Barbados and the Windward Islands
04 February 2011 | St Lucia
The Windward Islands
After the first full night's sleep in over five weeks we all felt refreshed as we woke up to a bright sunlit Barbados day. Mary and Kate went to the yacht club for long, long showers and came back smelling sweet with clean non salty hairs.
We topped up with fresh water as our main tank was getting pretty low. However, I was very pleased that we had managed not to use all of the water taken on in Tenerife in the tank and had not touched our extra in the plastic containers dotted around the boat. While at sea I switched off the electric water pump so that all water had to be foot pumped at the galley sink. This ensured that we were conscious that we only drew enough water for our needs and there was no wastage. Washing up was done in salt water which was fished from the sea with a bucket. Similarly we cooked in half sea, half fresh water remembering not to add salt. We tried using all sea water but the food was definitely too salty for our tastes. Bathing consisted of throwing jugs of seawater over our heads and soaping down while sitting on the loo. Although obviously not ideal we soon got used to it and I found that I didn't suffer from the itchiness that usually happens when drying off from a swim.
In the early afternoon we caught a bus to Speightstown, a couple of miles down the road to do some shopping. We got good directions to a large, well stocked supermarket and of course bought meat which didn't come from a tin. We also bought some vegetables and fruit from little stalls set up on the pavements by ladies. The prices seemed pretty high but we all craved for fresh food.
When we got back to the boat we got her ready for the ten mile sail down to Carlisle Bay where we would spend the rest of our time on the island. We had a very pleasant couple of hours cruising down under genoa and only used the engine to leave the marina and for the final approach to the anchorage. We arrived just after sunset so there was enough light to pick a spot clear of the other boats and anchor in about 9 metres.
The following day, a Sunday, we piled into the dinghy in the early afternoon and motored across to the jetty sticking out from the Boatyard. I had told Mary lots of times about the Boatyard and how it was the place where all the yachties would meet and yarn the night away while lubricating their tonsils with numerous bottles of Banks beer. The Boatyard is like the Café de Sport in Faial, the Azores, one of those places that are a must to visit and always have a warm welcome for sailors.
So, I was pretty disgusted when this lout in his Manchester United shirt demanded twenty Barbados dollars (about £7) each just to tie up to the very rusty and not safe looking jetty. He said that we could claim this back on food. We pointed out that we didn't want to eat but just to have a couple of beers. This cut no ice with him and he made it very clear that yachties, especially those on a budget were not welcome. All of his trade came from the cruise liners which pull into Bridgetown every day (at least three each day) who come ashore and pay their $20 happily. I was very sad that this once welcome place has now fallen victim to greed and had lost its character.
We therefore had to dinghy all the way into the Careenage, in the centre of town. However, this wasn't too bad as it was a safe place to leave the dinghy and there was no risking the surf in getting ashore.
Walking back to the beach we found a ramshackle but very friendly local bar just along from the Boatyard and had a pleasant time there with no rip off prices. When we decided to return to the boat we walked along the beach and cut through the Boatyard to get to the road. Mary and Kate were just ahead of me as I stopped to put on my Crocs. As I was doing this a staff member demanded $20 dollars from me. I explained that I was just walking through to the road but he got very shirty and told me that I couldn't unless I paid the money. I told him that he was taking the Michael (well almost that) and so I walked back to the beach to the public path back to the road. Mary and Kate were wondering where I had got to as they had managed to go through without being spotted. So the Boatyard is no more for us yachties.
We found that Barbados was very expensive and I hoped that everywhere else we planned to visit wouldn't follow suit. One cheap thing though was Mount Gay rum, at least buying it by the bottle for the boat. On afternoon we walked to the factory where it is bottled and had a tour. Naturally we sampled the goods both on the tour and afterwards in their bar. I tried the very expensive Mount Gay 1703 and what a delight that was, so smooth and delicious. It's served in brandy balloons and just sniffing it brings a smile to the face. We had a 5 micro-second discussion and decided to fork out the £60 to buy a bottle. Needless to say we won't be taking that to a bottle party or using it for cooking - definitely for special occasions.
One thing that made the anchorage unpleasant was the idiots on jet skis who think it great fun to get as close as possible at maximum speed to anchored yachts. They were hired to these morons from the cruise liners who happened to be in the Boatyard for them to tear around the anchorage and cause mayhem. Quite a few of us yelled at them to go away and to slow down until they were clear of the boats but no one listened. One skipper called the coastguard and a cutter turned up and stopped a couple of the jet skis. They also had a word with the operators on the beach, who should have given their customers instructions not to be stupid but didn't. Relative peace lasted just until the coastguard disappeared and then it was back to causing mayhem again.
We went to a party on a very large catamaran called No Rehearsal one evening. We met quite a few really nice people and had a very pleasant couple of hours. Kate met the owners' children, 19 and 22, and so had someone of her age to talk to. Several evenings later she went ashore with them and came back in the early hours having had a good time.
