as close to the reefs as we dared and took some pictures. It was apparently much calmer when the Black Pearl visited! We then continued on for a few more miles to Palm Island which was also too choppy/rolly. There were three large 70 to 100 foot catamarans rocking wildly there, so we continued on and anchored in Clifton Harbour at Union Island. It’s been blowing 18-25 knots continually and has been a little rolly everywhere– the good thing is this has let us keep our sea legs while at anchor which we will need for our trip to Trinidad.
Petit Tabac - a bit rough so we didn't stay!
On Easter Monday, a public holiday in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, we wandered through the town of Clifton. This was quite interesting – each of the restaurants along the main road was blaring music so loud you couldn't quite hear it and the locals were clearly high on something. This was the first place in a long time where we didn't feel safe. However, on a normal day the town seemed quite benign.
We read in the local newspaper that two teenage boys were on trial for the attack of cruisers on Union Island. There have been several instances of violent crime throughout the Caribbean islands, but mostly in isolated anchorages and during the off season. Needless to say we have been careful taking necessary precautions when necessary such as locking the dinghy at night and locking Esprit when we are all off the boat.
Shark pond at Clifton Harbour
Katie in Clifton - Gateway to Tobago Cays
We checked out of St. Vincent & the Grenadines on Wednesday afternoon and departed Clifton Harbour for Trinidad Thursday, April 24, in the morning. Although a bit bouncy with some green water over the deck, we averaged 7.7 knots and arrived and picked up mooring in Trinidad at 2:00 in the morning on Friday. Along the way we saw a natural gas platform, a couple of freighters, and as we approached Trinidad, fisherman. The fisherman were concerned that we didn't see them and shown their spot light on us – we don't know if they thought we going to hit them, run over their nets, or that we were getting too close to shore. We were well aware of them and changed course to avoid them. Oh, and we caught our own fish along the way, but let it go.
Our oddest siting was a very low flying private twin piston engined aircraft about 30 miles off the Southeastern coast of Grenada. First spotted by Chay at less than 100 feet off the water heading east, he flew behind our stern, turned to head South paralleling us, and then turned to head North. It did not look like a coast guard plane of any sort, so we're a little suspicious of its purpose.
We went through Boca De Monos pass, which is about 500 feet wide, about 1:00 AM with no moon and only the stars to light our way. We were supposed to have about a half knot current with us but instead had 3 knots against us. It doesn't appear that any source gets the currents right in this part of the world. The harbour we entered, Chagaraumas Bay, was quite the obstacle course of docks, large boats, and sailboats; there were many lights on the boats and on land which made navigation quite difficult. But we managed to maneuver through and pick up a mooring ball in the anchorage. We had our celebratory beer/soda and chips before going to bed for our 3 hour sleep. We had to move onto the customs dock to clear into Trinidad which we did around 6:00 AM. We walked to the ATM to get local money so that we could pay for clear in – clearing in went smoothly, although they did take our flare gun and its flares which we can get back when we depart Trinidad on the boat. For those of you coming to the Caribbean, you should know that it is illegal to possess camouflage clothing – even if it's pink!
We were able to pick up a mooring where we worked through our preparatory chores before hauling out on Friday. We visited a few of the chandleries – they are very well stocked! This is a very busy bay with a lot of oil industry/commercial and cruiser activity.
Esprit on a mooring ball in Chaguramas Bay, Trinidad
We spent a pleasant day & night anchored in Scotland Bay where we heard the howler monkeys, and saw parrots and other birds. On our way into the bay we noticed a German flagged yacht careened on the shore. At first we thought he was just cleaning his bottom, but no, you guessed it, he drug anchor in the night and when the tide went down the next morning he was high and dry. As the tide came back in/up we and two other cruisers helped to push him off with our dinghies.
Jamie on the bow as we approached Scotland Bay
Chay & Jamie returning from their exploration of Scotland Bay
Katie waiting for the boys to return - Scotland Bay
When we returned to Chagauramas and our mooring ball, which we marked with a buoy “Do Not Use – Esprit”, there was a boat on it! Apparently he had already been kicked off two other marked buoys that morning, so after hailing him on the radio to no avail, Jamie got in the dinghy and went over and knocked on his hull finally waking them up and told him this was our mooring – he left immediately. We felt bad that we had to wake them because they apparently had just completed a long passage.
We celebrated Jamie’s 17th birthday with all of his favorite meals and a yummy very chocolaty cake. He enjoyed his day off from chores and spent most of it just relaxing.
