Monday, 24 March 2014

Views of Carriacou

Tyrrel Bay looking toward the lagoon
In the lagoon
UFO - unidentified fishy object...

Frigate bird
This gorgeous craft was our neighbour for a few days
One way of identifying where you are on this island - the rubbish bins

Windward's latest boat building project

Love the colours



Walking the quay at Windward

Imaginative use of pallets - bus stop seating
Tyrrel Bay

Lambi Queen, Tyrrel Bay

Sandy Island on the horizon - our next destination

Monday, 17 March 2014

North to a Cruisers Paradise - Carriacou

There is a volcano under there!
If the south coast of Grenada with its cruisers social events, happy hours, taxi tours and evening entertainment is the cruising equivalent of a holiday camp then its northerly neighbour Carriacou is a quiet paradise. Part of the same country along with the island of PM (Petit Martinique), Carriacou is a thin twisting volcanic outpost in amongst coral reefs. To reach it by boat from Grenada you have to sail round the exclusion zone of a live underwater volcano! Much less mountainous Carriacou permits the trade clouds to pass over the hills and is therefore drier, lacking in rain forest but makes up for this with an abundance of sandy beaches and apparently has more rum bars than petrol stations (we’ve only seen one of the latter and there must be at least ten bars in shacks along the beach here alone). Temptress dropped the hook in the sheltered curve of Tyrrel Bay, dark sand and palm trees fringe the translucent sea, for the first time we could see the bottom where we’d anchored. Most of the bay is only a few metres deep unlike Grenada’s bays where the choice is usually out of soundings, ten plus metres or a tiny fringe of five or less.

Sunset Tyrrel Bay
 Ashore shoes are almost unnecessary as most of the cafes, shops and vegetable stalls front the beach. Everything a cruiser needs is here – customs & immigration recently relocated from the main town Hillsborough to the local boatyard, haul out facilities, sail repairs, fresh veg, cheap beers and cafes so not surprisingly there are probably a hundred boats either at anchor or on the scattered moorings. Some are charterers on a couple of weeks’ vacation; others long term live-aboards who spend most of the season here whilst yet others like ourselves are passing slowly through. Every type of vessel from a wreck of a tug to the intern island ferry, from a smart J105 “Jab Jab of Cowes” (on a mooring next to us, a useful object to swim out to and back) to cruising boats like Temptress, from wooden gaffers to huge catamarans, some slowly mouldering away other’s brand spanking new, some over fifty feet long others only just making twenty. The Grenada cruisers net reaches these parts too so we had some inkling of what to expect.  The Lazy Turtle does pizza’s and the Gallery Café breakfasts and local crafts. In between there are several rum shops (bars) and local food establishments (huts with a BBQ serving chicken, fish or oil down)

Kevin wondering if he can have a new toy

Main Street Hillsborough - looking towards town
One of several BBQ shacks in Hillsborough
Main Street, Hillsborough - looking out of town
We arrived late Thursday afternoon. Friday we completed some chores; a pile of laundry ( a pink job) and an engine check (a blue job). The latter revealed a leaky injector and a blown fuse on the engine extractor fan, explaining the diesel-ly smell that recently has plagued us in the saloon after the engine has been running for a while. The laundry was simply an hour or so of elbow grease followed by reading in the cockpit for another couple of hours while it dried but the engine issues will take a little longer to solve. The sparse chandlery here hasn’t got the right size fuse and it took until Saturday morning to find a number for the local mechanic who won’t be working until Monday. Saturday we purchased some fresh veg from Rufus a local farmer who sets up his stall on the beach road once a week – lovely fresh basil, green beans, a bag of spinach, some sweet potatoes all harvested this morning and a lb (no metrication here) of sapodillos (an extremely sweet segmented fruit looking like an over large kiwi on the outside with flesh and flavour more mango-like) - total cost 23 EC$, about £5.

