2012 Adventures on the Caribbean Sea
Captain Dave Tuninga, S/V Sundance
ForewordDave Tuninga was looking for someone to help him sail his Bavaria 41 foot sailboat from St. Thomas US Virgin Islands to Grenada ahead of the hurricane season and I had the time between my banking contracts so I said yes, flew down on a one way ticket, and joined Dave to sail over 500 nautical miles in the Caribbean Sea.
Dave is fun to talk to and travel with because he is a thinker, a story teller, pragmatic, opportunistic (in a good way), creative and he values and nurtures his friendships both old and new. He is also MacGyver who takes his time to repair almost anything – that was impressive to see on this trip.
I would never remember all the details of this Caribbean Adventure with Dave if I didn’t write a few details everyday. It was a trip of a lifetime!
Thank you Dave Tuninga for inviting me to sail on the Caribbean Seas and visit the islands – it was a great adventure!
Karen Andersen, Toronto, Canada
Crew Member 2012 on S/V Sundance
Mar 31– Apr 2, 2012 - ST THOMAS, US Virgin IslandsMy adventure in the Caribbean Sea on Dave Tuninga’s sailboat, S/V Sundance, began yesterday when I arrived in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands on Saturday March 31st. I flew with Air Canada on a 4 -1/2 hour direct flight to St Thomas.
Dave’s boat is a Bavaria 41 with 3 cabins and 2 bathrooms and is a very comfortable boat with lots of storage. The boat turns on a dime with a 6 ½ foot fin keel and 5 foot rudder and is very fast. Dave has installed 3 solar panels on the bimini which generates all the power we need for lights and running water. The kitchen stove operates on propane gas and he has a small propane barbeque attached to the railing on the stern.
I met Dave’s neighbours on the water – Stan and Debbie – who live on their sailboats, moored a stone’s throw from Dave. Another neighbor, Mathematical Doug aka ‘Tarzan’ teaches at the University and swims an hour everyday in the bay with a buoy and inflatable silver ball attached to his ankle. He is super fit; hence the name ‘Tarzan’. We heard him singing loudly on his boat last night after a few cocktails.
Stan helped Dave secure the mooring in Elephant Bay so Dave can live rent free on the water for months and he is only a 10 minute dinghy ride from the marina where it costs $100 USD per night to dock. Dave reciprocates by helping everyone fix things on their boat and he has even climbed to the top of Stan’s 50 foot mast to pull down a broken furling jib.
Stan recommends we buy SPAM which keeps for years and when fried it tastes like bacon. Some notable quotes from Stan are “Those who live on the land are dirt people” and CLODs are ‘Cruisers Living on Dirt”. Dave will say hi from Stan to friends in Toronto: Warren Keelor on Solstice Moon, Ken Baird, David Brown in Oakville and Chuck Petersen.
There are many broken yachts on shore here in St Thomas from the hurricanes that blow through. It is eerie to ride by a submerged sailboat whose mast is 6 feet out of the water and lies 30 feet below in clear water where you can see the hull resting on the bottom of the bay.
We have been invited to dinner to Peter’s house on top of the mountain. Peter lives next door to an observatory owned by the University of Virgin Islands and Professor Dave and Kate were cleaning the house beside the observatory so it would be ready for visiting academics from Asia. We went on the roof of the house to get a good view of the bay.
Peter has been living up there for 30 years and Debbie had to drive 25 kilometres up steep hills that wound around the mountain face. It was steeper than Scenic Caves Road at Blue Mountain and narrow too and I am surprised the cars coming down the hill didn’t hit us.
Peter made a stir fry of onion, broccoli and beef and he baked a homemade ginger spice cake for Stan Louden’s birthday and Stan was given cans of SPAM for a birthday present.
We bought provisions for our sailing trip to Grenada – 80 litres water, 2 cases beer, 4 litres of vodka at $3.00 each, 2 bottles wine, and Dave has 4 litres of rum already stowed on the boat. We won’t be thirsty.
We walked through town and Dave bought Spanish Honduran PUNCH cigars, a box of 30 for $72. We walked up the 99 steps and met a Danish family coming down the steps who told us the brick steps came from Denmark when ships in the 1600s were loaded with bricks in the hold for ballast. We had a short conversation in Danish with the family.
The streets are named in Danish and some street names were Kongens Gade, Tolbod Gade, and Store Taarne Gade. We stopped at a bar called Bluebeard’s Castle and had Presidente beer, which is made in the Dominican Republic, while Dave smoked one of his new cigars. The bar had an old plantation feeling to it and a beautiful view looking down the hill into town.
Dave wants to leave St Thomas and sail to Grenada where he will be outside of the hurricane zone so that his boat can be insured. The hurricane zone area is in the 30° to 12° latitude area.
On Tuesday April 3rd, 2012, Stan came over in his dinghy to say goodbye and gave his lucky marble to Dave. He played a lovely rendition of the ‘Irish Washerwoman’ tune on his silver tin whistle and as we sailed away, I started to cry. Mathematical Doug was out doing his daily morning swim and he interrupted his swim to say Bon Voyage. I was only here for 4 days and I really felt the sense of community that Dave has found with this charming group of friends. I was surprised at how suddenly I became emotional about leaving and I couldn’t even speak to Dave or else I would have become a bawling baby.
Apr 3, 2012 – Buck Island, ST CROIXThe weather forecast is perfect as we sail to St Croix, 40 miles southeast of St Thomas. We are sailing 162° southeast to St Croix in 200 feet of water and just south of St Thomas we sailed over a shelf where the depth was unrecognizable by our electronic instruments. The nautical charts show depths of 1,100 fathoms which is over 6,600 feet (1 Fathom = 6 feet).
I am getting mixed up in my directions – north, south, etc. We are sailing southeast to St Croix but I feel as if I am sailing north. The colour of the water is the most beautiful blue acquamarine colour.
We anchored in sand on the north side of Buck Island, which is a national park established to protect the reefs and has a beautiful beach 6 feet deep up to the edge of the shore. Dave taught me how to properly use the face mask and snorkel and for the first time, I found it easy to use. The sand on the beach was so soft and there were two 40 foot motor boats anchored at shore and one other sailboat. It was like pulling up to a private beach.
Apr 4, 2012 – CARIBBEAN SEA - 120°, 150° and 180°We have left St Croix to sail to Guadeloupe 185 miles to the southeast and we are sailing on a course of 130° with a 10 knot easterly wind. This should be a 36 hour overnight sail and I have only sailed overnight once before on Lake Huron in a race in the mid 1980s. This is a new experience for me, sailing overnight on the ocean and eating all meals on board.
We are listening to a good radio station called the Mongoose which broadcasts from St Croix. They are playing great music from the 1970s such as Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, etc. Dave was playing some music from his iPod last night and the Oscar Petersen jazz was really good.
April 5, 2012 – 44 HOUR sail to Des Haies, GUADELOUPEWe have been sailing since 8.00 am yesterday – destination Guadeloupe – and we encountered a couple of rain storms with wind speed of 22 knots. It helped to have a full moon at night to sail and I used the ‘MotionEze’ drops behind my ears to avoid sea sickness; I have felt great the entire time. At 9.00 am this morning, we decided to set our course for Guadeloupe, 80 miles east at 120° and motor into the wind. We had been blown 40 miles offshore with all the changing wind direction and we want to get to an island sooner than later. We saw one sailboat out here around 12 noon; otherwise this Caribbean Sea is empty of travellers.
Dave and I didn’t have much appetite for dinner as the seas were too rough and we were heeled over to sail as close to the wind as possible so neither of us felt like going down below to cook. That was when I realized I should have done a lot of preparation in advance such as cutting veggies and fruit and making sandwiches. Dave went below at midnight and made tuna and guacamole wraps. It was a good thing he made me eat something even if I did feel a little queasy to my stomach.
We took turns taking naps and I eventually stayed in the cockpit to sleep; it was so comfortable and I felt more confident to respond to sudden situations like the 22 knot rainstorm that lasted 15 minutes.
2.00 pm – We have another 63 miles and 13 hours to go before we reach Guadeloupe at 5 knots per hour; we are motoring with the main sail up to steady the boat. I have too much time to think; I have remembered that this is the 100th year since the Titanic sank and that scares me the most – drowning at sea – we are sailing over 6,000 feet of water and no one would ever find us if we sank.
6.00 pm – We barbecued a chicken while sailing in 15 knot winds. We ate well and we had to think about how we could eat and keep the food on our plates. So we resorted to a single shared a big bowl with 2 forks. Dave would take a few bites from the bowl with his fork and then pass the bowl back to me. We didn’t spill any food and we had fewer dishes to clean! Doing any work in the galley below was hard to do while the boat negotiated and slammed into 8 foot swells northeast of Guadeloupe.
11.00 pm – I saw dolphins on my watch while Dave was sleeping! There must have been 10 or 15 dolphins diving all around the boat and one dolphin leaped out of the water, wiggled his tail to say good-bye and dove back in. Very cool.
