Welcome to the blog of the sailing yacht Sea Bunny.

Friday, May 5, 2017

America's Cup boats 2017

The teams that will challenge Oracle for the 35th America's Cup are gathering and preparing at Dockyard in Bermuda. While it is difficult to get close to the boats in the harbour because of security and even more difficult to get close to them on the water because of their sheer speed..


Most of the team bases are in a row. In the morning all the boats, except the Swedish, Artemis Racing and Emiratis NZ were in the water. The other boats are Oracle  USA, Softbank Japan, Land Rover /BAR UK and Groupama France.



Susan persuaded a security guard to escort her in to the village for a reasonably close shot of the Team GB boat. There is a substantial GB base here and the motto is "Bring the cup home".


In the afternoon, as we took the ferry from Dockyard to Hamilton, several of the boats were out on the water. However only  Groupama France, came close enough to the ferry to get a recognisable photo!



Some of the AC45 boats which will participate in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup after the main event were also out practicing. Since 2013 there has been a great emphasis on youth sailing and community involvement from the participating countries.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Left the tropics

Sea Bunny crossed the Tropic of Cancer northbound at 0815 this morning in 64 W. She has not been in northern temperate latitudes since crossing southbound on 23 November 2001. It is likely that this will have been her final departure from the tropics, at least with us on board.

The first 2 days of this passage were roughish - winds only up to about 25kn but very confused 3 m seas which didn't make moving about down below easy, Richard did a near somersault over the table and now his back is suffering.
A lot of sea water was sluicing over the decks, some of this found a deck leak, unfortunately above our clothes locker. Susan's gear on the top shelf was nicely packed in polythene bags. Richard's, on the second shelf, was not. Photo shows his supply of underpants drying in the cockpit after being rinsed by Susan.

Wind and sea now moderated. Indeed we will most likely be motoring a lot to reach Bermuda. We're nearly half way so a small tub of ice cream may be in order to celebrate along with tamarind prawns.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

If it ain't broke - don't use it

Eileen Quinn's song title on one of her CD's (all cruisers should listen to them - they are so accurate of the cruising life) may be a recipé for ensuring nothing further goes wrong - but it does limit your options!

From this you may guess that things have been breaking on Sea Bunny!

While in Portsmouth, Dominica, we wanted to reactivate our diving skills. Apart from diving on the boat to clean the hull and fix things, we had not done any diving since Borneo in 2010, so we booked an refresher course in Cabrits National Park, Portsmouth.
This is where the broken bits started coming to light. Susan wanted to put her gear on and go in the water from Sea Bunny before going on the course. Her (BCD) had a major leak which prevented this. She dived with the dive centre's BCD. While we were down on the first dive the instructor observed that Richard had a leak from the high pressure line connecting the air tank to the pressure gauge. A sudden failure of this at depth would be "interesting" as the entire air tank, starting off at 200 bar pressure, would empty very rapidly and noisily. Finally Susan's dive computer was recording random depths but failing to operate  on a dive.
We did, however, update our skills and even saw a sea horse.
Later in Guadaloupe we did more diving at the recommended site of the Ilets à Goyaves (Ilets Pigeon). The first time we cobbled together one working set of equipment - R used the dive operator's regulator assembly and his own BCD. Susan used the operator's BCD but her own regulator and Richard's dive computer. R carried Susan's dive computer in his pocket to check it had a problem - it did . It seems weird to dive with only a pressure gauge but no depth information.

A priority when we hired a car for a couple of days was to update dive gear. The only equipment shop in Guadaloupe is at the marina at Pointe à Pitre. We acquired new hoses for Richard and a new BCD and dive computer for Susan, so we were all up to spec for our next dive at Pigeon Island.

FIXED

In parallel with dive issues the genset had ceased to work, or even start. Symptoms were no compression and evidence of oil, fuel, soot and water around the base of the cylinder head. Aha! thought Richard; blown cylinder head gasket. No problem, we have a replacement, the necessary gaskets and o-rings and I've done this several times.We can go to the marina at Jolly Harbour, Antigua, lift the genset into the cockpit in calm conditions and replace the gasket and o-rings.

Unfortunately, this diagnosis ignored the fact that a broken cylinder head stud, which could not be moved, would give similar symptoms but be significantly more difficult to fix! Coming up to Easter we decided not to fix here as we have a dead line of crew joining us in Bermuda.
Old genset base - surprising it had lasted 16 years

Compounding this, on trying to lift the genset, one of the mounting bolts jammed and we lifted the glassed-in base with the genset. Probably best that the bonding failed in Jolly Harbour rather than half way across the Atlantic but it took 4-5 days to build and glass-in a new base and reinstall the now non-functioning genset.
New base being glassed in
Many yachts cross oceans without the luxury of a genset. We have a powerful alternator on the engine, solar power and wind generators.


