Christmas and New Year in Colombia

Originally, our plan was to spend two weeks in Santa Marta and then move on to Cartagena (pronounced Carta-hay-na) for Christmas and the New Year. Our anchor and chain, sent in for re-galvanizing, was supposed to take 7-10 days, but was eventually, only returned the day before Christmas.

Christmas decorations in Bolivar square, Santa Marta

The council has gone to a lot of trouble to brighten up Santa Marta, despite the Covid.

A balmy evening in one of the the Santa Marta squares.

Finding a quiet alley for a meal – these folks really need the business.

Drinks with Crawford and Elaine at the marina.

This extended our stay to three weeks, to include two great Christmas parties with the cruisers that had arrived in Santa Marta, enroute to Panama. The first was a paella dinner the day before Christmas, compliments of the Santa Marta marina management.

On our way to the paella meal.

On Christmas Day, we had entertaining team games between the cruisers, a pot luck late afternoon BBQ dinner and Secret Santa presents. Eating, drinking and great fun was had by all, until late in the evening.

Kyle nails the pantihose 6 x water bottle knock down race.

Missus Claus hands out the Secret Santa presents.

Crawford and Kieran received some Colombian hats – eat your hearts out, hat aficionados.

The group of sailors heading for Panama.

The BBQ tong masters.

Missy, Kyle, Denis and Natali chewing the late night fat.

We set off bleary eyed early on the 26 th to do a two-day sail to Cartagena with a stopover halfway at Puerto Velero to use our water maker and fill our water tanks (the water in Santa Marta was not potable). The sailing was great with 15knot north-easterly following winds, all the way to Cartagena.

Approaching Cartagena – old town on the left.

We arrived in the anchorage outside the Club Nautico Marina late afternoon, to check into the marina the next morning. Cartagena is a modern city, built around the historical town with defensive walls, dating back to the 1600s

Modern buildings around the anchorage.

Club Nautico facilities.

Our berth next to Piano Piano.

The historical port of Cartagena, entered through the narrow passage at Punta Castillo, is today a modern harbour, with an incongruous big statue of the Virgin and Child in the centre, marking a shallow area. The harbour is surrounded by high rise buildings, reminding of the Downtown Core and Raffles Place in Singapore.

Statue of the Virgin and child.

A walk to the top of the biggest fort in Cartagena “Fuerte de San Felipe de Barajas” gives a good introduction to the layout of the old and the new cities.

Fuerte de San Felipe de Barajas

In front of the fort is the statue of Don Blas de Lezo, about whom Colombians are heard to say: “Because of him, we don’t speak English”. This Basque naval hero, after a long career whose battles cost him an arm, a leg, and an eye, was appointed Commander of the Spanish Fleet at Cartagena in 1737.

Don Blas de Lezo

When British Admiral Edward Vernon came gunning for Cartagena with a fleet of ships and men, many times the size of that under de Lezo’s command, de Lezo sank many of the English ships and held off the attack until the start of the rainy season when tropical illnesses ran through the English crews and Vernon slunk away with one-tenth the number of men and far fewer ships than he started with.

Approaching the top of the fort through a network of tunnels.

The massive walls of the fort.

View from the top – the English were anchored in the bay below.

There are restaurants along the waterfront and a block away is a big, well stocked supermarket. The old town centre inside the defensive walls, is a 10 minute walk from the marina. Below follows a number of our un-annotated  photos, to give you the flavour of the old town. The first lot taken in the narrow streets and alleys of the residential area, followed by the grander buildings in the centre. The people living on these alleys don’t have gardens, so they gather in the streets at sunset, with lively Spanish music playing. The ladies in colourful dresses are called Palenqueras – they are the food, fruit and veg sellers in the old town.

Palenqueras balance their wares.

This one is for Michelle M!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Stef, Cath and the boys!

We cycled around the old town a few times to visit the gold museum and the museum of modern Colombian art. It also gave us the opportunity to explore streets which we had missed before. There is just so much beauty and art in this town, that it leaves you breathless. We had an interim goodbye BBQ on Esprit, as some of the younger cruisers wanted to head off to go kiteboarding at Bocas, west of Colon and the Canal. There is a lot of encouragement from them for me to take up the sport, but I am ambivalent about this as it sounds too much like excessive exercise at 73.

After two delightful weeks in Cartagena, we will head south this weekend, to explore the Islas del Rosario, Archipelago de San Bernardo and Isla Fuerte on our way down to the San Blas Islands north of the Panama isthmus. We will report back on the above islands, when we reach the Panama Canal at Colon, as we don’t expect good phone or data reception during the next month. Until then, enjoy 2021.

Santa Marta Christmas 2020.

Santa Marta street art.

In the days following our arrival in Santa Marta, Colombia on Sunday the 6 th December, a number of other yachts arrived. These were Australian, New Zealand, US and Belgian registered yachts who we had all met before in various anchorages, so there was a flurry of reunion drinks and dinners in the evenings of the following week.

