Monthly Archives: January 2010
After we left Bonaire we experienced some fairly lumpy seas and high winds of 25 – 30kts. The seas were only 2 to 3 m high which for that part of the world wasn’t bad; it changed!
We made good time and covered 165 miles in 24 hours, which was a new record for Camomile. We were off the golf of Venezuela and needed to travel about 150 miles west before we could drop down towards the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama. We had heard about the square waves close inland and intended to stay well away. For the next 24 hours we enjoyed a good sail in a F5/6 with 2 kts of current helping us along and we travelled 177 miles in that 24 hours, another new record for Camomile.
The following 24 hours was a different story. In the middle of the afternoon the winds started picking up to a F7 and the seas started to build. We were heading out to the 4000m-depth contour line, 125 miles off the coast where, we were advised, the conditions should have been better. We had already heard of boats you had cut the corner off and were only 50 miles off the coast and experiencing huge waves. By 10pm we started to head south and shortened the sails. We only had little pocket-handkerchiefs each side but we were still doing 6kts. The wind was very strong and blowing 40kt+ that was now a F8 full gale. The seas were horrendous, I’ve never seen seas like it, 4 and 5 metres high. Bill had a couple of hours sleep but then decided to stay on deck because the boat was being buffered by the wind and waves. We kept expecting the winds to subside because a gale doesn’t usually continue for that long but they got worse. By 2pm the following day we were getting winds of 45kt with gusts of 50kt+ that’s F10 storm force. Our highest recorded gust was 55.6kts! Thankfully all this was coming from behind and Camomile was coping fairly well but some of the waves were pushing us sideways beam on to the sea. We experienced several semi knockdowns so Bill put a drogue out behind us. This is a large cone shaped bag held together by webbing and had the effect of pulling our stern into the waves to keep us up right. We were both very tired, having not had very much sleep, as we went into the 2nd night of the storm. The decks were awash with water but the worse was to come. Bill was down below trying to get a few hours sleep. I had noticed one wave which seemed higher than the others coming towards us. It was breaking as it approached and hit the boat with tremendous force. Luckily we had the washboards in the front of the hatch but the top of the hatch was still open. I pulled it closed really quickly but we still had a lot of water down below. It dropped about 6 inches of water in the cockpit and then it swept away, I just caught my book and binos before they went over the side. If I haven’t been clipped on I would have gone with them. I’m afraid I just became hysterical; I had had enough and just wanted to go home. The water that had come in had soaked the cooker and the gas wouldn’t light so I couldn’t even make myself a cup of tea!
After that Bill refused to let me go on deck but put on his dry suit and stood watch harnessed into the cockpit on shortened straps. By this time we were using the Hydrovane self steering gear, the electric autohelm and the drogue to keep Camomile’s beam away from what were now dangerously breaking waves. Even with all of this it was necessary to stay near the wheel in case something failed which would mean that she would quickly have to be hand steered before the next big wave came along. Bill managed a little sleep on deck. While it was my watch and I just put my head up through the hatch every 5 minutes to check for shipping. I could see if anything was coming on the radar. It was impossible to sleep properly because we didn’t know what was going to happen next.
The next morning, after 36 hours, the storm continued. The waves, which were now the size of double decker buses, were mesmerising. The drogue had worked well and kept our aft quarter in the sea but the down side was it had slowed us right down to 3 – 4 kts overnight. It didn’t really matter because we didn’t want to get to Porvenir in the dark but we only had 137 miles to go so we wanted to speed up again. Bill decided the drogue would have to come in and we were going to motor sail south to try and get out of the storm, which we were convinced was following us. We started to winch in the drogue but we got a riding turn in the rope around the winch. We were tired and not thinking straight we should have put it around a second winch or tied another rope around it but we didn’t. The drogue slackened in between waves and Bill decided to take the rope off the winch but it started to pull and he couldn’t get it back on. I was holding the bitter end and tried to hold onto it but it was too strong. Bill said to let go or I would lose my fingers. So we lost it.
