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Thursday, 28 September 2017

September 2017

Avast my intrepid readers!
Yes we are back aboard S/Y Piano at Crews Inn! The homeward flight was comfortable with the chaos at the newly refurbished South Terminal. After no machines being able to check us in we resorted to customer help. They told us we had been upgraded so had new seat allocation then printed off the new details for us. Onto baggage drop off and the same thing happened! so more intervention to get the hold baggage checked in. Hey ho the joys of modern technology....
So our arrival back to Trinidad was again very pleasant nice and warm and Piano was just as we had left her. Enough time to unpack and have a bite to eat then off to bed after a very long day.
We checked in with the net the following morning and I went shopping at West Mall for essentials.
Since then we have been working hard to get the old lady ready for the end of the Hurricane season. Both the morning net and local papers, radio are full of the devastation up island.  The list seems endless, from Antigua and Barbuda up to St Barths , St Martin, Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands , Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, places we have visited frequently and others we haven't been to yet . are all like war zones. Many countries are sending aid although getting it ashore and distributed on non existing roads must be a nightmare.
My blog is short we continue to move along but I fear the sailing season will be short this year. When the hurricane season ends (mid November) we should be ready to move again I'll write more when there is something more pleasant to tell you.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

August 2017 U.K.

My Goodness, so much time has flown bye the summer is nearly over and there has been no blog since we left Crews Inn. After a pleasant sail down through the Boca we arrived quite early in the morning before Customs and Immigration had opened. Time for breakfast in leisure! For the following week in between showers we stripped Piano above decks and thoroughly cleaned below, making sure to eat all food and empty the fridge /freezer.
We invited Spencer and Nana ( S/Y Adverse Conditions) round to help eat the food but after Margaritas Malcolm didn't even remember eating anything! So much for that !  We did manage to meet up with many new people at the Crews Inn managers Cocktail Party. Sumptuous food as usual thanks guys! Carl is still number one Dock person and his team looked after us with the BBQ and other more boring duties.In all it was a hectic time.
  So back to the UK and we made first stop at Marias in London and became real tourists.
The Shard

In for Hull repairs...

St Pauls' Cathedral

Read the small print!

Borough Market

 Next we spent time with my mother, who has made great progress with her hip replacement. She is now walking every day again, shopping, meeting friends around the town, in fact behaving like she used to. Hannah and Ned (my niece and nephew) have grown so much, they will be teenagers before I know it.
Then it was Mark and Laurens' Wedding in Essex. That was a perfect day! The sun shone and the setting was amazing. We caught up with Karen,Richard and Jack, and met many of Adrienne and Phils' friends too. It was a real family extravaganza!

  Then it was time to make the long journey to our cottage in the far west of England, we did stop with friends in Barkham overnight to gossip and catch up.  Then we continued to Bath and had a day with another old friend, this involved more sightseeing around Bath and being good weather (still) was very relaxing.

Watering hole.

Finally arriving at the cottage we were pleasantly surprised at all was well.  The Spider plant still alive but rather sad looking and cobwebs which would have done the Adams Family haunt proud!  So life at home has been a mixture of visits to have health checks ,audiologist, (new ears for me) the dentist and unpacking stuff I had forgotten we even had! All this as well as shopping for food - what bliss making home made cakes once more! and collecting spares for Piano. We did make time to do some small hikes along the coastal path. Enys Gardens
Water Wheel.

St Marys' Gardens, Falmouth.

A side trip to Eden,
Lots going on...

Delicious lunch!
And would you believe it for the second year running we have failed to make the canopy walk by the skin of our teeth!

Red Arrows Performance.

We also enjoyed Falmouth week and caught up with our friends in this neck of the wood.  As I write we are waiting for S/Y Blackthorne Lady to make it across Biscay, they hope to be here before we return to Piano.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

2017 The Summer Season

February 9th 2017
06.00 left Anse de Arlet for Portsmouth, Dominica. Saw 2 Whales spouting around 2 o’clock.
Engine off and anchored by 17.41 p.m. Anchorage very crowded we had a calm and peaceful night, although one flying fish was on deck in the morning and there had been showers to wash the salt from the decks.
After checking in we took part in various activities including watching the pre-Carnival parade in town.Sunday was the start of Carnival. We sauntered into town and watched the celebrations go by. As usual there was a fairly long wait and plenty of opportunity to buy street food and drinks.

