Logbook: Back to the Caribbean; Winter 2008
After leaving Ocean Harmony on the hard at Grenada marine last May, we spent a busy 8 months ashore. Most of the time was spent on Vancouver Island where we were active participants in the construction of our new home in Sidney, British Columbia. The house was completed in time for us to move in at the end of November. Surprisingly, the furniture, some of which had been in storage since it was shipped from London in 2004, was found to be undamaged. Christmas was hectic but fun as we had Susan, Ken, Di, Jade, Tyler and Oscar (the Spaniel) with us to celebrate and wet the roof. On Boxing day Harmony and I flew to England to be with Rob, Jo and Ned to celebrate Christmas and New Year with them. Then, a weeks trip to Durban, South Africa to see Harmony's mum. A few days back in England to visit the London Boat Show (and drool over the new Sweden 54) before flying back to Grenada to begin our winter sailing season on Ocean Harmony.
To visit the sailing logs click on the links below:
Grenada to Antigua
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua to St Maarten
British Virgin Islands and back to Grenada
1) Grenada to Antigua
January 25th to February 17th 2008
We stayed for 3 nights at Le Sagesse, while we prepared the boat for launching. There were no problems with the boat and all the work we had asked to be done had been completed for us. The new AB inflatable dinghy was delivered and the new mainsail was ready for us. We decided to take the boat around to the marina at Le Phare Bleau, where Dave Royce the North Sails agent is located and where it would be easier to fit the new mainsail being tied up to the dock. This we did and are happy to report that the new sail has so far proven to be good. In fact, we should have replaced the jibsail at the same time because it basically fell apart on our sail up north to Antigua. But more about that later. I should also report that I finally tackled the unpleasant job of replacing the holding tank valve on the forward head. The valve had become increasingly stiff and over the long summer must have dried out completely and seized, so that it could no longer be closed. Unfortunately, in order to replace the valve, the holding tank has to be physically removed from its awkward location in the forward locker. It took several hours but the job is done. At the same time I cleaned out all the pipes which were scaled badly and replaced the electric pump.
Le Phare Bleau is a brand new marina and resort in the making. What makes the marina unique is an old Swedish Lighthouse ship that the owners, Dieter and Jana, restored and brought over from Germany. The ship was built in 1903 and was decommissioned in the 1970's. It is tied up alongside the dock and doubles as a Marina office and restaurant. The entrance to marina is a bit tricky but the channel has been buoyed and as long as one proceeds with caution, it should not create too many difficulties.
While we were at the marina we rented a car and explored Grenada by road. St George, the capital of Grenada has a protected harbour surrounded by steep sided hills where buildings and houses seem to hang suspended from the sides. Overlooking St Georges harbour entrance is the 18th century Fort George that served to protect the British Navy at St Georges. After the coup carried out by the communist Maurice Bishop in 1979, the fort was renamed Fort Rupert after Maurice's father. Later it was the scene of violent confrontations between the extreme communist faction and Maurice's supporters. Bishop was executed by the extremists in 1983 which caused Ronald Reagan to order troops to invade the island to reinstate a democratic government. Today Maurice Bishop is revered by most Grenadians. As an aside, one of our cab drivers who spoke positively of the Bishop years, still blames the British for casting Grenada aside in 1974 when they were forced into independence. He claimed that most Grenadians would have preferred to stay part of Britain “just like the French islands where the islanders get social security paid for by France”
To the west of St George, the coast is steep sided with lush green, mountainous interior. On the island tours I am always looking out for good anchorages, but on this west coast the few possible anchorages we saw were very exposed to the swell that wraps around the island from the north. Only the southern coast has well protected anchorages which we subsequently explored. From Le Phare Bleu we motored around to Hog Island, (very protected anchorage,but busy) and then True Blue Bay, (great pub and restaurant).
But now it was time to go sailing! So on Sunday 3 February we departed True Blue Bay and set our new mainsail with a single reef as we sailed north northeast, 45 miles to Tyrell Bay on Carriacou. We shook out the reef after about an hour only to be hit by a squall that forced us to drop the mainsail completely. The wind was very gusty. It was a harbinger of things to come! We spent a few days in Tyrell Bay. Enjoying swimming and relaxing. We rented a taxi for a morning and explored the island that way. There are spectacular views from Chapeau Carre, the 1000 foot high hill overlooking Sandy Isle and the town of Hillsborough. The east side of the island is protected by a spectacular reef. It is here that we saw a traditional wooden fishing boat under construction.
