Sunday, 22 June 2014

Exploring the Rainforest Hash Style

Kevin enjoying his rainforest walk

A teeny waterfall at one of the stream crossings

Frederick climbing the hill

A cow in the rainforest

Cabbages!

Nutmegs

Cocoa beans

Amazing views make the climbs worthwhile

Birch Grove village

Resting..

...and enjoying the BBQ & bear
The Grenada Hash House Harriers meet every Saturday to run or walk a trail on the island - Saturday 21 June it was around Birch Grove, St Andrews. Kevin & I were virgins and treated accordingly with a cooling beer shower once we'd finished. It was a hot and steamy walk through the rain forest, over streams and past little farmed clearings but well worth it for the views and the company. More photo's of the afternoon can be found on the Grenada Hash Facebook page. Definitely something to do again once our legs have recovered!

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Voyage of the Platypussies

Prickly Bay Beach
 It is Tuesday evening so it must be Trivia Night in Prickly Bay. Ian & Jacqui of Blackthorn Lady, Nancy of Moondancer, Jim of Lady Jane and of course Temptress’ crew formed the Platypussies; a nice balance of Brits and N Americans. Cruising families, other cruiser teams of all nationalities and the mostly American medical students were our competition through the forty “international” questions. We scratched our heads over a word that related to a motely list of things including “wine”, “bookbinding”, “island”, and “promontory” (mull), we puzzled over an obscure bit of sea somewhere north of Borneo (Sulu) and wrongly identified Namibia as Pakistan but we were good at selecting our 10 bonus answers (scoring double points, if you got it wrong it would be minus 4 points) so the Platypussies ended the night in joint third, won the nail biting tie-break so scoping the star prize (the first and second placed teams have already enjoyed this in previous weeks); a 2 hour donut ride including 3 pizzas and a case of beer!

Thursday just after noon seven of us gathered on the dock, the observant of you will realise that we’d gained an extra team member Kat who is sailing with Nancy for a few weeks. Laden with hot pizzas in takeaway boxes straight from the Tikki Bar’s kitchen, 24 bottles of Grenada’s finest Carib together with two bags of ice to cool the beers, some olives and a few bottles of water and soft drinks it was time to cast off. We also packed swimming stuff (not used) and a handheld VHF (with a yachmaster examiner, a yachtmaster theory instructor and a yachtmaster on board it was right we were equipped for all eventualities).  Captain Susie signed the paperwork whilst Kevin ensured the kill cord was nicely draped over the structure holing up the sunshade prior to starting the engine. We made ourselves comfortable as Nancy untied the lines.

There was some trepidation about how well an essentially circular craft with a giant umbrella would perform with just a 5 HP outboard but moved along at a reasonable rate and could be steered roughly in the desired direction. There was a temptation to head out to sea but with the “step-in bow” open to the elements it was felt prudent to stay behind the southernmost reef at the entrance to Prickly Bay. The Platypussies made a slow circuit of the bay devouring the rapidly cooling pizzas and enjoying seeing the shore from new angles. The series of reefs on the eastern shore below all the lovely houses looks interesting for a snorkelling trip sometime. A couple of departing yachts were amused to see us tootling round, slowing down for photographs as we crossed their paths and a German couple in a small rib who’d come round from the next bay to swim/snorkel came alongside to say hello as we crossed the entrance. Our craft was actually quite well behaved in the swell and we were by now getting into the swing of things.

Eventually our circumnavigation of the bay had taken in Temptress, Blackthorn Lady, Lady Jane and a circuit of Moondancer (mainly so Nancy could photograph her boat from the water). Onward to see the palm tree lined Prickly Beach from the water; usually only glimpsed at from the shopping bus on the way to town each week. In the empty bay along the beach (yachts are not permitted to anchor within 600 feet of the beach) the donut motored towards the eastern shore. The crew were admiring and debating on which of the handsome properties above us would make a pleasant if unaffordable land base when Kevin cut the engine allowing our odd craft to drift gently downwind across the bay in the light breeze – the umbrella serving as an excellent sail.

After a while our lazy progress back along the beach brought us close to the reef off the northwest corner. Kevin restarted the engine and propelled us back towards the eastern shore so we could repeat our drift. This time having started from a slightly different spot the donut picked up a current or possibly a slightly different breeze or both and began to head into the midst of the anchored boats. Our jovial comments about a possible collision with a boat whose anchor ball that wasn’t quite the right shape meaning they could not possibly be anchored and therefore needed take avoiding action, awoke Dave and Treena from an up to then peaceful siesta. 

