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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Mount Hartman Marina
08/15/2007, Secret Harbor

I got up around 6AM to download weather over the HF radio. As I was at it I saw a huge plume of black smoke rising from somewhere east of us. Peter on CUManana came on the VHF with a Pan Pan reporting that there was a massive fire on Calivigny Island, a beautiful private island just south of Clark's Court Bay. Emergency services were dispatched but they had to ferry the fire engine over from the mainland while the islands warehouse and power facility burned. A fine how do you do right before a Hurricane passage.

After the 7AM weather Hideko and I had another go/no go meeting. It was still a no go. Things in Grenada looked good and the hurricane holes here are some of the best in the Caribbean. If need be we could still easily overnight to Trinidad.

Staying in Prickly Bay was out of the question of course. Fairly choppy seas were expected from the south-soutwest on Friday along with winds up to 35 knots from the same direction. Prickly Bay is wide open to the south.

The Swingin' on a Star and Kelp Fiction crews decided to move over to Mount Harman Bay for the first part of the day. Mount Hartman is close to all of the deep holes and yet it is not overly crowded.

The entrance to Mount Hartman looks open to the south but in actuality it is totally covered by reefs and shoals. Most seas break well outside the mouth of the bay. This also makes getting in fairly interesting. The water in this area is pretty green, perhaps from the recent rains, and very hard to read. We followed the safest route, watching the sounder closely. There are buoys marking the eastern most channel. You need to aim for the reds because a fairly stiff westerly current will set you right down onto the reef otherwise. This is no place to steer by the compass in zero visibility.

Once into the back of the bay we had our choice of slips. Hideko and I anchored out and carefully considered our options in light of the expected conditions. Most of the wind and seas in our area were to be from the southwest moving into the southeast. We tied up on the end of the northern most tee facing due east. Hopefully this would have the wind blowing us off of the dock and put the whole marina between us and whatever chop made it into the bay.

Our plan was to stay in this spot through Dean's passage. Regardless Fred and I made another dinghy run to all of the proper holes to the east. If things were going to get into the 50 knot zone we would move. Anything more than that and Hideko and I would head for Trinidad.

Our biggest concern with anchoring and tieing into the mangroves in a hole was the other boats. Fred marveled at the number of boats as we cruised through the Hog Island Anchorage. It had filled in quite a bit and there were still 36 hours for more to come. Clark's Court Bay was getting crowded as well and the marina there was pretty packed. Some of the boats anchored out would threaten those in the marina it they dragged anchor.

We made our way around Calivigny Island which was still smoking and then up into Port Egmount. Fred and I were both amazed. It is a huge, totally protected bay and there were no more than seven boats there. The unfortunate thing is that there were only seven boats there. My worst nightmare would be getting totally secure, helping all the neighbors with anything they need to get done and then settling down for the blow, only to watch twenty boats (most probably steel hull commercial boats) come in at the last minute, drop anchor 10 yards off my bow and go ashore. Port Egmount is a little too famous as a great hurricane hole to be a great hurricane hole. That said if you could get in early and tie in on the side where the wind would be coming from you wouldn't have to worry about other boats. This wouldn't work if the storm came closer because you'd have too many wind directions to cover.

Fred and I decided to take a look around the next point at Calivigny Harbor. It was pretty choppy out but so far we had been able to stay inside the reef line. We started to make our way outside and found ourselves pounding into four and five footers. Normally this is not a problem in a good RIB (we were in the Red Barron), but these were steep. And then we hit a six footer that was not steep, it was a wall. It crashed down right on my head completely soaking both of us. As we made maybe a knot toward the next set a silent look between Fred and I was all it took to turn the boat back toward the bay. I was glad that my VHF was waterproof.

We surfed back into Clark's Court and checked in with Peter on CUManana to see how they were doing. Peter had a nice setup with his stern tied to the dock and his bow on a mooring facing southwest, exactly where the weather was going to come from. Peter informed us that ten boats from the lagoon were heading to port Egmont in the morning. Boats were also coming in from other islands to the north in a non stop stream. It was going to be interesting, but hopefully not too interesting.

