Bequia and St. Vincent
December 3, 2008
At 1916 hours UTM. Position N 16 16.3' W 026 06.4'
Dropped our lines this morning at 0705 hours and set sail for Bequia in the Grenadines. All well on board.
I had noticed that the battery charger
was no longer working, whilst it was
plugged in to "city power" at the
marina. Panic! After a few minutes
checking, I got around to metering the
voltage and discovered that it was a
mere 170 volts, instead of the
advertised 220V. OK for charging the
camera batteries but that is about it.
We waited until 0630 hours this morning
before firing up our generator, as a
gesture of friendship towards our
sleeping French neighbors and cast off
our lines at 0705 hours, bound for
Bequia in the Grenadines. Two hours
later we had cleared the Cape Verde
Islands, had run the water maker to fill
our tanks (the Cape Verde marina supply
was not potable) and restored the
batteries to full charge. We are on our
The wind oscillated in the range of 13 to 23 knots and swung back and forth some 60 degrees across the stern. We sailed under poled Genoa, winged main and mizzen and used the "wind vane" mode on the autopilot to keep the sail trim within tolerance. The sky was both sunny and hazy with perhaps an eighth of cloud cover. The temperature has reached 80F during the day and only dropped to 77F at night, making for much more comfortable night watches.
In the afternoon Chris and Joyce achieved another maritime first as the movie "Galaxy Quest" was shown in the main salon. On this occasion there was no popcorn but this shortcoming may be remedied during future attractions. The wind dropped slightly to the 12 to 16 knot range as we headed into the night. The seas behind DoodleBug were in pitch darkness but ahead, the passing 8 foot rollers shimmered with a silver pathway, lit by a "Cheshire Cat" moon. Mileage run for the 24 hour period was 152 miles. We are still heading west of southwest.
December 4, 2008
Today was overcast as we approached the remains of the low pressure system to the west and the sea confused for most of the day. A steep roller from behind built, until it was topping 10 foot by noon and was combined with cross seas from the various lows prowling around on this side of the Atlantic. This made for an uncomfortable ride and the wind gusted from 11 to 17 knots, swinging from side to side as it did so. In spite of this, we sailed with the same configuration as yesterday; Genoa poled to port and main and mizzen winged to starboard. By nightfall the wind and waves settled down slightly and we sailed on through the darkness. We have seen no shipping since we left Sao Vicente but the mornings have brought discoveries of flying fish that boarded during the night and we have watched their antics as they explode from the sea, fleeing predators or alarmed by our passage. Our position at 12/5/2008, 0312 hours UTM was N 14 34.6' W 028 55.2'. All well on board.
December 5, 2008
came on deck this morning, she noticed
that a seam on the leech of the Genoa
was opening. I had inspected the sail
during my watch and I did not notice the
damage at the time. I therefore assumed
that this was a recent phenomenon and
something that needed to be addressed,
before it became worse. We were sailing
in light winds from behind and the
damaged seam was about 15 feet above the
deck. Our first attempt was to use the
engine to increase our speed and thus
reduce the apparent wind. We lowered the
Genoa, while Chris struggled to drag and
hold it on the deck. Now Chris is a big
lad but this was not going to work. Plan
"B" was necessary and we turned
Doodlebug into the wind and used the
engine to motor slowly back towards the
Cape Verde Islands. The sail was now
spread across the foredeck and we were
able to examine the damage in detail. We
found that the seam had opened on the
strip of Ultraviolet (UV) cloth that is
sewn on the leech, to protect the furled
sail. We could now see perhaps a dozen
small holes in this UV strip, all the
way to the head of the sail. The sail
had been stored at Marmaris and
"serviced" there. It was in perfect
condition when it was rigged last April.
My only postulate as to why the sail has
become damaged, is that we did not
remove it in Lanzarote but instead
installed a protective sock. The
constant wind blowing at the Puerto
Calero marina and the subsequent
flogging of this sock, must have somehow
damaged both the sock and the sail.
We made a temporary repair to the sail with a clear plastic "sail bandage" that we had used successfully before in the Pacific and will seek to replace the UV strip when we next reach a sail repair facility. Forty five minutes later, we rerigged the Genoa and pointed DoodleBug back towards Bequia.
By noon UTM, the wind was firmly on the stern, the swells had dropped to a long period roller and the temperature was reaching 85F. We rigged the poled out ballooner to starboard, as a mirror image of the Genoa on the port side. This combo gives us 1,500 square feet of sail and a boat speed of approximately half of the true wind speed. The red, white and blue paneled sail is very photogenic and an example of it's deployment is displayed on the welcome page of our web-site.
1430 hours and we were passed by a pod of a dozen or so small whales. Our identification guide is a bit light here and we were unable to find an match but they were similar in size to the cetaceans we had previously identified as "Risso's Dolphin" only with a rounded head like a nuclear submarine.
The wind has stayed steady all day and we were still holding at 5.5 knots as we headed into our third night at sea on this leg. Tonight's movie was "Chariot's of Fire" and Joyce achieved another sailing first, when Annette fixed PBJ sandwiches (Peanut Butter and Jelly) for the movie watchers. We are still heading south towards N 13 latitude and so far the butter has not melted. As everyone knows, Columbus' sailing directions called upon him to turn west when "butter melts". Maybe he was using olive oil......
Our position at 2220 hours UTM on 12/5/2008 was N 13 45.8' W 030 23.3'.