We hauled out on Friday May 2nd – the haul out went smoothly except for when they went to transfer us to the trailer from the lift; the trailer lost a hydraulic line. So we were in a temporary spot for a few hours while they repaired the trailer, and then they moved us to our permanent spot. It was interesting to see Esprit on a trailer!
We nursed our APEX dinghy as long as we could – the day before we hauled out, the port side tube collapsed entirely. So Jamie removed all the “extras” that we put on for our dinghy wheels etc. and the dinghy went “overboard” and into the trash bin. She served us well for these 11 years!
Chay & Jamie getting ready to bring the "dead" dinghy on board before it sank
Jamie met a few other teens his age and has spent a few afternoons hanging out with them. Two are Welsh, one is South African, and the other is Portuguese – quite the international community! We enjoyed a barbecue on Friday night with a few other cruisers that are more or less “permanently” established here.
Another odd siting, while enjoying our morning coffee in the cockpit in Chagauramas Bay, was watching an older gentleman cruiser towing his sailboat out of a berth in the marina behind his rowing dinghy!
One of the morning radio net controllers is Steve on the sailboat “Oz” - we first met him in 2006 in the South Pacific and we haven't heard from him since until now! The cruising world is a small one indeed.
Chagaraumas Bay is a very busy harbor with boats of all sizes coming and going. Trinidad is much more alive than Grenada was, and the people we've met so far are much friendlier.
This time on Esprit was shorter than usual as we cruised for a few weeks in Grenada and the Grenadines before leaving Esprit cradled on the hard in Trinidad for hurricane season. We arrived back home in Boulder City May 7th - just in time for Jamie’s high school graduation on May 24th which will be held in Front Royal, Virginia (the home of Seton Home Study School). He has finished all of his school work so is enjoying his first real summer vacation since Kindergarten! This is an end to an era and will take some adjusting to for Dad and Mom.
Esprit on the trailer getting ready to be moved to her permanent location
in her cradle at Peake Yacht Services
Click here to experience The Magic of the McWilliam Family Christmas Village
The McWilliam Family Christmas Tree & Village 2013
Gibraltar, Canary Islands, the Atlantic Ocean, Grenada, and Boulder City, NV
(October 26 - December 24, 2013)
Click here to sail along with us on Our Atlantic Crossing
We did the usual boat chores (laundry, school, etc.) while we waited in Gibraltar. Friday and Saturday were gray, rainy days, so Chay worked on repairing an auxiliary engine coolant leak, replaced the gray water pump, and rebuilt the manual bilge pump, while Katie finished reading Jane Eyre – Jamie's next book in English.
Chay replacing the gray water pump
Chay at statue of British Admiral Nelson, Gibraltar
We attended our second Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned in Gibraltar. As usual, we attended Mass in our cruising attire – nice shorts and T-shirts. We should have known something was up when we noticed that everyone else was more dressed up than the previous week. You guessed it - we had the treat of attending a High Mass being celebrated by Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor – Retired Archbishop of Westminster! He was joined by the Bishop of Gibraltar as well as two priests – it was quite regal, and the organ and choir resounded majestically through the tall, arched Cathedral. Several of the prayers were sung in Latin – Chay actually remembered some of them. The Cathedral is very pretty and has an atmosphere of peacefulness. Although we enjoy Mass, no matter the language it is given in, it was refreshing to attend Mass given in English!
For those of you who have yet to sail to Gibraltar, when you do, don't miss out on Morrison's grocery store in Gib. – it's the best grocery store with the most variety of any we've been in since arriving in the Med. Also, fuel in Gib. is much cheaper than in Spain (about 1 Euro vs. 1.40 Euro); the fuel dock in Gib. is easy to dock to and the station attendants are very helpful and friendly! To get fuel or have boat parts delivered to your boat at the fuel dock while you are there, you don’t need to check into Gib., just fly your Q flag.
Our waiting and watching at last came to an end. We departed Europe and the Mediterranean Sea Monday morning, October 28th for the Canary Islands – the voyage is about 670 miles so we planned on it taking us about 4 days assuming the winds held.