It was our lowest point. We still had F9 and huge seas. We continued with our plan and started to motorsail south. After an hour we turned the engine off and started sailing again as the wind dropped to F8. By 6pm nearly 48 hours after the gale had started the wind dropped to F7 and by 10pm F6. The sea had gone back to moderate and we were able to get some proper sleep. The next morning the wind dropped right away as we got closer to the land. We’d pulled the sails right out again and arrived in Porvenir just after 11.30am.
Through all this I had still ran my radio net on the SSB every morning at 10am calling each boat in turn and listened to all the tales of woe from the other boats. Some of the other women were feeling like me, that they had had enough and just wanted to go home, it was great to be able to chat to one another. All the boats arrived safely but there was quite a bit of damage across the fleet. Of the 5 boats who had Hydrovane self steering gear 3 had bent shafts which just shows what a tremendous force that sea had in it. If it hadn’t been for the drogue I think ours would have been bent too. It was a shame we lost it but we’ll certainly buy another one, it may have saved us from other damage.
So we survived the worst 48 hours of our lives, sadly I didn’t take any photos. Throughout our ordeal we felt confident Camomile would bring us through. We later learnt that the Venezuelan peninsular is known as the northern Cape Horn, well I certainly won’t be going round the southern one now!
Latitude 12°09.1 North Longitude 068°16.7 West
Our time in the Windwards had come to an end. We didn’t have time to go further south, we’ll have to save the other islands for another time. We left at 7.00 and motored around to the west of the island. Fai Tira and Bionic were behind us. The wind was a bit fluky and a couple of squalls came over but by 9.00 the engine was off and we were sailing along nicely with the twizzle up.
Our usual Dolphin escort appeared for half an hour or so in the afternoon. There was a nice F3/4 blowing from behind and we travelled 127 miles in the first 24 hours. By 22.00 on the second night the wind had picked up to a F7 and we reefed the sails down. We did 159 miles in the second 24 hours. Although it was good to have a fast passage it meant we were going to arrive in the dark. We tried to slow the boat down a bit but with such good winds she raced forward. Fai Tira caught us up and went on ahead. We rounded the headland at 2.00 in the dark and crept up to the moorings. Fai Tira had found a buoy and we followed slowly and picked up a buoy too at 3.45. Time for bed.
The next morning we awoke to a great view of the town and a lovely bar on the landing stage. As usual we went in search of the customs. We had all our papers stamped and signed and then had to go to the police station to get our passport stamped by immigration. If you think EU bureaucracy is bad, come to the Caribbean. We had a look around the town but it was election day and a lot of shops were shut but I found a great supermarket. I hadn’t seen a proper supermarket since Martinique so it was good to stock up with lots of nice food.
Some of the other BWR boats arrived later that day and went into the marina. We took the dinghy along to see what we were missing.
Firstly it was a good mile out of town plus it was full of gin palaces and expensive, we decided to stay out on the buoy. This boat has a familiar name!!
Later that evening someone won the election, we weren’t sure whom but a lot of noise was being made. Car horns were sounded as they paraded up and down the street.
We watched it all from Camomile’s cockpit with Pete and John from Fai Tira and Debs and Eileen from Scot Free with a few bottles..
The next morning we bought a pass to go snorkelling. Bonaire is one of the best dive sights in the world and once you’ve bought your pass you can go where you like. Debs on Scot Free is a qualified diving instructor and she had arranged to take some of the others diving.
We all got into 3 dinghies and motored across to the island opposite. Bill and I weren’t joining the divers but we snorkelled over the top of them. The coral gardens were beautiful. I watched a turtle surface and then swam along with it; they are so graceful. There were so many fish of different size and colour it was spectacular and the water was so warm it was like a tepid bath. We walked along the beach for a while then returned to the dinghies and motored back to the boats.
