Welcome to the blog of the sailing yacht Sea Bunny.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Children!

We are slowly recuperating from a 3 week visit by our daughter Catharine and grandsons Archie (10) and Max (7). This was a lovely, if exhausting, experience! The last time we had visitors on the boat, apart from overnight sleepovers, was when Catharine crewed from the Cook Islands to Fiji in 2002!

Forepeak before clearing
Before they arrived the forepeak (aka the Garden Shed) had to be cleared to free up the two bunks (also requiring foam for the cushions to be acquired - we had thoughtfully had covers made when we reupholstered the rest of the boat in 2009). Our folding bikes were given away in Trinidad, allowing sails to be stowed below the bunks.

Ready for first snorkel
We opted to be in Rodney Bay Marina for the first few days of the visit - allowing the boys to get used to living on a boat. This also allowed visits to Massy's supermarkets to obtain essentials such as suitable cereals and other items differing somewhat from our usual diets! It also enabled new snorkelling gear to be tried out in the small pool in the marina.

The first night at anchor was in the relatively protected anchorage by Pigeon Island, allowing a beach trip.

Sailing the Walker Bay
We tried a short trial venture to the north of St Lucia to check the conditions. As these were OK we checked out and headed for France - 25 miles away to the north. Ste Anne is a popular cruiser destination in Martinique, generally sheltered in normal trade winds conditions.

The boys enjoyed their first snorkeling on coral reefs, sailed in the Walker Bay dinghy, chilled out on the floating adventure playground and even sat through an OCC lunch.

Floating trampoline


Exploring the mangroves
The wind turned up an unseasonal strong westerly causing (as the OCC net put it) the geriatrics and those with children aboard to seek shelter in the hurricane hole behind the Club Med resort. Although we qualified on both counts we think we'd have gone there anyway! The boys enjoyed an dinghy trip around the mangrove-lined inlet.


At the fort on Pigeon Island
The next day, as the westerly was dying down, it was time to leave Martinique and head back to St Lucia, intending to get to the very sheltered Marigot Bay but ending up back at Pigeon Island, which was OK despite some residual westerly wave action. Catharine and the boys had time to explore Pigeon Island before we left for Marigot Bay in the morning.

Happy Hour!
Marigot Bay enabled happy hour by the pool - Archie enjoyed his "virgin colada", Max his "tropical punch" and the rest of us more fortifying cocktails. A problem with the alternator, requiring its replacement with the onboard spare, meant that we stayed an extra night with Catharine and Archie doing a strenuous hike and us all enjoying the Thursday night Pink Panther movie - not to mention another happy hour by or in the pool.

Beat that Donald Trump!
A mooring in the lagoon, at USD 30, is extremely good value as it gives access to all the resort facilities (today's room rate on booking.com - USD 488).

MY Ocean Paradise
The superyachts in Marigot Bay impressed the boys, Archie favoured the 53 m sailing yacht Drumbeat (winter charter rate in Caribbean EUR 175,000/ week) while Max liked the 55 m motor yacht Ocean Paradise (winter charter rate in Caribbean USD 300,000-340,000/week). The 42 m motor yacht Maverick  (apparently currently for sale for USD 4,350,000) was also favoured!

Helmsman Archie
Archie steered Sea Bunny to Anse Cochon, a short distance south, which provided the best snorkelling of the visit; probably why many of the dive and tour boats go there.

Pre-dive briefing

Geared up

In the water
Archie, at 10 years old, could do a PADI "discover SCUBA" resort dive. We had previously assessed that SCUBA St Lucia, operating out of the upmarket Anse Chastenet resort just north of Soufriere, was probably the best place for this. They appear to be a very professional outfit and their "house reef" is buoyed off to prevent boat traffic. Catharine (who had dived before when she was with us in 2002) and Archie both dived.

Is it a fish? - No, just Max
Susan took Max snorkelling on the same reef while the others were diving. By this time Max had become a very competent snorkeller.

