Monday, May 26, 2008

Where are we now?

Friday, May 23

We left Dominica around 6:am. Motor and main on the lee side of the island until we got to the corner. The white horses (white caps) were plainly in sight. Shall we reef? We considered beginning the day with a reef as we raised the main while on the mooring ball but reconsidered since the shape of the sail is so sloppy then. So full main we were as we rounded the point. The point is called Scott’s Head by the way. ‘nough said!

Scott's Head, Dominica - not to be confused with Scott's head and the rest of him, Enee Marie

So - the wind was more on the nose than we’d like and we compromised by motor sailing with full main and reefed (to the side stays) genny. Yes - the captain agreed to motor sailing. This was the only way to really get there and we had 50+ miles to go and we really wanted to get there. The crossing between the islands (Dominica and Martinique for those who are keeping track) was a sporty 25 miles. Once we passed the southern tip of Dominica we were able to pure sail to Martinique. Quite nicely. Although as we approached the southern island - maybe about 10 miles out - the wind was strong enough that the weather helm was really tugging. I’m still used to a tiller I suppose because the way I steer is to turn the wheel away from the wind and hold it there to stay on course. The holding it there doesn’t do it since we still go to windward and the wind always wins. I’m heading 20 degrees off my line and getting headed. The front sail is flogging and making a horrible sound - because I’m straight into the wind. Go figure!

We take turns at the helm. Two hours on two hours off. Except after this one particular hour I was swearing enough at the wind that Snappy took over. Maybe we should have let out the main for more comfort and control. We’re so used to sailing hard to the wind and easing the main sail often means loosing ground to your course. Anyway we held on to our course and finally made it to the tip of Martinique when suddenly the wind got turned off! Really!! It was like flipping a switch. No more tugging on the wheel. No more wind. In fact we had to put the motor on again to keep forward motion. What a difference.

We’re motor and main sailing down the coast of Martinique. Quite beautiful. At times all the islands seem the same because they all have volcanic mountains and beaches and palm tree. But at the same time each has it’s unique mountains and shorelines. We were arriving at yet another island country. But wait - here comes the wind again. This time it’s an on-shore breeze. Let the main tack over and pull out the genny - all the way. Nice easy beam reach now going 5+ knots. Sweet.

Mismo especially liked the calm, easy sail down the west coast of Martinique.

And then when we pass behind another volcanic mountain peak - no more wind. Motor main again. And so on and so on until we finally get to the bay at Fort du France. It’s a huge bay with a variety of anchorages. We chose Trois Islet (3 islands) because it was nice and secure from any weather of which we are suppose to get some high winds this coming week. However once maneuvering through the narrow and shallow channel (getting stuck twice!) we discover that the only boats anchored here are derelict - or at least nobody is on them and the housing on the shoreline doesn’t look so inviting either.

How about Anse Matin (14 33.7 N / 61 03.4 W) just around the corner.....where there is a big anchorage and a marina where you can check in for customs. We got the anchor down just before sunset (no green flash this time but we did see 2 consecutive flashes in Dominica!).

Whew. It was about 6:pm by the time we got our rum sundowners.
Mismo did the dance of joy. No photo of this. You'll have to use your imagination.

The anchorage at Anse Mitan. Enee is tucked in there somewhere.

Saturday, May 24
We checked in at the marina office. We do this by entering our passport numbers and boat information into a computer and print out 2 copies. That's it! Then on to explore the town. A bit touristy but cold beer non the less. Of course this is a French island and so the first restaurant we went to did have free wifi with a purchase (we had coffee) but would only serve us beer if we sat at a different table. We left. The second restaurant had free wifi but not during lunch hours so after using the internet for 1 hour, we left. There’s suppose to be internet at the laundromat that’s closed on Sundays (today). I’ll check that out on Monday.

Today I bought an orange-caraibe wifi card. It’s suppose to work around town. After going to two different places on shore neither have worked so far. Sitting at a table in the restaurant connected to the marina right now and no go with the wifi. And no one has asked me if I want anything to drink or eat as yet. It’s been 30 minutes. Today’s mother’s day here and they are a bit busy. No problem. I would just ask them why the internet doesn’t work anyway. Although I’d probably have another Lorraine. We like Lorraine. How can you not like a beer named after your middle name. Sue’s not Scott’s.

