Monday, 28 December 2009

St Kitts

We had a very "Mediterranean" sail from Martinique to Nevis - fickle winds from all directions! We checked in at Charleston, a very picturesque town and then sailed up to Frigate Bay on St Kitts the next day. Meeting up with friends, we spent Christmas Eve at the Shiggidy Shack with rum punch and limbo dancing. Since then unusual weather has ruled our schedule - we've had endless southerly winds which have brought big swells into all the bays and made anchoring very rolly and uncomfortable. It's Carnival here and we missed the big Jouvert celebration on Boxing Day but there's more going on over New Year. We can't complain too much, it's warm and we've had some fabulous snorkelling in White House Bay on a wreck.

Monday, 21 December 2009

On to Martinique

We had a fantastic long walk (4 hours +) across to the Atlantic side of St Lucia ending up at Cas en Bas Beach and then taking the coastline further north. It was a wonderful mixture of scenery and the weather was perfect, not too hot and a nice onshore breeze. It really is a stunning island.
Friday we checked out and on Saturday we sailed up to Martinique. Irony made good time and we arrived 4 hours later. After a lunchtime beer at a cafe we hit the supermarkets to stock up on French wines, cheeses and other European goodies. It's far cheaper on the French islands despite the bad exchange rate of £ to euro.
Our dinghy has once again sprung a leak and has had more tlc and glueing. Bad timing so close to Christmas as we are meeting up with friends in St Kitts. We sail off there tomorrow morning and hope to arrive by Thursday. We're not expecting a fast passage as the winds are predicted to be light.

Monday, 30 November 2009

On our way north


We sailed up to St George's, Grenada and then on to Carriacou to see some old friends. On the way we stopped at Moliniere Bay to look at the underwater sculpture garden. We spent a night at anchor off Ile de Ronde which was fabulous if rather rolly. The water was crystal clear, the best we have seen in the Caribbean and the snorkelling excellent. Tomorrow we sail up to St Lucia.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Back in the water

As week 7 of our haulout began on Monday we were working frantically in 2 days of torrential rain to be ready for our splash time of 9:30am on Tuesday morning. Having worked until after midnight we got up at 6am to find our charger had blown a fuse and our batteries would need a minimum of 4/5 hours charging to be full to go back in the water. We talked to another boat near us who were going to launch at 1pm and they very kindly agreed to swop the slot with us.
It was a tense time when they finally lowered us into the water but, after all the work and modifications on the shafts, we stayed afloat and went out to anchor in Chaguaramas Bay. What an incredible relief!
On Wednesday we finished our last errands and persuaded customs to allow us to check out and spend the night in Scotland Bay before setting off for Grenada on Thursday morning. We had a very enjoyable late lunch onboard Irony with our friends, Scott and Colleen from Argo Navis and set off. We were at anchor having our first swim off the boat in over 7 weeks by sunset (5:30pm here now).
We slowly got ourselves going on Thursday morning, getting the boat ready to sail again. We left Scotland Bay at 11am and arrived into St George's, Grenada at 11pm. We had a cracking sail, Irony clearly wanted to prove that all our hard work of the last few weeks was worth it! We averaged 7 knots, seeing over 9 knots at times. The weather was perfect and the night stunning.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Birthday Blues

We had to cancel our splash today and so begins our 6th week out of the water. Today's launch date was already looking in doubt on Saturday as we still didn't have all the parts back Nic is having fabricated for both the keel mechanism and the shafts. He then discovered, in re-assembling the shafts, that they appear to be misaligned slightly. We decided that, with everything out and while we are in a place where we can get things sorted, it was best to tackle the problem head-on and make whatever modifications are necessary. So here we are and it's my birthday today - celebrations are deferred until we're back in the water!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Hell on the Hard

Today is the start of our 5th week out of the water and we haven't had a day off. Working long hours in the heat and humidity is no fun at all. Irony seems enormous out of the water - it takes hours to paint the hull and it's had at least 6 coats of varying paints (more in some places). Just tackling re-antifouling would have been enough but we've also had the dent to sort out and issues to deal with on both shafts and the keel mechanism. Not only have we had the mess outside but a large part of the inside of the boat has been ripped apart and disrupted. The yard have been fantastic but progress is slow and we are completely exhausted. We are now booked to splash next Monday, if we manage to be ready then it will be my birthday present to be back in the water!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Clash of Steel

