Sunday, December 31, 2006
The anchorage is packed. Over 250 boats came across the Atlantic in the ARC (a rally across the Atlantic) to St. Lucia and have been spreading out to all parts of the Caribbean for the Christmas period. As well, the Christmas charters are in abundance. However, the daytime temperatures hover around 30C and, at nighttime, the temperature drops to a chilly 26C - so all is good.
On this last day of 2006, Karen and I would like to wish you a happy New Years Eve, and all the best for the New Year. Keep safe and keep warm!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
to the wonders of wireless and Skype. In many ways, this is a difficult time of year for cruisers as thoughts naturally turn to family and friends at home, where ever home is. So the gatherings help in a small way, by bringing people from all walks of life and different nationalities together to celebrate and share a meal on this special day.
And so, as we get ready for tomorrow, we would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a safe, happy New Year.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Soon the morning Cruiser's Radio Net fills with questions during the "help wanted section" - Where can I get this? How do I replace that? How do I start whatever? Owners pass each other on well-worn paths to the local chandler's. Like ants, they take their dollars to the nest, and return with boat bits and pieces, and things that go beep in the night grasped firmly in their sweaty hands. They know they will return tomorrow. It is part of a daily ritual. Yachties contribute an estimated $200,000,000 dollars to the local island economies. Boat parts ain't cheap and don't last long.
This year, we appeared to get away lightly. The diesel engine roared into life when Vagus was first lowered back into the water. This was followed by a deep sigh and much rejoicing. The fridge (new last year)dutifully cooled, and the electronic bits crackled and hummed, making generally happy noises. It took several days to check out all the systems - sailboats are a lot more complicated now than in days of yore. I have a long checklist that I go through to ensure everything is working. I smile quite contently when I can check off another item.
Of course there is nothing like getting away from the dock and bouncing through waves for 24 hours to really check everything out. Well, the engine and sails worked. However,just as we were leaving Chaguaramas, I found out that our cockpit microphone for the VHF radio didn't. It wasn't on my check list. Obviously it felt hurt at not being included. Then, as we were leaving the Boca, the chart plotter/radar unit shut down. I rebooted it. It ran for 20 minutes and shut down again. This was really frustrating as we like to use our radar on a night passage. After much fiddling about while bouncing along, I found that the back light to the display was overheating the unit and, when it got hot, it quit. Off went the back light and on went the chart plotter - so far so good. After 12 hours, we were in the lee of Grenada. The winds dropped and we decided to motor sail. I switched on the autopilot - nothing! I had checked this unit before leaving dock, but it decided that enough was e
nough. Eight hours of hand steering later we were in Carriacou.
Now we sit in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. The cockpit microphone is now working - a bit of cleaning of it's contacts and being included on the list made it happy. The autopilot is really dead and will be offered up for parts at the next swap meet. And I just got the water maker going! It is now happily turning sea water into beautiful drinking water. Life is good! Well, come to think of it, I have not checked the Honda generator. I wonder if it works?
Saturday, December 16, 2006
One week after our aborted departure, the weather finally looked good enough to sail North. Six other boats also agreed and the morning cruiser's radio net in Chaguaramas was full of good byes from departing vessels. We spent a hectic Wednesday morning clearing customs, picking up and loading our duty free items (e.g. rum), and doing all the last minute things required to prepare Vagus for sea.
Finally, about 1:30pm, all hot, sweaty and somewhat tired, we actually left dock and started motoring into Chaguaramas Bay. With sails up, we bounced through a rip tide at the Boca entrance - a small channel leading out of Trinidad, notorious for being rough when wind and tides do not agree. The wind and seas soon steadied and, finally, we were sailing. We had a great sail on our heading towards Grenada. We even got to watch the Gemini meteor shower that night as we sailed northwards. The weather was so good we decided to bypass Grenada and motor sailed in the lee of Grenada towards Carriacou. Carriacou is a small island just North of Grenada that is still a part of Grenada, just more rural. Carriacou is Carib word for "island surrounded by reefs". Today Carriacou is known as "an island with over a hundred rum shops and only one gas station". I am not sure on the rum shop count, but can attest that they do have only one gas station. We had a wonderful visit last May so we decided to make this a stopping off place for "awhile". Twenty four hours after leaving Trinidad we were sitting at anchor in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. The Trinidad humidity is gone, the water is clear, swimming off Vagus is great, the breeze is fresh and the people are friendly. There is even a WiFi service that covers the whole anchorage. Life is good!
