Friday, December 26, 2014

St. Martin to Antigua


Catching rays with Teresa

St Martin
               After an extremely long and tedious flight, including a delay for weather in San Francisco, sister Teresa and I arrived at the boat exhausted, but still smiling, to meet Daragh at our destination of St. Martin/St. Maarten. The island is split down the middle between France and the Netherlands, who eventually came to a truce, deciding to share this little gem. Since then the two flags have fluttered peacefully in the same cool breeze. The next day, refreshed and eager to go exploring we took our life in our hands and rented a car, and drove to Orient beach where we flopped under a cabana at Coco's Beach and took our first dip in the crystal turquoise waters. We returned to Chantey V in time for a happy hour visit with friends Darcy and Isabelle on Ideal, from our days in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. After catching up on two years of travels we ended the day with a stroll on the malecon and a nightcap at a nearby bistro.
Coco's, St. Martin

Shell Beach, St. Bart's
St. Bart's
                 The morning opened to blustery north-easterly winds, not the best for our trip south to the island of St. Barthelemy. The trip was a rather bumpy one and Teresa promptly turned green and spent the day praying for the trip to end. Soon St. Barf's, as we now called it, appeared on the horizon. We dropped anchor in a pretty bay known for it's posh harbour and mega-yacht paradise for everything elite in sailing. A quick meal and we were ready to investigate this elegant island setting. A more idylic spot than this you would be hard-pressed to find; a lovely horseshoe shaped bay surrounded by red-roofed colonial style homes, framed by green hillocks and rimmed by aqua-blue sparkling waters. The cruise ships and mega yachts were lined up in perfect formation, but even they couldn't detract from the beauty of Gustavia Harbour. A brisk walk to the the viewpoint overlooking breathtaking Shell Bay and refreshments at a French cafe, and we were reluctantly ready to depart next morning enroute to our destination of Antigua.
Mega yacht parkade
Gustavia, St. Bart's

                                       "Harmony and me, are pretty good company.
                                         Looking for an island in our home upon the sea.
                                         Harmony, harmony, harmony."
                                                                                           Elton John
               The overnighter to Antigua (pronounced Anteega), was another lumpy ride with seas on the  beam , but we arrived swiftly into a palm-encircled bay next morning and slipped into Jolly Harbour Marina. Antigua was a British colony and still retains a vestige of all things British. It claims to be the romance capital of the Caribbean, with 365 perfect white sand beaches, (one for every day of the year!). We rented a car a toured the island, stopping at Dickenson Bay and the quaint Siboney Hotel for a day of sunbathing in liquid turquoise, on some of the best beaches in the entire Caribbean. Pure heaven!  Our leisurely days passed all too quickly and it was soon Christmas Eve and time for sister Tes to head back to the great white north. We bid her safe travels and prepared to celebrate our own tropical Christmas with fellow cruisers Gavin and Pat on Seahawk, from Great Britain, and Ian and Meg on Ariadne, from Scotland. A gang assembled at the little Italian restaurant on the dock to tuck in to a hearty turkey dinner with all the trimmings and a cup or two of Christmas 'cheer' to toast all those loved ones near and far.
Christmas Dinner

Santa and elves seen downtown St Johns

Quick, it's Christmas tomorrow!

                                                 "...and so I'm offering this simple phrase,
                                                         for kids from one to ninety two,
                                                   Although it's been said many times, many ways,
                                                             Merry Christmas to you!"

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bermuda to St. Martin FWI

Gonzalo just passing Bermuda

When we left Chantey V on the mooring in Hamilton Harbour in early October the consensus was that an exceptionally mild hurricane season was almost over. Still, we stripped all canvass and stowed everything we could below.Well, along came Faye and Gonzalo to reconfirm that Hurricanes are unpredictable.
Mooring field during Hurricane Faye
When the eye of Gonzalo passed directly overhead it was reduced to a mere Cat 2 with wind-speeds of 110 MPH - it took an hour to pass before resuming from the west whipping up huge waves in the mooring field. By grace of God next morning Chantey V was the sole survivor behind White Island -many thanks to the folks at Tam Marina for their diligence in taking care of the lines. Damage to the boat was light - contents tumbled all over but no water got in.The most significant was the steering cables stretched to the point of falling off the quadrant - this was quickly fixed by David Turenne and myself when we arrived November 23rd.
Bare poles for the storm


Day 3 grib files over our route to St Martin

D and D Divers Inc.

