Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Grenada to El Salvador

Chantey V Caribbean track on DeLorme InReach

Grenada to El Salvador
High five from Ethan & Nana
Prickely Bay, Grenada

Spring Break went by quickly back in Victoria. Cathy and I prepared her Westall house for sale the 1st week and it sold the same day it was listed! We had lots of good times with Grandson Ethan, my how he is growing so quickly.
Saltspring Island sailor Ole Andersen returned to Grenada with me on March 29th. The bottom paint job by Spice Island Marina looked terrific and the topsides have never looked better with the now matching dodger sewn by Turbulence Sails.
Nice bottom job
Wow - matching canvass finally!
Our insurance required us to get a new survey and this was passed easily by Bob Goodchild (phew) and we were ready to go. We made the usual provisioning run and were on our way for a double over nighter to Los Roques in Venezuela.
All dead downwind with Main and Genoa but this sail setup was not ideal and it was hard to balance the rig with the big seas in the 7 to 9 ft range. Los Roques turned out to be a lovely spot with white sand beaches ...and streets! It was a Saturday and the officials were very friendly and efficient.
Beached  at Los Roques, Venuzela
The exchange rate of 200 Bolivars to the $1 made the change from $50 look an impressive stash! The beer at 60 cents a can in the restaurants has to be the lowest of anywhere we have been, but no surprise most were sold out by Sunday night.
We toured the nearby Francis Island by dinghy which was bustling with locals having swimming and dancing events.
$20 in Bolivars

