Monday, April 28, 2008

This and That from Bourg Des Saintes

First of all, thanks to our friends Bruce and Lin aboard 'Alize', we have the rare picture of Enee under sail. Click on it and you can see Sue at the bow looking for 'fish floats'. Also rare is that we are unreefed! Almost never happens.

Here's me and Phillipe, our sail maker. He came out to measure us for a new Genoa. We're going to wait on that as it turns out but he is going to make some minor repairs to our main sail. We delivered that to him today and he put it on the back of his motor scooter.

Mismo the cat that likes to 'help'. No matter what I'm messing with she always has her nose right in it. I'm trying to disassemble the reversing solenoid for the broken windlass here. Actually she has become a good companion for us.

On Sunday there was a regatta here featuring these classic little sloops. They are similar to the Bahamian rigs we reported on just about a year ago. Our sailmaker, Phillipe, raced hard all day and finished second. He got beat making the turn at the windward mark and stayed 20 meters behind the first boat the rest of the day. Well, as the french say, 'What would Jerry Lewis do"?

So, We'll get our main back on Tuesday and get it rigged and hope to sail north to Guadeloupe proper on Wednesday. All comments and emails are very welcome as usual.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What a great day!

Les Saintes and Fort Napoleon
click on the picture above to see the entire album.

So we decided to take a longish walk up the hill to Fort Napoleon which we could see from our boat. The road was very windy (as in wind a watch not wind in the sails) and narrow and at times steep but well worth the trek. The photos tell the story. Of all the places we've been over the past almost 3 years this is one of the most beautiful. We decided to stay a few days.

We don't usually blog every day but since we've arrived and have internet on the boat we figure ...why not! So if you haven't looked at the blog recently (as in earlier today) scroll on down for a report on arriving here.

Where to?

Chart of Guadeloupe

Les Saintes is that little splotch just south of the west wing of Guadeloupe

One of the skills one needs to acquire when cruising is flexibility (and arm strength but I'll get to that). On Tuesday we left the little town of Deshaies in Guateloupe and planned to sail about 20 miles due south (nearly) to the capital city, Basseterre (yes there's one of these in St. Kitts too. Bassetere means low land.) The wind was weird and nearly non-existant for a change. All we had was a little onshore breeze which is weird because that put the wind out of the north north-west and the real wind is NEVER from there down here (except maybe briefly during a hurricane). But with full sail up we were making 4+ knots and only going 20 miles so fine for us. Then it quit. I detest long motor boat rides and why shouldn't I? We don't HAVE to be anywhere on any particular day and diesel isn't exactly free. So we motorsailed a SHORT distance to an anchorage across from Pigeon Island. This anchorage wasn't so hot. It was filled with floating milk jugs either marking moorings for other boats or fish traps. We got anchored though and had lunch. Then it got windy again. And rolly. Really rolly -- the kind of rolly that when you wake up you've become the other person!

A quick look at the chart and cruising guide and we decide to motor or sail 5 more miles to a little bay called Anse du le Barque which should be much calmer. It was. A pretty little bay with lots of local fishing boats up near shore with plenty of room outside of them. There's two working light houses as well which is kind of quaint. It's deep though and a bit of a hard bottom and here's where you need arm (and back) strength and why. . .?

The anchor windlass is totally gone! The last time I tried to use it it wouldl just come on by itself without me pressing any buttons. Maybe it's possesed. Maybe some ghost is trying to sever my fingers by having the wheel turn when I'm not expecting it! So now it is JUST me with no mechanical assist to lay out and HAUL up the anchor. What makes this even harder is that the chain has to be fed down a tiny hole just a little bigger than the chain itself into the chain locker below. So I haul a couple of feet of chain and then hold it with one hand and feed it down with the other. The problem here is that there is nothing to hold the chain except the gypsy itself. So I HAVE to feed the chain down the hole to get what ever chain of gained captured. Laying chain out is fun as well. I have to hurry hand over hand pulling chain out of the hole as the boat backs down in the wind hoping I can keep up. I checked the low current up-down switch for faults but it is fine. So the problem (not counting that the motor needs replacing, remember?) now lies with the reversing solenoid. This must be fried to complete the high current circuit all by itself. So, dear Santa: A new windlass please!