Hillsborough Bay from Main Street
Then we took the local bus (think minibus with reggae music) to town – Hillsborough - for 3.50EC$ each so Kevin could find himself a haircut and I could find a pharmacy as having been feeling a bit under the weather for a few days I appear to have tonsillitis if peering at my throat in the heads mirror is anything to go by. The first pharmacy was a window in a wall inside of a supermarket. Though helpful the assistant had little on her shelves beyond that you would find in a European supermarket; vitamins, rubs, painkillers and plasters. Round the corner in the next street was a proper chemist shop with a helpful pharmacist who found me a throat spray from his shelves and directed his assistant to give me some Strepsils…I was a bit bemused when she opened a large sweet jar and counted out five strips of two lozenges each, so taken aback in fact that I failed to notice how much they cost but at least my throat is more comfortable.

Hillsborough is the local shopping mecca – white goods, carpets, replacement windows, hardware, supermarkets, clothes and more; every business seems to sell some assortment of these and if you look in through the open door you are instantly greeted and urged in to take a look. We peaked in Patty’s Deli – lots of lovely foody things but no bread left unfortunately. Everyone is friendly, the barber was listening to the BBC World Service and owned up to being an Archers fan! The anchorage though looks quite rolly as the trade wind swell works its way in from the north so we’ll stick to the bus ride rather than taking Temptress round.  A bus ride here is always eventful, on the way back we made a detour so that the young mother and daughter who had ridden down with us earlier could collect a heavy sack of rice from one of the stores before heading back to the bus terminus in case anyone else wanted a trip to Estrelle, Harvey Vale or Tyrrel Bay!

Follow the seahorses to the beach in Hillsborough
So here we are back on the boat, Kevin turned some of our surplus of Spanish onions left over from our Transatlantic into a surplus of French Onion soup a la Delia (Smith, one of our two big cookbooks on board, the other being the delightful Nigel Slater). It was his first attempt at traditional French cuisine and made an excellent late lunch. This evening we’ve been invited to join a cruiser drinks and supper event but as the crew of Blue Zulu  Steve and Mags, who invited us, only knew the time to rendezvous (5pm at the Lambi Queen Restaurant jetty) we are in the dark as to what and where. Plenty of time before then for a swim and a shower, we are getting into the Caribbean lifestyle – everything shuts at lunchtime on Saturday and doesn’t re-open until Monday morning so the cruisers just hang out (lime) once the Saturday shopping is finished.

Nutmegs, Rum, Chocolate and a Retired Revolutionary

Packing Nutmegs
Clement Baptiste (CB) advertised his heritage tour on the Grenada Cruisers Net (VHF ch 66 07:30 Mon-Sat) so wanting to see something of the island Kevin & I gathered together a couple of other boat crews – Michael & Gilla SY Wolf who we originally met in Lanzarote, and Ian and Trish of SY Sanctuary from the Isle of Man who are anchored next door.  Then last Tuesday the six of us met CB in the car park of Prickly Bay Marina on the south west corner of the island. CB proved to be a larger than life character with a history closely associated with the Marxist government that ruled this paradise for a few years from the late 70’s. His view of the events leading up to the American invasion was extremely personal and fascinating. CB then a young man in his thirties with a wife and family, was a driver to one of the Russian VIPs until the Grenadian leader Maurice Bishop stopped off to pay a visit to President Reagan during his return from a trip to the Kremlin upsetting the rest of Grenada’s ruling party.

Nutmegs drying in their shells
Along with many of his fellow countrymen CB resigned from his job almost as soon as Maurice Bishop was put under house arrest. A few days later CB was one of the vast crowd that freed the leader initially but then the ruling party re-arrested him and put him and several of his cronies before a firing squad before hunting down and imprisoning those who had released him. CB spent several months in hiding, not very difficult on this small island with its mountainous terrain covered in thick rain forest. Eventually in October 1983 the Americans landed and after some fighting ousted the Cuban and Russian forces from their foothold in the Eastern Caribbean on the oil route from Venezuela. CB was then reunited with his family and now some thirty years later is entertaining and informing tourists with his left wing views and personal take on the islands history from the arrival of the French who may or may not have massacred the indigenous population (or did they jump to their deaths from the cliffs at the north?) to the present day invasion of cruising sailors from all over the world.

