Posted by: catamarantwooceans | July 13, 2008

April 2007- Dominican Republic to Dominica

April 1st – Up at 0445 (!) to go to the restaurant to download the NOAA forecast and maybe, just maybe, go to PR. Would you have gone out with NE-E 20-25 knots, seas 8-10 feet and the wind is howling in the marina? I decided to wait another day. So how do we pass the day? Reading, planning ahead and in the afternoon a walking trip to the nearby ecological park.

eco-park

eco-park

The main issue is the weather and we are investigating all the possible sources, including the WX channel from PR on the VHF, to understand what lies ahead. It seems that we’ll only be able to leave on Tuesday. As I write this the wind rises in pitch and the repeater in the cabin climbs over 35 knots!

April 2nd – To all our family and friends, to all who celebrate it – Happy Passover from Itzik and Miki, who will, instead of sailing, take a car and do some touring.

April 3rd – Up at 0530 I go, yet again, to the restaurant, to download the forecast. E-NE 14-19 knots, seas 4-6 feet. OK! We’re going! It starts with ugly sea, short, steep waves with wind at 15 knot 25 degrees from port, so we are motorsailing. After about 5 hours the wind backs, the sea is less agitated and we can unfurl the jib, shut down the engines and sail. To our starboard we can see Mona island and to port – Isla desecheo. We start seeing other sailing yachts. One of them, a catamaran, looks a lot like us. I call them up on the VHF. Their name is “Shy Freddie” or so it sounded on the radio. They are on their way to the Turks and Caicos, a long way to go! They say something about strong winds but it takes another ten minutes before I understand what they meant. The wind pipes up, reaching 30 apparent and forcing us to reef all the way to the 3rd point. We are still doing 7 knots, though. 8 miles to the harbour’s entry waypoint and boom! The wind disappeared completely! We motor the rest of the way and anchor at the recommended spot, between buoys 8 and 10 to spend a quiet, peaceful night.

April 4th – Customs open at 0800 but at 0715 I spot a ferry in the distance. We better get to the authorities before all the passengers disembark. We go to the jetty and tie up. A courteous policeman comes and takes us to customs. Oh, it’s Homeland security now! We pass all the regular procedures, fingerprints, photo and then we can go. With light land breeze we are gliding on flat water at 4-5 knots toward Boqueron, 15 miles away. This is where Itzik will leave and Gili, my wife and co-owner of the boat wil finally come aboard.

boqueron beach

boqueron beach

Oyster bar

Oyster bar

April 5th – A lot of driving! A taxi to Mayaguez airport – the only place we could find a car to rent – then 2.5 hours to San Juan airport, pick Gili up, say goodbye to Itzik, drive back to Boqueron where a Beer Festival is in full swing up to the small hours.

April 6th – Late departure due to rental car return. Out of the anchorage to see the Hurricane Hole but somehow missed the entrance and found ourselves on a shallow patch. Turned to safer waters and sailed towards Cabo Rojo, thats the southwestern tip of the island. The wind is southeasterly at 15-17 knots and since we have to dodge some reefs, this is exactly where we need to go. So it’s the motors again, which is a good opportunity for fishing. The first thing we catch is a wave, through the half closed hatch, onto the table. Cellphones, a laptop computer, a portable radio and my precious Iridium get splashed. Luckily there is no permanent damage. One fish tries our lure but does not like it and breaks free. Another one gives a great fight, dives, goes to the left and then to the right and when he is close to the boat we can see it is a big barracuda. Gili tries to gaff it but is unsuccessful and the fish baring it’s fearsome teeth, give a mighty tug  and gets away. We are following the route that Bruce Van Sant suggests in his book to La Parguera and as we turn towards Turrumote island, a sandy island with some vegetation when suddenly there is a big bang inside the cabin. Let’s stop right here for a moment. I think I have too many “suddenlies’ in my narrative. I don’t like “suddenly”! I like a trip that goes according to plan. I love being surprised by a beautiful scenery, a fish that gets caught, a chance meeting with interesting people but did not enjoy what I found out next. I went into the cabin to investigate but had to go outside again because the boat was not maintaining course and the autopilot was beeping in distress while the boat rounded up into the wind. First of all: Fly the Airplane! Gili takes the wheel. Now put one and one together and the answer is found in the compartment below the navigation table: the toothed pulley (a sprocket? Readers -advise!) and the chain that drive the helm’s axle are on the floor! I’ll deal with it when we are safely anchored in La Parguera, which we supposed to be a quiet and remote village.
From the distance we could see how wrong we were. The place is packed with motor boats of all types a sizes, many of them rushing to and fro at high speed with disregard to any rule or regulation. We try to go close to the village but are deterred by the bottom rising alarmingly to 1 meter. Brake! Reverse and find a more reasonable spot a 3.5 meters. The village is not without charm from afar. Houses on stilts, little mangrove cays and boats at anchor. But the din and the waves those motorboats make is unbelievable. Later, we dinghy ashore and we still don’t like it.

La Parguera

La Parguera

La Parguera

La Parguera

I fix the autopilot, reconnecting the chain and tightening the Allen screws that hold the sprocket to the axle. We’ll see tomorrow if it holds.

April 7th – Maybe the right choice for today’s destination should have been Ponce. It’s a big place, it has Wallmart, K-Mart and all sorts of “Marts” you can expect from a major city. That’s the reason I looked further east and decided to go the 47 miles to Salinas. We got up early and motor against a surprising 15-17 knots. Time for fishing! The first strike brings the barracuda we lost yesterday, the second an unidentified meal for two fish that I would have put back in the water had it not injured itself severely by the hook. Gili has the sense to suggest that we stop for lunch in Caja de Muertos (coffin island). It is a national park and there are quite a few yachts and motorboats at the anchorage. Unfortunately the waters are not clear so we give up swimming.