The beer was fast running out, the pizza long scoffed and our two hours of fun almost up. The crew reluctantly decided it was time to head back to the marina’s dinghy dock. Thank-you Darren, Davide and the staff at Prickly Bay Marina and the Tikki Bar – seven adults have not had so much afternoon fun messing around in a boat for a long time (that is in the loosest sense of the word “boat”).  It was only the following morning that Darren informed us that we should have used the hand held VHF to call out Rescue One to remedy the emergency that was running out of cold beers!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Dry Feet at Night

It is always satisfying when you find a new use for kit or gadgets that have languished on a shelf for some time. In Temptress' case a Windscoop purchased in Shepherds Chandlery, Gib back in 2001 and that still looking brand new, has been rolled up on a cabin shelf for several years seeing only occasional use on summer cruises.  Cooling breezes weren't something we needed to capture often in the UK whilst here in the Caribbean the constant trade winds make a wind scoop equally obsolete.

However now the rainy season is upon us we do have the small problem of keeping dry with the forward heads hatch open channelling the breeze down below as it also channels in every shower or downpour. Rain is especially annoying at night; one of us would have to get out of bed to shut the bow facing hatch to ensure the skippers feet didn't get wet as the accompanying wind blows the rain  through the open door into our cabin. And later, after the rain stops, we'd awake in stifling heat, bathed in sweat. Not pleasant nor conducive to a good nights unbroken sleep with the frequent heavy downpours we've experienced most nights this week.

Saloon lee cloth - big enough for Kevin but not for a hatch
The answer it seemed looking round at boats anchored here Prickly Bay is to have some sort of cover suspended like an umbrella from the guard-wires high enough to permit air to flow in but low and large enough to stop the rain blowing underneath as far as the open hatch. Initially I, as the resident seamstress on board, investigated purchasing canvas but was unable to buy sufficient locally for this and a couple of other planned projects. We were faced with shipping a supply in from overseas, the cost of which is beyond our pocket (if someone knows of a cheap source of 10-20m of material suitable for a dinghy cover and some dodgers in Grenada or Trinidad I'd welcome suggestions).

Being at anchor means the bow always points into any breeze. Here rain is usually accompanied by squally winds which blow the wetness quite a distance. We tried the new lee cloth I made in January for ur Atlantic crossing to see if that would work but the 1.5 x 2m rectangle of canvas was pathetically small when placed over the relevant part of the foredeck. The aim is to have the cover stretch far enough forward to prevent the rain being blown underneath as far back as the open hatch.

Trying the Windscoop for size
Light bulb moment when pondering what other large piece of cloth I might use! What about the Windscoop - essentially a long thin triangle with narrow "wings" designed to attach to a length of dowel (placed inside the hatch so the scoop can follow the wind). Alternatively the scoop base may be fitted round a hatch so has some eyelets for tying it down. There are loops on Temptress' deck just aft of the hatch placed there by a previous owner possibly for just this purpose. Usually the apex of the triangle is attached to a halyard and the scoop is held upright facing the breeze. However as a rain shelter the top end needs to be much lower just inches above the deck. With assistance from the skipper and some oddments from Temptress' useful string box holding bits in places I realised that the single eyelet at the apex wasn't sufficient. Two new eyelets using brass grommets fixed either side of the batten that keeps the top part open were required. 

One of the new grommets in place
There was a slight delay as the cheap plastic hole cutters the grommet inserting kits in my sail repair box contained had such burred edges they were pathetic not even marking the fabric.  A quick trip to Budget Marine provided a Handi Grommet kit, with a sharp new cutter and much better grommet fixing tools in steel. Ten minutes of hammering later and we were ready to give the new "hatch umbrella" a try. Once in place there seemed a good if slightly reduced airflow through the boat and we didn't have long to wait for a heavy downpour to test the umbrella part. Last night we finally had a good night's cool sleep interrupted only by the sound of heavy rain on the cabin top at intervals.
Making some final adjustments

It may glow a bit orange down below but at least it is now dry

Thursday, 12 June 2014

12 Volt Sockets Are Always Useful

Like most people we have a growing collection of portable gadgets than need charging however like many cruisers Temptress rarely visits marinas meaning we don't have the convenience of a 240v electricy supply. So with two mobile phones, two Kindles and a plethora of other 12 volt guzzling items including stuff like an electric toothbrush and the vacuum cleaner that we charge via a small inverter designed for use in a car, suitable charging outlets are in seriously short supply on board.

