The Caribbean….and Beyond
Its been 2 months since our last blog entry…..wow, time flies. I’m writing this from Piscaderabaai in Curacao, the Dutch Antilles, some 400 miles west of Grenada. Yup, were committed west and any thoughts of going back across the Atlantic are history as we just cant get back there comfortably from here. Its west my friends into difficult seas and different cultures.
We’ve had a pretty busy time. The days have been filled with the usual domestic necessities and servicing the boys, along with some interesting sailing and at last some fish.
In brief the Caribbean was not as we expected. It just wasn’t settled weather, rained far more than expected and the sailing just wasn’t as good as I remembered. I suspect that was because Pegasus is just not the boat for short passages, or close hauled sailing. We can point, but not like a monohull, and frankly putting up the main is quite an exercise…57Ft of sail to hoist manually takes some 5 minutes, then you need full sail in the lea of the islands and reefed main in the passages between, so really quite a bit of work for one.
Basically if its less than 35 miles I’m not unpacking it, putting it up, reefing it and stowing it again. My little monohull was perfect for the Carib, but Pegasus is designed for different sailing, fast ocean passages, and subsequently we sailed north motor sailing, and south on the Genoa.
After Carriacou we headed north to Petit St Vincent, an exclusive resort island which we all enjoyed. I guess we spent 4 days there enjoying the beach with the occasional cocktail in the bar. We met up with some friends from Grenada who had 2 children about the same ages as the boys. They all enjoyed playing together and that’s probably why we spent more time there than expected. On leaving we agreed to meet up in Chatham Bay, west side of Union Island. We headed over to Union Island to check into St Vincent and the Grenadines, and after a windy night anchored behind the reef we headed up to Chatham Bay. Lovely. The Boys had friends to play with, we had friends to talk with and we all had a jolly time drinking Rum punch on the beach at “Shark attack shack”. Dinner with Paul and Kim then a late bed. Got to say we all felt pretty ropy in the morning.
We said our goodbyes and headed north straight to Bequia. After a week or so we left Bequia and in settled weather spent a lovely night in Baliceaux, a non frequented deserted island….reminded us of the Bahamas. Then down to Mustique…Beautiful. We found our first play park in pristine Mustique and the boys loved it.
We sort of got the Caribbean wrong . Arriving in Grenada, one of the cheapest places in the Carib was not appreciated, as we were not used to the currency. 1 Eastern Carib Dollar was worth some 20-25 pence,(depending which day you exchanged!!) so when offered a pizza for 40 dollars we thought that was expensive. However, a Pizza in Bequia was 65 dollars!!
My advice would be to go to Mustique first (200 dollars for 3 days mooring) where I took the boys to the Firefly for morning coffee and Guava juice for a cool 50 dollars. Everywhere seems cheap after that and it’s just a pleasure heading south as it gets cheaper and cheaper.
While in Mustique we heard that some friends, James and Nic on Lost Horizon were in Bequia, so having missed them in N Spain decided to head the 15 miles back to Bequia to see them. Nic had her sister and Niece on board and James had assembled a small flotilla of 3 boats all heading to Grenada for the Sailing Festival. We all sailed to Petit Nevis for the evening and had James on board for drinks. As he said they were all having dinner with Hans and Cathy on Summertime, but as we had our “Balls and chains”, we weren’t invited. I always liked James for his direct approach. There’s something very honest about it.
We all headed south and met up again after a few nights in Chatham Bay, Union Island, then headed back to Grenada where James and his crew were sailing in the Sailing Festival.
Well, Amanda kindly allowed me to sail and we all had a great time. Lost Horizon won the races, we went to regatta parties and after a week James won the Regatta. This is basically how he spends his winter…Racing and winning, and has been doing that for 20 odd years. There were many prizes which were generously given away to the crew. Lost Horizon kindly gave us a new 2hp outboard engine which was on our shopping list. Much appreciated and the boys now have an engine they can learn on….Thanks James.
Lost Horizon and Summertime headed north for the round Martinique race and Alex and Fran on Chao Lay stayed with us in Grenada. We had a few dinners together and really enjoyed ourselves. They were both very good with the boys and we all had a good time.
We were preparing to leave Grenada when we noticed a lump on Louis. Well, that was a shock. We went to the doctor who referred us to the hospital where we has some tests done. The prognosis was, to our relief, a hernia and a week later Louis was on the operating table having it removed. We decided to stay in Grenada for another week for recovery, which happened smoothly with no secondary infection.
Whilst travelling to and from Hospital we got to see a different side of Grenada, which we really quite liked…except for all the rain. We travelled by bus, which was just great. Private minivans with operator’s licences, a scout and pumping stereo. For 2.50 per person you can travel anywhere and each operator is so keen for business you rarely wait more than 5 minutes for a ride. It’s a system that works really well and I’m sure there’s much to learn from the success of the Caribbean public transport system.