NOT FIXED
Ready to lift the set onto its new base, which will be bolted to the new frame

Our Iridium GO satellite communications unit, which we use particularly for email and weather forecasts at sea, normally works well with an external antenna. On arrival at Jolly Harbour it had ceased to do so - failing to connect with the Iridium satellites. Checking resistances appeared to reveal an intermittent fault with the very thin connector between the external antenna cable and the unit itself. We ordered a replacement shipped out from Miami thinking this would fix it.
It hasn't, so we may have to rely on whatever signal we can get with the GO on deck. As it sometimes gets a signal there is just a possibility that the numerous masts etc in Jolly Harbour Marina are preventing a good signal.

? MAYBE FIXED
.

Portsmouth - but no HMS Victory

As befits a place with as illustrious a name as Portsmouth the one in Dominica is well organised for cruisers. The "boat boys" have organised themselves into a cooperative - Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS). If you deal with a member you get a professional service whether it be a mooring or a boat or land tour. There is a dinghy dock, an office and even a Sunday night BBQ and disco. We were approached offshore by a member of PAYS, we duly check in the Doyles guide and from then on it become apparent that the members  worked as a happy team.
Treehouse of Tia Dalma 

The Indian River trip, in Providence's boat, is up a small river into the rainforest. Our boatman was proud that one of the first things he showed us was a set from the Pirates of the Caribbean films - not having seen the film we cannot comment!
Heron
 Bird life was sparse, more crabs were in evidence.  The dappled sunlight shining through made it a very pleasant.
Crab on fungus

Buttress tree roots are everywhere
Most interesting was the vegetation..
Bird of Paradise flower - it hangs down , other heliconias go up.

Providence proved skillful at producing sculpture out of palm leaves - ours was a humming bird. On the way back, while rowing, he sang in a deep baritone voice the national anthem of Dominica which was heart warming to hear.
While in Portsmouth we caught up with Phil and Norma (Minnie B), spending a couple of evenings with them and their visitors, including an evening at the PAYS Sunday night BBQ and disco. Stewart and Anne, Bright Eyes also joined us and Stewart reinforced his reputation for stamina by extended dancing with two of the very active local girls - sometimes with both of them together.

Return to Martinique

After saying goodbye to our visitors in St Lucia we headed back to Martinique, with stops in Le Marin mainly for lots of provisioning for future passages and for nostalgic reasons Fort de France. Here we anchored off Fort St Louis to find that the whole area ashore had been pleasantly revamped with walkways and gardens. Once yet another sim card for another country had been purchased so we could go and have fun.
Our hire car was eventually found at the correct cruise ship dock. Tourism has now taken off so much that there are now two.
A leisurely drive up to Grand Riviere through the rain forest, was followed by a leisurely lunch. The sim card didn't do phone tethering and it was quite nerve racking trying to negotiate downtown Fort de France after dark. Fortunately we remembered that the cathredral should be kept to the right side when returning just like the IALA  B buoyage system.
Sacre Couer de Balata

Grande Riviere - end of the road

Wimping out!

Dominica beckoned! We adored Dominica from its high mountains and lush rain forest to the welcoming boat men. In the capital, Roseau, we were able to check in late on a Sunday afternoon. Yes we paid overtime but didn't have to go back, and we got the coastal permit to go to Portsmouth and our outward clearance for up to 2 weeks later all in the one visit.
There are many "boat boys" after your business. Octavius (Sea Cat) is one of the popular ones. We went on a land tour with him in company with Stewart and Anne of Bright Eyes. Although close to us in age, Stewart appeared to have a significantly higher stamina and risk threshold than us. First stop was at Freshwater Lake for a hike around it.
We hadn't realised that to walk round the lake involved crossing a mountain ridge - probably less that 300 m up but still significant.
Onwards and upwards - into the clouds

The vistas through the clouds were stunning and the gentle rain modified the heat.  The arrangement was that Sea Cat would move his taxi to the end of the walk to meet us. We were therefore surprised when he came from behind to meet us. It transpired that he had hidden while we walked past!
Clouds roll in
Titou Gorge
Next stop was the Titou Gorge. Here you enter the river and swim up the gorge to a waterfall, accompanied by a young guide. The water is 15' deep and there is, obviously, current against you. It is quite strenuous and we all required a tow from the guide to get to the end, where there is fortunately an indent in the rock face where you can stand and rest.
Approaching the waterfall


At the waterfall, you "walk" along a semi-submerged ledge to the waterfall which you then climb and jump or dive back into the pool at the bottom. Stewart went first, after the guide.
Stewart being helped to the top - We wimped out at this point!
We wimped out having seen the effort required to get up the waterfall against the flow of water. Stewart reported than he landed on a submerged rock when he made the jump.
Risk assessments do not appear to be part of the deal here!  but it was all great fun.
Trafalgar Falls - Papas
After an excellent creole lunch in a riverside restaurant, it was on to Trafalgar Falls. These are twin waterfalls - 125 m and 75 m high. Sea Cat asked who wanted to go to the top for another swim. The falls were some distance away across a boulder field.
Stewart & Sea Cat at the base of the falls
Not seeing any path or other way of ascending beside the falls we opted out again, but Stewart was still game. Maybe we had misunderstood as, in fact the swimming pool and a nearby warm pool are at the bottom of the higher falls -the top of the boulder field,

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.