Oct 26, 2016

Our life in the Caribbean

N 11° 59.975', W 61° 45.859'

We have been enjoying our life here in the Caribbean so much, that I haven't had time to write. Not really, that was a lie. I have only been writing our blog in Finnish. No one reads this blog, so it's kind of frustrating to write. But I also know, that if I don't write anything, then for sure no one is going to be interested of this blog. When I get this blog up to date, I just might have more interest updating it in the future. At least that's my intention. Even though I know that my non-Finnish friends know how to use Google translator for the Finnish blog.

I'l tell you briefly what we have been up to since January. 

Most of the people we know, try to see as many islands and anchorages as possible. We also like to see new places, but we also like to take it easy. We feel like if you don't stay at least a week in a place, you don't really get to know the place.

We spent one and half months in Martinique, but we did see quite a few anchorages. We also had very big problems to get our dear old CQR to get a grip on the bottom. I'll get back to this later.

We kind of had a dead-line to go to Sint Maarten. A friend of mine, who works on a cargo ship, brought us a bunch of stuff from Finland. The only island we visited betweeen Martinique and Sint maarten was Dominica.

All the countries in the world have different procedures to check in and out of the country. Dominica had it easy. We were able to clear in and out at the same time, as long as we stay maximum 14 days. Well, we stayd exactly 14 days. We enjoyd Dominica a lot. It's maybe the poorest and less developed country of the Lesser Antilles, but I think the people were the friendliest we have met so far. The reason they are less developed is that there is no room to expand the airport. They can not build a runway long enough for the big jets. This keeps the big tourist crowds on the other islands. 

We took a rain forest tour in Dominica. This is whrere Dominica wins. There are not too many tourists which means the island is not too spoiled. Here you can really enjoy the nature.

We were planning on sailing to Guadaloupe, but we wanted to go through it. The bridge in the middle of the butterfly island was broken. This make our decision easy. We'll skip it.

I wanted to go to Antigua a lot. I have very fond memories of it being the first land fall after crossing the Atlantic in 1999. For a couple of reasons we had to skip it. One was the direction of the wind, the next one was the dead-line to get our stuff in Sint Maarten and the last one was that we had a bit of a head cold. So when our time was up in Dominica we just sailed straight to Sint Maarten. 

We achored in Simpson Bay lagoon. It was nice to be out the ocean swell. But everything have at least two sides. The bad side here was that the water was quite dirty.

At this time our plan was to sail to Cuba and after that head for the ABCs for the hurricane season. It was already kind of late in the season so we had to consider our plans again. The result was that we'll head down to Grenada and Trinidad for the summer. 

We ended up staying in the Lagoon for almost two months. In this time we did quite a bit of shopping. Our most important new items were a new anchor and a new outboard motor for the dinghy.

We had had enough problems with our old CQR. CQR is a good anchor when the bottom is nice and sandy. It seems that all the bays just have more and more growth in the bottom and it can not dig in. We had read good reviews on Rocna, but there was no way we could fit an anchor with a roll bar in our bow. We went for the newer model and chose Rocna Vulcan. It's been about six months and so far we are very happy with it.

The bottom of the boat had become terrible in the lagoon. We didn't realize it until we hoisted our anchor and headed out. We thought that the antifouling we applied in the Canaries would be a bit better. It was pretty much waste of money. Our boat speed was terrible and we could not sail anywhere near the wind. We had made plans to sail to Guadaloupe, but there was no way to make it. We ended up in the lee of St. Kitts & Nevis. We stopped for one night in a very rolly anchorage in the northern end of St. Kitts. When we anchored when it was dark already and we continued our way after breakfast. We never went ashore.

Next we tried to get to Dominica. There was no way with our dirty bottom to aim that high. The next island was Martinique. We really had hard time heading there. If you have never experienced a really dirty bottom, you won't understand. We had the same thing in the Canaries. If our speed should be 5 knots, it's 3 knots.The main problem is not the speed. We are not in a hurry The problem is that the boat looses all it's features. A sailboat needs to maintain certain speed for the keel and everything to work like they are supposed to work to be able to beat to the wind.

We finally fought our way back to Martinique. There we started to clean the underwater growth. It was hard work and nearly impossible without any diving gear, I have tried scuba diving once in Thailand, almost 15 years ago. Timo has never even tried it. In the Canaries we had once seen one of our Finnish friends to clean the bottom of his boat with a hookah diving system. Now, a year later, we started stuyding this option. This seemed like a perfect solution for us. 

When we decided to head south our plan was to spend the most active months of the hurricane season in Trinidad.  It was a sum of many things that we ended up staying in Grenada for the whole summer season. There is still one more month left of the hurricane season, y the chances are getting smaller every day. We had one close call when hurricane Matthew came this way. It was not a hurricane yet, but he was given a name right before hitting the Lesser Antilles. It first looked that it was coming straight at us, but then it took a bit notherly route. We never experiences winds more than 30 knots. The center went over Martinique, but lucky for us it didn't have it strenght yet. Later this same hurricane hit Haiti very hard. It left total devastation on it's path there. Whole towns were distroyed and at least 1000 people died.

We still have a few things to do here in Grenada. We'll be going to a boatyard later this week. We have two important things to get done. One is painting a new antifouling that would actually keep some growth away. An other thing is something we could not do in the Canaries where we did all the other major refits. We are getting our 26 year old teak in the cockpit redone. We could not do this in the Canaries, because it was illegal to import any teak into the islands.

After this work has been done it's already pretty safe to start travelling back north. A lot of boats have left already. Actually a lot of people stay on the northern islands for the hurricane season. It's not a death sentance, if you stay there. It's just basic math, the propability of a big storm gets smaller the further south you go. Trinidad is supposed to be out of the hurricane area, Grenada is right on the edge. The last hurricane Grenada got was in 2004 but it was very devastating.  They say that 90 percent of the building had some damage. They are still collection money for some of the schools and churches that got hit hard.

When we are ready to head north in a couple of weeks, the risk to get hit by a hurricane is close to zero.

I've made this promise before, but I'll do it again. This time I mean it. I promise to write you more often.