While were on it…images of Grenada….the incredibly smart Police uniform, peaked cap, navy with red striped trousers / skirt, crisp light blue shirt, and highly polished shoes…it just commands respect. The polite and courteous nature of the locals….everyone says good morning, good afternoon etc and people reply, good afternoon, good morning etc The lush nature of the island, wherever you look there’s food hanging from the trees bananas, paw paw, mangoes, nutmeg, sapodilla, star fruit, avocados, tamarind, passion fruit, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, sour sop, jackfruit etc,
I took Louis up to the hospital for the last time and his stitches looked good. It was time to Leave and head West.
We left Grand Anse Grenada at 4pm on 19/2. The forecast was for building winds with a large 4m northly swell due within 12 hours. We headed NW to give us room to bear away if the swell became untenable. As it happened I think we were far enough west to avoid the swell when it came and made a fast passage headed for Bonaire with a possible stop in Los Roques, a beautiful group of coral islands on route, but in Venezuelan waters. Having read the entry procedures it looked like we would have to go down to mainland Venezuela to clear out, so decided to head straight to Bonaire. We had great fishing with our new hand lines. A double strike of Wahoo, 15 and 10kg, a small Barracuda , and while we were eating that a massive 50KG Wahoo….fantastic.
We arrived in Bonaire at close to midnight on 21/2 having made daily runs of 186miles, 178 miles and 51 miles in the last 6 hours.
Bonaire was really beautiful and we arrived at Carnival…which seemed a good excuse for the population to enjoy a few jars and all were merry. The water was crystal clear and we all enjoyed swimming off the boat and swimming to the beach a 100 yards away. We used our new engine and broke it in slowly with the boys driving. JJ now calls this his engine…I’m not sure about that!
Curacao was just a 35 mile hop so we had a sedate sail with just the Genoa up heading downwind. As we arrived we were buzzed by the Customs helicopter, a reminder of the dangerous waters we were now approaching.
While in the Caribbean we had started to read in earnest about the pacific and the passages to Panama through the western Caribbean sea. It looked like we would have to modify our initial plans.
The first major concern is Piracy. Although people have a romantic image of pirates, there’s nothing romantic about a poor drugged up fisherman touting a weapon threatening your families existence. The Piracy in Venezuela is real and armed robbery happens on a lottery basis. Most travel through the area with no trouble, but some loose all. For me it is too much of a risk with the boys on board. We will go there another time. There are plenty of islands in the Pacific.
Columbia has its own security issues although if you travel well offshore Piracy should not be an issue. Cartagena is relatively secure and is well policed. The only obstacle with the offshore passage plan is the weather. It is known as one of the worlds 5 windiest passages with large confused seas, and so choosing the right weather window for this is critical, but I think we will plan on an offshore passage to Cartagena.
It is now apparent, having read about anchoring in the Pacific, that we can expect the average anchoring depth to be 20 meters…although that was written by a monohull sailor and hopefully we can reduce that to say 15 meters with our shallow draft…..and as such our ground tackle is not sufficient.
I have sourced a new anchor, chain and shackles and need to place the order for delivery in Panama. Our problem is that we have no Windlass, so hauling up 200 ft chain and a 25kg anchor is going to be tough, but I have a plan. Just for the technically minded we have elected to run with 5/16th high test chain with a working load of 3900lbs. That is equivalent to 8mm but is strong enough. We have selected a technical anchor called a Rochna, which seems to rate highly in testing and everyone I’ve met who has one swears by them. Our plan is 50 ft chain in 5 meters water, 100ft in 10 meters etc. The point of the chain is just to stop seabed abrasion on the nylon rode. Nylon will last 5 minutes on a coral head, its got to be chain. We will place our order while here in Curacao and hope it will be in Panama by the time we get there towards the end of March.
So were sitting here in Piscaderabaai waiting for the weather to clear to give us a clear 4 day passage to Cartagena and our first visit to South America. We have to spend a morning clearing customs, immigration and file our float plan with the harbour authority, then we are clear to leave. On arriving in Cartagena we will use an agent to clear in as the paperwork starts to get pretty daunting, but were all looking forward to seeing what is reputed to be a most beautiful city.
We enjoyed our stay in the Carib and for the first time really started cruising. We met the same boats in different locations and had many good evenings with extraordinary people. The Boys met, played and said goodbye to new friends and we all moved on in different ways. We were lucky enough to meet a few club members who gave advise and recommendations and we hope to see some again our travels west. We are in a new zone now, committed to Panama and the Pacific, and the people we are meeting are in the same zone with the same level of dedication and the same challenges ahead. We are entering a difficult phase and I for one will be glad when we are through the canal and into the Pacific….
All aboard Pegasus
See our Photographs of our time in the Caribbean at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/103419419518034555314/TheCaribbeanAndBeyond?authkey=Gv1sRgCNftkMa-isGJugE&feat=directlink