At 1400 we go out and to our pleasant surprise the wind permits sailing. Passing little mangrove clad islands and some reefs over which waves are breaking, we aim at the waypoint  on the chart plotter without really seeing the entrance until about half mile away. It first  becomes noticeable when a motorboat ahead of us disappears into the green coast. As we get closer a wide bay is seen, with great many yachts in it including a few catamarans. The place reminds me of Luperon!
                                     

We try calling the marina but there is no reply, so we go in and tie at the fuel dock. Actually all we need is water – Internet would also be nice. The office informs me that they have no space for us but that we can take water. Super! A couple approaches and speaks to us in Afrikaans. We still have the SA registration and “Cape town” in big letters on the stern and they thought we were from there. They have a “Wildcat” catamaran and did an impressive trip before coming to PR. They tell us about the “Cruiser’s Galley” where you can surf the web and also about the BBQ at the restaurant later in the evening.
                        

Salinas anchorage

Salinas anchorage

   We see a Wharram cat named “Madrigal” that I am sure we met in the Dodecanese.  

Madrigal

Madrigal

Gili

Gili

           

View from the terrace

View from the terrace

April 8th – Shall we stay in Salinas another day? We can motor to the hurricane hole in Jobos bay – always wanted to see what one looked like – go back to Salinas, do laundry, surf the web and update the site. I really like Salinas! But after going east the few miles that we did, I reconsider. “Let’s go on to Palmas del Mar” I say “I think Danny said it was a lovely place”. So we go! It’s not far, just another 30 miles. Wind, of course, is on the nose,so we motor. On the way we are going to pass Guayama Reef, with a sunken ship on it. The perfect location for fishing! Lure out and we wait for the strike – that doesn’t come… We continue and get compensated near Sargent reef, when a Kingfish takes the hook. It’s not a big one, nothing dramatic, only a meal for two, but do we really need more?

Fish

Fish

(As I am writing this it goes into the oven, accompanied by Italian seasoning and white wine.) After the excitement with the fish subsides, I notice that the wind veered. Let’s go sailing, even though it is only 6 miles to destination. Here comes a part I am terribly ashamed of but will tell all, sort of punishing myself for screwing up. Having raised the sails, cleaned the fish and put it in the fridge, I look around and see some markers in the distance. Are we already there? I glance at the plotter, it shows N 18 02 or so, that’s very close to what the book says. Turning west I begin to have doubts, especially when I spot a SHIP inside the entrance. Oh my god! I was entering the commercial harbour 2 miles to the south of Palmas del Mar! I could have blamed the less than perfect grey display of the Raymarine plotter, the Navionics electronic chart, but no! It’s me! No excuses! Break to the right, go the additional two miles and passing the headland we can see the place we intended to go into. Narrow channel takes us in. It doesn’t look as if it is a marina as we are accustomed to. No masts, it is all motor boats and nobody answers the VHF. There is some sort of a reception dock, so we get there only to learn that this is a private marina, for people who have dockside apartments. But we can anchor in the basin, which is not bad at all. So no washing the boat today! We do go to the center of the place and get some needed groceries.
We are having dinner. First course is a Caesar Salad. I used to have a salad like that in a restaurant in Toronto during my flying days. This one is so much better! I am having a revelation: everything on the boat tastes better, smells better and feels better. The Kingfish is sublime. I don’t remember having a dish like that anywhere, ever! “Gili, do you want a coffee?”.

April 9th – Easy day. Motored against a 10 knots wind to Sun Bay, Isla Vieques, 19 miles away. There are a few moorings so we use one and at 1130 we are into the “Relax Phase” of the day. Sun Bay has a mile long white sand beach, fringed with coconut palms and is a place sea turtles lay their eggs.

Sun-bay

Sun-bay

Later in the afternoon we take the dinghy ashore, walk to Esperanza, the village near by. Some guest houses and restaurants dot the promenade and between them the following establishment:
         

Law & coffee

Law & coffee

Mounting the dinghy in the slight surf was surprisingly tough. It slew sideways filled with water by the next wave and gave us both an unplanned seawater bath. So we pulled her out as far as we could, emptied – and tried again, this time successfully. 

April 10th – This is our 20th wedding anniversary, an occasion to celebrate for very good reasons. But back to the sailing part – I wanted to go into Ensenada Honda which looked promising in the “Enchanted Bay” category and perhaps some snorkeling, but the water wasn’t clear enough and the entrance reminiscent of Caicos with depth at just over a meter. Out we went and motored the 6 miles to the eastern corner of Vieques and on the way – why, fishing of course! Caught a little Kingfish and released him. “Come back when you grow up!”. Then came a BIG barracuda who did an impressive sommersault and disengaged herself from our line. She kept the lure, though… Turning the corner to Isla Culebra we have the wind at 90 degrees on our starboard at 13-15 knots and the boat is moving at 8 knots. We enter Culebra bay in Style, sailing almost to the anchor drop.

Culebra

Culebra

We go ashore and walk around. The airport here is on of those where the planes come in between two hills and at extremely low altitude turn to align themselves with the runway. On the perimeter fence an Iguana munches leaves, she poses for my camera and hearing the click panics and rushes away, probably muttering angrily:”Those Paparazzi!”

Iguana

Iguana

A visit to the “Dinghy Dock” bar concludes our round of the town. As we sip our drinks in the company of sailing couples from Canada and Malta our attention is drawn to the water near the bar. Few big Tarpons parade the site in 3 feet of water.