December 6, 2008
this morning the winds died, I furled
the Genoa and Ballooner together on the
forestay and we motored for a couple of
hours. Almost as soon as we went to
engine, a radar target showed up at 10
miles distance. The swells were still
large and the vessel showed just a white
over red mast light, when we both
crested a swell, the size of radar
reflection indicating that it was a
small motor vessel, such as a trawler.
The vessel's course indicated that it
would cross our stern at a distance of
five miles or so and probably never see
our deck level navigation motoring
lights. By now I could see it had two
range lights, a green starboard
navigation light and a red light below
the stern white range light. This is the
light configuration of a pilot boat and
unlikely to be found 400 miles west of
the Cape Verde Islands. A couple of
hours later the mysterious visitor had
disappeared from our radar and we were
back under sail. Chris was on watch next
and reported that a motor trawler with
working deck floods and a white over red
light configuration, approached to
within a mile and a half of our stern
and tailed us for a while, before taking
off again at a tangent. We must have
been a bizarre sight on a dark night,
with just a mast-top navigation light,
indicating a sailing vessel, with two
poled sails on either side. I expect the
fishing boat was just curious. Chris and
Annette reported that the moon had set
and the phosphorescence in the water
provided a submarine fireworks display
of large amoebic blobs of bright light,
around a milky trail in DoodleBug's
wake. These conditions are great for
starwatching and on my watch I had
noticed that both Polaris and the
Southern Cross were clearly visible.
1010 hours we confirmed that a "test" pat of butter had melted and we changed course by some 30 degrees, on a direct run to pass just south of Barbados. The twin headsails were no longer viable so we struck the "Ballooner" and went to a broad reach with poled Genoa, main and mizzen.
1340 hours we passed a bulk carrier on a reciprocal course to ours, the first "cargo" vessel we have seen.
1755 hours we set the mizzen staysail and were maintaining over six knots through the water in the lightening winds. Midnight found us at a position of N 13 13.8' W 032 52.7'.
December 7, 2008
morning I noted that we had completed
our 4th. day at sea and were now some
556 miles from Porto Grande, with
another 1,622 miles to go until we reach
Bequia. Annette had discovered a dead
snake during her brief beach-combing
interlude a few days ago, whilst I was
schlepping jerry jugs of diesel to the
dinghy. She had retained the corpse for
later identification and biological
examination, however, the warm
temperatures we were enjoying had not improved the
condition of the snake and the rank
smell of fishy corruption that engulfed
us when she opened the side locker to
find a bucket, coupled with my hearty
endorsement, encouraged her to dump the
slimy and rotting reptilian remains over
the side. We then sent her below to wash
The winds have not entirely been cooperating with us and hover annoyingly about 20 degrees off a dead run. You cannot effectively set sail for a broad reach at this wind angle, because the mizzen partially blankets the main, which partially blankets the Genoa, thereby reducing their effectiveness. Three cups of coffee later and I finally made the decision to rig for a dead run. I had procrastinated because we needed to furl the Genoa and lower it's pole from the starboard side; then reverse the procedure on the port side before rigging and poling the "ballooner" back to the starboard side. We would sail as close to the wind direction as we could, while keeping both sails filled and angle off further south as needed. The wind forecasts have been changeable and although we don't entirely trust their musings, we need something to base our strategy upon. The forecasting website cooperated by remaining resolutely silent, despite several requests for weather updates. I always forget that website managers like to perform their maintenance, by shutting down the relevant sites around the very small hours of a Sunday morning. We must use the previous day's cast of the tea -leaves.
So it was that we headed into our fifth night at sea, with twin head sails set, running on "wind vane" mode set 20 degrees from a dead run. Small rain pods have begun to appear on the radar but they drift slowly and don't seem to present a strong wind threat. At 12/8/2008; UTM 0350 hours our position is N 13 07' W 035 34'.
December 8, 2008
Although we were making good progress under poled Genoa, poled "ballooner" and mizzen - that is "twin headsails", there was an occasional violent roll aboard DoodleBug. The wind was from the stern, as was the dominant swell but dawn showed an additional steep swell at near right angles, producing the uncomfortable roll whenever it hit the beam. The weather forecast had shown a low pressure system due west of us, in our path and presumably there were also systems to the north producing the additional swell.
1050 hours we were passed by an
obviously empty tanker on a reciprocal
course. The day was muggy and hazy at
85.6 F and the tanker seemed to adjust
his course slightly, to take a look at
us as he passed. His rudder was partly
clear of the water and his propeller was
so close to the surface, it kicked up
foam at his stern. We assumed that he
was heading for the West African
offshore oil fields.
1725 hours: The winds had been increasingly fickle and the radar now showed a massive rainstorm ahead. We secured all hatches and stowed loose items as we headed towards it. The storm's progress looked to be at right angles to the prevailing wind direction but without a lot of speed. Nevertheless we made the precaution of furling the sails and motoring until we were clear of the disturbance. The deck was lashed with torrential rain for the next couple of hours and DoodleBug was thoroughly washed. As we exited to the west of the storm, we were treated to a spectacular lightning display. The wind returned to blowing from the stern and the contrary swell was now absent. Thus we returned to sailing with our twin headsail configuration, as the sun faded from the cloudy sky and was replaced by a two-thirds moon. Tomorrow's forecast is for lighter winds.
