Monday, 1 May 2017

Things that go Bang in the Night

So, there we were, 120 miles out of San Juan, broad reaching in a nice breeze with a quartering sea making the autopilot work a bit, but no big deal, done it a million times. We were doing a crew change at 1:00am and we hear an ominous noise like we hit something in the water (log ?) but then the autopilot starts making a noise I didn't like. So I tear apart the bed to investigate, finding the quadrant doing a lazy meandering sloppy figure-8 motion where it's supposed to be doing a flat back-&-forth movement as the autopilot steers the boat. Not good! Something was seriously wrong but it was the middle of the night (the best time for things to break) and the seas a bit rough to dive in the water to investigate.

We decide we can't continue like this until we find out what's wrong and so turn to square the boat with the seas (to keep the rudder from working too hard) and head into Samana, Dominican Republic, 90 miles distant, hoping we get there tomorrow afternoon before the rudder falls off or who knows what might happen or where we might end up. But EQ hangs in there and we make Samana the next day, pull into a resort/marina (the only place for a hundred miles or more), I immediately jump into the water and find (not) that the skeg is completely gone! It had sheared off at the internal welds at the base of the threaded rods (5 of them) that kept the skeg in place. Being completely dumbfounded, it took a few moments for the reality to sink in, I surface saying we are totally screwed, no place to haul-out anywhere near us, no marine services nearby, nothing but a broken boat not fit for sea. Bugger!

With no idea how we were going to sort this one, I laid awake most of the night tossing and turning. At 4:00am I get up with a brain storm, I need to find someone to make me a small plate with 3 holes, a 2" in the middle and two smaller ones on the sides. This will slide up on the bottom of the rudder post sticking out the bottom of the rudder where I'll attach "guy" wires up the side of the boat onto deck with block and tackle as tensioners to secure the bottom of the rudder. After all, that's the job of the skeg. That was the theory anyway.

After drawing a full size drawing which I could point to instead of trying to explain with my very limited Spanish, we luck out and find a taxi driver that speaks decent English and explain what we are looking for. After a long ($135) taxi ride(s) up to the north coast and back and around the village, we finally get the plate made and find some wire and make it back to the boat with just enough daylight left for me to jump back in the water and secure it with the guy wires. There were many boats here sitting around for weeks waiting on parts and said good luck getting anything done around here anytime soon. But we were on our way, fingers crossed, the next morning, not having any idea if this would work. But we had to at least try to make it to the Bahamas where there are reasonable marine services.

And so it was working well enough once out to sea in reasonably light conditions we kept on going, constantly wondering where we might actually end up, looking for options and alternative plan B's along the way. Taught guy wires slicing through the water made for an interesting singing noise and we had to try to stay clear of the floating seaweed and buoys. On many occasions, I had to get into the water to clear the weed and buoys as it was slowing us down, but hey, we were making way, fingers still crossed. We did manage to catch another Maui-Maui though.

The Singing Weed and Buoy catching Guy Wires
We did make it to the Turks and Caicos at least and I could find better wire for the guys. The DR wires were a bit "agricultural" and weren't holding up so managed to find decent stainless steel wire after a long walk in Provo town. We were on our way again, trying to stay out of big seas and go easy on the rudder. It was a bit dicey at times as the winds wouldn't let up and we needed to keep moving if we reasonably could.

Once we got to the Bahamas, we tried to stay on the lee side of the banks and cross the banks if possible (touching bottom a few times) we worked our way up through the islands. We said well done, the scheme seemed to be working well enough, no leaking around the rudder post even though the shaft log was coming loose with all the stress it was taking. We decided to keep going to see if we could make it to Florida where we could find better services and a more reasonable price.

And so we did make it to Florida, entering at Fort Pierce. Since all was going well, even though we did a lot of motoring picking calmer days with lighter seas, we decided then to try doing the ICW up the coast to Rhode Island. That was trying as we had to pay close attention all the way, but hey, we were still making way and had flat water, trying to avoid crab traps.