At the other end of the beach from the Boatyard is the Barbados Yacht Club which we made our local. The place is very colonial and most of the members are white Bajans clinging on to the old lifestyle. I really enjoyed it there but Mary wasn't that impressed. The prices were the lowest we had found for drinks and the food wasn't expensive either. They also had wifi so we went there every day to catch up on phone calls using Skype and of course emails. There are plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas and the setting is perfect. The sand has to be seen to be believed, pure white and so fine that inevitably it gets carried aboard the boat even if you take off your shoes and wash your feet before getting back onboard.
The only downside was getting to and from the beach without either capsizing or swamping the dinghy - a very difficult operation indeed. One evening there was an impromptu gathering of several yachties, most of whom we knew from the party and we were there for happy hour, two for one, and then lingered on until well after sunset. When we eventually left it was pitch black and I misjudged the waves coming in. We got swamped but fortunately the laptops and cameras were in a waterproof knapsack so they weren't damaged at all. I couldn't find the kill cord for the dinghy engine so after a mammoth task of emptying half of the Atlantic Ocean out of the dinghy I had a long row back to the boat. Fortunately the wind had gone to sleep or it would have been very difficult to get out to the boat. The next morning I found the kill cord and the engine fired up with no problem at all, much to my great relief.
We had met a very friendly Irishman, Mike at the yacht club who was sailing his 36ft boat with two young crew members. One of his crew was a fully qualified chef and they ate like kings on the Atlantic crossing. Bet he couldn't make a decent corned beef hash though! Mike came onboard one afternoon for a cup of tea and we had a very pleasant couple of hours yarning away. We hope to bump into him later in the year perhaps in Grenada.
Finally it was time to get moving again and head for St Lucia where Andy, Kate's boyfriend was flying in for a couple of weeks' holiday. We left Carlisle Bay at 0900 on Sunday morning, 16th January. It took us a while to get the anchor up as the chain was caught around a mooring block and fisherman anchor. I had to manouevre the boat so that it unhooked from the obstacle and we could retrieve the anchor and chain. It was a little too deep for me to free dive to and there would have been too much weight for me to unhook.
Once the anchor was home we set course for Rodney Bay, St Lucia. The Trade winds were now fully operational again so it promised to be a fast and quite lively sail. Once we had passed the northern tip of the island we had the full force of the wind and sea on our beam. We were cracking along at over 5 knots (well, that's cracking along for us) using a reefed genoa. Occasionally we had squalls come through and had to reduce sail even further but this didn't slow our progress at all. We had some quite spectacular downpours in the squalls, especially after dark but we could see them coming and so had time to put on a foulie jacket and reef the sail.
Mary wasn't too happy with the state of the sea and the way the boat was crashing about but both Kate and I were very happy that the boat was eating up the miles so well. In the small hours we could see the lights on St Lucia and knew that by breakfast time we would be in Rodney Bay. Just after sunrise we were between the north end of St Lucia and the south of Martinique. Coming up behind us was the blackest of black skies which stretched from one island to the other and we were going to cop it. Sure enough the visibility dropped so that we couldn't see either island and the rain began to hammer down. This lasted about half an hour and by the end of it I was very wet and cold. However, within minutes of it finally passing the sun came out and everything was hunky dory again. We entered the cut into Rodney Bay marina at 0900 having had a good boisterous sail all the way. Mary doesn't quite agree with my assessment of it being only boisterous although Kate agreed with me.
Rodney Bay itself was packed with anchored yachts and I was a little worried that there would be no room for us in the marina itself. We had decided to go into the marina for a couple of days so that we could shop, water and clean the boat more easily. Mary also wanted to have our mountain of laundry done too as it was very rapidly taking over the boat. I had no idea what the cost of the very smart marina would be but thought that it would be very expensive. Therefore I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was only about £16 a night and so booked in for three nights. Eventually we talked it over and checked in for another four nights.
Within the marina complex there was everything we needed and it was very pleasant to sit at the Boardwalk Bar during happy hour and watch all the activity go on while slurping a Piton beer at £1 a bottle. We were very pleased to see that the prices were about half those of Barbados for virtually everything, including in the supermarket. The first night we had a meal out and I had an excellent rib eye steak for only about £14. In Barbados we would have had to have a mortgage to have a meal like that.
Naturally we made full use of the facilities, including the wifi and of course the showers. The laundry was duly dispatched and I found someone who could repair the gooseneck fitting.
Andy duly arrived the following day and Mary and Kate were there to meet him. The airport for long haul is at the southern end of the island whereas Rodney Bay is right at the northern tip. Mary and Kate tried to get there by bus but were unable to do it. They managed to negotiate with a taxi driver for him to take them there, wait and then drive back to Rodney Bay and haggled to knock down the price he quoted by quite a lot.