Our position at 12/9/2008; 0240 hours UTM is N 13 20.1' W 037 45.4'
December 9, 2008
As forecast, the wind went away today and just after midnight, we began to motor sail. I say "just after midnight", but this is referenced to "ship's time". We usually set the latter to whatever is the local time and for the Cape Verde Islands, we used UTM minus 1. By now we had passed the 38th. line of longitude and changed the ship's time to UTM minus 3. The actual time zone change occurred during Joyce's watch but we waited for daylight to make the adjustment, as we failed to convince her to stand 5 hours instead of her scheduled 3. The other major event at dawn was the deployment of our two trolling lines. We anxiously watched these for at least five minutes but caught no fish.
0840 hours: I tested the engine on a
maximum throttle / speed run and the
engine would not run at higher than
2,000 RPM. A quick check indicated that
the "on-engine" fuel filter was
partially clogged; we swiftly replaced
this and verified a maximum RPM with
"clean filters" of just over 3,000 RPM.
Over our stern Annette spotted multiple
dorsal fins, rapidly approaching and
these belonged to a pod of a score or so
bottlenose dolphins. We have never
experienced a dolphin touching a
deployed fishing lures but as a
precaution, we hauled the two lines back
aboard until our guests departed about
twenty minutes later.
1155 hours a pod of whales passed us about 300 yards off the starboard beam. I changed course as soon as I saw the "blow", so that we could get closer but the pod was on a reciprocal course to ours and we never did get close enough to attempt a specie identification. Annette still had no fish, even though showers of flying fish continued to explode from the waves. She sat gloomily on the stern, willing a bite and when this didn't happen, she reverted to her practice of "jiggling" the trolling line. Unfortunately, the line must have been salt-stiff, because when she released it, the loop of line holding it onto the port cleat, popped off and the newest of her lines disappeared into 13,000 feet of Atlantic sea-water. We had tuna sandwiches for lunch. The tuna came from a can.
1700 hours: A repeat of yesterday. A
line of rain cells popped up on the
radar, barring our path west. We did not
get much rain, as we managed to slip
between pods, but the wind gusted to 25
knots and switched direction around
every point of the compass.
Unfortunately, by the time we had passed
the rain pods and the wind had settled
down as to direction and strength, it
had also dropped back to the 3 to 6 knot
range. We remained on engine as we
headed into the seventh night at sea
since we left the Cape Verde Islands.
On 12/10/2008: 0350 hours UTM our position was N 13 18' W 040 41'.:
December 10, 2008
hot with a maximum temperature reached
of 90.6 degrees F (32.5C). By
mid-morning the wind had died to a
whisper and we were both motoring and
examining the wind forecasts, looking
for any sign of encouragement. We
received an e-mail this morning
containing an "ARC" website report from
12/7/2008, indicating that half of their
fleet were still over 1,000 miles from
St. Lucia and suffering from the same
lack of winds as we. The last time we
saw ARC vessels was the day before we
put into the Cape Verde Islands and have
since been alone on an ocean that is
empty of either commercial vessels or
even aircraft con-trails.
The sky was clear and sunny and Joyce suggested that we use the opportunity to compute our position with the sextant. We took a fore-noon sight a couple of hours before noon, checked the accuracy of our timepieces using a BBC Africa time-signal on the SSB; followed this with a noon-sight for latitude and wrapped this all up with an afternoon sight; around two hours after local noon. We also noted the GPS noon position - just to see if the satellites were in their correct orbit. Annette was very patient and delayed lunch allowing our scientific noon-time observations. Thus it was that by mid-afternoon, we had three sets of sextant observations that we could either perform calculations on today, or save them for a future rainy afternoon. Zeal overcame lethargy and we ran through our three position sets. The first encouragement came when we calculated our latitude to within four tenths of a mile of the GPS version. Yeah! The next step was to plot the three sets of "position lines" and then translate the fore-noon sight and post-noon sights to the noon position. This is to account for the
the vessel during the four hours between
the sights. We needed the tranquilizing
effects of a beer before we tackled this
job, as precision is called for and
shaky hands are to be avoided. Our
graphed position produced a longitude
within 1.8 miles of the GPS version.
Wow! I was personally stunned that we
had achieved the same hemisphere.
Captain Cook was pretty good with the ol' sextant and he could get within a
mile; but then he had practiced more
than us and as previously stated, within
five miles generally works, since you
can look out of the cockpit and see your
destination at this range.
Our second major task of the day was to replace the lost trolling line. We dug through our locker and discovered a hand made lure, courtesy of Keith in Chagos. This was on a substantial steel leader that we attached to about 120 feet of 300 pound test monofilament. We do not plan on losing this sucker! Some bungee cords used as a shock absorber and we sailed and or motored onwards with our double fishing rig deployed.
The wind remained in the 3 and 4 knot range but we suffered from a choppy sea with 5 foot swells knocking us around. There was certainly wind somewhere but nowhere near us. A few rain pods popped into existence to threaten us around sunset but their speed did not indicate wind shifts. The whole crew assembled on the foredeck to witness a spectacular sunset, with the scattered rain clouds and fair weather cumulus lit by the setting sun,
all against a multi-hued sky. Fabulous.
2100 hours the wind began to gently
increase in strength and we immediately
re-rigged the poled Genoa, poled
Ballooner (twin headsail) combination,
plus the mizzen. The latter is far
enough back that it does not seem to
shadow the head sails. We thus achieved
4 knots over the ground but did this
without burning diesel.