Statue of Simon Bolivar “The Liberator” of South America from Spanish rule. He died in Santa Marta.

Colonial government buildings.

During the day, we explored the town of Santa Marta, which was bustling with street traders on the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets and running the gauntlet of vehicles whose drivers consider traffic lights as mere decorations and their hooters as the cure-all for pedestrians in their way.

Bustling streets and sidewalks.

Having a cup of coffee at a busy street cafe.

A hat and bag seller.

The marina could arrange hot dip galvanising with a local plant, so we had our badly corroded anchor and 80 m of anchor chain sent in for galvanising. Our BBQ which runs off an Aussie gas cylinder, was back in action as the local gas supplier had an adaptor for it and refilled the cylinder for us.

Santa Marta cathedral.

Our daughter Karen who travelled South America two years ago and spent some time in Colombia, suggested we visit Minca, a small town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We headed out there on the 13 th December to spend a relaxed time on land for a couple of days. The town reminded us of Nimbin, the hippie town in northern NSW, Australia. We stayed at the Chunu’u hostel resort in a “glamping tent” next to a river.

Arriving at Chunu’u – named after the small nectar eating bird.

The “glamping tents”

Inside our “Loveshack”

Taking a breather.

After action satisfaction – man, relax with a cup of coffee.

Fellow Aussie Colin, arranged for us to visit the La Victoria coffee plantation high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To get there, ten of us sailors got onto the pillions of the local moto taxis and had a hair raising ride on narrow unpaved roads with hairpin bends and sheer drops to the valleys below.

Annie and her driver.

Miguel my driver – hairstyle is important to these youngsters. The “Style du Jour” is “Mullet meets Mohawk”.

La Victoria is one of the biggest and oldest coffee farms of northern Colombia. It was founded in 1892 by Charles and Alice Bowden, a couple of English entrepreneurs who arrived in the country. The Bowden’s were among the pioneers that started producing coffee extensively in the region around Minca. They engineered a system of pipelines that uses water from the numerous streams of the farm to collect coffee from remote areas and to power the machinery of the coffee factory.

The water powered generator supplying power to the farm.

Thanks to these innovations, La Victoria Coffee Company became one of the top producers of coffee in the region by 1921, with a yearly production of 200,000 kg. More recently, the Weber-Wilde family, who has owned the property for two generations now, is opening the farm to alternative activities. We enjoyed a very informative tour of the coffee factory built in 1892 and still running today. The owner who’s husband passed away two years ago, is running the big farm and coffee factory on her own.

The owner explains how the coffee fruit is soaked to separate the flesh from the bean.

Coffee beans are dried in these turning vessels.

The trip back on the moto taxis were even worse, because going downhill the riders could show off their considerable racing skills, which would have had the motorcycle racers in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, green with envy. When not hiking along the rivers and the mountain trails, we explored the town and enjoyed the local food.

Crossing the river on a dodgy bridge.

Locals enjoying the chilly mountain water.

Up in the mountains, these huge bamboo forests are prolific.

A nymph in the river.

Bye-bye to Chunu’u.

Back at the marina, we had new neighbours, Rokas and Simona on “Starlight” from Lithuania and Elaine and Crawford on “Nauplios” from the UK. The galvanising of our anchor and chain had been delayed due the volume of work at the plant, with the promise that we can expect delivery just before Christmas, which is celebrated in Colombia on the 24 th December. We will set sail to Cartagena, 120 nm to the South, after Christmas, to celebrate the New Year down there.

To all our family and friends, we wish you a merry Christmas and after hopefully receiving your Covid vaccinations early in 2021, a brighter and happier new year than the year that 2020 has been. Cheers!

Annie & Dirk

Curacao 2.5 and sailing to Colombia.

Whilst waiting for confirmation of the 1st December border opening of Colombia, we did our laundry and did two long hikes: The “Meditation” hike above Santa Barbara resort, which clearly hadn’t been walked by anyone for years. I should have taken a machete to fight through the prolific cacti and “Hook and spear” thorn trees. (Haak en steek dorings)

Annie forging ahead on the Meditation hike

Cacti flourish here.

As if the scratches on our legs were not enough, a solid rain downpour hit us just before we reached the lookout, drenching us completely. During my meditation afterwards, I tried to answer the questions “Why did we tackle this hike?” and “Where did you put the Betadine antiseptic and Voltaren meds?”

Looking down to Seru Boca marina.

Annie at the lookout.

View across Spanish Water.

Annie catching her breath back at Santa Barbara beach.

The next hike was the Jan Thiel lagoon walk (aka “The roller coaster hike”) on Sunday the 29th Nov. After the previous day’s rain, this was a slippery mud-bath and begged the same question as above. After a swim, some Voltaren anti-inflammatories and a stiff whisky, we went to bed early.

The only worthwhile photo on this walk – an animal cemetery in the bush.

