30th Oct – 2nd November : Home Sweet Home
After a really easy flight to Grenada we are now back on board Ocean Rainbow, admittedly after 2 nights in La Sagesse to help acclimatisation! We were met by Boney (the hotel’s preferred taxi driver) and taken to our room which was right on the beach. We’d forgotten how noisy the waves were crashing on the beach and the racket tree frogs made but that didn’t stop us sleeping like the proverbial logs! The next morning we were driven back to Ocean Rainbow and were so thrilled to see her new boot top, stripe and raised water line. All done beautifully by the marina. We have now decided that we are going to have professional help to sand the bottom of the boat before applying primer and antifouling so there is a slight delay to our progress. However, we still anticipate ‘splashing’ by the end of the week.
Entering Ocean Rainbow again was wonderful. She smelt sweet, no mould, no leaks, no cockroaches and everything as we left it except for a little sparrow who had made her nest at the end of our boom! So lovely to see, although thankfully the nest is empty so we were able to clear away her home without feeling guilty. We then set to and put the boat back together. It was a monumental effort. It is hot, hot, hot ….. and very humid so we are working slowly and drinking loads of water. We haven’t even had a rum punch yet – it’s that hot! Although we left everything tidy it is amazing how many things have to be done just to get ready to put to sea. All the stores left behind on the boat had been moved into lockers as low down as possible and on the starboard side as that was the shady side of the boat. Now they have been moved into more useful locations and divided up so that they are easily accessible. There’s a long list of supplies that we need to purchase when we get to the relevant ports of call e.g. wine, cold meats, cheeses in Le Marin, Martinique; rum, fresh vegetables in St Georges, Grenada. St David’s is lovely and the marina staff are excellent but it is a little out of the way and the local supermarket is woefully lacking in fresh vegetables and any form of meat other than chicken!
Claire did manage to get to the shops thanks to Sally (a liveaboard who has a car) and bought what was available which should provide enough for a few meals. Although there is a ‘restaurant’ at St David’s the meals are limited so to spin the changes we are planning to eat our evening meal on board. Sunday supper was prepared at 6am to make the most of the cool in the early morning – a wise decision given the activity and energy used during the day.
3rd – 6th November
Our new batteries have been installed thanks to Dwayne’s help. It was a really efficient process and we didn’t need to build a cradle in the bilges after all which was a great relief. Now all that remains to make sure that our Battery charger actually gives the correct readings …. A slight problem at the moment! We also discovered a crack in the rudder’s gelcoat which has now been repaired thanks to Isaac but we will need to have another look at that when we haul out at the end of this season. The antifouling is progressing. Derek professionally sanded the barnacle remnants off the boat and applied Inter Protect 2000E two part primer. We then used the Sea Hawk 1277 primer and turned the bottom yellow and then, after 24 hours drying time, we used the Sea Hawk 1005 black antifouling with tin booster. We shall be really disappointed if we get much growth on the bottom this season. We have also polished the sides until they’re gleaming – another huge effort in the heat. We are drinking copious amounts of water and still haven’t indulged in a rum punch! We did treat ourselves to a Pepper Pot Medley for lunch yesterday – delicious and our first goat for this sailing season (although there was apparently also beef and pork included in the mix). Slow Flight (Nina and Rod)whom we met in Le Marin just after we had finished our Atlantic crossing, have finally managed to escape the yard. Hopefully we will actually meet up with them for a sundowner this season having failed to spot them even once last season!
7th – 8th November – Splash Down
Wow, at last we are in the water. What an effort in this heat but what a result. Hopefully we shall be barnacle free for a long time to come. It’s odd to be in the water now surrounded by folk we had been walking past on dry land just hours earlier …. Rafiki (Ingrid, Robin, Katherine and Alex) were the last to join us on the water. Bikini (Jean-Claude and Francesca) and Narcose (Pascale and Alain) are heading off immediately but the rest of us are going to chill out for the weekend. Sadly our chilling out is not going to be quite so relaxing! We always knew we would have to put on the main and yankee but now we also have to sort out YamaHaHa who failed to take us ashore for supper last night (we think it’s the same old problem but can’t understand why it keeps happening), mend Puddles’ leaks (might wait a bit on that one if we can keep her afloat by just keeping the pump close to hand!), mend the pump for the heads (in bits at the moment and repair underway) and paint Humphrey’s rudder which was forgotten in all the excitement! How could we forget Humphrey you ask when he is such a vital member of the team!! It is the sailing life – always something to do but we are afloat and it feels really good.
