Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and our OVNI 395.

01 May 2019 | Spice Island Marine
22 April 2019 | Somewhere off Grenada
19 April 2019 | Port Elizabeth, Bequia
18 April 2019 | Port Elizabeth, Bequia, SVG
15 April 2019 | Les Anses d’Arlet, Martinique
14 April 2019 | Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
13 April 2019 | Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
10 April 2019 | Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
08 April 2019 | Isle des Saintes, Guadeloupe, France
06 April 2019 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe, France
03 April 2019 | Little Bay, Montserrat
01 April 2019 | White House Bay, St Kitt’s
30 March 2019 | Simpson’s Bay Lagoon
27 March 2019 | Simpsons Bay Lagoon
26 March 2019 | Island Water World Marina, Sint Maarten, Leeward Islands
22 March 2019 | Island Water World Marina, St Maarten
14 March 2019 | Island Water World Marina, Sint Maarten, Leeward Islands
12 March 2019 | Island Water World Marina, Sint Maarten, Leeward Islands
08 March 2019 | Sint Maarten, Leeward Islands
06 March 2019 | Virgin Gorda, BVI

That’s All For Now Folks!

01 May 2019 | Spice Island Marine
Graham Walker
Another Barracuda sailing adventure draws to a close.
Started: Virginia, USA – October 2018
Ended: Grenada, East Caribbean – April 2019
Distance covered – 3,159 nautical miles
This trip included the US Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and the “Thorny Path” - a couple of sailing classics.

A few memories from along the way:
Virginia – the start of the ICW – the Great Dismal Swamp
North Carolina – endless waterside homes
South Carolina – Charleston and even more waterside homes (only bigger)
Georgia – Savannah, beautiful wilderness and abundant wildlife
Florida – the kindness of strangers and the end of the ICW
The Bahamas – friends and family visiting, gin clear water and totally amazing snorkelling in the Exumas – and lots of sharks
Turks & Caicos Islands – making new friends for passages south
Puerto Rico – visiting the EL Yunque Rain Forest
US Virgin Islands – an unbelievably rude beach lifeguard (how’s that for your islands to be remembered by!)
British Virgin Islands – more charter catamarans than you can shake a big stick at
St Maarten – lots of boat work preparing Barracuda for the Pacific (that’s a bit of a spoiler for our next planned trip)
Guadeloupe – the endless winds of Deshaies – also known for ‘Death in Paradise’
Montserrat – the power of nature (a volcano)
Dominica – the power of nature (recovery from a hurricane)
Bequia – East Caribbean heaven
Grenada – the end of the line for now.
Looking forward to seeing family and friends and enjoying the comforts of home.
Thanks to all our loyal readers for being with us along the way.
Look out for more exciting adventures next season!

Directly under the sun

22 April 2019 | Somewhere off Grenada
Graham Walker
As we head south to Grenada we have just realised that we are directly underneath the sun at mid-day. Our northing matches the sun’s current declination, and shade is sparse. It gets really warm when the wind drops, but thankfully the trade winds are pretty much constant to cool things down.

We enjoyed some more time on Bequia before we sailed away. We wanted to see around the island and the only way to do so seemed to be by local taxi. They have open ‘safari’ style trucks for doing the tours. It was good to get up high and see some of the views around the island. The day we chose to do this there was a cruise ship in, which meant there was a trail of people all doing the same, which somewhat detracted from the experience but hey ho – glad to have seen more before we sailed away.

For our last night we bought lobsters from Angus Alexander the lobster man (who also catered for us Xmas 2017) and enjoyed dinner with Dave and Karen from New Destiny. Not sure when we will see them next as we head our separate ways – it has been great fun seeing them again.

Our sail down to Grenada has been in two parts – both downwind, at last. Firstly, we had a gusty day, broad reaching the 37 miles down to Carriacou, where we anchored for the night in Tyrrel Bay; and then a further day heading the final 38 miles for the south end of Grenada, drifting under headsail only. The second leg took us past ‘Kick ‘em Jenny’ which is an underwater volcano that occasionally gives a spurt, so you have to stay out of the 1.5km exclusion zone. It’s on yellow alert at the moment, which means it’s ‘grumbling’.

This is our last sail of the season (and probably our second-to-last blog). We sailed as long as we could but in the end the wind tailed away behind the island and the engine went on.

We will now gird ourselves for the next few days of cleaning and tidying as we put the boat to bed until our return next winter – G has a to-do list of about 140 separate items. This time in a fortnight we will be home.

