Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and our OVNI 395.

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
04 March 2019 | Anegada, BVI
02 March 2019 | Norman Island, BVI
02 March 2019 | Norman Island, BVI

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.

Island Tour

03 April 2019 | Little Bay, Montserrat
Graham Walker
We snuck out of St Kitt's under the cover of dawn, and no one approached us; we think we arrived after Customs closed, and left before they opened. We sailed on past Nevis and then beat our way up to Montserrat. It was a great sail except for the last bit, where the wind and current were wrapping round the island making sailing all the way tricky - so we motored in the last five miles. Just in time to check in with some very friendly Customs and Immigration folks, and then we went ashore for a long-awaited swim on the black sand beach which involved landing the ding through some surging waves. Let's just say we got a bit wet.

In the evening we dropped in to say hello to our anchorage neighbours who were flying the same club flags (OCC & CA) and it turned out it was Paul and Rachel Chandler who we last saw in Portugal in 2017. (Worth a Google if you don't know who they are). We enjoyed a fine dinner ashore with them - including the treat of home made ginger beer.

Today we took a tour of the island with Lawrence, who had seen us approaching the bay and called us up on the VHF to market his services. The tour is really about the devastating impact of the volcano, that started erupting in 1995 and is still smouldering away under its pall of sulphurous smoke. Half the island is covered by an exclusion zone that you can only enter with a police permit; they control who goes into the exclusion zone and how far you can go to view. There is an observatory constantly monitoring the status of the volcano, which last erupted in 2010. What is really amazing is the trail of rocks and ash down the side of the volcano that has completely buried the town of Portsmouth - now a ghost town - and extends out to sea and in-fact extended the island well into the sea. The southern part of the island is basically impossible to live in, the lush vegetation taking over any houses that still stand, and those still on the island live in the north. It was a humbling lesson on the power of nature.

We should just mention the fact that we are across the water from the uninhabited island of Redonda, famous for its kings, goats and guano.

47 nautical miles; 290 nm to Grenada.

Water, water everywhere, and lots and lots to drink

01 April 2019 | White House Bay, St Kitt’s
Graham Walker
Our last morning was quite a social time. We started with a look over a Garcia Exploration 45 – thanks, Dave and Karen. (G thinks he has found his dream boat!)

Then we had an invitation to go on board Distant Shores III. The owners are the Shards, who have a sailing TV/Youtube show called ‘Distant Shores’. Look them up; they have recently built a new Southerly 480 and were happy to show people around her – lovely folks and a lovely boat.

So, full of new-boat lust, we checked out of St Maarten yesterday and went to anchor outside the lagoon in the open sea anchorage. This is clean sea water, so we could finally take a dive over the side and see what the bottom of the boat looked like. We could feel when driving out the lagoon that she had a lot of drag, and she was trailing a beard. The bottom was absolutely foul – never seen so much growth in a few weeks. G spent two hours snorkelling with a paint scraper and scrubbing brush getting it all off, and came back up looking up like the creature from the black lagoon, covered in slime and crawling with small sea beasties. It was worth it: Barracuda’s bottom and prop are much cleaner now, and much faster with it.

We left this morning at dawn after a rolly night, and headed for St Kitt’s & Nevis. This was our first test sail after our refit, so there were lots of things to check off. Repaired and slightly remodelled sails up – check. Steering and autopilot working (post component replacement and service) – check. New navigation plotters working – check. All new and old electronic equipment fully interfaced – check. New Fusion stereo fully functioning (that one is really important!) – check. Side band radio (SSB) working - check (we had a conversation with someone in Grenada). New solar panels generating power – check. And finally – new water maker working – CHECK!! Yes, the day has finally arrived when we have our warranty replacement water maker up and running – it only took about a year. It’s lovely tasting water, and we can make about 30 litres/hour which is ample.

So, in summary, we leave St Maarten having achieved everything we went in to do, with great thanks to Andy at MEI and the folks at St Maarten Sails, FKG Rigging and Electec.

We enjoyed a cracking sail down to St Eustatia and then pressed on to St Kitt’s, with good wind and good boat speed, passing St Bart’s and (reluctantly) Saba on the way. All the islands here are volcanic - lush mountain peaks - it really feels like we are moving back into the eastern Caribbean. Today’s picture shows the extinct volcano and crater on St Eustatia.

Then the question arose as to what to do in Kitt’s. We don’t want to ‘stop’ here, which involves clearing customs, immigration, harbour control and all sorts, so anchored just before sunset and will be off with the gulls at daybreak. However, the officials are said to fine people for this common practice of ‘yellow flagging’ (ie, anchoring off and staying aboard overnight). We will report back.

59 nautical miles today – 320 nautical miles to Grenada

Waiting for the wind to turn

30 March 2019 | Simpson’s Bay Lagoon
Graham Walker
We are now enjoying some down-time as we wait for some more favourable wind to help us head south. It has been solidly out of the south-east recently and we want to head south east. However, it is due to go into the east on Tuesday and a little more to the north later in the week so that will work for us to get on our way. We will check out of St Maarten tomorrow (Sunday), slip through the lifting bridge in the afternoon and overnight in the anchorage, ready to get under way first thing Monday morning – and test the new water-maker in clean open water.

With technical work complete we have had more time to get out, so we have been over to Marigot on the French side of the island, which is part of Europe. For clarity, the Dutch owned side of the island is not part of Europe. The change in character is quite abrupt. You have to ask yourself how can it change so suddenly from the very international and industrious Dutch side to the classically French world over the border in but a few hundred yards, on the same small island. Language, currency, food, all are different. Best we can tell there are different products for sale on different sides under different legislation - for example, you can fill various international gas bottles (except the French bottle) on the Dutch but have to go to the French side for French camping gas. Still, the forex is easy: over here the dollar and euro are at parity.

We slipped back to the Dutch side today to take in a cruising seminar run by Island Water World. Never miss an opportunity to hear other sailors’ good ideas - and of course the free beer helps! At the seminar we met Dave and Karen on S/Y New Destiny who are friends of friends back home; they introduced us to friends of theirs on their new Southerly, and a bit of a social gathering developed which turned into drinks at the yacht club which turned into dinner at the local Chinese restaurant with a fairly large group which included some well known TV sailors, who also know the same friends back home but by a completely different route. Once again it’s the small world of sailing folks – just two degrees of separation.
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
81 Photos
Created 30 April 2016
60 Photos
Created 16 September 2015
a pre-retirement holiday
19 Photos
Created 21 June 2015
some shots from our lovely trip around the Aegean with Ailie
8 Photos
Created 16 January 2015
9 Photos
Created 19 July 2014
2 great weeks with Steve and Bibi Rainey.
11 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
A long weekend with Catherine and David.
4 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
4 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda, K & G head south to a new home.
14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda does the Western Isles of Scotland.
12 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Kate and Graham Chillin'
7 Photos
Created 18 July 2014

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