Exiting the Mediterranean Sea in the Strait of Gibraltar
November 1st found us in Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, berthed in Marina Lanzarote. It’s been ten years since we left San Diego on the Baja Ha Ha! We arrived there Friday morning at sunrise after 93 hours of rough to very rough seas (higher than predicted) and high winds – occasionally exceeding gale force. Some of the boats that arrived reported seeing 40 to 50 knots! We saw over 11 knots of boat speed on the speed indicator when surfing down some of the waves. There were times when the approaching across the wind wave swell appeared to be 40+ feet high! It was the longest passage we’ve done of sustained very rough weather in our entire circumnavigation, as rough as the passage to and from New Zealand but for a longer period of time. When off watch and trying to sleep down below it felt like we were in a popcorn machine, bouncing side to side and up and down. The sound of the waves crashing on Esprit was booming at times, accompanied by the clunking of supplies and provisions in the cupboards as they slid back and forth. However, Esprit fared well, and her crew survived; a much lighter Bavaria 42 sailboat which left Gib. the same time we did and which was apparently following behind us most of the way, had her mast in the water on a couple of occasions and broke their boom brake and mast head equipment! If you are going to be blue water cruising, and you want to do it in some semblance of comfort, we would recommend you get a heavier, but still fast, well built boat. We never even had to put on our foulies. However, this was a trip we do not want to repeat. Lesson learned – when watching for the best weather window take both wind and seas into account, and don’t underestimate the strength of either as reported in the various weather sources. In our case the winds would have been fine if the seas hadn’t been so awfully extreme from the storms 500 to 1000 miles away in the North Atlantic. On the plus side, we only ran the engine for 40 minutes once we cleared the Straights of Gibraltar. Welcome to the Atlantic!
Once on land we rested up and continued to do chores to prepare Esprit for her next long passage. The town of Arrecife is the capital of Lanzarote Island and is very pretty. We wandered around a bit to get the lay of the land and to shop at the Saturday market – although small, it was very nice with good looking produce and yummy bake goods.
The fort at Arrecife with square rigger at anchor
Katie & Chay checking out the fish at the local market
Jimmy Cornell’s Atlantic Odyssey I Rally was scheduled to depart from Lanzarote on November 17th. We met and chatted with Jimmy Cornell, who is a world famous sailor and who is “the” expert on cruising and circumnavigating.
We decided to leave for Cape Verdes/Grenada on Thursday November 7th, anticipating 48 hours of rough weather after a day out. By Friday morning, a bit earlier than expected, the wind and seas had picked up enough to cause a disturbing banging sound when surfing or twisting in a wave. We had heard the same sound on the passage from Gibraltar to Lanzarote, Canary Islands and were concerned that it was the rudder. Chay checked out the rudder while in Lanzarote and it checked out okay. So, when Chay heard the sound again this time, it dawned on him that it might be the auto-pilot chain slipping a tooth. He had Katie, who was on watch at the time, hand steer so that he could listen for the banging sound with the auto-pilot off, but weather conditions were such that she had a difficult time keeping us on course. So as not to stress out the auto-pilot any more than we already had, and to get a bit of rest before deciding what to do, we hove-to for a couple of hours until sunrise. This means setting the sails and rudder such that we basically drift very slowly in what feels like calmer seas. Even hove-to, there was no way Chay could work on the auto-pilot in the existing weather conditions. After the sun rose, Katie brought in the weather to see what was in store in for us – 48 hours of more rough conditions if we continued south to Cape Verdes – which would mean 48 hours of hand-steering in conditions that would make it very hard to do so. We looked in the cruising guide and found an anchorage at the very south end of Gran Canaria Island in the Canary Islands which was 60 miles northwest of our position – 8 hours of hand steering close hauled to wind. We chose the lesser of two evils and hand steered in extremely rough conditions (rougher than previously because now we were going to wind which makes the winds appear and feel stronger) to the anchorage at the southern most tip of the island. Esprit took many a huge wave over not only the bow, but over the whole boat and saw up to 37 knots of wind before reaching the calmer area near the coast of the island! We were all exhausted! Keep in mind, the only reason we stopped was because of the auto-pilot issue, not because of the weather. The weather was manageable, but we didn’t want to sacrifice the auto-pilot just before our long Atlantic crossing.
Leaving Arrecife, Lanzarote - notice the volcano in the background
Lanzarote Island in the Canary Islands
So, as one of our good friends and readers asked, what factors do we consider when deciding where and when to go and the routes we choose? In general terms we go where the weather conditions are best for the time of year, taking into account the direction we want to go as well as normal wind and wave direction/conditions. In the big picture of things, this is why we crossed the Pacific in March/April (South Pacific high pressure system off the Southwest Coast of South America rotates counter clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere resulting in following winds and seas when headed west), left the boat in New Zealand and Australia during their Summer/hurricane seasons, and had an extended cruising year when we went from Darwin to Turkey and crossed from one cruising season into another when we crossed the Equator going north.