12.00 Midnight – Dave gets up to see how I am doing on my watch and his first words are ‘What the ….?’ when he sees 8 foot waves and 24 knot winds. My response was “Chris Doyle’s book says to expect Roaring Forty winds at the north end of Guadeloupe and I can see the lights of the towns on the island. Land Ho baby!” I was becoming accustomed to the crazy weather and the wind and waves were steady even if it was 24 knots in the middle of the night.
4.00 am – We arrived at Des Haies, Guadeloupe in the dark and set anchor. We sailed and motored 212 miles in 44 hours to get here through sun, rain and some big waves.
Apr 6, 2012 – GOOD FRIDAY – DES HAIES, GUADELOUPEWe are anchored safely in Des Haies, Guadeloupe, a small fishing village and there are at least another 20 sailboats anchored here where the church bell rings every hour on Good Friday. This is a French territory and all the radio stations are in French and everyone in town speaks French so now I feel as if we have sailed all the way to France. We went into town at 1.00 pm just in time before everything closed at 2.00 pm. Also, many shops were closed today for Good Friday. We found a little grocery store that had all the best finds such as baguette, 5 litre box of red wine that we nicknamed Betsy, paté, limes, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. We checked in with Customs at the Pelican Café where they only spoke French and Dave and I did very well with our combined knowledge of high school French.
The town of Des Haies is so small and yet there are many good restaurants on the water. We ate a fish dinner in Des Haies and spoke French most of the time. The service was amazing, similar to any 5 star Michelin or Zagat rated restaurant.
Dave wants a sun screen for the stern and today he is testing his idea with a bed sheet, using a blow torch to make it a permanent fixture. So here we sit, looking like the Clampett’s in rich man’s bay Des Haies while we drink red wine out of a box and Dave smokes one of his new Punch cigars. He says he could live in a trailer park except it would be no fun because they don’t go anywhere. We can call ourselves ‘floating trailer trash’.
We leave for Dominica on Easter Monday and I ask a lot of questions to the point where I sound like an interrogator and I still have another thousand questions to ask. We have books and maps for every island we plan to visit and I can read all about them and calculate the distance too. Other sailors have also told us that Des Haies is a good starting point to start from for a beam reach sail north to Antigua.
Apr 7, 2012 – DES HAIES, GUADELOUPEI have learned that 1° latitude equals 60 nautical miles and we are at 16° latitude and Grenada, our destination, is at 12° latitude. I like to calculate the distances on the charts when Dave tells me about our next destination.
12:00 noon – We leave Des Haies to sail to Iles des Saintes, with a stop at Basse Terre for diesel fuel and water. There was a ring around the sun when we left; what does that mean? We had egg salad sandwiches on baguette with tomato, cucumber, green onion and a beer to wash it down.
Dave says it takes a hot ocean to create a hurricane. In June and July the water bakes and hurricanes start to move in August. We can still get tropical depressions where the wind blows 40 knots and it rains for a day.
Yesterday, when we arrived in Des Haies, I suggested to Dave that we take a bus around the island to explore and see what Guadeloupe looks like. Dave thought that was a hilarious suggestion and replied that it was like saying “let’s take a bus around Ontario”. He was right; Guadeloupe is a really big island and a bus tour would be absurd. We did see over 100 Harley Davidson bikes motor through Des Haies and that would be a fun way to explore the island. I didn’t have any expectations about language and food on the islands. I love the fact that Guadeloupe is SO French and that most of the food is imported from France and everyone speaks French here. Both Dave and I make every effort to practice our French conversation skills.
We arrived at Basse Terre municipal marina at 5.00 pm to fill up on diesel gas. Dave calls it the Lost Marina because everything was closed; no one was around except for someone playing loud music as if they were setting up for a concert. There were 2 gas pumps on a decrepit concrete dock and no one was on their boats in the marina. There was a little intercom where we rang a button and after a few minutes a man answered in French and said he would come over. One of the cleats the boat was tied up to was starting to come loose from the dock and I wasn’t sure if it would hold while we filled up. Qu’est-ce qu’on dit ‘Diesel fuel’ en français? Dave filled up with 92 litres of diesel for $132 Euros at $1.47 Euro per litre (approx $2.00 CDN). We left Basse Terre, a depressing introduction to the capital of Guadeloupe, and sailed across the Dominica channel which Dave says is open all the way to Africa across the Atlantic. He has been on a boat when the sand from the Sahara had blown across the Atlantic and fell on the boats in the Caribbean.
Apr 8, 2012 – ILES DES SAINTE, GUADELOUPEWe are anchored in Iles des Sainted 160 feet away from an 1,100 foot high mountain with 30 boats in this sheltered bay. There are cats, dogs and roosters meowing, howling and crowing here at the early breakfast hour. There is a massive white cross in Iles des Saintes on the top of the mountain which is illuminated at night. Dave has pulled out an enormous tool kit and is rebuilding the wiring for the running lights on the bow. MacGyver Tuninga appears to build whatever he needs to make something work. When a shackle on the main sail broke, Dave repaired it in 5 minutes, under sail, with a spare block and lines. He created ties under sail to make the bimini more secure and he created a sun screen for the stern for our trip. I am impressed.
We took the dinghy into the small town -Bourg des Saintes – and bought a roast chicken, 2 baguettes, and Foie Gras ! Paying 26 Euros for foie gras is insanely expensive but Dave has never tried it so we had to buy it. I haven’t told him yet how foie gras is made and he may never eat it again once he finds out.
I snorkeled around the boat and saw many types of fish – sea urchins, sea eggs, yellow and blue fish, schools of blue fish under the boat and a weird fish that had leg, fins and arms to crawl around the bottom of the sea. Dave has taken a swim around the boat to clean the water line and now we are going to have foie gras and red wine for our apres swim cocktail hour. We have used a sunscreen product for lips called La Roche-Posay 60 for Lips which was amazing. The salt water and humidity is SO good for your skin. The surfer dive buddy top with short sleeves was also useful to protect my back from being sunburnt while I was swimming. My complexion has improved and my skin looks so soft and smooth compared to the dry skin conditions in Canada. I love this weather!
We ate steak, rice, onion and mushrooms for dinner. Dave really wanted the mushrooms so I told him to be careful; I thought they smelled rotten and I didn’t eat any. It poured rain overnight so much that it filled the dinghy and we used the fresh water for laundry. By the time I had finished, the beautiful boat was transformed into a full service laundry depot. We hung the laundry by pulling a line through the hole of each garment and tied one end to the head sail and the other to the mast. It was perfect; the clothes didn’t blow away and they dried quickly.
Apr 9, 2012 - EASTER MONDAY – PORTSMOUTH, DOMINICAWe left Iles des Saintes by 10.00 am and arrived in Portsmouth at 2.00 pm on Easter Monday in 20 knot winds and boat speed of 6.5 knots on a close haul or as Dave describes it, Balls to the Wall. We anchored off the beach where they were holding a huge beach party to celebrate the day off. We went to Big Papa’s for a drink and Wi-Fi internet and Dave downloaded an RBC mobile app so I could transfer money to my chequing account to ensure my bills for May 1st are covered. We found a bank and withdrew 1,000 East Caribbean currency ($380 CDN) using our VISA cards because our debit bank cards don’t work on the islands. I could sell one of my condos and live here like a queen
They have an organized service here in Portsmouth where the guys come out in water taxis to sell guided tours, fresh fruit and flags for the boat. I didn’t expect to see such variety in the islands and this trip has exceeded my expectations; every day is a new adventure.
We had dinner at Blue Bay restaurant and the meal and service was outstanding. We had 2 rum drinks, 2 glasses of wine, salad, rice, curry fish, curry chicken, and ice cream all for $150 EC ($50.00 CDN). Wow.
“Hey, you Toronto people” shouted Lynn from across the Blue Bay restaurant. She used to live in the Beaches and now she looks after 87 year old Vern who she thinks has a hearing problem but he could hear us quite well when he came over to chat. Vern has hired a bodyguard to save himself from her and Andrew was hired to tour them by boat up the river and perhaps ‘look after’ Lynn.
“When you went to Charm School, did you shit your pants, go to the bathroom and forget to return?” That was Dave’s question when I entered the dinghy in anything less than the form of a royal princess. He had me laughing with that comment.
April 10, 2012 – ROSEAU, DOMINICAWe set sail at 9.00 am for Roseau, Dominica. I made 6 sandwiches for our trip and carrots and apples were sliced too. It is so much more enjoyable when the food is ready when you are hungry and no one has to go below to prepare lunch. You just don’t know what kind of weather you might experience underway. We came into Roseau looking for Dominica Marine Centre, which from the description in the books sounded like a brand new fancy marina just south of the cruise docks. As we approached we saw a wooden dock that appeared to need some repair although it turned out to be solid. The fellows were very helpful to get us tied up and fill up with water (water 26 EC, garbage disposal 10 EC, Mooring 26 EC). I have altered my North American expectations.