0315 hours UTM on 12/11/2008 found us at N 13 13' W 042 49'
December 11, 2008
began at midnight and I had checked the
decks, tightened loose control lines for
the deployed poles and tidied the
cockpit, aided by a near full moon. I then
settled down to read a book when the
radar alarm sounded it's warning. A
squall line of heavy rain cells had
triggered the alarm and were about 8
miles away and closing. I made sure that
we had all of the hatches and windows
secured and as the batteries needed
charging anyway, decided to furl the
twin head sails that were currently
driving us and proceed under engine
power. Annette had just awoken and asked
me if I wanted a cup of coffee. The
kettle was fired up. She then announced,
"you have a fish on the line".
We were still trolling two lines and since we had never caught a fish at night, we had simply left them in the water. At 0100 hours I had checked the lines using a flashlight and all was normal i.e. "fishless". Now we had the squall approaching, the kettle whistle was screaming, the watch alarm timer adding it's own blare to the cacophony and I was standing on the stern, hauling a thrashing tuna aboard. Of course Annette needed a photograph and this necessitated a search for the camera, whilst I clung grimly to the fish. The tuna was a chubby 25 inch fish and was not particularly happy about being aboard. Annette returned wearing her life jacket, safety line and holding a camera but the latter refused to function. The tuna and I continued to regard each other, while Annette went in search of a spare battery. Still no luck with the camera. She was now encouraged to abandon the photo journalistic endeavor and to get a plastic bin for the fish, which by now was bleeding liberally all over the stern, just as the first rain from the squall line began to sprinkle us. Finally the fishing lines were spooled and stowed, I had sloshed several buckets of sea water over the mess on the stern which was also being washed by a heavy rain, the tuna was on the way to the refrigerator and my coffee was in my hand. Why does everything always happen at once?
0800 hours: Annette was wearing a bikini
and gutting the tuna on the side deck.
She looked a little like an extra from a
teenage horror flick, as she had managed
to smear bright red tuna blood over most
of her body, thoroughly grossing out
Joyce, who is not accustomed to
in-flight butchery. Joyce then said,
"Ed, there is something wrong with the
ballooner". A quick glance at the
latter, showed that the head of the sail
was no longer attached to the fitting at
the top of the forestay and the top
third of the sail had collapsed; the
balance of the sail being held up by the
compression of the bolt rope in the
groove on the forestay furling mandrel
(non-sailors may skip the technical
parts described herein). "Bugger", my
professional analysis, "we need to get
that down". Annette hacked away at our
tuna whilst Joyce steered DoodleBug to a
reach and I dropped the ballooner and
struggled mightily to stuff it into the
forward locker. The nylon hook that
clips into the mast head fitting had
broken. I had a spare on board and so
the failure of this item was not
catastrophic. The problem was that the
broken end of the hook was still in the
fitting at the top of the forestay and
would almost certainly prevent a new
hook from engaging. By now Joyce had
steered DB back onto her downwind course
and Annette was clearing away the
evidence of her food preparation
exercise. I ran the "dehooking mouse" up
the forestay in the vain hope that it
would allow the broken ballooner hook to
release and fall down it's groove under
gravity - but no dice. The only solution
was to drop the Genoa along with the
head fitting and remove the recalcitrant
hook fragment at deck level.
Chris had been off-watch and emerged sleepily on deck, probably regretting his decision to wake up. "Are you feeling strong?", I asked. We set out the procedure as to who was to do what and de-rigged the Genoa pole before turning DB into the wind and dropping the Genny. The wind was blowing at 15 knots with DB plunging as she faced into the Atlantic waves instead of running with them. As soon as we had dropped about one-third of the sail, the balance became separated from the forestay, as the bolt-rope detached itself from it's groove. Now we had just lost our second driving sail. We had it pretty much under control on deck, with three bodies lying on top of the Genoa to stop it from blowing away and used the opportunity to examine the repair job we had made several days ago. It did not look good and we began to re-tape the worst of the seam separations, all the time thinking that there was no way that we could re-hoist this sail in the current wind conditions. The bolt rope was undersized for the size of the slot in the forestay furling mandrel. It would simply slip out again as we attempted to hoist it. Chris came to the rescue when he asked, "Don't you have a spare Genoa?". "Duh!" It was the originally supplied sail; was in good condition and the reason I had it on board, was in case we had a problem on the Atlantic crossing - particularly with the undersized bolt rope on the replacement sail we were currently sitting upon.
The spare Genny was buried at the very bottom of the stern locker and I unpacked the various layers of locker stuff, placing the contents on various parts of the plunging deck where I hoped they wouldn't blow away. Finally and with Annette's help, we managed to drag the beast from it's lair and schlep it to the foredeck. The ballooner slot was cleared of its clogging debris and with Chris cranking on the winch handle like a madman and me feeding the Genoa's bolt rope and burning my fingers in the process, we soon had the spare Genoa rigged, tensioned and poled into position. Back to sailing
again as we
hauled the downed Genoa along the side
decks and stuffed it into the cockpit,
burying Joyce the helmsperson in the
process. Then came the task of repacking
the stern locker, which was now easier
since it suddenly had more space.
Everything back in place and I collapsed
on top of the sail in the cockpit,
whilst noting that this is how racing
Nobody seemed anxious to re-rig the now repaired ballooner, so we winged the main and continued to sail towards Bequia, albeit at about a knot slower than before. Chris and I then began the seeming impossible task of folding the 750 square foot Genoa on the mizzen deck. We not only accomplished this task but the bundle even fit inside the sail bag which was then lashed to the mizzen top rails.
Lunch was freshly caught tuna, marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil and white wine; then sautéed in olive oil and served with string beans and rice peanut pilaf. Well received by a hungry crew!