Back at our marina in secret harbor we met the Mate of the 135 motor yacht Monaco. Jose was a friendly guy born in Uruguay and raised in Spain. The big yacht had a private weather router and Jose was always willing to share the wealth.

Our marina, Martin's Marina in "Secret Harbor", was formerly a Moorings base and unlike the floating docks that are so popular around here, Martin's has beefy concrete docks right at the waterline that break the chop down if it makes it this far.

Weather at 7PM confirmed the expected track taking Dean to Martinique. Hideko and I had our second to last go/no go meeting and again decided to stay in Grenada. We fully expect to be right here until after the weekend. We emailed Saint Brenden's Isle and asked them to forward our mail and settled down to dinner and the classic Tribble episode of Star Trek.

Mongolian Sushi
08/14/2007, Grand Anse

When there's a storm threat Chris Parker comes on at 7AM and also adds a 7PM service. This guy is a hero in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. He is tireless, always kind and friendly, even to the biggest knuckle heads (don't ask me how I know), and incredibly informative. I'm certain that he saves lives all the time unbeknownst to anyone.

The 7PM forecast today was not optimistic. We were looking at a reasonable chance of a direct hit. The only places I've been that I could imagine riding out a direct hit from a major hurricane are Cariacou's Tyrell Bay Mangrove swamp, Luperon in the DR and a few sneaky places in the Bahamas. Grenada has good holes but they're too big and there would be too many boats, IMHO.

We collected all of the facts, made a list of possible escapes and invited Fred and Cindy from Kelp Fiction over to discuss thoughts on the matter. We ruled out Trinidad quickly. Trinidad is great because it never gets hit. In this case they were saying that it could get hit, or if things went Grenada way it would suffer a near miss. There are no real hurricane holes in Trinidad but there are huge numbers of boats. The only possible hide out that we could identify was the fishing port in Port of Spain.

Venezuela had a lot of nice spots but everything was about 200 miles away. Laguna Grande and similar spots were well south and very protected as well. This route became the favorite of Cindy, Hideko and myself. I probably would have preferred to stay in Grenada and spend the time really digging into the mangroves but our insurance (or lack thereof in Grenada) put me into the Venezuela camp. Fred wanted to stay in Grenada. At the end of our discussion we agreed to leave for Venezuela at noon tomorrow unless the 7AM report made us fairly confident that Grenada was out of the strike zone.

Hideko and I stayed up planning a route around Los Testigos to Margarita island in Venezuela, and then on to the Golfo de Cariaco on the mainland. We needed to plan things to arrive in Margarita with good light because the area is famous for nets and fish traps. The last thing you need when running from a hurricane is a net fouling your props. If reports on the SSB were still not going our way as day broke, we decided that we would pass by Margarita Customs (not the preference of the Venezuelan authorities) in order to be properly prepared for the storm. We also needed to ensure we anchored before night fall as the entire area was new to all of us.

I lay awake long into the night running through all of the tasks for staying or going in my mind. Take down and stow the jib. Take down and stow the windscreen. Clean everything off of the rails. How am I going to deploy the three anchors. Which way do we want to face if the storm goes north, which was if south, which way if a direct hit. Stow the dinghy or stash it in the mangroves for emergency operations? Get a tank ready so that I can dive on all of the ground tackle and all of the anchors for boats around us. Make them safe and we'll be safe. Lash the main to the boom and secure the boom. Put the front cover on the sail bag so that it doesn't act like a parachute. Run all of the halyards to the rail. Brush my teeth. Walk Roq. ...

Hurricane Recon
08/13/2007, Prickly Bay

Hurricanes don't typically make it down to Grenada. At least that's what everyone said until they got hit twice in less than a year three years ago. Before that the 1950s had been the last hit. Hurricanes are born off of the coast of Africa in the form of tropical waves. They start to form as low pressure systems in the wave and progress to depressions, storm and finally hurricanes. Unfortunately the hurricane stage often is achieved prior to Caribbean landfall.

Tropical systems often spawn out in the Atlantic at around 11 degrees North, a bit lower than Grenada. On the bright side, environmental conditions typically cause tropical systems to bend north, striking islands higher in the chain. Many boats come to Grenada for the Hurricane season and go no farther.