Dinghy dock bar

Dinghy dock bar

Tomorrow – St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands!

April 11th – Out of Culebra we motor, the wind is SE 15 knots. The sea is not settled, waves coming from different sides. We start by sailing in first reef, 25 degrees to port of desired course. At 11 miles to destination we take down all sail and motor to the island. Now I have only a 1:100000 chart of the V.I and no guide book. A cruising couple we met in Sun Bay, Vieques, mentioned American Yacht Harbour as a very good marina to go to, and placed it enigmatically “A bit after Charlotte Amalie”. At the time I didn’t think of going there so I did not ask for a clarification, now we are searching for clues… We enter Gregerie channel, where many yacht are moored or at anchor, round Water Island into Long Bay, where the chart shows a marina and find two huge cruise ships and a marina that was obviously not the one we were looking for. They were nice and told us on the VHF that we needed to go round the island from the south to Redhook bay. Motored on, got there and tied, with Gili performing a brilliant bowline on a moving pilon, to position A6. 
                             

American Yacht Harbour

American Yacht Harbour

The marina is reasonably priced, has all the services near by, including laundry, good supermarket and some nice restaurants. One to mention and warmly recommend is “Off The Hook”, real good seafood!

April 12th – We decided to stay the day at the marina. We took the local taxi, an open small pickup truck with rows of seats in the back, to Charlotte Amalie and roamed, mingling with crowds of cruise ship passengers, in the shopping complex. Jewellery, expensive watches, perfumes, clothing and liqueur shops all vie for the tourist pockets and credit cards. I will admit that the place is tastefully arranged, not to mention the low price of whiskey!

April 13th – It’s a Friday and Gili’s seat on the plane is 13A… So far for superstitions. I leave the marina for St. John’s Cruz Bay, with the intention of persuading the Homeland security agents to do the formalities today and leave for the BVI on Sunday. The bay is tightly packed with anchored yachts and I squeeze “Two Oceans” between a mono and a Lavezzi catamaran.
               

St. John

St. John

The agent is very nice but says I have to come again tomorrow. So be it! Back to the boat, started the engines but the windlass will not work in the “up” direction. It clicks but the windlass is not turning. Did some work on the relay’s electrical contacts and it’s working again. Motored 1.5 miles to Hawksnest Bay and took up a mooring. Quite simple singlehandedly: I approach the mooring buoy, position it between the hulls on the starboard (helm side) back the motors a bit and go forward with the boat hook to catch the mooring rope. Let’s see how this works when the wind blows…
Happy hour: the bay is almost empty, only two yachts are moored on the eastern side of it. White sand beaches, Coconut palms to my right and some thatch roof huts on the western side. A flock of Pelicans are diving for their dinner and Leonard Cohen is on the CD player, Rum and Coke – altogether a perfect moment.

April 14th – 0700 down for a swim. A Remora is interested in the boat, maybe he thinks the hulls are two sharks. After some breakfast I raise the anchor -not without difficulty, the up switch clicks but does not turn the windlass. I give the relay a squirt of electrical contact cleaner and get the switch to work, but experience whispers that this is not the last of it. I motor to Immigrations and do the simple formalities. This time I don’t use the dinghy – I take the boat straight to their dock. Very convenient! Sailing in the Virgin Islands I have to get used to sailing short distances. My next destination is still in St. John – Coral Harbour – and it is about 8 miles away. The wind, of course is easterly, so I plan on doing some windward sailing and tacking, something I am not always allowed when the lady of the manor is in attendance. Since the wind is not so strong I put the lure out. No fish in the freezer, have to correct that. After a while there is a strike and I reel in a nice tuna, not a very big one but surely a few meals for me.

Lost Tuna

Lost Tuna

I clean the fish out on the stern, then take it to the galley and start filleting it. I then notice that it has tiny scales that I better dispose of. Out I go again, remove the scales and put the fish, tied with a rope, into the water for further cleaning. Can you believe that the perfect bowline somehow opened and my prize disappeared in the deep? I thought I heard somebody laughing but that was probably my imagination.
I tack towards Coral Harbour and when I get closer I can see that it is packed with yachts. I go on to what is called in the chart “Hurricane Hole” and find three nice anchorages with laid moorings. As I miss my first attempt, I notice a sign on the mooring buoy saying:”Day use only”. I go back to the “parking lot” and anchor.

                       

Nice place

Nice place

                  

Not so nice

Not so nice

But I don’t like the place and the thought of spending the night there is not appealing at all. I look at my watch, it is only 1430. I am thinking:”why not go to Jost Van Dyke?” That’s where I planned for tomorrow and if I go now, I’ll get there around 1700. Up with the anchorand we are on our way, partly sailing, partly motorsailing in the shifting wind. I pass between Tortola and the islands to it’s west, peeking into Soper’s Hole – also full of boats of all sizes – Admiring some houses standing in the most fabulous location.

Location

Location

At 1640 I anchor in Great Harbour, the island’s biggest settlement and a port of entry. I dinghy to the Immigrations office but they closed at 1630. A stroll on the beach confirms that I made the right decision. Jost Van Dyke is a place of beauty and character.