On a smaller scale we pick where we want to go based on the winds and currents. That is why, in this cruising year, for instance, we went west to Tunisia from Malta with an East wind (the wind normally blows from the west), and then back up along Sardinia, Corsica, Monaco, the French Riviera, the Spanish Balearic islands, and then to southern Spain. The Med is notorious for no wind or too much wind. That’s why last year we went south along the East coast of Italy with a “storm” on purpose, so that we would have a down wind sail and it worked out splendidly. Sometimes our plans work and other times they do not – but we shoot to have a safe, comfortable sail whenever possible.
This year we crossed the Atlantic – we took the traditional route that Columbus and Magellan took south from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, then Southwest towards Cape Verde Islands and then turning West across the Atlantic to the Caribbean Islands (we could have opted to stop at Cape Verdes since it was along the way if the weather didn’t look optimal further west towards the Caribbean). This course is used because normally there is a High Pressure system approximately over the Azore Islands which causes a clock wise wind flow and favorable current around the southern portion of the North Atlantic, in other words the NE trades which provide for a down wind sail when heading west. Our trip from Gibraltar down to the Canary Islands was as rough as it was because we left later in the season than we should have to avoid the winter storms that start in the North Atlantic in October because we where trying to get a more favorable current through the straights of Gibraltar based on the phase of the moon, so while we didn’t enjoy the trip from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, we knew ahead of time that it could be rough.
A lesson we have learned over the last few weeks is that we are no longer in the Med, and have to change to an Atlantic mentality, and that we shouldn’t rush – we need to wait and not try to second guess the weather predictions. The Atlantic winds and seas are higher than the predictors say, so we have to keep that in mind when “watching” for our window of opportunity. We now know/remember that it is better to go a bit slower and have a comfortable ride, than go faster under uncomfortable conditions. It is better to arrive safe & sound without a lot of excitement and drama along the way. As every cruiser either knows, or should know, the most unsafe situation there is while sailing is attempting to meet a schedule. Well, as we mentioned earlier, Chay’s Mom is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s so we were attempting to hurry through this part of our circumnavigation so that we could get home to help with her care. This is why some of our weather window choices were aimed more at going “fast and rough” rather than “slower and comfortable”.
With all of this in mind, we left the Gran Canaria anchorage on Monday, November 11th, for the Cape Verdes. We continued to check the weather daily to determine whether we would continue on for Cape Verdes or hang a right and head west to the Caribbean. Considering that the weather reports only go out 7 days, and in reality are probably only accurate for 3 days (if that), it makes picking a window for a 3 week trip a bit of a challenge. All we could do is ask God for wisdom and to watch over us and guide us on our journey.
To give a flavor of our mindset when actually on the passage, here are the 3 messages sent during the passage
November 17th (1 week out) We heard from our good friend and loyal follower, Kimball Livingston, that two transatlantic races were postponed/cancelled because of severe weather in the North Atlantic during the time period that we we've been sailing south from Gibraltar - no wonder we were having so much trouble figuring out the North Atlantic weather! We are underway (Day 6) towards Cape Verde, with a possible weather window to allow us to continue straight on to Grenada without stopping. Although a bit rolly at times, the passage has been a pleasant one with winds behind us and moderate seas. We've seen dolphins, a shark, and have had several flying fish on deck - one hit Katie in the foot when it landed while she was on deck during a midnight sail change. One of the reasons we are hoping to be able to turn west and continue on is so that we can get home for Christmas to spend time with family and friends.
November 24 (2 weeks out) surprise...here we are 7 days out of Grenada - we plan to arrive there Sunday Dec 1st. We decided not to stop in Cape Verdes so that we could use the High in the Eastern Atlantic to our advantage to head west, then we went south for awhile, and now we hope to use the High in the western Atlantic to sail into Grenada! We saw one sailboat, Wavelength, and spoke to the crew - they are delivering the boat to the Caribbean and damaged their main sail 3 days out of Canary Islands so will be motoring the rest of the way (that makes for a very rolly trip without the main to help balance the boat). We have had lots of flying fish, both on the boat and showing off at sea - some pretty big ones this morning following an hour downpour at 3AM! Yesterday we had a beautiful "spinnaker" run with the asymmetrical foresail flying her colors - the first time in years! It was a nice break from the motoring we've had to do off and on the last 24 hours.
December 1 (19 days out) Yahoo!!! We are safely tied off to a mooring buoy in St David's Bay, Grenada where we arrived Saturday night at 11:00 PM!!
Jamie raising the chute
Katie & Jamie enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner - turkey sandwiches and cranberry!
