September 23- October 11, 2016
Once again this year we would have the opportunity to sail in the Caribbean with close friends, Nikki, Peter and Jackson. This time, we went “bigger & better” bareboat chartering a 56’ Dufour monohull in Grenada from Dream Yachts, and beginning our adventure sailing ~500 miles north to the British Virgin Islands. We began by flying on Friday from Orlando, through Miami, to Grenada where we had a 2-day pre-trip stay at our favorite beach resort, located between the airport and marina. Here we enjoyed the swim-up pool bar, the lush, tropical landscaping, and took a stroll up the beach to a familiar restaurant named “Umbrella’s” where we met our sail-mates for dancing & dinner. The next day was spent relaxing at the pool, while prepping for our trip with a visit to the marina, immigration, and local stores. Sunday was “boat check-out” day, where we familiarized ourselves with the generator, air conditioning, bow thrusters, desalinator water-maker, and assorted high tech devices which were part of this beautiful, large boat! That night, the 5 of us slept aboard and prepared to leave the marina early the next morning.
Monday’s sail started beautifully with a dozen dolphins playing off our bow as we headed north from Grenada towards St. Vincent.
After stopping at the island of Union to check into the country and arrange an evening lobster dinner, we proceeded to the Tobago Cays where we hooked up to a mooring ball next to the sea turtle sanctuary and swam in the crystal blue waters. The area abounded with large red starfish and sea turtles whom were calmly eating grasses from the seafloor in only 10 feet of water, and oblivious to our observations. That night, the “boys” came to the boat to “collect us” and take us to a nearby shore where they grilled a fabulous lobster dinner including salad, rice, potatoes and vegetables, all washed down with homemade rum punch. After feeding the enormous puffer fish that came to shore in curiosity, we watched the sunset before returning to our boat in the dark to prepare for tomorrow’s trip.
Now we had been following weather reports of an Atlantic tropical storm called Matthew which was moving our way, but next morning we left the Tobago Cays and hoped to make it north to the island of St. Lucia. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs with leftover lobster, we checked on the weather again, and called in to the boat’s home base. Unfortunately, Matthew had intensified and laid a course that would intersect us at St. Lucia, so we decided to turn back south and take refuge in a protected harbor called “Blue Lagoon” located at the southern end of the island of St. Vincent. This brought us into one of the most unique encounters we have ever had while sailing, as we came upon a single, ~45’ humpback whale heading east. He was cruising at the surface and allowed us to approach within a few hundred feet of him as we followed for 15-20 minutes. Finally, he dove deep and flipped his tail on the surface to finally vanish from our sight.
On this note, we returned to a journey to Blue Lagoon, where we were met by the local marina representative, who helmed us through a treacherous reef into a small protected cove where we would be connected to a mooring ball, shielded from the winds by the surrounding mountains, and protected from the waves by the surrounding shallow reef. We spent the rest of the day visiting with the locals who were in full preparation themselves for the storm. We returned to the boat where we removed everything topsides that we could, took down the bimini, dropped the sail and boom, and lashed everything tightly to the deck. That night we settled in with our generator and air conditioning to see what the coming day would bring.
Wednesday we spent the day weathering (what was now Hurricane Category 1) Matthew’s fury as it aimed for 30 miles north of us between the islands of St. Vincent and St. Lucia. The cabin was comfortable, calm and protected as we spend the day playing cards, drinking and eating.
Matthew passed during the night and early morning, as it headed off north east towards Haiti and Cuba. Accordingly, the morning’s rain slowly gave way to a calm sunny afternoon, as we then took time out on deck and worked to reassemble the boat’s gear.
We left Blue Lagoon at daybreak on Friday morning and set off on out original plan to sail to St. Lucia. Having now lost 2 days, we no longer had the extra time we had planned into the schedule for sightseeing along the way, and instead headed straight to Marigold Bay along northwest St. Lucia. Along the way, we decided to put out a handline behind the boat, and was rewarded with our first fish – a 3-foot barracuda – which we promptly turned into “barracuda bites” for a future dinner. However, in the ocean channel between the two islands where the hurricane’s eye had passed, we ran into a sea of debris full of coconuts, trees and plastic washed out to sea by the storm and requiring an extreme level of vigilance. Finally, we made it to Marigold Bay, a beautiful, picturesque inlet harbor which we had visited before. Here, we would take the opportunity to refill our fuel tanks and then took dinner onshore at Pirate’s Bay Restaurant.
Saturday morning, we left early to be sure we made it north to the island of Martinique, where we were scheduled to pick up another sailing member. Again, along the way we were escorted by about a dozen dolphins who played along the boat’s bow-wave. We made it to the port of Marin mid-afternoon, where we docked at the marina and met-up with Scott. We then proceeded to restock groceries before enjoying dinner of duck and steak upstairs at a Marina restaurant called “20”.
Sunday, we left Martinique and started heading further north towards Guadeloupe. Because this would be a very long journey, we decided to go around the island of Dominica to the east, hoping for better winds to boost us along more quickly. Initially, we ran into fields of crab traps closer to the island, and went 20 miles offshore to help avoid them. Again, we pulled a fishing line behind the boat, and again, we caught another 3-foot barracuda. That evening, while under sail, we breaded the first barracuda bites and fried them. This we served up with salad, rice and corn for a feast on-board. Unfortunately, the winds were not favorable for us, and so we were traveling at only 4 knots. Because of this, we decided to sail all night along the coast of Dominica. The night was relatively clear, but with no moon, and with the worry about potentially catching debris in the prop, we slowly sailed along with the engine off.