JVD Beach

JVD BeachJVD anchorage

April 15th – In the morning I did customs and immigrations and took a walk around. I did some work on the windlass electrics and maybe even fixed the problem. Let’s see tomorrow when we need to raise the anchor! Tonight I’ll have dinner at Foxy’s, a local legend, will it be as nice as it looks?
There are three restaurants on the beach in Great Harbour: Ali Baba, Corsairs and Foxy’s. The latter has all the publicity and is completely full. The other two are totally empty!
Foxy’s has a singer/guitarist who was O.K but the atmosphere did not rise to anything I expected. Just a big place with lots of people where you had to wait too long for service. to their credit I’ll say that the Grilled Wahoo was quite good.

Foxy's

Foxy's

April 16th – I get up anticipating a day of sailing around Jost Van Dyke and FISHING! I dream of a small Mahi Mahi. I’ll catch a fish and sail to Little Jost Van Dyke where a beautiful anchorage near a white sandy beach is waiting and the snorkeling is supposed to be excellent. I start the engines and press the “up” button of the windlass – NADA. I try the switch near the helm – same result. After squirting and retrying I succeeded coaxing it to work but I understood that a change of plans is to be made. I’ll go to Nanny Cay marina where they have maintenance facilities and where my registration papers are waiting to be collected. There is another task for me there. A sailing friend from Israel, Amosi, who sold his boat in Nanny Cay asked me to retrieve the contents of his locker in the marina. So we go! Nanny Cay marina is a very nice looking place, green all around,with pelicans diving for fish right before your eyes.

Nanny Cay

Nanny Cay

Nanny Cay

Nanny Cay

I collect my registration documents, arrange for the windlass repair and finally enter the locker. Huge amount of stuff! But I sort it out – some things go to the garbage, some to Amosi’s broker and some (especially charts) I’ll keep and return later. All this took a few hours in searing heat and high humidity and then it was all finished, windlass included. Finger crossed – tomorrow we’ll go fishing…

April 17th – I always switch of the ST 60 instruments after I get to my destination because the repeater in the cabin is beeping from time to time and disturbing the peace. This morning when I switched them on the wind indicator showed three dashes instead of the wind and the wind direction needle was stuck in 12 o’clock position. I’ll deal with this later, I say to myself, the forecast is for moderate winds so there’s no worry, now we go sailing! I start going out and see that the speed indicator is also inoperative, it shows 0.0 knots. Are the two malfunction connected? A back up for speed I have from the GPS so up sails and we are moving. After about 30 minutes the speed indicator comes back to life. Probably the little prop got stuck by some marine growth. I sail around Jost Van Dyke but no fish… Never mind! Wanted to anchor near Green Cay but too many boats taking the good places and I didn’t fancy anchoring in 12 meters, so I continued towards the anchorage by Diamond Cay and the new Foxy’s Taboo marina and restaurant. I took up a mooring in good company and will be able to try and solve the wind instrument mystery. 
           

Green Cay

Green Cay

Good company

Good company

Having caught no fish I plan to go to “foxy’s Taboo” for dinner. At 7 p.m I put on a white shirt and take the dinghy to the restaurant. They have a really big dock there but apart of a large motor yacht the place is empty – no dinghies at all! And the reason is simple – the establishment is closed! The guy from the above mentioned yacht knows that the chef is in hospital in St. Thomas. Get well soon, dear chef! In your absence I’ll have a sandwich and beer.

April 18th – The day dawns with overcast skies and even some light drizzle. I go out with the thought of stopping for lunch in Lee Bay on Camanoe island and then proceed to the north of Virgin Gorda, where there’s a reefs and islands encircled sea space with a lot of promising anchorages. Somebody told me
excitedly to go to “Bitter End” but it looks like another big resort so I’ll go to Drakes anchorage which
seems to be more to my liking. After about an hour I go to open the holding tank valve which is in the
port engine room and to my surprise I find water sloshing in the engine room bilge. Before going out I
checked engines oil and the bilges were clean and dry, so something obviously happened. This was the first time in the week of singlehanding that I wished I had somebody with me. Rushing from the engine room out to look around and operate the boat and then back inside was quite stressful. The bilge pump, I knew, was broken and shamefully I postponed replacing it to Saint Martin. I directed the boat towards Trellis bay 1.2 miles ahead and on the way there discovered the source of the leak. It was the hot water tank, situated in the aft part of the port engine room. I immediately switched of the water pump and the leak stopped. In the mean time I reached Trellis bay and anchored. Cleaned the bilge and sat to  take stock of the situation. I had the tank problem, the bilge pump that I felt so bad about neglecting and also the wind indicator  that didn’t work. Decision: I won’t sail on without repairs. That means going into a marina with a boatyard and Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour was only 4 miles away. They made me wait a little bit outside but finally allowed me into the marina. Jeff Cook is the man to talk to about repairs. “I’ll send Polo” he says. After waiting for an hour I decide to go into the tiny space where the hot water tank is located. I manage to find the problem. A rubber gasket is not seated properly. How did that come about I don’t know, but I reseated it, tightened the nut holding it in place and with trembling fingers (not really) switched on the water supply. No leak! I can’t be sure it’s permanently fixed but I’ll keep an eye on it in the future. One task down! I also fitted the bilge pump I bought in the marina’s chandlery but am not sure I did a good job. A guy comes to the boat. “Polo?” No, it is Polo’s helper. Albert is a nice guy, he has no knowledge of Raymarine instruments so instead of repairing the wind instrument I have him take a look at the bilge pump I fitted and some lights in the cabin that do not work. He stays on the boat for more than an hour but he only succeeds in reviving one of the cabin lights. I wonder what will the bill for his work be like. Polo will come tomorrow morning.

April 19th – The morning brings southwesterly wind with a northwesterly swell. This causes impressive
breaking waves on the reef in the entrance to the marina.