We spent most of the next day doing more shopping and preparing the boat for the passage to the San Blas islands which we had been warned could be rough. We took a walk along the waterfront to the customs house to check out and get another set of papers for the next port.
|We stayed 6 days in Dominica and loved it but it was time to move on. The windward Islands sweep southwards like a string of stepping stones with the Atlantic pounding the shore on the windward side and the calmer Caribbean sea sparkling in the sun on the leeward side. The British named them the Windwards because to get there from many of their other islands you had to beat to windward.
Martinique was the next island we came to. It is part of France and we were back to using the Euro again.
We anchored in Fort de France, which is a big town with lots of shops and a big Carrefour supermarket so I was able to stock up. The anchorage was a bit rolly so we moved around to Trois Ilets, which was a pretty anchorage in a little bay. We went ashore and found a very French little town. The next morning we enjoyed French croissants and French bread for breakfast. As it was Sunday there wasn’t any thing open so we had a big washing session. We had quite a production line going. I was washing, Bill was rinsing and then we mangled together.
|The next morning we left early to sail to St Lucia. Once clear of Martinique we put the sails up and had a great sail south. St Lucia is an independent nation with a British tradition; it’s very mountainous and lush. We arrived at Rodney bay at lunchtime.
The first person to greet us was the fruit and veg man in his little boat covered in flags, I bought some oranges, grapefruit and mangos. Shortly afterwards more BWR boats arrived, Blue Magic, Jackamy, Enchantress, Fai Tira and Lucy Alice. We took the dinghy to the corner of the bay with some of the others and found a great snorkel site. Later that evening we all made our way over to Fai Tira for Pete’s birthday party.
John, his sailing partner, was trying out his new recipe for rum punch. All was going well until he ran out of ice, then he ran out of fruit juice so he added more rum … there were quite a few sore heads in the morning.
We all went ashore to register with immigration and find an internet café. Luckily, Bill had to go back to the boat for something because as the wind had increased to 35kts he found Blue Magic was dragging. He held onto her using the dinghy and called to a nearby boat to radio them. Fortunately they hadn’t gone far and were able to quickly return and re-anchor. Once he returned we continued our shopping and found a chandlery and hardware store so Bill was able to buy some supplies for his job list.
We had lunch in the internet café and in the afternoon we found our friends John and Joyce Easteal on their boat Fair Encounter in the marina, they had completed the ARC in November.
Wednesday morning found us motoring down the west side of St Lucia to Soufriere bay with Blue Magic, Jackamy and Lucy Alice. Soufriere is a small town dominated by the towering twin Pitons. The staggering beauty of Petit Piton 2500’ and Gros Piton 2600’ when approaching by sea is superb. We picked up a buoy at the base of petit Piton and a boat boy took a line to the beach to try us to a tree. Sounds a bit risky but we felt quite safe. ‘Excelsior Tours’ (Mark on Blue Magic) arranged with the boat boy to take us all on a tour to the Sulphur Springs area. All 8 of us got into his ‘dug out’ with an outboard and he took us ashore to meet the taxi.
Soufriere was a charming town with many old Creole buildings with balconies. We all got into the taxi and were driven to the Sulphur Springs, which looked like a scene straight from Hell with barren, brightly coloured earth and bubbling pools. The smell of bad eggs was awful. A very interesting guide walked around the site with us and told us about the history. More scenic and pleasant were the naturally hot Diamond baths built by Louis 16th.
The baths were set amid a beautiful tropical garden and were fed by piping hot water from the volcano coming down a waterfall into two huge baths. We spent about half an hour relaxing in the very soft water although we didn’t need the heat. The water disappeared over the edge at the other end into the garden. After we got changed the driver drove us back to the anchorage. We managed to get into the dugout from the beach, without tipping it over or falling in, and back onboard.
|We needed to keep going because we had less than a week left in the Caribbean, so the next day we left the buoys at 6.30 and spent the day sailing to the Grenadines.