We got our Zarpe on Monday and moved on to Bonaire. More dead down wind sailing but this time we twinned our storm jib with a poled out genoa and what a difference. Completely stable and steered easily by our trusty Helga the Hydrovane. (Otto is sulking) We reached Bonaire without incident and found the check in reasonably quick and efficient.
I knew we bought the storm jib for something!
A little bit of Holland in the middle of the Caribbean and still quite unspoilt, with a population of around 12,000.
Next on to Curacao and the twin headsail rig was just great again, with very little slapping in the persistent big sea. Of course up to 2 knots current assist would make any boat put up impressive VMG!
Floating swing bridge, Curacao
We anchored in Spannse Water but there was still no relief from the 25 G30 Knot winds. We awoke next day to find we had dragged a couple of boat lengths and went for a reset only to pick up an abandoned mooring chain. One hour of back breaking labour to hoist and recover our anchor, (and Ole) convinced me I had to get myself an electric windlass.
Within a few hours I had located one at Trotac in Victoria and Linda Ellen agreed (God bless her) to bring it down when she came to join us in Aruba. We managed to pick up some related parts at the local chandlers and began the installation process expertly directed by Ole.
Power windlass -its a thing of beauty
The strong Trade winds still would not abate but with Linda flying in Saturday we really had to get going to Aruba. It's all down wind we reasoned which was true but its not often you can make 8 kts with just the dodger and bimini. We had to drop the Bimini to try and slow down for our arrival at dawn into Oranjestad.
After checking in we docked at the Renaissance Marina which was a bit of luxury after being on the hook for a week. Linda joined us and and we took advantage of the wait for a  weather window to rest and relax at the pool in between boat projects. We had a great meal at the Driftwood restaurant where the owner catches all the fish he serves daily.
Driftwood restaurant fishing machine
Finally the winds and seas eased a little and we decided to go for it to Panama. Our carefully timed departure was spoiled by a local immigration official missing a stamp in one passport and then disappearing to lunch for 2 1/2 hours before we could get him back. We went as fast as possible to make up but  we ended up passing the Barranquilla river effluent late but fortunately all logs and debris disappear after dark....right?
The current now turned against us and the wind gradually eased so that it was 5 days later when we set foot on the docks of Shelter Bay Marina in Colon.
There was some smooth sailing
A very welcome sight and we relished the pool, showers bar and restaurant at this excellent and well run marina. John the manager remembered us from the last visit and is still his super helpful self brimming with useful local knowledge.
We made a re-provisioning run into Colon and had a quick look around. Ole and I went to work on completing the windlass installation which now looks terrific! Our Canal agent Roy Bravo got us a transit slot in an unheard of 2 days and Wednesday afternoon we were off to the Flats to pick up our Canal Advisor. This was the first use of the new windlass and it worked perfectly. Muchos gratias Ole for the inspiration and Linda for bringing it down!
Panama canal passage at night
It was near 6:30pm by the time our adviser showed up so we had to do the Gatun Lock transit in the dark. Not nearly the smooth operation we had with SV Tension Reliever 3 years ago and it took 3 attempts before we could raft with our buddy catamaran. Our local Panamanian linesman Daniel along with his son Alan were excellent and good company too. Our adviser Francisco was also excellent -no surprise his other job is tug-boat skipper and the reason he was late was that he was filling in for another no-show adviser.
It was after 10pm when we finally tied up at the Gatun Lake mooring doughnut and relaxed with some well earned rums and cervezas, and even got a singalong going with the guitar and mando!
Linda line handles the head end
Next morning we were all set for the scheduled arrival of canal adviser at 6:30am. Two showed up for the others boats a little after 7 but nobody for us. After numerous calls to canal control and our agent we finally got Francisco back at 11am. Apparently another no-show adviser that day as well! We made all possible speed and even got permission to fly our head sail all the way which had going at 8 knots at times! Nevertheless we missed our down locking slot and got to do a center locking on our own which was quite an experience.
Panhandler turns linehandler
We were paired with a huge canal tug for the last 2 locks at Mirflores and this was easily the most difficult of all, try to tread water in a huge current in the dark. Finally we got out and made our way to drop off the adviser and try to find a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club. We were so happy to get ashore for a beer and supper only to they were sold out of food! Ole got a taxi to his hotel and we returned to the boat for sandwiches. Next day we all met for lunch at the Flamenco penninsula before saying adios to Ole. Thanks for all the help Ole, Chantey V will never be the same again!
A couple of Panamanian swells
Next morning Linda and I prepared to get under way for Golfito, Costa Rica, at first light. We took advantage of the light wind conditions to hoist the main at the mooring and we given clearance to depart on a track just outside the reds on the main channel. We were almost clear when a canal official boat ordered us to drop the sails. Darn - "no sailing in the canal zone".  Kinda silly considering we had sailed completely across the canal itself!
Still, we began to notice positive currents again and we really moving as we passed Punta Malo on the SW tip of Panama. Our route was planned to go outside all the small islands and we enjoyed positive currents at various strengths all the way. No so much with the wind and we had to motor sail most of the way.
Golfito to Vancouver the easy way
Still, we arrived in Golfito at noon 2 days later and were 6 hours ahead of schedule. It was great to be welcomed by Tim & Kathie (and the doggies) at Land Sea Marina, the cruiser friendliest place in Costa Rica! We later combined a trip to the Aduana with a visit to the Latitude 8 bar for happy hour and got caught up with the resident Gringos.
Next day we got a national zarpe and went for an over nighter to Manuel Antonio National Park. Once again favorable currents had us slowing down for a daylight arrival and we tucked right into the Park anchorage at first light. A surf landing onto the beach was a reminder of even worse conditions here 3 years ago.
Linda dries out after surfing in to Park
We had a good walk around the park and saw lots of monkeys, sloths, snakes and lizards and well as amazing jungle. Later we took a trip by bus to Quepos and had an excellent lunch at the Marina there.
Cute Capuchin monkey
We just barely got back to the Park before it closed and had to hustle to get back to the dinghy. Another wet launch but by now we are content to to make any getaway at all!
We decided once was enough and planned to set out for Playa del CoCo next day. The sky darkened considerably over coffee and sure enough we were awash in rain for the next hour such that you could hardly see the beach. I guess rainy season is arriving! The new dodger is great and kept us pretty comfy and dry inside. We got under way soon afterwards and one over nighter later we were dropping the hook in the North of the bay at Playa del CoCo. Not too rolly and a little later we tried a beach landing - a little more coordinated this time and not quite as wet! We checked out the town and had a nice lunch. I booked snorkel tour for next day with Rich Coast Diving. They picked me up right off our boat and I got a personal guide for the morning.
An excellent outfit that I would recommend but be aware that water clarity can vary a lot from day to day in this area.
Costa Rica diving
Next day back to the paperwork cha cha to get an International zarpe. It took all day including over an hour wait at the banks to pay a $20 port captain fee and 2 trips by bus to Liberia airport to track down a  customs agent to surrender our Temporary Boat Import permit. Finally, at 4 pm we we back on the boat hoisting the anchor to set out for El Salvador. We had a good weather forecast from Chris Parker and he was spot on. As a result we sailed all the way at great speed under triple reef and reefed genoa, easily the best sail of the trip. Once again we really had to slow down at the end as the bar crossing was not possible until 4:20pm. We met John on Polaris standing by to go in as well. The surf looked ...well quite intimidating and it did not help when the pilot said he was delayed getting out to us "because of the big surf"
Wave surfing into Bahia
We motored back and forth at the meeting place and finally the pilot showed up. We went over first and actually had a pretty smooth if exciting ride in. Not so much for Polaris as a wave broke over his stern and some went down his companionway soaking his computer.
Chantey V returns!
We docked at the Bahia del Sol Hotel Marina and got the traditional Rum welcome (with a Guinness on the side for me) from Bill and Jean -the El Salvador Rally organizers. We had the same quick and efficient check in formalities from the local officials on site.
El Salvador Rally welcome from Bill
Next up was boat preparation for the long summer layup at Santos Moorings. It took a full day in San Jose and at the airport to retrieve 2 cylinder head studs I had sent down for Canada via UPS!  What a contrast to the check in!
Next day John from Polaris helped me extract the old stud and install the new one. Thanks John!
After that it was time to socialize in including visits to Lou and Lynns up the estuary as well as Bill and Jeans now place on Isla Cordoncillo. Finally boat prep was complete and we moved onto the new mooring prepared for us by Santos.
Santos and family
Chantey V is riding nicely and we have our fingers crossed for a mild summer until we resume our cruise north next winter.

