RTW June 2014

1st –3rd June

Hunting TurtlesWe are still vegging out in Union Island! Unheard of for the Shorts but we love it here and we’re managing to get lots of jobs done on the boat and are really enjoying the peace and tranquility.   We had a great Sunday with YamaHaHaHa back on form, Franz from Kyory on board for ‘tea’ and we really do mean tea as he was already invited out for drinks!   When he left we had a leisurely supper and in bed by yachties’ midnight (i.e. 9pm!!).  The one downer to the day was seeing a bunch of young men out in their fishing boat hunting for turtles with spear guns.   We have asked and it would appear that they may just be hunting legitimately as it is allowed in the ‘season’.   No one, as yet, has managed to identify the ‘season’ for us.   The turtles are very fast and, by and large, the fishermen have been unsuccessful but this time a small turtle was speared and carried off as bounty. We were hugely sad, they’re such lovely creatures.

Monday night we were invited across to Kyory for drinks and met the folk on the other two yachts in the bay – Sybilla and Bo from Sybo and Andrea and Ki from Silence.  The evening was spent speaking a mixture of german and english – we had a lot of laughs and look forward to seeing them again as we all progress towards Grenada.  On Tuesday we weighed anchor early and sailed off to Chatham Bay – a massive distance of 3nm!   The pilot book is so accurate in describing this as a magnificent anchorage. We arrived and found only two other yachts at anchor (both Brits – Rhapsode: Peter and Liz and Sparrow:  Bill and Angie) although later in the day other boats arrived but you could hardly call us crowded.   We went for a meander along the beach checking out all the bars and restaurants and we even found WiFi although our phones don’t have a signal which is strange.   We think we may be staying here for a while!!   We have enough fresh veg and fruit if we want to eat on board, there’s masses of choice for eating ashore and if we run low on water we can make our own (about time we christened the watermaker!).

005Eat more LionfishThe weather, as always, dictates our passages and we are due for a real blow this weekend so we are moving back to Ashton.  The bullets of wind that shoot across Chatham Bay are very alarming at the best of times so we really aren’t too sure we want to sit and ride out an official period of ‘bad’ weather.   We so enjoyed our time in the Bay though and we ‘spread the love’ to quote Vanessa from one of the restaurants on the beach!  We had lunch time drinks at the smart restaurant at the end of the beach, sundowners with Pleasure and supper with Tim at Bollhead (Chicken & Fish Crumble – Chicken drumsticks, tuna steaks, plaintain, tomato and pineapple salad and garlic and cheese baked potatoes with banana fritters for pud!  Not exactly a light meal!).   Last night we had sundowners with Vanessa and Seckie so we’ve done our bit for the economy.   The snorkelling was lovely off the point although we didn’t see anything new and we were sad to see the Lionfish hanging around there too – if only we’d had a harpoon they’d have been dead lionfish.  Maybe next time.

Sundowners on Silence

Sundowners on Silence

Sundowners on Ocean Rainbow

Sundowners on Ocean Rainbow

Thursday and we are back in Ashton Bay and already invited to sundowners on Silence!   The social side of life is picking up again!!   Yet another great evening speaking german and english – and the chance to inspect a 380 Laguna catamaran.   What a lot of space!!   We decided that we really needed to leave Union Island by Saturday but before we went we wanted to reciprocate the entertainment we had received so invited Silence, Sybo and Kyory to Ocean Rainbow for ‘au revoir’ sundowners.     In the meantime we prepared to leave St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).     James went ashore to check out with customs and immigration, Claire did a bit of ‘cleaning and clearing’ and then continued her struggle to hand sew a cover for the windlass.   We’ve been having a bit of a squeaky time with the windlass so James serviced it and in so doing discovered on the internet that we should really have a cover on it the whole time.   Seems obvious now but we haven’t seen folk with covers on so it didn’t occur to us.   Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before, needle, thread, palm and brute force finally manage to produce a ‘hat’.   The day ended on such a lovely note after Sundowners with our Swiss/German friends.   We do hope that we will be able to meet up with everyone again.

