Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and our OVNI 395.

10 January 2012 | London Boat Show
20 August 2011 | UK, West Coast
15 August 2011
15 July 2011 | Western Isles, Scotland
15 June 2011 | UK
10 April 2011 | The Channel Islands and Back via Poole
01 January 2011 | Newton Creek - Isle of Wight
10 August 2010 | West Country, UK
15 May 2010 | Solent, UK
28 February 2010 | Burnham on Crouch, Brighton, Eastbourne and Gosport
15 January 2010 | Burnham on Crouch
16 November 2009 | Various
15 November 2009 | UK
07 August 2004 | Gosort, UK

Wonders of Wildlife & Electric Vehicles

20 January 2018 | Isles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, France
We are moving away from civilisation today. Not really very far, but far enough to probably not have any internet for a couple of days (is that a definition of civilisation?). For some reason the one thing not working in ‘little France’ is the 3G internet, so we will post a blog today and then there may be a short gap until we get to Guadeloupe.

Yesterday was very much like the day before. We had a long walk across the island to a beach for our picnic, swam for ages, walked back, did not have to dodge any rain showers, then a jar of Planter’s Punch at sunset on the way home. Creole dinner ashore (yum) at a tiny restaurant called Les Pieds dans l’Eau, with the waves crashing on the terrace wall. You do get an interesting mix of French and West Indian cooking out here.

We are enjoying the different (wild) life in these parts:
- We discussed pelicans yesterday
- The frigate birds soar above us all the time on their massive boomerang wings – well, massive for their body weight – they are like the balsawood gliders we used to make as kids, with forked tails
- The iguanas are just fab – lovely iridescent colours, knowing expressions, really big with immensely long stripy tails, normally very shy except for the one yesterday that was trying to get into the ladies clothes shop.
- We seem to have returned to the world of goats (ok, they are not wildlife but they are fun); we haven’t seen so many since Oman. Lots of new-born goats too.
- There are lots of mother hens with broods of cute chicks wandering around in the streets, the beaches, the bars…. Must be the season.

One interesting feature of this island in the massive use of electric vehicles. There are very few petrol or diesel vehicles and those that there are seem to be commercial (so far we have seen just one car). There are a lot of scooters which the locals use and tourists hire, but one of the main forms of transport is electric two- or four- seat golf buggies or variants on the theme. Some look fairly substantial. On the next-door island they have six big windmills and they cable the electricity over here, so it looks like they have an extremely green transport system. They have quite a lot of day visitors coming over from Guadeloupe by ferry, and when they arrive they can hire an electric buggy to tour the island.

Today’s photo is the village Mairie – let’s hear it for Liberte, Egalite et Fraternite.

Visas and Frocks

19 January 2018 | Isles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, France
Now you may be wondering how these two items are connected, so let me explain.

We are planing on leaving Barracuda in the US. We need to get proper 10 year visas in our passports in order to take the boat to any US territory and we don't have these yet. To get them we need to go to somewhere with a US embassy. The nearest is Barbados. So we booked a holiday for a week in Barbados because we need a visa - and a holiday. And Kate said - Barbados is quite smart and i don't have a thing to wear. And we just happen to be passing the Maogany boutique dress shop in Isles des Saintes, and what's a girl to do? So two frocks and a top later..... And a smartish shirt for G..... So now you understand the connction between visas and frocks. Note to self - Much cheaper to get visas before leaving home!

We had a lovely walk over to the north and east of the island yesterday and a couple of great swims in surprisingly warm water. Dodged a massive rain shower whilst sheltering under the football stand at the local school, watching the egrets fight for fish on the pitch.

Loads of fun too watching the pelicans diving for fish. They will happily nose dive the water from a great height just inches from a boat to catch a fish.

Pelican Picture to follow.

Marching in the Saints

18 January 2018 | Isles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, France
The plan for yesterday was to take a long walk across the island with a picnic, stretch our legs and find a beach for a good swim.