Several of the tourist "attractions" of St Lucia are accessed from Soufriere, so it was back to Malgretout bay, between Soufriere town and the Pitons, for a few days.

Petit Piton from Tete de Paul
The nature walk to Tete de Paul, with its superb views of the Pitons,

At the sulphur springs
the "drive-in volcano" with its sulphur springs (Rotorua it ain't)

Diamond Falls
and the warm Diamond Falls were all done in a morning with Capt Bob (+1758 7263678) who had accosted us in the street and offered a reasonable (for Soufriere) rate.

A tour of the Morne Caboulet estate, offering an outline of cacao production, copra, sugercane and native plants was done by local bus from Soufriere, although we had to walk back as buses were not in evidence.

The anchorage between the Pitons was a bit of a disappointment - the resorts have taken over the bay and the snorkelling did not seem very special.



Jumping supervisor
Jumping and swimming off the boat was a popular pastime with Max, in particular, developing his confidence by the day.
 Max


Archie

All too soon it was time for Capt Bob to take us all to the airport to send our visitors back to a very chilly Edinburgh.





Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Superb service - Aqualung UK


The Aqualung distributor for St Lucia is SCUBA St Lucia situated in Anse Chastenet, about 3 miles away and our next planned destination. R took the faulty BCD  there the same afternoon. While they were very helpful, they are a dive operator, rather than a repair shop, and could not fix the problem, although they fully identified it and attempted to clean the offending corrosion with ultrasound- no charge..

Back on the boat an email was sent to Aqualung in the UK. A response was received by the time we got up on Monday morning (4 hour time difference) and the same day  a replacement valve unit was being sent, foc, to our daughter to bring out when she visits. Unbeatable service

St Lucia - Soufriere and The Pitons,

As planned we sailed from Cumberland Bay towards St Lucia. The wind was just north of east which meant that we expected roughish conditions off the north end of St Vincent. As Susan wasn't feeling too good it would have been better to wait a day, which technically would have meant we had to check back in to St Vincent.
As it happened the conditions were not as bad as expected and  the wind freed a bit as we cleared the island. This enabled us to sail in nearly the right direction, but to make things more comfortable we did not press the boat and point as high as we could have.
As we approached the south of St Lucia it became apparent that we have some 2 knots of current with us. This was not actually very helpful as we would have been carried well past our destination of Soufriere had we continued to sail. As it was we have to steer some 25 degrees up current of the direct course.
Soufriere
Arriving at Soufriere Bay we had a selection of boat boys offering to attach Sea Bunny to a mooring. It is mandatory to use one of the moorings provided by the Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA) to protect the coral. The first mooring proposed by a boat boy appeared to be too close to the beach so he helped us to pick one up close to town. This mooring was white, with a blue band, exactly the same colour scheme as the SMMA ones. We had little choice but to allow the boat boy to pass us the line, as his boat was beside the buoy and he had the line in his hand. For this unwanted service he wanted to charge XCD 30 (about GBP 9). In the end he settled for significantly less and left with the parting shot "I hate the British - you're all racist" - which left us thinking who's racist?  Welcome to St Lucia!

Malgretout Bay
Just before dusk a local boat arrived and told us we were on his private mooring (this proved to be correct). We had to move and find an SMMA mooring in the gathering darkness, which we succeeded in doing in Malgretout Bay, just to the south. This was a more pleasant location but the original one had enabled us to get cleared in to St Lucia before Customs start charging overtime at 1630.
The next morning we checked out the town, discovering a reasonable supermarket.
One of our priorities as we work our way up the coast of St Lucia is to check out activities for Catharine and her boys when they arrive shortly. To this end we went snorkelling in one of the recommended locations around the base of Petit Piton to view the basket sponges.
On leaving Malgretout Bay we got some good views of the Pitons but will visit with our guests.