On Saturday morning at 0630 we set off on a lively crossing of the acceleration zone for Petite Martinique.   The wind was really quite strong and never dropped below 25 knots which rather justified our heavily reefed yankee and 2 reefed main!   We sailed straight into Petite Martinique and managed to tie up alongside the jetty with no problems (we’d even remember the fenders this time!).   While James filled up with water, Claire went on a tour of the island – took all of 45 minutes! – and reported back.   It would have been lovely to stay a night but the anchorage was really extremely rolly, the wind was howling and there was virtually no protection from the Atlantic… so it wasn’t a sensible idea.

Instead we set off for Carriacou and Tyrrel Bay.   Again, we had hoped to stop off at Sandy Island for some snorkelling but the seas were really choppy so we’ve left that for another time.   At 10am we sailed into Tyrrel Bay, dropped our sails and motored into a lovely little spot where we can pick up ‘limited’ WiFi from the boat.   James went ashore and was really relieved to find that customs and immigration were open on a Saturday.   We’d been a bit worried we would have either had to pay a big ‘overtime’ bill for arriving outside office hours or worse still a fine for not checking in until after the Whit Bank holiday.   James was made to feel really welcome by Trevor in the Marine Office and Manny, who fitted our Silent Wind.   Sadly Pete and Kathy from Arawak have already flown back to UK so we will have to catch up with them in November.   While Claire was off renewing acquaintances with Denise (fruit & veg) and Miss Alexis (Supermarket) James was visited by Celtic Spray and asked if we would like to join them and some others (Annie and Ian – Celtic Spray; Brian – Pyxis; Susie – Spirited Lady; Liz & Devin – Moosetracks & Mary & Francoise – Santiago; ) for supper in one of the local eateries.   What a great way to meet some new folk.   Supper was simple and delicious, chips and BBQ ribs for the princely sum of EC$15 a head.   It was a night of strange coincidence too – Moosetracks, although under a US flag is actually owned by a British couple and they come from ……. Tickenham!   For the uninitiated, that is precisely 5 miles from Portishead.   What a small world.

After supper a ‘smaller’ group of us were waylaid on the route home by some live music and the need for a “rum nightcap”. Reverlation were playing their first live Gig at The Conch Shell and they sounded really good. We stayed and enjoyed the evening, introducing the locals to our version of dancing.   Not exactly ‘twerking’ but it brought a smile to their faces.

Lunch at the SlipwaySunday morning dawned early as we wanted to get to church in time for the 0730 start, last time we were in Tyrrel Bay we were 2 hours late!!   It was a nice service with everyone wearing some red in celebration of Whit Sunday.   The singing wasn’t quite as tuneful as we have experienced on other islands but the sermon was comprehensible which was a big plus!   We then had a lovely lunch at The Slipway as they were closing for a month while the owners take a holiday.  We had burger and chips as a real treat!

9th – 14th June

Petite Martinique held its annual Regatta on Bank Holiday Monday.   We joined in the fun.   We missed the ‘joint transport’ from Tyrrel Bay so made our own way across to PM by bus and pirogue.     We then had a chance to really explore the tiny island.   The road runs out a long way short of the northern point so we wandered along the shoreline as far as we could go and then we tried to find a route to take us along the eastern side but failed.   It was all scrub and even the goats were having trouble finding their way through!   We eventually made it back down to the beach and the whole point of our visit – the Regatta.   All the people we met were very friendly and made us feel very welcome.   We had a delicious lunch of chicken ‘n chips ( our third day with chips!!!) and then watched as all the boats readied themselves.  The start line is like nothing we’ve experienced in England, you push your boat from the sand into the water until she floats and there you wait until the race is started with a countdown of ‘One, Two, Three, Go’ – no starters gun, no Minute Countdown ….    All very casual  but the racing is anything but casual.   The competition is fierce and exciting.  The yacht we favoured in the last race had a serious mishap and sank off the pier!    It was recovered and limped in to shore with its mast broken.  Such a shame – doubly so when we discovered the next day that Manny (our favourite engineer) has a part share in the boat.    Needless to say the mast has now been mended and the boat has won another race so honour is restored.   One of the funniest things we saw all day was the giant ‘flip flop’ race.   A plank of wood has the toe restraints from flip flops attached at intervals allowing three people to wear the same ‘flip flop’.   It’s a more complicated version of the 3 legged race and as I was never any good at that I certainly didn’t volunteer to particpate.    It was a real hoot to watch.   We eventually called it a day and headed for home.   This time we all travelled together and with the pirogue loaded to the gunwhales we set off.  All was fine until another pirogue passed us and that was it – the race was on!   The driver said we topped 47 knots – we can believe him.  We have the bruises to prove it and, at the time, we had whiteknuckles too!