The outcome was somewhat different. We must have spent about four hours in total trying to sort out some level of data access for ourselves; after an hour battling with the doom-ridden swamp that is the Vodafone website we managed to get signed up to a data package, only to find that since the last hurricane 3G has varied between weak and flaky down here, so we are back to the world of lengthy coffees in bars with wifi. Hey ho. Then we found ourselves sheltering from a sudden sharp rainstorm in a little shop selling local produce, specialising in sipping rums, and somehow signed up for a rum tasting in the evening. On to get supplies for the picnic, but en route met Canadian sailors who had been to Achnamara last year on a Scottish tour. 45 minutes later and we realise that we have run out of time for the walk. Oh well, on to the rum tasting.

What a treat that was! The Guadeloupe owner and her French assistant taught us, in French, how to analyse rums: swirl the covered glass, inspect the ‘collar’ and ‘tears’ for alcohol content, viscosity, etc; then tip the glass and sniff above and around for different aroma levels; then dilute the first drop with your own saliva, coating the mouth to prepare it; a second undiluted drop, and finally after swallowing a little, breathe through the mouth again to analyse the aromas remaining. Two dark rums and a white, with lots of information on how they are made here (pure fresh sugar cane, no additives at all, no molasses; dark rums get their colour and flavours from the bourbon or cognac oak casks they are aged in). Needless to say we did come away with two bottles of very nice rum.

Then on to a French restaurant for a good supper, and so to bed.

The plan for today is to take a long walk across the island with a picnic, stretch our legs and find a beach for a good swim….

Today’s photo – a big iguana (I mean big compared to others we have seen so far but we are not Iguana experts).

Posting comments in future

18 January 2018
Dear Readers

Some of you may have noticed that someone unknown to us used our blog comment space to post a spam comment for their own purposes, nothing to do with sailing or Barracuda. We really don't want this happening on our blog, so as a result of the action of one abuser of the system we now have to implement a system of comment approval. When you post a comment you will get a note that it will come to us for approval before it will be seen on the site. So please keep your comments coming. We love them and it helps us keep in contact with everyone and as soon as we have wifi and can see them we will get them on the site.

G&K

Film Sets and Fins

17 January 2018 | Isles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, France
After our various OCC friends left we had a day generally by ourselves in Prince Rupert Bay. Avin came by in the afternoon and took us in his boat a couple of headlands north for some snorkelling, some of which was down a sheer cliff wall – reasonable visibility and pretty interesting; lots of fish, corals and sponges. We had put together a bag of things (clothes, shoes, food) that we don’t need urgently on board so passed these over to the PAYS guys, who will get things to those in need. The PAYS organisation is first class and should be a model for many other Caribbean islands in terms of how to encourage, manage and benefit from yacht tourism.

Today’s photo – Kate and Avin on our snorkelling trip. Avin was our primary guide and contact in Dominica. A delightful and helpful Dominican guy. Until we meet again…

So, Dominica (and particularly Prince Rupert Bay): we’re really glad we went there. Very interesting – lovely positive people – an amazingly fertile island, working hard to get over a natural disaster. The best help we can probably give is to encourage others to visit, take trips, spend money in the local economy – they are ‘open for business’ and getting better every day.

We left Dominica yesterday (16th Jan) and headed north. It was a really fine sail – around 20 kts on the beam and we rocked along at 7 kts with 2 reefs in everything, which seems to be becoming our Caribbean norm. Very steady winds, but with a bit of Atlantic swell coming in between the islands. We headed north to Isles Des Saintes , which are a group of islands that are part of Guadeloupe (and hence part of France) so we are now back in the EU, with local phone rates and good croissants. Still can’t quite get used to this!

We went ashore yesterday to check back into the EU. It’s a cutesy wee place – very French with all the things you expect in a French village, but with the lovely island gingerbread houses and colourful paintwork. As always there is a town clock that chimes on the quarter (unusually accurately for France). Once again we see a more prosperous side to the Caribbean. Oh – and they have pelicans in the bay, living happily alongside the glorious frigate birds.