Ok. Here’s the story. The laundry run by a very helpful and friendly lady did have washers and dryers and one pc but not wifi. That’s ok. There is wifi at the restaurant by our marina. And I’ve just discovered that I can get the internet on the boat - usually. No problemo. However while I was waiting for the laundry lady to open this morning I walked back to the store where I bought my orange cariabe card yesterday. To my surprise I was ‘told’ (me speaking english and gesturing; the guy behind the counter speaking french and really gesturing) that I bought a cell phone card not an internet card. Who knew. He did give me my money back though. Which was nice.

Maybe we can get the video to work that I took on our sporty sail over. Let’s give it a try.
Click on the black arrow to start the video.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dominica - pronounced like the singing nun would

Another motor sail upwind to Dominica. Luckily I had my trusty cat there to help steer. Weird day. There was NO wind coming along the coast of Gaudeloupe and then once we hit the space between Gaudeloupe and Dominica. . . plenty of wind. ~18knots+ and too much on the nose for us. So, we did what we've learned to do: reefed main, reefed genny (and pulled to windward some with the lazy sheet) engine on. Kept us as close as we can get to the wind and keeps our speed up around 5 knots. After a 'sporty sail' and 10 hours later we arrived. It was around a 50 mile trip.

Yes, we're in Dominica. Nice little town here on the north west coast - Portsmouth. The town is 'quaint' which means it is boarding on 3rd world without falling into it. Friendly though and we found canned chicken which makes the stop worthwhile right there.
Photo on left is of a house's framework being held up with small tree trunks.
Hopefully the outcome will be a little sturdier than the house in the photo on the right!

We'll sail tomorrow for the other end of the island - Roseau, the capital. We have no plans to go ashore there but just want to stage to have a better chance of using the tidal current to our advantage for a change. The water tends to flow toward the moon so when the moon rises in the east the water will begin to flow east. That's good for us as our course to Martinique will be on a course of about 160 degrees true. You get another chance to take advantage about 12 hours later as there are two tides a day. So, we'll sail to Roseau and spend the night and then leave early the next morning and hopefully get a little help from the tidal current for a change.

Some of you may have lost track as to exactly where in the hell we are! I thought it might be a good idea to put up an overview of our trail since leaving BVI. As usual, click to see big version.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

good news bad news

Hello Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press.

Sail from Antigua to Deshaies, Gaudeloupe . . .our most recent 'best ever'. Beam reach in ~12 knots. Caught and passed a Island Packet with full sails up. See ya! Made ~6.5 knots the whole way in a gentle swell. The reason we came here! Bonus! We were SURROUNDED by dolphins at one point. They looked like teenagers (tatoos, cigarettes, you know.) but they swam with us for several minutes. Check out the video at the bottom of this post and the still below.

Sail from Deshaies, Gaudeloupe to Portsmouth, Dominica. . . not so good. No wind in the lee of Gaudeloupe and then wind on the nose once we got clear of Gaudeloupe. Lots of motor (really!) and a bit of a rough ride but as we say when the anchor's down, "Nothing broke and nobody died". Although, we're thinking of changing that toast to, "nothing broke and nobody killed anybody else. . . yet"!

So, we'll go ashore tomorrow and clear customs and begin to explore this new island. Customs? That reminds me...below you'll find a little piece about the customs house in English Harbor, Antigua. Enjoy.

Now then, some people wonder what one does on a 10-12 hour passage. Well one could write this entry (parts I did. . . read on) other than that you take pictures of your CAT! Herrrrrrrrres MISMO!

World Record Setting Rude People in Antigua

Customs and Immigration people from island to island are usually like government bureaucrats everywhere. They’re a little bored. They are sometimes a little snotty or short with Americans. Some more friendly than others. But, English Harbor, Antigua customs/immigration/port authority people set a new low water (or is that a high water mark) mark for rudeness.

