Monday, 22 May 2017

Bahamas for lunch and now westward to Florida

We had the most brilliant sailing the last two days with a very fair wind and a following sea. We haven't had much experience of this sort of sailing in travels. We could move around the boat easily and when you put something down, for the most part it stayed there. Tim even got out the fishing rod with the beautiful red and black feathered lure. It hadn't been in the water long when there was a whir from the reel. Tim gave the line a little tug, yes, there was a fish on the other end, but moments later the line went slack and that was the end of the beautiful lure. Moments later we saw something in the distance that made one heck of a splash and Tim thinks we might well have lost the lure to a Sailfish. And that is just as well as we have no business catching something as large as a Sailfish and in future will use smaller lures. All was well until the wind died in the night we ran the engine for about 10 hours to arrive in Abacos by noon. We saw a number of sport fishing boats trawling here and there so it isn't impossible that it was a Sailfish Tim hooked.

I love the saying we've often heard from may an empty handed fisherman - 'It's called 'fishing' not 'catching!'

We had planned to spend a couple of days here until the weather in the north cleared but it's expected to hang around longer than expected. We hadn't planned on clearing into the Bahamas as technically we are 'on passage' and are just waiting for the weather around Charleston to move north and they charge $300 US for a cruising permit, which is a little rich for visiting less than a week. The weather here is great and will remain that way for the foreseeable future, so we are just going to hop over to the adjacent Florida coast. This way we will still be moving and can do one thing in particular that we couldn't get the parts for in San Juan. We are going to install a deck wash. Many places we will be anchoring are really muddy and without one the anchor locker, which is under our sleeping berth, would soon be full of sticky slimy smelly mud.

So we will be off again in the next couple of hours and will arrive in South Florida Wednesday morning.
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At 22/05/2017 18:38 (utc) our position was 26°35.86'N 077°00.76'W

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Friday, 19 May 2017

San Juan to Charleston - Day 1 - 3

We upped anchor at 0800 and were outside San Juan harbour by 0830. It's nice to get an early start so you can start getting settled into your routine. We sailed with the wind aft of the beam at up to 20 knots, which was perfect, but we also had quite a large sea which was not. Our main concern was figuring out when each of us was to sleep. Tim has a number of SSB Radio times when he needs to be up to listen to the days weather, to download the days weather, and to listen to various Radio Nets. We decided that he'd sleep first 2100 to 0001 - there is the DooDah Radio Net from the Bahamas at 1700, then Chris Parker with Weather Information at 1800 and then the Salty Dog Radio Net, which is made up of boats heading up the East Coast of the States. The Salty Dogs Net is mostly for interest as they are much further along than we are but it's interesting to listen to their chat. So I'd keep watch from 2100 to 0001, then he'd do 0001 to 0300 and then I'd do 0300 to 0600 and wake Tim in time to listen to the 0630 Chris Parker Weather Broadcast.

It was a good plan except for the nasty swell that made lying in bed for 3 hours begin rolled this way and that unconducive to uninterrupted sleep and by 2300 he was up. We then decided that I'd sleep from 2300 to 0200, but I couldn't sleep either so we went on to just sleeping as long as we could, and Tim didn't bother with the 0630 Weather and settled for downloading it later the the day.

This might well be as dull as dishwater, and I'm not saying it isn't, but sleep is important and we did spend a huge amount of time trying to get the watches right. Welcome to our life!

Day 2 was much the same as Day 1 but the waves were more from the stern which is much more comfortable and we managed keep our planned watch and sleep pattern. Hurrah!

Up until today, Day 3, the weather has been overcast with gusty winds and sometimes a sprinkling of rain. Effective and efficient sailing conditions but not a huge amount of fun. Last night there wasn't a star to be seen. Today the skies have cleared the wind is 10 to 15 knots aft of the beam (just where you want it to be) and the sailing and living on board is as easy as we've had it. Tonight will be omelet and salad rather than one of my pre-cooked frozen meals which I will save for a rougher day. We are expected to have similar wind and weather for the next few days, later in the week there is a change that may give us an unexpected stopover in the Bahamas to avoid weather further north. We will keep you posted!
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At 19/05/2017 19:45 (utc) our position was 22°39.04'N 070°18.98'W

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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Puerto Rico - Fajardo and San Juan

Once the fresh paint in the cockpit had cured sufficiently to put the cleats, winches, winch handle holder we left Culebra for Fajardo on the East Coast of Puerto Rico. 

We stayed in Sunbay Marina for three nights to have plenty of fresh water to do a lot of cleaning jobs.

