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