Peacefull inside

Peacefull inside

Waves outside

Waves outside

Polo and Albert come and start working. I winch Polo up the mast to check the wind unit’s electrical contacts. He comes down saying they are not the problem. He goes on checking all the wiring but no success. The instrument shows dashes and no data. We are racing against the clock to evade paying additional marina fees. The system here is that checkout time is 1100 and you pay 10$ for each hour you stay longer. Polo says the work is finished. They fixed the cabin lights, the port engine room bilge pump and as a bonus – the cabin speakers. The price comes to 150$, which when computed according to number of man hours in not expensive but in relation to the results…
                                 

A name

A name

O.K, I am anxious to go out, had it with expensive marinas. I point the boat northeast towards North Virgin Gorda and my  intended place for the night – Drake anchorage. The moment the sails are up and the motors shut down I think I hear a faint noise, like a pump running. Looking at the port engine room I see that the bilge pump is operating with no water in the bilge. Albert messed the wiring in spite of me telling him to pay attention and not use the third wire that is meant for systems employing a switch. I disconnect the pump and after a while, when I come to see the wiring, I get a nasty surprise. The hot water tank is leaking again! I switch off the water pump and sail on. I’ll deal with it when I am at anchor.The narrow pass between Virgin Gorda and Mosquito island  shallows as you go in and here the swell is even more pronounced. Once inside the sea calms, I can look around the bay and see how every anchorage that get more lines in the guide book and those are the ones near resorts, paid moorings and marinas, each of those has so many boats in it and more keep coming in all the time! Drake anchorage has 5 yacht nicely spread and everyone can feel he is all alone in there.
And now to the technical stuff. I assume that there should be a valve enabling shutting the water supply to the hot water tank. To my surprise I cannot find one. So how will I be able to use water? I have enough drinking water in bottles and a spare 25 litres plastic container but this will not be usable for showers, washing dishes etc. There must be a way to separate the tank from the regular water system! While following the pipes in the hull, looking for the valve, I get another kick in the butt: the port bilge has water in it and it’s bilge pump is not working! Let me tell you: This was a big “Down” moment!
I suppose not everyone is interested in all this technical details, but this is one of the things that make up the cruiser’s life, affecting his plans as well as his mood. Of course I have other interests in life… One of them is reading. Right now, with all the technical faults on my mind, I enjoy Paul Auster’s book ” The Brooklyn follies”. So tomorrow I’ll go back to Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour and meet Mr. Polo again and hopefully when all is fixed I’ll set sail for Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of the island the French call St. Martin.
Before I put out the lights and go to sleep I switch on the instruments to check the depth. Imagine my surprise when wind data comes up! It’s alive again!

April 20th – Early in the morning, after coffee and granola I squeeze into the engine room trying to block the water pipe that goes into the tank. Unsuccessful at first but I’ll try another idea when I get to the marina. Out of Drake’s anchorage into a gloomy, grey day. Sails up and I tack south, using the autopilot “tack” facility. When you push both 1 and 10 degrees buttons the autopilot turns 90 degrees in the required direction. After one of these tacks I hear the autopilot motor working continuously. Hello! We’ve been through that before! This time the sprocket is still in place but the tiny bit of steel holding it to the wheel in the lateral dimension fell out. At that time I’m very close to the marina anyhow so sails down and I motor inside a tie to the dock. As much as I look for this piece of metal in the space it should have fallen into – I can’t find it.
                                

Sprocket

Sprocket

Here comes Polo! I pour out all my troubles in his ears and he gets to work. While Albert is delegated to the bilge pump department Polo starts looking for the missing part and in no time he finds it! Together we put it  back in place, this time more secure (hopefully). Now that the pressure to leave the marina is no longer present, he works methodically and in two hours “Two Oceans” is operational again, the hot water tank pipes are blocked by inserting bolts into them and tightning them with hose clips. As Polo and Albert are nearing the end of their toil, I make a quick visit to the customs and Immigrations and am ready to leave. As a farewell gift Polo finds a bulb for my much loved diving torch, the one I’ve had for about 20 years.
After dinner I go to the outer breakwater to see how the entrance/exit looks in the dark. To my disappointment the buoys are not lighted. For some reason I don’t give it another thought and go to sleep. Tomorrow – sea and wind gods willing – ST. Martins.

April 21st – 0300, I wake up before the alarm rings. Untie the mooring ropes, fenders into their locker and we are going out. Want to get to St. Martin before sunset. Motoring slowly out in the dark I simply see no navigational aids, I can see the town’s dock ahead, but it does not give me any clue about my position in the channel. I’m worried about the reef to my left, the GPS plotter shows that I am in the middle of the channel, can I trust it? The harsh answer is seen on the depth instrument, as it rapidly reaches 0.9 meters and immediately we touch bottom. Only then do I see how close to shore we are. Playing the throttles I manage to extricate myself from this dangerous and embarrassing position. I am furious with myself. I really need to do some soul searching regarding my conduct there and maybe some other cases that I did not act prudently enough. But that will have to wait. Right now I need to navigate “Two Oceans” in the pitch black night ( the clouds obscure what little moon there is) and pass, using the GPS and radar, between Ginger island and Round rock. Don’t want another grounding tonight! Only when those two are behind us, and can be seen on the background of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, can I relax and think about what happened. If conditions were a bit worse I could have lost the boat! How could I allow myself to go complacently out like that! Let me tell you: I am the harshest critic of my actions. This was true in my professional as well as my day to day life. In aviation I would have never dreamt of going into a situation that I was not sure what the outcome will be. Why am I not applying the same standards here? Then and there a decision is taken.  I am reminded of a talk I had with Danny,who was with me in March. He asked me the following question: “On the scale between the Cautious, conservative sailor and the one that is ready to take risks – where do you place yourself?”, I thought I was somewhere in the middle, but recent events are not supporting this view. Then and there a decision is taken. NO MORE IRRESPONSIBLE ACTION. Back to Aviation standards!
0700 – Wind comes and I can shut the engines down and sail at 55-60 degrees to the apparent wind, initially at about 6 knots and later over 7. The day is a miserable cloudy and grey one. But we are making good progress. I try fishing, the first lure – a squid imitation – gets bitten a few times but the fish escape. Back to the trusted Rapala and the moment it’s in the water we get a strike. I bring in a nice barracuda but after the indoctrination about Ciguatera I am afraid to eat it and return it to it’s natural element. The second is nice sized Spanish Mackerel. I’ll have fish for dinner!
                                      