Friday, December 8, 2006
Monday, December 4, 2006
Well, in yachty terms, mate, you have just missed your weather window. We are still sitting in Trinidad. The hurricane season has just ended. The dry season is supposed to begin in a few weeks. We are on the cusp and the times - they are a-changing! Our boat is ready to leave. We have provisioned, fueled and watered. Vagus is as low in the water as she ever gets. We are ready to leave. Our air conditioner left today so we are REALLY ready to leave. But ... and this is a big BUT ... the weather does not appreciate all our hard efforts over the past week and insists on changing her mind on a daily basis. Wednesday looks good to leave ... nope, now it doesn't ... well maybe, yes it does ... nope there it goes again. Our first sail of the year involves an 80 mile overnight trip on the roughest water that we hope to encounter this season. We want to get it right. We do like our comfort. This sail, however, does not usually move into the comfort category - at best i
t is "tolerably endurable". First, we had set our sights on a run up to Carriacou - a two island passage. It does not look like this will be possible so we may head for a one island passage instead - to Prickly Bay in Grenada. The weather window that is coming up does not look like it will last long enough for us to do the two island hop. Not a big problem - Prickly Bay is a great spot to hang out. We just need to get away from a dock and be able to swing free at anchor, and to get this 80 mile passage behind us. Why do we not wait longer? - well it may not get better than this. Around the end of December, the Christmas Winds fill in - 20 to 25 knot trade winds that have a North component and make going North beyond our "tolerable endurance" level. So we want to move as soon as we can. Next Wednesday, based on the weather gurus, looks like THE day. We will see what they say tomorrow.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
It was launch day. Launch days are always filled with anxiety - will Vagus float?, will any of the below-water fittings leak?, will the engine start?, will I remember how to get into a dock? - you get the picture. Our launch time was 3:00 in the afternoon and by noon we were ready. All we could do was sit and wait and worry. Promptly at 2:30 the crew came to get the boat ready to lift and at 3:00 we were floating. I quickly scurried around the boat, checking all through hulls for leakage. None found, I gave the signal to the launch crew that all was okay. They keep the slings on the boat until this signal so the boat can be rapidly lifted if the water misbehaves and does not stay on the outside. Next I went to start the engine. I pushed the starter switch and, with a big puff of black smoke, the motor kicked into life making all those comforting, rumbling sounds. Life is good! The line handlers threw the lines to Karen and we motored out into Chaguaramas harbour.
Karen now had to get all the lines and fenders in place for "The Docking". We putted around the harbour while she made numerous trips around the boat adding and adjusting fenders. By 4:00 we were heading for the dock. Karen radioed some friends who had offered to help us with our lines - one never refuses help docking! In we went, splitting the tie-up posts on our way to the dock. Everything worked and soon we were secure. Time to breath again. We got Vagus settled in and, as darkness approached, we decided to go for a shower. Our dock only had a short finger sticking out near the bow to climb on and, depending on the wind or the current, Vagus was sometimes close to the finger and sometimes quite far away. Most of the time she was far away as Vagus has an aversion to hard things. I quickly put a line from the cleat on the dock to a cleat on Vagus so we could pull Vagus close to the finger, allowing us to get off or on.
After our shower, we were exhausted. It had been a long day. We had very little food aboard so went up to the local restaurant in the marina for dinner. The restaurant was full but another Canadian couple recognized us and invited us to sit at their table. We had a wonderful dinner with them and headed back to Vagus about 9:00pm in the pitch dark. We were really looking forward to our bed by this time. Vagus was well away from the dock so, grabbing the "quickly tied" line to bring Vagus closer, I leaned back and pulled hard. At that particular moment, the line decided that it had enough of all this pulling and tugging, and undid itself from the cleat on Vagus. I found myself now holding a very limp line while angled well backwards, looking down at very black water. I was definitely going for a swim. There was no alternative. I did a very neat half flip between the boat beside us and the dock finger into the water. Now Chaguaramas is a commercial port and the water quality leaves something to be desired. In fact, I would never even dream of swimming in the harbour. This was definitely going to be a first. Fortunately the water was at least warm. And black, so I couldn't see what was in the water with me. Now, floating in the dark water after cleverly losing my flip flops and flashlight, the next problem was "how am I going to get out?". There are no dock ladders - this is the Caribbean, man! With no line attached to Vagus, Karen could not get Vagus close enough to the dock to climb on and lower the swim ladder. Slowly I swam around to the stern of Vagus and saw that, fortunately, the boat beside us had their ladder down. Karen knocked on their hull to warn them that a strange, very wet person was soon to appear. They were a very nice German couple who, although they understood very little English, understood at once what had happened as I emerged from the water up their boarding ladder. "Ah Neptune!" the lady exclaimed. We had a good laugh as I dripped along their boat towards the dock. Karen by now had managed to get aboard Vagus and went to get a towel and clothes for me. I needed another shower.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
We have been in Trinidad for two hectic weeks. We left Toronto on the 16th of November in pouring rain and 7C weather and arrived in Trinidad in pouring rain and 30C weather. The humidity sort of took our breath away. In the last few weeks we prepped Vagus for launch, launched Vagus 4 days after arrival (a record for us), I fell off the dock, we cleaned Vagus inside and out, put up the sails, inflated the dinghy, provisioned with enough food for about three months, and now we are nearly ready to travel.
Now the interesting point is, really, when did we feel we truly arrived? For me it was last Monday - another baking hot day. I was returning from one of my numerous trips to the local chandler to purchase more boat parts. I realized I was walking at my Caribbean shuffle pace - sort of a lazy saunter that does not bring out a sweat in the hot sun. Gone was the arm swinging, power walking acquired during life up North. No, the saunter felt good. I be here!
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Well, the leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping and we are packing. Take heart for next week we will be sweltering in 30C temperatures and buckets of humidity, trying to do a few boat jobs that must be done before we launch. It is not all sandy beaches and rum punches, you know (it is funny that I never get much sympathy when I make this claim out loud). We then hope to catch our breath at Coral Cove Marina, in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, stock up Vagus and head up island. Where? We are not sure so you will have to stay tuned or, I should say, connected.
As you can see, we have now joined the wonderful world of blogs. Hopefully, we will be able to post text messages directly from the boat (still to be confirmed) and pictures when we reach terra firma. We will not be able to respond to comments until we are shore side so please be patient with our responses.
So for all our winter bound family and friends, have a safe and happy winter, and enjoy the white stuff.