In the excellent chandlery I bought another pump for the head and that was fitted successfully - no more bucketing sea water. I hope that that will be the last time I have to play around with it for quite some time. The guy who was doing the gooseneck fitting took quite a long time to remove the broken piece and I was a little concerned about his abilities. However, it was eventually removed and taken into a workshop and repaired. I was not impressed by what he charged me and I feel that he ripped me off quite a lot. Everyone else here seems to be pretty straight with us and we have been happy with the cost of almost everything we have bought. The laundry cost us a fortune as there was so much of it but there were six machine loads of it and he only charged us for five so we were more than happy with that.
In the marina complex there is a sort of bandstand where two or three guys sell fresh fruit and some veggies each day. We prefer to buy from them rather than in one of the two large supermarkets nearby as it is supporting local labour. They are always very pleasant and we always have a chat to them when we go to buy our produce.
Eventually the maintenance jobs were done and we could move on again. We decided to go to Martinique for a few days so that Andy would see another island. Its only 26 miles from Rodney Bay to Grande Anse d'Arlet and you can see the island from the entrance to Rodney Bay. The sun was shining and the sea sparkling as we left the marina at 1100 on Monday 24th after a week's veritable luxury. I had hoped to fuel up but the fuel berth was full and we had enough for our immediate needs. Twenty minutes later I raised the mainsail with a reef in it, the first time since the gooseneck fitting was broken, and the full genoa. The engine was shut down and we were off on a northerly course for another country. The sailing was magnificent and the three of us were really enjoying it. Not so Andy who very quickly went very pale and got to know the inside of a bucket at close quarters. We were very surprised at how soon he began to shout for Rolf and Hughie. We should have given him Stugeron before we sailed but it didn't enter our heads that he would feel so ill on such a beautiful day. He was non compis mentis for the five hours it took us to reach our anchorage and missed out on a fine sail.
At the head of the jetty in Grande Anse d'Arlet is a small bar/restaurant called P'ti Bateaux which has a computer terminal linked to the French Customs in Fort de France, the capital. Instead of having to go through the checking in procedure with some uniformed jobsworth you put your details into the computer, print off the form and the waitress stamps it for you. All this is done of course while you are having a cold beer so it is extremely civilized.
The bay we were anchored in is absolutely perfect and we really came to like it there. Along the waterfront is a long row of shacks some of which are bars, shops, dive shops and holiday lets. Everyone was very friendly and the place is definitely French in every way. The big downside is that the prices, in euros, are French too so it was a big shock to the wallet after reasonable St Lucia. The water is very clear and it was pleasant to dive over the side for a swim to cool down. There were lots of boats anchored there, mostly French and a surprising number of French Canadians, so there was always activity to watch.
We had a couple of meals ashore in a delightful restaurant and Mary had the biggest prawns I have ever seen. I had half a lobster the first time but copied Mary the second time. The first occasion we ate inside the restaurant although it's completely open-fronted but the second time we sat at a bench right on the beach and could see all the boats at anchor.
Mary and I got very friendly with an English girl, Natalie who worked at P'ti Bateaux. We stopped there several times as they had wifi and had plat de jour one day. We also went to a dowdy looking hotel at the other end of the beach one morning when P'ti Bateaux's wifi was down. They had three white waiters who were as gay as gay could be and minced about in a very camp fashion.
After three nights we went round into Fort de France bay. We intended to go to Trois Islets but the wind was up a bit and I decided to go to Anse Mitan instead as there was a peninsular to provide a lee from the wind and sea. It took us only two hours to get there but Andy took his Stugeron and lay down in the saloon for the whole time. We anchored just outside the channel for the ferry from F de F which came past regularly causing quite a wake to make us roll.
Ashore the place seemed very run down and a large number of businesses were closed and boarded up. The marina there was only for local boats and it seemed quite shabby. We found the supermarket recommended in the guide but it was like a shop in Soviet Russia during the 70's. Most of the freezers were empty and the stuff they did have looked very dubious. The shelves were similarly quite bare so we didn't buy very much at all. We found a little local shop which had all that we needed so used that.
Andy and Kate had gone off to buy an ice cream, their favourite activity, and when we met up with them later that said that they were in a very smart area, which is how the guide describes the town. The following day we discovered a little complex with some very smart designer shops and nice restaurants all within a few yards of where we had been the day before. It was quite a contrast in just a few yards.
After a couple of nights we decided to back to Grande Anse d'Arlet before returning to St Lucia. We had a very pleasant sail back in completely flat sea, which only took an hour but again Andy missed it as he retired to a bunk. We had another couple of nights there and I checked out using the computer (and beer). We had quite a lively sail back to Rodney Bay, especially the first half, and in a big beam sea the dinghy, which we were towing inverted. Fortunately we now always take the engine, oars and seat onto the boat so no damage was done.
