Saturday, July 31, 2010

Traffic jams and reef rescues

I went to town which was a mistake. The traffic jam started well outside town. The carnival warm up music event is on the main road around the harbour and the drivers all stop to chat to the DJs and any pretty girl that catches their eye.

Mind you that was a mistake for our driver as he got a ticket from a really really young policeman who objected to having his photo taken unlike the lady who sold me fresh LOCAL carrots.

The town was packed and I was getting hassled at every step by shouts of "taxi" still as i caught the bus home I am a step or two nearer to getting my passport renewed. I thought I had the pics sorted but a close study of the small print shows that you must have a GREY background and mine was white so it was off to town and a new batch of pics. Very quick and only 15 EC. Which is just as well as the cost of the renewal will be 268 US yikes. Still it is good for ten years.

Bit of excitement when I got back as there was a distress call over the radio. A boat had hit the reef on the way in to the next bay and was stuck and calling for help. Now in the UK the lifeboat would be despatched in the USA propably a commercail towing organisation would attend but down island it is usually the cruisers who are the first responders. I have done this sort of thing before and I dug out the snorkel gear [ dive the reef and see the easiest route out ] and a long line [ heel the boat by pulling from the top of the mast ].

I dinked on out but as I turned the corner of the bay I saw a squadron, nay a flotilla, nay an armada of dinghies attending to the casualty so I thought plenty there and confirmed on the handheld that they had enough help so turned back.

I heard later that it came off with only minor damage to the keel rudder and reef. Just s well they were not in the USA as they would get fined for the reef damage at so much per square metre $150 to $250000

UH UH the first real storm possibility is brewing in mid atlamtic. Not a storm yet but the models seem to agree that a storm will form and go through somewhere north of St Vincent.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grenada Customs boats

This poor guy seems to have had his boat seized by the Customs and is waiting for his day in court. At least that is what his bedsheet banner implies.


The fast rib has been in and out all day and I wondered if they were on some kind of seizure operation but on the last pass through the anchorage I could hear girlish squeals of pleasure/fright coming from the boat so perhaps they were just out on exercises.

They do get the odd yacht though, this one earlier in the year was seized in Carriacou after it was discovered to be loaded to the gunnels with 350 cases of beer
and stout valued at over $100,000.00 EC dollars of course!.

Monday, July 26, 2010


One of the many things I like about Elephants Child is how many hatches there are. Seven on the coachroof and another eight opening vertical hatches in the cabin sides. The two above the sleeping areas are very large and it is a pleasure to go to sleep with the hatch wide open, the stars shining bright and instead of counting sheep I count the stars I know; Polaris, Vega, Deneb, Altairrrrrrrrrrr snores quietly. Of course some nights you get woken by the raindrops and have to shut it but last night the forecast was for clear skies all night and no rain. So I was expecting an uninterrupted nights sleep, what I was not expecting was a torch wielding intruder to creep on to the boat and shine his torch down into my bed waking me up. He ws moving around and I was thinking do I go for the VHF and put out a call or find the breadknife to deter the guy flashing this bright torrrr "ah s**t it's the moon" Still it took me a while to get back to sleep and I had to shut the hatch as the moon was so bright I could read by it.


Most liveaboard cruisers are on sailboats with a few onboats they have built themselves.

But Tom on Essential Part is the only self built steel powerboat that I have seen cruising. The story goes that it was supposed to have a mast and sails but he got fed up and just took off when he had the hull done.

I passed him on the sail down from Union Island but he must have been running on economy mode as he has pretty big engines in it.

Friday, July 23, 2010


It's only rock and roll but I definitely don't like it. In late afternoon a big swell started creeping into Prickly Bay and soon it got really uncomfortable, with boats rolling to their scuppers.

Normally I would put out a stern anchor but that would have been laid across the top of a small reef so I tried the V line technique from bow and stern and it worked!

What amazed me is that as far as I could see no one else did anything! just complained about smashed dishes and feeling seasick to one another on the VHF.

If it looks like being a problem I will move next door to Hog Island. I can only do this with good light as the entrance requires eyeball navigation past some reefs.

However I am reluctant to do this as I will lose my excellent WIFI connection.