This is despite there being a two pin DC socket in each heads plus one by the galley and a USB socket hanging from the nav station. Another really impractical outlet, exists inside a locker in the saloon designated by the builders for a portable TV or similar but now used for storage so crammed with binoculars, torches, spare batteries, radios, the foghorn(s) and a few small games - not practical to have open in a rocking anchorage and with its drop down flap being above a popular spot on the sofa, you’re not flavour of the month if you have a power cord hanging out the hole where the catch is either.

Our aft heads 12 v outlet has the cockpit lights permanently plugged in to it, the forward heads the anchor light; both essential whilst we are stationary though sometimes commandeered during the day if suitable plugs can be spared. Charging your phone in the shower always seems a bit risky but somehow charging a toothbrush is ok. The galley outlet also requires a 12v plug which is fine however we have only one set up where a 12v DC plug that fits these continental sockets with their flat slots is attached to a cigarette lighter type socket usually used for the anchor light and anyway anything that uses it has to have a suitable plug. We aren’t about to replace the USB plugs on the end of every phone or Kindle charger as that would be totally impractical off the boat so it has not been unusual in recent weeks to see a queue of items lined up on the chart table waiting for some charge from the sole USB outlet.

LED cockpit lights plugged in, aft heads

The anchor light needs its fused plug
so uses our portable 12v cigarette lighter socket set-up

Chart table jumble
As it was raining hard this morning (Tuesday), outdoor jobs though preferable as it is cooler on top than down below, had to be postponed. Kevin decided to tackle the 12v charging congestion instead. As usual simply adding a socket to an existing circuit, that for the other 12v DC plugs, meant dismantling various bits of the boat, including removing the radar and the woodwork behind the galley sockets to which the second autopilot head is attached and required the GPS removing too. It looked a mess, not helped by all the cables that then hang out. Drilling a hole in the woodwork and wiring in an extra cigarette lighter style socket was then the easy part!




The new 12v socket - above it from the top
a French style 240V socket, a 12V DC socket and a light switch
and second row a UK 240V socket
Charging the wifi hotspot
via 12v USB/Cigarette lighter socket
Car inverter with a laptop plugged in
gets awfully hot but ok for emergencies

The new socket will take a plug designed for cars which has two USB ports contained within it – Hoorah! We can now charge two more items simultaneously! No more queuing for charge and Kevin’s Samsung which acts as Temptress’ own wifi hotspot (incredibly fast now 4G has come to the island of Grenada) can now be almost permanently on charge. Alternatively the car inverter can use it and thence the toothbrush or even a laptop can be charged. How long before we solve the two laptops but only one suitable 12v charging system conundrum I wonder?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Safety and Security - Pt II

Hurricane Risks

The hurricane or rainy season in the Caribbean officially starts on June 1st and lasts until well into November. Any storm even a gale can be hard on a boat so what is the risk? Grenada where Temptress is currently at anchor was hit badly by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and again by Hurricane Emily in 2005 so her crew are now carefully watching the weather every day. Trinidad where we plan to be in August has not been hit by a hurricane for over a hundred years (the last one being 1873) but has experienced several tropical storms mainly in August through to September. Being at the very south of the Atlantic hurricane belt major tropical storms are rare in this part of the world with around 25-30 since 1900. A tropical storm has less wind strength than a hurricane but can still cause severe damage to a moored or stored ashore yacht and wouldn’t be a particularly pleasant experience at sea with maximum sustained winds from 34 kt (39 mph or 63 km/hr) to 63 kt (73 mph or 118 km/hr), a hurricane has sustained winds higher than 63 kts.