9th – 12th November
Sunday we were up bright and early to find we had very little wind so an ideal time to put on the yankee and main. We enlisted the help of Loic (Sea Prize, but about to go back to her original name of L’oiseau des iles) and successfully managed to get on both the yankee and main before the wind got up. At last we’re properly dressed! It was also good to swap seafaring tales with Loic over a cup of tea and some munchies afterwards – fancy that, a Frenchman who doesn’t like coffee! James took YamaHaHa apart and cleaned everything so we had a functioning outboard for a while but on Monday afternoon we had failure again so the engine went to the experts on Tuesday morning and had the carburettor properly cleaned. All now seems well again. Claire spent ages gently cleaning the teak handrails with washing up liquid but then sanity took over and we bought Teak Renovator for the cockpit! The result is not as good but at least the grime is out of the teak and we can continue with the gentle cleaning in slow time. A bit of the caulking is lifting too so we shall have to deal with that in due course. We decided that Puddle is beyond economical repair so we spent ages on the internet and have now ordered a Walker Bay Foldable Dinghy which we can pick up in St Lucia. The next decision is whether we splash out on ‘chaps’. This is the name given to the special UV protector cover that we have seen on so many RIBs. It’s a complicated piece of sewing (especially by hand) and expensive material so Claire is reluctant to take on the job herself – we’ll see!
On Monday, late afternoon, we went back into the hoist dock and expected to be lifted but the hoist driver had left very promptly for the day, so we spent the night tied alongside. However, it had its compensations as Richard Roxburgh (Mirounga) came on board for a drink – his launch had not gone so well either – one of his propellers had been put on back-to-front! – and Alex (Regain II to be renamed PAM) also joined us and stayed for supper. Alex had very kindly allowed us to hang Humphrey’s rudder off his boat as James did the antifouling and he also lent us his ‘snadder’ (family shortform for a mini electric Sander!). At last Ocean Rainbow is back entertaining and we were also entertained after supper, as Alex tuned up Claire’s guitar and strummed the evening away. On Tuesday we were lifted and after allowing the bottom of the boat to dry off the marine staff started work. They have done a great job all things considered and Isaac has been very helpful advising us about protecting the propeller – which had started to pick up little bits already. James has now cleaned the prop again and painted it with tin booster … let’s hope we still have a prop at the end of the season! The final saga has been the batteries. I think it would be fair to say that we are very disappointed with the fitting of the new batteries. The staff are delightful and always smiling but it still doesn’t detract from the fact that we have now had to call them back for the 5th time. James may not be an electrician but he knows when something isn’t working properly. We were concerned while on the water that the batteries weren’t charging fully so when we came ashore we plugged into shore power and waited …. After 3 hours the batteries still weren’t fully charged. What’s more the sacrificial anode that had been newly fixed to the prop was showing signs of wear after only 3 days! There had to be a leak …. Our conclusion, yet another loose wire. Sure enough, a loose wire was found on the starter battery. What with not connecting the windlass, failing to fit the batteries as one bank, breaking the shunt and a disconnected wire ….. not the highest standard of workmanship. The final test will be when we are in the water and the measurements are taken to check there is no leaking current ….
We are still smiling and looking forward to setting off to True Blue to meet with Freebooter.
The final tests all went well and we spent a last night in St David’s Bay before setting off for our shakedown sail to True Blue (9nm). Ocean Rainbow was in great form. We had two reefs in the main and a full yankee but we didn’t use the staysail as Puddle was stowed on the deck. As we turned into True Blue Bay the heavens opened and we got totally drenched with visibility severely restricted and not helped by the fact that Claire’s glasses fogged up! Once anchored, we went below and found that we had a leak from the headlining just outside the wetlocker door. We took down the headlining and found that one of the doghouse screws was loose. All very easy to fix once the rain stopped and everything dried out. We then went to pump up Puddle and found that her condition had degraded further – the transom was no longer glued to the port tube! An industrial glue was needed so James braved the elements and rowed (couldn’t put the engine on, Puddle would have sunk with the weight) ashore and walked to Budget Marine where he picked up sealant (for doghouse) and glue. To cut a long story short, we had prepared supper for Annemarie and Steve on board Ocean Rainbow but with Puddle slowly sinking we decided that we would meet them ashore for a drink (Claire’s first sundowner appropriately named, Respect the Nutmeg) and then go back to OR to see what repairs we could make to Puddle before packing the boat back up for an early departure in the direction of St Lucia. We couldn’t sail there direct as we had to stop off in Carriacou for our official check out of the Grenadines.