We sailed around the East side of St Vincent to pick up a better wind. We put in a reef while sailing across the gap in a F6. It took most of the day to sail past the island. The wind gradually died in the afternoon and by 3.30pm we had to put the engine on. We arrived at the island of Bequia at 5pm where there were quite a lot of BWR yachts. The next morning we went ashore to check-in with the customs and immigration, which would cover us as far as Union Island. Port Elizabeth in Admiralty bay is Bequia’s only town. There were some colourful buildings along the waterfront that contained every thing one needed, restaurants, shops, supermarkets, several chandlers (which had to be inspected closely!) and a great indoor market.
We got chatting to a Rastafarian running his stall while another one was asleep under it. I bought some lovely fruit but I probably paid a lot more than I ought to have.
As we walked backed along the waterfront vendors were selling t-shirts hanging from lines in the trees. In the afternoon we took the dinghy across to the Devils Table and snorkelled over some rocks with beautiful fish amongst them. In the evening we went for a meal with Enchantress, Lucy Alice, Briet and Bionic to a restaurant called Coco’s place. There was a live band playing and we had a really good evening. Most of us went back to Enchantress, a Scottish boat, for ‘a wee dram’ after.
|We left Bequia with Jackamy, Fai Tira and Bionic. We all had a splendid sail to the Tobaco Cays.
Blue Magic left a little after us but they soon caught us up. We had a wonderful 4-hour sail to the cays waiting until the last minute to take the sails down. Tobago cays are a group of small deserted islands protected from the sea by a horseshoe shaped reef.
The water and reef colours are a kaleidoscope of gold, brown, blue, turquoise and green. We dropped our anchor in 5M of turquoise water. I watched it glide through the clear water to the bottom. We got the snorkel gear out and swam across to Baradel island, which has a protected turtle area in front of it where sea grass has been planted for the turtles to feed on. Within minutes I spotted several turtles grazing and as one of them came to the surface to take a breath I swam alongside it, it was wonderful. We spent an hour or so snorkelling and saw 7 turtles in total.
As the next day was Sunday we decided to take a picnic lunch onto one of the islands but first we all wanted to snorkel over the reef. The seas were quite rough outside the reef but on the lagoon side the water was very clear and calm. We tied the dinghies to well placed buoys and jumped in. The reef was a wonderful sight under the water. Beautiful coral heads of differing colours mingled with underwater plants where the many fish swam in the coral garden. Afterwards we took the dinghies onto petit Bateau island and had our picnic together. We lay in the sun for the rest of the afternoon and went back to Blue Magic for drinks in the evening. Maybe this bit is a holiday!
Monday morning we left the beautiful Tobago cays and motored across to Union Island, picking our way carefully through the gap between the reefs. I walked up to the airport to check out and get our clearance papers. Then I wandered around the market buying fresh fruit and veg for the sail to Bonaire.
Unfortunately for one of the BWR boats called Roundabout, there’s a reef in the middle of the harbour that happened to be called Roundabout Reef. David managed to run aground on it but as he was backing off boat boys suddenly surrounded him. They all put lines onto his boat and started pulling in all directions making the situation worse. I heard him calling for help and quickly ran to the café where I knew Blue Magic and Jackamy were sitting. Mark and Paul ran to their dinghies to go and help. Fortunately David was off by the time they got there but the salvage negotiations were just starting. After long talks the US$3000 came down to EC$800 about £200. David was very lucky.
The Leeward islands span 200 miles and include 10 major islands. There are some sophisticated continental islands as well as some under populated ones where you feel at the outer edge of the world. We visited two quite different islands. We left Antigua to enjoy a boisterous sail to Deshaies (pronounced day-hay) on the northwest corner of Guadeloupe, the largest of the Leewards. We anchored next to the Spanish BW boat called Bionic and invited Jaime and Carmen on board for a drink.