From the start of July Temptress’ insurance terms change to include special clauses regarding named tropical storms. The actual policy states:
„NAMED TROPICAL STORMS" CLAUSE
10.1001/UK/0212
1. Definition
A Named Tropical Storm is defined as a tropical cyclone which is given a name by the “National Hurricane Centre” (www.nhc.noaa.gov).
2. Application and duration of this clause
This clause is operative between July 1st and November 15th, inclusive, in the area East of 98°W and West of 60°W, and between the Latitudes 10°N and 30.5°N. This clause does not apply in the Pacific Ocean.
3. Scope and conditions of hurricane cover
Loss or damage caused by Named Tropical Storms is excluded from this policy, unless the Vessel is
a) at sea (not anchored, moored or aground)
b) stored ashore in a one-piece cradle (except in the case of multihulls) with the cradle and Vessel securely lashed together and secured with ground anchoring arrangements, or the hull sunk in the ground. All removable parts (booms, spars, sails, awnings, etc.) are removed and st


ored safely. If the masts are removed, they are stored separately and safely. If the masts remain stepped they are secured by all possible means (using halyards, additional lines etc.) to the ground or:
c) secured and appropriately prepared for a Named Tropical Storm in a marina berth or on a mooring (anchored with adequate ground gear) or in the mangroves.
4. Deductible
In the event of a claim for hurricane damage which is accepted under condition 3. c), the deductible, in respect of each and every claim including actual or constructive total loss, is 20% of the total cost of the claim, subject to a maximum of EUR 100.000, or the deductible noted in the policy, whichever is the higher. For any claim accepted under condition 3. a) or 3. b), the deductible noted in the policy applies.

Sounds onerous with the area covered by the clause including the entire Caribbean Sea and beyond; everywhere from the Venezuelan coast to north of Florida, USA. In fact the negation of any risk is relatively simple, if a named storm or hurricane is predicted Temptress will be heading south to Trinidad a day's sail and if necessary, to Guyana to head up a river there a further 300 miles south east. Our storm preparation is based around avoidance if at all possible rather than sitting it out. With modern forecasting available 24x7on the internet we expect to have plenty of warning giving us time to prepare  or move but there still are risks we need to account for. For example if there is a family emergency back in the UK and we have to leave the boat somewhere in a hurry to fly back, where would be the safest place?
 
Temptress Barbate, Spain March 2002 during a hurricane
Temptress - Barbate, Spain March 2002 during a hurricane
Wedged in by the pontoon and boats from across the harbour
Our insurance company has advised we lodge a hurricane plan with them covering the months of July to November. It seemed a good idea anyway to ensure we know what is on offer from Grenada southwards so we’ve been doing a bit of research on the various options. Here in Grenada some marinas offer shelter in the mangroves in known hurricane holes along the island’s southern coast and if the owner is not present, will move a boat under their care to their preferred spot when a named storm is forecast. Other’s offer moorings or marina berths depending on the degree of shelter in their particular bay and a few offer space ashore but we have yet to track down a yard prepared to either put Temptress in a hole in the ground (it will have to some 1.5 m deep and several metres long to take our keel and rudder) or equipped with proper boat cradles as opposed to simple jackstands (which can vibrate and move) chained together for our sized boat as required by the insurance company.

Temptress Barbate, Spain March 2002 after the hurricane
Temptress is the second SO47 from the left,
the other one came across the harbour complete with finger berth
(foreground) and section of main pontoon
Even the fringes of a tropical storm will make itself felt damaging canvas work and sails if left in place. When leaving a boat in these regions for a week or more it is advisable to take off all the sails, the bimini, solar panels, twind generator and the sprayhood and store them below together with any other removable appendages like the dinghy, danbuoy etc. And it is not just the wind; the ensuing storm surge that can cause severe damage along coastlines lifting boats up off their moorings or out of their boatyard storage and discarding them again a long way inland. We experienced a little of this in Spain in 2002 when a hurricane hit Barbate Marina and the resulting surge combined with the winds destroyed the marina pontoon fixings causing mayhem as the boat laden pontoons blew down the harbour basin but fortunately Temptress survived this melee with only superficial gelcoat damage. Strong moorings whether to a pontoon, a buoy or the ground are essential; when the wind strength doubles then force put upon your boat hull quadruples (basic kinetics, think about stopping distances in a car, double the speed needs four times the distance) – food for thought.

