December 8, 2014 , Réserve Cousteau, Guadeloupe
This is a much better way of Feeding the Fish, wouldn't you agree?
After that nasty ShitStorm of a passage, we've had nothing but Great, Fantastic, and Perfect Winds and Seas for continuing our journeys up island. Continuing as in Sailing with NO CHANCE of ShitSTORMs, ya baby! Seas that are flat calm (at around 1 meter), steady breezy winds and perfectly blue skied skies.
And so, from Rodney Bay (Saint Lucia), we scooted over to Le Marin (Martinique). Our beloved Banyan is French by Birth, and we needed some parts à la français.
And so while our ChartPlotter was being fixed, and we were buying a few boat bits and pieces, we were also replenishing our cupboards with some baguettes, pâté and vino.
When all that was said and done, we scooted 91 miles to Les Saintes for a few days, and then chose another perfectly flat calm day,
with lots of Sargasso Seaweed to avoid along the way,
to keep heading onwards and upwards.
The Sargasso Seaweed, a carpet of yellow and brown coloured looks like grapes, lay on top of the water in long stretches of oblong shapes and we zigged and zagged our way around it. These dense yellow islands of seaweed collect their very own ecosystem and its best to avoid going through any of it. Even being as careful as we were, we had to slow Banyan down a couple of times when the engine started cavitating, put the throttle in reverse, and sure enough, clumps of seaweed were propelled off. Full speed ahead...
A scant two hours later we're we anchored in 15 feet of flat calm, almost gin-clear waters by the beach Malendure. Immediate call to action required us to jump in for a refreshing swim, where we met up with 4 turtles guiding the way below us as we went to check our anchor set.
The next morning we noticed the Ramoray beneath our boat, and decided he might need some breakfast too. Some day-old baguette was thrown overboard,
and turns out it was quite the breakfast feast for this little guy.
Along with Doug and Wendy on SV Nahanni River, we got in our dinghies and zoomed across the bay,
where we picked up one of the mooring ball lines and dove into the underwater world that is the Réserve Cousteau.
The underwater life quickly zoomed into focus,
the brightly coloured fish accustomed to our alien forms approached us,
waiting to be fed,
and the smiles on their faces,
quite plain to see,
Does the heart and soul a world of good to spend some time chillin' with Mother Nature (not to mention Feed the Fish the right way!!)
Note: You can read more about this amazing park here.
November 27, 2014 , Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia
This post comes to you without photos. None were taken.
I distinctly remember thinking, not wishing, but thinking, and perhaps even voicing my thoughts out loud, how I just knew that I would be out there one day, sailing on the Big Blue, and HAVE to deal with a shitstorm. And something imagined can somehow haunt you, and grow into a ShitStorm in of itself. In true Thoughts Become Things fashion, I should be more careful what I think of?!
We were in Tyrell Bay waiting for the winds to calm so that we could take our next jump up the island chain. We need to reach Antigua for incoming guests and there were still many nautical miles to sail.
Last year the Christmas Winds had us locked in Martinique for three weeks, and this year we were being quite mindful of the developing patterns. Between studying the different systems in the areas we were going to be passaging through, and the timings involved, all while jumping up island with minimal in/out clearances, we devised a few Plans, as well as a few Bail-Out Plans.
That morning the anchorage began to empty, cruisers were on the move!! By the time we got up and moving, our friends had already left for Bequia, which was our plan as well. Bequia was a scant 6 hours away, and should be do-able and feasible, the conditions passable, for a yellow-flag overnighter. Which would make the next-day's jump that much shorter.
We had a few chores to get done first though and as we tasked them off our list, the Capt'N continued to watch the weather, and as the day wore on, we opted for the next plan. We'll allow the weather and seas to settle a bit more, and leave later in the day.
"We'll do an overnighter" he said, and so we raised the sails and were on our way by 16:30. The skies were clear and beautiful and we enjoyed our supper, sailing along as the sun set. Pretty soon the stars were coming out to play with us. Not quite a full moon, she was nevertheless shining up there in the big black expanse above us.
We were slicing through the somewhat bouncy waters. Somehow, somewhere between there and here, though, I started to feel queasy.
And the night got darker. The stars were being blanketed out one by one, the radar showed the purple ragged edges of a squall passing through. And of course, just as the nausea hit, so did some weather. There wasn't too much wind, and we got caught in some rain. We were a little wetter than before and yet Banyan's bow keep slicing through the churny seas. My tummy kept on complaining and my body fighting back.
And then another squall. More of the same. Increased winds, increased seas, more rumblings. All I could do was to lay there and feel like a total ICK, thinking dark horrid thoughts to myself. The Capt'N by this time was drenched. I went below and got him a fresh, dry set of clothes and a towel. Which all made my tummy sicker.