There was the good news by email just before bedtime that Colombia will open it’s harbours on the 1st December – details about Covid-19 protocols to follow. Confirmation came through on the 1st: No prior testing or testing on arrival required after a doctor has checked us out. We took the bus into town and did the 6.4 km circuit checking out with Customs and Immigration on the 2nd December. In the evening we had farewell drinks on Wild Thing.

Last look at Punda in Willemstad – new hearts for more locks.

Christmas tree decorations complete.

The fresh fruit and veg market.

The following day, we had a relaxed broad reach up the West coast of Curacao and anchored off beautiful Santa Cruz bay, the most northerly anchorage on the island. The reason for setting of from here, is to pass Aruba to the North and avoid the 15 km wide passage to Venezuela to the South – the danger of piracy from Venezuela is a reality.

Passing Willemstad on our way up the west coast.

More cruise liners in mothballs – the Kiwi’s say “Beached as”

On the 4th December, we set off at 6:30 am for the 358 nm crossing to Santa Marta in Colombia. After 2 hours of motor sailing to get out of the lee of the island, we set the jib out on the pole, with one reef in the main to goose wing downwind. We fine tuned Harry the Hydrovane in 28 knots of north-easterly wind and Harry steered us all the way to Santa Marta over the next 46 hours.

Route Caribbean. (Click on map to enlarge)

At 2pm we passed Northwest Point in Aruba, 8 nm offshore. At 4:30 pm we gybed the sails at 13.15 deg north on the 1,000 metre depth contour, to start our course south. During the night, the notorious easterly and confused swells started to rise, but we were bowling along nicely to cover 176 nm at 6:30am to average 7.3 knots over 24 hours. At 10:00 am we passed Cabo de Vela in Colombia, 20 nm offshore.

Annie catches another Mahi-Mahi.

Sunday the 5th December was a real relaxed Sunday sail as the waves got smaller, once we were in the lee of Cabo de Vela. As we were approaching Santa Marta, we furled the jib and tucked a second reef in the main in an effort to slow down in the strong 35 knot easterly. We had planned to reach Santa Marta by midday, but now it was still dark and we were not ready to make our landfall.

We managed to drop the sail outside Marina Santa Marta at 6:30 am, as the sun was rising. Esprit had sailed 182 nm over 24 hours to average 7.6 knots. The 358 nm passage she covered in 48 hours at 7.46 knots. Esprit was performing as well as we could wish for.

Hoisting the Colombian and quarantine flags.

The marina staff did not come on duty until 8:00 am, so we drifted in the harbour, brewing coffee and having breakfast. The staff were very welcoming and efficient, tying us up at our berth. Being Sunday, the government agencies weren’t working, so we went for showers and slept most of the afternoon. By 5:00 pm we were woken by the many pleasure craft returning to the marina, their sound systems blasting fantastic Spanish music. This was a welcome change from the Afro beat prevalent in the Caribbean.

Washing off the salt.

Jeanneau’s at Santa Marta marina

It is now Monday morning and Jorg Domann from Berlin has just berthed next to us in a Jeanneau 409 sister yacht. Sailing single handed and restricted from poling out, he covered the distance in 3 days, which is good for single handing. He has gone to sleep now, whilst we are waiting on a doctor to come and check us up around midday for Covid clearance. It has also given me the opportunity to write this post while waiting. We will report in due course on Santa Marta and Cartagena in Colombia. Until then, cheers and stay safe.

Curacao 2.

We arrived in Curacao during the rainy season, with the result that the rain came bucketing down for days on end, which was good for filling our water tanks, but not so good for exercise. Whenever there was a break in the rain, we bolted out on walks into the country, or to the supermarket.

Going bush – Spanish Water, on our way to the ocean beaches.

Caracas Bay on the ocean side – a cruise liner and an oil rig laid up due to Covid.

Papagayo Beach with mostly Dutch tourists.

In between, we did work on the boat or had other cruisers over for drinks. Ed and Natalie from Montreal in Canada took us along in their car to do shopping, so we reciprocated with a dinner at Taboosh, a restaurant on the Spanish Water with local cuisine.

Dirk, Ed, Natalie & Annie at Taboosh.

The bus service into town gave us the opportunity to explore the towns of Punda and Otrabanda on opposite sides of the canal into Willemstad. On the Otrabanda side is the fantastic Kura Hulanda Museum, which is part of the urban renewal project which the Dutch entrepreneur and philanthropist, Jacob Dekker funded to the tune of many millions of dollars. Curacao was the centre of the slave trade in years past and the museum is a stark reminder of the terrible fate that befell these people from Africa. The museum has a valuable collection of African art which Dekker assembled over many years. Born in 1948, he sadly passed away a year ago from cancer at the age of 71.

Entrance to the museum.

A bust of Jacob Dekker.

“Mama Africa” sculpture in the museum courtyard, highlighting the origins of the slaves.

Started by the Portuguese in 1526, the current estimates are that about 12 million to 12.8 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean over a span of 400 years. The number purchased by the traders was considerably higher, as the passage had a high death rate with approximately 1.2–2.4 million dying during the voyage and millions more died in seasoning camps in the Caribbean after arrival to the New World.