Finally retired my old flag. It flew on the front of the Trek from time to time as we 'voyaged' from Houston down the Baja in Mexico, up to Alaska and across to Miami via the Big Easy.

It has been flying off the stern of Elephants Child but as it is only thin nylon the sunlight has degraded it and the wind has blown it to tatters. This despite Flora on Folk Lauric doing some restoration work on it in St Maarten.

It will join the remains of the two flags that flew on Carpe Diem on my seven year sabbatical cruise.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bob leaves safely

Well Bob got his anchor up slowly, it is a manual winch and motored off this morning. I watched with some concern as he drifted down towards another anchored boat but the gearbox linkage fix did it's stuff and he he got forward OK. So there is one less thing to worry about in paradise and a bit more empty space around Elephants Child.

I went into town to the post office to pick up some parcels. The bus picks you up from the dinghy dock at "Da Big Fish" bar and it was cheap less than 1$ US.

While I was walking round the inner lagoon where I used to anchor and which is now filled with a Camper and Nicholson marina I came across this mini marina with an interesting sign.

The PO was quick and they have their own customs officer in attendance so getting the stuff cleared in was easy. Much easier than the UK.

I was glad to get back to the dinghy as the wind died during the morning and it got HOT. So a blast back to the big boat at high speed, a swim and a cold G&T got the temperature down to pleasure levels again as the sun set.

Monday, July 19, 2010

PEACE IN PRICKLY BAY [ interrupted ]

Bob a 72 year old single hander on Tassneen a French Ali boat with a home completed interior 16 years work!

It was good to wake up in Prickly Bay this morning with nothing to worry about in terms of passage making or vittling other than the shortage of TONIC. After a slow breakfast in the cockpit I fired up the computer and was working on my email backlog when I heard some weak shouts which gradually diminished. I looked outside after I heard some more shouts to find I am about to be rammed by an out of control sailboat stuck in gear and motoring around in circles dragging its anchor with it.

Bob it's 72 year old owner who is recovering from a serious illness was attempting to move it for the first time in about a year and had his windlass fail to fully lift the anchor and the gearbox control linkage fail so there he was motoring slowly round in circles with a short chain rode and getting ever closer to Elephants Child with Bob calling for help.

Time to PANIC.

I jump in the dinghy, get on board the slow moving sailboat and while Bob lets out some chain I steer the boat away from Elephants Child. My first reaction was to stop Bob's engine but Bob did not want to do that so we went round in larger circuits as the anchor payed out and I was able to avoid T Boning my home.

Bob was convinced at first he had a major gearbox problem with stripped dog clutches but a quick inspection showed that the fitting on the end of control cable had rusted through and fallen off. By moving the lever on the gearbox manually we were able to establish that he still had a normal gearbox with forward neutral and reverse.

Bob was relieved and admitted that after his illness he tended to panic more easily and was not so able to interpret the messages the spirits sent him about moving his boat. I heard more about reincarnation and his many previous lives mostly as a sailor in the far east and his plans to go across the Pacific when he feels a bit better.

Once he had settled down I returned home and made a second pot of good French coffee sat down again at the email screen and while it was reloading, Google is really slow for me at the moment, reflected on the morning.

A shore recce was next on the agenda with laundry and a TONIC supplier to be found and the chandlers to be investigated

All went well and normal service was resumed this evening as the sun set in the West, the colours slowly built over the palatial houses that fringe the bay and a large G&T helped with the things to be enjoyed. I may even get a chance to work on my definitive list of the 100 greatest rock and roll tracks of all time. I have a self imposed rule of only one track per singer/group and it is hard to choose at times. I mean 'Born in the USA' has to be in but that means no 'Thunder Road', 'Good Vibrations' or 'Sloop John B' ahh these are tough times. I guess I will just play Good Vibrations one more time!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Tyrrel Bay is a well protected bay at the South end of Carriacou and even has free wifi although a donation to the local children's charity is appreciated. However despite being anchored well away from shore it got very buggy one evening when the sun went down. Thinking back I can only remember one other night since Benner Bay in the USVI when the bugs were a problem. A lot of 40% Deet bug spray solved the problem but it pushed me into heading down to Grenada. Another reason was that I am almost out of water and although I can fill up here the water is from local inhabitants cisterns. Who knows how many dead birds/bats/crabs/lizards are sharing the cisterns with water destined for visiting yotties.