Today the system folks have been watching became Tropical Depression #4. Not bad to be mid August and still only on number 4 given how nasty the season was predicted to be.

After gathering all of the weather data we could we decided to take a lunch break around the point to the West at True Blue. It is a charming resort and marina with a small Horizon Yacht charter operation and a SCUBA shop. We enjoyed a nice lunch and a bit of dock walking.

After lunch Fred and I dinghied around the south side of Grenada to get a look at the possible hurricane holes we might scuttle off to should the need arise. We took the Red Baron due to its 15 hp outboard, which was well tested in the current and often choppy waters around the south end.

Grenada has several great harbors and bays on the south side that make perfect hurricane holes. The problem is the potential for crowding. This is the place everyone runs to, after Trinidad, when there's a Hurricane scare. Having your boat securely anchored and tied in does you no good if five guys on big, rusty, 60 ton, steel commercial ships show up one hour before the storm hits, drop anchor and split for high ground. This is what wiped out a lot of folks in Port Egmont, otherwise the best hole in Grenada, during Ivan. Get in early, figure out where the big winds are going to come from, and tie up to the mangroves on that side so that no one can drag onto you. Otherwise find somewhere less crowded.

The other big concern is seas. Clarkes Court Bay is a deep hole and generally a great hide out. It is open to the south east though and if you are in the direct hit zone the ocean is going to come a callin'. Ivan brought 12 foot surge into the marina. You don't have to noodle on that too long to realize the potential for mayhem.

After a fruitful exploration of the area we returned to Prickly. Hideko and I began to put together our option in case something developed. We are only insured for named storms if we are south of 10 degrees 50 minutes north. This means Trinidad or Venezuela. We put together a loose plan to evacuate to the Golfo Cariaco in Venezuela and to Port of Spain in Trinidad. Our hope was that things would give Grenada a wide berth but safe travel deadlines would only allow us to hope for so long.

Dance Hall Explosion
08/12/2007, Grenada

We are still anchored just north of Ross Point outside of Saint Georges. It has been overcast all morning with a fair share of rain. Not squally, more the thin drizzle type. I am amazed at how flat the ocean has been and for how long. This anchorage would not be good with anything coming from the north but for standard easterly trades it is perfect, a little rolly perhaps, but fine for a catamaran or folks with sailor's stomachs.

The wave that the weather man was worried about just entered the Atlantic. So far it is just a wave but the conditions are good, er, I mean bad. Let's just say that it could get nasty. We'll be watching this one closely.

It got nasty in another way today. We've really liked the Ross Point anchorage. Holding is fair but we're well set. The water is clear and nice for swimming. You're right next to the Carnage and the Lagoon. But most of all, it is peaceful. The beach is brown sand but nice enough and Grand Anse, perhaps the nicest beach on the island, is just around the corner.

As I drank my coffee and looked over the weather I noticed a surprising amount of activity on the little beach. Day two of the official Carnival was beginning, and where there had been a plain beach moments earlier, a beach club had sprung to life. Folks were working all about the beach. A Caribe beer stand had been erected with big colorful signs and a barbeque was being rigged up just a bit farther down the strand.

At first I thought, hey cool, I'll swim over after lunch and drink a beer while getting to know the crew. Then I saw speakers being rolled onto the sand. Not some small Bose like numbers you'd see in an Internet Café. No, I'm talking monster AC/DC, Day on the Green type transducers that have Surgeon General's warnings on them. Shortly thereafter the hull began to quake below my feet. Calypso? No. Steel drum music? I wish. Reggae? Would have been nice. It was, of course, Dance Hall. Five hundred beats per minute created by someone who only knows how to use a drum machine in pattern mode with infinite repeat. Then add a guy shouting various lyrics, often obscene and/or hostile to various groups of individuals, and you have the wonder of Dance Hall music. Perhaps, I'm too harsh ..., but I don't think so.

Swingin' on a Star burst into action. Secure the hatches! Bring in the dinghy! It was time to leave our nice little beach front spot off of Ross Point. I brought the anchor up while Hideko covered the helm. Business as usual although Hideko almost always anchors and weighs anchor on our boat. When the anchor reached the bow the breaker blew. Hum? Strange.