We had a great sail to Carriacou (52nm). It is hard work sailing upwind and the trip always takes longer than one hopes, so we didn’t arrive in time to get to customs (they shut at 4pm) but we did arrive in another torrential downpour. We anchored wearing swimmers and baseball hats – seemed the most sensible form of dress (other than our birthday suits which we felt might not be quite what the local community would appreciate!). We pumped up Puddle ready to put her back in the water and found that she’d sprung yet another leak – this time the end of the sponson. We taped her up and hoped that this would do the trick just to allow us to clear out of the country. The next morning we awoke to find Puddle tied on but half submerged. James did his level best but there was no way that Puddle could support his weight enough to allow him to row into shore! Plan B – the trusty kayak, Drip Drop, was launched. Drip Drop is great in flat calm conditions for a bit of fun but as a reliable form of transport she is a tad unstable! However we both made it ashore without turning ourselves upside down. Claire did some shopping and James got on with the formalities. We’d intended to stay the weekend in Carriacou and then head up the coast but the weather forecast wasn’t good so we changed plans, packed up the boat again and set off at midday for St Lucia. James, in his discussions with Trevor at Carriacou Marine, had agreed to leave Puddle with him for donation to the local community. Although Puddle wasn’t much use as a dinghy, she had bits and bobs that could be removed and recycled. We had decided that we really didn’t want to carry extra wooden slats etc so this seemed a good solution. The next issue was how to get Puddle to the shore …. towing her behind Drip Drop was not a practical option and really time consuming so Claire hailed a passing dinghy to ask for help. Brian from Black Magic was exceptionally kind and gave a hand. Puddle was towed to Tyrrel Bay beach and left for Trevor to re-home. Hopefully her useful parts have now been put to good use. It was really sad to see her go. It might seem silly to say, but we had become extremely attached to our faithful little dinghy.
Our sail up to St Lucia was lovely (we did 125nm instead of the 100nm it would have been in a straight line!). We had some exciting little squalls to cope with, one which sprang up in the night caught us slightly unawares – not helped by the fact that Claire wasn’t wearing her contacts and it took her a while to realise that it wasn’t the rain obliterating the instrument panels and wind indicator but her lack of glasses! Lesson learned – never again do we set sail for a night passage without Claire wearing her contacts. As we approached St Lucia we had more torrential rain and winds howling in excess of 40 knots but Ocean Rainbow held steady so we didn’t need to turn and run down wind which was good as we really wanted to arrive in Rodney Bay in daylight. As it turned out, we arrived in an absolutely blinding rain storm at 4pm! We had seen the yachts at anchor in the bay from a distance but by the time we were approaching the anchorage they had all disappeared in a white mist! Very unnerving but we took it all slowly and as we came to drop our anchor the rain stopped and we anchored in good conditions.
Monday morning dawned clear and bright. We called up the marina and arranged to come in and moor on the Visitors pontoon so that we could clear customs and immigration and then collect Puddle Mk II. Everything went fairly smoothly (a bit of discussion about a small nick in the Hypalon on the floor of the dinghy) but by midday we were the proud owners of a Walker Bay dinghy. James went off to Johnsons to buy all the spares and repair stuff we needed and to Digicell to get a local SIM card. Claire’s ankle was playing up so she stayed on the boat and prepared lunch. By 2pm we were back in the anchorage and ready to pump up our new purchase. We weren’t ready to name and launch her until 4.30pm!! Before launching we treated the Hypalon with 300 Aerospace Protectant in an attempt to protect Puddle Mk II from the Caribbean UV. If it’s good enough for aeroplanes it should be good enough for our dinghy! We finally had everything in place and Puddle Mk II was launched with due ceremony – perhaps not quite as good as the service Ruth and Peter did for us in Portishead, but we did our best. After a quick loop around the boat to test everything we repaired to the cockpit for a celebratory cup of tea! On Tuesday morning we took Puddle for her inaugural shopping trip. She passed with flying colours managing to carry the most ridiculous amount of shopping without shipping any water and travelling at a very good pace. Puddle Mk II might have made a serious dent in our finances but she’s definitely worth it.