It was a beam reach all the way to Georgetown but the frequent rain showers meant that the wind was up and down and I lost count of the times I rolled the headsail away as a precaution against a wind squall.

Navigation is a little trickier than most inter island passages out here as the currents are particularly strong 3 knots + in places and it is always rough as you approach Kick em Jenny [the Island] while making sure you avoid Kick em Jenny [the undersea volcano]. I got closer to the volcano than I had intended as the cross current seemed very strong as I approached it but according to the GPS I just skirted the exclusion zone unlike the Sunsail charter cat that sailed straight through the centre of the zone.

Mind you since the first known above water event in 1939 there has only been one other case of an eruption above the surface. Although the lava/rock flows extend for 15 kms from the underwater dome site so something is going on down there.

I nosed into the beautiful harbor of St Georges and was looking forward to a quiet night at anchor in the inner lagoon but was disappointed.

A new marina has filled the protected inner lagoon with piers [ mostly unoccupied ] and anchoring is forbidden? Or at least strongly discouraged. Mind you no one has got this guy to move yet!

So I had to anchor outside and it was fortunate that there was not much of a swell running but every now and then a big sideways one would set the boat rolling. It was bad enough to keep the gimbals unlocked on the stove and the fiddles in place.

I checked my mail and did a big shop as the supermarket comes with its own dinghy dock so no transport problems!

Today I filled up with inexpensive water at the Grenada Yacht Club and as there was no wind, motored round to Prickly Bay on the South coast of Grenada. It is pretty nice here looking around and it is clear that a lot of money has been spent on landscaping.

I have always stayed at Hog Island before but I need access to the big ships chandler at Spice Island Boatyard for some bits and pieces.

There are lots of liveaboards here, spread out across half a dozen well protected anchorages on the South Coast so there will be stuff to do for the next couple of months of hurricane watching times.

Speaking of hurricanes there have been reports of hurricane strength winds in Wales and Scotland in the last few days with damaged and beached boats. Even the golf at St Andrews was not spared with play suspended when the balls were getting blown across the greens.

Thursday, July 15, 2010



On a rocky peninsula that used to have no road and no pier or even safe boat landing beach there was a strange community of rugged self sufficient idealists all beavering away building dream houses and carrying their building materials up the ladders


one load at a time. Solar panels, roofs that collect water and cisterns are the way to go here.

Now there is a road and visitors renting these houses arrive at the Moonhole gates by taxi, and from there reach the house via a network of stone paths that connect the community. Porters and maids carry up baggage and all supplies for the house.


One of the acts of faith inherent in the cruising lifestyle where you spend the majority of your time “on the hook” as I do is the belief that a few lbs of anchor will hold tons of sailboat when it blows 40 knots.

If your anchor is well buried and you have enough chain to keep it there then it almost always does, but not always as this French single hander found out as she drudged sideways down wind through the anchorage on the drag. A couple of toots on the horn from a threatened boat bought her up from down below and she was a busy body for 20 minutes starting the engine, goosing her boat into wind, retrieving the anchor and finding a better spot to drop the hook. One of the penalties of being a single hander in such a situation is you really need someone on the throttle and helm to hold the boat stationary as you operated the anchor winch. She was busier than a one armed paper hanger as she shuttled back and forwards between helm and bow.

Methinks I need to add an up anchor control at the helm to Elephants Child.


I had read that hurricane Lennie had generated huge swells through the Tobago Cays and that the reefs had taken a pounding but they were much as I remembered them with good coral and plenty of colourful fish about.

It is also clear that no one hunts the reefs with spearguns as the larger fish are willing to hang around and eye you right back rather than hightail it off to some hideaway anytime a snorkeler appears with or without spear.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


63 today

Well it was a wonderful morning in the Tobago Cays, a swim before breakfast and as I walked barefoot on the beach I thought life at 63 is pretty good.

Then a cup of special German coffee, the last of the supply Gisela bought out with her in the cockpit as I watched the kite surfers at play and the polite boat boys solicit business without being at all pushy. "Need anything skip" was the usual cry.