Relaxing in Bequia

19 April 2019 | Port Elizabeth, Bequia
Graham Walker
On the admin front, we have now booked our flights home. It’s a bit of a game changer when you can suddenly see the end of an adventure – and it’s only ten days away. We will be back in the first week in May. In the meantime, the list of things to do to wrap up the boat grows by the day.

But in the meantime we are enjoying Bequia. It’s a great place to relax as well as to enjoy the holiday buzz. The local racing boats – see the picture - have a massive sail area and are crewed by perhaps nine or ten chaps. Exciting stuff.

On the social front, our friends on New Destiny have arrived here too, so we had a chance to catch up over cocktails and food.

And on the technical front we now have our new red chaps on Guppy, which are looking very smart. It’s a bit nerve-racking when the sailmaker takes his electric drill to your rubber dinghy, though. And Kate has her new sewing machine on board so tatty shorts can be mended and ragged flags re-stitched!

Another couple of days here, then it’s off south again – next stop Grenada. We think we will do a tour of the island tomorrow. One nice thing about Bequia is that we will be back here in December. Yay!

In Bequia for the Easter Regatta

18 April 2019 | Port Elizabeth, Bequia, SVG
Graham Walker
We decided to do our trip to Bequia overnight so we had a day of relaxing on board. The snorkelling in the bay was reported to be good so we took a dip and had a look around. A good swim – but the trouble is, we have been spoilt by the Bahamas!

We left Martinique late Tuesday afternoon and sailed through the night to Bequia. It was a cracking sail. Reaching down past the west coast of St Lucia with the sun setting, Barracuda surging along, double-reefed, at well over 7 kts and the Pitons outlined in the darkening eastern sky - really special. When night came the moon was very bright which lit everything up very clearly. We tucked in fairly close to St Vincent and slipped past with the sun starting to rise. A sleepy day in Bequia followed but we still managed check in and getting our dinghy chaps ordered. (Chaps are the protective covers that go over the top of the dinghy to protect the tubes from UV and general wear and tear. We’ve chosen to come here to have them made, partly on grounds of quality/cost reputation, partly because it’s a great excuse to come to Bequia).

Anyone heading for the Caribbean by boat will likely have heard of ‘boat boys’. Whilst there are one or two places where boat boys can be a bit high pressure, in most places we go they are really hard working people who are offering services to folks like us living on boats. They have got themselves very well organised in Bequia with boats offering moorings, trash, water, fuel, ice, laundry, car rental, live lobsters, water taxi and doubtless many other services that we have yet to come across.

We have arrived just in time for the Bequia Easter regatta which promises some exciting sailing in local design boats. The town is buzzing just now – much busier than on our last visit.

We have now booked our lift out for next Friday in Grenada so the clock is ticking. Time to book our flights home. We will enjoy Bequia for a few days and then once the chaps are ready we’ll head south a final 70 miles to start the wrapping up process.

Visiting Roseau, and onwards

15 April 2019 | Les Anses d’Arlet, Martinique
Graham Walker
How did it suddenly become the 15th of April? We’re halfway through another month, and it’s now only two weeks until we wrap it all up for the season. Ouch.

Yesterday we slipped early and headed down the coast to Roseau. The last time we passed this way we had intended to stop at Roseau, but it looked really messed up with the hurricane and there was not another boat in the place. We were a little concerned for security at the time. So this time we were really pleased to see lots of other boats in the bay and Marcus, the local mooring and security man, out on the water welcoming people in. There were about 25 boats in the bay by nightfall. We went ashore for a walk through town. It’s a town of many parts; not picturesque when viewed from the sea where much hurricane damage is still visible, but neat, colourful, busy and lively once you get ashore. There was a local 5-a-side football tournament on so we were invited in to watch – two games being played side by side, with the commentator commenting on both games simultaneously. Then we took a wander through the centre of town, and were sent by a group of guys on a trip to the botanical gardens – once we’d joined them for a welcome drink. On the way back we were entertained to some great gospel music being played in the street outside the church, with loudspeakers larger than the singers. The people we met were ultra friendly and glad to see visitors - and we were glad we had visited.

A note on going ashore in Roseau: normally we always lock the dinghy to the pier when we leave it. This time there was no way to do this, but Marcus (the moorings and security man) said “no need to lock up your dinghy - I am the lock”! One look at Marcus, and you realise that no one is going to mess with him or his patch. After dark he made tours of the moored boats to ensure all was in order.