     

The islands just of the east coast of Puerto Rico; the very narrow buoyed channel into Sunbay Marina - we were warned NOT to go outside it; Larus in her berth; Sunbay Marina.


We were much taken with Sunbay Marina and its very hands on owner Olga.

Olga is one of the two Ocean Cruising Club Port Officers in Puerto Rico.  To date she has only met two other OOC boats and she was very excited to meet us as the third. 

She had just received the 2017 OCC Members hand book and we were all pleased to look up Larus in the list.  We signed and dated our entry and admired her brand new OOC burgee, which is no longer the long pennant shape which needs its point repaired and then clipped when there isn't enough fabric left to repair.  I would have got a picture of it, we have but she'd sent it off to have Sunbay Marina appliqued on under the flying fish logo.

We washed the dinghy - salt, oil and dirt build up and only a good soapy freshwater wash will touch it. We also washed and re-waterproofed the spray hood. During the last torrential rain shower in Culebra, we were dismayed to find water coming straight through the canvas, dripping onto our heads and down the companion way, so we took it off and spread it out on deck and scrubbed it all over, but particularly the dark greasy area above the hatch which was probably cause by cooking vapours from the galley.  Waterproof canvas is tricky. If you scrub it, you take the waterproofing off, so we waited until it needed to be reapplied before washing it - WHAT A DIFFERENCE!  It is almost like new, light and bright.  Our friend Skipper Tim would be proud, and even prouder yet to know that we are looking for a replacement for the nasty plastic winch holder in the cockpit with something less likely to let our paint job down.  We rinsed the furling drum of the roller reefing for the jib and washed down the decks.

We did a little provisioning in between these jobs so that I could start adding to the meals I'd begun preparing and freezing for our next long sail to Charleston, South Carolina. We now have most dinners covered with lasagne, cottage pie, Trinidad Macaroni Pie and chicken curry in the freezer.  That way if I don't feel like cooking, I don't have too.

On Mother's Day in North America, Sunday the 14th of May, we sailed from Fajardo to San Juan. 

The sail was a taster of our imminent journey to Charleston, South Carolina on the 17th - tomorrow even! Sailing along on the north coast of Puerto Rico our course was heading pretty much straight to Charleston. 

We started in quite light winds, which built to just over twenty knots as the day progressed.  Puerto Rico is 4 to 5 degrees hotter than the islands we've been visiting over the last three years.  As the island heats up stronger winds are generated, peaking in the later afternoon and then dying off over night.  They should be more consistent once we are way from the island affect.

There was lots to see as we barrelled along the north shore.

 

Tim looking and the north shore of the Old City.  We later learned that the colourful area between the buildings on top and the shore is a 'No Go' area for most people as those living there manage and police themselves.  They pretty much live outside the law and the law allows it said our Uber taxi driver.



Fort Morro, and the anchorage which is bordered by the  Old Town to the north, ferry docks and a small airport to the south and the marina to the east  on/or next to a bridge which allows water to flow back and forth with the tide.

               

The nearby runway and Larus at anchor.  Not the prettiest anchorage we've stayed at but something is always going on.

Yesterday we visited the Old Town, which we'd seen from the other side as we sailed down the coast.



Fantastic colours: Art and pavements; Great trees for shade; Beautiful blue 100 year old brick work; School kids cooling off.



Views of El Morro.  It was very impressive.





And finally, photos taken from the bus.  It is a beautiful city and I do wish we'd had more time to discover it, but tomorrow morning we will start our journey up the East coast of the US.



And this is will probably be very like the route we will take.  This is an online program that figures out the best route based on limits you set (like max and min wind strengths).  this was done a couple of days ago and the three choices are now very similar. 

We're expecting winds from the south east for the first half of the journey and winds from the south west for the rest.  The Gulf Stream should help us along when we nearer the coast of Florida. 

We won't be stopping anywhere before South Carolina, although we do pass very close to the Bahamas and the journey should take seven or eight days.  Its a distance of about 1200 miles. You can follow our progress on the map at the top of our blog as Tim will be updating our location daily and we should be able to post small entries as we go along.

So there you go!  We're really looking forward to having a very pleasant sail north. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

April/May 2017 and the final Guyana instalment


Our charters were finished by the end of March, although we were asked to do a couple more and if it hadn’t been time to be moving on we would have. We’ve been cruising and working over three years in the Eastern Caribbean and if feels like time for a change of location.

From Antigua we made our way via West, stopping at St Martin, The British Virgin Islands, The US Virgin Islands and are now anchored in Culebra, Puerto Rice, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. 

We came here to give Larus some much TLC.  We just finished up painting the cockpit with a two-pack polyurethane primer and then top coat. It has not been easy and although the results are far from professional, the cockpit looks so much better than she did before we are very pleased. 