Then life issued a reality check when I went to wash up and I realised that I had run out of water, ah well I was heading South to Union Island and on to Carriacou anyway.

The run down from Bequia had been notable as Elephants Child had sailed past an 80+ foot megayacht carrying all sail. Mind you when I had a look at the sails I saw why, baggy and blown out sails are not efficient. Still we were pushing 8 knots at times.I stopped off at Canouan as the sky was dark and stormy and the entrance to the cays is reef navigation by eyeball and you want good light.


A Bahamian Bobby on sleepy northern Eleuthera island did what the FBI had not managed to do and arrested Colton Harris-Moore, AKA the barefoot bandit. At least that was the crac on the SSB net this morning.

Island police picked up his trail after recovering a 44-foot boat stolen from a marina on Abaco, 40 miles to the north, where he crashed the stolen plane and carried out a string of burglaries including one where he watched television and helped himself to snacks from the fridge.


45 years ago I started work in the family garage in sleepy Kinross and Britain was the second biggest car maker in the world after the USA. Some years later I was at Loughborough College and got interested in the global dynamics of car manufacture. It was while I was there that British Leyland became the first UK car maker to sell out to the Japanese and start assembling a Japanese car and badging it as British, anybody have a Triumph Aclaim well you were really driving a Honda Balade. Soon you could buy a Volvo with a Volkswagen gearbox and a Peugeot engine, Fords had Mazda badges and vice versa. Britain sank down the ranks and by the time I took my 7 year sabbatical cruising on Carpe Diem even Spain made more cars than Britain.

Oh yes and someone sang about nine million bicycles in Beijing, very few cars though.

How things change as last year China overtook Japan as the world's biggest car maker. This year it overtook America as the biggest car market. There are 20 or so new carmakers who have sprung up all over China in the past decade many of whom do not export. But one of them just bought the Volvo name from Ford and Volvos are now manufactured in China.

Oh yes and India is not that far behind.

Who cares I hear you say. Well that is a lot more steel, copper, rubber, lead and oil especially oil is being bought and turned into shiny 4 wheel 4 seat vehicles that mostly carry one person. The bad news is the supplies of steel, copper, rubber, lead and oil especially oil are finite.

Everybody loves their car, it is freedom, a positive wealth statement, a piece of territory to defend and the world can no longer afford it. But who is going to tell Mr and Mrs Wu that they can not have a shiny new PJD, sorry Volvo but must keep bicycling in Beijing.

What bought this rant on, well I still pay a little attention to the dynamics of the global car business, but it was the sight of three proud car owners washing and polishing their cars outside what looked like a single family house. A three car family on an island 5 miles long.

Oh yes and as BP is leaking the stuff into the Gulf the date the world runs out of oil has just got a little closer, the crunch cometh in 2027.

Friday, July 9, 2010



I had gone to bed and was just drifting off to sleep when there was a thunderous rat a tat tat on the side of the boat and lots of splashing. Wide awake and with a huge adrenaline hit I rush on deck with the big torch expecting to see some capsized dinghy or a drifting boat with a broken mooring and maybe someone in the water, but there was nothing. No boat nobody in the water no noise just the tranquility of the anchorage. I am puzzled s the noises were really loud and there was lots of splashing but where have the people and the boat gone. Peering into the water I look for drowning figures and submerged boats but nothing.

At this point it dawns on me - FISH! Dolphins possibly or some other predators had chased a shoal of biggish fish from below and some had jumped out of the water hitting Elephants Child. The clue, lots of scales in the water.

They were still at it next morning!

TWOC Taking Without Owners Consent

I was lying in bed this morning recovering from last nights scare and playing with my new toy when I pulled in a Bahamas SSB cruisers net talking about a stolen boat, a crashed light aircraft, two stolen cars, and a string of burglaries. It turns out they think this is all the work of an american teenager called Colton Harris-Moore.

This is just the latest in a string of suspected thefts of aircraft, boats and cars spread across American from the far North West Corner to the South East.
In November 2008, he allegedly stole a Cessna 182 light aircraft from a hangar on Orcas Island, also in Washington state. Despite never having had a flying lesson he was supposedly able to take off, eventually crash-landing it 300 miles (483km) away.
In September last year, he allegedly stole another plane in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, crash-landing it 260 miles away in Snohomish, Washington.
He crashed the one he stole from Indiana in the Bahamas in shallow water just off a beach.