The Pitons
On our return from snorkelling the base of Petit Piton Richard snorkelled beside Sea Bunny to check on the growth of fouling in the Coppercoat antifouling - not impressed.
While down he noticed that the wire strop that runs between the keel and the skeg to deflect ropes heading to foul the propeller had become detached from the skeg and was hanging down from the keel towards the seabed.
This needed to be fixed, so the next morning (Sunday) Richard donned SCUBA gear to reattach it, a job that would be challenging to say the least with breath-hold diving.
Having descended the 2 m or so necessary he seemed to be having difficulty with depth control, continually rising. The first time he thought he didn't have enough weighting but then realised that he had a problem with his BCD (buoyancy control device - a sort of jacket that can be inflated with air from the SCUBA tank to increase buoyancy and ascend or vented to reduce buoyancy and descend). The inflator valve was passing air into the BCD when air was not required causing the BCD slowly to  inflate. It was very lucky that this was discovered an a very shallow dive when the result is merely annoying. At  greater depths it could result in an uncontrolled ascent with serious consequences.
He managed to secure the strop then his thoughts urgently turned to having the BCD repaired.

Canouan, Bequia & St Vincent

The Tobago Cays are pleasant and it is a change to be anchored with only the reef between Sea Bunny and the Atlantic swells. However, we find them vastly over-rated and crowded compared with other reef anchorages we have visited.  The boat boys are now more disciplined and appear much older!
Sea Bunny left, through the gap in the northern reef. Dire warnings of cross currents setting onto the rocks were probably originally written before GPS and chart plotters that can warn you if you are only a couple of feet off your desired track. The number one eyeball navigation and the colour of the water still remain important in these areas.
Once through the reef the western tip of Canouan is all of 3.2 nM. It was, however, a fairly uncomfortable 3.2 nM as it was nearly head to 20 kn of wind and we had not put the mainsail up to steady the boat - it was, after all, only 3.2 nM!

Charlestown and anchorage
Charlestown Bay is the main anchorage. We were on a mission -dinghy power- having stocked up on petrol we forgot about the 2-stroke oil.  A very pleasant afternoon was spent on foot being directed around to find some. Up the steep hill out of the main village we went.
View south from the hilltop - towards Mayreau and Tobago Cays
At the top of the hill without finding the promised store we were directed down the even steeper hill to the south of the island where the hardware store would definately have it. It didn't but we were told to knock on the door of the house opposite.  The lady who answered opened the "Fisherman's Bar" next door where there was indeed some 2-stroke oil amongst the bottles of  rum. Mission accomplished!
Tamarind Hotel jetty
Access to shore from the anchorage is via the jetty at the Tamarind Hotel - where there is significant surge even on calm days.

Pigeon peas
Pigeon peas feature on many menus in the area. The tree is quite colourful as it flowers and fruits at the same time.
Friendship Bay
Canouan to Bequia is a bit further - 16 nM. This time we sailed it but the wind direction was such that we could not quite make the course - we were heading to Friendship Bay on the south coast - and ended up motoring. Adverse current through the passage between the offshore islands just to the west of the bay was around 2.5 kn. Friendship bay is quite scenic but very rolly. It was a very quiet bay as the "Yacht Club" and associated hotel appeared defunct.
Moving on to Admiralty Bay and Port Elizabeth we found that the current through the islands was again against us at nearly the same strength - so it must be tidal, despite a range of less than 0.5m.
Port Elizabeth anchorage
Port Elizabeth was another place that we had visited in 2002 and it was our favourite island then and it remains so.  Sea Bunny initially anchored on the edge of the shallower area in about 10 m and dug the anchor in well. However, a squall came in with about a 90 degrees wind shift and we were called up by the boat behind us saying that we were getting closer! This indeed proved to be the case - the only time we've dragged our anchor since New Year's Day 2007 in Australia and that was in 70 knot wind and foul ground with plastic sacks all over the bottom!