We walked into town on the chaotic, busy roads to buy groceries and beer. The streets here are narrow but people still drive very fast. The Dominicans do the silly things we did in our youth like sitting on the back of the truck while it moves at 50 miles an hour.
We asked a few people where the grocery stores were and one fellow, Kenneth John Baptist,stopped to help us and we discovered he had lived in Markham for many years. His Dad was an engineer for Toronto Sanitation at Ashbridges Bay and Kenneth would go on site with his Dad when he was a small boy. Kenneth’s father passed away in January 2012 and Kenneth has been in Roseau for the past year helping run the restaurant and developing 180 acres of land for tourist cottages, farm and horse back riding in the 4,000’ high mountains. We also spoke to Lincoln, a taxi driver, who lives near Trafalgar Falls in Dominica and he tells us there are some good hikes up there. On our return to the boat, we stopped to wait while a funeral procession was underway; the widow and her family were walking alongside the hearse holding on to the driver’s side of the window.
We have prepared the boat for an early 7:00 am departure to St. Pierre, Martinique and I am making sandwiches tonight. We are having a light dinner of tomato, cucumber, avocado, olive oil and feta cheese with some red wine, baguette and paté. The boat has a perfect holder for a bottle of wine. Dave and I were hauling the motor off the dinghy when Martin from Dominca Marine Centre motored out to say hi and he gave us 3 fresh mangoes. We gave him 3 cans of hummus, 20 EC and a small bag of garbage to dispose.
Instead of anchoring, we are attached to a mooring in Roseau, Dominica which means in the morning we just start the motor, pull the line off the mooring and go. If we leave by 7.00 am we should be in St Pierre, Martinique by 3.00 pm. We are hoping for a good east to southeast 18 knot wind so that we can sail there in good time.
While sailing we have seen a 180’ schooner rig with 2 headsails which Dave thinks was built from plans from the 1920s using modern technology and materials. The value of the boat could be $50 to $100 million which is staggering. Dave recognizes so many types, models and manufacturers of boats.
10.00 pm – Dave has gone to bed and I have the egg salad tortilla wrap sandwiches ready for tomorrow’s trip. I like having everything ready ahead of time so it is easy to eat lunch when we are sailing in heavy winds. I just go down 4 steps into the galley, open the fridge and bring out the Tupperware of sandwiches on deck. I am writing again by solar lamp which is quite dim but I can still make out what I am writing.
I am impressed how the Dominican’s hustle for business without being too intrusive. The government regulates the services that are offered and individuals who offer tours have to write an exam that covers their knowledge of first aid, history and geography of Dominica.
As I look at the cockpit of the Dave’s Bavaria 41’ sailboat, it occurs to me it is like a small living room with beautiful teak curvy benches and a coffee table in the middle. The design is elegant and beautiful; the Germans designed this boat hence the brand name Bavaria.
I have only been away from Toronto for 10 days and off the internet grid. It hasn’t been easy to connect because you can’t get an internet signal when you are 5 or 40 miles offshore sailing. From St Croix to Guadeloupe, for 44 hours at sea, there was no internet and we arrived in Des Haies on Good Friday when most shops were closed or planning to close at 2.00 pm. In Dominica, we found a bar that gave us the password on Easter Monday when yet again everything was closed. It is such an effort that 3 or 4 days can go by before we access internet again. Dave tried to get the CISCO wireless router working on the boat but it doesn’t power up at all.
Apr 11, 2012 – ST PIERRE, MARTINIQUEWe had an exhilarating 4 hour ride across the Dominica Channel through 2 rain storms and 8 foots swells and most of the time the wind blew at 25 knots on average and our boat speed averaged 6.5 knots sometimes topping out at 8 or 9 knots. We saw a boat 5 miles ahead of us, a speck of white in the distance, which we caught up to and passed and left them 5 miles behind. “Two boats in sight of each other shall be considered racing” and we have won twice! Dave’s boat points high into the wind, is very stable and it helps that Dave is a good sailor and trims the sails to optimum performance.
North of Martinique the dolphins jumped alongside our boat and a big wave washed over the boat and soaked Dave. I was sitting on the leeward side, where I thought I would keep dry, but the wave fell on my head like Niagara Falls.
In St. Pierre, Martinique we tried to find Customs and Immigration as we wandered around town like lost children and no one could understand me when I asked ‘Ou est le douane?” St Pierre is built with 1 foot deep stone gutters in the sidewalks and it is a charming town although almost everything closes at 2.00 pm – once again. We met a nice couple, Leslie and Bob, from Colorado who bought their boat in St Lucia and they had been getting the boat ready for 3 years, while they lived in Gros Ilet and got to know people in the community.
Apr 12, 2012 – GRAND ANSE D’ARLET, MARTINIQUEWe ate our breakfast of yoghurt, fruit and cereal at 7.00 am and departed for Grand Anse D’Arlet, Martinique at 8.00 am. We arrived at 11.00 am after sailing 16 miles in 20 knot winds and boat speed of 7 knots. It was a great sailing day on one tack in the sunshine and now we are anchored in 17 feet on a sandy bottomed bay. We took the dinghy into the small town and bought a few more supplies for 42 Euros ($55 CDN) – 2 red wine, 1 white, camembert, baguette, pate, mayonnaise, christophin, cucumber, 1 roasted smoked chicken. In one shop, the grandmother followed me everywhere and straightened every product that I touched on the shelves.
This has been a great day; it is only 3.30 pm and it feels as if we have spent an entire day here at the beach. Grand Anse D’Arlet anchorage is a great spot to stay before we sail the 26 mile passage to St. Lucia in open water. It could be another wild ride with 22 knot winds and 7 knot boat speed, close haul sail. We also enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the beach where we had a beer and checked email on free Wi-Fi again. Dave untangled the main sheets in the blocks, we ate some chicken and veggies and now he is taking a nap while I go for a swim. My knowledge from an education in Geography has come in handy when I read nautical charts, figure out our latitude and longitude positions and look at the charts logically to decipher distance to our destination. The trip is still great and Dave says it is only getting better with our trip to St Lucia and the rest of the islands. It is hard to imagine that it can get better. I am sorry to leave France (Martinique). I enjoyed speaking French and eating imported French foods and wine.
We left St Thomas at 19° latitude and we are heading for 12° latitude in Grenada. We are currently at 14°30’ latitude in Martinique. Rodney Bay, St Lucia our next destination is at 14°05’ latitude. We have sailed 370 nautical miles so far and we have another 200 nautical miles to sail before we reach Grenada. One (1) nautical mile = 1.842 Kilometres on land. Dave says the salt and sun does something to metal that he has never seen before. It makes the metal split and crack so he plans to replace parts every year.
Apr 13 - 15, 2012 – RODNEY BAY, St. LuciaWe had another great sail today. We left at 8.00 am and sailed 26 miles in 4 hours – woohoo! When I woke up at 6.00 am the wind was howling from the east over the hills of Martinique and I was a little scared of what we might have under sail, but it has always been calmer on the sea once we get underway. We put the dinghy on the bow for this passage to St Lucia and Dave noticed a big difference in the handling and speed of the sailboat. He also didn’t have to listen to the dinghy slapping on the swells behind him.
We passed another boat today that had left the harbour 30 minutes ahead of us. We caught up to them and quickly passed them by. The 7 foot fin keel makes a big difference. We sailed through 12 to 20 foot swells too.
The port hole window in Dave’s V-berth wasn’t tightly closed and all of Dave’s bedding and cushions got soaked with salt water. The mattresses and pillows are airing out on the deck and we have washed his sheets. He should have a dry nest by tonight.
We arrived in Rodney Bay, St Lucia where Pat and Geoff, S/V Beach House are anchored in Rodney Bay. We are going over to their boat for cocktails at 6.00 pm and we will make toasted crostini from leftover baguette and bring foie gras and white wine.
Rodney Bay is SO posh compared to the other islands we have seen. There is an upscale all inclusive SANDALS resort on the beach, a few other hotels and the bay is huge with no restaurant or vegetable shacks on the beach.
Dave checked in with Customs and Immigration today and later we had Americano coffee and smoothies in Café Ole in the Marina. The marina is posh, the grocery store is posh, and everything looks like a Yorkville neighbourhood. We had lunch at Captain Mike’s for 53 EC ($20 CDN) which included 4 beers and huge portions of chicken, MacPie, lentils, plantain and salad. I brought home leftovers.
Geoff and Pat led the way via dinghy to a fancy grocery store where bought more groceries– cheese, veggies, 2 frozen Cornish hens, Steak, wine, canned fruit and 24 Caribe beer. A huge 60’ Catamaran party boat was motoring at 10 knots through this busy harbour. There are many boats in this bay that have no one aboard and it appears that people leave their boats anchored here for weeks or months.