On the Internet he comes across as a Robin Hood figure with the nickname the barefoot bandit.

He is just another teen TWOCer but he has his own facebook page, 45,000 fans and a $10,000 FBI bounty on his head.

Publishing houses are queueing up to sign him to 6 figure book deals.


He seems to have esecaped again! He must be a master of disguise despite being 6 foot 5 inches tall!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stuck in Bequia with "Fast and Bonnie"

I am still in Bequia, although I was planning to leave this morning for the Tobeago Cays and points South. The direction was good and although it would have been a day for a reef it looked OK but the speed was up and down and I wimped out. I will wait for the current wave to go through and head down Island then, maybe on Sunday.


As the cruisers head south for the summer you see the same boats over and over Lala for instance has been with us on and off since the Virgins and there has been this big schooner which has usually been anchored a little further out than most.

It looked like there were a liveaboard couple onboard and heading south at the same pace as I was. Anyway it has been in quite a few sunset pics and I have passed it a few times in the dink and wondered if it was glass or steel or just possibly wood but that was really unlikely because the hull was fair and smooth showing none of the cracks and plank end prints that you see on carvel built boats. After all someone famously described a wooden boat as “ a collection of planks heading in approximately the same direction through force of habit.”

But a couple of days ago I came past it on my way back from snorkeling and saw that there was a chinese dragon carved into the bow and that made me think that I had seen it racing in the classic regatta in Antigua. Now if it was really entitled to carry the dragon that would make it a bit of very famous boating history, a Clyde built icon from a famous designer, in fact a Fifer from Fairlie.

So I stopped by, apologized for my “satiable curiosity” and asked about their boat. It turns out that they have owned this wooden piece of maritime history for 23 years and been liveaboard cruisers for the last 8 years including 60,000 miles in the South Pacific, an overall concours win and a racing win in Antigua plus some of the best exterior varnish work to be seen on a cruising boat. Elephants Child has no exterior varnish just silvery teak.
Richard and Lani Stramen sail the Astor with a crew usually. At 86-ft (overall) the Fife schooner that was built in Scotland in 1923 has a monstrous main sail and although the winches have been upgraded setting and dousing sail is a big job.
Richard said that the hull has been splined, this is why I thought it might have been glass. Filling the gaps between the planks with glued strips of wood or splines makes the hull a monocoque and allows the surface finish to be of near mirror quality. It is a controversial thing to do to an old wooden boat as it can create massive stresses on the frame fixings.

Richard came from a classic car restoration background and is clearly a master craftsman as he has done much of the restoration work on Astor himself.
Astor was designed by William Fife and built in his yard in Fairlie in Scotland for a Dr. McCormick of Sydney, Australia and first christened Ada.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Radio success and a Skijump in Bequia

I finally got all the wires run except the main earth which is still a temporary connection pending testing and signal reports Soooooooooo I tried the HF SSB radio and it works!. I was soon pulling in the Turks and Caicos clear as a bell and could hear Canada and Alaska fairly clearly all on 14.300.

So as a reward I went for a walk on the shore then over to the other side of the Island where I found a turtle sanctuary run by a local retired fisherman. I am going back when I have more time and will see if I can help in some way. Baby turtles often grow "coats" of algae [like boats] and need scrubbing clean [like boats].

Bequia has a ski jump

On the way back I noticed the training ground for the next Caribbean winter Olympian. After the Bobsleigh, and the Iditarod we have the skijump. However on closer inspection I found out that it is just someones front drive. I hope their brakes never fail, it is seriously steep.

I treated myself to a late lunch out and then a swim and snorkle on the Devils Table a local reef which has claimed many a charter boat even though it is clearly marked by a pole.

The charge of the charter boats.

Here they come, at least now they take a mooring, before they would throw an anchor overboard and be in the dinghy heading for a happy hour before the boat had settled back on it's anchor.

Dramatic sunset again - just beautiful.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Boats in Beautiful Bequia

I have been in the cockpit tidying stuff up and doing a little woodwork here in beautiful Bequia but I have kept a camera to hand.


