Saturday, 25 April 2015

Dinghy dilemmas, Anchoring antics and Carriacou

Eli's porthole photo
 Anytime we go anywhere in our banana boat/origami dinghy, we find people tend to stop and stare, take photos, or just point and laugh!  But after recent incidents, she is nothing short of legendary and seeing as our boat is named Ula (pronounced Ooh-la), I think the most appropriate name for our dinghy is… “Ooh-la-la.”- For her stunning good looks and death-defying stunts. Let me divulge…
Incident#1:  Still exhausted and reeling from our over-night, nerve-shattering sail up from Trinidad, having cleared in at Prickly Bay, Grenada, we decided to re-anchor in a not so roly area, also closer to a small surf break.  Dave dropped anchor and I gunned Ula into reverse a little too vigorously.  Something catches my attention out of the corner of my eye.  Much to my horror, I see our dinghy, still tied to our starboard side, but standing up above our lifelines, nose pointed to the clouds like she is preparing to ascend to heaven.  I quickly throw it into neutral and because our anchor has only dipped into the water, watch the other anchored yachts nearby like a hawk, hoping we don’t get too much closer.  Dave manages to get the dinghy into a more stabilised,  horizontal, floating position, outboard still attached after it’s submersible stint.  The boys glumly watch our new set of family jandals (flip-flops) wash away swiftly in the current while we find a more isolated patch to re-anchor.  Dave pulled apart the outboard and thanks to a crash-course in outboard maintenance back in Trinidad with our friend Eric, he successfully gets it up and running!  Ooh la la lives another day, seemingly unscathed.
juice shack

Carenage, St George

small almond factory

small almond for a lot of finger banging!

A week or so later, anchored outside St George, we dinghy to a dock a few miles down the beach. 
We end up meeting some friends who live on a boat in Grenada.  They take us for a bit of a road trip up island to see the Concord Falls.  We walk through some muddy tracks, cross the river several times, through jungle dotted with cocoa, mango, banana and nutmeg trees. 
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nutmeg tree
red mace wrapped around the dark brown nutmeg, inside fruit

Many rasta market gardens in clearings throughout the jungle
The waterfall is a welcome refreshment, not half as cold as what we’re used to back home!
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Back home late afternoon, boys are driving us crazy, we send them outside for some peace and they’re still yelling and going on.  Then we notice some alarm in their voices.  Jumping up on deck, we see our dinghys’ top edge is only 10mm above water!  Securing another line to Ula, Dave and I jump over board with large containers to bail out our poor dinghy.  Getting her up on deck, we discover a mystery: our robust dinghy has a thumb sized hole through the outside skin and reinforced plastic transom (back end). 
To make this hole would have to make a lot of noise, we have to conclude: some stealthy swordfish has taken out it’s serious revenge issues on our poor, defenceless Ooh la la.
Dave fixes the transom by putting a bolt and washer in the hole- the other sides have bolts in them, so why not?!  The outboard is pulled apart again and amazingly Ooh la la lives again.
the evolutionary scale of Salem: from monkey...
to butler!
Had a great sail up the coast Easter Monday, felt like we learnt heaps about how our boat performs best and getting a few nice smooth tacks in also.  It was getting dark and we decided to motor the last mile or two into the anchoring spot at Sauteurs on the North end of Grenada.  In 1651, Carib families jumped to their deaths off the 130ft cliff as a final retreat from approaching French soldiers. 
It was cloudy and dark by the time we got there, relying totally on the gps, I told Dave on the bow, this is the anchor spot.  There were no other yachts around, we knew rocks hugged the coastline, it seemed to offer very little protection from the Atlantic running past or the Nor- Easterly wind howling through from the same direction.  We were rocking about like some B-grade attraction at the rodeo.  We both had the same look of concern in our eyes confirming: this wont do.  We headed for Sugar loaf Island another supposed anchoring spot a short distance round the corner. 
The little island was 370m from the mainland and already had about 4 pirogues anchored there in a tiny bay.  If we tried to anchor in there we would probably swing around and knock them out like skittles.  The gps showed an anchor spot right where we could see waves wrapping and breaking around the island 100m away. We decided to trust what our eyes saw rather than the conflicting virtual reality shown on screen.
We decided to anchor just out a bit further in the channel as the movement was a lot better facing into the current.  Shortly after, I came out from the cockpit to check the area, the clouds had moved aside for the full moon which revealed waves wrapping around both sides of the island and waves breaking onto the mainland Levera Beach 200 metres away-hmmm.  We decided to take shifts keeping an eye on whether we were drifting (also checking with the long/latt. numbers on the gps).
Eli sleeps up front and normally wakes and yells out any time he hears the chain moving/groaning – the noise tends to magnify like a tin can in his cabin.  That night we were up above his berth on deck figuring what to do, letting out more chain, even woke him, saying we need him to help re-anchor and he never emerged or woke for that matter-he must’ve been tired!  The boat swung sideways into the swell and current during the night providing a horrible motion rocking from gunwhale to gunwhale (check out my nautical-ness!) – it gave the feeling lying down, trying to sleep as Dave describes it best: like you’re sliding in your skin, the pressure rocking from head to bum.
We motored forward, dragging the boat, anchor and all out into the channel a bit more and went back to our watches.
Sugarloaf anchorage??? Sandy Island off the bow