Millions of slaves also died as a result of slave raids and during transport to the African coast for sale to European slave traders. Near the beginning of the 19th century, various governments acted to ban the trade, although illegal smuggling still occurred. In the early 21st century, several governments issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade. (Source: Wikipedia)

Model of a slave trading ship. In the holds of these ships, the slaves in chains, were crammed like sardines .

Sad!

Venice also has something to answer for it’s North African slave trading history.

Slave girls – I have only included photos of the less shocking exhibits in the museum.

Mural depicting slaves at work in the Caribbean.

Exit of the slave museum – Annie looking back, gobsmacked.

End of a sad chapter – celebrating the emancipation of the slaves in Curacao by King Willem III of the Netherlands.

The photos following, are of the redeveloped urban area in Kura Hulanda – with lots of public art around.

 

 

Cooling off with iced cappuccinos.

Dekker’s extensive African art collection.

Walking back to Punda.

Punda, which we explored on the other side of the canal, is a living and very colourful street art gallery, with artistic surprises around every corner. We enjoyed this so much, we went back two days later to explore the area further. Below, follows some photos of the street art, which don’t need further explanation.

We thought this building was a church – it is the Public Prosecutor’s office!

The Christmas decorations are coming out.

A Chichi Santa with reindeer.

Last night, we had cruisers from Australia and New Zealand around for drinks, all of us waiting for the Colombian border to open on the 1st December (hopefully). Like us, these boats, Merewether and Wild Thing are also planning to transit the Panama canal early in the new year, to start their Pacific crossing. We are all waiting with bated breath. We will report back early in December on our next move, so until then, keep safe and wear your masks.

Curacao

Caribbean Route.

Note: If the map on the email version you have received is not clear, click on the map to enlarge it.

The route from Grenada to Curacao has two potential dangers: 1. Piracy off the North coast of Venezuela, which evidently, is worse than the piracy which we had expected off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden – so, we sail well offshore from the Venezuelan Islands of Blanquila and Los Rogues! 2. Strong easterly winds, which build up towards the Gulf of Mexico, after their long journey across the Atlantic.

The Predictwind Offshore service which we are subscribed to, indicated a favourable four day weather window starting on the 7 th November 2020. The expected wind strength for the 440 nm (815 km) distance was around a 15 knot Easterly with swells of 1 – 2 metres. Ideal for Esprit with a poled out jib and full main, going dead downwind. We set sail from St George’s in Grenada on the 7th at 15:00.

To remind us of the high rainfall in Grenada and as a farewell present, we were hit by a severe squall with torrential rain, two miles offshore. After this, Harry the Hydrovane took control and we were sailing downwind at 9 – 11 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground). With no further rain and  a consistent wind, we had a wonderful trip downwind for the next two days.

Harry the Hydrovane.

The prediction for day 3.

Weather, according to MetBob in New Zealand (Bob McDavitt), is a mix of pattern and chaos. It therefore comes as no surprise, when the wind suddenly dies down on day three, despite the predictions. We had to start the Yanmar engine and motor for the last 30 hours, before anchoring in Curacao – averaging 6.1 knots over the total distance. As passages go, this one was both good and frustrating.

Although Bonaire is the first island in the Netherlands Antilles to be reached, sailing from Grenada, we passed it by as Bonaire required 14 days quarantine on arrival. It is a small island, but has good diving.

Approaching Bonaire.

The southern tip of Bonaire.

Day 3: Annie catches a good sized Dorado (Mahi Mahi) with her new pink lure.

Approaching Curacao – huge Cumulus clouds.

South of Willemstad the capital of Curaçao, is a substantial body of sheltered inland water called Spaanse Water (Spanish Water), accessed by a narrow channel. Yachts anchor here in five designated bays during the hurricane season. Although we have now reached the end of this season, there are still many permanent boats anchored here, mostly from the USA, Canada and SA, who uses the bays as a base to cruise the region.

Spanish Water.

You can’t blame these cruisers, as the island (a self governing province of the Netherlands), is well developed with modern infrastructure and services, but more European than the islands of the Windward and Leeward Islands. The Island was settled by the Dutch around the same time in the 1600’s as Cape Town in SA, so architecturally the Dutch Colonial style buildings with the Amsterdam gables are similar, but more colourful in Curacao. Because it is a world heritage site, modern buildings have to conform in a stylised fashion.

Dutch gables.

The 1888 Queen Emma floating bridge busy closing.

Almost closed.

The pedestrians walk over.

The official language is Dutch, but culturally, the island has many influences such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Afro-Caribbean, Latin American, Asian and Jewish. English is widely spoken, but the native tongue is Creole of Portuguese descent.

The high Queen Juliana bridge.

Colourful buildings on the dockside.

Lots of public art.

On a street corner.