The crowd was in party mood and all was right with the world. We also booked for the Boiling Lake Hike later in the week.

Boiling Lake Hike.
I started off with good intentions but after I hit my personal ‘wall’ I decided that I’d had enough. However I did see the Valley Of Desolation and Malcolm shared his snaps of the Boiling Lake with me on Facebook. Peter even made a U-tube video of the trip. The hike back from the Valley of Desolation was sufficient to finish me I never want to see another walkway made of tree trunks. I was in no mood to do anything for the next two days! Even Malcolm said it was a tough one!
Here are some snaps.

The week ended with another meal and speeches Dominican Style , Coconut curry, fish stew, salad and cole slaw. With over 100 participants there was plenty of noise and humour, we were all made ambassadors for the next year so that the week would hopefully be even better attended.
19th February,08.55 set sail for Point a Pitre, Guadeloupe. This was another fast ( 6.1 knots average) and comfortable sail arriving 15.52 pm in time for sundowners. The next day we toured the main town : 

22nd February, we motored round to Gosier (20 minutes) and had a few days snorkelling and enjoying the town life of a typical French resort. This included a very nice steak at the local steakhouse.

Saturday 25th February, with a full rig we sailed from Gosier to Pigeon Island, an old favourite of ours. By 15.00 we were anchored in Malendure ready for Tea! The anchorage was almost empty but quite rolly. We took advantage of this opportunity to dive the reserve and check out a sea full of tropical fish just off the underwater cliff. Malcolm also used the last of the tank to clean the prop and new anti fouling wire which were quite thick with growth

Thursday, 2nd March, we motor-sailed with just the staysail for a 2 hour trip to Deshaies, we picked up a buoy inshore and went shopping for croissants and veg then to check out.

Friday, 3rd March we sailed for Jolly Harbour starting at 06.30, lunch aboard while underway - a quiche I’d knocked up the day before and fresh salad. This was another cracking sail (taking just 5 hours at 7 knots) already there were our friends on S/Y C- Drifters, and S/Y Quicksilver. Saturday we motored round to Hermitage Bay for the wifi! But it was quite windy and we all thought to move upwind (so a shorter fetch) across the bay to the shelter of Mardai Island.

Monday, 10th March we checked out of Antigua and by late afternoon we sailed for St Martin. Dare I say again another fast sail- we could have been in St Barths in 11 hours! We arrived just in time for Mikes morning net and announced our arrival. While here we did a massive shop on the new Island Water-world shopping bus and stocked up with lots of goodies including a few drinks in preparation for the arrival or our visitor.

Wednesday,22nd March back to Jolly Harbour on an overnight sail arriving for breakfast the following morning. We took a buoy in the marina entrance channel so that we could pick up Maria easily. She arrived four days later and we immediately allowed her to unpack and stow her gear.

29th March we sailed for Falmouth Harbour and anchored in 3m of water. A wind sift during the night had swung us towards shore and the following morning we were touching the bottom. Neat that we could kedge off and re-anchor in a safer 4m. Maria was quite happy having a beach to swim from and a BBQ with friends. Note the use of the new Cobb!

Saturday 1st of April after putting Maria on our crew list we checked out of Antigua and took Maria to St Barths. Full sails and we even got the MPG set.

Maria was impressed with the pretty colours.
Arrived 21.30, and anchored in Anse de Corossol, we checked in the next day and did the tour of Gustavia but both Maria and I wanted to look at Haute Couture so begged another day with the shops open.

Tuesday we picked up a buoy in Columbier Bay which was very crowded and then slipped for Marigot the next day.