I walked in and went to the Customs counter behind which sat a guy at a desk. Well, no, he was actually laying back horizontally in his desk chair and talking and laughing on his cell phone. OK. I’m standing there and we make eye contact and. . . nothing happens. He just keeps talking and laughing! A few more seconds go by and apparently I’m not going to vanish so he finally puts the phone down and looks at me and says, “What”? “Clearing out”, I say. He nods to the counter next to his and tells me to start there with the Port Authority. OK, I turn 90 degrees and walk 2 steps to that counter. There’s no one there. I wait. I say hello real loud. The guy is back on the phone and ignoring me. Hmmmm...I walk down to a third counter for immigration. A young woman is sitting at the counter but her head is turned around to watch the soap opera on the tv. A co-worker is sitting at a desk with her forehead flat down on the desk and she is OUT. I don't actually see drool on her blotter (how handy!) but I think it is there. I try to explain that I need to go to port authority but there’s no one there. She mumbles to me about the harbor master without taking her eyes off the tv and points (lovely nails though!) vaguely out the door. OK.

I walk back outside and looked for the harbor master but couldn’t find it. I asked a guy where it was and he directed me back to where I started. Oh great. . . .The soap has not ended so once again I find myself talking to this girl’s left ear hole (why don’t women grow ear hair I wonder. . . ). Now I get some actual directions a left, a right and a gray door. OK

Now I easily find the harbor master’s. “Clearing out”, I say. “When did you arrive”? Ah ha...See it doesn’t work. I was told to check into Jolly Harbor or you pay a harbor fee to be in Falmouth or English Harbors but now they’re going to get their pound of flesh at the other end. Well, I’m a pretty honest, but poor, guy so I fudge a little and say Monday (actually Friday). I have to pay $30 for 5 days! Oh well, just get me out of this bureaucratic hell. It’s 78 ec and I give her 100. She mumbles something about change and begins to walk out of the office. When she gets to the door I ask if I should wait or go with her. She SNAPS at me, “I just told you to come with me”! I wanted to say, “No, you said, mfmoliourlengusennout sdmf sm"! But I didn’t.

We walk back to the first office and I get my change. Now I’’m rolling. I get the standard check out form (which by the way is identical to your check in form except for marking the little box at the top OUT instead of IN. When these islands discover computers it will be so much easier but for now you have to repeat everything (name address, gross tonnage, passport numbers, etc). Now I take that back to soap opera lady. She works her rubber stamp on this form. YES! Rubber stamps mean you’re nearly done. I have our boat papers, their various forms, and our passports on the counter. She wiggles her fingers at my stuff like she wants something. Afraid to speak I guess for fear of missing something on the soap. I’m getting hot but just step back and say, “I don’t know what you want”! She is forced to actually move her body forward 10 degrees and help herself to our passports (bitch!). OK, back to the customs guy and his rubber stamp. Uh oh, I didn’t press hard enough to make all 17 copies come out clear and have to fill out the green one again by hand.

I’m done. OK, cultures are different and people work at different speeds and speak the kings english differently in different places but RUDENESS is universal. There is nothing cultural about being rude. Everyone knows it when they see it. AND, what manager puts a tv in the workplace anyway? We're talking a 23 inch baby mounted in the office. I’m sorry you have a boring ass job and no other marketable skills but that ain’t my problem. A little hello, good bye is still a nice way to treat other humans. Even if they are Americans.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Leaving Antigua

Well, the job prospects here have pretty much petered out so we are going to move on. There is quite a lot of marine industry here there just aren't any boats left! So, we plan to head south once again on Saturday. We'll sail back to Deshaies, Gaudeloupe and just anchor for the night and then on to Dominica on Sunday. So win-win. Don't get to work and make the money I was hoping for for a new windlass and sail but I get to go sailing! This is the BEST sailing weather of the entire year down here. Easterlies or maybe a little south-easterlies at 10-15 knots. Nice.

This morning, just as the sun was coming up we heard a strange noise under the boat. Something was banging against the underside of the boat back under our aft cabin. What the. . . hey, where's Mismo? Holy Crap! I fly up on deck with a hand full of shorts but wearing none of them looking for the cat. She's nowhere and she's not in the water either. And then, there she comes out from under the boat and right to the rescue ladder that I made for her. She climbed up on her own but was NOT happy. Good news is that she found her way back aboard all on her own and I didn't have to go swimming.