Sack stencils - major ports all over the world
We've worked a few places where this would be apt
So what did we learn – most of today’s locals are descended from slaves from the Ashanti tribe of West Africa brought by the French and later the English to work the plantations; bananas and sugar cane were imported and grow successfully to this day. Later in the 19th century nutmeg seedlings were brought from Indonesia to the island by an Englishman; Grenada is today the second largest producer of nutmegs in the world (Indonesia is the first). Many nutmeg trees were destroyed by hurricane Ivan in 2004 but the industry is recovering with new trees planted. It takes about 15 years for a nutmeg tree to produce fruit. The locals grow the trees in their gardens and farms and the nutmeg is collected and processed by an island wide co-operative at two of three stations around the island. Every part of the nutmeg is useful; the outer soft yellowy skin is pressed for juice, the inner red coating is dried to become mace and the nut is dried before shelling. The best quality nutmegs are shipped all over the world for food use, the rest are used for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Even the hard shell of the nut is not wasted, ground down to make a mulch to fertilise the soil and prevent weeds in local fields and gardens.

Sugar cane crusher
Sugar cane is used to make the national drink Rum, mostly white but some dark and some spiced is also produced. Our tour took us to the Antoine River distillery where they still use machinery from the eighteen hundreds to crush the cane, heat and ferment the juices then distil the spirit. Rivers White Rum is strong, so strong ice does not float and a tot takes your breath away. Not everyone’s choice, certainly Temptress’ crew prefer dark, smooth rums like Appleton’s Estate or Mount Gay from elsewhere in the Caribbean but the south coast distillery Clarkes Court produces a dark tot that is drinkable enough, though their spicy version is a bit on the rough side.

Fermenting sugar cane
The cocoa bean grows all over the island; in plantations and in gardens and again is collected by a co-operative and much is processed to produce Grenadian Organic Chocolate. Thanks to CB’s contacts we were privileged to have an unofficial tour of the actual factory – a tiny place with a handful of employees taking the raw nuts and producing hand wrapped bars for export and local purchase.  Probably the only chocolate where the best before date is hand written on the wrapper and very delicious it is too if dark, rich chocolate is your thing; hunt it down in your local store or buy it online here!

The chocolate factory

Cocoa beans
All in all a splendid day out with oil down for lunch (the national dish consisting of fried fish, chicken and lots of starchy root veg plus solid grey dumpling chunks in a sort of curried gravy, spicy and filling) in one of the north eastern villages. Towards late afternoon we visited one of the many waterfalls on the island, it was raining which was pleasant to stand about in after the earlier heat. None of us were equipped to swim but we did pay one of the local young jumpers to leap from the top into 50 feet into the pool below – what a way to earn a living!

Jumping for a living
After a final scenic drive down through the jungle we reached the town as everyone refers to St Georges and were soon onto familiar roads back to Prickly Bay in time for a sundowner at the bar.

Monday, 10 March 2014

A BYOD Event...

(Bring Your Own Dinghy)

Take one large steel work barge, one length of concrete pontoon and a small tug; add a bar under a marquee roof on the barge and a band under a bimini on the aft deck of the tug plus some sizeable speakers, some bench seating and a large number of sailors and you have a unique concert  in the bay. The three of us like everyone else arrived by boat at the floating concert venue moored in the middle of Clarke Court Bay, Woburn, Grenada on Wednesday afternoon. And like many people we came armed with vouchers for a free beer courtesy of Island World chandlery where we had been shopping for boat bits a few days previous.

By the time the band struck up their first notes there were around thirty or forty yacht tenders tied to the barge, pontoon or to each other. Water taxis delivered yet more of the audience and then the Rum Runner, a two storied steel catamaran, like a river fun boat turned up bringing another bar and a couple of hundred more people to swell the audience. A local sailing work boat with lateen rigged tan sails worked it’s way to windward then rounded up to come alongside the bar on the steel barge, it’s lady skipper danced her way through the concert in its foredeck.

