Thursday, November 27, 2014


Al had been checking the weather constantly at the multiple sites, which consistently report about a potential storm approaching, first on Thursday, then on Wednesday; so we decided to hurry up and skip some of the ports that we stop at regularly, in order to break the sailing time. However, I hate the high seas that develop during the storms and the swells that never seem to subside long after, more than sailing a few hours longer at a time.

This year, we decided to do things differently, and debated about the ports to be passed. First we thought Bequia was a candidate, getting to Wallilabou, St Vincent is doable from Canouan, in about seven hours; however Bequia is the only place we know that getting water and diesel is easy. Al was apprehensive of starting a long stretch without filling the fuel tanks, on the way we used a lot of diesel (about one third), and it may be a bit tight , if we had to use the engines all the way. So, Bequia we had to visit, and clear out from; then skip Wallilabou and reach the Pitons, St Lucia. Al minutely calculated, and found that from the anchorage of Admiralty Bay, to the mooring balls of the Jalousie resort would be 51 miles. As we always estimate an average of 5 miles per hour for Ruyam II, we prepared ourselves to sail 10 hours.
After reaching Bequia in a bit over three hours, winds being favorable from Canouan, first thing to do was to call Daffodil Yacht Services to book an appointment for the mobile tanking station to come to Ruyam II. We called the telephone number provided in the giude book (our bible), but received a message. It was Saturday, were they not working? Since we wanted to catch the Customs officials before lunch, we hurried to the building.

On our way back, we stopped at the chandlery, very close to the dinghy dock to ask about Daffodil. The lady assured us that they should be working, however, if we could not reach them, we could use the services of Kingfisher tanker, anchored in the bay, right across from the chandlery. She also provided their number, which we called. There were people on board to help us anyway we wished. The only thing is, we had to weigh anchor and ride there to get our precious water and diesel. Oh well, it can be done. We cursed our cluelessness; we could have boarded the tanker on our way in, and maybe continue without stopping. Maybe next time.

Before weighing anchor, Al tried the VHF, since their number is also provided in the book, but got no response. I suggested trying channel 16 first, and it worked. They apparently monitor 16, and instruct to turn to 67 to communicate. I think this is the way people do business, not knowing if everybody is aware of their number. Phew, we got lucky! Daffodil promised to send the small catamaran with the multiple tanks at 1:30 pm, and we sat to our lunch with a sigh of relief.

The guy promptly came, gave us what we needed, and did not complain for taking too long to fill our water tanks, since we use double filters. Of course the water they provide from is not the cleanest, as was apparent on the first coarse filter, and discarded it immediately afterwards. No problem for us.

We decided to start at 6:00 am the next morning, in order to reach the Pitons at a timely manner, long before dusk at 6:00 pm. You never know what might happen on the way! Although we are generally not conservative people, we agree on being ultra conservative in our estimations, and hence we are always early for wherever we go. Even house parties, we get to the door sometimes before the hosts would be ready. As every Turk (and some Spaniards) know that the given party start time is an estimation for at least one hour early for the guests; however we had always felt like aliens, in Turkey, and even sometimes in Canada. We do not conform to the norms, but the people that we love seem to tolerate us. What else could anyone ask.
Long story short, we started at 6:10 am on Sunday morning, furled out the sails, but kept the engines running, since Al wanted to maintain 6 knots per hour. The channel between Bequia and St Vincent was passed about an hour and a half, and the lee of the island was achieved.

Doyle reminds the readers to be aware of th erratic wind schemes of St Vincent, probably due to it top heavy shape. He recommends reefing the sails when reaching the north portion of the island, since sudden burst of high winds were possible to encounter, due to the wind wrapping around the mountain.

We did encounter them, coupled with some storm cells, which gave our speed quite a burst at times. We reached the north corner in less than four hours, and started to sail in the channel. While we were riding the mini storms along the way, a depth finder reading caught my attention. It was 11.8 feet at some point off of the island I presume, but when I looked, the depth could not be measured, being over 500 feet.
This is a phenomenon that we had seen before about that area, which of course had scared me half to death. Moreover, both the GPS and the Imray chart mention that this particular area was not surveyed properly. Whatever exists at the northwest corner of the island, which we measured at 10-15 feet below the surface of the body of water which is close to 1,000 feet deep, seems to be also seen and reported by some people. Al speculates that it probably is a school of fish. Everytime we pass, in the same area and the same depth? We don't know what it is, but it did not hurt us yet.