FUN, FUN, FUN – Dave just saw an inflatable couch float by and he said “We have to rescue it – NOW!” When we caught the couch I sat in it while Dave motored over to S/V Beach House. Dave told Pat and Geoff to jump in NOW and Pat and I sat in the couch while Dave and Geoff raced all over the bay at 30 miles an hour. Dave also took a turn in the couch while Geoff and I drove the dinghy. We had about 30 minutes of fun before the resort realized their inflatable beach couch was missing and they came out by boat to retrieve it. That was so much fun because it was spontaneous.
We saw a huge yacht anchored this evening with lights on 9 spreaders (2 masts with 5 and 4 spreaders respectively). It was a Perini Navi boat with 3 decks and 20 crew members; worldwide there are 20 custom built boats made in Via Reggio, Italy.
Dave found his new car parked at the Rodney Bay Marina and he wants to drive this on the streets of Toronto.Recommended music:
- Music for Montseratt by George Martin, 1997 DVD at Royal Albert Hall
- Emmy Lou Harris and Mark Knofler – DVD show
- Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk
- An Embarassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof (documents our trip very well, she and her husband Steve sailed from Toronto to Grenada and back again)
- Caribbean by James Michener
- Captain Ron with Kurt Russell and Martin Short
- Starbuck (2011 French Canadian film)
- Rum Diaries, about Hunter S Thompson in Caribbean, stars Johnny Depp
- Hot Tub Time Machine, great scene of 1980s après ski apparel
Apr 16, 2012 – MARIGOT BAY, ST LUCIAWe had a nice time with Pat and Geoff Craigen who came over for cocktail hour on S/V Sundance. When the sun set, we moved downstairs to the salon so we could review maps, charts and plot our sailing course over the next week. Dave and I will explore Marigot Bay, Soufriere and on Thursday, Pat and Geoff will join us in Soufriere. Our next stop is Bequia but we will break up the journey with an overnight anchorage in Cumberland Bay, St Vincent.
We sailed 10 miles for 2.5 hours on a broad reach and have arrived Marigot Bay. Dave let me take the helm today so I could get used to how the boat handles with swells in the sea and I think I sailed the boat well.
The Perini Navi yacht just pulled into Marigot Bay! Wow, it is a beautiful boat close up. This bay is only 300 yards wide and we are moored 100 yards away from this $75 million dollar boat. We are going to hike through the banana fields today if it doesn’t rain. It poured rain last night and filled the dinghy again with fresh water so I washed my entire bathroom with fresh water because I left a window open when we were under sail and everything was covered in salt.
We had mango and watusi apples this morning with our instant coffee and tea. Instant coffee is easier to consume on the boat; the Bodum coffee press requires too much fresh water to clean and the coffee grinds are messy. We are going to have 2nd breakfast soon, a treat of sautéed toasted English Muffins with peanut butter, coffee and tea. The term 2nd breakfast was coined by the Hobbits in the movie ‘Lord of the Rings’.
Dave found a couple of good websites for wind and anchorages: www.activecaptain.com and www.windguru.com and www.passageweather.com I have become more agile in 2 weeks on the boat with all the bending, tucking, and curling up to get in the quarter berth and swimming. When I sit up in the cockpit, I can fold up my leg to my chest; I wasn’t that flexible before this trip.
Everyday we assess what groceries we might need and buy a few things. It gives us a chance to meet the locals and learn a bit about the area. In one store in St. Pierre, Martinique, the owner described in French how we should prepare the vegetable Christophen which is similar in texture to a potato except that you don’t eat the skin. This sailing trip is very relaxing and the boat is very comfortable, at anchor and under sail. It is most fun when a boat sails fast and this Bavaria 41 can do 8 knots and points high into the wind which makes it easier to set our course.
For non-sailors, I would describe Dave’s high performance boat as a scratch golfer at the top of its game demonstrating high performance. Dave’s sailing ability is also at the scratch golfer level
We have used 70 gallons of water since we filled up in Roseau, Dominica, 7 days ago on April 10th. We are using approximately 10 gallons of water per day for dishes, brushing teeth, rinsing off salt water after swimming and showers. We have two storage tanks – 30 and 90 gallons – for fresh water. It is amazing how quickly you can use up the water and we are always trying to conserve and use the least amount of water. Some people have created a funnel to feed the fresh rain water into their tanks. I always take a shower at the back of the boat after my swim because no salty wet bathing suits are allowed down below and the boat cushions will absorb the humidity once they become soaked with salt.
We aren’t eating out a lot; we barbecue and eat vegetables for dinner, eat yoghurt and fresh fruit for breakfast and enjoy sandwich wraps for lunch. We always eat our leftovers; nothing goes to waste.
A lovely fisherman, whose name is John, motored to our boat in an old fishing dory and sold us 2 red snappers, spices, and Caribbean vegetables called plantain and dansheen. The spice was a local curry root that was tasty and stains your hands yellow. John cleaned the fish and peeled the vegetables all for 30 EC ($10 CDN)! The next morning John returned to give us more of the curry root that he had pulled from his garden and he showed us the Moray Eel that was caught in his nets and bulged in the middle with an undigested fish. The fruit seller, Santa Claus in his inflatable yellow banana boat, sold me 4 oranges for 20 EC that turned out to be hard as rock. Note to self, never buy anything in a plastic bag especially oranges – they don’t seem to grow that fruit in the islands, however, grapefruit are grown in abundance.
We went to a local bar in Marigot Bay and met Ethiopia, Ishana and their children. They gave us 2 sweet potatoes which were very tasty and another local, Thomas, motored over and sold me a basket made from palm tree leaves for 25 EC; the basket has survived the trip back to Toronto.
After dinner we took the dinghy to a bar where a good band was playing. A large waitress was attracted to Dave and kept asking him to dance; Dave is very good at the Caribbean shuffle. The party suddenly stopped when the fresh water hydrant sprung a leak and everyone tried to fix it.
Apr 18, 2012 – SOUFRIERE, ST LUCIAWe left Marigot Bay at 10.00 am, after we filled up with 10 gallons diesel fuel and 80 gallons of water. The water cost 8 EC, approximately $3.00 CDN. We sailed 10 miles in 3 hours, downwind and arrived in Soufriere best known for the Pitons, volcanic mountains over 2,000 feet high.
We bought more groceries in Soufriere – wine, eggs, yoghurt, carrots imported from Holland Landing, Ontario, curry powder, spinach, and chips all for 45 EC ($15 CDN). We had 2 beers for 10 EC ($3.00 CDN) in a tiny restaurant on the 2nd floor that a local man named Vince directed us to; we would never have found this charming little place without his directions. There were 5 young boys, ages 7 to 10 years, hanging around the dinghy dock, who wanted money to look after the dinghy. Dave told them to keep off the dinghy and threatened to tell their mothers if they touched the boat. The kids got scared and when we returned they hadn’t touched anything.
A French naval ship has pulled into Soufriere and we later found out that the St Lucian Coastguard had no idea the French navy was coming in – it was all hush. The ship had the machine guns on the bow and they landed on the beach, unloaded a truck and then reloaded the same truck? It was difficult to see what was going on but we had almost anchored in the very spot in this bay where the French naval ship came in to land. That would have been a spectacle if we had anchored, left the boat and gone shopping while the navy wonders whether or not to blow the boat out of the water.
Apr 19, 2012 – CUMBERLAND BAY, ST. VINCENT
We sailed 38 miles to Cumberland Bay in St Vincent, a new country, in 6.5 hours. It was another wild ride at top boat speed of 8 knots. This place is almost indescribable and it feels like a movie set but the crazy characters and beach scenes are real. We have our anchor set pointing out to sea and the stern has a 200 foot line attached to the stern cleat and tied to a cement post on the beach. There are 7 other boats anchored in this small bay. Two guys motored out to the boat and tried to sell Dave a tuna fish for 40 EC which they claimed was fresh but was hard as a rock. The sunset is spectacular once again and one of the bars on the beach is blinking more lights than a Chevy Chase Christmas vacation movie.
Joseph, the fisherman, released our 200 foot line from the cement post on the beach at 6:50 am this morning and our neighbour, the French catamaran moved his boat off of our anchor so that we could move.
Apr 20, 2012 – ADMIRALTY BAY, BECQUIAWe arrived in Becquia by 10.00 am, by motor/sail for 15 miles. We had crazy weather all around us; there is a nasty weather system moving in. We walked through the town of Port Elizabeth in Admiralty Bay, bought some groceries, and ate chicken/pork/rice for lunch where the locals eat. Lunch costs 15 EC per person and the beer special included 4 beers for 15 EC. Some of the restaurants on the beach charge 45 EC for just one entrée! Our lunch cost 45 EC which translates to $15 CDN or $7.50 per person including 2 beers each.
There is a boardwalk all around the edge of the bay and dozens of nice restaurants. Becquia has many vegetable markets with great choice of food. When I asked one vendor if his limes were fresh he cut one open and squeezed it all over my hand. Dave stood by laughing and I patted some lime juice on his face because he says it makes a good aftershave. We also saw some big barracuda fish in the fish market that had just been caught that day.