Hills above Chatham Bay
Grazing land above Chatham Bay - tinder dry in May
For those interested in the risk of tropical storms or hurricanes over this season StormCarib.com provides a summary of the various predictions for the 2014 season which in summary are forecasting fewer than average storms and hurricanes. Of course these are only forecasts and reality may be quite different. Similarly a brief article in the CaribbeanCompass last month (May 2014) drew parallels between the dryness of the season prior to the summer and the occurrence of hurricanes – dryer winter, fewer hurricanes - and we are aware that this past winter has been unusually lacking in rain but this will not make us complacent. Storms are a real risk and it only takes one to destroy our home so our planning and watchfulness continues until early December.

For info on hurricanes, tropical storms and places to hide in Trinidad take a peek at this article.

And for those who missed it part I on boardings and theft can be found here

Monday, 9 June 2014

All Work and No Play...

...Could make Sailor Jack a dull boy

Life on a boat could become incredibly dull just like life spent on land despite all the wonderful places you can sail to. Cruising from place to place on a daily or weekly basis could soon become monotonous as harbours and islands blend together. Additionally a sailing boat requires perhaps more frequent care and maintenance than a bricks and mortar home but there is no escaping the chores of laundry, cleaning the heads (bathrooms), hoovering the floors and dusting plus as our walls are lined with teak we substitute decorating for a regular emptying of cabin shelves and lockers then washing down with soapy wood cleaner to ensure the collecting dust doesn't gather mould too. All work for the crew.

It is what you make of every day that makes life interesting so, following the lovely time we spent around Easter in Bequia, we decided Temptress would spend a few weeks anchored in one spot place once again so we can indulge in some shore-based activities. This time Grenada’s Prickly Bay with easy access to chandleries and buses and thence to shops for food etc. Grenada’s cruising community has an active social life which is perhaps a bit holiday-campish with yoga, chess, cooking classes and bingo amongst the activities on offer but it does provide us with the chance to get to know our fellow cruisers as well as some of those rooted in bricks and mortar.

Our first opt in was to a resource that has provided us with much help and knowledge since our arrival, the Grenada Cruisers Net broadcast at 07:30 Monday to Saturday on VHF 66. Our friends Geoff and Pat on Beach House in Tyrell Bay are heading back to Canada for the summer so Kevin volunteered to take over Geoffs Friday spot as net coordinator. He has some way to go to eclipse to the wonderful style of Morgan who seems to have elevated Saturday’s net edition to an entertaining art form but hopefully Kevin's “international” accent will be as informative and clear as Geoff’s professional broadcasting voice.

Meanwhile we managed with a bit of help from Belgian’s Kathy and Roger on Mockingbird, to manage a third place on our debut in the Tikki Bar’s Trivia night. This despite our team mates’ lack of English skills in a quiz where the first ten questions seemed to depend on knowledge of UK regional vernacular. Piped at the post by a much larger team of American student vets and a family of pizza-loving Irish! Friday Nights are band night and from next week the same bar, the only bar currently in Prickly Bay, will be holding Battle of the Bands, a competition for a 52 week contract to be their resident band. Being anchored nearby we will have no alternative but to hear each week’s four contestants so we may as well do it over a few beers!

View over Prickly Bay
Mount Airy Young Readers scheme was devised in 2006 by Jeanne Pascal, a lovely Grenadian lady who spent many years living in the UK. Once a week a group of cruisers are picked up by taxi-bus from the various harbours to join a few local adult volunteers; the drive up through the rainforest with views over the bays and St Georges is spectacular. About three dozen youngsters from five to teenage attend on Saturday mornings during term time. Susie volunteered last Saturday and had a wonderful if exhausting morning with a small group of five to nine year olds and Ladybird book 3a “Things We Like”. Amazing that today’s kids still love the pictures of red London buses, wooden rowing boats and Hornby trainsets so familiar from my own and my children’s childhood and probably less so the fact that I almost recalled all the words that accompany them without looking at the pages! They read in groups, practise spelling new words then play a board game in their group before a mass times-table rendition “one two is two, two into two goes once”. This is followed by a longer story that the children and teens take in turns to read aloud before finishing off with washing their hands and lining up in size order for a soft drink and a piece of cake. As with most of the kids we’ve met here this crowd are polite and well behaved with unprompted pleases and thank-you’s, keen to say hello, to find out your name and which country you are from but with all the exuberance and enthusiasm of similarly aged children and teens anywhere. They eagerly wave a hand in the air bouncing on their chair wanting to answer a question, fidget if things get a bit boring and have to be coaxed to read aloud in voices everyone can hear. A really worthwhile venture that I hope to be contributing too as much as I can whilst we are here in Grenada.