By late afternoon, the wind had dropped to around 10 knots and we raised and poled the repaired ballooner without incident. We were now under sail with twin headsails again, just as we had been some ten hours earlier.
December 12, 2008
Time 1330 hours UTM; Position N 13 21' W 046 12' All well on board. We sailed through the night with winds of around 10 knots and moving at between 5.5 and 6 knots over the ground, using the now repaired Genoa / Ballooner twin headsail combo. This combo seems to give us about 50 % of the true wind speed and about three-quarters of a knot more than the Genoa / winged main combination. The extra speed is very welcome in light winds but the catch is that the ballooner is rated by the manufacturer as good for "up to 20 knots". If the wind exceeds 20 knots, the ballooner and Genoa furl together around the forestay but then the Genoa is unavailable, until the ballooner is struck. In high winds, the 750 square foot light material ballooner is a lot of sail to handle on a pitching deck, particularly when attempting to stuff it into it's locker and we will almost always strike it in lighter conditions.
The reason for this discourse became apparent at around 0800 hours in the form of a line of heavy rain cells approaching from the stern. These rain-cells contain gusty winds in the 16 to 22 knot range. The wind direction also veers by 60 degrees or so. We observed that when the cells have passed, there is often a period of almost no wind for the next hour or so. We can hold our twin headsail combo for winds within 30 degrees either side of a dead run and the strategy we adopted was to try and avoid the heaviest cells and to run off before the veering wind, using the "wind vane mode" on the autopilot to hold a constant wind angle. All this is while praying that we don't have too much sail up and blow out the ballooner, while surfing down the large swells at speeds of over 10 knots. The problem cells stayed with us for nearly 5 hours and the day stayed heavily overcast and cooler than before, reaching a high of "only" 85.1F. Nevertheless, the Captain ordered ice lollipops distributed to crew during the afternoon. Night watches have been comfortable as the cockpit temperature has remained above 81F throughout the night.
2010 hours: The first freighters we have seen in several days passed simultaneously. One at 10 miles distance and the other at 4 miles. A reminder that careful watches are still necessary. Miles run during our tenth day at sea since leaving the Cape Verdes was 163 miles. Our position at 0317 hours UTM on 12/13/2008 was N 13 16' W 047 48'.
December 13, 2008
Time 0355 hours UTM; Position N 13 16' W 047 53' All well on board. Our tenth night at sea provided an overcast sky and lots of rain cells, with higher winds than forecast. In fact the weather forecast has become schizophrenic, with wild swings in predictions, just hours apart. The morning found us sailing with 18 knots of wind and 10 foot swells versus a forecast 7 knots. By mid-morning the cloud cover had mostly burned away and the wind settled down to the 11 to 12 knot range, allowing us to maintain our sail configuration of poled ballooner, poled Genoa and mizzen.
The chart plotter shows that we are
approaching our destination in the
Caribbean and Annette finally relented,
allowing us to dig deeper into her
closely guarded freezer. Lunch was
pan-fried entrecote steaks, with red
wine, mint and marjoram reduction, plus
bow-tie pasta, basil pesto and tomatoes.
The Captain distributed the last of the
ice cream bars for dessert. Tough times.
The afternoon brought a visit from a pod of bottlenose dolphins, whose leaps and aerial acrobatics were truly amazing. Perhaps they were inspired by Annette's music selection of Lyle Lovett singing, "The One Eyed Fiona".
Sunset and civil twilight allowed the wannabe celestial navigators, Ed and Joyce, to make a sextant measurement of the altitude of Venus. Our measurements were probably "iffy" as DB was rocking violently in large swells but we were gratified to find a bright planet-like object (FYI planets don't twinkle) at almost exactly our computed elevation and azimuth. We will put off the search for other celestial objects for a clearer night and a more stable platform.
The rain returned in earnest in late afternoon but the full moon rising at 1900 hours produced a never before seen "moon rainbow". The colors were obviously muted but a pale green and rose separation was prominent and easily noted.
All night long, heavy rain was the norm, with light, shifting winds in the 12 knot range. The 24 hour run for the day was 142 miles and our position at 0745 hours UTM on 12/14/2008 was N 13 22' W 050 43'.
December 14, 2008
During our 11th. night at sea since leaving the Cape Verde Islands, it rained on and off all night long and we did our best to dodge the heaviest cells. Around dawn a particularly heavy line of cells passed us by and shortly thereafter, we lost our tail wind. For the next six hours we motored with the just the main-sail on centerline to damp the roll, in the very confused sea of wind "memory" chop, mixed with 6 foot swells. We were visited again by a large pod of bottlenose dolphins to beak the
monotony of an otherwise dull and overcast morning. One cause for concern was the slight loss of engine RPM and the fact that switching Racors (pre-filters on diesel supply line) normalized our cruising speed but did not cure the problem entirely. This indicated that the on-engine filter is clogged - but this was changed only 44 hours ago. These filters are supposed to be changed every "couple of years". I liberally dosed the fuel tank with a biocide, just in case we had anaerobic bacterial growth in the tank and we motored onwards.
1300 hours: Our wind returned and we
were back sailing again under poled
ballooner, poled Genoa and mizzen. The
wind was steady at 10 to 12 knots and
provided a sailing speed of 6 and a 1/2
knots over the ground. Once we were
under sail, we took the opportunity to
replace both the offending Racor filter
as well as the on-engine fuel filter.
Engine RPM were again restored.