We cleared customs at Hillsborough and sailed 15 miles north to Clifton Harbour on Union Island. We sailed fast with a double reefed main in 20-25 knots. Union Island is part of St Vincent. We cleared immigration and customs at the airport, which runs parallel to the anchorage. Landing at this airport must be very interesting for the pilots as it is an extremely short runway and the approach is directly over the top of “The Pinnacle” a 600 foot high hill. It was entertaining to sit on board and watch the planes approach, skimming the top of this hill (less than 50 feet I would say), and then descending steeply. Upon touching down you can hear the propellers being feathered to slow the plane down in time to avoid running off the end of the runway.
Union Island is small; less than 2 miles at its widest point. We decided to walk from Clifton to Big Sands Resort on the north side of the island. After a hot 40 minute walk we arrived at this small boutique style resort and treated ourselves to an excellent lunch, looking out over the bay. While we were enjoying Clifton, we were also watching the weather which continued to produce unseasonably strong trade winds and squalls. Ideally one would wait for more favourable conditions, but we had a rendezvous with Susan in Antigua on February 20th , just 10 days away. Antigua is about 300 nm from Union Island and our plan was to island hop our way north without spending time at any of the islands since we had followed this route going south last year. We figured it would take us about a week to get there, which would get us into Antigua a few days before Susan's arrival.
So we left Clifton on February 9th, with a double reefed mainsail and 2/3rd jib set. The wind was 25 knots and we fairly raced along. It was wet work as we were close hauled on starboard tack, beating the whole 33 miles to Bequia. At times we had too much sail up as we dipped our lee rail under water. So next day we set a 3rd reef in the mainsail and pressed on to Wallilabou on the west coast of St Vincent. The last time we had used the 3rd reef was during our crossing from Crete to Rhodes in the full fury of the Meltemi in 2006. Good thing we did too as the wind stayed over 25knots with gusts over 30 at times.!
As I was sitting in my favourite place, lee side of the cockpit resting against the cushion, I was appalled to see strips of the jib pealing away and disappearing in the ocean as we beat our way to windward. The leech and foot of the sail was literally disintegrating as we sailed. The jib, like the old mainsail was a laminated sail (Marathon 3DL) and it, like the mainsail was completely de laminating with the outer skin shedding itself to reveal the kevlar fibres that provide the lateral strength to the sail. However, to our surprise the sail never totally failed and despite being subjected to further strong, near gale force winds, we made it all the way to St Maarten before replacing it with a new Spectra sail from North Sails.
At Wallilabou we ate dinner on board and went to bed early in anticipation of another long day of tough sailing. Chris Doyle's pilot book on the Windward Islands describes the northbound passage from St Vincent to St Lucia as “hard on the wind and hard on the body!” “The north end of St Vincent is unbelievably gusty and more than a little bumpy”. We slipped our mooring a 0600hours and motor sailed north-eastward, staying close inshore in the lee of the island, as is recommended in the Pilot Book. As soon as we picked up the wind we bore away on a northerly course, close hauled and heading for the south end of St Lucia. Despite Doyle's warning about the conditions we were still stunned by the mountainous waves and winds that we encountered on this crossing. Our logbook records that we were doing 8 knots over the ground with 3 reefs in the mainsail with winds gusting over 30 knots.! We took a lot of water on board. We were subjected to frequent dosing of warm sea water. The cockpit had, at time, 3 or 4 inches of water in it as the drain could not empty it fast enough. Fortunately after about an hour the wind settled down and we were able to shake out a reef. Once we were in the lee of St Lucia the wind and seas moderated and we sailed north in a 15 to 20 knot breeze to Rodney Bay which we reached at 1600hours. We covered the 60 nm in 10 hours.