Roasted chickens are frequently available in shops on the islands and we thought the artwork on this chicken shack was funny.
We found the Becquia Bookstore which had the “French for Cruisers’ book that Dave thought was out of print. I bought it for him as a gift and another book for me called ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wouk, a story about a New Yorker who buys a hotel in the Caribbean.
We had cocktails on deck at 6.30 pm when suddenly a huge rainstorm hit the area and we went inside to watch the movie “Hot Tub Time Machine”, a funny movie about the 1980s ski scene. The Lagostina Wok pan was used to make popcorn and our snack made with popcorn kernels and olive oil turned out very well in that pan.
Apr 21, 2012 - BECQUIAIt rained for 12 hours straight, so much that the dinghy was fully of water at 6.00 am and the gas tank was floating. I went for a swim and then got into the dinghy to bail out 43 buckets (gallons) of water!
We have discovered how to avoid the jellyfish: anchor further out in the bay far from the beach. The 3 times we encountered jellyfish were in the morning and close to the beach in Iles des Saintes or near the Bat Cave in Soufriere. Several species and colours of jellyfish would arrive by the dozen, not much larger than a loonie or a toonie.
The best, most sheltered anchorage has been Marigot Bay, St Lucia, where you could ride out a wild storm. The second best sheltered bay was Rodney Bay, St Lucia. My favourite towns so far have been Marigot Bay (very small), Des Haies Guadeloupe (very French) and Port Elizabeth, Becquia (great markets, restaurants, local sailing school and people). We have sailed 470 nautical miles to date. It is staggering to think about but it doesn’t feel that we have travelled that far because we kept moving everyday and we have had a chance to visit the towns everywhere we go.
Cumberland Bay had the most 3rd world feel to it and Rodney Bay was the most commercial area aimed at the North American tourist. The French islands, Guadeloupe and Martinique, had the most solid infrastructure (culverts, drains, bridges, etc). Soufriere, St Lucia was rather run down but they had many restaurants side by side that were small and charming.
Two ladies came in a boat today asking if we had laundry we wanted to have cleaned. We were just getting ready to take laundry into town at 9.00 am so their timing was perfect. They returned at 3.00 pm with everything freshly laundered and all of our clothes folded perfectly like Japanese origami. They only charged for 75 EC ($25 CDN) to pick up 3 loads of clothes, wash, dry, fold and deliver the laundry to our boat. It feels so nice to put on warm, dry, clean clothing; everything is so clean and fresh.
Some of the music we hear on the radio is hilarious. A rap tune has the lyrics “You bring me joy in the morning, you be the bread and I’ll be the butter”. Dave is fixing something again; he is using a sander to remove the rust from the buckles of his Birkenstock sandals and he is modifying a wooden Punch cigar box to store all the parts of his sander somewhere.
We walked all over town today and found good food shops – Doris Fine Foods – where they have French pate, good steaks and amazing homemade yoghurt by Marianne. We had beer and soup made from local vegetables called Calallo at a restaurant called COCOs. We are going there again on Sunday for a West Indian buffet brunch.
They have a really good sailing school for the local young people in Becquia. We have been watching them race around the bay in handmade wooden sailboats and they manage to avoid hitting all the anchored sailboats. They have a huge sailing regatta every year in April which would be fun to watch. Details can be found on www.begos.com/easterregatta
Dave made pizza for dinner on the BBQ using the tortilla wraps which turned out like thin crust pizza and one tortilla with toppings was enough for 2 people. There is a huge freighter anchored behind with us with NO lights on and it looks spooky in the dark. I wonder if any sailboats that arrive at night have ever hit it in the dark?
Apr 22, 2012 – BECQUIAWe are up early again at 6.30 am and we motored over to another beach at 10.30 am for a walk and pulled the dinghy onto the beach and tied it to a tree. From the water this beach looks deserted. However as we walked along the beach we passed at least 7 bars and restaurants hidden in the trees. We had a beer on a patio and I saw a Manta Ray swim by and I had another swim on the beach before we took the dinghy back to the boat to get ready for our foraging trip for food in town. Later we went snorkeling and saw many coloured schools of fish including the prehistoric fish that swims and uses his ‘arms’ to overturn rocks and shells to forage for food.
Beach House has arrived in the bay at Becquia! We put beers in a cooler and motored over to their boat for a visit and returned by to S/V Sundance by 8.30 pm. Cruisers Midnight is the expression for going to bed before 9.00 pm. A Canadian couple from Deep River, Phil and Leona, just dropped by the boat to make introductions and invited us over to their boat for drinks. They were very nice and they are flying back to Toronto from Grenada with Caribbean Air.
Apr 24, 2012 – CANOUANWe left Becquia at 10.00 am and arrived in Canouan by 1.00 pm, sailing 18 miles and our top boat speed was 9.2 knots. Wow. We are anchored in 15 feet of water with 90 feet of anchor line, a 6:1 ration of rope to depth. Dave recommends putting out the anchor and waiting for it to hook. Don’t reverse the engine to make the anchor hook as that method does not work. Slow and patient is best.
Our favourite yoghurt has been ‘Marianne’s’ which is homemade in Becquia and found at Doris Fine Food shop. The yoghurt is awesome.
We went to shore and had expensive beer at Tamarind Hotel, 16 EC ($8 CDN) for each beer. We had our garbage with us and Dave surreptitiously dropped it off in Tamarind’s garbage room. Tamarind charges $10 USD for Internet access but the bartender gave us the password to Moorings Yacht Charters next door so we could access Wi-Fi for free. We went for a walk on the beach and in the village. Canouan is the least attractive village with very few amenities that we have seen so far. It isn’t the best destination and the anchorage isn’t that great.
Apr 25, 2012 – SALT WHISTLE BAY, MAYREAUWe sailed into Salt Whistle Bay in 1 ½ hours in 20 knots wind and boat speed of 6 to 7 knots. So far this is the most beautiful anchorage we have sailed to. I went for a snorkel swim and there are dozens of sea eggs on the bottom of the bay. We have seen the locals dive for these eggs that look like furry baseballs and fill a dinghy with them to deliver to the beach restaurants. I was also swimming with tiny fish the size of my pinkie finger. I told Dave we need a net to scoop them up and we could fry them up like smelt French fries.
A Catamaran has anchored in front of us close enough to serve drinks to us on the bow. Dave is down below getting cocktails ready and he will blow a gasket when he see this. We went to a bar on the beach called The Last Bar before the Jungle. The bartender and owner, Des and Richard, were very nice and told us about their friends who live in Toronto. We also spoke to Sam and Benji about boat building – motor and sail – there is a big sailing race in Saline Bay on Sunday April 29th. All the handmade sailing boats participate and the guys are sanding down the hull of their boat to fine tune it for the race.
Apr 26, 2012 – UNION ISLAND (Clifton and Chatham Bay)Today was a bonus day – we visited 2 locations on one day! We woke up at 6.30 am, breakfast at 7.00 am and we went on shore to watch Des, Richard and the guys carve up 3 sharks, 3 to 4 feet in length, caught in their nets. One shark had a ½ eaten undigested fish in its belly and that would be used as bait for lobster traps. We watched them carve the sharks into nice small filets and they put a pound of fish into a bag for our dinner! Wow. We have their email address so that we can thank them for the food. We gave Des and Richard a large Canadian flag, 2 feet by 3 feet, to hang up in their bar and they hung it up immediately, higher than all the other international flags. Dave found a knife sharpener in the boat cabin and we went back to give it to one of the older fisherman.
We set sail at 8.00 am under 20 knots of wind and only used the headsail from Salt Whistle Bay to Clifton on Union Island. We travelled 4.25 miles and arrived at 9.00 am which is a great way to start our day. We checked out of Customs and Immigration on Union Island at the town of Clifton, bought more wine, eggs, flour, limes, tomato, mangoes, and beer. I bought a towel for 50 EC that has a map of the Caribbean and all the islands so that it will be easy to tell my story to friends with my towel at the beach or cottage. It is windy today, even at anchor in Clifton. We anchored in 15 feet and we left here at 1.00 pm to anchor at Chatham Bay overnight on the west side of Union Island. The wind blows in Clifton Harbour at 10 knots and gusts over 20 knots, so much so, that you would think the anchor would come loose. It took us 1 hour to sail with headsail only, 4.5 miles to Chatham Bay. When Dave was looking for a sandy spot, I stood on the bow and I thought I saw someone snorkeling in the bay and pointed to alert Dave. On second glance, I realized I was looking at a huge turtle! When I went snorkeling later, I saw the big turtle which was the size of a 4 year old child with a house on its back.
The local proprietors came out to say hello and tell us which restaurant they owned. There are 8 sailboats anchored here and 1 small ship, many which came here from the Tobago Cays where the wind and water is too rough.
The salt water has been hard on the Garmin GPS and we have had to switch to the older GPS system which is attached with high tech equipment – a rubber band.