The last couple of hours early morning the anchor finally took hold.  We were shattered.  Looking around I said to Dave if I’d seen this place in the daylight, I would never have agreed to motor in and anchor up!  It was picturesque though. 
Surf possibilities? Small waves wrapping around Sugarloaf with less than 1m swell

Our engine had developed a little issue of over-heating once or twice before.  We had found out it was due to the sea chest getting air bubbles in it, drains the water which is supposed to be getting sucked through the engine to cool it.  The air bubbles were a result of so much rocking around.  Easily fixed within a few minutes of loosening a bolt to let the air out. but we didn’t want this happening again - another job on the to-do list.
With much apprehension, we prayed and got to it.  Just after we started the engine we noticed a local rowing from the mainland to the island, without drifting way down the channel.  This was a great comfort perfectly timed and encouraged us that if he could hold up against the current, then surely our 85hp perkins could do it.  Thankfully, the anchor came up easily and we motored a short distance to the picture postcard Sandy Island.
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This too had surf breaking either side of the island (unfortunately not surf-able, due to the constant onshore winds), on it’s outer reefs but the anchorage was a lot better.
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Great to get ashore and chill for a few hours snorkelling and exploring.
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Eli climbed a coconut tree and cut open a couple for us to drink- yum, cool, refreshing and filling.  The white sand and torqoise water was amazing.  Saw some reef fish and a couple of puffer fish. 
Checked out a ship wreck which haunted Eli and Eden a bit!  Another rocky, sleepless night, we were keen to get to a bigger island the next day. 

Dave figured out an excellent route taking into account wind and current and we had a really enjoyable sail up to Carriacou.
Anchoring up in Tyrell Bay we couldn’t believe how still it was and the gps numbers stayed the same all night!
bar and bbq area
Carriacou is the first time it has actually felt like we have anchored up at an island.  It is very laid back, people very nice and cruisy.
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Dave, and I got to see the “Green flash!”-Although the name is highly over-rated, it’s not like the Northern lights.  It has to be the right atmospheric conditions, no clouds on the horizon  and just before the sun dips under the sea, it turns a green glow.  Still stoked we got to see it!
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Went over to Windward on the North side to see some traditional boat building using only hand tools. 
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Got a  few boat jobs done, mainly chilled, socialised and swam.
Eden our 5 year old really got the hang of swimming when he realised he wanted to jump off the jetty and swim back to shore!  Made some nice friends who took the boys wakeboarding and skurfing also.
Eden skurfing-pretty good for a 5 year olds' first attempt!
Had our first sail down wind back to Grenada, learnt more about our boats’ abilities and was another successful, enjoyable sail, even got to sail into the anchorage well before the sun went down!  Another cruiser called over a little while after and complemented us on our fine looking vessel and the way we sailed in, pulling down one sail after another and reassured us about ocean travel. To top off the great day, we dingied into the main harbour that night and tied up to a floating pontoon to listen to some really good local bands, including one steel pan band of mainly kids.  Very cool experience.
Well, that’s all for now, have a few ideas/plans in the pipeline but have lots of research and work to do so wont be revealing until it’s definitely happening.  Until then……
May you find beauty wherever you are…
even if it’s just a weed!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Immigration issues to greener waters

“Morning, morning,” as the Trini’s like to say.  I left off from my last post that our visas were almost up and we had to renew them as our autopilot was being fixed.