We are now at anchor in Rodney Bay but are going into the marina for a few days tomorrow as Andy is flying home, Friday 4th February and our friends John and Denny are flying in from Spain via Grenada on Saturday. They will be with us for about three weeks when we will slowly go down island to get them to Grenada in time for their flight home.
19 January 2011 | St Lucia
At last after three weeks we finally left Santa Cruz. We were delayed for a week due to a storm which was on its way from the south west. This finally blew itself out on Monday evening. We waited until Wednesday for the sea to go down before venturing out.
So at 1030 on Wednesday 1st December we slipped from Marina Atlantico and headed north for about four miles to top up our fuel tank and jerry cans in Darsena Pesquera - the small fishing harbour. The fuel was a lot cheaper than expected - 92 euros for 110 litres of diesel.
While refuelling I found that the head pump was leaking again. I have spent hours and hours trying to get it to work properly and have changed all the valves and diaphragms to no avail. So we had to sail with it broken again. We decided to use buckets of seawater to flush it through until I can arrange for a new pump to be brought out to the Windies.
Because of the heads problem I forgot to ship the Hydrovane rudder before slipping. The Hydrovane is a self steering system which works by sensing the wind direction. I realised just after we had cleared the harbour and had no intention of turning round. Therefore I tried to fit it whilst hove to. The blade has to slide on a stainless spindle which is a close fit and it was quite a struggle with Kate holding onto a rope attached to the rudder while I hung off the stern ladder. I had to go down to the bottom rung and of course a wave came and set off the automatic lifejacket I was wearing. I wanted to do it without the lifejacket but Mary was insistent that this was a no no. So we went into the entrance of the main harbour and in the smooth water I went over the stern unencumbered by the lifejacket or safety line. After a bit of struggle the blade was fitted and we could proceed.
So at 1400 we were actually on our way. We motored for a couple of hours and then set the main and genoa and shut down the engine. In order to stay away from the wind acceleration zone, where the wind rushes down the high mountains of the island to bring gale force winds in sudden squalls, we headed offshore into the south going separation zone. The best course we could make was south instead of south west but hoped that the wind would veer allowing us to set a better course late.
During this time I once again stripped the heads pump but could find no fault. However it did seem that the fault lay on the vacuum side of the pump so we could pump out the waste and then use a bucket to put "fresh" water in the bowl for a second flush and then put more water in afterwards. This meant having a bucket of seawater sitting in the heads sink and using a jug for the flushing operation. Not ideal but it worked. Of course had I been singlehanded or only had male crew there would be no problem - bucket and chuck it!
I decided that Mary and Kate would keep watches together and I would keep them on my own. I would try to do most of the night watch and the two girls would not have to be on watch during the dark hours for so long. For the first few nights this was quite difficult as there were quite a few ships about and so I was called fairly often during my off watch time to assess how close they would pass. I had difficulty in sleeping as I was listening to the rhythm of the boat and could hear the conversations between Mary and Kate, especially when they saw another vessel or there was a change in wind direction and they were discussing whether to call me or not.
The good thing though was that the SeaMe was working and so we had an audible alarm when we were pinged by a radar and knew that the ship could see us on their screen. This was confirmed by a couple of vessels we spoke to on VHF later. We painted on their radars at about 12 miles so they had plenty of warning of our presence. The audible alarm would go off long before we saw the vessel transmitting the radar. This would give us ample warning of a ship in our vicinity and we would generally see the ship as soon as it popped up over the horizon. Sometimes, however, we did not see the ship at all as it passed us without coming into visual contact.
For the first few days on our way down to the vicinity of the Cape Verdes Islands the wind was light and right on the nose. We trundled along at about three and a half knots and often a lot less than that. We still couldn't make the course south westerly so most of the time we were on the starboard tack heading south and then we would tack to go more westerly. The weather was fine for this period which meant that we could settle down into a sea going routine with no discomfort. Mary was finding watches in the dark difficult but I hoped that this would gradually lessen as we progressed.
One night when I was on watch at about 0300 there was a sudden scream from Mary. I asked her what was wrong and she said that something had flown onto her face. I replied that it must have been a fly and at that moment Kate shouted that there was a bat in the cabin before she dashed into the heads and closed the door. I went below and switching on a light saw on Kate's bunk a very frightened storm petrel. I picked it up in a tea towel and launched it into the night from the cockpit. The poor petrified thing had left its calling card in several places so we had to clean up that. Mary had quite a scratch on her face from the bird which took a few days to heal over. I'm not sure who was the more scared, Mary, Kate or the poor bird.