We enjoyed a lovely evening of dinner and cards on SY Cloud Shadow with Scot and Rose – lots of fun – many thanks.

Today we said goodbye to Dominica (until we meet again) and sailed south fast to Martinique, dropping anchor in the south of the island in a bay off the little town of Les Anses d’Arlet. We will use this as a jumping off point for a longer hop to our next destination, Bequia.

Dominica Tour

14 April 2019 | Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
Graham Walker
We are starting to get itchy feet and are planning our trip south towards Grenada, but before we go we really wanted to get out and have another look round Dominica. The last time we were here, after Hurricane Maria, we did the same trip but it was a tour of a nearly destroyed island where the forest was stripped bare, the power lines and poles were all down, roofs were off a large number of houses and many others were destroyed. It was pretty tough going.

As we drove out of Portsmouth with our lovely guide Ken it was clear that the island was in a completely different place. The trees are once again green, the banana plantations have regrown, the debris is mostly cleared up and the people are smiling. The government of Dominica has declared that it wants to make the island resilient to future storms and there is evidence of work going on across the island to do this. Another great declaration of the government here is to eliminate single use plastics. They have a whole range of plastics being banned over the next few months, like cups, straws and food containers. Well done, Dominica.

Our tour took us over the north of the island, into banana plantations, seeing how to make the local cassava bread, to the tiny Pointe Baptiste chocolate factory, visiting the Caribe reserve where the original Indian people still live, up into the rainforest, swimming in the waterfall of the Emerald Pool, learning about local trees and fruits and sampling local hooch over a game of dominoes in a very local bar run by guide Ken's uncle. What a fun day out. And thanks to Scot and Rose for your company on our island tour.

So tomorrow we will start our way down to Roseau, in the south of the island, and then across to Martinique. We are so glad to have come back to Dominica and both agreed that we would be sad to think we would not return again - so we will just need to plan for another visit in the future.

Busy Enjoying Dominica

13 April 2019 | Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
Graham Walker
Having left St Maarten with everything done that we could possibly think of, how come we are starting to build up a maintenance list again? That is life on boats. We discovered that some of our heads pipework was completely scaled up and needing to be cleaned out – best not to discuss how this was discovered. Then we found a small current leak to the hull (only when it rained), which took ages to track down. Eventually we tracked it down to the sat phone antenna, with G throwing buckets of sea water around while K monitored the leakage meter. It now turns out it is some weird ground loop established since we installed the SSB, so we need to insulate the sat phone antenna. Paul on Mystic lent G his wonderful SpinLock rig tension gauge which allowed G to finally sort out our rig after the riggers in St Maarten ‘forgot’ to do the rig tune after they replaced the backstays. Anyway – there’s lots to keep us busy.

One of the joys of life here is watching the swirling frigate birds up in the sky. They ride effortlessly on the constant trade wind that blows over the island occasionally diving down for a fish but never settling on the sea, as their feathers are not seawater-proof (is that a word?). Of all birds, they are reported to have the best gliding characteristics due to their wing-area-to-body-weight ratio.

We took a walk up to Fort Shirley at Cabrit, which overlooks Prince Rupert Bay, for more stories of the English and the French thrashing it out over Caribbean islands; seems to be a similar story on most islands. We also took a walk into Portsmouth for supplies. The transformation is amazing since last year. The town is back to normal, buildings have been repainted, the immense piles of debris have been removed, the damaged vehicles have been removed and the people look so much happier. At the fruit and veg market they had loads of fresh produce to sell – a sea change from last year when there was nothing but a few stunted pineapples and the odd wizened tomato. Today we will be doing a full island tour so will report back on how things are further afield.

On the social side, the PAYS bbq was great; very sociable, some new friends and nuclear strength rum punch. The PAYS organisation is a model for how ‘boat boys’ should do their business across the Caribbean. Rather than being mobbed by various people hassling to sell you all the same items or services, the PAYS guys have formed a cooperative and then really tuned into what visiting yachties want to do in Dominica, be it bananas, river tours, propane or laundry. It works really well.

Last night we hosted an OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) sundowners here on Barracuda. A convivial evening with crews from five boats. Always a good way to pass a few hours.

Good to be back

10 April 2019 | Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
Graham Walker
A slightly delayed start yesterday, as we realised we had forgotten to complete our check-out formalities the day before. But it’s only 22 miles across between the Saintes and Dominica, so a brisk beat still had us across by early afternoon. As we rounded the bluff into the bay we were greeted by a colourful boat owned by Lawrence of Arabia – one of the members of the ‘PAYS’ group (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services) who manage the moorings, security, tours and all sorts of services for cruisers here – who found us a mooring and a load of fruit.