(I apologise for the odd looking layout, the editing page seems to be different to the viewing page and haven't figured out how to synchronize them to look the same.)
Found the getaway boat for the krazy horse gang from kiwi made movie "Boy"

We arrived at immigration for our 10 o’clock appointment, the officer arrived at 11 and didn’t see us till 11.30am, by which time the boys were complaining of being hungry.  Just as well they are easily entertained with mindless t.v!  The officer looked at our passports and said that when we flew in, we were stamped as tourists.  We explained that we showed the officer at the airport our boat ownership papers, letters from the boat yard and broker explaining our purchase and intention of living on our newly acquired boat (all stamped in approval by immigration before we arrived).
Eli learning to splice

He said yes, but they didn’t put the correct stamp on it, in fact, when we got our extention, they also put the incorrect “tourist stamp” on it.  Which meant we were over-stayers’ and needed to leave the country immediately.
Oh, but we have our autopilot being fixed, which may need parts flown in again and the weather for sailing right now is not advised for people of our ability.  He said take a seat, I’ll make some calls.
Fishermen gave us some squid
Half an hour later he says we need to take a taxi into the city centre and see the immigration there.  It is 12.30pm, boys are starving, the ride can take 30mins on a good day, but usually there is some roading/traffic issue that can mean delays of up to and over an hour.  Then we have to walk a number of blocks to find the place.  I ask what time do they close, to which he responds 2pm.  Hmm, not looking like a particularly successful mission.  Thankfully, he sees our dilemma and asks us to wait while he tries to figure out a better solution for us.  1pm he decides to give us 24 hours to get our stuff sorted and get out.
It has been 3 hours, boys are ravenous and we are feeling a bit distraught at their stuff-up leading to our sudden need to leave the country in spite of the bad weather.
Fishermen gave us a fish!! Yum too.
Outside we bump into a friend and tell him our woes.  He mentions a good friend of theirs left yesterday for Grenada, turned around and came back ‘cos the conditions were that bad.  This guy does yacht deliveries for a job and has clocked up enough miles to have circumnavigated 12 times.  We went and met this guy to verify the story, which turned out to be true.  He also showed us the weather online and offered any assistance he could. 
Eden on a mission to build himself a rubber band powered boat

We came to the conclusion if we head towards the Boca and it looks too dodgy, we will head into the nearest bay and claim shelter which they cannot deny.  A lot of prayers went down.
Dave thought he would do some night fishing to alleviate some stress and caught the biggest fish yet - himself!  He had to cut the hook with tin snips then hold one end with the plies and force the sharp end back up, then hit it with a bit of wood repeatedly to pierce the skin’s surface, forcing the hook through the new opening to now grab the sharp end with the barb to pull it right through.  (I tried to help him with this but I was also trying not to vomit/pass out-so not really very helpful at all!).
A very woosy Dave managed (in between racing in and out for fresh air so as not to vomit or pass out) to somehow yank it out of his arm in one semi-circular motion! Eli was most upset that we had wrecked a perfectly good hook-how inconsiderate of Dave!

Next day we head back to immigration as late as possible and explain to the guy that a “small craft advisory” as well as a storm warning has been issued warning people not to go to sea due to the bad conditions.  He had heard that and did think of us.  He asked when the weather was supposed to improve, to which we replied, the following week there was a good weather window according to the few different websites we had checked.  He got us to fill out our clearance forms and as we were all heading for the door, decided that he had authority to sign us on as crew and give us shore leave for a week - just like that!

During a practice sail this cam cleat thingy snapped off and whipped a nice hole straight through our lifeline netting with the piece still attached.  Eli was close by, this is his area for helping us so luckily it didn’t whip him in the process.  The bolt snapped off.

The week passed quickly with Dave trying to make the boat as water tight as possible and Eli and I doing many grocery, water, diesel and petrol runs.- Everything further north is more expensive.

We calculated the miles to Grenada with our hopeful boat speed and left in the afternoon, the following week, in hope that we would arrive in Grenada late morning/mid afternoon with sun in a good position to see the reefs surrounding the anchorage and some low-lying rocks nearby.
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The Boca was nice and easy and the whole afternoon/evening was very pleasant.  We had heard many stories of the Venezuelan pirates being able to go a long way off the Trinidad coast in their pirogues with big engines and at one stage we did wonder when we saw three come up from our port stern and four from our starboard stern, but thankfully they passed on by.
2am we realised we hadn’t gone East enough along the Northern coast of Trinidad to allow for the West setting current coming from the Atlantic ocean and were fast going off course.  The wind had shifted to the East, pushing us further to the West and we couldn’t seem to sail in any sort of forward motion.  We never had time to test out the autopilot so hand steering against wind, tide and current, constantly checking our compass and chart plotter, was definitely taking it’s toll with us getting tired, in spite of taking turns on watch.
Sleep was interesting, it takes a little for the tummy to settle from the lurching back and forth, but it does actually settle lying down.  The second challenge for us with our bed lying across the stern instead of the usual layout alongside the port or starboard sides was getting on an angle so you’re semi-wedged, then kind of digging your toes in like you’re sleeping on a hill-side.
Eli decided to sleep in the cockpit and would wake often to check the horizon for lights – and figure out which way they were going/coming, make sure we were staying on course and make adjustments to the traveller sheets, also steering in the early hours of the morning while Dave hurled-he was a tremendous help. 
Eli has been amazing us when a friend of ours often would quiz him on technical details in various aspects of sailing and every time he would answer correctly.  He has clearly been reading some of our books and absorbing everything around us.

