Born of the Sea

Preparing for a phased retirement on the sea. Muirgen (Gaelic for 'born of the sea')

14 May 2024 | Union Island, SVG
10 May 2024 | Mayreau, Grenadines
09 May 2024 | Tobago Cays, Grenadines
07 May 2024 | Mayreau, Grenadines
05 May 2024 | Mustique, Grenadines
02 May 2024 | Baliceaux, Grenadines
01 May 2024 | Bequia, SVG
22 April 2024 | Saint Vincent
15 April 2024 | Marigot Bay, Saint Lucia
08 April 2024 | Saint Lucia National Parks
06 April 2024 | Rodney Bay / Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
31 March 2024 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
13 March 2024 | Iles des Saintes
10 March 2024 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe
03 March 2024 | Monserrat to Guadeloupe
02 March 2024 | Monserrat

A Change of Plan

20 February 2024
Donna Cariss
Friday 16th February, we had a great sail from Jolly Harbour to Low Bay, Barbuda. The sails were up within 15 minutes of leaving, so around 0800 hours. I took the helm for the first couple of hours, as the wind speed was up and down and the direction varied, due to the topography of the land. I enjoy helming under these conditions and it saves battery power if the autohelm isn't in use. Once we were well clear of land, we had an almost constant wind and not too much swell, so I let the autohelm take over. We had the fishing line out but failed to catch anything but seagrass today, which was disappointing, following the successful catches we had the last time we made this trip. There must have been fish around, in the shallows off Barbuda, as we saw eagle rays jumping out of the water in pursuit but our line was in by then, due to the shallow depths and reefs. We anchored in the north of Low Bay at 1445 hours. There was a big, rolling swell coming in from the northwest, despite and easterly wind and and easterly swell between Antigua and Barbuda but we were partially protected by the outlying reefs. After last night's over-indulgence, we had an alcohol free Friday. I didn't sleep at all well and I was as stiff as a board next morning.
There wasn't enough wind to sail to St Barts on Saturday, so we relaxed on board all day. By lunchtime, all the other yachts and cats had departed and we were alone until a catamaran made its way through the outlying reefs, just before sunset. It anchored well out from the beach, so we didn't make their acquaintance. Earlier, we had upped anchor and gone to look at conditions a few hundred metres south but the rocking and rolling there was worse, so we returned to our original anchorage. The big swells eased late evening and I had a much better night's sleep.
On Sunday morning we were up at 0545 and the anchor was raised at 0615, when we had enough light to see the waves breaking on the reefs. We raised the mainsail straight away and motored out between the reefs. The swell was much bigger outside the reefs and there was no wind that early in the morning. As the wind picked up, the mainsail started to assist with our progress under engine but the swell coming out of the north was so big that the sail was collapsing and banging with each roll. There certainly wasn't enough wind to sail alone in those conditions. Predict Wind had forecast a northerly swell but of a maximum 1 metre and we had 3 metres, occasionally more. We saw many flying fish, on both sides of the boat and then at 0920 we caught a magnificent barracuda, which we released as it was too big to safely eat. With the wind behind us increasing, we had a southeasterly swell now, which was competing with the swell from the north and creating a very confused sea and we were corkscrewing in the waves. It was like being on a rollercoaster that you couldn't get off. The wind was coming round too and we were having to adjust our course to keep the wind in the mainsail, as we didn't fancy our chances of having the sail on the starboard side while the northerly swell was winning the fight. Eventually though, the south-easterly swell won out and we jibed the mainsail at 1020 hours. At 1115, I sighted St Kitts off to the portside and 30 minutes later, St Barts almost on the nose but we still had a long way to go. As we later crossed into French waters, we almost caught 2 fishing pots, blue to match the sea and extremely hard to spot in the swell. That led to us having to do pot watch for the remainder of the journey but we only saw another 2 sets. When we came into sight of Fort Gustavia, we realised why. The place is full of superyachts that would just rip up any pots that had been laid. We couldn't quite believe our eyes at the vast number of boats on mooring buoys and in the anchorages, from small yachts to 90 metre gin palaces. It was ridiculously busy. We still had the mainsail up, as it had been too rough to drop it before rounding the end of St Barts, so we found a small space, turned head to wind and dropped it in one. Pete tidied it up while I idled round, under engine, avoiding the traffic and the anchored boats. Having toured around, we eventually anchored in 12 metres of water in Anse Gaston, surrounded by superyachts. When darkness fell, it was like being at Blackpool illuminations. Other than the sound of goats on the hillside, this was not the place for us. We didn't go ashore to clear in, choosing to spend a night at anchor under the yellow Q flag and we were in bed at 8pm. It had been another frustrating passage. It was very windy overnight and the boat was rolling but I managed to sleep in and off, in the saloon berth, getting up every so often to check that we hadn't dragged.
We departed St Barts at 0637 and motored across to Ile Fourchue, 3 miles to the north, It's a private island, with 10 free mooring buoys in the bay and you are allowed to stay for up to 7 days. We squeezed between the reef and the land and were pleased to see that we had a choice of 2 buoys, so we elected to take the one closer in shore. It took 2 attempts to hook the buoy, as the wind was blowing the nose off and I also couldn't see the buoy from the helm once we were close to it. Once we were on, we had some breakfast and a snooze in the cockpit. The island is like a Scottish outcrop, rather than a Caribbean island and is reported as having good hiking, so we went ashore by dinghy, wearing walking boots. There were no discernible trails, so we made our way upwards, through the scrub. Pete headed higher than me, as I was concerned about the scramble back down but the views were magnificent anyway. You could see St Barts and St Martin very easily and had a good view of the anchorage. Pete startled a very large iguana. We returned to the beach and headed in the other direction, with Pete climbing up to get photos of the boobies and their chicks. It was hot on the land, with no breeze