The band appropriately named the Rocking Pontoons was excellent, the audience friendly and the sun shone. Paul and Kevin choose to sit on benches on the pontoon whilst I lounged leisurely in the dinghy chatting to the occupants of neighbouring boats. From four thirty until sunset the band played and we all had a great time. Then before darkness fell the three of us headed up the bay to Clarke Court Marina for a burger supper, dancing to another talented band (a former Icelandic popstar dazzling us guitar, a local physics teacher with an incredible voice plus an expat Brit drummer) for a few more hours. Finally around nine pm we sought out Temptress in the dim light of a new moon, getting more than a little damp motoring the dinghy up wind to where she lay at anchor above Hog Island. All in all one amazing afternoon of music and fun and you can watch a bit of the action here.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Repairing a shroud plate at sea

The base showing the sheared bolts
When the deck fitting sheared on the port hand forward lower shroud the skipper reacted with his usual cool level headedness when things get tough. For non-sailors this shroud is a thick wire cable between the forward edge of the mast at the lower spreader level and the deck. The deck fitting is a thick oval of stainless steel with a tang welded diagonally on the top to which the shroud is attached via a bottle screw.
Within an hour a temporary repair was rigged tying the fitting at the end of the wire to the toe rail in three places using a length of dyneema (ultra strong rope like steel). The shroud itself is not too structurally important unlike the wires that run from the top of the mast to the deck but it is still part of the whole rig and would affect performance and could compromise things in windier weather on the other tack when it would be under tension as the mast leans away from it.
The workshop - the blue box became the workbench

By first light Kevin had thought through a potential solution which would involve drilling out the original bolts from the deck fitting, knocking through the remaining stumps in the deck then using the largest bolts we had on board bolt, bolt through fitting, deck and the under deck base plate. The heads of the original bolts had been welded into the fitting so it was going to be a tough job making the holes.
 Without a vice or a proper workshop a storage box wedged in the corner of the cockpit became a workbench and a strong hand supported the thick piece of metal. Joe wielded the battery operated drill. Pieces of metal flew everywhere, shoes were required as was a regular brushing to avoid traipsing the sharp shards all over the boat. First pilot holes were made then gradually widened using progressively larger drills until they reached the ten mm diameter of the new bolts. The process was slow as despite having two batteries; in the warmth of a tropical day charging took a long time as the small inverter (one designed for in car charging of camera batteries and phones) kept overheating.
Under deck the old bolts looked firm
There was plenty to do though, the remainder of the old bolts needed knocking through the deck and the whole area required cleaning up of sealant and crud so that the fitting could be re-bedded without any leaks. Vital not only to the health of the replacement bolts but the First Mate would not appreciate sea water drips on her head when lying in bed directly below the fitting.

Eventually charging took so long that it was easier to empty the aft storage cabin and retrieve the big inverter tucked at the very back. Not an easy task at sea as all our storage boxes had to be stacked up carefully so they didn't fall about the rocking saloon or empty themselves over the floor. Everything survived but we were all hot and sticky by the time it was all tucked away again.

Once the deck plate was bolted in place the shroud could be re-connected and tensioned which was a bit tricky on a bucking boat but Kevin and Joe did a great job. The bottle screw was re-taped and unless you looked closely you'd never know the shroud had been repaired. The next step is to replace the temporary bolts with ones of the correct size, 16 mm purchased yesterday in a local chandlery.  The marina staff at Whisper Cove have promised to take Kevin to a workshop later today where he can drill out the deck fitting more accurately with bigger holes as their own press drill is not big enough.

Charging a drill battery
Eventually we had to dig out the big inverter from the very back of the stores
Filing the holes out

Ready to re-fit

Cleaning up the topside and being pleasantly splashed with spray

The new bolts in place with lots of washers

Re-fitting the shroud to the deck plate

Monday, 3 March 2014

Transatlantic in pictures

Not enough to feed four

It shouldn't be this cold

Talking hats

Rocking rolling dish washing (the stove top is horizontal)

Stormy skies

Rainbow - no this is not the English Channel

Chilling out

Boat Ted says Hi!

More chilling

Another dawn at sea

Poled out gennie and 3rd reef - our preferred sail plan

A block reduces jib sheet chaf

Sunny seas

Big seas

"A Solitary Journey" by Charles Violet

Another sunset

Land Ho! St David's Harbour, Grenada