I reset the breaker and it blew immediately. Not good. Anchors up but it won't be going down in our next anchorage unless I figure out what's going on.

Hideko drove us out of the anchorage slowly while I climbed in the anchor locker to take a quick look at things. I loosened up the chain by lifting a foot or two off the gypsy and then relaying it. I went into the cabin to reset the breaker and the windlass immediately wound the chain up and tripped the breaker. So, something evil was telling the windlass to run in forward whether the foot switches were being pressed or not. I immediately indicted the solenoid. I had been plagued by these beasts in automobiles and knew of their deviant behavior.

Nothing for it now, we were on our way around the southwestern point of Grenada. Fred and Cindy on Kelp Fiction were in Prickly Bay and liking things there so we decided to join them there. It was choppy around the point and there's a good 2 knots of west setting current. Some of the south harbor entrances in Grenada are a bit reefy but Prickly Bay is a fairly straight forward entrance.

We went into the bay and fortunately found some free moorings. I wasn't looking forward to anchoring by hand with all chain rode and an 88 pound anchor. Hideko was convinced that I wasn't qualified to mess with the anchor and suggested that I shouldn't even be on the fore deck while the engines were running. Needless to say she picked up the mooring.

Once tied up I checked into things with the windlass. It was indeed the solenoid for the windlass remote. Our foot switches are high current and pass current straight to the windlass. Nothing to break, a nice Saint Francis touch. Hideko and I wanted a remote so that we could stand on the bow while messing about with the windlass. We bought the genuine Lewmar parts, including a solenoid to handle the high current bit and a low current remote. I suspect the solenoid didn't like working in tandem with the foot switches. Regardless I'm glad I left them on their own rather than wiring them through the solenoid. As soon as I detached the solenoid our windlass was sound and hale. KISS.

I may not repair the remote. We used it a bit here and there but more frequently, rather than getting it out and plugging it in we'd just use the foot switches. You learn how to look through the tramps to see what's going on. It could be handy at the helm for single handed anchoring but you are better off weighing anchor up forward.

The anchorage is pretty open to the south/southwest and can get a little rolly. It was very quite however. You can also dinghy to several restaurants and Budget Marine. Spice Island marina is at one end and can haul most yachts. Prickly Bay Marina is on the other side and has customs and a good pizza place.

Fred and Cindy came over for a drink later in the evening. It was hard to believe we hadn't seen them for a week or so. We had been in touch every day by VHF but we were always in different anchorages. They blasted straight down to Prickly Bay from Cariacou while we took the lazy route. We enjoyed catching up and sharing info about the beautiful island of Grenada with a full moon gleaming over the bay.

Hash House Hariers Hike
08/11/2007, Florida, Grenada

A wave is predicted to come of off Africa in the next couple of days that the forecasters are fairly stirred up about. I don't like that kind of foreshadowing. We'll keep an eye on this one.

We took a trip inland today to do some hashing. I had no idea what this was before we arrived in Grenada. The Hash House Harriers are apparently world wide. The story, as I have heard it, is that some Brit ex pats in Indonesia used to hang out on Saturdays at the Hash House and drink. At some point someone decided that they could drink more if they did a hike right before the drinking. The rest is apparently history.

Each hike is different and somewhat ad hoc. One of the regular hashers is assigned to Set the Hash (establish the route) by the Hash Master. The Hashers in Grenada go out every other Saturday and once a year they trek to Cariacou for a special Hash.

We caught a right with CYM (they have a really fast dinghy) to the Carenage where the newbies wait for a ride to the Hash. The regular hashers stop by and pick up everyone they can at no charge. We got lucky enough to catch a ride with Arthur, a native Grenadian. He worked at a museum associated with one of the old Rum Distilleries on the island. It was a long ride to the town of Florida but Arthur made the ride interesting and gave us lots of information about the places that we drove by.

Florida is a little town up in the mountains in the center of Grenada. It started to rain right after we arrived. It stopped right after we left. The hike was awesome. It literally trekked right through the jungle. No path to speak of other than the one the folks in front of you had trod down.