We’ve been very sociable this last week! We’ve had Beyzano (Rhian and Rob) with Brian from Pyxis on board for sundowners; Rhapsode (Peter and Liz) and Brian for supper and an impromptu birthday celebration thanks to Nadja’s email (via the website) warning us of the event.     We’ve joined a merry and varied collection of yachtie folk for happy hour at the Lazy Turtle and on Wednesday evening we went on board Pyxis for sundowners.   We have been busy on Ocean Rainbow with James up the mast to retape the spreaders and all the fiddly bits that could cause havoc with the sails, Claire sewing and mending and now in the midst of varnishing.   We went exploring to Bogle and walked along a coastal track to a bay called Anse La Roche which was so beautiful we are planning to go back. A whole beach just to ourselves and a family of pelicans.   We had a bit of drama in Hillsborough on the way home as Claire jumped into a bus when it was stationary at the crossroads. Apparently this is not allowed (and, considering the number of things that are allowed on a bus, we were surprised) so the bus driver was horrified and even more so when he looked in his rearview mirror to see the police behind him – $150 fine!   Luckily the police turned a blind eye and no ticket was issued – they realised it was all the fault of the tourists!!!   Talking about things that are allowed, it is wonderful to see small packages being handed in through the window with a dollar and the driver being asked to drop it off at ‘so and so’s’ house.   Small children (4 or 5 years old) are loaded on, a dollar changes hand, and then whisked across the island to wherever requested, dropped off and the children wander off to their next destination.   Something that would never happen in the UK these days.

The finale of the week was the Dinghy Drift in the Mangrove swamps to toast the New Moon.   We laughed so much from start to finish.   5 dinghies joined themselves together (Spirited Lady – it was all Susie’s idea – Sophie-Ems (Robin Hobson), Rafiki (Robin and Ingrid), Raphsode, Ocean Rainbow and Pyxis) and just drifted through the mangrove swamp – the engines were used when the mangroves threatened to swallow someone up and we motored out of harm’s way and back into the middle of the swamp to drift again.   An email message from Peter of Rhapsode says it all “Never had so much fun in a dinghy ever! So called mature and sophisticated people howling at the moon; standing to toast the moon goddess and having tzatziki licked from my foot!! “ This was all because Claire had managed to tip all the dips over while trying to capture that ‘all too special’ photo of James disappearing into the mangrove swamps!

 

We are now back in working mode and about to go and layer some more varnish on the ensign stave!   It’s a hard life!

After a day of admin on board we had another day off!   Once again organised by Spirited Lady, we set off in Sherwin’s pirogue “Lambi Queen” for White Island which lies just off Carriacou and is a tiny little island with the most glorious white sand beach.   The seas were rather rough which made landing a trifle difficult but Sherwin’s done this before and we all made it in one piece with nothing dropped in the water.   We all set up under the shade of the trees and very quickly the locals had gathered sticks and driftwood and a fire was burning nicely.   The conch were the first on the fire – James has mastered the art of cooking conch but we’re not sure it’s going to be a useful skill as conch is so, so rubbery to eat it is hardly worth the effort! We reckon pressure cooking and curry sauce is the only answer for this very peculiar sea creature.   After the conch, the baked potatoes went followed by the fish.   We had not managed to catch anything (now there’s a surprise) so two fish were produced that had come from the locals.   When everything was ready we pooled our resources and had a magnificent feast.   The rest of the day was spent exploring, collecting shells and a little snorkelling on the leeward side of the island. The waters were too rough on the windward side and that, sadly, is the best side for snorkelling.     Maybe we’ll get another opportunity another year but we enjoyed ourselves anyway, it is always lovely to watch the fish as they busy themselves amongst the coral.