We took the bus to the 'big' town of St. John today to look around and get a few things. One of the things I finally found was my perscription medicine. It's hard to find here because it is free for the residents so the pharmacies don't stock it. What kind of a crazy country gives away free drugs? Sheesh. Give me good old US of A where NO one can afford their medications and have to take a freaking Greyhound to Canada (eh?) to buy them. Anyway, a fun day. We have to get a few things from the grocery tomorrow, hit customs to check out, and of course buy some boat things at the little chandlery here.

So stay tuned for more sailing stories from the high seas!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Wayback Machine

On this date one year ago. . .

We were getting our asses kicked trying to muscle Enee into Luperon in a 40 knot gale and 12 foot seas. Jesus.

On this date 20 years ago. . .

Sue made the first of many mistakes and married Scott. So, happy 20th to us. This year we're going out to dinner at the admiral inn instead of almost dying!

If interested, there is an interview with us that was in Ocean Navigator. So for the few among you who perhaps don't read Ocean Navigator here's a link to that interview. It's a pdf file that you'll probably have to download to read.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY....... all the moms out there.
Don’t do a dish or wash any clothes. Enjoy your day.

And while we’re celebrating....also Happy Birthday to the May Girls.....Stephanie and Lisa! Though your particular days have passed (May 3rd and May 9th ) I say take the whole month to celebrate. See what you can get away with.

Since we’re mentioning birthdays I will include some I missed. (Nobody ever accused me of being on time or accurate!)

January: Luke Teyema who is now a whopping 4 months old....on the 25th!

February: Sidney T. who is older than I would guess but still young enough to play. (Well we can say that about Stephanie and Lisa too.)

March: Scott and Kirk T. whose ages I won’t even mention because they’re grown men (we also won’t mention the tights.....get in tights reference to Robin Hood?!?) Now that I've said that what picture do I find?????
How about this one - these are men in shorts that are very tight....look closely. Well maybe not all that tight but nice none the less.

April: Gretchen T. whose birthday was on the 19th and I think she might even be 19 or could be. She would love the batik store in St. Kitts.

So now I think I have the entire list of immediate family of blood and non blood and will stay up-to-date from now on. We’ll see how accurate I am.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

We explored Jolly Harbor very briefly. Actually we only used Jolly Harbor to clear customs. Not much actual town there but a big marina and shops and restaurants around it. Sue had one job possibility here but after talking to them probably not. We think there are more opportunities by Falmouth/English harbors which are right next to each other on the south side of the island. It is only about 8 miles around the corner from Jolly to Falmouth. To make it that short though we’d have to go between some reefs and the shore. Plenty wide (about a half mile) but still you’d like to do this sort of thing in good light. Of course the trade off there is that by waiting for the sun to be highish we’d be giving the wind a chance to build up and this little trip will be dead upwind. We opted for good light since it wouldn’t be that far to motor-sail up wind. We did tack our way in the narrow parts to keep some wind in the main and just kept an eye on the reef and on the gps. Slow going but we were in Falmouth by 1 pm anchor down.

We knew that the company that provided wifi back in the Saintes (hothothotspot!) operated here as well. So, as we motored around looking for a good place to anchor we had the computer on to see where the signal might be strong enough. That worked! We’re somewhere between a couple of marinas and the signal is strong enough albeit desperately slow!

After getting the bimini up we sat down and Sue said, “I hate to mention this but there’s oil dripping out of the outboard”. CRAP! We mount the outboard on the stern rail when sailing with the shaft/prop inboard over the deck. Sure enough there were drips on the deck. They seem to be coming from one of the tiny drain holes in the case of the motor way down low and across from the plug where you would fill the oil for the lower end. I’m hoping that some oil from the lower unit got bounced around and into the water jacket around the lower unit and this is not big deal. Or, the lower unit is completely out of oil and those were the last 3 drips on my deck. Of course I do not have lower unit oil on board.