Lo and behold a couple of nights later when Mary and Kate were on watch a flying fish decided to whizz over the cockpit dodger and hit Mary on the leg causing another mild panic. Again I had to be the brave hunter and return the fish to its natural element.
On the fourth day out the weather became a bit unfriendly and the sea got a bit lumpy. This was the edge of the storm which was approaching Tenerife which we had hoped to be south of before it struck. However, our slow progress meant that we didn't quite get out of its way. Both the mainsail and genoa were reefed down during this time.
On our fifth day the weather was fine but the wind was still from the SW and light. We were making only about three knots, much to my disappointment. I had hoped for a fast crossing so that we could have Christmas in Barbados but it looks like New Year instead.
To add to our difficulties the Autohelm electronic self steering decided to give up the ghost at this point. The drive unit is almost new and has only had about ten days use in total and the control box, which packed in crossing the Bay of Biscay, had been rebuilt by the manufacturer at a cost of over £350 just before I left Portugal. Given the fact that the wind was light the Hydrovane couldn't steer either so we had to hand steer until the wind was less fickle.
The next day the wind allowed us to sail close hauled where the boat would steer herself without need to put a hand anywhere near the wheel. It was quite uncanny to know that the boat was very happy to do this. The wind was light so even this beat into the wind was not uncomfortable and not having to steer was a luxury. The payment was of course that we were still heading south.
At about 1100 we were visited by a large pod of pilot whales which was a very welcome diversion. Unfortunately we didn't manage to capture any on camera. Digital photography has made this instantaneous type of taking pictures very difficult because of the slight delay in capturing the image. Its difficult to anticipate when they would break surface and when I've tried this in the past I have managed to end up with some cracking
pictures of the sea completely empty of wild life. Later in the voyage we saw other whales but couldn't identify them. They were much larger with speckled backs and the pod consisted of about ten whales. Dolphins often visited us and were always a welcome sight. Bird life was fairly scarce but we did see storm petrels, not in the cabin, tropic birds and several lone gannets. As we got to the end of the trip frigate birds made an appearance too.
Later in the afternoon we spoke to a large and very beautiful motor yacht Utopia who eventually passed us about half a mile astern. She had picked us up on radar at about ten miles and we were giving a good return - thanks to the SeaMe. They gave us a weather forecast for the wind to go to the north within the next few days which was encouraging.
The north wind did eventually arrive but it was very light and although we managed to fly our beautiful cruising chute (a large spinnaker type sail for light wind sailing) it was only for a short period, when it gave us a satisfactory 4 knots, as the wind got lighter and the chute kept collapsing.
After this the wind got light still and it was difficult to make any decent progress. New Year in Barbados was now a joke. The swell was now quite high and made the boat roll heavily. This caused the sails to slat very badly as they alternately filled and then spilled the wind and made for a very uncomfortable time.
After two weeks we were well behind our projected position and there was no sign of the Trade winds. I had anticipated getting into them within about a week of leaving Tenerife but this was not happening. During my last crossing I was well ahead of our present position and that was singlehanding in a 24ft boat. Mary and Kate became very skeptical of any projections I made - with good reason on their parts.
We kept edging south in an attempt to get into the Trades but to no avail. Progress was very slow and I began to wonder if I was doing something wrong. To prove that it was not just a curse on me we saw astern one day a beautiful fully rigged tall ship with all sails flying. She was Tenacious who was taking disabled passengers and their "buddies" to Antigua. They too were well behind schedule and would spend Christmas at sea instead of English Harbour. She was behind us all day and I was pleased that she didn't go roaring past. In fact she was only on our beam by dawn the next day and I suspect that she had to put her engine on and motored as she quickly disappeared after that.
We had been trying to pick up weather forecasts from a ham net run by a Canadian called Herb. We listened each night but could not hear him at all. Later, when we were further west we found out that others had similar problems as propagation was very poor. When we did hear him he was giving forecasts to boats who had just left the Cape Verdes and so were a long was behind us. Therefore these reports were not much use to us.
A few days before Christmas we were becalmed for a couple of days. The bonus to this was that I managed to catch up on some sleep. By this time I was completely exhausted and was finding it very difficult to keep my eyes open during the long nights. We decide to change the watches slightly so that I kept watch from 1900 to midnight, then the girls would keep the middle watch from midnight to 0400 when I would resume. Mary would usually wake at about 8ish and make very welcome tea. Meanwhile Kate slept on - one night she had 14 hours in her bunk and slept the whole time. Neither Mary nor I slept well but Kate had the ability to just crash. We were both very envious of this ability.
One morning I saw a complete eclipse of the moon. At first I couldn't fathom out why the full moon was gradually becoming a half moon until my feeble brain worked it out. By the time of the total eclipse it looked like a dark coloured orange.