Before

Before

After

After

The fishing passes the time nicely and when I finish with the fish we are only 9,5 miles to destination. SMS to Gili, who – I know – is a bit worried about the 80 miles leg. I drop the anchor in Simpson’s bay, St. Martin 13.5 hours after leaving Virgin Gorda. Not counting the grounding  – not a bad day!St. Martin looks like a big tourist trap. The main reason for my coming here is the fact that this is a good and cheap place for marine equipment and maintenance.

St. Martins

St. Martins

April 22nd – Simpson Bay is connected to a landlocked lagoon full of marinas and anchoring space by a narrow channel spanned by a bridge. As it is a Sunday there in no point in going to Bobby’s marina, where I plan to do some work, until tomorrow. So I decide to go into the lagoon and have a day of rest.The bridge opens 15 minutes late, is this what is called “Island Time”?

Bridge

Bridge

The place is full of yachts of all sizes but when you are on your boat, your cocoon, you don’t feel crowded. The only disturbance to P&Q (peace and quiet) is the noise of the airplanes taking off from Princess Juliana airport which is near by.

Simpson lagoon

Simpson lagoon

April 23rd – When the bridge opens at 0900 we are the first out and straight to Bobby’s. In my imagination the place looks like a pharmaceutical laboratory. People in white, each one  an expert in one or the other field of marine maintenance are ready to board my boat and fix all that needs fixing. The reality, of course, is completely different. While the manager of the boatyard, Jeff, is a very nice and helpful guy. He sends an electrician to check the tank. The poor man, Eric, goes through what I endured before, squeezes into the engine room and comes out sweating with the same conclusion. It transpires that they are not familiar with that tank type and cannot be sure of getting spare parts for it. This could drag for over a week! So, thanks guys, we’ll do the work in Grenada, where time will not be a factor.

April 24th – 0915 and “Two Oceans” is gliding under sail, 50 degrees to the wind, towards the island of Saba. As I get closer I happen to see a big whale surfacing and exhaling but am not quick enough with the camera.

Approaching Saba

Approaching Saba

Saba is a small island or, if you wish, a big mountain in the sea. It has a 1500 people living in it and a medical school (?) that adds a third to the permanent population. There are two main villages up in the mountain. There are moorings for yachts on the west side of the island, which is more protected.  From there you dinghy to the small harbour and check in with the harbour master and the parks officials. When I asked the former about visiting the village, he suggested that I hitch hike. “Everybody will take you” he says. And so it was. The village I went to is called Bottom although it is about a 1000 feet high.
It has a special feel about it. Maybe it’s the combination of Dutch architecture with the tropical vegetation.

Saba home

Saba home

As I walk down, cars slow to check if I want a ride, typical for such a community. Back to the boat, I find that I am so tired that there is a temptation to miss dinner. I force myself to cook
the piece of Spanish Mackerel that I took out of the fridge but for some reason it does not taste too good. The spaghetti was nice, though.

April 25th -Early in the morning I dinghy to the snorkeling buoy trying to see something of the local underwater scene. It is only seven o’clock so there is not enough light and anyway, it doesn’t look like the place is rich with life so I give it up. Started the engines and we are on our way to St. Kitts, some 38 miles away. Where is the wind direction that www.wunderground.com promised? It was supposed to be northeasterly but in reality it is from the east, about 25 degrees to our port, which means we are motoring. Oh well, what can you do? You try to fish – but no luck today.
At 1000 the wind backs a bit so I unfurl the jib, go right some 10-15 degrees and we are sailing. As we pass the island of Statia the wind backs some more and now we can sail in straight to destination. At some point the first reef is put in the main. The going is good until we reach the lee of St. Kitts, where during a few minutes, but not before I am tricked into hoisting the main up again, the wind disappears. The guide speaks about a marina in Basseterre. I’m not sure I need the expenditure but call them to ask the price which turns out to be about 45 dollars. I’ll stay out, says I and make my way towards the commercial harbour, where I can see a big yellow catamaran at anchor. I call customs on the VHF and they allow me to tie to the main dock. Don’t have to lower the dinghy, good! I climb the big fenders on to the dock, reach customs, where a smiling agent advises me that I need to go to immigrations and arrange the new Caricom Visa, a special visa for the ongoing Cricket championship. I completely forgot that St. Kitts was one of the organisation. Where do I do that? The agent explains that I could dinghy to the marina and do it in the near by police station. Well, that’s a different proposition. Who knows how long it will take. So I decide to go into the marina for the night. As I want to leave early in the morning to Antigua, I rush to the marina office to pay. Only then I understand that the price they gave me on the phone was in EC, the Caribbean dollar – 2.67 to the U.S dollar. On to the police station. I get there at 1630 and the officer in the entrance says the immigrations are closed for the day. “Come back tomorrow at 0800”.  The town of Basseterre is in the process of renovating itself, mainly for the Cruise ships tourism. There is a lot of construction activity area near the cruise ships dock, the center of town is clean and decorated but other parts are not so nice. In some of the streets there are open gutters with strange fluids running through them. A few pictures will give you the idea.            