After a quick dive to check thru-hulls and clean some new barnacle growth, we moved to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club where we received a warm welcome from dock manager Reggie.
Then there were 3
John Duggan arrived next day from Portugal  and we got busy with provisioning and last minute boat prep chores. Strong southerly winds persisted and prevented us from leaving. We repositioned the boat to St Georges and did a little touring to pass the time. Finally on Saturday Nov 29th we hoisted sail in the harbour and set out into the boisterous remnants of the cold front with NE winds of 20 gusting 25.We maximized our easting while sailing downwind at 120 degrees. We noticed Pacific Seacraft 40 -Eli Blue on the same course and we contacted Gene and Jo-Ann daily for the duration of the trip. The SSB radio is now working great with the rebuilt antenna tuner and we were getting our weather and grib files easily all along the way. Sailing was fast but rough seas made it pretty uncomfortable for the first few days.
Belvederian chuckles
Helga the Hydrovane
A highlight was 2 days of steering by the Hydrovane which saved quite a bit of power. We were well fed thanks to pre-cooked meals by John which required a minimum of preparation - just as well in the rough seas. (See Johns menus next paragraph). The winds eased the last few days and we had to motor the last 150 miles into Marigot, St Martin.
Sewing Bee
A small water drip from the exhaust line had us worried - but it lasted all the in without getting any worse.  Dave tried his hand at hand lining but the constant seaweed fouling the lure prevented us getting a bite. Solar damage to the Bimini stitching has been a problem and resulted in a sewing bee one of the afternoons to fix it! Finally - six days and six hours later we arrived at the Fort Louis Marina in Marigot and were delighted to be assigned a slip next to Eli Blue! Its a great marina and real close to the markets and activities in this lively French town. Joe-Ann - who hails from Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia turns out to be a great singer so jam sessions ensued at night on Chanty V. We also met Darcy and Isobel - Ideal 1 - fellow Royal Victoria members who have just sailed in from Venezuela and will be here for a few weeks.
Spinnaker run home

Not all play however and I am so grateful to John for overhauling my main winches and David for rebuilding the exhaust elbow. Getting the part from Perkins USA in 2 days was amazing - St Martin sure is a hassel free place to get work done.
Alas all good things come to an end with John returning to Lisbon, David to Victoria and Eli Blue departing to gunk hole around the Island in the present calm weather. A welcome couple of days alone to make the boat shipshape in readiness for the Admiral and her sister Teresa who arrive in St Martin on Tuesday.
Marigot Bay


The forecast told of North Easterly winds, Force 5-6 and seas up to 11 feet, so preparing, consuming and keeping down food was going to be a challenge, during the 7 days or so that it would take Chantey V to sail from Bermuda to St Martin in the Caribbean.
Dinghy ride to Ideal 1 in the Lagoon
As with much in life, preparation is the key to an easier life in the galley at sea, so the week’s menu was built around previously cooked meals, frozen or chilled. The workhorse of our dinner menus was a general purpose Bolognese type sauce, made in large quantities, which could be adapted and flavored to provide variety during the week. Minced meat, tinned tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, olive oil and beef stock are enough to put together a basic sauce but this can be modified with other herbs, and a tin of anchovies provides additional flavor and texture (it really works and there is no trace of a fishy taste in the sauce). Frying up some mince and chucking in a jar of proprietary tomato sauce also works pretty well, if you haven’t the time or inclination to do it from scratch.
Waterfront diner Simpson Lagoon
In the course of the week, our sauce accompanied pasta, with a tomato salad; got dosed with chili powder, kidney beans and tabasco, to become a chili con carne, served with rice; and finally got baked in the oven with beans, corn chips, chili and grated cheese, with salsa on the side. All were very tasty but the trials of keeping pasta or rice in the saucepan were such that, after the first two days, we resorted to cooking as much as possible in the oven, rather than on the stove top.
Breakfast is now being served on the upper deck.
Additional variety for the evening meals was provided by a simple beef stew, again made up in advance and enough for several meals, accompanied by baked potatoes; by tasty pork sausages, baked in the oven with diced potatoes and coarsely chopped onion, olive oil and seasoning; and by an old favorite of mine, baked pork chops covered in a simple but tasty sauce of orange juice, orange zest, sugar and seeded French mustard, served with rice and a green salad.
Our shopping list, in Bermuda’s outrageously expensive supermarkets, included lots of good quality breakfast cereals and porridge, mixed nuts and raisins, loads of fresh fruit, cheese, lots of eggs (they don’t really need to be refrigerated, if you are short of fridge space), bacon, biscuits, crackers, fresh bread and milk, loads of butter, tomatoes, salad and snacks such as hummus, to be eaten with corn chips or sliced raw vegetables. Dave made up an excellent lunch based around tortilla wraps but if we had had some lessons in folding these things we would have saved a lot of cleaning up afterwards! No description of dining aboard would be complete without mention of Daragh’s kick-ass full Irish breakfast on the last day, a far cry from the hard boiled eggs or plain cereal which were all we could manage for breakfast early on in the trip.
Dining out with Gene And Jo-Ann from  Eli Blue
Alcohol consumption at sea was modest and depended on conditions.
Mutinous crew
A bottle of red wine with dinner (between us!) helped to maintain harmony and well-being among the crew while our morning pot of fresh coffee, served with a small measure of Baileys, was a welcome start to each new day.
In short, three proper meals a day were prepared and eaten, we all lost a little bit of weight but we didn’t suffer from hunger either.  Mission accomplished.
John D 