St Martin

Maria sailing holiday in the Caribbean, 2017

I have just returned to London after an extraordinary month long holiday in the Caribbean staying with my friends Malcolm and Sue on their S/Y “Piano”. During this time I have clocked up 530 miles and on one occasion sailed for 34 consecutive hours from the British Virgin Islands to Antigua.
I joined my friends in Jolly Harbour in Antigua and sailed with them and visited St Barths, St Martin/Sint Maarten, Prickly Pear, Virgin Gorda, Little Jost Van Dyke, Tortola and back to Antigua. We sailed past Necker Island with her 3 fake palm trees which can be flatten down so that its owner can land his helicopter and Mosquito Island also owned by Richard Branson. Also past the various “Dogs” Islands and between Beef Island and Little Camanoe, Guyana Island to Little Jost Van Dyke. We also circled with our dinghy the coast line of Jost Van Dyke. There are so many islands, some uninhibited, some privately owned and some as small as a rock or a patch of sand, with names like Saba Rock, Sandy Spit, Sandy Cay and Green Cay. I walked around the perimeter of Sandy Spit in less than ten minutes; that is how small some of these islands are. Some islands are hilly with goats scrambling over the steep slopes and venturing down as far as the beach below.
St Barths with name streets in Swedish and French, has still a few old buildings from the Swedish era but now is French and exclusive with grand houses owned by the likes of Rockafellers, Rothschilds and one or two Russian oligarchs. It is the French Riviera of the Caribbean and attracts the rich and famous. Its shops and boutiques reflect the elegant setting with “Bonjour, Madam” and “Merci” greetings and very expensive prices.
St Martin/Sint Maarten is half French and half Dutch. There is an amusing story of the French man and the Dutch man who instead of fighting over the island, decided to split it between themselves with a bottle of wine and a bottle of gin respectively and then united against the English who wanted their coffee.
One Tuesday evening we experienced the carnival atmosphere of Grand Case, the picturesque and more ethnic part of St Martin with the boulevard that runs along the sea front closed to the traffic and the local bands playing and the people dancing.

We sailed to Marigot Bay next and visited Fort Louis dominating the bay.

 In the market the day after I met an Italian lady selling small tiles painted by herself with beautiful scenery of the island. She told me that she had been living in St Martin for 16 years after getting tired of Rome, its traffic and the mass of tourists. She had felt suffocated and had decided to emigrate to Costa Rica but life brought her to St Martin instead and she has never even visited Costa Rica. She has become an artist by necessity or maybe inspired by the beauty of the island. In fact she confessed that she could not even draw a simple figure before.
Over to the Dutch side there is Philipsburg, the capital, with an international airport separated from a narrow road by only a wire fence and next to the beach

 over which jumbo jets roar and skim over the heads of the bathers. It is one of the “must feel” thrills. Cruise liners dock here and spill thousands of tourists into the main street full of expensive jewellery shops owned and manned by handsome and smartly dressed Indian men. They have also emigrated to Sint Maarten directly from India and not from British Guyana like I had mistakenly assumed. They live there with their families and their business is selling gold and diamonds.