there and we were burning, so returned to the boat and had a swim to cool off. Then Pete suggested that, as we had 2000 miles to go to Guatemala, that we up anchor and head over to St Martin, as we didn't really have time to hang around. We had 100 days to get to our final destination, so needed to average 20 miles a day. There would be some very long passages on the way, meaning we had some time to spare but not very much. I wasn't best pleased to be rushing along yet again. It was just under 20 miles to St Martin and we hoped to make some progress sailing downwind under the foresail but the strong wind from the morning had gone, so it was another motorsail for the 9 miles across the sea and the 10 miles down and round the coast. St Martin / St Maarten is half French and half Dutch and we were sailing in Dutch waters to get to the French side. The Dutch side is quite industrial and full of high rise buildings, hotels and casinos, while the French side is more rustic. As we passed the airport, just beyond the safety buoys, the planes were coming in thick and fast and very low overhead. It was fascinating to see. The planes were practically taking peoples' heads off on the beach as they came in to land. As we rounded the point, the wind picked up and we were doing 7 to 8 knots for a time, before we needed to drop the foresail as the wind came round on the nose, for the last couple of miles into Baie de Marigot. It was busy but not like Fort Gustavia and we found a good place to anchor in around 3 metres of water. It was 1645, so too late to go ashore to clear in. We had a very comfortable night at anchor, interrupted by me having a strop about the pressure of having to cover 2000 miles in 100 days, alongside all the bureaucracy of getting into the USVIs and Puerto Rico.
Next morning, we hailed a passing dinghy, to get some information on where to clear in, fill up with diesel and water. The young Aussie couple were really helpful and we were soon taking Muirgen over to the dock, which was on the starboard side of the canal that runs into the lagoon and Simpson Bay. The canal is only about 30 feet wide, so we reversed in beyond the dock and then eased forward, allowing the wind to blow us on. A friendly guy, fluent in French and English, welcomed us and set about filling us up with diesel and making the water hose available. We moved off again and anchored close by, so that we could return in the dinghy to clear in at the chandlery, La Marine. It was very easy to clear in using the computer and there was no charge. Another friendly and dual language guy reviewed the print out, checked the passports and ships papers and stamped and signed the paperwork. We purchased courtesy flags for the USA and Puerto Rico, served by a friendly and dual language lady, before heading through the canal and into the lagoon to see what was there. We had a late breakfast at Cafe Natural, croissants and coffee and an enjoyable chat with the owner and her 10 year old daughter, the latter being fluent in English, French and Spanish, as well as having some Creole. We were impressed. On our return, we picked up bottled water from a small supermarket and stopped by Island Water World to change our gas bottle. There is everything here in Marigot, St Martin that a sailor could need. Back on board, we picked up our anchor and relocated closer to the dinghy dock near the marina, so we could go ashore to provision the boat. We had been told that the Super U, 15 minutes walk away delivered to the dinghy dock, which was ideal for us, as we wouldn't be able to carry everything we wanted to buy. While in France, we wanted to purchase plenty of tinned food, cassoulet, vegetables, potato gratin, plus pasta and sauces, to ensure that we could eat well when we were in Cuba. We also bought cheap bags of spaghetti for the Cuban people, who struggle to buy pasta, as well as meat and poultry. Pete enquired about delivery at the supermarket and they said they only did that between 8am and 10am but they would call a taxi for us when we were ready to check out, so we did our big shop. We ended up sharing a taxi with a German couple, which was just as well as they charged us €30 for the 5 minute journey back to the dinghy dock. We loaded up the dinghy and Pete had to leave me on the dock with a few items, as there was no more room. Having stowed away the fresh food, we had a bite to eat before putting away the rest of our shop. So, we had spent a couple of hundred quid provisioning for the longterm, when Pete suggested that we had an alternative to going to Guatemala and it was something that I had thought about myself overnight. If we didn't head any further west, we could change our minds and return south and leave the boat in Grenada, which is south of the hurricane belt, for the summer. It was 428 miles to Grenada in a straight line. The words were out of his mouth and he couldn't take them back. The decision was made to spend a leisurely 100 days exploring the islands between St Martin and Grenada, delaying the sail to Guatemala for at least a year. We spent a couple of hours doing research and sending emails before taking the dinghy to a Breton bar for a beverage. The bar / restaurant, The Dock, was on the canal-side, going into the lagoon and it was interesting to watch the boats coming and going. We spotted our Danish friend, met in Guadeloupe, passing in his dinghy, along with his son, his French bulldog and some other family members and hailed him for a chat. Fred(erique), the owner of the bar, was very welcoming and friendly and enjoyed getting me to converse in French, although he was fluent in English. We hadn't gone there to eat but the smell of the pizzas got to us eventually and we ended up sharing one; it was delicious. Back on board, it was lovely to know that there would be no hard slog to Guatemala and that we could relax and enjoy our time in St Martin. WE would just need to eat cassoulet for the next 3 months!
Comments
Vessel Name: Muirgen
Vessel Make/Model: Westerly Typhoon
Hailing Port: Hull
Crew: Donna and Peter Cariss
Muirgen's Photos - Main
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Photos are limited as the weather was dreadful and was mostly a white out. Photos are from the phone as too wet to take the cameras.
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The Beautiful Kvitsoy
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Weekend with Hommersak Divers at Kvitsoy
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Mad creatures
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Getting to Norway and waiting for Donna to fly out
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Buying Muirgen
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