The morning after our arrival, we took a bus into Willemstad and walked for miles to check in with Customs, Immigration and the Port Authority, staffed by friendly and efficient people, all apologising for the fact that the offices are situated so far apart. In the evening we had Ed and Natalie on “SV Safari” from Canada over for drinks – they had helped us in the morning with information on how to get around. They have a beautifully restored Morgan monohull and two dogs.

Ed and Natalie have a car and they invited us along on their weekly shopping trip to the supermarkets two days later. The supermarkets are well stocked with fantastic cheeses and cheap Amstel beer. The selection of fresh fruit and veg is of good quality and reasonably priced. We look forward to exploring Curacao further, until the end of November, but in the meantime, we conclude with a few photos around the Spanish Water.

Fisherman’s harbour housing, next to which we tie our dinghy up at the dock.

A holiday resort opposite Fisherman’s harbour.

A colourful house next to our anchorage – the voluptuous lady is a statue!

A lot of houses have these grass covered gazebos.

Curacao Yacht Club.

 

Grenada 2.

As we approach the end of October, we are still in Grenada, trying to get permission to sail to the ABC Islands (the former Dutch colonies of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) north of Venezuela. To our south, Trinidad is still closed. The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly messed up our plans, which at this point, should have seen us returning to Trinidad to launch Esprit back in the water, after touring Cuba, the Aztec sites of south Mexico and Guatemala.

Still in Grenada.

We will visit those countries from Australia, when the Covid thing settles down – hopefully in about 2-3 years time. The music of the “Buena Vista Social Club” from Cuba has to suffice for the moment, despite Ben from Vermont SA, dismissing them as “old chestnuts” (“old chestnut” actually means, a stale joke, story or saying).

In the meantime our social life here in Grenada carries on unabated, with music evenings, walks, lunches and drinks with friends.

At the music jam: Richard serenading his wife on her birthday.

The coup de grace: a flame thrower birthday cake.

Last night, the 26th October, we were on our way to the Cruiser’s Reef Bar in Clarks Court to listen and dance to the “Leaky Seacocks”, but on the way there, we had to turn the dinghy around, when a heavy rain squall hit us. We got drenched on the way back and were just in time to take down all the canvas shade covers, before a massive storm with gusty winds hit Esprit a half an hour later.

Fortunately, the“Leaky Seacocks” (Granada’s “premier” rock and roll band) will be on at Roger’s Barefoot Beach Bar on Sunday arvo, with “Bilge water” as the support act. We will try to get there after brunch at the West Indies Brewery.

The West Indies Brewery is becoming a habit – Jan, Noel, Ceu, Annie and Jane.

News update: Great arvo with the Seacocks but Bilge water was a bit of a disappointment – an ocker Aussie bloke reciting a Banjo Paterson’s poem “Clancy of the Overflow” (1889) to a puzzled crowd, before launching into the worst rendition ever of “Beds are Burning” by Midnight Oil. The Oils Peter Garrett will be in tears.

The Leaky Seacocks.

The dancers.

Bill (80 year old Aussie solo sailor) is a faster beer drinker than me.

Aargh! His bed is burning.

We rented a car for three days to explore the island. Our route took us up the east coast to visit Grenville, the Belmont Estate and the river Antoine Rum Distillery. We stopped in Sauteurs at the north of the island for lunch, before driving down the west coast to Gouyave, and turning inland to see some waterfalls and Grand Etang Lake. We managed to climb up to Fort George in St George’s, visit two museums and do shopping.

Church in Grenville.

Belmont Estate.

Annie and Kelly pointing out the cocoa fruits.

The east coast of Grenada – battered by the easterly winds.

Buying fruit and veg next to the road.

Downtown St George’s.

Walking up to Fort George.

Old gun emplacements at the top.

View down to Port Louis Marina.

On the 31st October we sailed from Secret Harbour to St George’s to meet up with some friends at the Victory Bar in Port Louis marina. Saturday night is their music night and we enjoyed good music and good food.

A great duo – this young guy on steel drum and the lady called “The Voice”

During our Sunday morning walk along Grande Anse beach, it started raining and continued bucketing down through the afternoon and night. The next morning we set sail for Carriacou Island, (Part of Grenada, about 30 nm to the North) and anchored halfway there at Corn Store Bay on Ronde Island. The next day we had a wet sail in a howling wind and anchored in Tyrell Bay in the south of Carriacou.

Grande Anse beach before the rain deluge.

Tyrrel Bay offered us the opportunity to explore the town and get rid of our trash, before we sailed to Anse La Roche for lunch the next day. We anchored overnight in Hillsborough, the main town and had our hair cut the next day. On the way back to Tyrrel Bay, we stopped for lunch at Paradise Beach, opposite Sandy Island.

Beautiful Anse La Roche bay with Tim’s beach bar.

Hillsborough jetty.

Hillsborough town.

Paradise Beach.

Sandy Island.

Armin Stauch, a fellow sailor who kindly included a part for us in his order from the US, sent us a text to say our new Suzuki outboard propellor had arrived in St George’s. So, on Friday the 6th November we sailed back to Grenada to collect the prop and checked out with Customs on Saturday morning. We will set sail for Curacao at 4pm this arvo for the two day and 14 hour crossing – looking forward to do some distance again. We will update you on the ABC islands in our next post. Stay safe and be happy!