Antigua with a multi coloured “V” (for victory) crowned by the sun flag has never been conquered by any other European nation but the British, who built forts and watch towers all over the island to defend it from the other fierce contenders. It has Nelson's Dockyard, the oldest Georgian harbour in the world still in use and as relevant to-day as at the time of Admiral Horatio Nelson. We took the local mini bus one day to St. John’s, the capital. The driver was munching a tamarind fruit and offered me a pod. It is sweet and slightly sticky and I kept the seeds. They reminded me of the film “The Tamarind Seed”. It is a spy thriller set during the cold war period and the tamarind seed that sparks the romance and binds together the two lovers from opposite side of the red curtain. My friend Sue has recommended that I also read the book entitled “Nathaniel’s Nutmeg” by Magnus Mills and I have been wondering what kind of marvel that is.
This brings me to mention the numerous spices and juicy fruits grown in the Caribbean: mango, papaya, coconut, guava, star fruit, pineapple and bananas. Vegetables like christophene (sounds like the name of a little girl), bread fruit, cassava, plantaine, squash and avocado. The flowers are fleshy and almost sensual with vibrant colours of warm yellow, orange and red. Here, familiar succulents that never flower in England explode in glorious blooms under the hot and persistent sun.
The West Indies have a rich and interesting history from the Pre-Colombian times of the Arawaks and Caribs to their discovery by C. Colombo, the rush for gold and riches, the warring European powers snatching islands from one another, slavery, plantations and emancipation. Ships carrying sugar, rum, cotton, tobacco and slaves. The names themselves of these islands, like Jost Van Dyke, Norman Island, Sir Francis Drake Channel, Dead Chest conjure up exciting stories of the real pirates of the Caribbean with swash buckling rogues, treasure hunts and shipwrecks. We ourselves saw a not so ancient shipwreck in Deep Bay, Antigua. It sunk in 1905 after an explosion and consequent fire. It sits up-right with the stump of one of the masts protruding out of the water. We circled around it in our dinghy. Its dark shape not so far down from the surface. It is a shelter for schools of small fish and other larger reef fish. Sometimes jelly fish gather here.
I liked the sailing at night with the full moon and the numerous brilliant stars in an unpolluted clear sky. Calm and silence all around apart from the familiar noise of the water flapping against the boat. Far away, over the horizon, the bright lights of a cruise liner, the barely visible white sail of a boat, the faint dark shape of a fishing vessel. Fellow sailors, mute, distant and unknown, going their way.
By day there was a bustle of activity, sightseeing, swimming, snorkelling, sailing to the next bay or taking the dinghy ashore to the laundrette or do the shopping, meeting friends. Or just staying on the boat, taking a rest, sitting on deck reading a book and waiting for the split second “green flash” at sunset. I have seen beautiful sunsets, all different, different light, colours, brilliance and feelings.
The beauty of these islands sometimes moved me because their verdant hills sloping down the sea reminded me of Genoa, my home town in Italy, as it would have looked before it was developed and built up. I remember the marvellous sight of Colombier in St. Barths from up the hill. A calm blue and aquamarine expanse of water scintillating under a cloudless sky and interrupted here and there by enormous brownish-red rocks.
Another marvel were the Baths in Virgin Gorda, these being big natural boulders that cascading on one another over the centuries have formed caverns, grottos and pools big and small were you walk through by crouching, climbing or wading.

 People swim and snorkel in these pools and look at the colourful fish. Also the “bubble” pool in Diamond Cay, Jost Van Dyke, where the waves crush in over the rocks and the pool erupts in froth.

 Adults and children enjoy watching that and wait for the next wave to be bigger and more spectacular. Walking back to the dinghy, along the path we passed groupings of mangrove and there at the sea’s edge I spotted a baby shark. It was swimming alone and unconcerned. I wondered where his mammy and daddy were.
Spotting animals was a big thrill for me. But we did not see many, they are most elusive or maybe they are not so numerous nowadays. There were intelligent big fish at Saba Rock that would gather at the same time each afternoon to be fed by the staff of the holiday resort there. Scores of tourists went to watch how the man dangled the food in front of the fish who would compete with one another in jumping up higher and quicker to snatch it.

 There were also some pelicans on the jetty waiting impassively to target a fish, dive and catch it, all in a matter of seconds. The frigate birds with their large wing span sometimes flying in groups, maybe on their way to a fishing boat where they would steal a fish or two.
I saw my first sea-turtle in St Barths when it came up to the surface for air just a few meters from our boat. Also here I spotted three goats on the hill side. One of them was bigger and was followed around by the same smaller goat, which I heard bleating. Maybe they were mother and baby. I saw goats in other islands and I guess it must have been just past the time of the “goating” season, judging from the number of the cute little creatures. Two of them stopped as I passed on my way up to a fort and looked at me as if they were curious to know who I was.
The British Virgin Islands especially have many natural parks and reserves to protect and encourage the growth of their fauna and flora. There are guide lines for visitors, divers and snorkelers to behave responsibly in order to avoid damaging or destroying the fragile habitat of the coral reefs.
I liked sailing, perched up on deck, looking out at the sea and then at the map in my hand,

 guessing the name of the island we were passing. Observing the land, we were bound to, approach slowly before entering the bay. We would then anchor and raise the courtesy flag of the host country. The skipper would check us in at the Customs Office and I would hope to get another stamp on my passport.
I liked being surrounded by other boats with flags from different countries, Australian, Canadian, American, Norwegian, Dutch, Irish, British and others I did not know. Sailing boats, catamarans, schooners, motor boats and big yachts. I also was fascinated by the names given to the boats. Names of women mostly and of loved ones, but also names that suggest freedom, relief, visions of an easier and happier life or the speed and strength of a beautiful animal. Each boat has an intriguing story behind its name.
There was a regatta in English Harbour, Antigua. One day was for the race of the classic boats and we went to see them.