This is how I look now after hauling chain for a few weeks.

Yesterday we thought we'd do the rest of the trip to Basseterre. I am on a quest for some perscription sun glasses as both pair of clip-ons went into the briney deep. The wind was light at first but was building as we got nearer the southern end of the island. We were under full sail for a change but the wind whipping around the tip soon forced us to reef the main. No problem. However we are now sailing a course of about 220 when we need about 170 to make Basseterre. We run a few miles out and then tack. What the. . . OK now we are heading 50 degrees. That's got to be a new record. A 170 degree tack! There is quite a currrent here during flood tide and I guess this is flood tide. Once again, where ever it is you want to go, you can't get there! It's still real early so we decide to motor sail (yes!) and put in a long day to go around the southern tip of the island and then turn north to Ponte de Pitre. Somewhere along there we should get good wind. Well to make a short story a little longer, there was no good courses to make that long haul. Wind and seas off this souther tip were pretty heavy but The Saintes are much closer. This is a small group of islands still part of Guadeloupe and just off the southern end. So 2 or 3 tacks later we pulled into the really pretty anchorage off the town of Bourg De Saintes. (pronounced 'Cleveland')

There's a busy ferry service operating between here and the 'mainland'. I put mainland in quotes because it's actually between two islands - this little one and the big one of Guadeloupe proper. One of the boat's is named 'Antoinette' so I figure there's no head on that boat.


We have wifi on the boat here too! That alone is enough to keep us here for a couple of days. There is a fort here to hike up to as well and a pretty little french town to explore. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Great Sailing Day to Guadeloupe

Yes, but it didn’t start out so great. We left Little Bay in Montserrat at first light. We wanted the option to sail the extra 20 miles to Basseterre in Guadeloupe rather than stop in Deshaies (pronounced Day Hay...of course. . . FRENCH!). Deshaies, at the north-west corner of Guadeloupe bears about 142 degrees from the NE corner of Montserrat. With an east wind or a little north-east we hope to be able to sail that line. First we have to come around the northern tip of Montserrat. We do this on motor and main as we are just about straight into the east wind once we start coming around the top. The wind is east, right? Our hope is that we can do this until we can easily make it to Deshaies in one long reach. We also need to be able to sail outside the ‘exclusion zone’ that wraps around the southern end of Montserrat. This is due to the volcano eruption here that has drastically changed the southern shore and depths.

So we motored until the bearing to Deshaies was 145. We shut off the engine, put up the genny (reefed) and found our new course. Not bad looks like we can sail 145-150. Of course after an hour or so of this we start getting headed and I’m off to 155-160. Not only does that not take me to Deshaies but will also take me too close to the island! Damn! We tack. Now I know that this is not a weatherly boat and that you sail this kind of boat ‘full and by’, whatever that is supposed to mean, but after we settle in on our new tack my course is about 30 degrees! I’m heading north for crying out loud! And, I’ve tacked through an angle of about 130 degrees! That ain’t right.

Above, See the lava/ash flow? Look close!

But, it’s going to be a stubborn day for me. (Yes there are a lot of those!) We got up early to have time so we keep at it. I decided to sail this rotten line until Deshaies bears 150 degrees and then tack again. Sure, I’ll be in Greenland by then but so be it! As we’re sailing I’m thinking about that 130 degree tack and it’s killing me. How can it be so bad? Of course there are significant currents around here. There’s the generally north west set to the equatorial current and there are some heavy currents associated with tides on the east side of Montserrat (of course no tide tables. Tides in the Caribbean are about a foot so I don’t really care.). The other thing is that I’ve been looking at my Course Over Ground on each tack via the GPS. That’s how I got the two courses to compare. What I really should do is look at the compass. This will show me which way the boat is POINTING and not the way the boat is necessarily GOING.