Monday, September 29, 2014

St. Johns to Bermuda

Cape Spear - most eastern point of Canada

We welcomed Rob Tape aboard in a classic NL downpour - but by afternoon it was all sunshine again. A weather window to Bermuda -or anywhere - eluded us and allowed time to tour and be hosted by friends Brendan and Val O'Connell.
Who knew? Fog is a golf hazard as well.
They took to their new role as SJ Yacht Support Services brilliantly! We drove to Cape Spear and later to our sister club - the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club. My SSB radio troubles were diagnosed by fellow cruiser Max - SV Velo and a loaner antenna tuner was provided by Ocean Cruising Club Port Officer Ted Laurentius. My gratitude is beyond words and beggars description! Still no Bermuda window so we decided to sail to Halifax and try again from there. The now legendary NL hospitality continued with a magnificent feast at the home of Ed and Sharon followed by a jam session.
Jam session at Ed and Sharons
The trip began at first light and soon we were sailing at 8 knots towards Cape Race. That night the infamous Cape lived up to its reputation and gave us a rowdy ride as we close hauled westward. Things improved as we had St Pierre abeam and next day lightened enough to require us to motor sail. We had a fine spinnaker run the last day to arrive at RNSYC in the dark almost 4 days out from St Johns.
Downwind to Halifax
Our first mission was to pay homage at the sailors mecca that is Binnacle, Halifax. Before we could catch a bus there we were adopted by RNSYS member Hugh Vincent who was our guardian angel for the duration of our stay. Member Rich Knowles rebuilt out windspeed unit and 6 mast climbs later we were ready to go again.
Rob takes on mast climb #6
Just in time too as a window opened up despite the march NE of Hurricane Eduardo Following a final briefing with weather guru Chris Parker to confirm our plan we set out Sunday night. Robs racing skills soon had us sailing  fast as a North Wester blew us south for 2 days. We dropped the Bimini for better sail trim and to enjoy the beautiful starlit night sky.
Another day of mixed bag weather had us motor sailing to the Gulf Stream crossing called the I 65. Despite the latest guidance downloaded from Saildocs and our weather guru we spent a frustrating 2 days fighting a 2 knot adverse current that sapped away our previous progress. Ironically, the delay caused us to be late for our appointment with a nasty Low from the US Carolinas and we motored sailed in pretty calm seas to our destination.
Running from squalls
Dinner prep on the Ole pans
We picked up an exhausted passenger  who stayed for 3 days all the way to Bermuda! By Friday the heat increased and it was sweltering on board. Robs Mexican Tacos were the perfect meal for the conditions although Gatorade is no substitute for Cerveza and not likley to catch on! 
The airport beacon was our first glimpse of Bermuda in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and by noon we were approaching the Customs dock in St Georges harbour.

Chantey V at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club
Bermuda is a delightful island that punches far above its weight in terms of beauty and history. We spent a few days touring until Rob had to bid adieu. Thanks Rob for sharing in the adventure! Next to arrive is brother Kieran and we will have a week of R and R together before I return to Victoria to wait out the rest of Hurricane season.

Ferry ride home with Kieran

          "When the wind is from the west
           All the waves that cannot rest
           To the east must thunder on
           Where the bright tree of the sun
           Is rooted in ocean's brest"

Rumann son of Colman,  from 8th century gaelic by  Frank O'Connor

Saturday, August 23, 2014

South and East Coast of Newfoundland

Gros Morne National Park

         Land Ho! And there it is......'The Rock', as it is aptly called, is rugged, often barren, and at times foggy and wet, and always breathtaking in it's unexpected beauty. The names alone are as enchanting as the fairies; 'Little Heart's Ease', 'Come-by-Chance', and 'Heart's Delight', are only a few. For years the life's blood of Newfoundland was Cod fishing, so the settlements, often inaccessible by land, grew up around the fishery. As the fishing died out the residents were offered an incentive to relocate to the urban centers.  Consequently, most of the small outposts are now virtual ghost towns.  Former residents and their families return to these abandoned outposts, to their roots, usually in summer to reminisce about the old times.
Gros Morne