Today we went on a hike with the Chandlers on SY Mystic (last seen in Montserrat and now on the mooring beside ours). Dion, a PAYS tour guide, took us way, way up into the mountains, stopping as we went to explain local fruits and medicinal plants, and to feed us sugar cane, bananas and guavas from the tree. Then he left us to walk one of the national park trails through the rainforest, descending through the lush green creeper-bound jungle – clambering over fallen trees and slithering down muddy tracks – till quite suddenly we found ourselves in an old sugar plantation with Dion waiting to bring us back to the boats.

Tonight there is a BBQ ashore with all the rum punch you can manage; we may not manage a blog tomorrow.

Loving the Saintes

08 April 2019 | Isle des Saintes, Guadeloupe, France
Graham Walker
We left Deshaies not long after first light and enjoyed a sail of several parts down the Guadeloupe coast and across to the Saintes. The butterfly-shaped island of Guadeloupe has several big extinct volcanoes along its length, which create gusting and swirling winds. One minute you are in 10 kts with sails flogging, and the next minute it’s 25 kts and you’re on your side – so lots of reefing and un-reefing to keep us busy. As we rounded the south of the island and hit the open channel we ran into a 35 kts squall, so lots more activity before it settled into a fine upwind sail over to Isles des Saintes. We are now comfortably tied to one of the many mooring balls in the bay, surrounded by a ring of green, mountainous islands.

We have been in here before and are so happy to come back. It is just a really lovely place to visit. Cutsey little town with nice walks, waterside bars and restaurants, lots of day trippers on buggies or electric bikes but the tourism is relatively low-key. The French do this well. K particularly likes the local specialities: accra, which are cod fritters served with creole sauce, and tourments d’amour, which are a sort of exotic bakewell tart.

Today we climbed the hill to Fort Napoleon for a look around and the usual history lesson on the struggles between the English and the French (not the Scots, I may say). Today’s photo is of the village and bay from the fort (can you see Barracuda?). Then we walked on over to a palm fringed beach on the NW side of the island for some quiet time, before wandering back over the island to the village for provisions and home. We could happily spend more time here, but tomorrow we will head to another of our favourites: Dominica.

230 nm to Grenada.

Death in Paradise revisited

06 April 2019 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe, France
Graham Walker
We left Montserrat on Thursday and enjoyed a cracking sail over to Guadeloupe in fairly strong winds. We went down the east side of Montserrat to avoid being covered in ash from the volcano, which blows out over a fairly large exclusion zone to the west.

We made landfall in Deshaies (pron ‘Day-hay’), which many of our readers will recognise as being the home of ‘Death in Paradise’. We came here last year on our way north. It is a charming French-Caribbean seaside town with low-key restaurants lining the waterfront in amongst the traditional buildings. There is a little more evidence of the programme here now, as they make a bit of a tourist attraction of it – you can now visit the ‘Police Headquarters’ office film set – but being an English TV programme in a French world, it gets very little fanfare.

The whole place is so completely French – baguettes, croissants, euros, long lunches (ours lasted 3-1/2 hours), gendarmes, La Poste; we are on European roaming for the phones and it is a domestic flight to Paris. Love it.

The bay of Deshaies lies under the steep green surrounding hills. It acts like a wind funnel, accelerating the trade wind gusts coming over the island, which then come screaming down into the bay. It’s been blowing up to 35 kts overnight. Every now and then a boat drags its anchor in the bay, boats honk their foghorns to let others know to help or watch out, and dinghies scurry around to help try to secure the boat or stop it whomping others in its path. Four have dragged so far, and it’s all a bit stressy. Also stressful was the fact that late yesterday afternoon we were asked to move from our (excellent) anchoring spot as a fast ferry was due in. It took four goes, and an hour of trying, before we found a secure spot by torchlight – no dragging, minimal proximity to other boats, not too deep. Quite satisfying to use 75 metres of our new anchor chain (we used to have only 63), and still have a little left in the locker.

Then it was time for an enjoyable sundowners with Scot and Rose on Australian SY Cloud Shadow, first met in the Bahamas and last seen in Turks and Caicos Islands. We will be passing through the Panama Canal together next year.

260 nm to Grenada.
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...
Barracuda's Photos - Main
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Barracuda, K & G head south to a new home.
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