The channel is 30 miles, and our estimation was six hours. We passed it in four, and reached the general area at 2:00 pm. Jalousie is the first sheltered bay between the Gros and the Petit Piton. It is small and very deep, so anchoring is not possible, but there are a few mooring balls that are maintained by St Lucia coast guard administration. And there are boat-boys to help find the pennant (deep in water, not fishable from high up), so we tied up around 2:30 and congratulated each other for our fearlessness (!). When it was over, I felt OK, but on the way the multiple mini storms were quite scary. The sea was relentlessly harsh - waves were not too high, but short and forceful. So it was a constant beating on the hulls. Thankfully, this time we were prepared and did not lose any of our breakables. But it was hard on the body. After a short swim, we were ready for bed around right after sundown.


I like Canouan. First of all, the water of Charlestown Bay is pristine, unlike all the other islands, despite the small town overlooking it. We anchor off of Tamarind Hotel and use their services, like the dingy dock and the  restaurant. Their food is good, but  prices astronomical. We like their breakfast, which is good value, and the service is impeccable.

Most important feature of Canouan is the Customs facility, so that the Union Island hellhole can be avoided.

On Saturday morning around 8:00 am we weighed anchor and furled out the sails from Tyrrell Bay. I prefer going around the west side of Union, which is very close to Carriacou. Getting there was easy, we pointed a little east of north, and passed the channel in no time. Once we were in the lee of the Union, Al started the engines, an we motor sailed to the north west corner.

Canouan is to the northeast of Union, but on the way, to the east Mayreau is located. Further down to its southeast is the notorious Tobaggo Cays, a dangerous pool of reefs and rocks. To the west of Mayreau, almost at its entrance to Salt Whistle Bay, there are the Catholic Islands. When I read Doyle this time to check the route to Canouan, I saw that he recommends passing from the east of Catholic Islands. So, we decided to do what he says, although Al was complaining that west of the Catholics was a more direct route, however, one has to turn east to get to Canouan afterwards.

After Union Island, we pointed towards the Catholic Islands, but the sails became a burden, since the wind was on our nose. Wouldn't you know it, providence is always against us. Winds always come from the direction that we want to go, so this time it was northeast. Since we were not in a hurry, we did what any other sailor would do, we tacked, pointing towards the south corner of Mayreau, and turned when we were almost touching, in order to safely pass the rock formations  of the Catholics. I cursed Doyle until we passed them, which took an inordinate length of time. However, right after, the direction towards Canouan became much more favorable, since it is to the northwest of Mayreau. After dilly-dallying for a while, we gained momentum and reached Canouan by sail.

The sun was shining, the waves not too high, winds steady; all in all it was a good short ride of about 4 hours.

We anchored in front of Tamarind Hotel and got ready to get to shore. When I looked, I located the high dock to tie the dinghy, so we got there. Al was complaining that he did not remember the dock being so high, but I reached up, and tied the painter with a bit of difficulty. After that, getting onto the dock was a bit treacherous, many of the board being loose at the top, and the horizontal boards at the side to act as a ladder being too high and slippery. Anyway, we climbed up, while I congratulated myself for being quite agile thanks to my fitness training during summer. However, walking on the dock was a problem, there were many missing and loose boards. I walked from dead centre, following the extra beam in the middle. I could not believe the disrepair at such a posh resort, but we reached the shore safely, and did our business at the customs.

In the morning while retrieving the anchor, I realized that there was another dock a little further up, which was the one we had used the last time, which leads to the restaurant. The one we tackled was for the dive shop. It appears that we had anchored too close to the ferry dock, and did not see the dinghy dock blending into the landscape. Oh well.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Yesterday (Wednesday, Nov 12th), the sun was shining accompanied with a nice breeze. When we looked out, it looked like a regatta with the the sail boats racing to leave St George's. Unfortunately we had to wait for our propane bottle to be filled as well as the laundry to be done. But the current weather was encouraging, especially what we had experienced a few days back during the south passage, so the plan was made to start our Christmas pilgrimage to St Anne, Martinique on Thursday, November 13th, 2014. First stop Carriacou, about 28 miles away, part of Grenada. Major mistake number one.

When we woke up around 6:00 am in the morning, we heard the puttering of the rain, but did not think anything of it, since there was no wind to speak of. As well, the clouds seemed to concentrate on the island and the northern regions appeared clear. Nevertheless, Al checked several sites for the forecast, and could not see any disturbance other than "winds 10 to 15 knots, seas 3 to 5 feet" for the whole week. However, when Al looked at the French site which shows the current satellite images of the weather systems, we saw that there was a major one located on Trinidad/Tobago and Grenada, with multiple cells of heavy rain. That site used to show animated doppler images of the region which showed the recent (last three hours) direction of the moving weather systems locally, but not any more. Like everything else the app was updated, and the most important feature was dropped. We looked at the image, but thought that it was localized in the south - we were going north east. Major mistake number 2.

It takes about two hours to motor up to the north west corner of Grenada (it is Gros Point, but turning around it and hugging the north shore up to Tanga Luanga is recommended, in order to be able to point to the narrow passage between the Sisters rocks and the hard place, namely Kick' em Jenny (the underwater active volcano zone).

