Monday, October 24, 2016

Back to the Leewards!

Our second trip thru the Leeward Islands

Last season (2015) on our way down to Grenada we traveled thru the Leeward islands, these islands start with St Marteen and end at Dominica. This season we are on our way north back up the chain and after a great time in Martinique we left St Pierre and made the 31 mile trip to our first Leeward island of the season Dominica and its lush tropical mountains! Because we found the mooring field off of the capital Rousseau questionable after seeing a boat break free of its moorings next to us we decided to travel all the up island and anchor at prince Rupert Bay and the town of Portsmouth! We love this anchorage because its protected and safe, the boat boys here have organized and provide great service that is helpful but not pushy, they also have created a safe anchorage because they patrol the area and because of this there is very little crime here! The bay is a great jumping off place for exploring the island, the fort on the northern side of the bay is a great hike and well worth the effort to get there. It has been restored and there is lots of history lessons to be learned at the fort. Also there are many hikes that can be started from near the town that led up into the pristine rain forest that surrounds the bay. Perhaps the highlight of a trip to Prince Rupert is the guided boat tour up the Indian river that empties into the bay. We took the tour with perhaps the most famous boat boy in the bay, a young man named Martin!  Martin is a Botanist and seems to know every plant, animal or birds  in the forest! the tour takes about 2 hours and winds back into the  rain forest following the Indian river. Its so shallow that the boat has to be rowed and since its a pretty large wooden boat its a testament to Martin's upper body strength that he can get us all the back up river with no motor! One of the high lights of the river tour is the set for one of the scenes from pirates of the Caribbean, its the shack where Elizabeth meet  Calypso! Very spooky! On our way across the bay to the river we were lucky to see a baby whale who had lost its way, the fisherman in the bay were trying to guide the whale back out of the bay, apparently the baby whales are blind for a while and wander off from their parents often.

As always our time was to short and off we went next headed to another favorite spot of our the islands just south of Guadeloupe, the Saintes! These three islands are the textbook examples of French fishing islands in the Caribbean. Bourg Des Saintes is the main village amongst the three islands that make up the Saintes. There is no anchoring in the Saintes now but the moorings are well maintained and the proximity to the village and the wonderful bakery make up for the cost. We love this village and the vibe you get here, its alive when the ferries bring the tourists and slow and quiet in between. We rented a motor scooter and toured the entire island and its numerous beaches and snorkeling sites. Pain de Sucre is a small cove and mooring field on the south west corner of the island and it provides a great snorkeling site as well as a mooring field. We took our snorkel gear with us on the scooter and enjoyed this spot again! We soaked up the Saintes charm, ate more Chocolate Croissant's, dined on french baguettes and cheeses, doing what we did on the way down, having a great time. But again it was time to move on up the island chain and leave this wonderful place so at first light we pointed Discovery northward again and sailed the 35 miles or so all the way to the northern western tip of Guadeloupe to the harbor at the village of Deshaies another of the wonderful French fishing villages we enjoy so much! In addition to being a fishing village just oozing with the charm that these French islands are famous for, but this village is know for something else, its famous for the winds that rush down from the mountains that surround the anchorage and call for careful anchoring and sleepless nights for the captains! We are lucky that we upgraded to a 65 pound Mantus anchor before leaving the states , its one of the newest and best of the new age anchors and with it even in Deshaies we sleep well at night! Another thing we love about this village is the red Cherry beer they serve, we haven't found it anywhere else but its a treat that we never miss when we come ashore here!
     As always it came time to make for yet another island and we made plans to sail to a new island for us ... Antigua! We missed it on the way south last season so were excited to make landfall there and see what it has in store for us!

At anchor in Portsmouth Dominica

Friday, October 21, 2016

Saint Lucia here we come

Leaving Bequia

So at 3am we left Bequia  and sailed up the coast of St Vincent and then across the channel to St Lucia and up its coast til we got to Rodney Bay. We arrived at Rodney Bay mid morning. We anchored off of Reduit beach and rested after a long passage! We enjoy Rodney bay and especially like the IMG marina there, this trip we learned that the marina was offering a slip for 35 bucks a day so we took advantage of the cheap price and spent a few days in luxury! This was especially handy since we were picking up a  motor for the water maker that  replaced one that had failed a few weeks before! Regis electronics at the marina is a spectra dealer as well as a great place for Raymarine and most any other electronics problems to be fixed. We also were having a problem with our VHF radio so  they came out and diagnosed the problem and fixed it! Hurah! We decided to do a tour of the island we visited the Pitons the pointed mountains jutting straight out of the ocean, which are the signature image of the island! On the way we stopped for some cassava bread which is a yummy treat made from the cassava root and is more like thick tortilla than bread. On the trip we got a chance to see many of the sights and small towns on the island including Soufriere  the fishing village nestled between the Pitons! We also stopped at a plantation and did a tour of it and the coco growing process as well as coconut harvesting etc.
     So after getting all the issues off our checklist and touring the island again by bus, we made plans to make our way to our first French island of this trip... Martinique!