There are a lot of J24s racing in the Eastern Caribbean now with entries in the teens at some regattas.

Mind you somebody has just nicked one from Trinidad!


This grey haired gentleman spent the morning canoeing after his model sailboat.


Did he really raid the coffee jar?


Built on the beach here in Elizabeth Harbour by 3 brothers back in the 60s and I think she was the biggest ever traditional Windward island schooner

She started her working life as the mail boat for The Grenadines, a cargo boat and then a ferry, running people and goods between Bequia and St Vincent.

Now that job is done by these much less romantic fellows while after a refit the Friendship Rose takes guests out on day charters.


As in Dominica boats of all sizes are hauled up on the beach for fettling. It is wonderful what some rollers, a group of strong island boys and some 151% proof local rum can do.


Enter Lauren Rosenberg, a Los Angeles native who found herself in Park City, Utah, on January 19, 2009. Rosenberg wanted to get from Point A to Point B and she chose to walk. Consulting Google Maps on her BlackBerry, she was given a walking route and she followed the directions closely, even though those walking directions included walking on a highway that has no sidewalks. Now Rosenberg is suing Google for her medical expenses and also for punitive damages because she was hit by a car.

She's suing Google because she chose to walk on a highway. Down the middle of it,. Rosenberg is also suing the driver who hit her.


Thursday, July 1, 2010


I finally got a good forecast for the trip from Rodney bay to Bequia. It is a long haul and in the past I would stage out of Soufriere beneath the Pitons in St Lucia and overnight in beautiful Chateaubelair in Northern St Vincent. But the government of St Lucia have come up with a money making wheeze, They made much of the coast a marine park charging both entrance fees and mooring fees and Chateaubelair has become a place to avoid after some altercations probably drug related. After all some of the best ganja is grown in Northern St Vincent.

So being a tight fisted and safety conscious Scots git I decided to stage out of Marigot which is a little way South of Rodney bay and made up my mind to stop in sleepy Buccament Bay in Southern St Vincent.

I left Marigot at about 6.30 am under power but was soon sailing and the current must have been helping as the GPS was soon showing 7 knots over the ground where the boat was clearly only making about 5 knots through the water. [ Note to self “ Stop being a big girls blouse and fit the log transducer. It is only a 2 inch hole in the bottom of the boat. How much water can come in?” ]

The current reversed at the South end of St Lucia but the wind picked up and we were still showing 5 to 6 although clearly going quicker than that. As we got into the channel between the islands we settled down to 6.8 to 7.3 with occasional 8s. As we got into the lee of St Vincent I was expecting the wind to die but there was enough North in it to funnel it down the west coast and we held the breeze to within a couple of miles of Buccament Bay. I thought briefly about going on but could see boats ahead of me motoring across the short channel between St Vincent and Bequia so I stayed with my plan and pulled in to Buccament. What a change, no more sleepy little fishing village, a big seafront hotel and mini marina is being built and there is additional construction of houses everywhere.

I got the hook down and soon realized I was going to need a stern anchor otherwise we were going to roll all night. At this point I thought buggerit Bequia would have been doable and I would have been there before it got really dark. Got the stern anchor sorted and suddenly found that I was really tired almost too tired to eat! A quick pressure cooker curry with the Garam Masala that Iris bought out from Germany with her was just the job, that and a G&T while the rice was cooking and the sun setting. Aaaaaah I was sacked out by 8.30.

After a long lie in I set off to cover the last few miles down to Bequia and unlike last night the wind was fair so off with the noisemaker and I hung the rags on the sticks and we were off doing what sailboats are supposed to do. Rounding up in to the harbour surprised me as the same Pistachio green trimaran was where it always had been, the Friendship Rose was there and Daffodils ice/water/laundry/diesel/trash/etc services were going about their businesses as tidily as ever. Not everything changes..

Hood down, sails bagged and I was off to find customs and immigration. A simple procedure but they asked to see the boat papers, well I have been waiting for them since last December and they finally got to me in St Lucia [ duplicates the originals are in a black hole somewhere. ] It was the first time an official had insisted on seeing the boat's full documentation, just as well I had them to hand.