Tyrrel Bay: Machineel tree warning – seen all over the Caribbean.

Tyrrel Bay: A design from Popular Mechanics.

Finally, some news from our girls: Karen, with her punishing hours as an orthopaedic surgery registrar, still finds time to do a masters degree in surgical education. With her colleague Sav, they have become published authors. Michelle, seems to have found a work/play balance, and have climbed Rabual volcano in PNG with some friends.

Work: A food security advisor and a gender advisor walk miles in the rain and mud through remote Western Province PNG wondering where this job will take them next.

Play: Michelle at Kokopo island, with Rabual volcano in the background.

Grenada

Grenada south coast.

We tied up to the quarantine jetty at St George’s harbour in Grenada at midday on the 9th September 2020, where a nurse and an official were waiting for us. We were informed that because we have arrived from St Vincent and the Grenadines and had been there for more than two months after negative PCR testing for Covid-19, we didn’t require further testing. An hour later, the necessary health clearance, customs and immigration formalities had been done and we were free to go.

The quarantine station at St George’s harbour

The Carenage on “The Lagoon” (St George’s Harbour)

We motored past the more than five dozen boats from other countries tied up in quarantine in the anchorage and dropped our anchor at lovely Morne Rouge beach, a mile to the South west. We were anchored next to Craig and Zena from Melbourne, on their Hunter 49 “Adriana”. They gave us all the pointers for Grenada over sundowners, as they have been here a while.

Morne Rouge anchorage.

Morne Rouge beach.

Grenada is known as the spice island, due to the many spices that grow in this lush green island, foremost nutmeg which was first planted here in 1843. Today, Grenada produces one-third of the world’s nutmeg supply and is the largest single supplier. The nutmeg fruits, resembling apricots, encases the nutmeg seed and is in fact, the only object represented on the Grenada flag, besides seven stars, one for each of the country’s parishes.

Grenada flag.

The Spiceland Shopping Centre with a huge IGA supermarket was about 2 kms across the hill. We walked there and found some reasonably priced Californian Chardonnay and other essentials to take back to the boat. The following day, we took a minibus taxi into St George’s to shop for boating equipment at the Island Water World chandlery in St George’s. We bussed back and joined four other Aussies for sundowners at the Plywood Bar.

Grenada coat of arms – a bit more artistic.

On Monday the 14th we motored south and then east along the south coast of Grenada to Prickly Bay to visit the Budget Marine chandlery and the Ace hardware store for some more parts we couldn’t find in town. On Tuesday it was a 4nm bouncy ride into the wind and swell to Woburn Bay where we anchored. We were joined for coffee by our young Aussie friends Matt and Kristina on “Yotty”, who we last saw in Martinique.

Dirk, Matt, Kristina and Annie.

We agreed that a serious catch up over beers was required the same evening, so we headed to Whisper Cove Marina where the happy hour beers were cheap and the pizzas tasty.  Recovery took a day and the next day we took a minibus taxi into St George’s. The minibus taxis run on predetermined routes and will hoot at all pedestrians to offer them a lift – they will stop anywhere and charge EC$2.50/person (AUD 1.30), regardless of distance. Despite the narrow winding roads, the drivers all aspire to a Formula 1 racing career – with white knuckled passengers (except for the driver’s offsider, who opens and closes the door and collects the fares).

View from the taxi stop above Woburn Bay – Hog island in the centre.

The social life in Woburn Bay was quite busy, so the week that we waited to haul out our boat at Grenada Marine, slipped by quickly. There were things to do while we waited, so we had all our gas bottles filled with propane, took a minibus into St George’s twice to get boat parts and buy wine. We were delighted to find Hardy’s Chardonnay and Cab Sav from Australia, in 3l casks at AUD 30/cask – not cheap, but hey! Infinitely better than some of the rotgut on sale here.

Karen our daughter celebrated her 32nd birthday on the 21st September in Newcastle, NSW.

Happy 32nd Karen!

Grenada Marine boatyard and travel lift.

On the 22nd September, Esprit was hauled out and pressure cleaned at Grenada Marine. The hull was scraped and then sanded before application of three coats of anti fouling. Gelcoat repairs were done to the many scratches above the waterline, picked up over the last two years in the crowded Mediterranean  harbours.

Grenada Marine – Laura’s Bar on the left.

The topsides were then polished and while this was done the workshop extended our davits by 300 mm and fabricated a new s/s protective strip for the bow. The work progressed slowly because of intermittent heavy rain and “liming”. The southern windward islands lifestyle of “liming” means chilling, relaxing and chewing the fat. This cuts productivity by 30%, so that the expected 7 days on the hard, dragged to 10 days.

Painting the first coat of anti fouling,  – the two “supervisor’s” are busy liming.