The next day we went ashore with Jaime and Carmen to register with immigration, which thankfully was just filling in a form on the computer. Our next stop was the tourist office to find out about the botanical gardens, which were a mile or so outside the town and uphill. The Lonely planet said they provide transport and sure enough after the lady in the tourist office called
them they sent down their minibus for us. The gardens were beautiful with thousands of species of plants with everything from cacti to beautiful orchids and magnificent trees. There was a walk-in aviary where we could feed the brightly coloured paraqueets from little cups with a kind of liquid that they seemed to love. There were also some beautiful rosy flamingos standing around one of the numerous ponds. We spent several hours wandering around the path that meandered through the gardens to enable you to see it at its best. Many of the species that were growing freely in the gardens could only be houseplants in the UK, and they were growing beside huge banana plants and other specimens. We sat in the beautiful restaurant over looking a superb waterfall and beyond to the Caribbean sea where we enjoyed a delicious lunch together. We spent a bit of time in the gift shop and bought Bill a new hat (another one) and me a beautiful pair of sandals made of shells (more shoes!)
We were given a lift back to the town where we found a supermarket so I could stock up with some supplies. As Guadeloupe is a French island we were back to using Euros. We took our shopping back to Camomile in the dinghy.
The next day, after we had taken delivery of some delicious French bread and croissants, we left Deshaies just after 9am. We motored 10 miles down the west side of Guadeloupe to Pigeon Island, which is surrounded by the Cousteau National Marine park. We anchored close to the mainland in the recommended anchorage and took the dinghy over to the park.
Once in the water we found an amazing selection of fish of every colour and size. We spent several hours snorkelling before going back to the boat to watch the sunset.
The next morning we got up early and set off for Iles des Saintes, an archipelago off the southern tip of Guadeloupe. Imagine the natural beauty of the Isles of Scilly combined with French culture and Caribbean weather and you have Iles des Saintes. Unfortunately there wasn’t any wind so we motored all the way. We arrived at lunchtime and anchored next to Bionic off Le Bourg (which literally means ‘the town’) on Terre d’en Haut. The BWR Australian boat Gaultine III arrived shortly after and the crews from the 3 boats spent New Years Eve together.
We found a little Italian and sat outside for a delicious meal. A band set up in the little square and started playing at 10pm and continued through until midnight. People from the whole island were there dancing the night away.
The crew of Gaultine III decided to go back to their boat but Jaime and Carmen from Bionic shared a bottle of champagne with us at midnight while we were surrounded by glorious fireworks. We’re looking forward to a great year ahead. Happy New Year to everyone.
The next morning there was quite a bit of swell coming across the anchorage so we lifted the anchor and motored across the bay.
We re-anchored behind one of the other islands called Ilet Cabrit where we had a bit more protection. We were very close to the beach and were able to swim over to it. We took our snorkel masks and enjoyed a wonderful view of the fish swimming around the rocks below us. We really enjoy snorkelling. When you are on top of the water looking down it feels like you’re flying.
We left Iles des Saintes at lunchtime the next day.
We had a great sail across the ‘gap’ to Dominica the next island, completely different to French Guadalope. We were met by Albert, a boat boy, about a mile offshore who offered us his boat services. He followed us into Prince Rupert bay and showed us the best place to anchor. We had heard of the Caribbean boat boys and had been wary of them but Albert was in the pilot guide and turned out to be very helpful and knowledgeable about the area. The town of Portsmouth, on the banks of the bay, is the second largest on the island although it only consisted of a couple of streets with a lot of run down housing; what a difference to it’s English namesake. Some of the people are living in little more than a garden shed but they are happy. The people are very poor but rich in their surroundings.
We agreed with Albert that he would take us and Jaime and Carmen up the Indian river the following day, he arrived at 2.30pm as agreed and we all got into his boat. The waterfront was strewn with ‘dead’ boats that had been washed ashore in a hurricane more than 10 years ago. Once inside the entrance of the river Albert turned off the engine and got his oars out because engines aren’t authorized on the river. It quickly narrowed and huge swamp bloodwood trees on both sides soon overhung us, their massive roots spread out above the soil and down into the water, twisting and tangling into wavy designs.