Last time we passed through there, which was about the same time of the year, it was dead calm but so foggy that we became anxious about another sailboat crossing paths with us. That was the only stress I had encountered then.
This time, there was only one boat way ahead of us that we could have a glimpse of once in a while. Other than that and the fast Carriacou ferry, the sea was deserted. At times visibility was close to nil, due to heavy rain, with erratic winds varying between 15 to 28 knots because of different storm cells here and there, and east to west currents with short swells, after turning Gros Point.

When we left Grenada and approached the Sister rocks, rain was a major problem,  but the seas had not gained momentum yet.  As we wanted to stay away from Kick'em Jenny, Al steered toward the Sisters, which are in front of a small island called Round Rock, and changed the route as soon as we avoided the no-passage zone (1.5 km radius) around the volcano. Thankfully,  the rain somewhat abated to give us a clear visual, otherwise it would have been quite stressful to pass through the invisible narrow channel.

As soon as we cleared the lee of the Rock Island, the sea hit us with such force that Al thought we were tilting to the left. Our brita pitcher flew down and flooded (!) the floor, giving us a near heart attack to boot. Apparently the narrow channel between Rock Island and the Diamond rock a little furher, accelerated the sea towards us with the current.

It was interesting to note that the waves were not all that high, but they were irregular and full of force. It was not possible to move around in the boat, without holding on with two hands, not just usual one. And the rain. Poor Al was soaked through before halfway down, despite his rain jacket; and had to change all his clothes. Unheard-of for us. The times and the duration that we wear our rain-gear is limited. I can only think of a couple of times, but I usually go in during rain, since my part of the seat at the cock-pit is not sheltered by the bimini.

In short, the sigh of relief for passing the danger zone without a hitch, turned into more stress and discomfort when the side beating of the open sea started. Since visibility is almost nil, Carriacou seemed an ocean away, while Ruyam II slowly bobbed through the relentless waves. After about an hour and a half, north side of Tyrrell Bay became visible, and the rest was easy, since the shelter of the cluster of islands to the south of Carriacou  slowly tamed the sea.  We quickly entered the bay and anchored in 10 feet of water.  We were fortunate enough to find a place which was not too close to our neighbours, which is not the case most of the time, since Tyrrell Bay is quite popular for its western location and calm waters.

First thing we did was to eat something around 2:00 pm and rush to the Customs & Immigration located next to the Carriacou Marina, to get our clearance. Next stop Canouan, Grenadines.

Friday, November 21, 2014


After a little over of six months in Hamilton, Canada, we at last set foot on Maurice Bishop Airport, St George's, Grenada; and was welcomed by the caress of the warm and humid evening air, as well as our driver Richard. It felt really good to be back to our routine of living somewhat isolated from the world if need be, minding our own business with the sea and the wind.

But first Ruyam II had to be prepared as a home, to be scrubbed inside and out,  fitted with the various gears and  dropped on to the sea, so to speak. In a nutshell, a lot of work for the two of us and  hords of people besides.

We settled for three nights at La Sagesse Resort at the next bay to  Grenada Marine, and waited for the morning. At 7:00 am we were up and ready after a short breakfast, to be transported to Ruyam II. Mike, the owner of La Sagesse, understood our being anxious to see our boat, so arranged Rachel to drive us without delay. We had our luggage (three enormous collapsible bags full of essentials for Ruyam II, such as a a new cover for the captain's seat, mesh curtains for the cockpit, four mattress covers to be filled by thicker foam from Grenada, all made by yours truly.  We had six months worth of toiletries and a few clothing items for ourselves, most of our belongings being already there.

With all the excitement, we left Al's briefcase in the car, hence felt like idiots in front of the companion way without the keys. Oh well, Grenada Marine had our spare, as well, Rachel turned around and brought the briefcase almost at the same time as the marina security guy brought the spare key. We must be getting old!

After we gained access, it was gratifying to find Ruyam II without any mold (except on the ceiling of  the second head, which had a leaky hatch), despite the fact that the plastic covers we had tied over all the hatches having completely disintigrated. The mistake was using the garbage bags we had bought in Martinique, which were apparently bio-degradable. Maybe this year we will find a different solution, or not bother at all. Inside was quite clean, my efforts of cleanup before leaving had paid off it seems.

On the other hand, the amount of work is quite overwhelming at first, because of the relentless sun, without the bimini over the cockpit, and no sea breeze. This year our old bimini was discarded, and a new one was ordered from Turbulence sail makers, stationed at the marina.