For tourists

For tourists

For locals

For locals

Big tree

Big tree

April 26th – As instructed, at 0800, I enter the police station. “Come again in half an hour, the office is still closed”. Island time, got to get used to it! I do and am received by two police officers, a man and a woman, who pleasantly, if not very efficiently arrange my visa. Of course it is too late to sail to antigua so I go out of the marina searching for a bay in Nevis, St. Kitts neighbour and partner in the state. I tack towards Oualie bay but after anchoring in 2 meters I find out that the bottom is mostly grass over hard sand and coral and that the anchor is dragging. A few hundred meters to the south is Tamarind bay, described in the guide as one of the calmest in Nevis and I find peace there.

Tamarind bay

Tamarind bay

As I am relaxing in the cockpit, another catamaran in coming to anchor. Slightly bigger than ours, it is a Privilege 65, with 10 guests and 4 crew…

Big brother

Big brother

Come 4 PM, I lower the dinghy and motor to the floating dock of the Gallipot bar and restaurant. My intention is to walk along the beach to a point that I saw when sailing past, a point that looks like the Ultimate Caribbean Beach. It was worth the effort!

Ultimate

Ultimate

April 27th – I don’t sleep too well at night because the wind is really gusting. I get up to check that we did not drag (we didn’t) and to look at the wind indicator. By the time I get to it, all I see is 12-17 knots but I know that some gusts are higher. What will the wind be like in the morning? Up at 0530,  I prepare the boat for departure. For some reason, probably because a reluctance to pass  close to reefs on the north side of the island and the feeling that at any rate I will have to motor to Antigua, I choose to round Nevis from the south. It immediately becomes apparent that going to Antigua with this kind of sea/wind combination is not a realistic proposition. 20+ knots on the nose and seas to match – no go! The alternate: Montserrat. Initially it looked as if I could sail directly or about 10 degrees of track but as we went along the wind grew stronger, requiring 2nd reef and in this configuration you don’t point so well. At 15 miles to go I gave up the pretence of pure sailing, put down the sails and motored in the direction of Little Bay, the port of entry. That was absolutely no fun. I couldn’t understand why the sea should be so steep and short, even with the 20-25 knots of wind. But this was what we had and “Two Oceans” strains ahead , Yanmars running at 2700 RPM instead of the 2500 that I use in regular conditions doing close to 5 knots. Getting closer I can see a few yacht at anchor, that was reassuring! I was afraid that I’ll get there and find the anchorage not safe and then what? I anchor at 8 meters, letting out all my chain for the first time. On our right I can see a similar boat to ours. Two dinghys are leaving the dock in my direction. I wave to them and one is approaching. These are Tracy and Neal, owners of the Maxim 380. They come aboard and we have a nice talk. They just came back from a trip to the volcano observatory, one I’d like to make too. I suppose all who reads this is aware of the disaster that hit this island when La Soufriere volcano erupted and destroyed a big part of the island. George, a taxi driver, has a VHF and calls me. “See you after Customs and Immigration”.
The trip is interesting although you see the volcano only from afar. The contrast between the north, untouched part to the devastated south is incredible. At the observatory I get a publication that calmly explains the imminent danger of another eruption.

Volcano

Volcano

April 28th – He who goes to sleep at 2100 should not be surprised if he wakes up at 0400… I lazed a bit in bed but then got up. Remembering that the evening before I thought I saw some WI FI  station on the computer, a local dive club, I tried it again and presto! I can surf! So I used Skype to talk to Gili and my eldest daughter and, of course, to take the forecasts. I took the NOAA High Seas, the NOAA Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands and www.wunderground.com and they all indicated that I can expect Easterly wind 15-20 knots. I now have to decide what course to take to Guadelupe. If I sail to the west of Montserrat I will be protected from the waves in the lee of the island but there is the possibility of having volcanic dust fall on the boat. The deciding factor was the angle to the wind: I will have a better angle if I go by the east side, although I will probably have to “enjoy” some rough sea. Well, it wasn’t too bad and after I turned towards Guadelupe I could shut the engines down and let the sails, in second reef, take us to our first French Island of the trip. Passing on the east of Montserrat offered the opportunity of seeing the volcano from another angle.

another angle

another angle

At 1400 I anchored in Deshaies bay. Guadeloupe has rain forests, initially I was treated to the rain and after it ceased I went ashore with the intention of visiting Customs and the botanical gardens the place is famous for. Customs had something better to do on Saturday afternoon than to wait for Miki. They left a note to the effect that I could go to other ports of entry, so this was postponed for tomorrow. Now the gardens: after marching up the steep  hill for 1.4 km, I got to the entrance and found out that I left my wallet with money and credit cards on the boat. Back to the village and the boat. In the evening I hope to sample the local cuisine.