Chantey V covered for summer

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Barbados to Grenada

Sailing on a SE wind to Barabados
We bid Adieu to Brian and Donna who proved to be awesome sailors and divers on the trip here. Dave Turner and I checked out the social scene while waiting for Kieran and Tom to arrive for our Chancers re-union.
Recognize any of these Chancers?
Beers are good at the Rum Shack

Much music ensued between beers (or maybe the other way around?) while we also toured the Island of Barbados.
Kieran Tom Daragh Jason and Dave

Mandatory group selfie
We moved the boat from a mooring at Barbados Yacht Club to the Careenage in Bridgetown which was a very convenient compared to the daily surf shower on the beach!  Future son in law Jason was next to arrive and after a couple more days of touring we set out for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The overnight passage was great, all downwind in contrast to the trip from St Lucia. We anchored at the delightful island of Bequia.
Dave gets anchor ready for Bequia
Winds and seas had picked up quite a bit so our next stop was Union Island. We were immediately adopted by Michael who was a scout for the shark attack beach restaurant. They has fantastic food with minimal resources. Michael water taxied us as needed and we also did quite a bit of snorkeling here.
Shark Attack beach restaurant -Union Island

Dave had to leave us here leaving Jason and I to sail on to Tyrell Bay on Carriacou.
Jason on watch
Underwater Statues Grenada
This is a Port of Entry for the Grenada Grenadines and we were processed efficiently. Next day we had a great sail down to Prickly Bay on the south coast of Grenada where we had the luxury of a marina. We rented a car to tour the island. Snorkeling was very good here especially diving on the submerged statues at Moliniere Bay.
St Georges, Grenada
At last it came time to haul Chantey V at Spice Island Boatyard where she waits while we head back home for Spring Break. Its been almost 5 months since I left Victoria last October and despite the great weather here in the Eastern Caribbean I am really missing home!
Chantey V get a lift for a bottom paint job

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Bonagle Chronicles (Antigua to Barbados)

English Harbour, Antigua

We broke our bottle of Bailey’s we bought for Daragh at the Antigua airport while waiting for our luggage! :(

Failed the test!
  • Landed in Antigua - went to beach and had our first Caribbean swim, temperature was only 27’C! 
  • Dinner at Antigua Yacht club - heard Asher Otto sing with Itchy Feet!
  • Toured the nearby Fort Nelson and enjoyed some history.
Lord Daragh
Spent the rest of the night at Shirley Heights and enjoyed amazing music and the view. We set sail after getting groceries and headed to our next destination: Deshaies! I took a gravol and was knocked right out – pretty rough first sail! I got my sea legs after though!