A new Skeg at Long Last
So, we did make it to Rhode Island, 2400 nautical miles hence, Skeg-less,  but I'm getting ahead of the story. Suffice it to say that we spent 6 weeks in the boat yard building a new skeg and getting rid of the crappy Turkish bottom paint. At least we did get the boat back in the water for the girls (and there boyfriends) to show up the next day and spend a few wonderful days sailing about Narragansett Bay. Eight people of EQ was a first, but great fun.

So, that's the news from EQ, fit for sea again and the crew working the kicks out of those tightly crossed fingers.

With Equanimity and much Joy...

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Puerto Rico

Culebra was a lovely island to stop at in the Spanish Virgin Islands, a part of Puerto Rico. Great people and a laid back stay. This picture says it all.

After a few days in "the islands" we headed over the top to the big city. And it is big, the biggest city we've seen a long time, so a bit overwhelming. San Juan was impressive and lovely. The large harbor lead us back into a corner where there was a decent anchorage and small marina just under the lee of the old city, very convenient for the tourist activities.

We did manage a few walkabouts. The old forts that line the entrance to the harbor are huge and impressive. We'd love to go back to Puerto Rico and do more exploring, but had to get moving again as we had a long way to go to Rhode Island before the beginning of hurricane season.

So, it's off to the Bahamas and the east coast of the US mainland.

That's the news from EQ.
With Equanimity and Joy..

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Back into the US of A

We weren't planning to stop in the Virgin Islands, but Roger's US passport was going to expire before we could reach Florida, so we had to make a stop in Virgin Islands. It was an overnighter out of St. Kitts putting us over the Saba bank, a shoal large area where the deep sea rises to within 20 feet of the surface, our first experience of what lay ahead working our way up through the Bahamas. But the sea was bountiful as we caught a nice Wahoo for dinner.

We started the passport ordeal as soon as we could, choosing the expensive expedited delivery option, and then it was a wait and see what happens deal. It was fairly windy so we stayed tucked in behind the headland close to the town of Christiansted for easy access to the town and island. I did need a haircut for the for the passport photo and so found a barber shop next to the post office. They mostly cut black peoples hair with electric clippers, so that was a new experience. :)

Waiting, waiting, waiting, like the little circular icon on a computer going around and around. We did run into a boat (not literally of course) I had sailed with in Indonesia, 'Yolo', which was fun to catch up with Karen and Jason.

We did manager to get out to Buck Island for a few days but had to apply for a permit first where the park service had to do a background check first! (like did we have a record for knocking off turtles or what...), which took a week. It was lovely clear waters but really shoal, like EQ's depth gauge showed 4' where we draw 6' (need to get that calibrated I reckon). Diving under the boat showed about 6" under the keel, but sandy just next to the reef. One day was a local holiday so all the crazy speed (and I mean high speed and loud) boats came out of nowhere. This brought out the park service, local police and coast guard boats to keep an eye on the festivities. We where glad to see them head back home with there blaringly loud music and roaring engines returning our peaceful anchorage to the lovely sound of the waves and light breezes. Pew...

And then comes an email from the passport office saying it was back. So, we scrambled back as fast as we could so we could get on our way after two weeks of sitting around. St. Croix was lovely and we did manage to borrow a car for a bit of a tour around the island. But it was time to move on having cleared into the US complete with a cruising permit for the next year.

That's the news from EQ, where the winds are clam, the seas fair and the crew happy to be going to the Spanish Virgins...

With Equanimity and Joy

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Leeward Islands continued

From Pointe a Pitre we headed for the Iles des Saintes, and found a free mooring tucked around the corner from town next to the Pain de Sucre, which turned out to be a really nice snorkeling spot. It was so pretty, in fact, that we sat there for four nights. The town was quaint and we walked up the hill to view Napoleon Fort. The rested feeling returned, we set off for Deshaises, 30 miles up on the northwest coast of Guadeloupe. Along the way, we pulled into the Cousteau Marine Park at Pigeon Point where we grabbed the only free mooring, threw on our suits and masks, and jumped in for a fantastic one hour snorkel around the bowl before casting off and carrying on up the coast to Deshaises.