Suddenly we began to make progress. We weren't in the Trades, as I had initially hoped but at least we were moving towards the west. We were making about 4 knots but it was very rolly, as I knew it would be on almost a dead run. The weather was mostly fine and the nights clear with a fine panoply of stars to look at.
Christmas was a none event although we all had some little presents to open. We all would have loved a very large Christmas dinner but made do with Mary's frying pan pizza. Considering it was her first try in a very rolly galley it was good but I don't think that Pizza Express has too much to worry about if she sets up a business.
We occasionally now were getting some vicious line squalls come through. We were vigilant though and kept looking astern looking for a mass of dark cloud overtaking us. Even at night we could see them coming. When this happened I had to go to the mast to reef the mainsail, which at night is no mean feat. Whenever I had to do this I could see the worried look on Mary's face and the relief when I got back safely to the cockpit. I wondered if this was because it was my round at the bar and if I disappeared over the side she would have to buy her own first drink! Of course I always wore a safety harness which was attached to a jackstay by carabineer but even so I had to hang on because of the constant rolling.
New Year came and went and we didn't even think about it really because of the time difference and the fact that we had only altered our clock by one hour and really judging by celestial time it should have been three by then. Progress was relatively good by then but no where near the average 5 knots that I was hoping for.
One night three days from Barbados I was on watch and saw the blackest lump of cloud I've ever seen fast approaching from astern. I called Mary and asked her to close the hatch above her bunk as I knew that the squall would bring very heavy rain. The squally struck and it is without a doubt the most vicious I've ever encountered. Fortunately I'd reefed the main earlier when the girls were on watch for a previous squall so I was confident that the boat would be fine. The wind began to literally scream through the rigging and the rain struck me from horizontally from behind. Whenever I looked back to see if there was a sign of the end of it I was blinded by the rain and couldn't see. Mary had stayed up and looked anxiously from the saloon as I fought with the wheel to keep the boat straight and level. Although it seemed like hours and my arm muscles were aching this last for about 20 minutes before it passed through. Just when I began to heave a sigh of relief there was a crack and the gooseneck fitting broke. The gooseneck attaches the mainsail boom to the mast so the boom was not longer attached to the mast at its forward end. Fortunately we had a preventer and a downhaul attached to the outboard end of the boom so it didn't begin to swing about wildly and bring an added danger to the process of taming it. Mary came up immediately, being already up in the saloon and we called Kate to take over the wheel. I went forward to the mast and dropped the mainsail and the boom came down to the deck. Mary grabbed hold of the end of the boom to stop it from possibly thrashing about and I gathered in the main as best as I could and we lashed it with sail ties. Then with Mary's help we lashed it to the hand rails on the coach roof. All this time the boat was rolling heavily in the left over sea from the squall. We were safe but exhausted. I decide that we would heave to for the rest of the night and see what the situation was at daylight.
The following morning we rolled the mainsail around the boom and did a better job lashing it down. We set the genoa and continued on our way.
At 0800 on Friday 7th January we suddenly pick up a true Trade wind and began to fly along. At about 1100 Kate saw a smudge on the horizon and said that she thought she could see land. I went to look and confirmed that this was Barbados. There was no great elation as I had thought there would be when we set off but I think that we were just so bored with the slow progress that we didn't have the energy to be ecstatic.
So we sailed at over 5 knots all day as Barbados reeled us in. We had decided to go to Port St Charles in the north of the island to check in and stay in the marina for two or three nights so that we could luxuriate in long showers, shore electricity and no watches to keep.
The marina is tiny which we were surprised about because reading the blurb on the back of the chart it gave the impression of being much larger. However we were directed to a berth alongside a concrete jetty and had help to tie up. We had made it!
The first steps ashore were very wobbly and I staggered down the jetty to check in with port health, immigration and customs. The formalities over I went to see the dock master to book ourselves in for a couple of nights. He said that he would first tell me the price before he checked me in. When he told me that it was US $80 a night I nearly fell through the floor. It was too late to sail the 10 miles down to Carlisle Bay so I agreed to stay for one night only.
Port St Charles is a very upmarket housing complex with houses having their own yacht berths outside their front doors. We looked pretty scruffy in our berth which is marked on the chart for super yachts. Next door is a "yacht club" and soon we were having ice cold bottles of Banks beer which slid down very nicely. We had a look at the menu and gulped at the prices but decided that we had earned a little bit of luxury and decided to have a meal. Our total tab for the drinks and meal was £200 so it was an expensive stay.
It had been a very long voyage, 38 days, which was at least 10 days longer than I had thought it would be. At times this was very frustrating as we wanted to get it over and done with. Mary did not like keeping night watches and found it difficult steering a compass course. The compass light is quite dim and about 6 feet ahead of the wheel and as the compass swings on its gimbals the numbers begin to blur into one after staring at it for a long time. I rigged up a second compass next to the wheel to make life a little easier. Kate found steering no problem and did not seem bothered at keeping night watches. She has the ability to come off watch and crash immediately and get proper sleep which both Mary and I find hard to do and in my case almost impossible.