So, this starboard tack my GPS course is 30 degrees and my compass reads 60 degrees. Now 15 of these degrees are due to magnetic variation. This is the fact that magnetic north is not exactly at the north pole (it’s north west of Greenland). Still that leaves 15 degrees unaccounted for so my theory of currents may be right. We tack and settle in. My new compass heading is about 150 degrees! My boat DOES tack 90 degrees like you hope for. Plus we can now sail right for Deshaies from out here AND miss the exclusion zone.

The rest of the day was super. We started out close-hauled making 5+knots in 4-5 foot seas. As the day wore on we actually experienced a wind shift in our favor and could ease the sheets some. Enee is faster if not completely close hauled and we are now sailing 7+ knots for 2-3 hours as we make our entrance to Deshaies. A GREAT day sailing. These speeds are also a testament to having a clean bottom! There is NOTHING growing on this boat. That Ameron ABC3 paint is good stuff so far.

We put the anchor down in the bay with several other boats. Nice and calm in here. An exciting sail and time to toast: nothing broke and nobody died. Wait....why does the top of the main sail look so funny? Oooooh. The slide broke. That will have to be fixed before we sail again. Ok....well nobody died. Wait....why is the bilge running and running? Oooooh. We took on quite a bit of water (somehow) as we sailed fast heeled over about 20 degrees. is the water getting in..... always a mystery and a puzzle for tomorrow. Well still....nobody died so we can have that rum toast.

The dinghy dock in Deshaies

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On to Montserrat! (16 48.4 N / 62 12.8 W)

Let's start with the requisite Mismo picture. Yeah, that's her enjoying her giant hammock which we call our bimini!

After being turned back again from our planned sail to Gaudaloupe we anchored in the very southern bay of St. Kitts - Majors Bay.

We really liked this anchorage. Fairly well protected and just us there. Great snorkeling at the eastern tip of the bay. Very clear water and lots of our friends the fish. As much as we liked it, this bay started getting a little rough so on Sunday we moved back up to White House Bay (our 4th visit) where it is much calmer. We plan now to leave on Tuesday but there are some things to accomplish that require town. So on Monday we sail back to Basseterre the main town on St. Kitts. There are two anchorages here and they are BOTH very rolly. We opt for the one fairly far from town but near the customs office where we need to clear out. Having accomplished that we take the LONG dinghy ride to the marina. In town we accomplish our internet tasks at, hopefully, our last visit to Ballahoos (they have coffee cups there with our names on them .... or is it beer mugs?) and then on to the grocery store. Can’t sail without Pringles you know! We bought too much to carry but no problem finding a cab in this town. We load the dinghy and begin to head back to a duty free shop by the cruise line pier and get some rum and wine. On our way we run into our old friends Larry and Debbie on Debonaire! Always fun running into a cruiser you know from all the way back in Luperon last year! Even better, Larry had collected my pay from helping out with the Heineken Regatta. Sweet. I quickly spend it on 5 gallons of gas and 10 of diesel. (no diesel is NOT $15 a gallon as I was told by a cab driver....more like $4.50 us). Now dinghy is heavily ladden with food and fuel. I decide to tow Sue. JUST KIDDING but it is a slow wet ride taking dinghying straight into some 2-3 foot seas. Enee is rolling around like a drunken sailor and we want a good night’s sleep before heading out to Montserrat so, you guessed it, back to White House Bay! We got anchor down and dinghy and motor on board just as night fell. Whew. What a busy damn day!

Finally we’re off! Although it has been a great stay in St. Kitts. I haven’t felt quite so crazy as I usually get when we have an unplanned month long stay somewhere. This is the friendliest island so far. None of the islands have been outwardly unfriendly (well Marco Island in Florida maybe) but often you feel a certain, ‘I’ll deal with you when I’m good and ready’ attitude from island people. Not in St. Kitts. They are happy and proud of their island. I have a theory that attitude might be connected to education as the Kittians seem outwardly to be better read. Just a theory.