We also took advantage of the calmer conditions in the afternoon to improve the education of the crew. The first DVD we watched was a documentary defining the relationship between the British Secret Service and the British Royal succession and was titled, "Johnny English". The second documentary was an analysis if American Jurisprudence titled, "My Cousin Vinny".
Thus we headed into our 12th. night at sea. Our position at 12/15/2008: 0600 hours UTM was N 12 57' W 053 08'
December 15, 2008
night spent under poled Genoa, poled
ballooner and mizzen, with the
inevitable rains cells in the small
hours. Now we are heading too far to the
south and need to change course for a
more direct route to Bequia.
0900 hours: We struck the ballooner and changed course to a broad reach with poled Genoa, main and mizzen, holding good speeds of 6 knots or better in winds of 13 to 15 knots. The waves were choppy and we had a 10 foot swell to add to the mix.
1300 hours: Annette issues potato guns and begins a target competition between Chris and Joyce, using empty beer cans as targets. Unfortunately DB's roll kept knocking the beer can targets over but the additional challenge of moving targets did not dissuade the marksmen from filling the cockpit with spent potato "bullets".
1800 hours: Just before sunset the swell
had shifted to the beam and the Genoa
pole occasionally dipped dangerously
close to getting wet. We struck the pole
and headed on into our thirteen night at
sea since the Cape Verdes, still on a
broad reach but using the wind vane mode
on the autopilot to maintain sail trim
in the constantly veering and backing
At 0430 hours UTM on 12/16/2008 our position was N 12 46.3' W 055 39.8'
December 16, 2008
0430 hours UTM ; Position N 12 46.3' W 055 39.8'. All well on board. 330 miles to go.
our 13th. night at sea since the Cape
Verde Islands as a broad reach under
full sail. A freighter passed about four
miles from our stern to enliven an
almost uneventful night. Sightings of
other vessels remind us that we are not
entirely alone on the planet and we have
been monitoring the radar and making
more careful sweeps of the horizon, now
that we are in proximity to the islands
and might encounter small Caribbean
After dawn the wind dropped and veered in a rolly, confused seaway. We poled the Genoa and spent a frustrating morning chasing wild changes of wind speed and direction, while surrounded by heavy rain cells. We finally broke clear of a particularly large cell and went to a reach that was to last until we arrived in Bequia.
December 17, 2008
UTM: Position N 12 56' W 059 11'
Barbados in sight to starboard. Calypso Christmas music on local radio. All well on board. 120 miles to Bequia. Dawn and at 0730 hours land is in sight! We see the clear shape of an island off the starboard bow. I turned on the FM radio and
immediately we were listening to "calypso" Christmas songs with a background of steel drums. DB sailed through the day at 7 to 9 knots with a steady 14 knots of wind from just behind the beam. The wind forecast had stoutly maintained "near northerlies of 6 or 7 knots", and we were extremely grateful that this was wrong. We passed our waypoint off the southern tip of Barbados before noon and were now on a direct course for Bequia, some 100 miles further west. Just before sunset, we could see mountainous St. Vincent to starboard but the lower lying Bequia was still invisible.
December 18, 2008
Arrived Bequia 0505 hours UTM. All well on board. Position N 13 01' W 061 15'. We are here!!
the Bequia channel that separates the
island from St. Vincent, just after
midnight. The moon behind the thin
clouds provided just enough illumination
that we could see the black outlines of
Bequia and neighboring islets of
Battowia and Baliceaux. The Bequia
channel is notorious for difficult seas
and our fast sail had placed us here
well before our expected arrival time.
The tide was now against us with a
current against the wind running at 1.5
to 2 knots. The result was a short sea
of steep, closely spaced waves. The wind
backed and dropped and we furled the
Genoa and main as we entered the
channel, now motor sailing with just the
mizzen. A glance at the GPS speed showed
that our "speed over the ground" had
dropped to 3 knots with DoodleBug
swinging wildly in the steep waves and
also drifting closer to the steep and
unseen sea cliffs on the port side. We
increased engine speed to a "fast
cruise" of 2500 RPM and the motion
stabilized at 8 knots through the water
and six over the ground. Now was the
time to be thankful that we had changed
out the diesel filters en-route instead
of waiting for the calmer waters of an
Forty minutes later and the darkness was shattered by an explosion of lights as we rounded "the Devil's table" and entered Admiralty Bay, Bequia. We dropped anchor at N 13 00.2' W 061 14.7' at 0505 hours UTM (local time is UTM minus 4). We are here! DoodleBug had crossed the Atlantic and our third great Ocean.
December 19, 2008 thru December 23, 2008
Bequia is a really great place to "hang". It is as close to a "yachties" town as you can get. There are about 100 yachts anchored in Admiralty Bay at present, a couple of dive companies, a few small hotels and that is about it. The local economy is predominantly dependant upon yacht - tourism. This is our fourth visit and six years have passed since we last gazed upon the white homes with brightly colored roofs, scattered around the steep, verdant hillsides. The town is just as friendly and laid back as we remember; a few restaurants and businesses added and a few have disappeared.
Chris and Joyce flew home yesterday to an icier and snowier climate but will I'm sure, bask in the warmth of friends and family.
We are slowly catching up on our four
weeks separation from so called
civilization by electronically paying
bills and balancing accounts. There are
a few boat chores to catch up on but
overall, we crossed the Atlantic in fine
shape. We spent 6 days sailing from
Lanzarote to Cape Verde and 14 and half
days sailing from Cape Verde to Bequia.
That was an average daily run of around
150 miles and very satisfying for the
light wind conditions experienced.