Shirley Heights

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

French town! – thank goodness Brian went through French immersion we managed to fumble and speak useful vocabulary so they understood us. Daragh joined us for a snorkeling session and got to watch us with an aerial view.

We did our first scuba diving and snorkeling session,

Had an amazing French dinner – Lesson: They start dinner at 7PM and do not serve any earlier! We were so hungry the day before they wouldn’t even serve chips!

We wanted to tour the island with a voiture but had no luck renting one. We took the bus and went to travel the island.

Went to Pointe-A-Pietre then headed back to Deshaies 

Watched the Caribbean parade from La Kaz, a 100 year-old bar, and met some Canadians.

Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

French town! – This was a fairly close island as it was part of Guadeloupe. We arrived mid-afternoon and took our dinghy to shore. Rented a scooter from a very friendly French Lady and she told us how to get around the Island. Brian and I shared a scooter and Daragh had his own – Brian and I made our poor scooter work SUPER hard because it was a super hilly island. Sometimes I would have to get off the scooter! Hahaha, I’m glad we’re working on our weight now! We got rained on a few times and wished we rented a golf cart instead to stay dry!

Scooter riders

Visited Anse Cowan and had an amazing snorkeling session.

Went to see Fort Napoleon and its amazing view!

Bought some artwork and gifts from Martine Cotton and took a picture with her!

Portsmouth, Dominica 

Entered the town while they were celebrating their first day of Cari Festival – it felt like the whole town was out celebrating! From babies to very, very old people!

We went on a boat tour of the Indian River, James Bond was our tour guide and he showed us the beauty and history of the Indian River – bottom left picture is a picture of Calypso’s house from Pirates of the Carribbean!

Brian and I went snorkeling and saw a snake, starfishes, and different kinds of fishes.

Roseau, Dominica

English island – we had so many fun tours on this island.

Tour of Titou Gorge was with Hazelnut: Titou Gorge was a super cool cave to swim in and led us to two waterfalls. Jumping into the waterfall felt like being in a washing machine. It was super cold water though (this location was filmed in Pirates of the Caribbean too!) **This is not a picture from us, we didn’t take any pictures when we went to water activities* I jumped a little too close to the edge of the fall and broke my flip flops!

Titou Gorge
Our tour-guide Hazelnut

Tour of Trafalgar Falls

We were told that there were hot pools and the waterfall pool, found the hot pool that Daragh really enjoyed. A guide said he would take us to the waterfall pool because it was slippery. It was a surprise how much we had to climb to get there (~30mins each way). I was the only one that fell three times but the guide was there to save my life and get us to the pool. Most amazing sight ever! *not our picture either*
Trafalgar Falls

Tour of Emerald Pool and the Rain Forest

We wanted to go to Champagne Reef but had to cancel because of poor conditions. Ducky (our taxi driver) made a deal with us and our businessman Brian found customers for him and we got to go for another tour! GOOD JOB BRIAN!
Us, Ducky, and the customers we rounded up
Emerald Pool

Le Marin, Martinique 

French town! Our first overnight sail – we got to appreciate the moon rise and set, and stars appear. It was also a full moon that day!

Overnight sailing to Le Marin, Martinique

Rented a car and found a free bottle of Rum, went to Anse Mabouya - no visibility due to the rain so we skipped snorkeling. 

Free booze!
Our rental car

Can't see a thing :(
Drove to Fort-de-France explored Fort-de-France. Drove to Saint Pierre and we bumped into Chantey V’s buddy boat from Bermuda – Eli Blue and had an amazing French dinner in Sainte Pierre  with Gene and Jo-ann.

We hiked the volcano Montagne Pelee and unfortunately Donna the klutz fell and got a pretty bad scratch.
up a kilometer
Near the top of the mountain

Walking back down again

Montagne Pelee

The chicken scraped her knee

Rodney Bay, St Lucia

Daragh decided to dock the boat at the marina to let us have a taste of luxury in St Lucia. Brian and I loved it. We showered 4 times a day and walked up and down the marina eating gelato and sorbets MULTIPLE times a day. We are little fattys. Hahah, we had Japanese food in St Lucia!