 Beautiful boats, some as old as 1905 and 1945, lovingly maintained by their owners, with polished wooden decks, gleaming brass and yards of canvas. They were well kept and loved like elegant and expensive vintage cars. The crew were celebrating at the end of the race when family, friends and sympathizers gathered to congratulate them and look at the beautiful array of these old venerable vessels.

I have learned a few simple things about sailing. I know for example on which side of the boat is “port”, the names of the sails; there is one called “MPG” for Multi-Purpose Genoa . Piano has one of a bright yellow colour like sunshine. (See above)What “Down Wind” and “Up Wind” and “to tack” mean. Where is the rudder, the different types of moorings, the channel in the bay. I was allowed to take the wheel a few times when it was easy and safe, pass the winch handle and switch on the engine. I learned to go up and down the steps of the hatch gripping firmly the handles to avoid falling or being hurled against the furniture when the boat is sailing and the sea is rough.
I met some new people, strangers who have shared a few moments of their lives with me, informed and enriched me with new knowledge. And all of this thanks to the generous hospitality of my friends Malcolm and Sue who took great care of me to make sure that I was safe at all times at sea and in the sea, gave me the best seat on deck and did not eat all the salad in the bowl so that I could finish it off.

The skipper honoured me by cooking “spaghetti alla Bolognese” on my last evening aboard Piano and hoisted up the must the Italian flag the next morning. Malcolm and Sue accompanied me to the taxi that would take me to Antigua airport for my flight back to London.   

Sunday, 12 February 2017

January 2017

What excitement since I last wrote. Yes S/Y ‘Piano’ is now in St Lucia visiting Derek and Bridgit on their jetty. More of this after the run up.
The whole team swung into action soon after I last wrote, Collin, Cooper, Kaye and Damian. The hull was deemed dry to begin the sealing, (4 layers), then primer, and lastly Anti-fouling (3 coats).
Meanwhile the halyards were retrieved from the masthead where they had been since we laid up, various new items were uncovered, Falco checked the engine,blah blah in short a week of preparation filled with gusto. After hanging in the slings for the bottom of the keel to be anti-fouled, we were finally launched with Azul and Curtis aboard to determine any leaks from their work and then to replace floorboards in the cockpit lockers. Next we filled up with Diesel and petrol for the tender then motored out around the bay to see what was working. - Just the depth meter not playing ball so far. We arrived to a warm welcome at Crews Inn and continued to check out instruments, get the sails on and generally work like sink to be away for Friday. Of course we had time to say goodbye to our friends at the weekly Potluck. I also made time for a trip to Badwasings hardware store with lunch and shopping at Trin City afterwards.
Friday arrived bright and sunny (as it had been since we arrived back) so we were ready to check out with Customs and Immigration before lunch. Around 3 we slipped our birth and motored away.
This to allow Malcolm time to thread all the reefing lines and so on. At this point things began to go pear shaped. The calm mill pond changed to a slight breeze which piped up to 15 knots accompanied by tumultuous I heard the bilge alarm sounding but I had my hands full helming and Malcolm was down at the mast working by the time he was back in the cockpit it went off again and I drew his attention to it. He opened the engine compartment and noticed the seawater hose had come off its spigot and was allowing seawater to be pumped into the engine bay. We switched the engine off while he temporarily re-fixed it and I sailed down to wards Scotland Bay – yes it was still blowing hard and raining and I was actually beginning to shiver!!!! (unheard of in the Caribbean) We anchored in Scotland Bay ( after dropping the lead line to check the depth) and decided that we would try to sort things out in the morning.
At this point I should say we have an uneventful night at anchor with a good meal and pleasant nights sleep.
Next morning, Malcolm finds the offending Jubilee clip which has failed (what luck?) and adjusted the hose to allow two clips of better design to be fixed there. The remains of seawater was pumped out of the engine compartment and the wiring flushed with freshwater and of course the engine was started to check for any other leaks and to be sure that the new clips were doing their job. Then we had elevenses. Next we attacked the sails to discover that the foot had come out of the boom so we then manhandled then off into a roll so that they could be re-fed and secured again. Then they were hoisted and checked. Time for a very late lunch. We were now ready to sail to Grenada.
Wow a full 24 hours sail into St Georges Bay. Yes we saw dolphins and flying fish and there were a few showers too. After some rest and recovery sleep we checked in and out again the next day. A trip to Island Waterworld to find they were still selling the old Dolyles guide, but we did get internet and found that Jane and Paul had received an email to say that the cottage on St Barths was off this year – at the last moment they had been told that the house below was having work done involving a jack hammer all day every day plus Paul had wrenched his back so a cramped flight would have been agony. We celebrated my birthday at the Marina restaurant and decided to sail straight for St Lucia
This was another 23 hour sail at tremendous speeds with the only slow bit behind St Vincent when we had to motor. Again we arrived at first light in time for the morning net and to announce our arrival. After checking in and elevenses with wi-fi at Cafe Ole in the marina we spent the rest of the day having lunch and sundowners with Derek and Bridgit. We arranged to use their jetty for the next week.