Back in France Martinique that is!
We always look forward to making landfall on a French island, the bread, the pastries, the wine, the topless beaches, and Martinique is our favorite of the French islands. On the way down we skipped La Marin and St Anne on the far south end of the island because its so far east on a trip south. On the way north its much easier to sail to St Anne so we headed there first and we were rewarded with a tremendous visit. St Anne is a charming French fishing village with  beautiful clear water over sand. The village has a great bakery, a wonderful fish market, and a charming church as well a a great dinghy dock neat shops and a passable grocery! After we explored the village we next took the dink  the 2 miles up the harbor to La Marin and the amazing ships stores and restaurants that surround the harbor. We shopped and ate and shopped some more then made the trip back to St Anne by dinghy.
    Eventually it was time to move further north and our target this time was the Fort Defrance area but unlike our trip down we decided not to anchor at Fort Defrance but across the harbor at Anse Mitan. We decided this because of the added protection it afforded us from swell and waves, as well as the proximity to the bakeries and beach! We also knew we could take a ferry over to fort Defrance for a nominal fee to shop and explore there also! Anse Mitan was a great decision, the anchorage was calm, the snorkeling around the three artificial lagoons that were remnants of a destroyed resort were great for snorkeling on the rocks that made up the wave barriers.

     It wasn't long till it was time to move again and with a favorable weather forecast we made our way to St Pierre the original capital of Martinique. It was the capital until the volcano that looms over the town erupted and destroyed most of the town back in the 1800s. Its a good place to clear out of the country and makes for a good day or two of exploring the ruins of the town. Stocked up on Baguette's and cheese and prepared for the next leg of the journey this time to Dominica!
View from the road on our island tour of St Lucia

Cassava bread roadside bakery

Anse La Raye a village just before the Pitons

Another view from the road on our tour

Posing in front of the Pitons

Donkey power for the sugar cane presser, he gets some raw sugar cane after a trip around

Anita posing at the Plantation

Rolling the raw coco logs

We walked the Nature trail above the Pitons to get the best view

Looking down on the anchorage between the Pitons

Coconut husking

Anita in fromt of the truck that was used back in the day to bring fruit to the market and people too!

Our guide doing his thing
Our intrepid group at the Pitons

Also visited the largest drive in volcano in the world here in St Lucia, can you say sulphur

Anse Mitan in Martinique
Our Group at the plantation in St Lucia

The lagoons at Anse Mitan

Having lunch at Anse Mitan

Another view of the beach at Anse Mitan

Big Square rigger at Chatham Bay

Fruit Hammock loaded up after a visit to Clifton

New Year -New Islands

After a spectacular New Years Eve night 2016 dawned and it with a good weather forecast it was time to shove off and sail north up the coast of Grenada and then across open ocean to the island of  Carriacau, although a separate island its still part of Grenada. Our destination is Terryll bay a great all weather harbor that also has a customs office so we can clear out of Grenada and continue on to the next country St Vincent's and the Grenadines. Our sail the thirty five miles or so to Carriacau was as expected, the Christmas winds were abating but we still had a fresh breeze with a steady 20 knots with gusts to 40! After a full season in the Caribbean we were ready for the conditions, we had about 50% of our main out and only staysail on the bow, we were a little underpowered in the lee of the island but once we broke out into the open ocean between islands Discovery powered up and  galloped its way north. As we passed between islands we had to take a slight detour around a marine exclusion zone that surrounds a underground volcano called Kick em Jenny, its a active volcano and it acts up occasionally so its best to circle around it. The issue if it decides to misbehave is that the bubbles that would come to the surface would change the displacement of your boat and perhaps sink it!
     We arrived in Carriacau after a great sail, anchored in our normal area just off the beach as close as we could get in around 10 feet of water. We spent several comfortable days in the bay strolling the main street and doing a little shopping, finally clearing out at the customs office located at the marine haul-out. We had another good weather forecast calling for settled weather and normal trades for the next few weeks. So it was time to jump off and take the short sail up to the Grenadines and visit to one of our favorite island groups in the entire Caribbean!