We re-anchored in shallower water fairly well out in picturesque Princess Margaret Bay which made for a damp dinghy ride into town.
The path to Princess Margaret Beach
On the Sunday we took a walk along a recently built coastal path from town to Princess Margaret Bay.  Parts of it have apparently been damaged in recent bad weather and is officially closed - but still usable.
Princess Margaret Beach
Over lunch in a beach restaurant,talking to the couples at the next table we discovered one of them was from Shaftesbury and are old friends of our solicitor!

It is about 50 nM from Admiralty Bay to Vieux Fort or Soufriere in St Lucia - the two southernmost ports of entry in St Lucia. We decided to break the journey in St Vincent to ensure arriving in St Lucia in daylight during the working hours of customs. After clearing out from St Vincent and the Grenadines the boat must leave within 24 hours. This allowed us to check out from Port Elizabeth, overnight in Cumberland Bay on St Vincent and continue on to St Lucia the next day.
Line to shore from anchor location
Cumberland Bay is extremely deep until very close to the beach.  The guide book warns that the locals look like the bad guys from a spagetti western but are very hospitable. Anchored in 25 m and a helpful boat boy took a warp ashore from the stern. We haven't used this technique since Great Barrier Island in New Zealand in 2003.
Mojito's restaurant
There are about 6 restaurants in Cumberland Bay. "Our" boat boy tried to convince us that, having used him to help moor, we had to eat in "his" associated restaurant. We preferred to try the restaurant nearest to where we we moored - Mojitos. We were the only diners. The meal took a long time to arrive but when it did it was very good - as was the mojito!
Cumberland Bay
In the morning another boat boy was available to release on shore line on time.

Result very low key bay plus delightful people.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Closed the loop!!!

Arrived Union Island (St Vincent & the Grenadines)
Sea Bunny arrived in the approaches to Clifton Harbour on Union Island at 1330 on 20 January 2017, crossing her track from 22 January 2002 when she left Clifton turning left, westbound for the ABCs, Panama and the Pacific. Crossing your outbound track defines the completion of a circumnavigation. This one therefore took us 14 years, 364 days and 5 hours.
Last time it was a bit nerve racking navigating the reef in the harbour from paper chart at the chart table; now with large chart plotter in the cockpit it was easier. But the number one eyeball still held good.
Finding your way around is easy!
A celebration drink of the diminishing stock of South African MCC (M├ęthode Cap Classique - Champagne) was followed by a delicious meal of mahi-mahi ashore.
Plenty of fresh produce
We couldn't really remember much of our previous visit but found Union Island to be charming with lots of restaurants, small supermarkets and a market square, for the tourists, with stalls selling fresh fruit and veg - at a price! - as most is shipped in from the US.
Apparently the first arrivals on the island were around 5400 BC.
Leave room for the ferry!
While we were ashore for our evening meal the ferry from St Vincent came in, slowly and with searchlight blazing, turned and berthed stern-to a fairly narrow jetty. When it left next morning we saw that it had dropped an anchor to hold her bow in place. We could also see that anchoring in the place where Chris Doyle places an anchor sign in his Windward Islands pilot book would be unwise - as it's directly on the ferry's path. We were anchored further off the channel - about 50 m off her track.
Dressed overall in celebration
On leaving the harbour this time we turned  to port back to the Tobago Cays, anchoring with only Horseshoe Reef between Sea Bunny and the swells of the open Atlantic Ocean. In 2002 it was windy and swelly here but on this visit it is calm and beautiful but just as crowded.
After an attempt to adjust the outboard engine for the dinghy Sea Bunny was dressed overall in celebration of our circumnavigation.
Green turtle grazing
We went snorkelling to find turtles in cold 27 degree water.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Grenada and Carriacou


Thursday 29 December saw us leaving Trinidad for the overnight passage to Prickly Bay on the south of Grenada. A fairly uncomfortable passage with the wind fine on the starboard bow and a lumpy sea. There was enough wind to enable good boat speed, which meant we had to slow down for several hours in torrential rain so as to arrive in daylight  - not very comfortable.