Rodney Bay to Anse D' Arlet, Martinique was a repeat performance: 25 to 30 knots with triple reefed mainsail. We estimated 15 foot waves. Once again, watched as bits of the jib disintegrated, but still held together somehow. We witnessed an amazing feeding frenzy midway between the islands. Hundreds of birds diving into the water. At anchor we attempted to patch up the jib using strips of glued repair tape.
Next day the wind was down to 20 knots so we shook out a reef hoping for an easier crossing to Dominica. But it wasn't to be! We were hit by 3 successive squalls with winds up to 35 knots as we approached Dominica. We dropped the mainsail and sailed with half the jib into the lee of the island. Once again, a wet wild crossing. Our temporary jib repairs proved useless. By the time we reached Dominica there wasn't a single strip of repair tape remaining; all lost in the Caribbean Sea.
Dominica to Guadaloupe and then to our destination Antigua was much better sailing ,as the wind was more on the beam allowing us to sail fast, on a broad reach. Much more comfortable. We averaged well over 7 knots on both crossings, even with a double reefed mainsail. The jib continued its slow process of disintegration, but never gave out completely. We had covered the 300 miles from Union Island in 8 days.
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2) Antigua and Barbuda
February 18th to March 29th 2008
I am writing this section of the logbook back at our home on Vancouver Island. Today is July 1st, Canada Day, and it is a glorious summer day. But despite it being high summer, there is a cool breeze off the ocean and I find it difficult to imagine the warm, humid ocean breeze of the Caribbean Sea. But rereading the logbook, so diligently written up by Harmony, I begin to remember.
We stern berthed at Nelson's Dockyard, which had been our “home base” for over a month in 2007. There was a comfortable feeling of familiarity with the back drop of Georgian buildings and the same local restaurants. We ordered a new Jib sail from the North Sails agent in Antigua. We enjoyed a few days of relaxation before our daughter, Susan arrived. The following morning we left English Harbour and sailed south staying close to the southern shore, inside of the reef that runs parallel to the shore, about a mile off. We anchored in 3 metres of water tucked into the north west corner of Deep Bay. This is one of our favourite anchorages. Unfortunately the Andes seafood restaurant that we had so enjoyed last year, is closed for renovations. But the snorkelling over the wreck of the Andes remains a highlight.
We sailed with Susan to Jumby Bay and then on to Barbuda, retracing our trip of the previous year. At Barbuda we anchored off Louis Mouth , in Low Bay. We had 6 miles of totally deserted beach to ourselves. The “mouth” was created when Hurricane Louis struck the island in 1995 and breached to low lying beach creating a new cut into the inner lagoon. Today the breach is closed but the sandy beach is at it narrowest at this point. The guide to the frigate bird colony picked us up on the other side of Louis Mouth and took us to the colony. Unlike last year, the birds were still mating so the males were seen puffing up their bright scarlet red crops to attract the female birds. We were all enthralled.
We had intended to return to English Harbour via the east side of Antigua, but with the wind blowing 25 knots from the ESE, it was very hard going to windward. After an hour of wet bumpy sailing, we bore away and set a more comfortable course for Jolly Harbour on the sheltered west side of Antigua. The following day we returned to Nelson's Dockyard where George, the dockmaster, welcomed us home like long lost friends. Susan left us on Thursday and our next visitors, Greg and Val Charalombous arrived on Saturday.
We did the Sunday night barbecue at Shirley Heights and departed Monday for a circumnavigation of the island. We visited mostly familiar anchorages: Jolly Harbour, Deep Bay, Jumby Bay, Great Bird Island, Green Island and then back to Nelson's Dockyard. Great Bird Island was new for Harmony and I and involved some fairly intimidating reef navigation including exiting via the Bird Island Channel. However, it was worth the effort. Exploring Great Bird Island was itself an interesting experience. Greg and Val left us on 12 March. It is always so pleasant to have friends visit and experience the sailing life. For us the one negative of sailing in the Caribbean is the lack of contact with friends and family, so visits like this are treasured experiences.
Harmony returned to England for 10days, leaving me to minor boat maintenance and such like. While I was at Nelson's Dockyard an Atlantic storm, far to the north, created massive swells of up to 15 feet on the shore of Antigua causing flooding and damage to other parts of the island. The swell did work its way into English Harbour and I could certainly feel and see the swells which broke over the dock wall onto the grass. There was no damage to any yachts in the Harbour.