There was a nice harbor there, full of anchored boats, and a quiet town where went in for a pizza dinner and met a couple from Oregon who were just beginning their cruising life. We met up with them the next morning for a few hours hike, boulder hopping up the river bed. 

And then, time to go to Antigua!! Though we'd be early for Kim's daughter's visit, we figured we could check out the island and scope out where to go. Nikki and her boyfriend, Chris, would only be with us for three days as well and there were so many pretty spots to see.

We started with Falmouth Harbor, filled with over the top super yachts, and a visit to the historic Nelson Dockyard, including a walk up the goat trail to the forts overlooking the entrance to English Harbor. Next we had an, as always, interesting bus ride to St John's for provisions, as well as the long suffering search for an internet SIM card. After that success, we moved EQ around to Nonsuch Bay and sat behind the reefs for a couple of nights of peace and quiet. Continuing on we moved to the west side and stopped in Deep Bay where we found our new Danish friends on Amanda and had a lovely dinner onboard.

Moving on, we crossed the top of the island and
down into Parham Harbor where we picked up Nikki and Chris. The next morning cleared nicely and we went out to Great Bird Island - a beautiful spot! There was a free mooring for us and we went ashore to hike up the hill and watch the red billed tropic birds swooping on the bluffs to reach their nests. The snorkeling was good as well. The next day we sailed back through the Boon Channel and in to Jolly Harbour for the last night of their visit,  taking a slip in the marina and eating out for dinner at the Crow's Nest. We still had the morning to play and so went down to the beach for toes in the sand and a swim, before the sad goodbyes had to be said.

The weather dictated an early start for the 45 mile run to Nevis/St Kitts so we staged ourselves in the outer harbor. While we were at the fuel dock, our friends Nancy and Ron on Mandala (first met in Cape Verde) pulled in! They are  joined us on EQ for dinner where we talked about fishing luck (they are both retired fishermen). So that night Roger put a new lure on the fishing pole, hoping for better results, and as soon as we were crossing the Saba bank we snagged a mahi-mahi (so beautiful we felt really bad about killing it but at the same time grateful for the many meals put in the freezer).

It was blowing hard when we got to Nevis so we picked up a mooring in Charlestown and went ashore for check in. While ashore we checked out the Hamilton museum and did a walk about the historic area downtown. Then we moved over to better moorings and hunkered down for a four day blow with rain squalls (next to another volcano...). Once that settled down (or so we thought) we went to St Kitts - finally finding anchorage in White House Bay, and then moving into the marina in Port Zante, Basseterre the next morning so we could explore the island. Shared a taxi tour with a Canadian couple - out to Brimstone Hill fort and the Romney sugar plantation. Next stop - St Croix!

That's the news from EQ where the winds are all over the place, the seas provide bounty and the crew is content.

With Equanimity and Joy....

Monday, 20 February 2017

Island hopping - On to the Leewards

From St Vincent, the next stop was Martinique. We anchored in Ste Anne bay, with a few hundred other boats, for several days. Although easy to check in to (computer in a coffee shop) all else was expensive and very developed. However, we rented a car for a day and drove to the volcano, Mt Pelee, to hike a bit up the southern slope. And we stopped at the lovely Botanical Garden just off the picturesque interior road to the north end. But Dominica was beckoning, and there was a date to meet Kim's daughter and boyfriend in Guadeloupe on the horizon, so it was easy to leave Martinique behind.

The sail to Dominca was a 66 mile, windy, close reach with average cruising speed 6 plus knots. As we pulled into Roseau, the capital city, we were greeted by the "boat men" eager to take us to a mooring and adopt us during our visit. Accepting Brian's offer (working for Sea Cat) we settled in and were treated to crazy, loud music until 4am. So the next morning we headed off for the customs check in and sim card run, and returned to move EQ over to moorings by the Marine Center overseen by Marcus - the self appointed security guard.