We have not seen an attractive boatyard in our more than four and a half years of travelling and Granada Marine wasn’t an exception. The up and down the ladder to go to the toilets and showers, the mud, the mozzies and the sandflies, (no-see-ums) and general chaos can be challenging and we were therefore relieved to launch Esprit back into the water on the 1st October 2020.

Annie’s home on the hard.

View from our cockpit over the muddy yard.

Annie making friends on her morning walks.

Evening respite at Laura’s bar and restaurant.

After re-launching, it was late afternoon, so we tied up to the dock for the night to leave the next morning in a freshening wind from the south. We motored 2 nm to Westerhall Bay, which is very sheltered from the southerlies, which by the evening, had increased to 25 knots and torrential rain. We decided to stay put until the two systems to the northwest of us, moved on to Mexico.

Gleaming hull with new s/s bow protector, before launching.

Heading back to her natural environment.

Matt and Bonnie, our yard neighbours for a week, taking their dogs back to their boat.

The stay in Westerhall also gave me the opportunity to unpack the main food cupboard to dismantle the shelving and linings, to remove the lentils from a torn packet, below the floor, before they started sprouting. I also fixed two shopping trolleys with broken wheels and serviced the anchor winch.

Westerhall Bay.

There was no rush to get back to Woburn Bay to the west, so we visited a few more bays on our way back. After Westerhall Bay for two days, we anchored in Calivigny Harbour, at the top of Chemin Bay, where we did a walk to the nearby SOG supermarket for provisions. The next anchorage was at Port Egmont (a very good bolt hole in case of a hurricane), before motoring to and anchoring back in Woburn Bay on the 6th October.

Calivigny Harbour.

Port Egmont.

It happened to be Tuesday when we re-anchored at Woburn Bay, so we visited Whisper Cove Marina for happy hour and pizzas and to catch up with the regulars we have met there before.

The wreck off Whisper Cove Marina.

The three master we were anchored next to.

A must do visit in Woburn Bay is Nimrod’s rum shack and adjoining kitchen/restaurant run by his mother. We ordered her tasty roti’s and a few beers.

Nimrod’s rum shack and bus stop.

Inside Nimrod’s.

Mum in the kitchen making the roti’s.

Annie with a tasty and generous roti.

Another colourful bar across the street.

On the ay back to our dinghy – I couldn’t open the door of this car.

We motored around Hog Island to Secret Harbour, where our Canadian friends, Jan and Jane were anchored. We had last seen these fellow Jeanneau sailors in St Martin in January.

The Secret Harbour anchorage.

We caught up over drinks with Jan and Jane, with dinner at the Secret Harbour Marina restaurant, followed by a Sunday brunch at the West Indies Beer Brewery.

Jan, Annie and Jane at the Brewery.

The Saturday weather was fine, so we installed a third reef in our mainsail – something that we wished we had during our Atlantic crossing, but probably won’t need on our Pacific crossing, (according to Murphy). In the afternoon we motored to Hog Island for a walk around the island and to have beers at Roger’s Barefoot Beach Bar afterwards.

A brisk walk around Hog Island.

Arriving at Roger’s.

Roger’s regulars chewing the fat.

Monday the 12th October saw two significant events. Simon Clay, the local B&G agent came out to Esprit, to update the software on our electronics system, which I wasn’t able to do through the hotspot on my mobile phone. The VHF radio wouldn’t talk to the portable handset and the autopilot was playing up. Simon downloaded the latest software updates and took the handset to check it out.

The technology today is so different, compared to 1982 when we did our first South Transatlantic Race to South America – back then we had a sextant, compass, charts, shortwave radio and sometimes weather forecasts. Now you need to be an electronics wiz. Not easy for a 73 year old fart.

The other event was the arrival of a young man on an Air Canada flight with Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases, which was stable for 6 months, at 24 persons infected and no deaths, to 25. I must say, Grenada is an excellent example to the world of how to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mask wearing and social distancing is mandatory everywhere, as is contact tracing. On entering a business, you have to wear a mask, sanitise your hands and going into restaurants/bars your temperature is checked and your name and contact number recorded in a logbook. Surely, this is fake news Mr Tweety Trump?

The 14th October was another good day. John of Fast Manicou was back and delivered our beer, wine and bulk supplies in the morning. At midday we picked up the new Tohatsu 9.8hp outboard in Prickly Bay, which we had ordered from Budget Marine. Our trusty Suzuki 6hp outboard has always been a bit light for our 2.9 m Highfield dinghy. We celebrated at the music jam hosted on Wednesday nights at Secret Harbour Marina with a large group of cruisers.

Prickly Bay Harbour.

Some of the muso’s at Secret Harbour.

On Friday evening there was another enjoyable music jam at Hog Island with the cruisers anchored in the bay. The wine was flowing copiously at the boerewors braai aboard Esprit afterwards, with the result that we are having a quiet Saturday today, with me taking the opportunity to post this update.

Hog Island jam.

Our route from east to west in yellow.