     Our first landfall after Carriacau is Union Island, its the first island in the Grenadines on the way North, and because it has a customs office at the airport its the natural place to clear in to St Vincent's. We do not like the anchorage at Clifton the main town on the island and home to the airport, so we like to anchor just a few miles away in behind Frigate island. Frigate has a tall hill that does a good job of breaking the strong trades so its calm and quite there in strong east winds. Also the snorkeling is good and the holding is great! We normally dingy in to Ashton, the small fishing village
at the head of the bay, Ashton is a very small and poor fishing village, the cement docks offer few places to lock your dinghy but you can find them and when you do its a short walk to town and then you can wait for a bus or walk the 2 miles or so into Clifton. Although we don't care for the anchorage at Clifton we like the town very much, it has one of the best outdoor fruit markets we find in any of the islands! Also there is a bank with a ATM, several good places to eat and a great little bakery!
    After we cleared in and visited the fruit market, we sailed around to the north to one of our favorite places in the Grenadines, Chatham bay! Chatham is a large very well protected bay with great snorkeling on either side, and at least a half dozen beach bars and restaurant's on the beach that runs the entire eastern side of the bay. We had a great week here on the way down and were looking forward to our return! We made a good friend in a fellow named bushman, he was working for Baldhead beach bar when we first arrived, this year he came blasting out to see us in his new boat and announcing he now has his own beach bar along with his new girl friend who was the cook at Baldheads! We had another great time, eating at Bushman's new place and snorkeling the coral in the bay, in addition we had the treat of seeing a large square rigger cruise ship that anchored in the bay while we were there.
    Alas it was time to move again and make our way the short distance north to Mayreau and the Tobago Keys, the closest place to the Bahamas in the West Indies. This year we were hoping to get into both Saline bay and  famous Salt whistle bay. Saline is a nice anchorage but Salt Whistle is on of the most spectacularly scenic anchorages in the world! But its also one of the hardest to get into because to the high number of charter catamarans that visit this area both from St Vincent's and Grenada! As last year we found a place at Saline but next day could not get into Salt Whistle it was just to full, so we went around the corner and traveled the 3 miles to the Tobago Keys and anchored there for a few days! we swam with the turtles and we visited the small island called Petite Tabac, this was the island they filmed the marooned scene from Pirates of the Caribbean 1, the one where Capt Jack and Elizabeth are left on the island with the rum cache and Elizabeth burns the rum on the
beach! The island is gorgeous and it was cool to stand in the exact same locations that the movie filmed in! It didn't hurt that there were a dozen wind surfers zipping around to add even more color to the island charisma!

     After too short a stay in the Tobago Keys we needed to head to our next destination and last stop in the Grenadines Bequia and Admiralty Bay!  But before we arrived in Bequia the Grenadines offered up another gift, a 30 pound Wahoo hit my lure after just leaving the Keys! Fish on and fish in the boat! We had another pleasant sail up to Bequia and with the fish cleaned and in the freezer we found a nice spot just off of Princess Margret beach and dropped the hook! Lucky for us because the anchorage was busy due to the annual jazz festival that was going on! We have learned to love Bequia and we savored every day in the anchorage! This year we discovered the devils table point for snorkeling and we could not get enough of this great spot! While in Bequia we meet up with a buddy boat we had seen the last season, Vision Quest a Saber 42 out of our home port Kemah Tx! We knocked around this wonderful Anchorage for almost a week until it was time to make our way north, we decided to travel for a while with Vision Quest and since neither us or Vision Quest had a interedt in stopping on the island of St Vincent's due to crime issues, we planned a trip all the way to St Lucia and Rodney Bay! This would be about a 70 mile trip so we scheduled a 3 am anchor up so we would arrive mid morning early afternoon to get a good spot to drop the hook!

Scene at Terryl Bay Carriacau
At The Dock at Clifton Bay Union island

Another pic at Clifton on Union Island

Fruit market in Clifton!

Another tall ship comes to call at Chatham

Petite Tabac wind sufers

Petite Tabac beach

Standing in the spot Capt Jack found the rum!

Copping a feel at Tabago Cay turtle beach

Pic from the top of the mast between islands at Tabago Cays!

Had to take the shot

Off the stern pic in Tabago Cays

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Happy New Year in Grenada

After saying goodbye to our guest Dawna in mid December we returned to getting the boat prepared to head north up island. We had to provision the boat and boy was it a different process then when we did it in the states for the trip down to the Caribbean! you cant just run to Costco and load up the car and be done with it, although St Georges does have several real grocery stores, you find that some things just can't be found and no matter what the prices are sometimes double or more of what you would pay in the states! But thankfully on the way down we realized that loading the boat up with provisions like we did for the Bahamas is not necessary when your in the Caribe! Three important points to remember, 1. The islands generally have pretty good groceries so you can easily provision  if needed when you arrive, 2. the food on the islands is reasonable and especially on the French islands, not to be missed so you will be eating out more often then you think. 3. The price of food is generally the same on all the islands... Expensive... so it really doesn't matter where you purchase it!