I have been away for 4 weeks and have seen SO much. Every island has something different to offer; the people are friendly and there is a huge emphasis to sell local fresh fruit and vegetables. The only fast food restaurant chain we have seen down here is Kentucky Fried Chicken. Otherwise all food is locally made.
The cliffs here in Chatham Bay are so steep, straight up and down. There is a shipwrecked catamaran on the beach. We think the anchor may not have been set properly and they crashed onto the shore and reefs. I am drinking a local Hairoun beer in the sun as I write this and Dave takes a nap. My Dive Buddy surfer top has dried out as I sit here. I love this top for swimming because it dries quickly and keeps the sun off my back.
Dave has every single sailing book guide written by Chris Doyle for all the islands. We couldn’t imagine sailing without the books because they contain so much information regarding anchorage, water, fuel, food, fun – everything you need to know when you visit the islands.There are many good reasons to sail in the Caribbean sooner than later:
- 55 years of age when you are more agile
- Prices for customs and docking appear to be increasing
- Will fees be imposed for Wi-Fi soon ? Wi-Fi is free for now
- Climate change – will seas rise and flood the islands?
- Experience another culture - West Indian food, music, and British manners
We took the dinghy onto the beach with the help of Vanessa’s bar staff and we pulled it right up onto the sand. We met some Australians who made all their money in the quarry business and they have built an expedition ship for cruising. They have 10 friends on board and 7 crew members. They are cruising the Caribbean and in the fall they are taking the boat through the Northwest Passage. Dave thinks the boat is called Fortuitous.
Apr 27, 2012 – PETIT MARTINIQUE and CARRIACOUAnother bonus day – we visit two more islands in the same day. We sailed at 10.30 am to Petit Martinique and arrived at 12:00 noon for fuel, water and 10 bottles of inexpensive wine. The kids in their school uniforms were just getting out from the schoolhouse which was sparsely furnished with wooden benches and desks. At 1.00 pm we set sail for Carriacou and we arrived at 3.00 pm to anchor in front of Beach House in 13 feet of clear water above a sandy bottom. We sailed a close reach to Petit Martinique and a broad reach to Carriacou with top surfing sailing boat speed of 9.6 knots!
5.00 pm – We went to Slipway Restaurant with Pat and Geoff for drinks and met the owner Danielle, who comes from Genoa, Italy near Via Reggio. There was a birthday party and we joined them in toasts to the birthday boy, ate tuna pate, crisps and French fries. It started to pour rain SO hard that you couldn’t see any of the boats in the bay. We have been lucky that we are always shelter in these rainstorms and not out under sail.
We decided to eat dinner at Slipway instead of the pizza restaurant which would have meant a dinghy trip in the rain. The Mahi Mahi was delicious. Pat and I paid for dinner and we split the bill, 198 EC each including tip for 2 dinners, 6 glasses wine, 6 beers - approximately $35 CDN per person. Danielle gave us 2 shots of El Dorado 15 year old rum at the end of the evening. I was so tired that I was falling asleep at the dinner table, and we were in bed by 9.30 pm, another Cruisers Midnight.
Apr 28, 2012 – Saturday – CARRIACOUWe got up early at 8.00 am to check in with Customs and Immigration in Hillsborough which is a clean town with many little shops. We bought beer, yoghurt, tortilla wraps, and English muffins.
The Maroon Steel Band and String festival is being held this weekend here in Hillsborough. We took the ‘bus’ which was actually a taxi van from the dock at Tyrell Bay to Hillsborough and they try to fit as many people as possible. They drive fast on these narrow roads and keep looking for people to pick up on route. They back up, honk, look for someone, and yell conversations out the window in their local accent which is hard to understand. A trip one way to Hillsborough costs 3.25 EC per person ($1.00 CDN) and they will drive right up to your house like a taxi service except that 10 people are sharing your taxi.
The bands in town were very good and I was fascinated by the fellow playing the electric purple violin. A group of young girls, ages 8 to 12, dressed in bright coloured tops and skirts, danced around a maypole and wove a pattern of coloured ribbons on the pole.
We were invited to race on Sunday April 29th in the "Jack a Dan Again" race. The rules are hilarious and my favourite rule stipulates that the first crew member at the bar of the Slipway Restaurant with a ‘BlueTube’ (beer) in hand will win. The finishing crew member may not use a dinghy. In other words, jump from a moving sailboat and swim to shore. I was dreaming of how I would dive off the boat and swim fast, run up on the beach and finish first for S/V Sundance. I started practicing shallow dives from Dave’s boat on Saturday afternoon; the first dive was the best shallow dive and every dive after that was a deep dive. The race was cancelled due to inclement weather but I just rerun my version of the race in my mind and it is fantastic.
Apr 30, 2012 –ST GEORGES, GRENADAWe left Carriacou at 8.00 am to sail for 25 miles to St Georges on a beam reach and arrived at 1.00 pm. We anchored in the outer harbour in which the boat was rolling and it was not a good anchorage at all. We took a tour of the inner harbour in the dinghy and stopped in at the Grenada Yacht Club where we traded yacht club burgees. The Grenada Yacht Club now has the AYC 100 year anniversary burgee (1906-2006) hanging up in their clubhouse.
St Georges is very developed with lots of cars and a North American atmosphere; they even have a Foodland which is the first large grocery store we have seen on this trip other than the Rodney Bay grocery stores.
When we returned to the boat it was rolling from side to side in the outer harbour. Dave said ‘Screw this, we are moving’ and we pulled anchor and headed for the lagoon in the inner harbour where we anchored between 2 local boats, one of which was so trashy it was hard to believe anyone lives on board. The ‘Sanford and Son’ boat is owned by a Frenchman whose boat was caught in the hurricane in 2004 and severely damaged; he hasn’t left the harbour since.
We are anchored 100 feet from shore in the heart of the action. There is a party at the Grenada Yacht Club which didn’t finish until 4.00 am and Dave slept through the whole thing!
May 1, 2012 – ST GEORGES, GRENADA – LABOUR DAYWe have a FRONT row seat to the staging area for the Labour Day parade, only 100 feet from the lakeshore. Imagine Caribana without the costumes. Trucks with various Mas Bands are practicing various different tunes of music at full volume and the organizer is yelling at everyone on the microphone telling them to line up. We walked through town where hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand locals with their respective union organizations were parading through the streets to loud Caribbean music. It started to rain and poured heavily. Gretchen and David from S/V Calisto told us about their experience in the huge rainstorm on May 1st, Labour Day, when they were approaching nearby Prickly Bay harbour. David was on the helm and he couldn’t see past the bow of the boat for all the rain. When we were on the streets of St Georges, the downpour flushed the deep gutters with rainwater and poured into the bay which started to rise from all the rainfall.
We had to dash for cover in the local fire station and when it stopped raining we walked around Carenage Bay and up Scott Street to the Catholic church on top of the mountain. On our route, we met Mary, a 71 year old Grenadian who was climbing the hill with her groceries and a gift for her friend whose husband had just passed away. Dave carried her bags up the hill until Mary could flag down a taxi ride.
We walked down the other side of the mountain past the large cemetery and south back to town. We stopped at a roadside bar which was on the Labour Day parade route and had a couple of beers and chatted with the locals. Dave went looking for something to eat and what does he find? Kentucky Fried Chicken! You don’t find many fast food outlets in the Caribbean. You see goats, chickens and roosters on the nearly every property on the islands and it seems that everyone prepares good food from local ingredients. We walked past the cruise ship dock and bought 2 spice necklaces from a local for 30 EC.
May 2, 2012 – PRICKLY BAY, GRENADAWe have sailed 511 nautical miles to Grenada to our destination in Grenada – wow! We have sailed 10 miles to Prickly in 2 hours. The Spice Island boatyard is massive and a sight to see with hundreds of boats stored in cradles. Prickly Bay is under the flight path of 747 airliners and Dash 7s so we are leaving this bay and will head over to Hog Island tomorrow. There is a funny cocktail party boat that holds up to 8 people and we have seen this thing cruising around Prickly Bay – it looks like fun! I find it hard to believe that 5 weeks has flown by. It has been a great trip and adventure. Some of my fond recollections are:
- Bluebeard Bar, St Thomas – drinks on patio
- Des Haies, Guadeloupe (France)
- Portsmouth, Dominica - Blue Bay restaurant
- Iles des Saintes – Foie gras and Jellyfish
- Becquia – vegetable markets and good snorkeling
- Salt Whistle Bay – shark meat and Bar in the Jungle
- Carriacou – Taxi to Hillsborough and Maroon String Band festival
- Grand Anse D’arlet – Grandma in the small family grocery store
- Mt Airy, Grenada Reading Program
- Hog Island – all the marinas and sights to see
- Patsy’s Vegetable stand, Grenada
- Swimming – I love jumping in the water 3 or 4 times a day
May 3, 2012 – PRICKLY BAY and HOG ISLANDToday has been another good adventure. We were up at 7.30 am listening to weather and events from the Cruiser Net on VHF Channel 68. By 12.30 pm we had accomplished:
- Swim 2x
- Empty dinghy of rainwater
- Use rainwater for laundry and rinse
- Clean BBQ
- Write in my book
- 1st breakfast – yoghurt and cereal
- 2nd breakfast – English muffin and peanut butter
- Sit in wild rainstorm in Prickly Bay
- Left when rain stopped and motored 1.5 miles to Hog Island and ½ mile through marked reefs
Hog Island is the best anchorage to date. It is so calm in here, the boat lies flat and doesn’t roll but there is still a nice breeze to keep the boat cool. I slept outside in the cockpit last night and had a great sleep. I was up at 6.00 am checking on supplies and cleaning a little bit.