Mary did the vast majority of cooking and was a hero in the galley department. She managed to produce tasty meals with our limited selection of provisions even when the boat was bouncing about all over the place. Kate too did some cooking but her forte was in watchkeeping. All in all we were a good team but it will be a long time before Mary is ready for another ocean crossing. We have decided not to rush through the West Indies and head for Panama this year but to have a year here in the Caribbean. We will spend some time in Trinidad during the hurricane season and do all the maintenance jobs there before heading west again possibly in December.
Nazare to Santa Cruz
15 November 2010 | Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Nazare to Santa Cruz, Tenerife
After a couple of days I was ready to sail down to Cascais and so on Tuesday morning I paid the marina fee and checked out. However, as I left the office going back to the boat I had a sudden change of mind. I knew that there was a good bus service direct to Lisbon, similar to National Express. The marina in Nazare was much cheaper than Cascais and it would save me sailing the long 70 miles there. The distance is too long for a sail in daylight as it would take at least 14 hours and would be a tiring sail too. I liked Nazare and found that its marina nicely scruffy and not all shiny stainless steel and pretention.
So it was that a couple of days later I was up long before dawn and walked the 25 minutes to the bus station heading for Lisbon airport. The bus left at 0650 and arrived in the middle of rush hour. However, I had had a call from Mary saying that Kate's flight was delayed anyway due to the French air traffic controllers being on strike. I had a couple of hours to wait but I had a roll and a coffee and got my nose into a Yachting Monthly which I bought for a king's ransom in the bookstall.
Eventually Kate emerged from the arrivals hall complete with an enormous bag which weighed a ton. Most of this was equipment and bits for the boat that had been sent back to UK to be repaired. We got a taxi to the bus station and the driver was not at all amused as it was only a short journey and not into the city centre. I had a similar experience at Heathrow a number of years ago when I went to Uxbridge and not Knightsbridge and got earache from the driver all the way. I wonder if they do a course in wingeing and is it part of their final practical exam?
We just missed the next bus back to Nazare and had a five hour wait for the next one. Fortunately there is a left luggage office in the bus station so we deposited the bags there and caught the metro into the city. We had a pleasant afternoon wandering around and we discovered that it is a really nice city and definitely a place to go back to for a proper visit.
We got back to Nazare at 1930 and caught a taxi out to the marina. It was dark by this time so Kate didn't get much chance to see the area but was glad to get to the boat. The next morning we discovered that she had brought the rain from Wales with her which was to last for about four days along with a gale. I had not had any real rain since leaving home apart from a downpour overnight in La Coruna which had dried off by the morning.
We did manage to dodge the rain showers, which were heavy and walk into Nazare and the first evening went for a meal in one of the many restaurants in the town. It is a seaside town and in the summer it must be packed solid, judging by the amount of bars and restaurants there. There is a long beach in the bay and looked ideal in calmer conditions than when we saw it during the gale. The surf was pounding on the beach and sending up huge amounts of spray many feet into the air.
Back at the marina I unpacked all the stuff for the boat and as soon as the wind had died I went up the mast to fit the SeaMe, the active radar reflector. We used the electric windlass to hoist me up in the bosun's chair and Kate did really well considering that she hadn't done this before. I also fitted the control box for the autopilot which would save long boring hours at the wheel when on passage.
The marina is part of the fishing port in Nazare and a great deal of activity centres around the trawlers there. Next to the port offices is a mini-mart cum bar which is always crowded with fishermen having a sandwich, coffee or beer. I became something of a regular and the chap who ran the place treated me like his long lost brother whenever I went in for a cold one. The place was very lively and I could tell that there was much banter going on between the fishermen and my mate the owner.
Much to Kate's delight we found an ice cream shop on the beachfront which had dozens of different flavours so we had to go in to sample their wares. I had a modest two scoops but she went for the big time and had three (no idea where she put it all).
Eventually the storm blew itself out and we were ready to leave. Mike, the harbourmaster told us that there was a gale forecast to be over Madeira when we were due to be there. Therefore I decided to skip Madeira and go straight for Tenerife. The distance is about 750 miles and I anticipated it would take us about 7 days to reach there. So at 1330 on Wednesday 3 November we slipped from the fuelling jetty and set off on my longest sail of the trip so far. The swell at the harbour entrance was still quite high and steep but as we got a little way off shore this became more regular and not so steep. We were soon bowling along at 5 knots on a beam reach in bright sunshine. Our initial course led us out to the Islas da Berlenga about 20 miles away. We cleared this by nightfall and altered course slightly to the south west heading for the Canaries.