The Hash setter drops confetti on the ground to mark the course. The setter for this hike got a late start and didn't hook the trail up with the other half that had been marked. The rain made tracking the trail down a little difficult as well. Hashers have their own lingo for these situations. If you call out to folks ahead of you they will say, "On On!", to indicate that the trail is afoot and you should head their way. However, if you hear, "On Back!", you know things have gone south up ahead and you need to go back to look for the place that you lost the trail. We on backed all the way to the start since our half of the trail never met the other half. It was still a great hash and we hope to do it again in a couple of weeks. I really enjoyed being in the rain forest and some of the vistas were fantastic.

At the end of the hike folks hang out and mix over beers. During this window, hash virgins, are singled out for indoctrination. We discovered that this involves running a gauntlet while everyone sprays said beer at you. At the end you get a certificate that supposedly protects you from such wasteful beer spraying in the future. We were already soaked so it wasn't so bad.

The little restaurant/bar that was hosting the hashers had started to prepare the national dish, Oil Down. It is a delicious mixture of dumplings, chicken (often but not always), Saffron (this is the local name but I think it is turmeric), bread fruit, coconut milk, and other ingredients. Our ride had to go before it was finished but it smelled great and we ended up having some for lunch later in the week.

We all felt bad for Arthur's car, because to the man, Peter, Debbie, Josh, Mathias, Hideko and I were all soaked with beer. I guess he knew it was going to happen anyway. Serves him right for not telling us.

Arthur dropped us off at the yacht club where Peter had tied up the dinghy. We all thanked him heartily for the wonderful hospitality. Back at the boat we stayed conscious just long enough to take a shower. We slept soundly.

Dinner at Port Louis
08/10/2007, Saint Georges

It was another flat calm day in the Ross Point anchorage. We declared it official catch up on your reading day and proceeded to do so. We dinghied into the lagoon for dinner at Port Louis with the Audrey crew and CYM. The food and music were both great. The tunes were loud so discussion had to give way to dancing.

Bottom Cleaning Finale
08/09/2007, Ross Point

We were enjoying the Ross Point Anchorage. It is not as pretty as Morne Rouge but it is very close to the port. It is also just a hop around the point to Grand Anse. You have to look around for reasonable depth and good bottom in this anchorage but there's lots of space when you find it. Hideko and I really like to anchor out. Marinas and close harbors have their advantages and are nice from time to time but there's nothing like space, facing into the wind and being able to swim (without being scared) right off the back of your boat.

Hideko decided to do just that this morning. She got on her snorkeling gear and head out to explore the area around the boat. I had found some eels hiding in rocks and a lot of other interesting sights while taking a break from the bottom cleaning yesterday. I walked forward to watch Hideko swimming out. As I did I noticed a huge black shadow in the water. I got very concerned and started calling to Hideko as I jogged up to the bow. Then I realized that it was a Manta Ray! His little white wing tips would come out of the water every now and again.

When I got Hideko's attention and pointed the Ray out she swam over. She swam with the Manta for a minute or so and then he took off faster than she could keep pace. That was the first Manta sighting in the wild for both of us, and not soon forgotten.

I went through another two tanks of air completing the bottom clean up. What a job. The barnacles and the grassy algae at the waterline are evil. We are at the 10 month point with the bottom paint. I think the bottom is probably still good for another six months to a year. The waterline is another matter. It is hard to get rid of the grassy stuff and you scrub the waterline more often. I don't think that there's any paint left at the waterline. I'd like to hold off as long as possible on the next bottom paint because I'd like it to be fresh for our Pacific crossing in April. Services get pretty sparse between Panama and New Zealand.

Hideko made fantastic Churasco Steak sandwiches as a treat for completing the bottom cleaning. Our friends Jenny and Kenny who own the Wake Zone at the Lauderdale Marine Center gave us the recipe. I wonder how they're doing and whether they've gone off sailing.

Peter and Debbie invited us over for dominoes tonight. We had a nice time and got a tour of CYM which is a Prout 50. I never realized Prout made a 50 until I saw CYM. It is a great boat and very well built. They have an Aero rig which is pretty wild. Peter and I wiled away the evening discussing catamarans. It is nice to have another cat skipper to jaw with from time to time.


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