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3) Antigua to St Maarten
March 30th to April 13th 2008
We left Antigua on 29th March. We had been there for 6 weeks. Our destination was the island of Nevis which lies some 40 miles downwind of Antigua. With the wind directly astern, we employed the whisker pole to pole out the jib as we set the sails “goose winged”. Ie the mainsail and jib set on opposite sides of the boat. When sailing like this the wind must be kept well aft and in order to prevent an accidental jibe, we rig a jibe preventer to the boom. To do this we run a line from the centre of the boom forward to a block attached to the gunwale just ahead of the mast, and then led back to the cockpit and cleated off tight thus preventing the boom from accidental gybe in the event the wind backs the mainsail. With a steady wind of 20 – 25 knots we made good time. As we approached the coast of Nevis the wind backed to the north east and we took down the pole went on starboard tack. All the while the sky had been darkening and soon we were sailing in heavy rain which lasted until we were well in the lee of Nevis. We picked up a mooring buoy off Pinney's Beach, north of the capital, Charlestown at 1445.
Pinney's Beach is at least a mile long and the mooring buoys are laid all along, 3 rows deep and about 100metres off the beach. There must be at least 30 buoys available for visiting yachtsmen. Scattered along the white sandy beach are a number of beach bars and restaurants that cater to the visiting yachts. We went ashore at Sunshine Bar and Grill and walked to the east end of the beach where the luxury Four Seasons Hotel caters to the rich and famous. At the west end of the beach, another bar and a reasonable place to leave the dinghy ashore for the short 15 minute walk into the town. The island itself is dominated by the volcano who's slopes were once covered with sugar cane plantations. Now it is gradually being overgrown by forests. On our half day tour of the island we visited Nelson's Museum as well as the Montpelier Plantation, where he married Frances Nisbet on 11th March 1787. Our tour also took us to the botanical gardens and an old plantation house that has now been converted into a luxury boutique hotel.
After staying for 4 days, we decided to sail up to St Kitts which is the second island forming the country of St Kitts and Nevis. It is only about 6 miles to the capital, Basseterre. The marina at Basseterre did not have any space available for us and we were told to anchor off the entrance to the marina and wait for a vacancy. This we did, but found that we were very exposed to the prevailing wind which was blowing strongly and setting up quite a sea. We sat there for a couple of hours but it was soon apparent that no boats were leaving the marina that day so we upped anchor and sailed back to Pinney Beach and took up a mooring buoy again. Next day we took a ferry to St Kitts and had a very good day there. The town centre which is fashioned after Picadilly Circus in London, boasts a number of good restaurants. We had lunch at the Ballahoo restaurant. We also took a taxi to Brimstone Hill Fortress located at the north end of the island. The Fort itself is built on top of a hill 800 feet above sea level, overlooking the coast and Fort Charles.
The history of St Kitts and Brimstone Hill is most interesting. The island had been shared by the French and English in the 17th century. French occupied the south side, including modern day Basseterre, whereas the English held the north end protected by Fort Charles. During peacetime, the English and French cooperated with each but whenever European conflicts arose, the war would manifest itself in this small island. One of these conflicts in 1690 resulted in the French capturing Fort Charles. The British, realizing the military potential of Brimstone Hill, then proceeded to fortify it. It is immediately apparent to anyone who visits the site that Fort Charles would have been in an indefensible position being directly under the guns of Brimstone Hill. Fortifications continued over the next 80 years until in January 1782, 8000 French soldiers attacked the island and besieged the Fort on Brimstone Hill, which was defended by just 1000 soldiers of the Royal Scots and East Yorkshire regiments. After an heroic defence of over a month, they finally surrendered. At the treaty of Versailles in 1783 the island was returned to the British and fortifications were continued until 1794. The Fort was finally abandoned in 1852. Restoration began in 1965 and has continued since. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is well worth a visit.