One interesting thing about spending the Christmas season down island in Grenada is the culture shock of hearing Christmas tunes everywhere, in the grocery stores, shops, and even in the buses we use to move around the capital, St Georges. They sound familiar but they all are done in a reggae twist that really lets you know you're not in Kansas anymore Toto!

After Christmas we decided to move around from the south side of the island back to St Georges and take a slip at Port Louis Marina so we could do a few last minute  items on the boat and enjoy the new years fireworks at the marina. We took the opportunity to check the rigging, I went up the mast and polished all the turnbuckles and tangs on the mast and spreaders, checked the standing rigging and generally gave everything aloft a good look see. I also spread the anchor chain out on the dock and inspected it, oiled it and washed out the anchor locker, We filled the tanks up with water and then enjoyed the evening and toured the marina and enjoyed the many super yachts that had all their cool lights on both above and below the water! Nothing says I'm rich like a few thousand watts of blue light piercing the clear Caribbean water at night! The marina had quite a big party going on, the tickets were over a hundred bucks each so we just wandered around and enjoyed the free light show on the docks and the fireworks that came after the clock struck 12! 2016 here we come!

Adding this beautiful yacht to my wish list for Santa next year!

Never get tired of seeing a beautiful boat lit up at night especially the underwater lights!

Discovery trying to hang with the big boys!

How about this big boy! must be about 200 feet long!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Return to Grenada

Back to Grenada Again!

We flew out of Grenada originally July 23 after hauling the boat out of the water at Spice island, the boat needed a new bottom job and we felt that up on the hard would be the safest way to store Discovery. After spending almost 4 months crisscrossing the country visiting our son, daughter, grand kids, aunts, nephews, niece's, parents, sisters, brothers and friends we left Ft Worth and flew to Miami, there we caught a Caribbean air flight to Trinidad and then finally on to Grenada arriving at 945 pm! Still seems crazy that it takes us 6 months to cover the 2500 miles by sailboat but only 4 hrs by the big bird! We checked into our apartment that night and got a good nights sleep and then headed out for the 3 block walk to the yard and our home that's now up on stilts. We clambered up the ladder and noticed a pretty think coat of dust and dirt on deck but everything seem in order. The shade was still covering the cockpit and all looked I order so we opened the companionway and descended down into our salon, or as we learned to call it afterward 'THE MOLD FARM". Just about every surface of the  boat had some level of mold growing on it! The leather salon cushions were originally tan, now a light shade of green, mold was on may of the wall surfaces also. As we investigated we found mold in many lockers, most of the bedding was in zip lock bags but still we had mold, the top surface of the memory foam topper was green also. We had someone change the damp rid we positioned in the boat before we left  but as it turned out changing it every 2 months was not enough.
     So began a 10 day battle against the mold and the weather, it was hot and it was rainy both conditions did not make the process of cleaning the interior of the boat a easy chore and it did not make for comfortable working or sleeping conditions! Because we had such a easy time of finding a apt when we arrived in June for the haul out in July we didn't make a reservation for November till October and guess what.... no room in the inn, so we had a couple of days of air conditioning and showers before we had to move aboard our hot , muggy, mold encrusted home!
     We set about washing every thing down with a water vinegar mix, then Murphy's oil soap on the wood work, and followed that with lemon oil. We did our best to launder all the towels, bedding etc. and then set it out in the sun... here lies the rub because we seldom got more than a few hours of sunshine in between the  monsoons! In addition other chores needed to be done. the new Mainsail we had ordered had to be braced on, the head sails that were re-sewn had to be put back up, all the gear stored below needed to be replaced up top and the boat needed to be polished and waxed before going back in to the water! Needless to say we were very busy for the 11 days we spent in the yard before splash day! We were very lucky, aside for the hard work it took to clean the mold the boat looked good as new inside when we got finished! The above jobs and many more were eventually done and on November 27th Discovery felt the warm waters of the Caribbean tickle her keel again!
We spent our first night in the water actually in the slipway at Splice island and then next morning we shoved off to find a spot out in the roll of  Prickly bay to continue the fitting out process for this next 7 month voyage up island! But before we leave Grenada we have a guest flying down to spend a week with us, a friend from our live aboard days in Kemah Texas at Waterford marina, Dawna!