No, we haven't crashed the boat! We went to a steel band competition on Saturday night called "Pan, Parang and Pork" at Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain! Parang is traditional festive music from Venezuela and provided our entertainment during a delicious dinner. Then the "clash of steel" began with 6 steel bands performing for the judges. They were excellent, one even managed a impressive rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah! Getting back to the boat at 2am did not make it an easy work day on Sunday.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Work, work, work

Having hit some sort of underwater wreck over a year ago, we had a dent in the side of Irony and wanted this checked out. We have had to dismantle the saloon and remove one of the fuel tanks to access the area inside the boat so, although the surveyor thought it was safe to leave it, we decided to have the piece cut out and replaced. We are lucky that we are in a place accustomed to working on everything from small yachts to huge commercial vessels and there is no shortage of skilled, experienced professionals. We had a great team who arrived in the early morning and remained smiling despite having to finish the job after dark.
The mess and disruption is unimaginable inside the boat. We had screened off the area as best we could but, to keep down the heat and smoke, they had a huge industrial fan blowing all the dust and dirt everywhere. That combined nicely with several guys coming in and out all day with large boots on and a torrential rainshower in the middle of the proceeding turning the boatyard into a lake. Halfway through the cutting process we had a fire, put out fairly quickly but it filled the saloon with smoke.
The final blow today was finding out that it's going take 2 weeks and a small fortune to get some bearings for the props. Our two week haul out is now turning into four weeks.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Divali

Saturday was a public holiday – Divali, the Hindu festival of light. It’s a huge celebration here as there is a large Indian population and we joined a group going to the village of Felicity in the central plains area of the island to check it all out. It was great to have a break from the work and change of scene.

We were invited to a temple where we were treated to dancers and Tassa drummers. After a delicious meal served on banana leaves, we explored all the streets of the village. Bamboo is used to create arches and huge sculptures of Ganesh, cobras etc. They take gloopy mud and stick little clay oil lamps along the constructions to light them up. Bamboo arches across the roads, strung with lanterns, had oil lamps inside. Prayer flags and millions of lights adorn all the houses and gardens. The villagers were dressed up in glittering saris and elaborate brocade kurtas; they generously plied us bags of traditional sweets and other gifts as we walked past. Alarmingly there were firecrackers going off everywhere and home-constructed fireworks of bamboo and kerosene.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

and Moves!

Well, it was quite a day yesterday. We got up at dawn (5.30am) to get to Port of Spain for Nic’s visa appointment at the US Embassy. We thought we’d allowed masses of time to get there and be able to seek out a coffee somewhere before the appointment at 7.30am. The capital is pretty ugly and soulless but there is the odd gorgeous Victorian gingerbread villa tucked away between the modern buildings; typically the embassy is a hideous fortress. When we arrived there were dozens of people already queuing outside, so no chance for some refreshment and I had to leave Nic as they wouldn’t let me in despite my US passport.
I returned to the boatyard to discover Nic had the keys to the boat with him! Then I was accosted by the yard manager who said they had to move us so they could get a trimaran out of the storage area near us. There was an hour or more of panic as I couldn’t get into the locked boat to prepare for going back in the slings. The travel lift showed up and they were about to go ahead when Nic ambled through the gate! He had to raise the keel and the switch chose that moment to die. To fix it necessitated dismantling some woodwork inside while everyone was poised for action. Then there was a torrential downpour soaking us all. By the time the whole saga was over it was midday and we were able to have our first food and drink since we got up. Then back to work until nearly 8pm.
So we are now in a new position in the working boatyard – very industrial and grim. Our hearts sank initially because we were sitting over mud and huge pools of oily water. A small tip to some of the workers produced a couple of loads of clean gravel which has made a more workable surface under the boat. Miles now to the loos and showers, thankfully we have a bike to use.

Lots of work to do. In addition to the antifouling, we have to do repairs on the props, shafts, keel and we have to take out one of the fuel tanks to inspect a ding we have underwater. This means the entire saloon is being dismantled - currently the back 2 cabins are piled to the ceiling with everything. That leaves us part of the cockpit (piled with paint cans, brushes, rollers etc) to eat in and yesterday it was dripping with all the rain we had.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Moves

Just so you don’t think our cruising life is all “plain sailing” ...we were being moved to a new spot last Thursday morning and, although we were originally promised 4 days to work on the keel while it was down over the ditch, that gave us 2 days. So the pressure was on to get the inaccessible areas prepared and painted.