Finally after a week of being tied up to the mooring buoy at Pinney's Beach, the wind and swells began to abate and, we left on Monday to cross to St Bart's. The forecast, which had called for 15 knots, was a bit optimistic as we found ourselves tacking up the channel between St Kitts and Nevis with 20 knots on the nose. And so another fast sail, reaching Gustavia, St Bart's in just 6 hours at an average speed of 8 knots. The protected inner harbour was very congested and we anchored in the crowded outer anchorage on the south side of the harbour entrance. Gustavia is pretty, with its red roofed bungalows reminiscent of a Swedish seaside village, which it was for a period of time. It was named after King Gustav III of Sweden. St. Barts was a French possession originally, and the area was called Carenage after the shelter it provided to damaged ships. Gustavia was founded after Sweden obtained the island from France in 1785 in exchange for French trading rights and a warehouse in Gothenburg. The island was sold back to France in 1878.
We were happy to leave the crowded, rolly anchorage next day for the short crossing to St Maarten. We anchored in Simpson's Bay and proceeded immediately to clear customs. We entered the inner lagoon next day at the 0930 opening of the road bridge, and berthed at Simpson's Bay Marina. We were on a “mission” to St Maarten as we took delivery of our new North Sails Spectra Jib. St Maarten is a major yachting centre and the Chandlers are well stocked with everything one could desire. We finally gave in and bought a new 9.8 horsepower Touhatsu 2 stroke outboard engine at Budget Marine to replace our unreliable, Honda 5 horsepower, 4 stroke. Although it was only 5 years old, we had had a series of problems since arriving in the Caribbean. In 2006 we had to put in a new carburettor kit but we continued to be plagued with unreliability. Basically, it was difficult to start and whenever you opened throttle, the engine would begin to cough and then quit. The only way to restart was to remove the spark plug , clean and replace. Even when we put in a new plug it made no difference. Frankly we had lost confidence in the motor and it is no fun being in a dinghy with 25 knot wind blowing offshore when the outboard stops. This happened to us at Bequia and we only saved ourselves from being blown out to sea by paddling furiously to another anchored yacht and hanging on to its anchor chain. A yachtsman off another boat saw our distress and came over to give us a tow back to our boat.
The debate about 2 stoke versus 4 stroke is ongoing. In Victoria we had a 2 hp, 2 stroke Yamaha on our dinghy that had given great service. It survived a capsize and submersion in the cold waters of Desolation Sound. Amazingly, after being submerged upside down for at least 10 minutes, I drained the carburettor and fuel tank. Refilled it and pulled the starter cord. It started immediately and continued to work for us until we sold the boat a year later. We bought the 4 stroke for environmental reasons: supposedly less emissions. But the reliability and ease of maintenance of a 2 stroke has convinced us that this is a better option for cruising sailors, particularly in the hot Caribbean conditions.
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4) British Virgin Islands and back to Grenada
April 13th to May 19th 2008
It is about 90 miles from St Maarten to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. We left the anchorage at 0400 on a dark moonless night, threading our way out between the ghostly silhouettes of the many anchored yachts. We were soon clear of the harbour and hoisted sails with a single reef in the mainsail. The wind was from the east at about 18 knots. Our course was 295 and with the wind abaft, we sailed comfortably. After an hour we shook out the single reef and our boat speed picked up to close on 8 knots. We reached the north end of Virgin Gorda and passed between Necker Island (owned by Richard Branson) and Prickly Pear Island before rounding Mosquito Rock and into the lee of the island. At Spanish Town we tied to a mooring buoy outside Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour. We were surprised to find Caliso, our sistership tied up ahead of us. We had last seen Rob and Jan when they were moored adjacent to Ocean Harmony at Nelson's Dockyard.
It is quite a long dinghy ride into the Yacht harbour, but with our new outboard it was easy! We cleared customs. Fairly efficient if not overly friendly! The marina at Virgin Gorda is full of charter boats and has decent facilities. But we received a nasty shock when we went to the Instant Teller machine to withdraw funds and were declined! Our initial reaction was to blame the local bank but after visiting several banks we eventually called our bank in Canada and discovered that our debit card had been frozen because of fraudulent use. Approximately $1000 had been withdrawn in the Ukraine. Last year our Credit Card had been similarly defrauded with someone running up almost $10000 in Phoenix, Arizona while we were blissfully unaware in the Caribbean. In both cases we were fully compensated for our losses. We believe that in both our cases the source of the fraud was Antigua. But we did hear of similar events from other sailors in St Maarten.