With all the shopping stowed (including washing and drying all fruit and veg) we set off for Marigot Bay. A lovely gentle sail and, for a change, we anchored in the sunshine. We are now parked off Doolittles Restaurant (famous for being the location where Dr Doolittle was filmed) and ready to weather whatever winds come our way over the next couple of days. Marigot means low lying and subject to occasional flooding – we can see why with all the rain we’ve had in the last 2 days! It hasn’t deterred the sightseeing trippers in the catamarans, water taxis and speed boats though. We wave to them and only wish we could charge them for the photos they take –we’d make a fortune. Marigot Bay marina has undergone a change of hands and is now run by Capella. It is really quiet at the moment with no one anchored in the bay, one yacht in the lagoon and one tied alongside on a pontoon. Really rather lovely but not good for local businesses – the souvenir shop has shut and the clothes shop has disappeared as well. On the plus side the local supermarket has undergone a makeover and now stocks cold meat, cheeses and frozen cuts of meat – a vast improvement on last season’s frozen hamburgers! We continue with jobs on the boat – Claire currently making a cover for Puddle and James tidying up his little glory holes!!
21st – 23rd November
Well we’re back in Rodney Bay en route to Martinique. We shall take the first available weather window to head off across the acceleration zone – always a lively sail but we don’t want to make it more challenging than necessary! In the meantime we have met up with Serendipity again and this time we managed to get David on board for a sundowner. We had a lovely sunset to accompany the Ocean Rainbow Rum Punch so all the necessary ingredients for a ‘mellow’ evening. We agreed to meet up again on Sunday for the festivities after the Parade of Sail so we also had a chance to have a look around his sumptuous yacht! There is a world of difference between aa 40′ Warrior and a 58′ Oyster ….. if we had the funds to maintain a yacht of this size we might be tempted!! The ‘Parade of Sail’ was to celebrate the start of the ARC in Las Palmas. The first yachts from Las Palmas are expected to arrive in St Lucia in about 12 days’ time and then the rest will drift in over the following 10 days so we are going to make sure we are well away from the scrum and safely tucked up in a remote bay on one of the islands in the Grenadines. The actual festivities here in St Lucia were quite low key but it was nice to see yachts sailing into the bay and one rather impressive display from ‘Blue Waves’ who came across our position in the anchorage and then proceeded to sail along the shoreline in what must have been the barest minimum of water under her keel! We had a beer with David on the Board Walk and listened to the steel band for an hour or so – if we weren’t deaf beforehand we were afterwards! Actually the band were really good and we did enjoy it. After a swift tour of Serendipity and a quick chat with the Navy’s Discoverer we returned to Ocean Rainbow for a leisurely evening prior to our departure for Martinique.
24th – 30th November
Up early and off to customs and immigration to clear out of St Lucia then back to OR to pack up Puddle Mk II and put her safely in the wet locker. We keep the decks clear whenever we cross an acceleration zone, the staysail sets better and moving around the boat is also much safer so it’s a ‘no-brainer’ really. Just a bit more exercise for the pair of us!! The crossing was lovely with winds between 20 to 25 knots giving us an average speed of 5knots even though we had a heavily reefed yankee and two reefs in the main. Serendipity set off 1½ hours after us and caught us up an hour out of Martinique and took some photos which are great. Just wish we could carry full sail without ending up on our ear and straining the rigging as the photos would look so much prettier!!
Le Marin bay was much emptier than the beginning of the year so we were able to drop anchor and let out 30m of chain with no problem. James collected David and the pair of them went off to sort out the formalities of arrival – a bit of a hiccup on the return trip, YamaHaHa ran out of fuel but, being a lucky cavalry officer, James only had to row a couple of meters as they were just opposite the fuel pontoon!
Tuesday we had a leisurely start before we hit the shops! Oh dear me, what a chore it is to stock the boat. On land you go to the shops, walk along the aisles, load the trolley, unload at check out and reload the trolley, load into the car, drive home, unload into the house then load into the cupboards and fridge. Living on the water it’s all the same if you substitute dinghy for car ….. except it’s not! There are millions of steps involved, up ladders, down ladders, up companionway, down companionway then add to that the fact that in order to stow the shopping you have to remove cushions and seats to get at the lockers behind. We remove all excess packaging to reduce our rubbish on board and to eliminate the possibility of cockroaches – they just love to lay their eggs in cardboard, especially cardboard that’s been anywhere near a brewery!! Then, having stowed everything you need to have noted where you have squirreled stuff away (memory not being what it was!!). It’s a real mission. To reduce the possibility of James having a heart attack about the amount of stuff Claire wanted to buy – and the amount it was going to cost – the shopping was done on two days!! Cunning plan that worked as Claire has almost everything she wanted and James has managed to re-stock his wine cellar. A little zizzette was required to recover but it couldn’t be for long as one Jean-Phillipe from Navtech was due at 2pm to have a look at our autopilot. He duly arrived and left 30 minutes later with the autopilot computer tucked under his arm and promises of having it all fixed by Monday! We live in hope!