Wasting no time, we set out the next morning with Armstrong for a tour of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park area. We hiked to Middleham Falls where the gorgeous trail to the waterfall felt like fairy land, walked to the peaceful Boeri Lake, swam up the Titou Gorge (deep within the steep walls of the gorge to a waterfall - site of POC 2 filming), and finished with a soak in the hot springs of Wotten Waven. What a fabulous day!

From Roseau we moved north to Prince Rupert Bay and Portsmouth. As we approached the harbor we were startled by the surfacing of two sperm whales just off the starboard side as they swam south. Portsmouth is working hard through an association (PAYS) to welcome yachts and we happily took a mooring to spend a few more days. There we were adopted by "Providence", or Martin, who collected us for a row up the Indian River and a drive around the north end to Calibishie.  

Dominica (or Waitukubuli as the natives called her - meaning "tall is her body") was working her magic on Roger, just as she had on Kim two years previously, and it was hard to say goodbye. The people here are exceptionally friendly, willing to stop and chat, and the tourism is low key. We vowed to return someday, and hopefully hike the full 115 miles of the Waitukubuli Trail, which made it possible to let go the mooring and head for Guadeloupe. 

Those 40 miles were a motor sail opportunity to charge the batteries and fill the water tank before our guests arrived. We pulled into Marina Bas du Fort in Pointe Pitre, to pick up Corinne and Max who flew in from NYC. With only a 3 day visit, and east winds making the sail to the Saints just a bit too far, we settled on Ilet du Gosier for an anchorage so we could swim and sleep out under the stars. The next day we headed back to the marina, rented a car, and drove to the volcano and rainforest. The visit was short, but sweet!

That's the news from EQ,
With Equanimity and Joy...

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Windward Islands of the Caribbean

Barbados was a welcome rest and the people extremely friendly and helpful. But after a few days it was time to move on as we have so much to see and do. Next stop was Grenada, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Again, the people very friendly and helpful. We rented a car, which was a thrill in itself, the roads very narrow with perilous side ditches and abrupt edges. You don't want to run off the pavement around here with barely enough room for speeding buses to pass. They're used to it, but we had a white knuckle ride for a couple of days. The terrain was stunningly beautiful. We found a waterfall area, but needed a guide as the trail was obscure, and so found "Sandy-mon" to help us out. He was a lovely chap who told us all about the local plants and critters. We felt we really were in paradise. Grenada is so pristine up in the bush, we could even drink the water straight out of the mountain streams.

 I had to find rotor brushes for the alternator, which was an adventure in itself. But the important part, even a critical situation for the crew of EQ, was finding the chocolate factory. :) We did get lost in those mountain roads a few times, but everyone we asked for directions was very helpful. Finally we found the cocao plantation where we learned how they processed the nuts just as they have for hundreds of years. All very interesting, but really, where was the chocolate? They didn't actually make it there but sent the dried nuts to another place to make the chocolate. We did finally find that too, up a small side road where got a tour and, finally, the real thing, averting a major calamity. And we also found our way back to the boat, potential crisis averted, big smiles all around, and time for a rest to calm the nerves of driving on Grenada roads, beautiful as that island is.

When we finally extracted ourselves from that lovely place we headed for Carriacou, another beautiful island we looked forward to. But this time we hopped on a bus to the other side of the island to see how they built boats in the old traditional ways. We had to check out of Grenada here and check into St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Union Island, another lovely place. From there we headed for the Tobago Cays for some swimming with turtles. And there where lots of them all around the boat! Anchored in 10' of aqua blue water, white sandy bottom, warm clear Atlantic water pouring over the reef with 15 knot cool trade winds and sunny skies ... absolutely delightful.

But we had to finaly pull the hook and get moving again, next stop was Bequia, a delightful little island, quaint and in good nick. Friendship Bay was especially tranquil and laid back. There's also a small museum with some of the old traditional whaling and fishing boats there. The island is small enough you can walk to just about anywhere, and we did stretch our legs after sitting on the boat for so long. But the best thing was we arrived (unbeknownst to us) on a Friday the day of the Blues Festival, which was staged close to where we anchored. That was absolutely fantastic with excellent musicians. We didn't get back to the boat until 2am, way past our bedtime. :) But it was a fun night since we hadn't seen any good live music for a long time. Bequia is our favorite spot so far in the Caribbean.