Monday morning sunrise came with us at the northeastern end of Dominica, where we turned northwest and headed to the islands of Guadeloupe called Isle de Saintes – a very quaint “French” town that we find enjoyable and relaxing. Unfortunately, during the night, we had broken one set of “lazy jacks”, which help guide the sail when raising and lowering it., and we had developed a small tear in the mainsail’s edge along the mast. Our generator had also stopped working. Therefore, some of us spent time at the boat waiting for a mechanic while hoisting Rocky to the top of the mast to repair the “lazy jacks”, while others went ashore to check-in and look for a sailmaker that could sell us some “sail tape” and for a store to restock our ice. The mechanic arrived and discovered a dead fuel pump for the generator, but no replacement was available. And so he “jury-rigged” it with a cheap, manual override. While there, he also found and cleaned the Desalinator filter, which brought it operationally back online. It was a busy day, and that night we relaxed on deck with a barbeque chicken dinner cooked on the boat’s grill.
Tuesday morning, we left Isle de Saintes and continued our journey north on the west side of Guadeloupe. The winds were favorable that day, but first, Rocky, Peter and Jackson repaired the sail with “sail tape” and with hand-stitching using the boat’s sail repair kit. With the repair, we averaged 7 knots, and took the time to stop at Pigeon Island, a marine sanctuary off the west coast of Guadeloupe preserved in honor of Jacques Cousteau. We picked up a mooring ball there and spent a couple of hours swimming, snorkeling and exploring the beautiful corals and fish that resided there. After a swimming, we had a quick lunch and left to continue our journey to the port city of DeShaies on the northwest coast of Guadeloupe. Here we had drinks and shopped ashore before having dinner in a fantastic little French restaurant called “la Kaz du Douanier”, where we partook of delicious veal and French red wine.
Wednesday, we sailed from the island of Guadeloupe to Antigua with excellent winds, where we entered the historic English Harbor and tied up at the Dream Yachts Fuel Dock. Again, the mechanics tried to solve the generator fuel problem, but again, they did not have the part available, as the temporary repair was now starting to leak diesel slowly into the bilge. We would have to wait until we reached the BVI to get a final repair. That night, we walked a short distance to the nearby Jolly Harbor where we had dinner and drinks at “Trappas”, a local restaurant.
Thursday we sailed from Antigua to St. Kitts (also known as St. Cristopher). Today, we hooked a 4 ½ ft. long Mahi Mahi which we cleaned and fileted while underway as the rear of the boat had a sink and cutting board hidden under one of the benches. Because we arrive there late, we dropped anchor in the bay at St. Kitts and grilled our second barracuda on the grill and enjoyed a starry night on the boat’s deck. That night, we followed the internet news as Hurricane Matthew was now getting ready to come up the Florida East Coast, potentially impacting Peter and Nikki’s and Rocky and Julie’s homes and relatives located there.
Friday, we sailed the relatively short distance to St. Bart’s, where we took up a mooring ball and went ashore in search of supplies and adventure. The girl’s enjoyed the chance to shop before we gathered at a local pub for afternoon drinks. That night we found “25” Quarter, a small “hip” restaurant for dinner where we played beer-pong with the local and left our mark on their chalkboard wall.
Saturday, we left St. Bart’s very early to sail the long distance to the British Virgin Islands. Along the way, we caught another, albeit smaller, Mahi Mahi, which along with the first catch, we proceeded to grill on the Barbeque while under sail. The fish feast was capped by a last minute small tuna catch, which we filleted into sushi for our dinner’s appetizer. Dinner was capped with after dinner drinks before we settled in for a bit more of night sailing into the BVI, where we picked up a mooring ball in the dark at ~10pm in “The Bight” bay of Norman Island.
Sunday, we had to deliver Scott and Jackson to The U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas for Scott’s morning airplane departure. After rising at 4:30am, we sailed around St. John’s to Crown Bay Marina in Charlotte Amalie near the airport on St. Thomas. After dropping them at the fuel dock, we ran afoul of the Port when diesel from our bilge and fueling created a sheen that required reporting to the Coast Guard, and then a short boat “impoundment” while we checked-in with U.S. Immigration. After straightening out all of the requirements and formalities, we took brunch at the Marina during a huge downpour before leaving and sailing to the Dream Yacht Base at Hodge’s Creek Marina on Tortola in the BVI. That night, the remaining four of us taxied into town for drinks and dinner at Pusser’s before returning to the boat for the night.
Monday, the boat finally got its generator fuel pump replaced, and the bilge cleaned up from the diesel that had been deposited there. That afternoon, Walt and Allison, and their friends, Jay and Kathy arrived to join us on the boat, and after settling in, we all went back to Pusser’s again for dinner. That night was spent telling stories and drinking, before an evening of sleep – the last on the boat for Julie and Rocky, as the next morning saw us saying our goodbyes as their adventure was just beginning.