The contrast between Dominica and these islands is amazing – there is only about 20 miles between then and whilst Dominica was hit so hard by the hurricanes this year Isles des Saints was pretty much untouched, just like Martinique on the other side. And while Dominica struggles to get food onto the market stalls, the Isles are awash with tourist shops and sidewalk cafes.

We seem to move from film set to film set. Dominica featured heavily in Pirates of the Caribbean (Calypso’s hut is on the Indian River but was rather squashed by a fallen tree). Guadeloupe is the setting for the recent Death in Paradise series.

The Social Swirl of Dominica

14 January 2018 | Portsmouth, Dominica
Another squally couple of days, but the forecast is now for a more normal local weather pattern – moderate winds from the east, one downpour a day and sunshine for the remainder. Our southbound friends left before dawn this morning, making for Martinique, and five boats have just upped anchor for the north and Guadeloupe, at the more civilized hour of 10.30. We plan to stay till tomorrow – or whenever our laundry comes back from Avin’s niece’s friend’s house – and then we too will head north for either the Isles des Saintes or Marie Galante, depending on tomorrow's wind angle. In the meantime, there is a rumour that there may be one of the famous PAYS BBQs on the beach tonight.

Another sociable couple of days have passed. Cockpit conversations always seem to get round to water-maker performance, fuel consumption and fishing. Our water-maker has never performed quite as we would like, in that it has either made very nice tasty water slowly or salty tasting water much more quickly. Frank on Infinity B is a bit of an expert on the subject so came round to diagnose the problem – we think we now have a solution, so thank you Frank! We look forward to our next meeting.

In between the visits to other people’s boats we managed to get to the Saturday market here to stock up a bit. There’s plenty of lettuce, tomatoes, tough-skinned cucumbers and yams, but that’s about it – if it grew on or below the ground it survived Maria, but if it grew on vines or trees it was destroyed. And anything we buy has been a fight to grow, so our veg stock-up was pricey… The only fruit available is apples imported from France (non!) or teeny pineapples, which are scarce enough to command a gold-plated price.

Lunch with Intrepid B at the roti shop, then a walk up to the fort on the hillside (Fort Shirley) with Minnie B, which is also an OVNI 395. We first met Phil and Norma of Minnie B at the Southampton Boat Show in 2009 when we were looking at Barracuda; since then we have just kept in touch by blog and email, comparing notes and absorbing their wisdom (they have been slowly round the world in Minnie B), so it has been lovely to actually see them here in the flesh and to get a tour of Minnie B. Finally, a thank you-and-farewell to Brisa before their pre-dawn start - great Dark 'n' Stormies!

Q&A Time (1)

13 January 2018 | Portsmouth, Dominica
We have had a few questions from our friends about on life aboard so we thought we would do some Q&A from time to time. If you have a questions about life on Barracuda feel free to ask by submitting a comment, and we will see if we can come up with a coherent answer.

Q - So, Jill, you wanted tales from the sink? Kate responds:

Re clothing: This is a game of two halves; the first half was thermal underwear, long sleeves, long trousers, buffs and fleeces, boots and oilies. Almost all of these are now stashed away in waterproof bags under our bunks. We splashed out on new oilies last year but they have been sitting in the wet-locker since A Coruna; if it rains, I put on my pac-a-mac. The only items I haven't used are a couple of fleece hats and my sailing gloves. Maybe we don't spend enough time at the wheel (but then who stills steers their boat for very long these days when you have autopilots and wind pilots!).

The second half has of course been shorts (5), t-shirts (14), and lots of swimwear, plus a couple of go-ashore dresses for marinas. In a bit of a panic before leaving Las Palmas I did buy a pair of special Musto sailing shorts with a reinforced bum. I have already worn through two pairs of normal shorts this trip through sitting on our teak cockpit seats for hours on end. Heavily patched, they still have years of life in them, but G seems to think they bring him into disrepute.

Both G and I have donated some jeans, long trousers, and less-loved shirts and t-shirts to the shelter here, together with a surprising number of pairs of surplus crocs and flip-flops. Oh, and we do tend to live in crocs when afloat. Stylish or what?