The BVI archipelago provides for ideal cruising with short day sails between the islands and mostly within sheltered waters. It is no wonder that it is the Charter Boat capital of the Caribbean.
We followed an anti clockwise route from Virgin Gorda visiting Gorda Sound, Anegada, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Norman Island and then north to complete the circuit. The entry to Gorda Sound is via a well marked channel between the reefs. Once inside the sound, there are several options. On our two successive visits to the sound we tried them all: Leverick Bay, Bitter End, Saba Rock and Biras Creek. Despite the large number of charter yachts operating in the BVI's, there was more than amply mooring buoys available. In fact, throughout the islands, we found the more popular anchorages well endowed with mooring buoys that are well maintained. For $25 per night, it is worthwhile and sensible. Many more boats can be safely moored, it prevents damage to the reefs and it eliminates all of the usual anchoring risks of too many boats too close together.
Our first stop in North Sound was The Bitter End Yacht Club; perhaps the best known Club in the Caribbean. The club affords a decent pub with free internet access. But we preferred the ambiance of Saba Rock. This small rock has a hotel resort and restaurant which has excellent sea food. The water here is remarkably clear and excellent for swimming. On my evening swim I met two 3 foot long barracuda that seemed very interested in our boat? They were not disturbed by my swimming around at all.
Fifteen miles to the north is the low lying island of Anegada. We had a glorious sail there with 12 to 15 knots of wind. We were very surprised when we suddenly saw a small inflatable dinghy heading straight for us. A man was standing up in the bucking dingy with a camera and long telephoto lens. He took a number of photographs which turned out to be really good. We ordered the set from him and one of these pictures is now on the opening page of our website. He was from a company based in the BVI's called Yachtshots. The south east side of Anegada is fringed by a reef that extends quite far offshore. The only anchorage is through a narrow cut in the reef and the anchorage itself is shallow. We anchored in front of the row of mooring buoys in 2.2 metres of water. We draw 2.1metres! When I dove under the boat at low tide there was barely space to fit your fist between the keel and the sandy bottom. While we were there two other boats were aground in the anchorage. The island itself is fringed with mile upon mile of pinkish white beaches. We took a taxi to Lollipop Beach on the north side of the island and enjoyed a swim and a seafood lunch at the beach restaurant appropriately named “Flash of Beauty”.
Another broad reaching sail to Marina Cay, a small island off the north end of Tortola. The island was once owned by Robb White who wrote a book called Our Virgin Island about his life on this small island before the second world war. The hilltop bar, which is the old house that Robb White built, has happy hour with live entertainment. A one man band entertains the enthusiastic rum drinking crowd for an hour or so. It was great fun. Over the next few days we visited Cane Garden Bay (Tortola), Manchioneel Bay and Little Harbour (Jost van Dyke) and Sopers Hole on the western end of Tortola. Then to Norman Island stopping at The Indians, which consists of a several large pointed rocks, for lunch and to snorkel over the reef. On the east side of Norman Island are The Caves at Treasure Point where pirate treasure is believed to have been hidden. There are many legends of pirate treasures on Norman Island. The island and its legends formed the basis for Robert Louis Stevenson's,book Treasure Island. The snorkelling around the Caves was good with great visibility in the clear water.
Instead of anchoring in The Bight, which is the main anchorage on Norman Island, we took a mooring buoy in Privateer Bay, just south of the caves. Surprisingly, we were the only boat there. It is one of the nicest anchorages anywhere. No development ashore and excellent snorkelling in the clearest water you will ever find. We couldn't bring ourselves to leave and ended up staying 3 days. We swam and snorkelled all along the shoreline. The resident Barracuda, about 4 feet long, we Christened “Barry”. He came around the boat a few times. Once when I was out snorkelling I suddenly saw this shape looming up beside me. It was Barry. Fortunately he just went cruising on by.