We went to Pigeon Island and had an amazing swim and snorkel in that area. Met an awesome tour-guide, Peter and he arranged a beautiful tour for us the next day.

We started at Rodney Bay and went south towards Marigot Bay where Dr. Doolittle was filmed. Peter took us to Castries next. We had some coconut water fresh out of the coconut! Brian and Daragh bought matching shirts after a good bargain.

We drove by Canaries and Anse la Raye to see the fishing village and visit a banana plantation. Then we went to Anse Chastanet in Sourfriere to snorkel around the Pitons (this is also where Jade Mountain, from the Bachelor was filmed. We also learned that my friend’s friend’s boyfriend’s family owns the hotel and they live there!

Too bad we found out way too late or else we could of perhaps scored a tour of the 1800USD/night hotel. Peter took us to his sister’s restaurant and we had an amazing creole lunch.

Then we continued to go to the Suphur Springs and puttied ourselves with some good volcano mud. We smelt like rotten eggs but it was good for the skin! 

Finally he dropped us off at Coal Pot Restaurant and we had the most amazing dinner. Thank you again Daragh for the dinner!

The captain spent the next day working on the boat and Brian and I helped to clean the boat and then we took the dinghy back to Pigeon Island to snorkel and swim. It was a fantastic day.
Brian and I got to swim and snorkel. I got to lay under the sun and sleep and Brian got to build a sandcastle. Before heading back to the boat, we also ran around Pigeon Island and went to the top of the Fort Rodney.

Playing in the sand

Pigeon Island Park
Fort Rodney

Home before the sunset

We went diving with Iyanola Dive Ventures and took the boat from Rodney Bay to Soufriere and dove by the Pitons, it was really quite fun to see the island from a speed boat point of view after spending all day touring the island the day before – we went diving at two locations; Superman’s flight and Coral Gardens. It was absolutely breathtaking! We really wished we had an underwater camera to document it all. More things to buy and pack for our next adventure!
Completed our diving, got back to the boat and we set sail to Barbados!


We made it!!! It was a 25 hour sailing trip where most sailors would rather sail to Europe than to sail to Barbados because of the trade winds. Daragh made it with his two crews. (or 1½ - I was sleeping 80% of the time, haha :D ) We got in just in time to get to customs. The customs security guard was super nice. He offered to drive us to the restaurant! Met up with Daragh’s friend and enjoyed the night on land. The texture of the sand was SO DIFFERENT comparing to all the other islands we went to because this was not a volcanic island. It didn’t seem as interesting as it appeared flat from what we could observe. Still 100X better than Edmonton though! I enjoyed walking up and down the beach and have the sand run through my toes. Brian and I had to get our bags packed as we were about to head home so we went to get laundry done and explored a little bit of Barbados. 

We re-anchored the boat closer to the Barbados Yacht Club and enjoyed the rest of the trip. Snorkel. Swim. Tan/Dry up. Eat. and Repeat. It was FANTASTIC.

Beautiful sand
Matching shirts

Things we learned on our trip

1. Whenever my parents go to a city, the first thing they do is check out Chinatown. The first thing Daragh does is check out the marina.

2. You can't use water on a boat like you can at home. Showering became a quick and easy one unless we were making water. The ocean was our swimming pool!

3. Fish traps are everywhere. Being a lookout is fun!

4. Sailing is fun!

5. Captain's Hour is all about spending time together and having a drink :)

6. When we get free wifi, we use the wifi!! :):)

7. Donna will never be able to shop with the two explorer bees around. 

8. Daragh and Brian both enjoy reading signs. Every informative sign. 

9. Brian goes through a whole bottle of sunscreen a week. Donna uses a drop for her face. 

10. The selfie stick was so helpful!

11. People on the island are so kind and friendly. We loved and enjoyed all our encounters in each island!

Thank you Captain Daragh for taking us on Chantey V! This was an incredible experience that we have now gained!

Crew sign off:
Brian the first mate
Donna the stowaway