We started work at 6am Wednesday morning – grinding and sanding – and put the first coat of paint on at 5.30pm. That was all on an hour’s breakfast and an hour for tea. After 2 hours of painting we showered, had some dinner, then did coat #2 at 9.30pm which took over an hour. I should mention at this point that there was a BBQ going on under the trees beside us - just to torture us! A short sleep was interrupted by the alarm at 1.30am and coat #3. A little more sleep and up at 5.30am to do Coat #4. At 9.30am we started coat #5, hoping to get it done before the travel lift would appear. At 10am the travel lift manager came along and said he'd decided to leave us where we were!

In meantime we’re enjoying the fun of using communal showers and toilets in the yard although they are much better than the primitive offering in our last boatyard in Turkey. One of the first days I found a snake in them and subsequently had to go in with a stick to make sure the coast was clear! Any water used on board has to go out via a bucket down the ladder making washing up etc a pain. Nothing can go down our drains.

We have been the centre of attraction in the yard while we’ve been marooned on our island! Everyone is apparently talking about us – typical that we don’t manage to do a normal haul out!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hauled out

Well, we’re out and the work begins. The yard have been very friendly and professional, so far so good. It is blisteringly hot...nearly 35 degrees in the shade this afternoon. We have an unusual position in the yard - over a drainage ditch so that we can have our keel down - not so good for mosquitoes. We are a little island in the middle of the road near the gate to the marina and, as a consequence, we have attracted quite a lot of attention from passers-by. We’re banked by trees on either side and it’s nice to hear the bird song but they are already “making their mark” on the decks. We are only in this spot until Thursday to get the keel box prepared and painted and then we’ll be moved to a more normal place to finish everything else.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

On to Trinidad

During our last week in Grenada we spent a lot of time scraping the hull to prepare it for our forthcoming haul out. We decided it was far better to do it in a nice anchorage than on the hard in a dusty, hot boatyard. We combined it with some wonderful snorkelling and diving (below is a picture of a huge angelfish we saw) and really enjoyed beginning to get some use from our compressor.

The night before our departure we went to the opening of a jazz club in St Georges, Pebbles. The music was excellent and we had a great time. The next afternoon we set off for Chaguaramas, Trinidad and sailed overnight under a full moon arriving early the next morning. We experienced some incredibly strong currents which, at times, required a 25 - 35 degree course change.

Trinidad is quite a change from Grenada. The anchorage is a huge bay ringed with numerous boat yards and associated facilities, all very industrial. Our view out to sea is on to gas rigs and ships. It's extremely hot here and the water is far too dirty to swim in. We had a southerly come through the bay yesterday morning which caused panic as huge waves tossed the boats around and caused a few near crashes. We have been talking to the boat yards and come to an agreement with Peakes, all being well, we will haul out on Monday.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Crisis onboard!

It was a major crisis...our big, brown teapot broke! Nic's shorts brushed it off its perch after breakfast. Considering that Irony is kept running by Nic who in turn runs on a constant supply of tea this constituted a life-threatening disaster. In the hopes of preserving what little sanity we both have left after over 7 years of life on the seas, I decided to set out on a mission to replace it.

Since our dinghy was sitting on deck after being glued again I had a challenge just getting on land let alone to a shop. Step 1 was to swim over 200 metres to shore with some clothes in a waterproof bag. Armed with a small bottle of fresh water to wash off the salt, I got dressed and stashed my wet things in the bushes. After a trek across some grassland I got onto a dirt track leading to a gated bridge across from the island where we are anchored. Having crawled through a miniscule hole under the locked gate, I then embarked on a long walk, having no idea where I was going to end up, through the countryside in the heat of the day to reach a road where I could get a local bus into town. I must have looked rather pink and damp because the Rasta’s at the roadside BBQ where I asked directions offered me a seat in the shade while I waited for the bus! Anyway, I finally got to a hardware shop and found a teapot. Then, of course, I had the long trip back including the return swim to the boat but I did make it back for afternoon tea!