I dozed on and off to keep the nausea at bay. The Capt'N kept on his watch and during the night at one point, I jerked awake and my unfocused eyes saw only the big dark purple blob on the radar. Just as the winds screamed their nasty yells and the rain pelted us from all sides.
The noise of it all, as we're bouncing aboat, in churny agitated seas, in the grey-type of blackness that is night is indescribable. Clenching my teeth, trying to still my shaking legs, and praying to the Gods of the Winds and Rains and Seas that nothing goes wrong as I haul the jib in.
It's pretty darn hard to winch the damn line in when you're weak with seasickness, it's a please don't throw up and keep pulling that line in!! Breathe in deeply and exhale it out loudly as the wind howls up the shitstorm.
I quad-drouple check that we're harnessed in, we turn the boat and hold our position until it all passes, and shortly, although it feels like forever, life settles back down into a somewhat calmer state of affairs, and Banyan's bow once again starts to slice through the heaving and churning ocean waters.
It's a while before my knees stop shaking, and I admit I shed a few tears as I sit, all curled up in the cockpit, occasionally burping and belching the queasiness away. I want to remember to tell the Capt'N how amazing he is to have handled that ShitStorm so well. I'll do it when I feel I can talk and not throw up.
Eventually the night gives way to a gentle lightening of the skies. The rising of the sun seems to be hidden by the grey clouds over the tip of Saint Vicent. As always though, the tip of SVG holds its own patterns and the white caps of incoming currents don't look very pretty. Off on the horizon we see some more developing squalls and the radar shows we can get right through them.
We're one hour into the crossing, the seas just starting to settle from the currents that rage b the land mass. But wait, there's a wall of mist showing up on the horizon and radar is showing us it's a good ten miles long. We slowed Banyan down in an attempt to let it pass, but it stays and hovers overhead, unmoving. Once again, the rains and winds hit us full force. This time it's light outside and although the fury of the wind and sea are ferocious, it doesn't feel as bad as the one during the night. We trudge on for a while, but get nowhere, caught in the midst of the blowing wind and pelting rain and agitated seas. No matter which way we go, it's everywhere, all around us with no end in sight.
Turn Banyan around and run away. Back towards SVG we go. An hour later, we turn the bow back out and try again. Not even five minutes in and guess what ? Another squall. Again, we turn around. The squalls were being born off that northern tip of the island and travelling down an invisible ridge line directly in front of us. Again we turned back.
Third time's the charm. This time we position ourselves so as to reach behind the newly formed squall with nothing but blue skies ahead and to the right of us, and the looming dark grey mass passing on our left. we high-fives each other with a "we made it" grin, and spent the next three hours bouncing our way along in the extremely confused seas, which does absolutely nothing for my now-again-quesy state of affairs.
The morning sun eventually peeks through the grey clouds and allow us to have hope on the horizon. We see the outline of the Pitons by Saint Lucia. It feels like it takes forever to reach them, and it does, but life (and my tummy) calms down once we get behind the Saint Lucian coast. I might even consider breakfast. The water here was churned up as well, and we obstacled our way around the giant logs and chaos of bopping coconuts around us.
Our intended destination was Le Marin (Martinique). We were tired and I was weak, and another 3-4 hour sail might have been doable, allowing us to anchor there before sunset. But we calculated Rodney Bay to be a much more attainable place to spend the yellow-flagged night.
The Capt'N had been Capt'N'ing for 22 hours straight in some serious Shitstorms. I had been totally useless for most of that time, and had marvelled, and still do, that he could sing his way through the stuff. Which is probably what kept me somewhat calm.
We dropped anchor by Pigeon Island, in absolutely still waters, packed the boat away, downed an arrival beer, waved to our friends who were starting to arrive, and as we ate an early dinner, allowed the incredulous journey to catch up with our weary and exhausted bodies.
I handed the Capt'N a second arrival beer along with an emotional "You've been so amazing...". We both slept well and long that evening and night.
The very thing I had once mentioned wanting to experience, I just had. It wasn't the worst of the ShitStorms on any record by any means. The conditions were, for me and my three years of sailing, significantly more than I'd ever experienced before, which was more than enough for me.
I emerged with a deeper connection with Banyan. And myself. Somehow that molehill that had become a mountain in my head, had now become a notch in my belt. And my experiences will move on from here.
I learned that I am much more confident Banyan won't tip over at the first sneeze of the wind. I hated that I got seasick and was totally useless and unintelligible, shit happens. I wished I had been stronger so as to have been able to take the helm and have the experience of knowing how to drive Banyan up and over the confused and agitated rolly seas as the auto-pilot couldn't tackle that job in those conditions very well. I wish I had the knowledge to know exactly how to not deal with ShitStorms, but perhaps, in watching the Capt'N tackle it all, and extremely well at that, as he sang his way through the howling winds, I learned something.
There's more for me to learn and experience... but I should be careful what I wish for, for you know how that type of thinking goes.