Our Guest Arrives

We had invited a friend we made on the docks of Waterford Marina while we lived in Kemah Texas, Dawna was on a Nordhaven 55 just down the dock from us and we shared many great times around the marina and at the local watering holes that surrounded the marina. Kemah is a amazing place to live aboard, there are about 10 large marinas within a five mile radius that host over 5 thousand boats, mostly sailboats. The Marinas are some of the best we have seen in our travels both in the USA and overseas, there are several west marines, and other ships stores within walking distance and home depots, super targets etc. Dawna flew in to St Georges and we picked her up at the airport in a car we had rented for a few days and brought her back to Prickly bay for a good nights sleep and began her tour of Grenada the next morning!

Tour begins with Rum

After a morning swim and breakfast our adventure began, our plan was to first hit a rum factory and then  travel further up island with our destination to be Belmont plantation and the chocolate factory there. We arrived  first at Westhall rum factory and toured the ruins behind the factory, the grounds are simply gorgeous, beautiful flowers, mango trees, breadfruit trees, Bougainvillea and the huge metal work that dates back to the mid 1800s, large water wheels really make for a great pictures, just the ruins are worth the trip but there is more... In addition to the grounds there is a small museum that has many artifacts from the rum factory but also historical items from all around the island that are interesting in and of themselves. But finally its about the rum isn't it! We stopped by the office and were given a taste of the many different rums that they blend here at Westhall, yes blend they no longer manufacture here, its more cost effective to purchase the ingredients from Trinidad and blend the finished product here at the factory! The prices are right and our guest of course was able to pick a few examples to try and bring home!

Death by Chocolate

After our close encounter with the rum gods we were headed north to Belmont Plantation, the island is only 25 miles long and Belmont was about two thirds of the way up island, every drive on the island is a adventure very unlike anything we experience in the states, in Grenada there are no yellow lines in the center of the roads, no white lines on the edges, many hairpin turns, no highway signs pointing you to your destination and sometimes very little road at all. The road map is actually just a tourist map that has very little detail. We relied mostly on stopping and asking the many people that are always walking along the road, they always are willing to point you to your destination. After a  two hour exciting trip we arrived at Belmont ready to show our guest this very interesting  attraction.
First your struck by the beauty of the plantation and the smells, on this rugged hillside you can see the mango, papaya, banana, coconut, nutmeg, star fruit, cashew, breadfruit, and many other tropical fruit trees that are among the coco plants, They are cultivated here because these many fruits add flavor to the coco beans! After arriving we proceeded to the tour that starts with a detailed explanation of all the fruits and nuts that are grown at the plantation with examples of each for us to examine and in some cases taste! especially fun is tasting the raw coco beans right out of the pods, they are covered in a white goo that tastes like citrus!

     After the explanation of the different fruits and nuts grown on the plantation we moved on to a tour of the plantation, we saw the fermentation process for the raw coco beans that are harvested and placed in bins, then they are put outside on drying racks to dry. After  seeing how the beans are processed we visited the store and sampled the finished chocolate bars with many levels of coco content. The Belmont plantation is a can't miss destination in Grenada.

 After our road trip we returned to our boat and prepared for our sail around the south side of the island over to St Georges and the anchorage just outside. The next morning we had a great sail to St Georges. While at St Georges we spent some time on the beach at Grand Anise, and then snorkeled on the reef just off of the beach. Saw some of the best stag horn coral in the Caribbean. The next day we sailed over to the other side of the harbor and  had a chance to snorkel on the famous statues that are on the floor of the cove on that side of the island. Quite a kick to see those statues on the ocean floor.

     After another great day we sailed back around the southern edge of Grenada  this time anchoring in Secret harbor and enjoyed the calm waters of this protected anchorage and the wonderful  bar and restaurant at the marina at the back of the harbor. A week went by fast and sadly we had to say goodbye to Dawna but she's agreed to come visit us again in the future.


The main Retail shop at Belmont Plantation (where you get the yummy Chocolate)

Our Guest Dawna O'neal and Anita at Grand Case beach

Girls shopping at the crafts shops just off Grand Case beach

The Coco beans drying at Belmont Plantation on our trip up island with our guest

Looking down on the inner harbor on our bus ride up to the Church for Xmas carol night in St Georges

The bell tower is all that survived hurricane Ivan, church has still not been rebuilt

Looking down Grenada's finest beach Grand Case

Scene at church for our carol Night

Some great Stag horn coral just out from Grand Case in St Georges

Coco beans fermenting at Belmont Plantation

The anchorage off of St Georges