Already we have caught up with several of the boats we have met elsewhere in the Caribbean, Morocco or Europe and are getting to know a few new faces as well. Volunteering and a bit of play will keep us amused and entertained during our sojourn. This afternoon, Sunday, Temptress’ crew are off to play Mexican Grenadian Train Dominoes, our second session in a week of our latest passion!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Safety and Security - pt I

 Boardings And Theft

On last Thursday morning’s (5 June) Grenada Cruisers Net on VHF66 a boat anchored off the shore south of St George’s harbour reported they had been boarded during the night. The couple had woken to the sound of someone in the main cabin of their catamaran. By the time the husband had reached there the intruder was diving over the side leaving behind a puddle of sea water. It later transpired that the snorkel and flippers the swimmer was using were probably those missing from the cockpit of another boat nearby and that the catamaran who had woken to the intruder had not locked the doors between cockpit and saloon. Both were anchored within swimming distance of a collection of huts on the shore, a location where others confirmed there had been boardings and thefts in the past.

Back in the UK, the USA or wherever you call home, you’d lock your home at night prior to going to bed and anything of value you’d put away, locking the garden shed, garage or wherever it is stored. Having said that we often leave stuff like snorkelling gear out of sight on the cockpit floor to dry, too lazy to put it away in a locker after our daily swims but hey ho, out of sight out of mind. Our dinghy is always locked to the boat at night and if we ever happen to be alone in an anchorage with a previous reputation for theft (not that we have as yet) then we can raise it out of the water alongside Temptress quickly and easily, the dinghy being already permanently prepared for such an event with strops installed inside it. In fact we may do this more often as being hauled out delays the inevitable cleaning of slime and stuff growing on the bottom and drains the rain out.

In many anchorages we would be hesitant to anchor too close to the shore especially if it was a spot close to town but without nearby businesses and homes such as the St George/Grand Anse anchorage for risk of easy access from the shore by a swimmer. And, since it was made for us in the Canaries, Temptress always has her security bars inserted at night, though not necessarily locked; the noise of the bars being removed would quickly awaken us if footsteps in the cockpit hadn’t already done so. Finally our cockpit lights are usually switched off at the plug down below as recommended so we can turn them on without going up top if noises are heard on deck.

However looking at the stats, crime against cruisers is actually very low even if some incidents seem quite shocking. There have been some terrible headline making incidents resulting in death such as the gentleman who drowned after an attack by thieves who boarded his boat in St Lucia earlier this but on the whole even outboard thefts in the Caribbean have not reach the level of the UK (cf almost half a million pounds worth in Cornwall and Devon in 2012  and a major crime wave in Essex and Suffolk last year). The local police often lack resources to fight crime on their small island land let alone the comparatively infrequent crimes against the many sailors visiting to their country?

A regularly review postings on the Caribbean Safety andSecurity website  as well as Noonsite the cruisers encyclopedia of ports, immigration processes and more helps gauge the crime climate in potential anchorages. The latter is referred to affectionately on Temptress as Doomsite as most of the contributions seem to be of the Eeyore kind – “we’re doomed all doomed”. On a more positive note we both follow several Facebook groups for cruisers like the Grenada Cruisers page which offer info on places to enjoy, advice and news as well as all the social activities that make life swing for any retiree wherever they happen to be.

Personal safety and security is a yachties responsibility; yes it is good if as in Bequia, the coastguard regularly patrols the anchorage at night but if you don’t lock it expect to lose it. And understand the social background before arriving; don’t flaunt wealth in the face of the poorer islanders and avoid run down, drug dealing parts of town. The latter is not hard such areas are well documented and you would avoid them in your own home town anyway. Admittedly Trinidad has a huge murder rate BUT it is mostly localised to specific drug and gun dealing areas, rarely occurring anywhere the legitimate yachtie should be. Understand how to call for help in the particular area you are in - VHF16 or dialling 999 may not be the correct action and nearby cruisers on the local hailing channel (eg VHF68 in Grenada and SVG) may be faster to react anyway. And avoid cruising areas know to be lawless such as the coast of Venezuela; there are plenty of places where you will be welcomed down here like Columbia, Guyana, Trinidad and Grenada.