Re cash: Before setting out we got a Halifax Clarity credit card, which can be used overseas without currency charges. It has been great; it's worked everywhere so far, for cash and purchases - and we haven't yet found ourselves without an ATM. St Lucia and the Grenadines use East Caribbean dollars (lovely colourful notes with a very young QEII pictured on them). Then Martinique has the Euro, it's back to EC for Dominica, back to Euro for Guadeloupe and after that I think it's EC until we get to the Virgin Islands where we are into US$. So we have four purses on the go, each with our different currencies. We also have a VPN set up on our various devices so when we do need to do internet banking, we can do it relatively safely.

Q - Jackie asked - What is it like actually being so far away, in such a different place, but with your own boat there? I cannot imagine, but then if you have bobbed about on every wave and felt every gust of wind between here and there maybe it's not so surreal.
A - (by G) It does all happen slowly and over a long time, so in a way that is a lot of the answer. It is great having your own boat and all your stuff, however minimal. It feels like home. I think that is the big difference between doing this and chartering. That said, we would charter in places that we did not want to sail all the way to. The contrast moving from being an offshore sailing machine to becoming an island-hopping caravan is interesting, though: offshore we have so many lines rigged and many other bits of kit on deck, small and large. For island-hopping we have a much simpler set up; no Windy P, no coloured sails, no night passages. Most of our time is now spent at anchor rather than sailing, so comfort and domestic matters come to the fore. Just now we are charging the batteries, making water, defrosting the fridge and cooking up the stuff we found in the bottom of the fridge into a curry (not so glamorous now!).

The social side is interesting - you get to meet and know so many people on the road that you are never lonely and have a constantly evolving social life. It's never boring. When passage-making, the internet (via our sat phone) is part of our life-support system: it's how we get up-to-date weather forecasts and get/send any vital messages. Once in harbour, though, we move to wifi/mifi & it is a great way to keep in contact with home - we do miss our home and our friends and it is lovely to see what people are doing and to stay connected.

Here is a picture of Agony Aunt Kate ready to answer more questions.

Still here

12 January 2018 | Portsmouth, Dominica
We are enjoying taking time out here in Dominica. It does not feel like there is too much rush to do anything. Our plans for moving north are also fairly relaxed, as we don’t want to be at the top of the Bahamas until late April. So, for now, we have all the time in the world to relax and enjoy it.

Let’s talk about the weather for a minute: it’s not quite what we expected! The temperature day and night is really comfortable, so that is the good part. You rarely feel either too hot or too cool unless a squall has just gone through and soaked you, which they seem to do rather frequently, or you are down below with all hatches closed due to said squalls. We seem to have these big squalls coming through every few hours at the moment, which bring wind and massive amounts of rain. It is also fairly continuously windy which gets a little wearing. But we hear it should all settle down by the weekend to a more normal pattern.

We had a fairly domestic day on the boat yesterday and then in the evening hosted our first OCC (Ocean Cruising Club (our new club)) sun-downers on Barracuda. There are 5 OCC boats in the bay, so a very convivial evening was had on board. You know it’s a good night when your parking area on the back of the boat is getting full – see photo.

Out and about in Dominica

11 January 2018 | Portsmouth, Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
We have now enjoyed a couple of days of getting out and about in Dominica. On Tuesday afternoon we took a boat trip up the Indian River with one of the PAYS guides, Avin (son of PAYS guide Albert).

Avin rowed us up-river, among the herons, the egrets, the pelicans and the iguanas (engines are not allowed). This gave us some up close insights to the effects of a category 5+ hurricane. At a distance from the shore you see quite a lot of broken and downed trees but there appears to be a fair covering of greenery. What we now learn is that in many places the entire upper canopy of the rain forest has been snapped off; this time last year we would have been travelling through a tunnel of treetops, but now there's clear sky. After the hurricanes came through, the forest was just broken brown tree stumps, all stripped completely bare of branches and leaves. What is left is showing amazing resilience, and is re-growing at pace - especially the creepers, the palms and the mangroves. It is so fertile here. Many of the seedlings on the ground now have enough light that they can really get going, and positive-thinking Avin says that with the thinning of the forest everything should grow back stronger than before.