Lobster Pots galore!
          Our first port of call after a lumpy overnighter, was Port aux Basque, a rough and ready industrious little seaport on the South East coast. Next morning we decided to be on our way ahead of the weather but were driven back into the harbour by 25 knot winds and bucking seas. Fortunately, our neighbouring sailors were able to grab a line and wrestle us onto the dock against blustery winds. Whew!
Port aux Basque, NFL

Gros Morne
             Safe as houses once again, we opted to take time out to visit Cornerbrook by bus and the well-extolled Gros Morne National Park. The taxi driver assured us there was ' nothing of interest along the way', but as we settled in for the ride the soaring peaks and rocky faces around every turn, told us otherwise. We soon ascended into God's Country, Gros Morne, a vast expanse of green mountain fiords and clear lakes. After a days hiking and exploring we returned to our coach bus and charming Newfie tour guide Sarah of the red hair. Our second attempt to head out of the harbour was more successful and next morning we cruised into the forgotten French colony of the St. Pierre Miquelon Islands. This tiny enclave of France clings hesitantly to the coast of Newfoundland, a relic of the old seafaring days of colonization.

                                               "There once was a puffin just the shape of a muffin
                                                And he lived on an island in the bright blue sea.
                                                 He ate little fishes that were most delicious,
                                                And he had them for dinner and he had them for tea".
  St. Pierre, Miquelon
          Zut Alors! Who would expect this miniature outpost of the French republic here of all places, off the East Coast of Newfoundland? In the 1700's and 1800's England and France fought over the islands and eventually in 1816 they came permanently under the French flag. The town of St. Pierre is nestled between verdant rocky hillsides surrounding an industrious fishing harbour. And yes, the Puffins have arrived huddled together in little flocks! Once ashore we investigated the quiet streets, stopping in for a baguette lunch and observing an amazing selection of delicacies from escargot to truffles in the shops. We dined at L'Atelier Gourmand, a little slice of Paris transported to SPM. In true French fashion it was a 'belle experience culinaire! Back out in the fog we planned our final leg of the journey north via the outposts of Burin and Merasheen, to St. John's.
St. Pierre, Miquelon
           'Oh a little piece of heaven fell from out o' the sky one day'.....and they called it Merasheen.
The waves were crashing over the decks and the winds snorting when we spotted the channel marker and made our way tentatively into the tiny harbour of Merasheen Island,(from the French Mira-Chien or Sea Dog Island ). Inside, a minute dark figure awaited us on the dock. We gratefully threw a line to Ray Hann, brother of our friend and 'boat chaplain' Father William. The usual hearty Newfoundland welcome followed with greetings from Gail, his wife and friends. The majesty and serenity of this remote outpost is startling! There are only nine actual summer residents and virtually no one in the wintertime. However, this gem of a hamlet was once the home of the Hann family and many others. The government relocation program has left most of the cabins empty but every few years they hold a reunion. With the proliferation of the generations there are now over 250 people who attend the gathering of the clans.
Ray and Gail on Merasheen

Little Merasheen Bay
         That evening we dined in style at the home of Ray and Gail. A windy grass lane led us about half a mile through pastures and hillsides spotted with many deserted cabins. At the end of the lane sat a lovely cottage with a gorgeous view of Little Merasheen Bay. Inside Ray was cooking up a batch of his specialty fish cakes and Gail amused us with the fascinating history of the island. We chatted with Father William by phone from Trinity, vowing to meet up in St. John's. Later Ray escorted us home in pitch dark via his off-road quad vehicle. But time and tide wait for no man, and the following afternoon we bade our hosts farewell at the dock to a rousing chorus of 'Farewell to Merasheen' by all the villagers. Tomorrow we will arrive at Trepassey and then across the inhospitable seas past Cape Race to our final destination of St. John's.
Merasheen village

The villagers sing Farewell to Merasheen!

Merasheen Harbour entrance

                                 " Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between;
                                    a screaming gull flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled;
                                    we gave three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate
                                    into the lone Atlantic."
                                                                            Moby Dick,  Herman Melville      
Painted houses of St. John's
The crew of CBC awaits us at the dock!
Arrival at St. John's, NFL
Celebrating with Brendan
Merasheen Boy, Father William and Friends

Rob, the new First Mate arrives for the long trek home


Bermuda or Bust!

       And so ends this chapter of The Voyage of Chantey V and it's crew. After over fifteen thousand miles  and endless stories to tell of life's rich pageant on the sea, the first mate returns home to terra firma and el Capitain embarks on the long voyage homeward. First stop....Bermuda! 
       As the weather cleared Daragh and Rob drift out into the mists, four days westward to Halifax and then another seven days straight south to the island of Bermuda.....and beyond.
Stay tuned for more adventures from the captain's log of Daragh Benignus Nagle.
                                           "We shall not cease from exploration,
                                             And the end of all our exploring
                                             Will be to find ourselves at the beginning,
                                            And know that place for the first time."