To compound the lunacy, after relaying my adventure to Nic, we decided that the 10 mile round-trip walk was good exercise and set off again on Thursday to do it again together. It is a beautiful walk with millions of multi-coloured butterflies flitting over the bushes, white heron picking their way through the mudflats and horses, cows and goats grazing at the side of the track. The end of the walk reaches a village with characteristic Caribbean wooden houses in brightly painted colours engulfed by lush tropical plants. Some are little more than one room shacks with their inhabitants living incredible primitively with no electricity or running water but they are all immaculately clean and tidy.

The next day we did it all again, this time to meet up with some friends and go up north to Gouyave, the fishing capital of Grenada, where they have a fish fry every Friday. The locals block off a couple of streets, put up stalls and serve fish, fried plantain and breadfruit etc. Our return walk was in the dark under a ceiling of stars and the swim back to the boat was incredible with phosphorescence sparking off every finger.


Generally we have been enjoying a relaxed time here in Grenada. There is a huge community of boats anchored here for the summer and a wealth of activities and social events to get involved with. We even volunteered for a
tutoring programme which is organised by some cruisers here to help island kids with reading and maths. We’re a bit out of practice but thought the kids needed some English accents rather than just American! They were lovely children of ages ranging from 5 to 14 and a couple of local women (with very London accents from previously living there!) run it so we hope the cultural messages being sent out by a group of white yachties doing this are not too negative.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Carnival revisted

We had a hot sunny day for Carnival on Saturday and enjoyed a parade of brightly coloured costumes, raunchy dancing and unremitting soca music - good fun but surprisingly smaller than St Lucia's parade, perhaps due to the postponement from last Tuesday.

We are investigating haul out possibilities here but it looks like it's going to be significantly more expensive than Trinidad so we are probably going to sail down there in a week or two to have a look.
The first named storms of the season - Anna, Bill and Claudette have developed. Bill is a category 4 hurricane but has fortunately tracked north of us here.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Washed out Carnival

We sailed down from Carriacou to St Georges, Grenada on Sunday crossing over the underwater volcano, Kick 'em Jenny. It was a fast passage until we got off the coast of Grenada when we lost all the wind. We checked out the inner lagoon at St Georges but decided to anchor outside at the end of the 2 mile beautiful Grand Anse beach so we could swim. Monday/Tuesday was a holiday on the island for Carnival. We were looking forward to the big parade of bands and costumes through the streets on Tuesday afternoon but, very sadly for all the participants, organisers and street vendors, it was washed out by torrential rain. It will now be held this Saturday.

Yesterday we headed around to True Blue Bay on the south coast. Very few boats and reasonable snorkelling.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

On to Grenada and Carriacou

We have a fantastic fast sail down to Hillsborough, Carriacou yesterday and are now anchored in Tyrell Bay. It's full, full, full of yachts. St Georges, Grenada next stop for Carnival on Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

On to Bequia

We left St Lucia early Tuesday morning and sailed south, arriving in Bequia late that night. It was a great sail and we had a large pod of dolphins accompany us on our approach to St Vincent. Bequia is under the flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines. It's very picturesque, overgrown with lush tropical trees, vines and flowers and speckled with multi-coloured wooden gingerbread houses. We had a great snorkel this evening – dozens of schools of small fish, at least 100 strong, hanging out around the rocks near the shoreline. We've never seen so many in one place, there must have been thousands. The rocks were covered in Christmas tree worms of all colours. Sadly we didn't have the underwater camera with us.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Carnival

We are back in Rodney Bay (to let our eardrums recover) after sailing down to Castries, the capital of St Lucia for Carnival. Not one of the major Caribbean Carnivals but a spectacle nevertheless. A bit of history...Carnival originates from early Roman Catholic Italy...it was the last bash before Lent when they stopped eating meat and was literally carne vale or "farewell to flesh". So it’s very much a colonial heritage.

Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate - a tropical wave was passing through and brought torrential rain with it which dampened the parade a bit. But what a parade it was - skimpy costumes and some incredibly raunchy dancing - there's no touching with hands but a lot of bumping and grinding! Sadly, apart from some superb traditional bands from Martinique, the music all seems to come straight from the ghettos in New York - relentless and manic. Strange they have adopted that instead of building on their African, Caribbean heritage. There were no steel bands, no reggae, no calypso, no Senegalese music. We are really hoping that the Carnival in Grenada (in August and we’re hoping to visit) hasn’t changed since we were last there 10 years ago, it was brilliant. For more pics go to http://picasaweb.google.com/Ironylondon/StLuciaCarnival

Our other boat is in the background!!!!!!!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Back in St Lucia


We sailed south to Martinique and stocked up on French wines and cheeses in Le Marin. It is still filled with hundreds of boats at anchor. On Bastille Day the local boats came out for a race and made a colourful scene with their huge sails. We're now in St Lucia and anchored off Pigeon Island in Rodney Bay. It's looking tropically lush with all the flame trees in full bloom. Carnival here on Monday and Tuesday so we are going to sail down to Castries to check it out.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Marigot Bay




We FINALLY left the lagoon and went through the French bridge this morning. We are anchored in Marigot Bay. It's a day for scraping the bottom of the boat so we've had the dive compressor and bottles out. There are some very surprised crabs and mussels trying to find a new home! Check out tomorrow and then southwards.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

End in sight!




Nic finally got the generator going on Sunday afternoon. We also installed the 2 wind generators on the mizzen mast so Irony has gone green. Now we're putting the boat back together and will head south to St Lucia once the latest tropical wave moves through this weekend.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Still here!

We're still in St Maarten and the generator is still not working. Ready to tear our hair out!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Ailing generator

Still in St Maarten...we have had 2 deliveries of parts for the generator from Florida and are awaiting the third. We hope that, once received, we will be up and running again. All very frustrating.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Barbuda and on to St Maarten



After a visit to Jolly Harbour to refill our water tanks, we returned to Deep bay for Nic's birthday. From there we sailed up to Barbuda - undeveloped with long beautiful beaches. We are now in St Maarten to stock up on paint and parts for our forthcoming haulout. The generator has also broken down so we are conserving energy while we wait for a part to arrive from Florida!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Velsheda and Ranger collide - Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta




It's been an exciting week in Antigua - 55 beautiful yachts competing in a variety of races on the south coast of the island and the socialising to go with it! Nic went racing for 2 days on a lovely 64' yacht called Petrana (see picture below). Tina and I were in the chase boat for Petrana on the last day and witnessed the unbelievable sight of 2 J-class yachts colliding. We saw Velsheda on port tack and Ranger on starboard tack and thought we would get a great photo of them crossing. Before we knew it they were on a collision course. Their rigging hit first, then bow, then midship, then stern. We saw 4 crew leap into the water from Velsheda. It was a terrifying sight and we are only glad that no one was injured. We backed off as the chase boats rushed in to rescue the crew in the water. After all the boats had moved on we collected several large pieces of Velsheda from the water! It seems to have been a week of close encounters with Velsheda! Further information on http://www.dockwalk.com/MyDockwalk/Blogs.aspx?id=24372&blogid=46084&LoggedIn=true

We have now escaped up to Deep Bay to chill out and enjoy some more snorkelling on the wreck here.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Tina's visit




Tina arrived last weekend and we spent a few days around Falmouth and English Harbour. On Easter monday we sailed around to Green Island and had a fantastic few days snorkelling on the reefs there. We returned to Falmouth Harbour this morning and hove to outside to watch the first race of Antigua Classic Race Week. We had an amazing view of the yachts positioning for the start. J-class yacht, Velsheda tacked a few metres away from us.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Arrived in Antigua
















We sailed past Dominica and Guadaloupe arriving in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua yesterday. We are anchored off Pigeon Beach and the water is turquoise and crystal clear. All the classic yachts are beginning to arrive for Classic Race Week on 16th April.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Martinique


After a week in St Lucia repairing the dinghy and the generator, among other tasks, we sailed up to Martinique. We had a provisioning stop in Marin which was fantastic for French supermarkets stocked with delicious cheeses and pates! Our next stop was at the north of the island - Ste Pierre nestled under the Mt Pelee volcano. This erupted in 1902 killing nearly 30,000 people. It is a dramatic location and made for a spectacular sunset. We are now sailing north past Dominica to Guadaloupe and plan to be in Antigua for Tina's arrival on 10th April.