The following Facebook pages may also be of interest to those cruising these waters:
Guyana and Surinam

Part II on Temptress of Down's Hurricane Plans can be found here

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Adventures with Rhin

Re-attaching Rhin's anchor chain
Re-attaching the anchor chain
The Minima crew’s departure from Dream Yacht Charter's base at Port Louis, Grenada was delayed by some typical boatie issues with heads but by Wednesday afternoon they had checked into SVG at Union Island. The eight intrepid sailors had chartered a spacious 47 foot catamaran for two weeks to explore the Grenadines. Erica was their appointed skipper with Paul and Denis overseeing operations. Mary, Eileen, Sue, Pam and Steve made up the rest of the crew, all veterans of Caribbean cruising usually in the BVIs.

The following morning after a bit of shopping in Clifton both boats prepared to leave for Chatham Bay around the corner. As Rhin pulled up her anchor chain it parted. Fortunately the break was above the chain hook which remained in place holding the end of the chain with the anchor attached meaning no diving was needed to retrieve the whole lot from the seabed. Meanwhile Temptress was busy pulling her own anchor up and unable to pop down to answer Erica’s VHF calls straight away; we knew there was a good reason we should have charged our handheld radio. Once we could respond and heard what the problem was, we quickly put our own hook back down and Kevin jumped in dinghy to row across. Fortunately another Brit cruising boat in the anchorage had heard their VHF call to us for assistance and was dashing along in a tender to help out too because as Kevin rowed the 20 or so metres towards Rhin an oar broke leaving him drifting cross the harbour in the strong breeze but he was soon under tow. A shackle ensured a rapid repair and the big cat and her crew was soon underway as intended!

Pam demonstrating Union Island's bouganvillia matches her top
Pam demonstrating
Union Island's bougainvillea matches her top
A delightful afternoon’s snorkelling was had by all, followed by a fish BBQ on board Rhin, The oar repaired in the afternoon with a piece of broom handle to hold the two lengths of aluminium tube together suffered another metal fatigue issue later in the day when one of the rowlock pins sheared. After almost nine years our faithful tender is starting to show its age. This is the third repair the oars have needed recently. The following day after a pleasant morning walk up the hill and along the road (the same route as Kevin & I had attempted last time we were here) and back down a broad but rocky track to the beach, some afternoon swimming and lazing around then 10 of us headed ashore for a BBQ at one of the beach bars. Tim and Kojak did us proud with plates piled high; two types of fish, ribs, chicken, salads and fried plantain.

On Saturday both boats departed without any angst on the short motor round the top of Mayreau and into  the Tobago Cays. Almost as soon as you enter the marine park you are in another world. We picked our way between the reefs heading down the leading line formed by two day marks one on the southwest corner of Petit Rameau, the other on the north east tip of Petit Bateau. In fact the sun was high enough to clearly see the brown areas of shallow reef we needed to avoid. Then through the 100m or so wide reef lined gap between the two tiny islands a right turn through the channel between Petit Rameau and Baradal to anchor just south of Baradal clear of the buoyed off turtle zone. Only Horseshoe reef now lay between Temptress and the Atlantic. 

Tobago Cays
Sunday morning in the Tobago Cays

Tobago Cays

Tobago Cays
The wind for our two day sojourn was breezy from the east kicking up a rough sea even in the short distance from the reef making for some wet dinghy trips ashore or between the two boats but it didn’t prevent both crews from enjoying snorkelling with the turtles and the amazing colours of the water. This is one of the most gorgeous places on earth with every shade of sea blue from palest aquamarine to dark navy ranged all around. The four islands within Horseshoe reef (the fourth and most southerly is the tiny Jamesby) are all uninhabited with white sand beaches and palm trees fringing steep rocky, tree clad hills. Petit Bateau is the highest at 150 feet. The reefs curve round at the southern end reaching all the way back to Mayreau and beyond Horseshoe is the low sandy island of Petit Tabac and further out again to the south east the smaller Worlds End reef which contains no islands at all.