Since then, we have concentrated on what we have to do to prepare Ocean Rainbow for time ashore. The fruits of Claire’s labours are now ready to go on display!   So far we have two winch covers and a windlass cover made from re-cycled dodgers.   The where-withal to make a further 7 winch covers is all ready to be sewn – just need the time to do it!!   Andy from ‘In Stitches’ did some remodelling on our mainsail cover so Claire has been spared that task!    Thanks to Brian (Pyxis) Claire has perfected her varnishing skills and the ensign staff that was made is Morocco was stripped and re-varnished and is now looking good. Another few coats will ensure that the finish lasts a lot longer than the Moroccan varnish (at least we hope it will).

17th – 19th June

We set off from Carriacou shortly after 6am on Tuesday and had a nice gentle sail to Grenada where our first stop was Dragon Bay. We dropped anchor and very shortly afterwards we set off in the dinghy to the Molinere Sculpture Park.   A group of divers indicated where one of the statue groupings was located but after that it was up to us to find them.   What an amazing sight they are and, without a map to indicate the locations of the statues, it is also a good form of exercise swimming around to find them!   The whole time we were surrounded by shoals of fish – sergeant majors, parrot fish, butterfly fish – all so colourful and just added to the magic of the place.   We made a second visit to the site early the next morning.   The waters were calm, the sun shining through and we were totally on our own.   The water was still a little sandy after all the rough weather but we had good views even if the photos aren’t as clear as we would have liked.

After coffee we set off again to Grand Mal, another bay with a lovely beach.   There was supposed to be a restaurant with WiFi but that was closed (sold to the Port Authority) so we were really lucky as that meant we had a very quiet and peaceful night (unlike Dragon Bay when we were subjected to a night of Karaoke!).   Once ashore, we walked up the hill and finding nothing of any interest we took the bus into St George’s (the capital of Grenada) and had an initial recce before braving the bus station again and the rush hour traffic to get back to Grand Mal for a totally delicious recuperative ice cream.

On Thursday we had a morning of cleaning – Claire cleaned the oven pans!   A task that is performed sitting on the bathing platform using sea water as an additional abrasive.   The end result was fantastic but what a lot of elbow grease!   Still, there was a pause for coffee when Sybille and Bo (Sybo) spotted us from the road as they were on route to Dragon Bay by moped; we collected them in our dinghy and after our ‘Kaffee und Kuchen Pause’   they went on their way to see the sculptures …. and we carried on with the cleaning.   Once that was all finished we weighed anchor and set off again.   After a gentle sail we dropped an anchor in St George’s bay.   We took the dinghy into Port Louis and had a look around the rather swish marina before crossing to the other side to Grenada Yacht Club where we stopped for WiFi and a beer.   The ‘Spout Bar’ has lovely views and is a very friendly place – it did have the added advantage of live coverage of the England footie game!!!