We are now getting Larus back together - the whole cockpit had to be cleared of cleats, winches, instrument console, fitted speaker, any removable teak trim.  We then sanded and filled and sanded, before washing, masked around all the things we couldn't remove and applied the undercoat.



All taped up, the old gelcoat outside the cockpit compared to the new inside, the sharp white (light oyster, actually) glossy surface looks amazing next to the oiled teak.

We watched numerous Youtube videos on now to get the best results. Rolling  and 'tipping' with a brush is the recommended technique and I'm sure it works very well when painting the hull which were the only videos we could find.  Tipping is lightly pulling the brush across the freshly rolled surface to smooth out dimples left by the roller. Painting an area with all sorts of corners and edges was a completely different and not particularly pleasant experience.  We were up before dawn so we would be ready to paint before the wind and sun came up.  Each coat of paint took less than an hour but it felt like much long.  Happily as the paint cures it shrinks so that brushstrokes and dimples smoothed out a little.

To get a perfect finish we would have needed to have the cockpit sprayed professionally, which would have been ten times the cost. Having said that, she looks pretty darn good right now.

It is now the eleventh of May and we are waiting for good weather to start our trip up the East Coast of the US.  We plan to depart from the Puerto Rico and head straight up to Charleston, North Carolina, but this is subject to change depending on the weather.  We're entering a period of lighter winds and if its too light we might break up the journey and stop in Florida, hoping for better.  We will keep you  posted!  It is exciting to be on the move again.

And last but not least the final Guyana instalment.

We finally left Guyana at the end of October.



This is a last picture of our last evening anchored off the Baganara Resort.

Our journey down the Essequibo River to the coast was just as interesting as the way up.  We took a slightly different route as we approached the coast leaving by the northerner entrance rather than the southern.  We’d chosen the southern entrance to avoid the drifting fishing nets we’d been warned about by those who had been caught up in them on previous visits.

We saw no sign of fishing on our way up the river.  We were on the more trafficked southern fork.  Once on the northern fork, we began to appreciate why one might choose the southern fork despite it adding an extra 20 miles to a passage north.  We hadn’t been long in the northern fork when we saw a fishing boat and the floats of a fishing net in the distance.  Seeing them we thought there would be no difficulty avoiding them. It behoves one to remember that the tide is hustling us along two knots faster than just with engine alone.  As we got closer the fishing boat motored towards us and the fisherman was gesturing us to turn to starboard.  We were pretty much in the middle of the river and did as requested until we couldn’t see any more floats and change our course back to down river. Up came the fishing boat again, gesturing much more emphatically this time and, without really understanding why, we headed toward the starboard bank. It was just as well we did.  In time, we could see the net stretched across the whole expanse of the river and if you been anywhere other than close to the shore you’d have ended up with it wrapped around your propeller. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to clear it without being able to see in the café au lait water.

The colour of the water contrasted against one of the huge rain squalls that passed through is the one of the things I will always remember about the Essequibo River. I think its very beautiful if still rather strange.

We encountered another form of fishing anchored at the mouth of the river for the evening.  While sitting in the cockpit, Tim noticed a buoy being slowly carried up river with the tide.  Then he noticed another one much further out, and realised that this was one of the nets that they let drift unattended up and down this less trafficked part of the river.  Although the net was drifting safely past, we upped anchor and moved closer to the shore, just in case.

As it got dark, we were pleased to have moved closed to shore as it was Diwali, a Hindu festival and we were treated to a firework display on the shore.

The next morning we left the Guyana and headed north to Tobago. 

It was a better sail north than south, with both the wind and tide helping us on to Tobago.  The only incident I can remember from that journey relates to how dark the nights were.  Between the cloud cover and new moon we could hardly see each other sitting on opposite sides of the cockpit.  So there I was in the dark, with nothing at all to see or do expect read my Ipad.  Suddenly there was something that I could not see fluttering right under my chin.  A rather large moth had been attracted to the light of the Ipad, which I turned off and contented myself with siting in the dark.  At some point I turned on the light in the aft head, and the moth followed me down and took up residence on our mirror.



After the taking the photos, I turned off the light and 'Essie' stayed with us till morning and then fluttered off, hopefully to make her way to Tobago as well.

So back to the today the 11th of May, and we will soon be leaving Culebra for the Puerto Rican mainland.  We are going into a marina for a couple of days to provision, clean, prepare and hopefully do a little sightseeing before heading north up the East Coast of the US in the near future.

It is exciting to be on the move again and we'll do much better at keeping you posted when we have new destinations to share.