Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bequia to Rodney Bay Jan/Feb 2007

Picture: Using the dinghy to propel RAFT

We were motor sailing along the northwest coast of St. Vincent, when the high temperature alarm started screaming. About the same time the wind had picked up, so once again we became a sailboat. Bev on the helm in 20 knots of wind, mostly close hauled we were making good time toward St. Lucia. Ross put on his mechanic’s hat, to search out the source of the alarm. He expected a water pump issue, and determined it was the Yanmar engine one, (not the cooling system pump) but it was not the impellar, instead the pulley had sheared off the shaft. Ross had seen replacement pulleys in Budget Marine (Grenada) and had a fleeting thought about getting a spare, but hadn’t, and now Murphy’s law was haunting us. (If you have a spare, the original won’t break)
But RAFT was sailing in the right direction, and quite quickly the Pitons were coming into view. We weren’t concerned until four miles southwest of the Pitons, the wind died right down, we were becalmed and the current was moving us toward Mexico. So close, but we can’t sail, and we can’t motor…..or could we. Down went the dinghy and it became a tug. Lucas, one of the boat boys from Soufriere came out to see what we were up to, and stayed with us for the entire 3 hours that it took to get into the harbour where he helped us get onto a mooring ball. It was a comfort knowing he was behind us all the way.
Next day, Ross was off early, to get the bus to Rodney Bay, where he hoped he could buy a new pulley. That was not possible but he was able to get a welder to repair the existing one, and once again we were in the motoring business. Can’t have a cold beer but at least we can make our way to Rodney Bay where we hope we can get the fridge fixed.
We had skipped Rodney Bay on our way south, so we were off to new territories. But getting the fridge running was highest on the priorities. After 3 days, and visits from 2 refrig technicians, we decided to bite the bullet and go for a new system. Fortunately Island Water World here has everything in stock and the price was acceptable. Ross decided to use one of the techs, to extend the piping so he could locate the new compressor in the same position as the old one. (the new kits don’t come with sufficient copper pipe). We figured, that if Ross took out the old system, and installed most of the new one, it shouldn’t take the tech very long to put in the longer pipe and recharge the system. How could we forget about Island Time!! The tech didn’t weigh out the R134A gas (as Bev’s brother had done on the old system) he prefers to slowly, and we mean slowly, add the gas while he talks about everything and bill you by the hour.
Ross of course, sat with him for the entire process, trying to learn as much as possible about the new gas and its properties. He didn’t think that there was enough gas in the system and when water hadn’t froze the next morning, we called him back. To his credit, he cheerfully returned and spent another afternoon slowly adding gas, but at least we were not charged for the second session. Still our time in Rodney Bay is wreaking havoc on our cruising budget.
So now, we have a new refridge system, chocked full of meat and we need to get to Martinique, as Ross’s parents are arriving there next week. But the winds and seas intend for us to stay a couple more days in St. Lucia. Now it is time for exploring. We went by dinghy out to Pigeon Island intending to climb to the fort, until we found out it was $5 US per person to sweat our way to the top. Did I mention that the cruising kitty is dry!! So we walked the beautiful Redoit Beach instead and had a cold beer for less than the admission to the National Park.
Picture: Square rigger used as Black Pearl in Pirates of Caribbean -- stationed in Rodney Bay

Next day, we took the local bus to Dennery. Why? Just to see the other side of the island. Dennery is a small fishing village that doesn’t get many tourists, and the locals are happy to see some. The bus trip over took us through the banana plantations, up into the rain forests, towering high over deep valleys, before bringing us back to sea level. Really there is not much to see in Dennery, but the bus only costs 4EC from Castries and we had a good time.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Heading North Grenada to Bequia Jan. 2007

Picture: Cruise Ship blocking entrance to Clifton Harbour, Union Island

Subtitle: Playing with the Big Boats!!

We finally escaped Grenada's charm which had held us since July, and sailed from Carriacou (north island of Grenada) toward Union Island (southernmost island in the Grenadines) We had been in the Union Island Harbour on the way down, and knew that it was U shaped, 2 entrances, with a reef in the center. Just as we were approaching the island we watch a cruise boat arrive. We didn't think the harbour was large enough to accommodate such a vessel, and we were right, so it anchored right at the entrance to the harbour, and with the NE wind, right in the channel. Fortunately we are small and sufficiently maneuverable to still make our way in, and once inside it was not as crowded or windy as the last time, so we were able to anchor. Ross stayed onboard (we were anchored very tight) as Bev walked to the airport to deal with the government officials and pay the entrance fee (71 EC about $30). We were also informed that is we wished to visit the Tobago cays there now was a new fee 10EC per person per day. Somehow St. Vincent has to get the money to pay for the services they offer, nothing!! We had visited the Cays on the way down, they are beautiful, but will probably bypass them on this trek.

Once checked into St. Vincent, we exited Union and made our way to Mayreau, the next island in the chain, about 3 miles to the north. Here a 5 masted cruiseboat was anchored off the beach, and its occupants enjoying a day of sun, sand, surf, and beach bars. Didn't see the play toys we had seen with other boats, ie jet skis, wind surfers, etc. We stayed on RAFT and let them have their fun, knowing that they would be rounded up and taken back to their big boat well before dinner time.

Next experience with a big boat: We are anchored about 150 feet off the Mayreau's "commercial dock". It appeared, and confirmed by locals that the "commercial boats" docked on the far side so we where we were was okay. Also since there are only about 300 people who live on Mayreau, we were not expecting too much traffic. However as we were making supper, a good sized ferry, complete with cabins, dining rooms, and double width cargo level, pulled up beside us, dropped his BIG hook and proceeded to do a 180 turn within 30 feet of RAFT. The captain obviously had done this before, and was turned, dropped off his packages, most in garbage bags, and was gone within 10 minutes. It really was something to see, but really didn't want the front row seat.

As sun set, we watched the cruise boats sail off to the northwest, the commercial boat go south, and we figured our contact with Big Boats was done for the day. We are sharing the anchorage with a mega yacht, probably 80-100 ft long. About 8pm, of course we were already in bed, they are on the radio trying to hale the Mayreau police. We got up but couldn't see anything suspicious, their boat was lit up as most mega's are. No one was answering the radio call, and we found out later there are no police in Mayreau, but we figured they have cell phones to call for help. It did raise our security level, (we are out of Grenada) so we locked ourselves in RAFT and settled in for a night's rest. And so end's our day with the BIG Boats.

The next day, we had the town, beach and island to ourselves, and we took full advantage its peaceful serenity. We walked into the town, toured the church, enjoyed the fabulous views of the Tobago Cays, Salt Whistle Bay and swam at the billion dollar beach, that yesterday had been swarmed by the cruise boat occupants.

We had a fabulous sail into Bequia, even tacked into the anchorage. What a wonderful treat! But now we have another problem: the fridge has decided not to freeze anymore. It is of course the original refrigerator system, over 20 years old which Ross has been babying by topping up the R12 for nearly a year since the Dominican Republic, Since we had stocked up the freezer in Grenada before we left, we were going on the Scarsdale high protein diet until all the thawing meat is eaten. We didn't think we would be able to get the system fixed in Bequia, so we took off for St. Lucia.