So, in summary, after 19 days at sea we arrived safe & sound, albeit tired, in Grenada where Esprit is now berthed at Port Louis Marina in St. George’s. The passage was about 3000 miles during which we motored for only 38 hours in the beginning, clearing Grand Canaria, in the middle of the Atlantic between two high pressure systems, and in the end as we motored in the dark into St. David’s Bay in Grenada. As we wrote previously, we headed for Cape Verdes with the option to continue directly on to Grenada if the weather was right – well, it was, at least for the Eastern half of the Atlantic. Although there was a low pressure system developing in the Western half of the Atlantic (it turned into Tropical Storm Melissa), we calculated that it would move North out of our way in the week before we got to it – which it did. We rode the winds from the high pressure system in the eastern Atlantic under sail as far as we could, before having to motor for about a day while we were in between weather systems and had no wind. Thereafter we were able to sail with the wind behind us all the way to Grenada using a new high pressure system which then developed in the western Atlantic. Because the wind was behind us the entire way we ran wing and wing most the time and “enjoyed” the rocky-rolly trip. The crew got pretty good at jibing (changing direction when the wind is behind us) – a bit complicated when running wing and wing since the genoa foresail is poled out to one side while the main sail is out to the other. In the Eastern Atlantic we had 20 to 30 knots of wind while in the Western Atlantic it was 10 to 20 knots. With a top speed of over 9 knots and lot of 8 knots, we averaged 6.6 knots over our 19 day passage.
Sunset wing & wing
As we sailed further west, the temperatures increased, and the typical tropical squall lines increased as well. We were fortunate that only a few squalls actually got us with their rains and winds (too much before they hit, and too little afterwards); and of course, they hit at night. It was nice to put the blankets and sweatshirts away.
Caught in a squall
On a personal note, we listened to 7 audio books, ate every meal, didn’t suffer too much from sea sickness, and Katie was actually able to toast bagels and make crepes and pancakes a few times (rocky and rolly conditions are not conducive to cooking underway).
After turning right at Cape Verdes we saw only 2 boats – one sailboat and one fishing boat, and heard only one VHF radio conversation, for 2200 miles. On approach to Grenada we heard more VHF traffic and felt like we were no longer sailing in our private ocean.
Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean - truly majestic
We had flying fish of all sizes land on our deck almost nightly, had dolphins join us to play in our bow wake, and saw a sea turtle as we neared Grenada. Sighted birds included boobies and some sort of long tailed tropical bird.
Chay with one of the large flying fish
Several nights were clear with tons of stars; Jamie used his astronomy app on his iPad to find all the constellations – Orion, Taurus, Pisces, Gemini, etc. Venus lit up the sky nightly. The night sky is truly amazing.
Sitting in the Caribbean those first few days, we seemed to be “boat lagged”. It seemed like only yesterday we were in the Mediterranean Sea and now there we were 3000 miles away and back in the Tropics. Isn’t Cruising great!
Jamie, Katie, & Chay - December 2013 in St. George's Grenada
St. George's, Grenada
Rick and Robin from Endangered Species stopped by and we talked about their passage. They were crew on a 65 ft. Oyster called Rocas which left Cape Verde the day after we turned right and headed west. We commiserated with each other about the rocky rolly conditions (sounds like theirs was worse than ours) when sailing wing and wing. Rick also had been following the ARC boats and confirmed our suspicions that they were having a very rough time – up to 70 knots on the nose or no wind and running low on fuel depending on which course the captains chose. It appears we made the right decision when picking our weather windows!
We left the boat in Grenada until March while we went home for Christmas and to help with the care of Chay’s Mom. While in Grenada, we enjoyed listening to traditional Christmas songs with a reggae beat.
Esprit decorated for Christmas
After arriving home to Boulder City on December 9th, we bought our Christmas tree, decorated the house inside and out, created a beautiful Christmas village under the tree, visited Santa at the mall, Christmas shopped, and baked cookies. Phew! In addition Chay had to report for jury duty, but thankfully, was released, renew his driver’s license, and register one of the cars. We were home in time to watch our granddaughters, Trinity & Tasha, play in their annual 3 on 3 Christmas soccer tournament – it’s particularly fun because all the teams wear uniforms with a Christmas theme - and to continue our tradition of taking them on the Boulder City Santa Train ride at the Nevada Railroad museum. Lots of fun!
Natasha, Uncle Jamie, Graham Cracker (Grandma Katie), and Trinity
at the Santa Christmas Train in Boulder City
Trinity, Natasha, and Uncle Jamie on the Santa Train
Trinity, Natasha, and Big Daddy on the Santa Train