Our friend Joe on Halfmoon is here in the harbor. Here’s how we hailed him. We tried the radio but he wasn’t answering. So we e-mailed him and said, “Turn on your radio”! That worked. About 10 minutes later he hailed us on the VHF. He’s going to come over and take me to a marine store so I can get some oil. Then I can open the plug and see if 1. any oil comes out and 2. if it is milky (has water in it). Note that this motor is 2 months old with maybe 20 - 30 hours on it. If this is a big deal my next purchase may be a handgun to use on myself! Stay tuned for REAL drama.

SPECIAL REPORT - I have now opened the drain for the lower unit oil and let a little out (having bought some replacement oil this morning). Good news! This oil is clear and in great shape. Opening the top hole tells me that the lower unit is full of oil as it should be. So, what IS the black stuff that dripped out of the little drain hole? Maybe a little grease from a bearing? I'll keep an eye on it but I don't think this is serious. All comments and ideas about this are certainly welcome.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Great Day!

On Tuesday we did prep work for taking the Salee River route north out of pointe a pitre. This takes you to the northern shore of Gauteloupe via about 8 miles while to sail around the island would be more like 30. Worth the effort. Actually our prep work started on Monday when we explored the route to the start of the river by dinghy. Yeah, it’s very shallow in places. About 6 feet. But we draw 5 so that’s a whole foot to spare. Gulp. We found that there was enough water to anchor right near the bridge which only opens at 5 in the morning. We thought we’d like to get to that anchorage in daylight rather than have the sphinchter puckering shallow water adventure at night. So, Tuesday we checked out of customs. The french guy there looked like he was sorry that the Germans lost world war II. Se la gare! After that it was back to Enee to haul dinghy and motor on board and back to the marina for fuel. Now that we have checked out we are officially a ‘foreign vessel’ and can buy diesel for 0.87 EU per liter instead of 1.22 EU. Fuel tanks topped off and even some ice and beer for the 50+mile sail to Antigua and we’re ready.

The motor to the anchorage was indeed shallow. Note to anyone following along, the buoys are not where they are shown in either Doyle’s guide or the Yachtman’s charts. It is shallow everywhere by the next to last red buoy as you approach the bridge from the south,. We got down to 0.3 meters (30 centimeters) under the keel before it came back up. Whew! We anchored with no problem and let out minimum scope to make for less of an adventure in the morning when we weigh anchor to make that 5 AM bridge opening.

Up at 4. Coffee and a few boat things while we wait for bridge time. 3 other boats have joined us and that’s good because then as long as we are not first we can use FBA navigation as we did on the intercoastal wateway. (Follow Boat Ahead). The river is pretty and it was a great ride as the sun was just coming up. Many sea birds getting ready to fight over food for the day and LOTS of no-see-ums but definetely feel-ums. The first bridge is actually two bridges and the second one is VERY narrow. The catamaran in front of us MIGHT have had a foot on either side. From there it was follow the buoys, wait for the second bridge and make our way to the official ocean which we did at 0700. Depth sounder rang up multiple meters of water. Full sail and we our on our way to Antigua!

Boats heading out to the open sea

Perfect sailing wind and seas for Enee. We are just aft of a beam reach in maybe 15 knot breeze. Seas are rolly keeping us busy at the helm but nothing serious. What was serious was our speed; 7.5 - 8 knots All the way to Antigua. We headed for Jolly Harbor on the West side as multiple people told us that that was the easiest and best place to check in. Once again, the buoyed channel in to Jolly Harbor is not where it is shown on the charts causing some tense moments (swearing) aboard but plenty of water even if you can’t find the actual channel right away.

It’s 1500 and we’re anchor down in Antigua waters. We’ll clear customs tomorrow. Right now it’s time for one of those cold Corsair beers!

Good sail! Nothing broke and nobody died.

Friday, May 02, 2008

North to Pointe a Pitre

The day before yesterday we 'sailed' from Les Saintes to the big town of Point a Pitre on Gaudeloupe. About 20 miles. . . unless you're me. Then your trip meter reads 32 miles.

Sue: Maybe we should put on the engine
Scott: No
Sue: There's really no wind. Engine?
Scott: No
Sue: We're not going to get there.
Scott: OK, we'll go back.
Sue: Fine.
Scott: Fine.
Sue: We can't go back either. . . there's no wind.
Sue: OK
Scott: Fine. Put on the engine and go where ever you want.
Sue: I'll head for Point a pitre
Scott: Fine.