We went to La Phare Bleu Marina, one of the prettiest marinas I have ever seen, to look for vegetable supplies. The mini mart was closed but someone recommended that we walk to Patsy’s, a roadside vegetable stand, 20 minutes on foot from the marina. Mike the mechanic, pointed us in the right direction and ten minutes later he pulled up and offer us a ride since he was going in that direction anyway. He was going cycling to get ready for his triathlon on Sunday. Patsy’s was great and we bought tomatoes, papaya, and squash and for the cucumber and green onion she sent a friend across the street to pick the vegetables fresh from the garden. Our tomato, cucumber, green onion salad that evening was one of our best. We walked back to the marina, a downhill walk which took 30 minutes. It would take 45 minutes to walk uphill to Patsy’s in the heat!
We have a very tame visitor on the boat – Birdie – to whom we feed the stale, tasteless, unsalted crackers. Birdie is bold enough to fly down into the galley and find his way out again. I think he has become accustomed to all the cruisers anchored in Hog Island bay.
Back at the boat, we heard about a bar on Hog Island that is called ‘Rogers Bar’. We can see some palm tree leaves and a shed that looks abandoned on the beach so we think it has been closed. Au contraire! Roger showed up by at 5.00 pm in his wooden boat which was loaded with booze and food and people started to arrive on the beach via dinghy and order drinks. On Sunday’s they have a live band on the beach and on May 28th, the BBC is going to arrive at Hog Island and film Rogers Bar.
There aren’t any charter boats in Hog Island because you have to cross a wicked set of reefs to get in here. One wrong turn, and you are stranded on 2 feet of rocks.
May 4 and 5, 2012 – HOG ISLAND and Mt Airy Young Readers ProgramWe are listening to the Cruiser Net on VHF 68 and they have a segment called ‘Treasures of the Bilge’ where people can call in with items for sale. Someone is trying to sell a heater – good luck! For breakfast, we have eggs, home fries and ‘bacon’ – made from SPAM. It tastes just like bacon and is perfect for camping and boating. We checked out Oasis Bar at Clarks Court Bay, swam at the beach at Rogers, met the British family who sold everything and have been sailing from Mediterranean to Caribbean for the past 3 years. They have 2 children, Myles and Grace, ages 4 and 7, who are being home schooled on their boat.
9.00 am Saturday – We meet the bus at Oasis to be taken to Mt Airy Young Readers Program and volunteer to help the children read. There were more than 25 children – ages 3 to 16 – and 12 adults from the cruising boats. Dave sat with three little girls – ages 3 to 5 – who had lots of attitude. He instructed them to write the names of the objects they had created and coloured, write the alphabet and he gave them gum, which he later learned was not allowed. Jeffrey Kingdon from S/V Contessa also joined us in the reading program.
I was reading with 7 year old Grace from Britain. Mt Airy school is near St Pauls, north of St Georges, at the top of the mountain where the hills were so steep we think the road grade was almost 45 degrees. You couldn’t climb or descend those hills in a snowstorm.
May 6, 2012 – SECRET HARBOUR Boat Yard SaleWe were up at 7.30 am and went to S/V Contessa to get my hair coloured with Medium Blonde Clairol root touch up. My hair has grown so fast down here – at least an inch in 5 weeks – and the salt water and sun has bleached out the colour to a light brown, medium blonde. We went to boat yard sale in Secret Harbour, bought 2 lanyards that Grace was making out of red, white and blue sailing rope and had burgers for lunch. Dave is looking for new sheets that are navy, red and white striped cotton or polyester and definitely not flannel for the boat for next winter:
- Quarter Berths - 6 twin fitted sheets
- V-Berth – 71 inches wide, 2 Queen size fitted sheets
May 7, 2012 – HOG ISLAND – Last DayWe made a visit to Whisper Cove Marina which is a beautiful spot with a very good bakery, meat shop and deli run by the French Canadians. On Thursday nights, they barbecue chickens a lá Montreal Saint Hubert style. I saw an ad for a cottage for rent, for $300 per week and will sleep 2 to 4 people. It looks nice on the website: www.grenadaexplorer.com/mango/ From there we motored to Woburn to visit Nimrod’s Rum Shop. All of these places are in the vicinity of Hog Island and easy to get to via dinghy. At Nimrod’s I ordered an ‘eighth of rum’. When Tracy started pouring the rum into a small, empty Coke bottle, I wasn’t sure what I had ordered. She gave us 2 glasses with ice and a bottle of coke for 10 EC or $1.50 per person. There was enough rum for 2 or 3 very strong drinks – and it wasn’t even 12 noon yet. Tracy is from England and she told us her stories about coming to Toronto and London, Ontario, renting motorbikes with friends and riding up to Sault Ste Marie. She and her friends probably saw more of Ontario than many Canadians.
We returned to the boat and on our way, we motored to Neal and Adrian’s boat, S/V Dream Chaser and Jeff and Carolee, S/V Contessa to say good-bye. We raised the mainsail in the bay and motored past Jeff as he took pictures of the boat.
We left Hog Island at 12.30 pm and arrived in Prickly Bay at 1.30 pm to get ready to haul the boat out at Spice Island Marina. The headsail has been taken down and the mainsail will be removed once the boat is out of the water on May 8th.
May 8 – 10, 2012 – HAUL OUT and STORE BOATBOAT STORAGE - Dave tells me it will take 2 days to prepare the boat for storage in Grenada (it took 3 days):
- Pack the sails
- Fresh water in the heads (toilets)
- Flush main engine with fresh water
- Take Bimini off and bring it home
- Measure sun curtain for the stern
- Store the solar panels in quarter berth
- Store dinghy on the bow
- Fog the dinghy engine and flush with fresh water
- Defrost the fridge
- Launder the bedding, towels and store on boat
- Measure cushions for fitted sheets
- Take photos of mainsail to remember how to put it back together in the ‘stack pack’, a cover for the mainsail
We are doing laundry, removing the main sail and battens from the main sail. The longest batten must be almost 20 feet long; it fits in the quarter berth and comes out into the salon past the aft bathroom. There is a lot of work to do, and in the middle of it all, I left for 3 hours to go to a cooking class in Whisper Cove Marina to learn how to make soft cheese with herbs. The recipe is easy and I will definitely make it for boat trips and cocktail parties.
We went for a walk in the evening, all the way to St George’s University. On our way, we found a good bar called Bananas where the staff was very nice. Terry, our bartender, told us to try ‘Patrick’s’ roadside stand for Oildown, the national Grenadian dish that everyone says we must try. The bar had only 6 patrons, including Dave and myself. However, Terry said the DJ would start at 10.00 pm and this bar would be packed by 12 midnight and the bar would rock on a Thursday night until 5.00 am. On Friday nights, they stay open until 8.00 am!
May 11, 2012 – RETURN TO TORONTOThe adventure is over. We flew with LIAT Airlines at 10.50 am to Barbados and with Air Canada to arrive in Toronto at 8.30 pm. SUMMARY - The things to do on a cruising sailing trip are sail, anchor, forage, eat, drink, meet the locals and explore. All other daily worries disappear and it gives you a chance to reflect on life and how fortunate we are. Other than that you barely have time to read a book because of meal prep and cleaning. I haven’t read very much but I have written a lot in my log book which is important. I don’t need electricity either to write this book which is a good thing. TYPICAL CRUISER’S DAY - Up at 6.30 am, breakfast and get ready to set sail:
- Take out the garbage (find a garbage bin on land)
- Forage for food - find groceries, preferably fresh vegetables from local markets and roadside stands. Typical items include green onions, cucumber, tomatoes, yoghurt, red wine, white wine, blueberries, eggs, tortilla wraps for sandwich wraps, steak, Cornish hens (perfect for BBQ) or a finished broiled chicken. I prefer the smaller shops where you met the locals who gave us recipes and you knew the food was fresh
- Check in with Customs and Immigration if we are in a new country; we had to do this a lot. Each island is another country
- Karen swims 3 or 4 times a day
- Cocktails at 4.00 pm; après-sail pate and baguette, and wine with dinner
- Cruisers Midnight – asleep by 9.00 pm
- Make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and clean up. We were always talking about food on the boat
- Dave maintains equipment on the boat: rebuilds wiring for running lights, change oil, quick change of blocks and line for broken shackle on the main, change engine fuel filters, rebuild key ring around engine starter, secure bimini with line, create sun screen from bed sheet for stern of S/V Sundance
- Depart next day at 8.00 am to sail to our next destination. It was most fun when we kept moving and experiencing something new everyday
SV Sundance - Dave Tuninga
March 24, 2012 - Notes From SV Sundance in the CaribbeanMy Back Yard
Well we are still “cruisin” the Virgin Islands but now we are doing the US Virgin Islands which is mostly St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Guests started showing up at the end of January (Graeme McCreash, William Young, the lovely and talented Sheila, Kris Tuninga, Julia Phelan, most extremely lovely, and the talented and Rick Martell). The wind was mostly howling 20-25 knots, seas 10-12 feet with 8 foot swells, the sailing is exciting to say the least. Some call it anchoring, I call it hiding from the next squall and saving the ship. Some of the rain squalls coming over the island and down the hill are packing 40 knot winds for about 3-5 minutes which is keeping the sail repair business booming this year. It got so I started to see no one bothering to put any sails up due to the winds. We fly a double reef main and a scrap of head sail most of the time, average 8 knots boat speed and hope for the best. Am I missing something?? When do I get to glide over the warm seas? I am sure somewhere in the islands this is possible but not here!!!