View from Grenada Yacht Club's Spout Bar

View from Grenada Yacht Club’s Spout Bar

Friday we decided to do our sightseeing so we took the dinghy into St George’s harbour and tied Puddle off to a pipe just by the Port Authority offices.   There didn’t appear to be a dinghy dock so we just followed the example of another yachtie!   You’ll be please to read that Puddle was still there when we returned from our tour of the town.   St George’s has some very steep streets with churches on one side of the bay and Fort St George on the other side.   We walked up Church Street, past the derelict old government buildings, the rather dilapidated court houses to the Catholic church which has a new roof, a few stained glass windows and is in a good state of repair.   The same cannot be said of the Anglican church which is still suffering from the after effect of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and still hasn’t got a roof.   Looking across the bay towards the Fort you can see the Presbyterian church and that too is without a roof.   A real shame and maybe a poor reflection on the help offered from the external Anglican and Presbyterian communities?  We then went to see Fort St George but in so doing we also found we were wandering around parts of the Police Training Headquarters.   We took a photo of Matthew, the cobbler, in his workplace. He took on the job from his father but was at great pains to tell us that he was also known for his singing!   We saw the gym, and various other offices but it wasn’t actually until we left that we realised we had been in the Training Headquarters so we don’t have any photos that show the state of the place!     After a really hot and sticky morning we stopped off at the Nutmeg Café for WiFi/Skype and the best beef roti we have yet tasted (not the cheapest though, that prize still goes to the Roti in Soufriere!).   Fed and watered we returned to Ocean Rainbow only to find that Claire had another job to add to her list …. the canvas main hatch cover had blown off while we were away and a new one is now needed!   More stabbings and blood are on the agenda!

Saturday night we went on a turtle watching tour with Cutty (one of the entrepreneurial locals who takes visiting cruisers on trips around Grenada). It was magical.   We were picked up by mini-van which was already full with other yachties and taken on a drive up through the rainforest to the north eastern tip of Grenada.  We arrived at 7:30pm at the Levera briefing centre where we had a quick briefing on the do’s and don’ts of turtle watching; no white light, no flash photography, walk in single file, no litter, minimum noise and wait for instruction from the guide before approaching or touching the turtle.   We then loaded back up into the bus and drove a further 10 minutes to the beach itself. While we were waiting for a turtle to be spotted on the beach, we watched some volunteers release turtle hatchlings that had emerged earlier in the day.   They had been collected off the beach and kept in a bucket in wet sand and released in the evening when it was cooler and their chances of survival were greater.   The statistical survival rate for these little hatchlings is a mere 1 in 1000!   Not great odds. Watching the hatchlings you can understand why: first they have to fight their way up through 2ft of sand from the nest, then they have to find the sea without being eaten by birds, then they have to stay alive long enough to swim faster than the predatory fish; however, once they are full size, their only fear in the sea is a shark.   We were allowed to pick up and reposition the hatchlings that set off in the wrong direction.   After this spate of activity we waited in our group until one of the volunteers further along the beach spotted a turtle coming out of the sea.   Our guide then led us along a pathway at the back of the beach to the far end where a young leatherback turtle had started to make her nest.   Whilst walking in single file along the beach we spotted a hatchling in the sand and found that our route had taken us over an emerging nest.   We rapidly detoured to allow the hatchlings a safe exit in their bid to reach the sea.

The turtle we observed throughout the nesting/laying procedure was approximately 600lbs.   She was ‘relatively’ small and it was her first time to the island as she hadn’t been tagged.   Leatherbacks are the largest of the sea turtles and they’ve been on the planet since the days of the dinosaurs; they can grow to a diameter of 9ft and weight as much as 2000lbs.   Their natural life is between 80 and 100 years.   They start mating and laying eggs at 15 years of age, the females do not suffer menopause and are fertile every 2 to 3 years, so can lay eggs up to 8 times in the fertile year – an exhausting prospect. They can also dive down to 3900 feet.

When we got to the turtle nest, she was already busy digging using her back flippers to scrape and scoop sand out to make a 2ft deep hole for her eggs.   There were a couple of researchers there observing and assisting the turtle as needed.   The turtle goes into a trance while laying her eggs. During this time, the guide let us touch the turtle’s front flippers and shell.  Leatherbacks don’t actually have a shell like other turtles.  As you would expect from the name, the carapace felt smooth, hard and leathery.   Mum Turtle laid about 80 eggs, the majority are yoke eggs which produce turtles but there are a percentage of yokeless eggs that are produced for spacing in the nest.   Throughout the laying we could hear her heavy breathing/panting … sounded almost human.

