Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Martinique ~ C’est Magnifique! ….. November 2014

07 – 14 November 2014:  St Anne to Grand Anse, Martinique – 14 30N 61 05W

PB100122 Enjoying the Flavours of France

We had another run of 25 miles across the large Atlantic ocean swells to get us from Rodney Bay, St Lucia to Sainte Anne,  on the southern coast of Martinique.  Martinique lies at the top of the Windward Island chain and it was skippers goal to get here before the seasonal northeast trade winds fully developed. Martinique is considered to be the most northerly Windward Island and from here we would sail a more favourable course through the Leeward Islands before turning west in a few weeks.       

We hadn’t stopped at Sainte Anne on the way south so it was great to have somewhere new to explore, French supermarkets to investigate, the best baguettes to discover, new rum punches to sample and excellent French food to savour.  I should mention that 36 hours of non stop rain initially put a slight dampener on things, but only just.

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Filling Up The Lockers

The French do take their food seriously and they make it very easy for us cruisers to access all their goodies here .  Leader Price Supermarket in nearby Le Marin even has its own dinghy dock, how could we not take advantage of that?  PB100119 So despite torrential rain we did the long dinghy ride to indulge in the flavours of France, our lockers are now overflowing with canned duck breast, tins of ratatouille, stuffed olives, salamis and pates and the fridge has never seen so many different cheeses.  Now let’s not forget the French wines and Martinique rums, the dinghy was chocka full – all the shopping was wrapped in black bin liners so it wouldn’t get too wet and the provisioning excursion was complete. 

Downwind At Last

After 5 enjoyable nights at Ste Anne we finally managed a downwind sail along the bottom of Martinique, around the western tip and up to Grand Anse D’Arlet in company with FeijáoGrand Anse But us sailors are never happy, it was dead downwind and we didn’t put the pole out so we gybed backwards and forwards, rolling from one side to the other – but at least we weren’t beating to windward and it was only 15 miles.

About 200 mooring buoys have been laid in the large bay so we hooked on to one and settled in to watch the sun dip over the horizon.  We had planned to stay just the one night but it was such a pretty bay it deserved further exploration.  With Gina and Lenny we did a walk around to neighbouring Petit Anse D’Arlet the following day, it was a cute small seaside hamlet with colourful buildings, a restored church, lovely beach and we found fresh avocados and still warm baguettes – yummy.

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Back in Grande Anse D’Arlet we found a shacky beach bar where the wavelets almost lapped at our toes as we ended another great day, Gina and I discovered a rather potent brew of Planteurs Punch while the skippers relaxed over a few local beers, a wonderful spot for sundowners.

Our weather window to head north was closing, so unfortunately we couldn’t linger any longer.  We had a dawn departure the following morning again in company with Gina and Lenny on Feijáo and headed north to Dominica.

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The French Islands – They Are Hard To Beat

Monday, 10 November 2014

Whizzing Through the Windward Islands ….. Oct/Nov 2014

28 Oct – 06 Nov 2014:  Tyrrel Bay, Carriacoú to Rodney Bay, St Lucia ~ 14 04N 60 57W

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Farewell to Grenada

We were sad to leave Grenada, it had been all work and no play since we returned from England and we didn’t really feel as if we had done it justice this time around.  Conditions were perfect for us to start our journey north, light winds were blowing from the south east, seas were flat, the skies were clear – doesn’t come much better.

Conditions were also ideal to stay in the Grenadines and linger a little longer, visit the small islands we hadn’t previously been to and enjoy the area while there was an easing of the trades.  It was very tempting, we feel this area is one of the best in the Eastern Caribbean chain, with small islands close together, pretty anchorages, clear water and partly sheltered waters.PA290090

But the lull in the trades and a favourable slightly southerly wind angle also meant we could get through the Windward Islands without having to beat to windward.  Having previously visited this area during the infamous “Christmas Trades” we had no desire to experience those winds again and felt we just couldn’t pass this chance up. 

We had a lovely sail the first day up to Tyrrel Bay on the western coast of Carriacou amongst a large flotilla of yachts travelling north, including Australians Lenny and Gina on Feijáo and Canadians Jeff and Janet on Truant 3.  The Skippers all went into race mode and a fun day was had, rounded off with a few ice cold beers ashore as we watched the sun dip over the horizon.  

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Back to Bequia

We had a leisurely start to the morning, checked out , farewelled Truant 3 and left in company with Feijáo with plans to stop at maybe Union Island or Mayreau for the night.  But once we had the sails set we were flying along in flat water, conditions were delightful and we calculated that if the breeze held we could make Bequia before dusk, and we did.  We have anchored in Bequia 3 times now and despite rating it as one of our favourite islands on our first visit  we didn’t go ashore on our way back down to Grenada or this time either, shame really.PA290085

It was an early night for us and a dawn departure, the winds were forecast to move more around to the east so we cracked on.  The channel between Bequia and St Vincent was comfortable enough and its only around 10 miles across so we were in the lee of St Vincent with calm seas again in time for breakfast.   A very pleasant sail followed in wonderful flat water, the vista of St Vincent a magnificent backdrop.  Hundreds of shades of green painted the landscape as lush virgin rainforest folded down very steep valleys dropping off sharply into the deep blue Caribbean.