St. John in the USVI is a beautiful island that has a nice combination of towns and nature. Most of the island is a National Park and controlled so it remains pristine and somewhat quiet. The snorkeling is excellent as there is no fishing in the park so the fish, turtles and Sting Rays are not afraid of you in fact they are quite happy to swim with you. They also have installed mooring buoys which you can tie up to for the night which in 30 knots winds is somewhat of a blessing provided you dive on the gear to make sure it is in good shape. The fee is $15.00 per night payable in an envelope stuffed into a box on a small float. This is to prevent people from anchoring in the coral and destroying the reef. There are 2 towns on St. John, Cruz Bay with lots of crazy folks and bars. I wonder if there is a relationship between the two and Coral Bay which is split into boaty folks on one side and not so boaty folks on the other side of the bay. We call the not so boaty folks dirt dwellers. Again bars adorn both sides of the harbour in Coral Bay and lots of colour full live aboard people are anchored in the harbour. In the middle of the town past the goats mowing the lawn of the public school and the free ranging donkeys on the road is the best dumpster array where one can get rid of those unwanted empty beer cans and liquor/wine bottles.
What about fishing off the boat? Well thanks to my friend David Gardner who had the pleasure of dwelling in the “dirt” in a nice villa on Water Island and bringing his family for day cruises with me on Sundance and yes we actually did catch fish. It seems his lucky fish lure is deadly on the Mackerel population but nothing else. Good thing Gardner likes to eat that species. Water Island is a somewhat private rock about ½ mile from the mainland of St. Thomas and is home to about 103 households. There is a beautiful beach with palm trees lining the waters edge a small beach bar, beware of the pain killers from the lovely bartender Britt (I make em like I like to drink em - strong) and an outdoor burger place. Monday nights they have movies on the beach with a sheet tied to 2 palm trees with the sun set framing the water behind and the wind blowing which makes the movie flow in and out of focus. I have even seen a meteor flying across the sky during the movie however I am not sure if it was the result of the bushwhackers (dangerous rum concoction) or Painkillers they serve during the movie. Travel on the island is by golf cart and a few wrecky cars that are missing doors hoods windows seats etc…. Wild life abounds on the island - Iguanas the size of large basset hounds roam the grounds freely. You will hear a sound like a large tree branch hitting the ground and more often than not it is an Iguana that has fallen asleep on a branch and rolled off on to the ground below. In the surrounding waters there are lots of lobster, sea turtles, Spotted Rays and assorted very well fed fish at least under my boat every morning.
I have made friends in the anchorage and it is quite fun to live here. My neighbours built me a mooring to hang the boat on so I can live like them. We go for pizza nights in town, see the bands at the bar and takes trips to Cost U Less to restock the boat with cheap beer and rum. The marina is 10 minutes from the anchorage and is home to a great resto bar, internet café, laundry, gourmet grocery for those things you have to have and or course an excellent marine store for those other things you wish to have. Since I live off the grid they also have much needed Diesel fuel and fresh water to keep the capitan from fermenting. There is also a food truck where you can get fresh home made meat patties and fish cakes, a large grocery store Pueblo, an Ace Hardware, and a Napa Auto Parts store. What else do you need?
So now I have been getting the boat ready to head down Island out of hurricane alley for the summer to keep my boat insurance company happy. Since I have not been plugged to a dock since November I have been using the engine to charge the batteries to keep the boats systems live and tingly. The previous owners did the right things for making power however their idea was to use the diesel engine to do this. There are better ways for the lowly live aboard to live off the grid. I was reading the notice board at my local marine store and a fellow was selling solar panels at a greatly reduced price which would generate enough power to run a small village. One week of cutting stainless pipe for mounts, wiring and installing/programming solar controllers which look similar to small nuclear devices and we are free of the diesel fumes. Beer is cold we are making ice and life is good. Now if only the wind would stop blowing 25-30 knots every day I might actually get out of here. I have slept every night since November with the ports and hatches closed under a flannel blanket because apparently this winter in the tropics is not normally this cool. Alas as I write this note the wind has started howling around me and it looks like I will have to splash my way across the bay to reload the supplies for another week in Elephant Bay, but it is movie night!!!
Hope every one survives the winter that you did not have and I will keep you posted on the rest of the adventure if I ever get out of here. I understand that on occasion the weather in Toronto has been warmer than here. This is called a trough!! Currently I am getting the boat ready to move to Grenada to be hauled out for the coming hurricane season. I have seen the results of not leaving the area scattered on the rocks around the anchorage and I am thinking I am going to take my chances way further south.
Will keep you posted on my next update on our adventure through the islands.
Fair Winds from SV Sundance
January 12, 2012So now we are in St Thomas in the USVI waiting for the next crew to arrive and continue the adventure. Hopefully the wind will calm a bit. I thought I would try to explore the south shore of St John, USVI, as Is worked my way out into the sea. 27 knots of wind and huge waves let me know who is in charge and that wind was a little too much for me to handle on my own so back to the anchorage and hide out to sail another day.
All the best to all of you at AYC and I hope all of you are healthy. I am flying my AYC burgee and the Canadian flag which has brought lots of good fortune so far. Will keep you posted on my adventures going forward. I have lots of pictures but I am not sure how to get them out of my "I touch" thing but once I do I will forward them on.
Fair Winds from SV Sundance
Dave Tuninga, St. Thomas, USVI
November, 2011So after packing enough stuff for a world expedition flying in big planes and small planes where you are sitting beside the pilot and he says please watch the radar to make sure we do not fly into one those thunder clouds ahead of us. Really!!! You are racing through the dark, the prop engine beside you is glowing in the dark bright red and all you can see are the lights of the plane reflecting off the clouds!!! Through all of this you know that they do not have all your luggage. Please fill out de forms and we will bring de bags to you soon.
So there she sits waiting for you to make her come alive. It’s like seeing your boat in the spring at AYC only we are not in Kansas any more. What have I done I am so out of my league here. The average boat is 50 feet plus Catamarans and Trimarans rule the waters here. They are bigger than my house. Obviously the bigger your boat the better you will sail? My todo list grows by the minute but luckily I am in one of the best yards in the BVI’s, Nanny Cay, which has everything money can buy within walking distance. I had the boat waxed by others because when she is sitting on the ground and the hull is 10 feet off the ground so unless you brought your scaffolding with you its better to watch the job, not actually do the job. Now at least we look good.
My timetable was 5 days to get the boat ready and launch on day 6. Did I mention it’s the rainy season and the wind is blowing 25 knots, the yard is muddy and full of noisy 2 legged creatures feathered and non-feathered. Not sure sometimes who are the smartest ones. The beer is cold and the rum is cheap here so no problem mon. I had 2 friends of mine show up to help and we managed to get the boat ready for launch. Amazing what the prospect of rum beer and 85 F weather and lots of wind can do to stimulate the crew.
Throw in more buckets of cash and they drop the boat in the water. Everyone is watching as I push the button to start the engine and of course she no start. No problem mon dis happen all the time. One new starting battery and 4 house batteries later only my pride and my cash supply is damaged.
Boat comes alive as we light up all the systems and what does not work we fix. I have never had instruments for wind speed and depth that actually work, very scary, but nice. It is good to have a depth sounder when you need 6’ 8” to float but really do I need to now that is blowing 35 knots, yikes?
The BVI’s are great to sail because the anchorages are 2-3 hours away max and the weather perfect other than the odd 25 knot squall. Its kind of like the thousand islands with palm trees. Oh, did I mention that at each anchorage a delicious cold beverage is always waiting in de bar ashore on the beach.