Deshaies

Deshaies

There is something I call “The Mikonos Effect” meaning the bigger the town or island is, the greater is the chance that people will be less nice and will try to take advantage of you. It was in a restaurant in Mikonos that four of us had fish (price by weight) and according to the bill each of the fish was 0.65 kilograms. I went to the cashier, where the display of fish was on a bed of ice, told the manager to weigh the biggest fish of the kind we had and the bill was halved. When I read in the guide that Guadeloupe had a population of 330000, a thought passed through my mind: This is the place to start locking the boat when I leave her and securing the dinghy ashore. All this preamble brings us to La Mouillage restaurant, a nice looking place, specialising in local food, right on the dock I tied the dinghy to.
I’m having Crudite (chopped salad vegetables, no dressing) Court Bouillon of fish with local veggies, a small bottle of wine and a coffee. In the menu the cost comes up to 29.5 euro. The bill contains double the number of items and comes up to 66.5 euro. People who sat in tables near by, when they heard my discussion with the waitress, told similar stories.  Mikonos of the Caribbean! (or maybe Pirates of …)

April 29th – This was to be an easy day, sailing to Basseterre (they have one here, and it’s the capital of the island) only about 20 miles. This is the place I will do the official entry into Guadeloupe, or will I? The guide mentions something about working Monday to Friday and today is Sunday. The point is, I only go there for the custom clearance, otherwise I would have chosen differently. Basseterre is a big town and you may have already figured out that I prefer smaller places, enchanted bays in unspoilt nature.The trip begins with rain. No wind to speak of so I motor using one engine with the main up and hide in the cabin.

Rain

Rain

A little later the skies clear, light wind enable us to ghost forward at 3-4 knots. This goes on for an hour or so and then the wind disappears, I roll the jib and motor again. On shore I can see heavy rain. Pretty soon it gets to us and with it a sudden gust of 28 knots. In my haste I drop the main completely and regret it, I could have put in the second reef. Sure enough the squall quickly passes and I have to hoist the main up again. Good workout, maybe, but my muscles are aching from all this winching I do all the time. We keep on going and I am having second thoughts about Basseterre. Why don’t I go on to Les Saints? They also have custom facility (that will probably will be closed), it’s a much nicer place in my view and it is only another 10 miles or so to go. Rain comes again and this time I am ready. Rolled the jib to “handkerchief size” and double reefed the main so when the 25 knots wind comes we can sail safely, if not in the exact direction we want. Reaching the southwestern point of the island the wind backs allowing us to set course very close to destination. Les Saints are a group of small beautiful islands but as I turn toward them they are obscured by cloud and rain. As those get close, the wind heads us and is gusting up to 30 knots. Mainsail down, jib rolled earlier and since the visibility is so poor I put the radar on. It’s 1230, the time I decided to have lunch. Outside is wet and windy. I start by making a salad, cutting vegetables with intermissions for going out to look around. The situation of me making an omelet with the boat’s rough ride on the short waves was really comical. After I finished my meal, the cloud,rain and wind moved politely away and the islands appeared ahead. The plotter is telling me to sail a course of 113 degrees. I am aiming the boat by sight and am surprised to see that the COG (course over ground) is off by 30 degrees. And look at this SOG! (speed over ground) We are sailing at about 6 knots on the water and the GPS shows only 3 knots! A CURRENT!

Current

Current

Finally we reached Bourg des Saints, the village on the main island, passing the famous Pain A Sucre, a rock with a unique shape and find an anchorage between the multitude of boats of all kinds that fill the bay.

Pain a sucre

Pain a sucre

To our left is another famous structure, a ship shaped house, belonging – if my memory serves me right – to a retired sea Captain.

Ship-house

Ship-house

April 30th – Today I am leaving for Dominica. One could ask why is it that I sail away without seeing Pointe A Pitre, the island’s interior and all the beautiful scenery, waterfalls and all. The answer is that making all these trips and having to go into a big marina all alone is no fun. So when we come back in November and Gili is on board we can rent a car and do it all. I went out of Les Saints expecting the wind to be, as the forecast said, easterly 15-20. This would have given me 60 degrees angle to the wind and allowed me to sail straight for Dominica. But life on the waves in never that easy. First the wind blew 25 knots and only relaxed after I have gone through all the reefing drill. Then,  it changed direction and came from the south east. But I didn’t care. After the initial fun and games the situation stabilized, the sea was dark blue and the boat sailed at about 7 knots. As we got closer, the wind backed and we actually sailed almost to the anchorage. About 2 miles out I get a visitor: Alexis, or rather Alex, his brother, comes to offer his services. Those include Indian River tour, laundry and any other thing a yachtsman would want. This phenomenon of boat helpers changed over the years, from harassing boat boys to professional guides, most of whom have a VHF radio and give good service. They have names like “Cobra”, “Providence”, “Spaghetti” etc.
                                      

Cobra

Cobra

The anchorage near Portsmouth has many yachts at anchor, I count about 30(!) including 7 catamarans.I find a plce to drop the anchor and in minutes Alex is with me. This Indian River trip is a thing I want to do and ask him if I could join another group. “No problem, but first let me take you to Customs”. He takes me and two other skippers to the office, where a young and pretty lady custom officer efficiently goes through the proper procedures. Quick visit to the police for immigration control, again, very pleasant and professional conduct of the officer and we are back with Alex. And now to the river tour. Indian river is part of a National park. No motors are allowed so Alex partly rows, partly pushes us with his oar. He shows us the various plants and trees, finding time to tell us about Rasta and the difference between it and simple sporting of dreadlocks.

Alex

Alex

The river is a gem. You can see birds,fish and crabs but the main thing is the rich vegetation. Alex says a part of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” was shot in this river. Oh well…
                                                

Witch location

Witch location

 

River scene

River scene

Two of the guys on the boat want to do a rain forest and some famous fall tour tomorrow and I gladly join. Another feature of the country is the heavy rainfall. It seems that every other hour a cloud goes by and discharges a fantastic amount of water, at least from the point of view of an Israeli. As I am writing this it comes again…

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