2017 was seen in at the Tiki Bar at the Prickly Bay Marina complete with steel band and all drinks included.

After drying out from the passage we begain a sojurn of the sheltered quiet anchorages first in the next inlet to the east - Secret Harbour then to Hog Island anchorage. Several of the deep inlets on the south coast are connected by dinghy passages, so one can move between them without venturing out into the swell. This we did to attend a dinghy raft up concert on wet Sunday afternoon.

The Carenage
Next stop was St George's, the capital of Grenada. The anchorage outside is a bit rolly because of the northern swell at present but OK and a short dinghy ride to the dinghy docks outside the Island water World Chandlery and the Foodland  supermarket in the shelter of the Lagoon. The old part of the town, surrounding the inner harbour - The Carenage - is picturesque.
The Carenage and Fort George
We are told - by Grenadians - that it is the most scenic in the eastern Caribbean.

Cruise ship - St George's in the background
St George's features on the itinerary of many Caribbean cruise ships with one or two at the cruise ship dock every couple of days.

The larger ships dwarf the town but there are some smaller ones sporting masts and even sails.
Cruise ships departing
They generally arrive during the night and leave in the evening.
From St George's we did an island tour but before that as she hadn't fallen for the last 30 year Susan missed the jetty. Having returned to Sea Bunny to change and attend to the vast number of coral grazes she managed to get ashore the second time.

The tour, with an excellent guide, Dexter from Henry's Safari Tours,, took in the NW coast around to Sauteurs, where the last indigenous Carib warriors leaped to their deaths over a cliff rather than be subjugated by the French.
Chocolate tree
On the way we visited a nutmeg packing facility (1.5 M lb - about 680 tonnes - exported annually) and a chocolate factory. When the chocolate pod id broken open the beans are surrounded by juicy white flesh - which is very tasty. While trying it is important not to try to bite on the bean itself - it is certainly not pleasant tasting before it has been dried and roasted.
Chocolate beans drying in the sun
Original water-wheel
The River Antoine rum distillery, dating from 1785, still uses the original overshot water wheel for power to crush the sugar cane.
Cane crusher - water powered

Vats for concentrating the cane liquor
Most of the energy for concentrating the cane liquor comes from burning the residual cane after the juice has been extracted. From the large amounts of spent cane around it appears that there is more than is needed. We didn't ask about the risk of spontaneous combustion in the huge piles. The actual distillation uses wood as fuel, presumable because more intense heat is needed.

High tech it isn't; the contrast with the Bundaberg distillery in Queensland is striking but the product is pretty good and the carbon footprint must be low!
Fermentation
Distillation
The lower crater lake
As a volcanic island Grenada has crater lakes, one fairly close to sea level and one in the highlands. Both are quiet and scenic.
The upper crater lake
Halifax harbour
There are also nearly deserted beaches. And quiet anchorages, although the quietness of Halifax Harbour probably owes a lot to the smouldering rubbish tip.
Some recycling of rubbish to beautify does, however, take place.














Hillsborough the main (only) town on Carriacou
Carriacou is only a hop and skip away and a charming island. Drier then Grenada and, apparently, with much less usage of marijuana. Very little grown here so supply vessels make a regular run. In the north the wooden boat building trade is now dying out.  Sea Bunny is anchored from the northerly swell in Tyrell Bay while the GRP on deck was cut and polished for the first time in a couple of years and the gen set exhaust  was welded.



View across to Petite Martinique & Petit St Vincent



A 2-3 hour island tour enabled us to see most of the island and views to other islands of the Grenadines, including Union Island (St Vincent) which is where Sea Bunny will cross her outbound track from 2001 and complete her circumnavigation..