P6110015 A Very Mixed Bag

The advantage of being in a convoy of yachts is that generally someone is in front of us, today was no exception.  So it was with some trepidation we forged on out of the lee of St Vincent and into to the channel between it and St Lucia.  We could see the seas running, a big Atlantic swell was rolling through with angry whitecaps flying off in the accelerated winds.  The forward boats heeled well over or rounded up with too much sail  as the gusts hit them – hang on fellas!! 

We had a reef in the main, rolled up the headsail and headed out like another little lamb to the slaughter.  We had gusts in the mid 30’s knots, sustained low 20’s and a very agitated sea, what a difference to the previous channel just a couple of hours ago.  Leaving the Pitons heading south, June 2014Balvenie galloped across coping well in the washing machine water state: wash – rinse – agitate – spin, on about a one minute cycle!!  Eventually the seas settled down, we rolled the headsail out a little and flew across the waves towards St Lucia.  

We had planned to stop at Soufriere on a park mooring nestled under the spectacular Pitons.  We had stayed there on our way south earlier in the season  and I was keen to return.  Skipper had Rodney Bay in his sights and there was no debating with him, when we entered calmer water the full headsail was unleashed, the winds were steady and Balvenie flew along in flat water doing over 7 knots heading for the finish line.  P6130018 We slipped into Rodney Bay with seconds of daylight remaining, dawn to dusk  - nearly 70 miles in just over 12 hours , an excellent effort.

Time to Get Blown Up

Our main reason for stopping at St Lucia was to have our liferaft serviced.  It is over 20 years old and we needed to make sure it was up for the journey across the Pacific.  We took it into the liferaft service centre and spent a morning with them as they carefully opened the outer shell,  removed the gas cylinders (they automatically inflate it in an emergency) unpacked the liferaft, and took out all the contents - then the moment of truth – will it inflate???  The air hose was attached and our big bouncy castle began to take shape.  

We were very happy and relieved to see our liferaft fully inflated in almost perfect condition, in the words of our service man “they don’t make them like this anymore”. PB030102 Give us a “Made in Japan” label any day – China might produce the quantity of goods these days but we are yet to find anything of quality that comes from its shores, especially in the marine industry.

We spent a week in St Lucia waiting for the return of our bouncy castle.  Feijáo were anchored nearby so we had company for happy hours.  A few more boats jobs were completed, skipper serviced our primary winches, stainless steel was cleaned and polished (no shortage of water when the thunder clouds gathered) and we finally started to kick back and take things easy.  We did an afternoon excursion to nearby Pigeon Island Fort & National Park, an enjoyable hike afforded some excellent views across Rodney Bay, south to the Pitons and north to Martinique.

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We lost a day as we were not happy with the seal around the liferaft on completion so asked for it to be re-done.  As with our moan about “Made in China” products we are getting sick and tired of having inferior work done but top prices being charged for them.  The following day the liferaft returned with a watertight seal, as it should have the previous day.

Enough of St Lucia ….. Time for a Taste of France 

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Moving On From The Marina ….. Oct 2014

18 – 28 October 2014:  Mt Hartman Bay to St Georges, Grenada:  12 02N 61 45W

Not More Projects (Boring Boat Stuff)PA160043

Just on a year ago when we were stranded in Annapolis awaiting engine repairs we decided to remove our troublesome eutectic engine driven refrigeration system and move to a 12 volt unit.  

We purchased a Dometic All in One “Cool Box” and have been extremely happy with it.  Our plan was always to integrate into the galley by removing the existing freezer box and fridge, cut a big hole in the bench top and pop it in.  But as we found out when we needed to replace the hot water cylinder in Thailand, Balvenie has been built strong and from the inside out ….. there was just no way that the existing fridge and freezer were leaving this boat!!!

PA160044 The choices were to leave Frieda the fridge/freezer coolbox plonked in the middle of the salon floor for the rest of our cruising days or part with copious amounts of money and convert our existing units to 12 volt.   Refrigeration expert Stuart at Palm Tree Marine was very highly recommended, and we went with his recommendation of a Frig-o-boat system, one unit for the fridge and a larger one for the freezer.  We could get the units FedEx’ed in from the USA in under a week and then it would be a 3 - 4 hour job attaching the plates to the inside of our existing units, and drilling a hole through for the pipes to the compressor.  Sounds easy and he does it all the time. 

The parts arrived, as did Stuart and young apprentice Jim to install them – 2 days, several broken drill bits and other pieces of mangled machinery later the units were installed.   Did I  mention Balvenie is rather solid?  For those of you interested, we could have purchased 13 of the fridge/freezers we recently bought for the flat in London for the same price!!!!!   We are very happy with the performance of the fridge, jury is still out on the freezer, but when we are having temperatures of over 35c constantly in the salon its hard work for a freezer.PA210050

Escaping the Marina

The next few days were spent frantically finishing off things, I spent 3 days slaving over a hot sewing machine doing major restitching, repairs and waterproofing on our dodger and canopy.  Mark serviced both our outboards and discovered that our 8hp’s shaft which was badly damaged when it was hit back in Mexico had seized up.  A little like not being able to turn your car steering wheel, ok until you get to a corner!!!  He spent hours trying to get it fixed and a half hearted job has been done by a local company and will do for now.