We completed our round trip of the BVI's with a long day sail, tacking up Sir Francis Drake Passage to North Sound on Virgin Gorda. We took a buoy at Leverick Bay on the south side of the sound. It is a little exposed to the chop. But Friday night is entertainment night and we enjoyed an evening at the beach restaurant watching stilt dancers. Next day we moved up to Biras Creek. We celebrated the end of our BVI sailing adventure with a gourmet meal at the luxurious Biras Creek Hotel overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The hotel grounds are home to many Iguanas that seemed quite comfortable with humans. They are strange animals and despite their fearsome look, are vegetarians.
Harmony was due to fly back to the UK on May 5th and son Robert and our good friend from Calgary, Tim were joining me for the sail back to Grenada where Ocean Harmony would be hauled out and stored for the hurricane season. We sailed to Trellis Bay, which is adjacent the international airport on Beef Island. The Bay has many mooring buoys and is the favourite place for yachtsmen to change crews as the airport is within walking distance. We welcomed Rob and Tim aboard and bid farewell to Harmony at the airport. We cleared customs in St John and sailed up to North Sound the same afternoon planning an early start on our 450 mile direct crossing to Grenada.
Our plan was to sail close to the rhumb line from BVI's to Grenada rather than island hopping down the chain. A quick glance at a chart of the Eastern Caribbean will help explain our decision since the prevailing easterly wind would mean that , in order to make landfall at, say, Antigua or even Martinique we would have to tack several times in order to make the necessary easting. We slipped our mooring lines at 0600 on May 7th and motored out of the sound and set sail with Necker island on our port side. Initially the wind was SE and we were soon forced to tack away to the north to clear the northern tip of Virgin Gorda. With the wind still holding from SE we tacked twice in the morning before settling on port tack sailing close hauled on our way to Grenada. Fortunately the wind backed to the east during the afternoon but we stayed close hauled hoping to gain more easting. The wind freshened during the night and we reefed at 0200. At daybreak we had gained a further 8 miles easting to put us 12 miles east of our rhumb line. We had sailed 166 miles in the first 24 hours. We did 3 hour watches during the night and the crew was feeling pretty good about our first day at sea.
Our second day saw the wind freshening and veering. Close hauled with close to 20knots of wind we were sailing hard with the decks awash with sea water. I discovered that we had a leak in the forward porthole above our bunk in the forward berth. Not much could be done except soak up the water with towels. During the afternoon we tacked back on starboard for about an hour to gain more easting. At nightfall the wind piped up to 25 knots and we put in the second reef. We ate our dinner of curry and rice that Harmony had prepared for us before we left. Never had a curry tasted so good! During our second night none of us slept much because of the rough motion, but we were entertained by a pod of dolphins that kept us company for almost 6 hours. I was on watch when I heard strange squeaking sounds. It was a pitch dark night and couldn't see a thing. I began to wonder if I was hallucinating. I got out the flashlight and shone it on the water and then I saw the dolphins swimming alongside. Their eyes were glowing in the torchlight. Amazing. And they stayed with us on and off until 0300. We covered 150 Nm the second day.
During our third day, the wind backed and we were able to sail with the sheets eased on a direct course to Grenada. In fact we made such good progress that we arrived at Grenada too soon, making our landfall at about 0300. Not wanting to enter Prickly Bay in the dark we tacked back and forth for two hours in front of St George before entering the bay at first light. We were anchored safely at 0600 hours having sailed 470 miles in 72 hours. It was great fun sailing with Rob and Tim and they gained lots of experience from this their first offshore sailing adventure. I hope we can repeat it at some future date.
Rob and Tim still had a few days left before they were due to return home, so we determined to see as much of Grenada as we could together. A tour of the island by rental car was interesting. Tim did a great job driving and navigating the steep winding roads. The complete lack of signposts made for many diversions. Highlights of the island tour were the waterfall, our walk through the rainforest where we met the tame Mona monkey in the parking lot and our drive up to the north end of the island where we lunched at a restaurant overlooking the ocean with the Grenadine islands in the distance. Besides the car tour, we did several long walks in the area around Prickly Bay. We motored the boat around to Le Phare Bleau marina where we took down the sails for the season and stowed them away below. Tim and Rob left me there and I motored the boat around to Grenada Marine at St David's where I completed preparations for hauling out. Ocean Harmony was hauled on Monday May 19th and I flew out the next day. The end of another sailing season.
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