We plan to spend Christmas in Bequia and then move north to St. Lucia as weather permits. The forecast for the Christmas period is for strong winds and we are not in a rush to brave these, particularly since this is lobster season in the Grenadines and there are lots of restaurants we haven't tried yet!
December 24, 2008
We have been trapped aboard for near 24 hours due to an "equipment failure". This is simply that the rubber rub-strip that protects our dinghy from "rubbing" up against docks and like, has become detached from the front of the dinghy and makes a sort of sea anchor when trying to motor. We tried gluing it with "Shoe Goo" and this lasted about a day before giving up. This time we used alleged "flexible" epoxy. We left the whole mess to dry for 24 hours with the dinghy across the mizzen deck. This was no great hardship as the weather has been cloudy
with frequent rain showers
and strong gusty winds. The wind gusts
howl through the anchorage and the boats
all tug at their moorings and swing
wildly from side to side as though
trying to escape. The anchorage in
Admiralty Bay is very full, with almost
double the number of vessels that were
present upon our arrival. Watching the
new arrivals has been both entertaining
and disconcerting. Several yachts have
dropped anchor in the middle of our
mooring field, just feet away from us.
The mooring buoys are spaced so that
there is barely swinging room between
the moored boats. It should be obvious
to anyone, that the addition of an
anchored yacht into the middle of this
is not going to work. The anchor chain
needs to be much longer than the mooring
line and so the anchored vessel will
swing much more than a moored vessel.
Most attempts to anchor produced
dragging anchors and provided
entertainment from those of us watching
from a safe distance and heart
palpitations from those unfortunates who
were downwind of the dragees (dragees -
Native Carib word meaning "charter boat
full of French people"). A couple did
manage to get their hook to stick and
remained at anchor until the wind swung
direction and then there was a lot of
yelling and waving of fenders until they
gave up and left.
The strong winds are forecast to be with us until near the New Year. The wind are from the Northeast and thus discourage anyone, including us from sailing north. This also means that the ARC cruisers are trapped in St. Lucia and still reputedly occupying all of the marina space and moorings; thus we might just as well hang here for a few more days.
The other major equipment malfunction was when our backup laptop crashed. I believe the problem lies with the video card and it will probably remain in a "down" condition until we return to the mainland. In the meantime the primary laptop cannot find the Wifi network that I have been successfully pirating and we have lost internet access (e-mail still via satellite phone) until we can get ashore to pay cash money to access one of the several "non-free" wireless networks.
By afternoon we tested our glue job on the dinghy and it seems to be holding. SV Cetacea arrived from St' Lucia bearing Tony and Gail Wessendorf. We last met the Wessendorf's for dinner at the Lakeshore Yacht Club near Houston, Texas. We joined them and their guests for Christmas eve supper at the Frangipani restaurant. A fun evening with a steel band for "background" music.
December 25, 2008 thru December 26, 2008
Our friends Gail and Tony aboard SV Cetacea departed Christmas morning, heading south and bearing their guests towards the Tobago Cays. They would have a fast broad reach towards these islands but unless the high winds drop over the next few days, they will face a tough and uncomfortable uphill slog back towards their base in St. Lucia.
Annette and I have been feeling under the weather for the past two days and the high winds and rain combined to keep us aboard DB, reading books and watching movies. The weather forecast reliably predicts the winds to drop, "the day after tomorrow". Each day it is the same forecast, the lighter winds just tantalizing a "few days" away.
December 27, 2008
shrugged off our lethargy, dinghied
ashore and caught the 0800 hours ferry
to the port of Kingstown on the island
of St. Vincent. The high winds were
still evident and local recommendation
was to take "the Admiral" ferry boat
rather than the larger "Bequia Express"
ferry, that departed at exactly the same
time. We were assured that the Admiral
was much faster and could make the
passage to the nearby island in one
hour. Sure enough, the Admiral shot out
of "Admiralty Bay" within seconds of
it's scheduled departure time and turned
the corner at the "Devil's Table" rocks
to bear the full brunt of the wind and
waves. The seas were in the 12 to 15
foot range near Bequia and the wind
howled, causing the Admiral to plunge
and roll violently. A glance behind
showed that conditions aboard the
pursuing "Bequia Express" were much
worse and indeed the Admiral was bashing
through the seas at near double the
speed of the B. Express.
In Kingstown we were on a mission to locate and buy a "coal pot". This is a cast iron device that was used by everyone's grandmother in the Islands as the primary cooking heat source. Just like a barbeque, a few coals were placed in the "coal pot" and then the pans containing the food, sat upon a grill above the coals to heat and cook. Annette had exhaustively searched Bequia for such a device and was assured that the only place to buy same was upon St. Vincent.
Every person or business where we enquired in Kingstown was firm in that the only place that might carry such an ancient device was "Prescott's". We were in some hurry to do this as today was Saturday and from experience, Kingstown shuts down at noon and the sidewalks then remained tightly rolled until Monday morning. We did find Prescott's in a narrow street behind the market place and they did have a small "coal pot" for sale. The larger size was out of stock but we were told that we might find one at the "Iron Man", across from the Kingstown police station. We retraced our steps and looked for the store called the "Iron Man". In vain we searched for
this, even though our directions had been explicit. Everyone kept pointing at the same location, which was devoid of such a store. Finally one person we asked, pointed at the WW II statue we had walked by several times. The statue was of a soldier in 1940's combat attire and was referred to locally as "The Iron Man". There was no such store and we were simply being directed to the loose group of market stalls set up in the vicinity! We did indeed find a large size "coal pot" but it was made of aluminum and was not as "cool" as the smaller cast iron version we had seen at Prescott's. The small pot then! Back to Prescott's and a relieved husband, who was going to have to carry the gosh darned thing anyway, delighted that the proposed burden would be the lighter of the two. It was now 1120 hours and the ferry departed at 1200 hours, the next being at 1900 hours. A further seven hours hanging in a dead and closed up Kingstown was not appealing and we scurried back to the ferry dock. The 1200 hours Admiral left about two minutes after we boarded and 25 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time. A fast "broad reach" back to Bequia and DoodleBug was still straining at her mooring in the high winds.