PA270061 Finally we were ready enough to leave the dock, we were squeezed into a corner and exiting was no mean feat.  With 7 ashore walking and helping to turn Balvenie we successfully snuck out between mooring lines and yachts,  the lines have been severed for another season.

Breaking In Gently

We spent a couple of nights at anchor in Mt Hartman Bay just outside the marina, easing ourselves back in slowly.  Then we broke free and motored 8 miles in no wind around to St Georges, the main town on Grenada.  Sitting peacefully at anchor supping on a chilled rum cocktails watching the most amazing collection of cloud formations as the sun set on our first anchorage of the season, magic.

We Are Cruising Again

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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Grinding Away in Grenada

18 Sep – 17 Oct 2014:  Secret Harbour Marina, Grenada – 12.00N 61.45E

From Flat Maintenance to Boat Maintenance    P9220001

We always knew that by extending our stay in England an extra 3 weeks to finish off the renovations there, it would eat away into the time at this end needed to prepare Balvenie for another cruising season.  And this season will be a long one as it is farewell to the Caribbean as we slip through the Panama Canal and finally into our home waters, the Pacific Ocean.

So on day one back on board it was straight into the boat projects, no rest for the wicked.  The dreaded “To Do List”  was compiled and we hit the ground running.  First up it was the boom, for years it has needed some attention but this is the first time we have ever removed the mainsail, so at last it made it to the top of the list.  P9220003

A thorough scraping and sanding of old flaky paint was undertaken by skipper in the scorching sun.  With temperatures in the low 30c’s  combined with humidity over 95 per cent it was exceptionally hot work, and we were starting at dawn to make the most of the coolest part of the day!  Next came the priming, unfortunately we could only get a rusty red colour which really looked terrible, but the two layers of top coat had it gleaming white again in no time. 

The mainsail went way for some remedial repairs, the staysail and headsail were reattached, hoisted and furled – all ready for their first sail of the season.  P9230004   

Next up for skipper it was the emptying and cleaning out of the fuel tanks, last done in Malta a few years ago now, so it was time to have a look inside to see what baddies might be lurking, ready to block the filters at an inopportune time.  Always nice to have our bed folded in half and have the smell of diesel permeate throughout, the joys of sleeping on top of diesel tanks. 

Meanwhile I had all those jars of marmite, packets of teabags and other goodies we had brought back to stow, food lockers to sort out, inventories to update and a major clean out of “stuff” ensued.  With a scheduled boat jumble looming I saw it as as good opportunity to rid ourselves of all those things we thought we might just need – but haven’t so far!!  So off they went. 

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PA120041On and On It Goes

With sparkly clean fuel tanks skipper then changed all the fuel and air filters and did oil changes on both the engine and generator.  With fuel and engine maintenance crossed of “The List” it was time to head back out into the sun.  The anchor chain has been checked, topped and tailed, the anchor sanded back and painted with galvanic paint, as was the spare anchor.  The bow was masked up, areas needing attention were filled and fared and the process of painting with 3 part Awlgrip paint commenced.PA060029

As you might imagine we were rather over painting by now, having done the London flat, then the boom, now the bow, but hey why not just keep on going.  The cockpit really did need tidying up too and while we were mixing the Awlgrip up it seemed like just the right time and we are thrilled with decision.  It just looks brilliant, and as we spend so much time up there we can admire the fruits of our labour constantly.

At some point the we collected the mainsail, we were extremely unhappy with the work that had been done and had to add a few patches to the batten pockets and do some stitching ourselves, but frankly just couldn’t be bothered with the hassle and expense of complaining and returning it to them (life without a telephone and car is really quite difficult).  So we repaired and refitted it, Mark reattached the reefing lines and we begrudgingly crossed it off “The List”.   PA060017

But we thought about it overnight, we have thousands of miles to cover this season and we want our mainsail in top shape so we emailed our complaint with photos the following morning.  We had a response within minutes, two staff arrived within an hour to remove the sail and to return it to the sail loft, they came back later in the day to collect Mark so he could observe what they thought should have originally been done, this was all offered at no cost to us, we asked them to do a couple of extra things which we happily paid for. 

They then returned and refitted the sail the following afternoon and apologized profusely for the poor initial work which had been carried out while they were short staffed.  The end result is excellent and our mainsail should happily see us across the Pacific.  Thanks to Turbulence Marine for getting the job done for us.

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A Few More Jobs To Do, A Hurricane To Avoid  …. Then We Can Go Sailing!!!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Recap On The Renovations ….. September 2014

23 June – 23 September 2014:  London

The Final Photos

Our series of previous blog updates on the 12 weeks we spent in London would not be complete without this final posting of the before, during and after shots.  We will let the pictures tell the story …..

First the Kitchen

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Now The Bathroom

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The Hallway

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The Living Room

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Lastly the Bedroom

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So That Was Our 3 Month Summer Break In London