We checked out of SVG on Bequia but spent the night in Cumberland Bay on St. Vincent, stern tied to a palm tree as the harbour was very deep, since it was too far to get up to St. Lucia and the next day had better wind conditions anyway. So we set out at first light and zoomed across the St. Vincent channel, notorious for being rough, but we had caught the conditions right and it was an easy sail, the famous "Pitons" of St. Lucia looming on the horizon, beckoning us on. We were going to stop in the old capital of Soufriere, but decided to keep going as we made good time and could catch up with friends in Rodney Bay to go on a tour of the island (we didn't have to drive) the next day. And so we did, our tour guide stopping at many lovely places and explaining all the flora and fauna of the island, of which there is much. We also stopped at the very active bubbling volcano caldera near the Pitons. These islands are amazing places to live where the locals can easily live off the land, as you can grow most anything here, and many do.

So, that's the news from EQ, where the seas are calm in the leeward side of the islands, the trade winds fair and the crew content to not have to drive these roads.

With equanimity and Joy...

Friday, 6 January 2017

Across the Atlantic, Step Two

Coffee on 5am watch
Rockin' an Rollin' for 13 days, 8 hours, but who's counting. Well, as a matter of fact, we were, certainly towards the end of the trip. We were very glad to see Barbados rise above the horizon on the 14th day. The Atlantic was very confused, wave trains coming from every direction, for the entire trip. In fact, it started that way leaving the Gibraltar Starights. But truth be told, we did have some excellent days.

Roger was still coughing up yellow goo when we got to Cape Verde, but finished the antibiotics and could tell it was almost over, so decided to set off with the next reasonable forecast. So we set forth on 22 December ok with the idea of missing the holiday madness and having our own new years celebration, which of course was Kim finding a bottle of bubbly in the bottom of the frig, which was a fine Limon soda. :)

The trip started with blustery winds/seas, but settled down in a couple of days so we could fly the spinnaker. That beast makes for a gentle ride if the winds are fair. But it didn't last and we had to motor for a couple of days to get through a period of light winds and heavy cloud cover. It was also a new moon, so the nights were pitch black, couldn't even see your hand in front of you.

That finally cleared and the winds picked back up, setting the spinnaker on and off. At one point we got it down just in time for a bit of blusteriness, where it would have been too hard to get it down. The hardest part was the winds were mostly behind us. With confused seas, that makes it hard to steady the boat without a press in the sails from the side, so we rolled along, seriously.

The funny part was all the flying fish. Unfortunately for many, they landed on deck without us knowing in the night, so died before we could get them back on their way. One morning, I picked more than a dozen off the deck. The good news was none of them flew into the cabin or whacked us on the side of the head in the middle of the night. It was a good sign though that there are actually still fish in the sea. We had lots of Dolphins escorting us in the first part of the trip, but didn't see much on this side of the Atlantic.

So, 2060 nautical miles later we didn't fall off the end of the earth and made landfall in Barbados on 4 January 2017, early enough to check in with customs, immigrations and the harbour master. But since we couldn't get a decent anchor hold (notoriously bad there), we tied to the fuel dock for the night, but had to leave at 7:30 in the morning and headed down to Carlisle Bay, we anchored in front of the Barbados Yacht Club, they gave us a one week membership, which lets us land our dingy on the beach, use there facilties including showers. So, all is good and we are happily in flat water again, plugged back into the internet and able to stream MVY radio, Martha's Vineyard.

Landfall in Barbados
So, that's the news from EQ, where the winds are blowing steady from the east, the seas still 'sporty', but not here, and the crew content to finally get more than a few hours of sleep. We even have turtles swimming by for a visit, in water that is 28 deg (80F), so happy to be back in the tropics. :)

With Equanimity and Joy...