December 28, 2008
gave up on the always promised weather
window and decided that the forecast 20
knots of wind would be "manageable".
0900 hours found us at the Customs and
Immigration offices, "checking out" of
the Grenadine Islands. The Caribbean
Islands are very particular that you
must have a "Zarpe" or clearance
document when you arrive, listing the
crew and any stores such as firearms,
alcohol, pets or narcotics. If you do
carry narcotics, I noted that the form
asks for the quantity carried in
"kilograms" rather than in "bales". When
you clear out of a country, the crew
list is carefully examined and matched
to your inbound crew list. Because Chris
and Joyce left the islands by air, we
had previously made a second visit to
the immigration office and upon
production of their air tickets, their
names were removed from our crew list.
The significance of this ritual will
become apparent in two days time as we
"enter" St. Lucia.
1000 hours and we slipped our mooring and motored gently out of Admiralty Bay bound for Wallilabou Bay on St. Vincent. Just as we experienced yesterday on the ferry, we were met with a blast of wind and big seas just
beyond the "Devil's Table" rocks. The seas are biggest and the wind strongest right here and we sailed close hauled with reefed Genoa, reefed main and reefed mizzen in 12 foot seas and over 30 knots of apparent wind. We normally don't use the mizzen when close hauled but the force of a strong wind overcomes Amel's outhaul tensioner on the mainsail and we cannot set the sail properly. The mizzen has no such restriction and we sailed the Bequia channel between 42 and 45 degrees to the apparent wind, using
the "windvane" mode
on the autopilot to hold us at the
optimum wind angle. This worked well and
an hour later we were off Kingstown,
with the current and leeway only moving
us off our rhumbline by a quarter mile.
Once under the lee of St. Vincent, we
altered course for Wallilabou Bay and by
1230 hours had picked up a mooring just
off the beach. This was a disconcerting
experience in that there were vertical
cliffs just off our starboard, the beach
ahead was steep with breaking waves and
on our port side lay a ruined dock with
steel pilings and several other moored
yachts, crammed together.
We had been met by boat boy "Ashley" as we approached the mooring and he seemed to barely fit inside the tiny wooden boat he was rowing. He first took the bow line from Annette and we were now broadside to the waves. He announced that we needed a stern line. This involved the usual panic as the stern line was safely stored away in the bow locker and was also well tangled. We sorted this out and Ashley headed for the beach with our line. He then announced it was too short. The second line was much easier to handle since it was coiled inside a bag and we soon had DoodleBug winched into position. I decided that a single thin bowline, even though it was doubled through the mooring, was not enough security for DoodleBug this close to the multiple marine hazards. We therefore launched our dinghy to put on a second back-up line on the mooring. To my horror, the mooring line was a single line of hemp-like rope, that was thinner than anything we had aboard. At least the wind was not blowing particularly hard, although there was considerable swell.
Wallilabou Bay has several interesting ruined structures and their purpose was not immediately obvious. I asked Ronnie on the beach what they were for and he pointed out that they were sets used in the movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean". I now recognized the remains of the gibbet where Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, saluted the hanging corpse of a fellow pirate. The pier that he passed as his boat sank below him was the structure that now lay some 20 feet from DoodleBug. The steel pilings were now threatening to sink us should the mooring fail.
SV Cetacea had also moored nearby and we
joined crew Tony, Bruce and Dennis
ashore on a hike with Ronnie's twin
brother "Ron" up a nearby mountain
stream. Ron and Ronnie own a nearby bar
/ restaurant (The Golden Spoon) but also
act as local tour guides. The hike was
fun and as we precariously boulder
hopped back and forth across the
mountain river, we examined the
incredible variety of lush tropical
plants and bushes. Bananas, papayas,
mangoes, breadfruit, nutmeg (plus inner
covering of "mace"), callaloo, figs,
cocoa, tamarind and so on. The list
seems almost endless. The one fruit we
saw that we had not previously seen on
our travels was "ackee". This looks like
a cross between a bell-pepper an apple
and we know it from the song that
begins, "I took a trip on a sailing
ship....." and notes that "ackee rice,
salt fish are nice and the rum tastes
fine....". Okay, so now we know what an
ackee looks like.
For supper we walked to nearby Kearton Bay where we had a fine meal at the Rock Side Cafe. The walk was interesting as the narrow unlit roads passed though a local village with the open homes adding the sounds of Christmas music playing, the wonderful smells of cooking and dogs yapping at our feet. On our return to DoodleBug, large bats, with perhaps an 18" wingspan, flitted just off the surface of the water searching for mosquitoes. The night was rolly with rain drumming on the cabin roof and water sloshing about as the tide changed. To further add to the nights' discomfort was the observation made earlier by Ronnie that two boats had broken free from the moorings last year. One ended up on the beach and another on the nearby sea cliffs. Morning was almost a relief.