Next morning the wind became lighter and went round to the north. This meant that we were on a broad reach and the genoa was being masked by the mainsail making it flog at times and then snap suddenly as it filled with wind. I edged up further into wind to keep the sails quiet but of course this meant putting on extra miles - such is sailing. However, at least the autopilot was working so we didn't have to steer. The nights were long but clear with millions of stars to see. It was quite cold during the dark hours too so when on watch it meant quite a few layers of warm clothing. Fortunately it was dry so it was possible to wrap up in a sleeping bag so the watchkeeper could keep warm. I always made a flask of hot water before each watch so that I had plenty of hot drinks at hand.
The motion was quite jerky for the first few days and so Kate was not on top form although she did keep all her watches. We lived on snacks as neither of us felt like going through the difficult process of cooking. I kept most of the night watch and the second night out we had to cross a traffic separation some miles off Lisbon. This was like crossing the M4 during the morning rush hour so I had to be vigilant and alter course several times to avoid close encounters. Much to my disgust the SeaMe still didn't work and I was not impressed with it at all. We really could have done with it at that stage as there were a large number of ships about and we needed to be seen on their radar screens. I am convinced that so few officers of the watch actually look out of their bridge windows but rely purely on their radar plotters which warn them of any targets they pick up. That was proved crossing Biscay, much to my disgust. They don't think about small boats with low radar reflecting characteristics at all and assume that if they haven't had a warning from their radar that all is clear.
The wind dropped on our third day out to a light easterly breeze which dropped our speed down to about 2.5 knots. We motored for a couple of hours to charge the batteries as the wind generator didn't have enough wind to whizz it round fast enough and the solar panel wasn't making sufficient to keep up with the drain brought on by the autopilot. Still we were gradually closing Tenerife and the motion was now a lot easier. The long Atlantic swells were now with us and it was fascinating to watch a huge wall of water speed towards the boat and suddenly you were on top of it before sliding down into the trough again. Our appetites returned and we began to cook meals, which was a real boon.
On our fifth day I noticed that the batteries were completely flat and couldn't start the engine. Fortunately we had two big batteries forward which powered the windlass. Humping giant batteries about in a pitching and rolling boat is quite a feat of acrobatics but I managed it relatively easily and soon the engine was fired up and charging again. After some thought I realised that one of the batteries was actually duff and this was draining all the power from the other one in an attempt to charge itself. I isolated the bad battery and had no further trouble. I would have to buy a replacement in Tenerife - more expense!
On our last full day at sea we were visited by a huge school of dolphins who stayed with us for quite a long time. Despite having seen dolphins many times they still always bring pleasure as they put on their performances of speed and aquabatics with such ease and grace. The wind had gone to bed so we had to motor for the whole day or have another day at sea. With the destination so close it was too tempting not to use the engine.
That night Kate spotted the light house at the north end of Tenerife and soon we could see the loom of the city lights both from there and Gran Canaria off our port bow. While Kate got some shut eye we gradually closed the island and by dawn were only a few miles off. Then Kate came up and we sat there looking at the first land we'd seen for almost eight days. The morning sunshine lit up the rocky and mountainous landscape and we soon were able to discern individual houses and vehicles.
We entered the marina in Santa Cruz at 1000 and our long voyage was over. We were both desperate to dive into a shower and after completing the usual formalities got our wish. We both felt so much better to be clean and have fresh clothes on which were not caked in salt.
The marina here is big but the infrastructure isn't up to much. There is no fuel dock, no wi-fi and its seems like a building site where the owner has run out of money with it only half completed. But it has the advantage of being really close to the city centre so everything is within walking distance. The big shock was the amount of tax that we were charged here which is really eye watering. The island government know that they have got you in a cleft stick because everyone crossing the Atlantic has to stop here and they can skin you for whatever amount they like. For those of us on very limited budgets this is a big blow and I really feel that we have been ripped off.
Ashore things are good. There is an wonderful fruit, vegetable and meat market full of colour and life. We have found an excellent restaurant with wi-fi where we can sit outside under the shade of huge umbrellas and talk on Skype while having cold beer. One of the waiters has decided that I'm his amigo and always makes a fuss of us when we go there.
Mary is flying out tomorrow to join us at last and I'll be very pleased to see her. The only thing is that I have no idea where her two huge bags of stuff that she is bringing out will go as the boat is full. However, she is very adept at packing and so will find spaces in lockers and I'm sure that it will all disappear in short order. Then we hope to get a couple of days to do the tourist bit and have a look at some of the island.
Incidentally on Saturday there were five humungous cruise ships in and the place was swamped by white legged groups of humanity all trying to spend as much money as possible. You have never seen so many coaches and taxis in all you life waiting to pick them up and take them to the tourist traps.
We are planning to visit Gomera and possible Hierro too before the big one so I hope to report from there. If not then I should be able to post something before we tackle the Pond.