The Tobago Cays despite being so remote have to be one of the most beautiful places we have ever anchored. Watching the turtles grazing the grass on the seabed whilst snorkelling was fascinating as was spotting large rays but the sand shore off Baradel was not a great fish habitat. However the windy weather meant attempting snorkelling on the Atlantic side of the reef was a bit too rough and several of us got a few scrapes on the rocky beach when waves caught us off balance trying to manoeuvre with flippers on in the shallows. The boat boys do reach here so on Sunday Rhin managed a bread delivery and purchased some snapper and a large tuna for a BBQ supper on board and between us we rustled up some coleslaw, potato salad and risotto as accompaniments. No one was going to starve on this holiday! The fish scraps attracted some quite large sharks and a couple of rays who swam around feeding between Rhin’s twin hulls long enough to be photographed by Rhin's crew.

As Rhin's owners promised to deliver a replacement anchor chain to Bequia for Tuesday that is where we headed north to on Monday morning. The wind was blowing a good 15 to 20 knot from the east as per the forecast and Sunday’s rain clouds mostly replaced by the typical fair weather trade wind fluffy white blobs. The 25 nm passage promised to be a good off wind sail and for Temptress with the second reef tucked in her mainsail so it proved but for the catamaran it was a bit of a marathon into the big seas too close to the wind to be a comfortable ride. The combined crews explored Port Elisabeth and the Turtle Sanctuary, dining out at the Devils Table and The Gingerbread – it was all very out of season with few other visitors around but good to catch up with our Bequian friends again. With the new anchor chain loaded, a swap to dinghy less likely to deflate together with an outboard minus gearbox problems and a problematic heads fixed by Dream Yachts Rhin was good for an early start on Wednesday to Mustique. Again Temptress with a tad more local experience had the better sailing as our destination was to windward of Bequia. We began by motoring due east the few miles to the top of Isle Quatre, then struggled against a 2 or 3 knot current and into Atlantic waves through the narrow channel between there and Palm Island hence earning a fast reaching sail as a reward for our efforts  over the last few miles south east to Mustique. Rhin took the easier and more direct route heading south east and had to motor most of it against the wind in some biggish seas.

Mustique is expensive - $200EC to enter the bay, no anchoring permitted but up to 3 nights on a mooring included in the entry fee. The island is a private resort, a playground for the rich and famous, trimmed and pruned to perfection but somehow not seeming real and you had a feeling that the local people like yachties were tolerated but not welcome. A taxi tour of the island became a litany of rock stars and others names; we were not hugely interested in celebrities and their lives but the beaches were pretty. We did however visit Basils Bar so at least we can say we have been to this world famous watering hole though it is priced like the rest of the island and you can eat just as well if not better for much less on other islands. Not somewhere Temptress will be rushing back to even though the snorkelling on the reef right by the moorings was excellent.


Rhin's crew on Mustique

Mustique is famous for its wild tortoises...

Mustique moorings
Temptress and Rhin moored in Mustique

From there a glorious sail for both boats delivered us the 30 miles or so down to Carriacou just in time to see the upturned barge in Tyrrel Bay hauled over the right way up by the tug Troll who had another ship holding her in place. Apparently the work had been going on for several weeks with various previous attempts thwarted by the weight of water remaining in the barge hull. After a night in Carriacou, just enough time for Kevin & I to catch up with a few friends from our previous visit we headed south again to Grenada. This time we parted company from Rhin. Temptress’ destination being Prickly Bay on the south of the island and not wanting a beat against the trade winds and Atlantic swell to get there we took the windward route through the small islands that lie between Carriacou and Grenada, threading our way between the flat Bird Island and the mainland then down the coast and slowly bearing away until we reached the Porpoises and could turn north into Prickly Bay. The latter part of the voyage covering the same coastal waters we sailed in the first few days we were in the Caribbean.
Grand Etang
Kevin & Denis at Grand Etang a crater lake, Grenada

A twenty minute walk to a waterfall

Getting the full waterfall experience
L-R: Denis, Mary, Erica & Kevin
Meanwhile Rhin sailed the leeward side stopping overnight at Happy Bay which they declared had the best snorkelling of their holiday, so a potential stopover for Temptress on her way north next season perhaps. Then Rhin headed on south to her home marina Port Louis and after an evening meal together at Aquarium it was time for both crews to have one last swim on Monday morning at Grand Anse Beach, say good bye and for the Minima contingent to head for the UK. A brilliant holiday enjoyed by all, Temptress crew have chores to do including a bit of boat fettling (a new dinghy oar and replacement anchor light being top of the list) whilst settling down to life at anchor in Prickly Bay for a few weeks.

Kevin taking a dive!