Long vines dangle into the water and we saw crabs on both banks. The trees formed a cathedral like canopy above us. This, along with the sounds of birds and insects created a magical quality. We saw many birds and Albert even managed to spot an Iguana for us high in the trees above.
This photo was taken with a zoom lens. It took about an hour to row to the top where a bar had been created and we sat and drank the most beautiful Rum punch. Albert explained that many of the scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 were filmed on the island and several on the river itself. We emerged from the river at dusk and the light took on an enchanting glow.
The next day the 4 of us went on a day trip around the island. We headed out of Portsmouth into the surrounding hills. Our driver Winston was very knowledgeable about the area; he stopped the minibus several times to show us a variety of things just growing beside the road. There were towering royal palms and seemingly endless banana plantations.
Winston explained that the blue bags covering the bananas were to protect them from insects and other problems. Each tree only grows one hand of bananas and once it’s been cut the tree is cut down and a new seedling growing alongside replaces it. The roadside was bursting with red-hued hibiscus and huge Poinsettias. We also saw lemon grass, bay leaf trees, cocoa plants, nutmegs, pineapples, mangos and papayas all growing along the road. Winston stopped the minibus many times for us to get out and see all these things.
He hacked the top off a green coconut with a machete for us to try the coconut water inside (I wasn’t very keen on it). We stopped by a grave, which Winston said was a past president who also happened to be his uncle! Winston liked to toot at everyone he knew, which was half the island, and also at all those who got in his way, which was the other half of the island! He probably used his hooter more times on that journey than we have in our whole lifetime of driving. We stopped at the top of a volcano and looked down onto stunning views of the Atlantic coast then drove along it to the Carib Indian territory. The 3700-acre reserve is home to the only remaining tribe of Carib Indians in the Caribbean.
Their homes were very basic but traditional.
We continued down the coast to Sineku where we stopped for lunch. The restaurant had the most stunning views over looking the Atlantic below. There wasn’t a menu; we were given a choice of fish or chicken. Jaime and I chose the fish and Carmen and Bill chose the chicken. When it arrived it was very traditional food without any thing we recognised. I wish I could say it was delicious but it wasn’t. The fish was salted cod and we really couldn’t eat it, although we tried, the Caribs have completely different tastes to westerners. We did have the most delicious freshly squeezed juice, which I think was Guava. While we were sitting eating our meal a pretty little gecko came to watch us hoping for a spare morsel. We got back in the minibus and headed back inland again through more rain forest. We were shown where the scene was filmed of Johnny Depp balancing on a wheel rolling through the countryside in the film Pirates of the Caribbean 2. The Dominicans are quite proud of how much of that film was shot on their island.
We continued to one of Dominica’s natural wonders, the deep Emerald pool at the base of a 40ft waterfall. It’s reached by a five minute walk along a jungle like pathway whose paved sections date from its original use as a Carib trail. The pool would have been wonderful for a dip but we just had a paddle instead. We walked back to the car park via the scenic route, which took about half an hour. That was the end of the tour; it had been a long day of 7 hours driving. The roads aren’t great in Dominica, luckily Winston knew where most of the potholes were and managed to avoid them. We got back to the boat tired but well informed about life on Dominica. It isn’t everyone’s idea of paradise but we loved the island and it’s friendly people who love their life and their island.
The next day Albert took us snorkelling around in the next bay. We drifted along with the current and Albert picked us up at the other end. Bionic left later that day but more of the BWR boats started arriving.
On the Wednesday, which was our 5th day there, we all went ashore to Big Papas for a barbecue and ‘jump up’. It was a great evening with 12 of us joining in the dancing to the very loud music. There were also some strange smells drifting around from the large cigarettes everyone was smoking!