Less than an hour later the wind finally came up and we had a very nice sail the last 6 miles. I'm still theory!

The channel into Pointe a Pitre is wide and deep and a pretty busy shipping channel. We planned to pull into the marina and take a slip thinking we could get some painting done, Install a new water pump if we find one and maybe even new windlass. The marina has room for 1000 boats and no slips. What? Yeah, it's all stern-to med moor type deal where you hook the bow of your boat to a mooring ball and then back to the pier. Boats are right against each other via fenders. Of course then, how would we get off the boat? I have dingy davits with the dinghy in there and anyway the slope of the transom would make it quite an adventure getting to the pier. But still we'll buy diesel and water. The diesel if 1.20 EU per liter. It's about 1.5 dollars to 1 EU right now. That comes to over $5 per gallon! Unless you are foreign boat and have already checked out of Gaudeloupe. Then the diesel is 0.87 EU per liter. See why I hesitate to put on the iron monster? We decide to wait until we check out but do buy water which is about 1 EU for 150 liters. (not hip to the metric system? No problem. . . a liter is 1000 cubic centimeters or 1/1000 of a cubic meter. You're welcome.)

We leave the marina and anchor just on the outside. Not too pretty here unless you think Gary Indiana is pretty. Well protected though.

Today, we took the dinghy to the marina with a long wish list of things we'd like to accomplish. WiFi, laundry, water pump, windlass, small things, sunglasses. As we walk nothing is open. What the hell time is it? Not THAT early, right? (neither of us wears a watch). As we walked toward the downtown area we were both reminded of the Domincan Republic. This town is depressed and beat. Lots of garbage and lots of graffiti. We walked through some public housing and it is as bad here in 'paradise' as it is anywhere else in the world. Suddenly it occured to me why everything was closed. IT'S MAY DAY! That's a real holiday in much of the world and here too. We turn around and head back.

At the marina we ask about the mooring balls that we see near our boat. If we actually find a new windlass we would like to be on one to do the changeover and be able to clean the chain maybe. Oh, yes. The marina operates the mooring balls for 10EU per night and if you take one you can have all the water you want for free. GREAT! Too bad the tanks are full of non-free water. Jeez-o-peet.

As to the windlass itself here's what I think the history is of it's ailments.

1. chain begins to rust and get very dirty
2. chain starts to 'castle' or stack straight up in a spiraling cone shape since it no longer slides off of itself due to its roughness
3. Now chain pays out with a built in twist. Take rope and make a nice spiral on the dock as we all do sometimes. Now grab the center end of the rope and pull straight up. The rope will be twisted for each coil of the spiral. This is what I think is happening inside the chain locker. (I suspect I also have a family of Haitians living in there but that's another story.)
4. The twist in the chain causes it to jump off the gypsy (sounds like a command from a cop, "JUMP OFF THAT GYPSY. . . NOW!) while weighing anchor. Then the gypsy would grab again causing large shock loads to the windlass
5. At some point as reported here earlier #4 caused a magnet in the motor to shatter. I 'fixed' this by cleaning out the broken pieces of the magnet but now the motor runs slow. This is key.
6. The slowly running motor causes large currents resulting in a meltdown in a terminal in the reversing solenoid. I believe the 'up' solenoid has been carboned up and now the windlass runs even slower until it actually stops during haul up. That makes even more and larger currents and more problems.

The solution now is new windlass AND new reversing solenoid. No option left there but there is no point if the chain is going to still twist itself sending me back to #1! So, anyone reading out there, what's a good way to 'clean up' the anchor chain so that it is not so rough and cruddy? Maybe re-galvanize? Information? Thanks to all who help!

During one of the many tacks (on which we were sailing BACKWARDS) we suddenly noticed a thrashing movement in the water off our port bow. What is that!?! Oh's spewing! Yep, it was a WHALE! We have a video of it. . . sort of but it looks a lot like the videos of the Lock Ness Monster. Besides we're not able to post pictures or video's on this server. It WAS a whale though and they do sponsor whale watching excursions from here.