In the meantime, David from Serendipity had been on the receiving end of bad news – he has to spend 5 days in hospital in an attempt to fix his dive-related hearing problem. Not much fun and a logistical problem as you can’t just park your 58’ Oyster anywhere! The marina was full so he elected to leave Serendipity at anchor and found a ‘guardien’ to keep an eye on her and charge her batteries every day (with a freezer full of food, David is anxious to maintain his power levels)! We had a quick drink together but David declined supper as he needed to get organised. On Thursday morning James ran David to shore and we shall attempt to be around on Monday to collect him after his hospital ordeal. We had some really strong winds last night – gusts of 35 knots with thunder and lightning –so if his anchor held then there’s no reason to suppose it won’t while he is away.
All tasks finished for the time being in Le Marin we weighed anchor and headed for Sainte Anne and a quiet weekend. Sadly this didn’t last long! On the way into the town YamaHaHa decided to throw a sicky again! Then, while on shore, James updated his iPad and something went hideously wrong. Totally dead, no sceen, no reaction to re-booting, no reaction to curses and expletives and even more worrying no access to his back up as we’d left it safely in England! Much searching on the internet for a solution and after Claire loaded iTunes onto her laptop we thought we’d found a way to restore everything. However, we just didn’t have a good enough WiFi connection for the whole process to complete without WiFi dropping out. Ne’er mind, tomorrow was another day. In the meantime we needed to row back to Ocean Rainbow and try and fix YamaHaHa (at this point we are not mentioning the possibility of another engine … we know what happened when we mentioned a replacement in Puddle Mk I’s hearing!). Despite James’ valiant efforts we failed to get the spark back in HaHa’s life so new plans for Friday – back to Le Marin to Bichek to see a man about an engine! We had another bright idea that evening to access WiFi from the boat and attempt the iPad recovery at home. Claire’s computer needed charging so we plugged that in and without so much as a ‘by your leave’ everything went dark. Fuse gone! Ah well, easy enough to fix unless in the attempt to replace the blown fuse you manage to snap the wire for a neighbouring fuse. It was only the GPS! An hour or so later, after a really fiddly operation with the soldering iron, we were back in where we started. HaHa and iPad still sick, Claire’s computer down on power but the GPS and 12v socket were functional. We had a rapid supper and climbed into bed shattered at 10pm!!
Friday morning we were up early, weighed anchor, motored back to Le Marin, anchored and then took Puddle to Bichek Services dinghy dock – and enlisted the services of ‘Super Mario’. Same old carburettor problem for HaHa. All fixed within the hour and we were off to look for WiFi. We tried three places and couldn’t get a connection long enough for the ‘fix’ to download and restore James’ iPad. In the end we returned to Ocean Rainbow weighed anchor etc and went back and settled ourselves in Sainte Anne. Once organised we went into town and lo and behold we had a good WiFi connection and everything went really well ….. the iPad came back to life and James’ normal sunny smile returned. All we need now is for Jean-Phillipe to have fixed the autopilot on Monday and we will be off to meet up with the cousins (arriving on Monday as guests on Merlin III) then Freebooter and maybe even Ishtar, both of whom are currently in Carricaou.
On Saturday we had a ‘dobie’ day and then, because it was all completed so quickly we did a spruce up of the doghouse. We didn’t have quite enough paint so we need to do a bit more work in due course but the result at the moment isn’t bad at all. We’ve (well, James has) been up the mast to tidy the shrouds and check all the fixtures and fittings and the boat has been hovered and cleaned. We then sat down to a well earned cup of Earl Grey at 5.30pm and witnessed our first green flash of the sailing season. Really great to know that it isn’t only ‘under the influence’ that this phenomenon happens!! On Sunday we went to the local catholic church as usual and weren’t disappointed by the music or the service. A lovely start to Advent, even if the church was so packed we had to squash into a corner in one of the wings – we were lucky, some folk didn’t get seats! At lunch we were treated to a Yole race and one yole actually sailed at top speed through the anchorage – all very exciting and a bit nerve wracking for one skipper as the yole brushed pretty close to his rigging! Can hardly believe tomorrow is December …. We shall be returning to Le Marin and then hopefully moving south to join Freebooter and Ishtar in Carriacou and rendezvous with the Cousins (Rodney and Penny) somewhere between St Lucia and Grenada.