 After docking on their jetty Malcolm spent the rest of the day tracing the wire from the depth meter so that he could check the resistance. This done he could then arrange for Vincent to call next week and see if he could fix it.
Meanwhile the bilge alarm went off again so we hand pumped the last of the water from the bilge and waited, it went off again about a day later so Malcolm checked and found that the new generator hose was not as tight as it should be- he tightened it and then cleared to seawater up AGAIN. He will also check the other end to be sure that it is tight enough too.
Wednesday Lunch at Bay Gardens was a real treat meeting up with some friends I hadn’t seen for a year or more, plus a few new ones. It seems everyone I talked to was waiting for Vincent to sort out some minor electrical problem! The next amazing item was another earth tremor at 3.50 local time – sufficient to make Piano judder in the water and for the whole jetty to judder too, when satisfied that it was another tremor I looked at Dereks’ windows and yes they were vibrating too!
For Dereks’ birthday this year, he went drinking with a few friends to celebrate, the Sunday afterwards the whole family and friends arrived for lunch arranged by Jane his niece. She cooked a massive amount of Caribbean Pelau and rice, while Jemila did the green salad Alison and others brought birthday cakes and Ice Cream. It was quite daunting trying to remember all the new names and I hope I have not made too many typos with the spellings! Naturally the topic of sailing came up and before long I had suggested that for our annual sail with Derek and Bridgit Mandy and Charlie might like to come? We arranged it for the following Sunday. Here are some snaps…

We ‘flew’ down to Anse Cochon for lunch and made sure that everyone did some helming- even Charlie Junior who was a natural! Mandy had brought a Lasagna and salad for lunch so all I needed to do was heat it and serve it. This along with Piton lagers all the way. Most people snorkelled after lunch.
We arrived back on the jetty just after dusk tired but invigorated to a smooth glass of red wine and said our farewells.
Needless to say Vincent did not materialise with the external echo sounder to check ours with so we took our hosts out for a Chinese meal on the Monday did some final provisioning and sailed for Grenada that week. Kathy and Greg arrived (S/Y ‘Indigo’) they think their engine mountings may have worked loose…..
Another fast sail to Martinique where we anchored for the night and then sailed for Dominica. Should winds have been light this could have taken all day so we maximised on day length and set off at 6 o’clock. So far it has been blissful sailing all the way (8 sometimes 9 knots on a beam reach). We arrived in Ruperts’ Bay around 5 o’clock and were welcomed by Albert. S/Y s’ Liahona, Persphone, and Moose Tracks are here already.
Saturday was the start of Yachtie appreciation week so the usual BBQ with speeches by officials. It sounds formal but is a real delight. The local headmaster had made a special effort to say a few words of thanks, this was brief and heartfelt. His staff PTA and pupils were truly appreciative of the donations made by members of the yachting community. Both the Minister of Tourism and the local MP said a few too many words but I think the clapping took longer every time he hit the nail on the head. They all realise that there are benefit to welcoming us tourists often has knock on effects. Someone had the bright idea of auctioning the table decorations so that made even more money for the cause!
Sunday is the start of Carnival .
Yes I lied We are in Dominica! The internet is being used by everyone and their dog so sorry if these two issues are confused.