Also getting creative with the phone’s camera…
IMG_20150319_112042  look, we picked up some smurfs along the way!
We ended up motor sailing the rest of the way which meant we all (except for Eli-who didn’t go down below at all) ended up feeling very sick, in fact at one stage, we were like a tag team: I would hold Eden or Salem’s foot while they hurled over the side, they’d come back, then I would make for the rails, then Dave would be hurling in some other direction.
Another awesome shot by Eli.

I also discovered another grim challenge.. Note:  those who have a weak constitution for gory details I strongly recommend you skip down to the next photo… Going to the toilet means going up front where the boat lurches more, the boat is very warm due to the engine running and because we have to close all windows while at sea and currently have no vents.  The bathroom is worse still, but like a steamy urine smelling sauna. 
Sitting on the toilet, you have to wedge your right side against a wall, left arm against the basin, right arm and leg outstretched against the wall in front, so that you don’t get launched off during official business.  During this time, my stomach was rapidly getting ready to launch it’s own contents.  Now here’s the trick, I knew Dave had turned off the sea cocks so the water wouldn’t spurt back up the pipes and into the sink, which also meant whatever was released into the sink wouldn’t go down either!  The other option was the floor where there was the shower outlet but the contents from there would go into a small sump box under the floorboards, and given the likely size of the chunks, they would not pump out and I would have to scoop it out later.  The toilet was still occupied and my stomach was not waiting for any further deliberation, the sink it was! 
After all business had concluded, I then had to wedge myself in position over the toilet while I did the 20 pumps up and down to get rid of the contents, which left me sweating and needing to race outside for a second hurl session as the sink was full and it was way too hot to stay there any longer.  I zig-zagged hunch-back style, (‘cos somehow it just helps the tummy if you’re bent over) across the saloon to the companionway steps and like a seal lurched into a tummy slide across the deck for the edge of the boat for round two! 
It was sometime later before I could bring myself to go back down  to the urine sauna and scoop out the contents of the sink into the head and do the full 20 pumps while I dry-reached in between!  The romantic side of sailing definitely dissolved somewhere between the pumping and the hurling - grim!
But, we arrived, in Prickly Bay, Grenada, feeling very tired, concerned and overwhelmed at how we faired -and that was only an over-nighter.  It took us a few days to chill and recover – Dave even said adamantly that we are selling the boat (I silently hoped and prayed that his feelings would pass and all would be well in our world again).
We were amazed at the turquoise colour of the water and managed to get a couple of days’ surf on a little break close to where we had anchored and enjoyed exploring the area by dinghy and foot..
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Grenada has a nice feel about it, we felt very safe walking around as other cruisers had aforementioned.
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On a surf search mission.
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After a few days, we sailed from the southern end around to the East side to Saint George’s. This was a far more successful and enjoyable sail and managed to use our auto pilot - this surprised us how it made the journey a lot more relaxing.
Look, he’s sailing and smiling…    
All is well in the world again.
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Arriving in St George’s and looking further South toward Grand Anse where we had sailed past to get here.
IMG_20150326_184231Slack-lining” with some friends we met in Trinidad, they sailed up the day before us and are in a similar situation to us: not much experience, learning on the job, not much $!

 More exploring..
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Local shops/hang-outs.
Grand Anse Beach
Building on the waterfront in Saint George’s.

St George's waterfront, waiting out the shower

Walked through a tunnel under Fort George – for people and cars - to a local market out the other side.
This was a little stall nearby.  The lady was selling loads of spices, sauces, essences etc.  The main market was tightly packed together and with the rain, wasn’t really do-able to photograph without getting wet or haggled.

Fort George (what’s left) and the views..

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Checking out a bunker
Eden finds an “Eden-sized cannon!”
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We are anchored out of the picture, in the bay to the right .

There we are, way out the back where we can’t hit anyone!  Dave has been on a mission over several days tweaking our anchoring system so it’s not so noisy – the sound of chain rattling on the bow, in the middle of the night, in a roly anchorage, coupled with the thought of dragging anchor is not conducive for a good night’s sleep!
IMG_20150322_181209Have a couple of jobs to sort out then hope to head further North.  We are constantly counting pennies and comparing that with the budget  while trying to figure out our next plan from here, what we will do with the boat - our home - and how far can we get on what we have left etc.
Maybe next time we’ll have more of an idea.