Everywhere along the banks you see the signs of chainsaws at work; it was a few weeks' work to clear the river of tree trunks and debris, and what a challenge that was in this environment. Even now we were having to scrape our way round fallen branches in the stream. There is a well-known hang-out called the Bush Bar part-way up river, where it is traditional to stop and enjoy life, but for now it is closed (re-opening shortly!) - there is nothing at the bar but three empty stools, a Bob Marley LP cover and a skull.

It will be some years before the Indian River is how it was, but for now you get to enjoy it with more sunlight than before. The Indian River was used, along with various other locations here, for filming of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we did a full day trip of the island with guide Paul. It was good to see - still very beautiful but so much natural destruction. Many houses without roofs, most villages without power, trees down everywhere, metal roofing sheet scattered to the winds - and all this after a lot of clean-up has been done already. Yet the lovely Dominican people are getting on with rebuilding their island and getting their tourist industry back on track. They are growing what they can and planting things that can grow quickly, such as tomatoes and salads. It will take a while but they will get there. They seem to be very happy to have yachties coming in and we are very happy to support them. We have been trying to see if there is something specific we can support but it seems that coming here, taking trips, using their bars and restaurants and generally supporting their vendors is a major part of helping them get back on track to re-building their future.

North to Dominica

09 January 2018 | Portsmouth, Dominica
Yesterday we left St Pierre early, to head northwards for Dominica - the first of the Leeward Islands. With the wind somewhat to the east, at last we didn't have a hard beat to windward, but once in the open sea there were several big squalls with 35 knot gusts so ended up galloping along with double reefed main and jib, wearing our pac-a-macs under our life jackets. The wind died almost completely once in the lee of Dominica, with just ferocious gusts coming down the valleys we passed. We'd planned to go to Roseau, the capital, and did manage to find out that there were operational mooring buoys and good security there, but it had a complete dearth of yachts there so we pressed on the extra 20 miles up to Portsmouth, in Prince Rupert Bay.

Dominica looked just beautiful: wonderful green hills and cave-drilled cliffs, and constant rainbows breaking through the clouds that cover the rainforest. But looking closer you can see whole hillsides with trunks of trees stripped bare of leaves and branches by last year's hurricane, and the pretty pastel coloured villages by the sea have no roofs to the houses.

Just before Prince Rupert Bay, we were met by Lawrence of Arabia in his red and yellow boat - he's one of the local guide/fishermen/boat boys who is part of the PAYS network. PAYS stands for Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services, and was set up by locals who want to ensure good security, sound moorings and pester-free services for yachties - to keep them coming to the island. Then on entering the harbour we were greeted by Avin, another of the PAYS guys, who found us a mooring, and also by the crews of two UK yachts, who had been relaying messages between Avin and ourselves, and who immediately invited us to join them for sundowners ashore at the Purple Turtle.

Well, it is lovely here - but there's so much hurricane damage still to be put right, and so much work already under way putting it right. This is a busy place. A priority was to get income coming back into the economy - so the anchorage has been largely cleared of debris, some of the mooring buoys reinstated, and although some of the dinghy docks are now just lines of spikes, a couple of good solid new ones have been built to help people ashore.

We were trying to find out what we could bring that would be of use, but the PAYS office is not functioning due to damage, and the land-lines are out, and they can't update their website.... Avin tells us though that right now they would really like seeds and seedlings - people, especially in the villages, need to grow their own food, not rely on gifts, to get life together again. Tomatoes, squashes - anything that grows in the region, really. They also need roofing supplies - roofing nails and screws, etc, as the zinc roofing sheets are still on the island, just several kilometres away where they were blown. Hand-tools, especially rechargeable ones; and school supplies such as exercise books, paper, pencils, crayons, story-books etc. So, for anyone reading this who is coming this way, I hope this is useful.

Today's photo was taken in St Pierre during sundowners.
Vessel Name: Barracuda
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go....
Extra: Look to this day for it is life...
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