Once all the eggs were laid the turtle then started to cover the eggs and pack the sand down with the weight of her body (tough job for the hatchlings to break free!) and then, as if she hasn’t worked hard enough, she proceeds to create decoy nests by flinging sand behind her with her back flippers.   Our turtle made about 10 decoys all in a straight line, other turtles make theirs in a circle which our guide said was the more normal procedure.   Finally, after all this effort, mother turtle makes her weary way back to the sea.

We carefully retraced our steps back down the beach in a single line towards the car park.  Along the way we passed four other turtles busily preparing their nests but we left them in peace to continue their labours.   We finally made it back to Ocean Rainbow at 0130am – a totally amazing evening.

Sunday we woke at our normal time!   We were a bit surprised so decided that we would go ashore and go to church.   The Catholic Church service started at 8am (the Anglicans had started at 7.30am) and we arrived at the doors just in time.   It was a nice service and we enjoyed the singing which was made all the more memorable by the young lady who sat behind us and sang with a voice so pure it brought tears to our eyes.

On Monday morning we awoke to find the most wonderful sight in front of us – Freebooter had finally managed to leave St Lucia and was just circling Ocean Rainbow before dropping her anchor.   It was brilliant to see Annemarie and Steve as we had almost given up hope that we would meet up before the end of the season.   We had a great supper together on Ocean Rainbow and have now caught up on all their news.

Wednesday morning we set off with Freebooter to show them the Molinere Sculpture Park and hopefully see some of the sculptures we missed the first time around.  Normally Freebooter’s dinghy flies over the water but this time, with 4 of us on board, it was a little slower and definitely much, much wetter!   There was quite a sea running so we did pause and ask ourselves if it was a wise move to continue …. but we were on a mission so we took things slowly and finally arrived at the park looking like the proverbial drowned rats!   This time we managed to locate all the sculptures so a big success all round.   The journey home was much drier and uneventful but that’s where it ended as, arriving in the anchorage, we spotted Ocean Rainbow about 500m from where we had left her.   She had dragged her anchor and, in so doing, had slid past Pussy Galore who would have been injured had her Skipper not summoned support and three strong men fended Ocean Rainbow off.   One of them jumped onto Ocean Rainbow and let out all her chain in an effort to slow down her progress through the anchorage and, in the meantime, a call went out on the local cruisers net to try and locate us.   We hadn’t taken a handheld VHF with us so it was just luck that got us back in time to rescue the situation.   We are thoroughly disgruntled/mortified by the whole episode as we had thought that our anchoring technique had become finely tuned over the months;   Anchor down, let out chain, reverse until boat checks, let out more chain, swim to check the anchor is really dug in, let out more chain with James watching and then finally set the snubber and take the coordinates.   Seems we were Ishtar 002mistaken, 40 metres of chain in 4 metres of water won’t hold Ocean Rainbow if she’s determined she wants to go for a walk.   We re-anchored and went across to Freebooter for sundowners as arranged but we didn’t stay for supper as we were too concerned we would drag again and strong winds were forecast for the evening.   The next morning Freebooter set off and we re-anchored yet again– this time much nearer the shore in lots of sand.  That night we were invited for sundowners on Ishtar and (now relaxed about our anchor!) we stayed for a totally delicious supper cooked by Elwyn’s daughter, Lucy (Cornish Food Box Company).

On Friday we set off south to visit some of the bays and inlets on the south coast of Grenada.   Our first stop was ‘Maggie Thatcher’ Bay – officially its name is True Blue Blay – which had been recommended by Sybo.   What a lovely little place, if a little rolly. We spent a couple of nights there and managed to catch up with Freebooter for the last time (they were hauled out in Prickly Bay and were staying at True Blue Hotel).   We had supper on Ocean Rainbow the first night, the second night we ate locally at ‘Bananas’ and had a real giggle as we watched pupils from the secondary school arrive for their graduation ball.   They certainly looked a lot smarter than we did!   The last night we had a final sundowner at The Dodgy Dock Bar and said our farewells.   It was the anniversary of our departure from Portishead.