Last year, while closing the boat, we had talked with the fibre-glass manufacturers at the marina about a hard-top, since I had set my heart on it. When we first asked around the marina managers, Jason (the boss) thought that it would not be less than US $10,000, since the metal supports would definitely would have to be changed (without taking a look at them). However the actual guy who was to make it mentioned that the frame was fine, and the fibre-glass top should not cost more than $5,000, which seemed reasonable. So we asked the guy to email us the actual quote later on, and almost decided to have it done. In the meantime, Al spoke with Martin from Turbulence as well, and got a quote, including a new sailbag. Martin was to use the existing bimini as the pattern if need be. However, I was encouraged by the initial estimate, and the assurances of the metal guy, attesting to the sturdiness of our existing frame.

In the end however, something happened between the estimate and the quote, and the price of the fibre-glass alone was boosted to ten thousand, even without the frame. It appears that the guys are  satisfied with their existing customers, and do not need our business. So be it!

Martin got an e mail from Al in the middle of summer to go ahead and cut the sunbrella, we had enough of the hard top story. We had no idea how it was going to turn out, so it was a pleasent surprise to see such a professional job. Moreover, Martin was extremely accommodating; we asked him to add some D-rings to the finished product after marking the places of the hooks I had made on the curtain, and he did not mind (well he did not show any negative feelings) installing the bimini twice, as well as doing some extra work, without charging an arm and a leg. Above all, he is such a charming person, so soft spoken and gentle that, it was a pleasure to deal with him. Our sail bag also is quite kick-ass. Every thing looks very good from outside.

While Martin was dealing with the bimini, it was our job to buy the foam for the mattresses. We had been to the establishment called Best Rest, where mattresses could be ordered to measure, but I did not like their fabrics or sewing style when we looked at them last year, hence the decision about making the covers at home. I had taken one of the existing covers home, and made them to contain double the thickness of foam to give us some more comfort.

After puttering around for a couple of hours on the first day, we decided to give the mattress guy a visit, and call it a day. It takes quite a while and effort to get there from St David's, and we were beat from the heat.

When we sat at the office, the owner of Best Rest Mr. Fakhri gave us such an exhorbitant price for the 7 inch foam, so that we decided to keep the existing foam, and buy 3 inch thick foam to add on. It worked very well, and filled the covers very nicely. To tell the truth, we did not know what to do with the old foam, which seemed fine anyway. It was a bit thin, that's all.  For some reason unfathomable by us, the guy was very happy to sell the 3 inch foam, but could not part with his 6 inch, since he charged triple for the latter. He also tried to sell us ready made mattresses with the thickness we wanted (double the width) for the same price as the foam. Go figure! His explanation; he was not in the foam business, but mattress business, and he would charge more for just foam. Does not make any sense, but hey, they do not seem to understand how business works, and make up their own rules along the way. It is amazing that they make any money to stay afloat. Anyway, it helped us at the time of need, and made our beds quite comfortable.

We arranged the pick up for the next morning, called our driver Richard, and planned some heavy duty shopping from CK for bulk stuff, like canned vegetables (mainly tomato which is not readily available in Martinique) and booze etc at the same time. All in all, the next day was also occupied with shopping and wandering around in the town. In the meantime, people started working under the boat for painting, which meant that I could not do any washing on the decks. It was frustrating, since outside the boat was filthy, and getting even worse with the constant traffic of riggers and mechanics. We concentrated on the inside, but did not accomplish much.

Al had reserved time for launch on Wednesday, and the boatyard honored it, although the rigging work had not been completed. As a result, we had to spend two nights tied to the concrete dock. Bad decision! Tide and swells made the shallow waters so rolly that the multiple lines to the dock created constant jerking in different directions and a lot of noise. At the same time, due to a full moon, there was such a strong tide, that we had to adjust the fenders several times a day. Once we were late to check, and reminded by a bang. In the low tide, all the fenders were completely submerged and left the starboard side in the mercy of the concrete dock! The gel-coat at one corner under the rubber band over the steps was damaged, along with some scratches at the side further along. It was unfortunate, but not a major problem, easily fixable with some putty. However, this was the first time that we had a mishap which could and should be avoided. I hope this will be the last of it.
Other than that, we endured the two sleepless nights, and escaped to a mooring ball for the third, right after all the work, including washing the decks with shore water was completed. While we were docked, all the passers by and the riggers praised our patience.

Saturday morning, around 9:00 am we set the main sail and started for Bellmont, St George's. Unfortunately wind was less than 10 knots, so we had to keep the engines running. We had never seen the seas as calm before at that stretch. So it was a pleasent ride, even around  the Saline Point, where the two opposing currents meet and generally turn that area to a washing machine, it was almost quiet. We motor-sailed all the way and anchored at our usual place.

During the next few days we completed shopping, obtained a short cruising permit and got ready for the passage to Martinique. In the meantime we saw and hugged all our acquaintances. The forecast is mild winds for the week ahead. We shall see.