So, Tuesday we are up at 0500 and weigh anchor from White House Bay (our 5th stop there!). We have a wonderful sail south past the tip of St. Kitts and then all along the coast of tiny Nevis. Now its no more lee from any island and we try for Montseratt. Well, of course that’s too close to the wind for us so it’s motor, main and a tiny triangle of jib pulled to windward with the lazy sheet as we’ve learned to do. This is our best way to make headway on a heavy windward leg. The seas build to 4-5 feet with an occasional big boy. When we round them off by falling off a little and then coming back to the wind they’re not so bad. When we don’t see them coming and just bury the bow we call it a bell ringer. That’s because when we do that it causes our ships bell down below to ring!

At first we were holding a good line of about 125 degrees true (compass numbers down here are nearly 15 degrees West variation!) which would take us right to the mark. As we head south, though, we have to keep falling off to the west more and more due to wind shift. We sail 145 for a few hours and then it starts coming back to about 135. We decide to sail into the lee of the island rather than tack out here in the big stuff. That works great as when we tack we only have about 3 miles to do in much more settled conditions.

As we sailed closer to Montseratt we could see haze from the island extending off to the west. Actually that’s not haze, that’s ash still blowing off of the island from the eruption in 1995. You need to stay far off this shore if you sail there to keep the ash off of your boat. We plan to exit down the east side of the island when we go.

Little Bay, Montseratt is just that - little. There is a wreck of an old barge on the south shore and the ferry dock on the north shore. You can anchor anywhere but need to leave room for the ferry. No buoys of course. You just have to guess what line and how much room the ferry is going to need. There are a couple of sailboats here and a couple more come in before dark. These are obviously sponsored racing boats. They must be making their way to Antigua for ‘Race Week’. We hoist our yellow quarantine flag and decide to clear customs tomorrow. They rarely work past 3 pm anyway. Tomorrow we’ll explore a little and maybe find internet. We plan to leave Friday and sail to Gaudaloupe.

Great to be on the move again. Arrival in new ports is always very exciting.

Finally, a quiz. What's wrong with this boat named Pi? Scroll down for answer. . .

Pi = 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 3751 . . . They are off in the thousandths place. Jeez how hard is it to look up the value of Pi. Maybe this work was done in Indiana. No, then it would have been 3.ooooo..... the Pi song!

Friday, April 11, 2008

What the hell??????

Sometimes things don't go so great . . . even in paradise. After our friends left for the states Sue was laid out with some sort of flue. The good news about that was that we weren't going anywhere anyway as the trades blew 25-30 day and night for about a week. We holed up in White House Bay, St. Kitts. Pretty calm water in the bay but plenty of wind. I let ALL the chain out! It was actually kind of fun having so many boat days in a row. Kind of like when you snowed in up north except there's no snow and we're never cold, nor do we shovel snow or chip ice. . . well you know the drill!

After the weather calmed down a little we sailed the few miles to Nevis and prepared to make the jump to Gauteloupe. That's about 80 miles but you have to steer around Montseratt. Wednesday should have been the perfect day. Plenty of wind from about 080 degrees and we need to sail about 145. Even Enee can do that! The seas were still pretty stirred up but they were supposed to simmer down as the day wore on. They didn't. They built and so did the wind and not from 080. . . more like 110 or 120. Well then we're screwed. We tried to tack and set a course for Montseratt to lay over just for the night. When we tacked our new course was about 15 degrees! What the hell? Oh yeah. . .there is a NW flowing current of a knot or sometimes 2 dragging us back north. Too tired to press on we had no choice but to retreat back to Nevis. We hit 8.1 knots on the way back!

We tried again the next day. The seas were way down but the wind was still 120 instead of the promised 070. I hate everybody!

We've checked back into St. Kitts and boy is that fun because the first question is, 'What was your previous port'? When you say, 'Here'. It gets pretty confusing.

So now the next weather window may be Wednesday. A northen swell has lumped things up again for at least over the weekend. Of course you might be wondering why I didn't just turn on the engine and motor sail. . .


Meanwhile all is well otherwise. Sue is better and Mismo is getting good at catching flies. Sue has NO chance however. AND, the Cubs are 6-3. This is THE year!

And now the required Mismo picture...