The end of October signals the “end” of the hurricane season in this region (who knows?), so we plan to then sail west to the ABC islands to the north of Venezuela – we will update you then with our progress.

Finally, two updates from our daughter Michelle in Papua New Guinea: A socially distanced photo of the UN Women’s team meeting in Port Moresby and her working visit to the Kumin people in the Southern Highlands of PNG.

UN Women’s Team PNG.

Kumin Women PNG.

 

 

Bequia: Take 2; Sailing to Grenada.

We anchored back in Bequia off Jack’s Bar on Saturday the 15th August. On Monday the 17th, Annie and number of the cruising ladies, took the ferry to the main island of St Vincent, to do some shopping and have a long lunch.

Gary and Dirk having drinks at Jack’s Bar.

The menfolk enjoyed the opportunity to get on with some work and chatting over coffee, before hitting the Rendezvous bar next to the ferry dock to await their beloved’s arrival at 5:30pm. The ladies were suitably lubricated in the ferry bar on their ferry return journey. The Covid pandemic has much to answer for.

During the following week we had our bimini infill panel fitted with new zips after the wind shredded the existing ones in the Tobago Cays. For most of us, a valid credit card is a necessity today – to my relief, a replacement Visa card for the next four years arrived in Bequia from Australia, during the week.

Annie and I did an eight km walk to Spring Bay to visit the Firefly Plantation Hotel.

Most Caribbean Islands grow sugar cane and they produce rum with an alcohol content of 40 – 50%. Supermarkets stock more rum brands than beer or wine, with 5 litre casks of cheap rum on their shelves. A lot of  locals supplement their income by running pubs or rum shacks from home – like speakeasy’s or shebeen’s elsewhere. Boredom having set in, on Saturday the 22nd August, 12 of the cruisers went on a rum shack tour through town.

The start of the tour.

The view from Fort Hamilton.

Having started at 2pm and visiting 7 local rum shacks, where the music was pumping and dancing the rule, we finished with dinner at the Rendezvous at 9pm, thoroughly sozzled. I have a confession to make: my first meeting with the demon drink at 18, had me motherless on rum and coke. In the 55 years since, I haven’t touched rum. In the spirit of supporting the local industry, I re-acquainted myself with the local rum punch, but it will be while before touching it again!

Our first pub with the friendly pub owner.

From here, it started going downhill.

This pub owner showing us the moves, while Bob enjoys his ganja slow boat.

White men can’t dance – so the ladies stepped in.

Esprit has not been out of the water for 18 months, since her last haul out in Greece and maintenance work was becoming urgent.Trinidad informed us during the week that due to a spike in Covid infections, we won’t be able to enter, to haul out our boat for the foreseeable future. I emailed requests for quotes, to boatyards in Carriacou and Grenada, Venezuela, the ABC Islands and Panama. Grenada Marine came back with a detailed and reasonable quote for the work required, so we decided to make Grenada our next stop.

We decided to give the dinghy a good clean up at Lower Beach.

The problem is that Grenada is in the process of changing their current 14 day Covid quarantine protocol at the end of August, hopefully to follow the SV&G protocol for PCR testing on arrival and free movement afterwards for persons testing negative. Currently St Vincent and the Grenadines have had 60 Covid-19 cases, all recovered, with no deaths, whereas Grenada has had only 24 cases, all recovered, with no deaths. That may just require us to be quarantined on arrival. So we are waiting for the 1st September for answers.

Annie and her dinghy cleaning offsider.

In the meantime, our younger daughter Michelle settled into her UN role as a protection specialist in Papua New Guinea, flying to the southern highland province, to conduct training of her team of community mobilisers in the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children, and to convene with the provincial council of women.

Michelle and her PNG community mobilisers.

Grand opening of the hall.

It also allowed her to attend the opening of a new village hall, partially funded by the UN, with the local people in tribal dress and body art, to celebrate the event. Her weekends are busy with pottery classes and a kiteboarding club.

Traditional dress.

Kiteboarding in PNG.

Michelle mainsheet trimming with her UN colleagues.

A tropical disturbance developed over the windward islands with heavy rain setting in at our anchorage over the weekend of the 30th August.

Torrential rain won’t stop our Friday arvo drinks in the water.

Wednesday evenings the Figtree has roti’s on the menu and Samuel playing the violin, so we decided to step out for a romantic evening. The roti’s were excellent and Samuel had us almost in tears.

Sunset from the Figtree deck.

Samuel on violin.

A generous and tasty meal.

The 1st of September came and Grenada started the SeaClear system for entry, which means you have to register on this database and then have a Covid-19 PCR test on arrival, which if negative, allows you to enter without quarantine. We tried, but couldn’t register on this site, despite numerous emails to their software support people. By the 4th September, we decided to leave Bequia and go anyway.

Esprit’s route to Grenada.

We stocked up with provisions, had dinner with friends on the 4th at the Figtree and set off on Saturday the 5th to sail south. We had an excellent 30 nm sail to the Tobago Cays, where we anchored inside Horseshoe reef.

Stocking up.

This was followed by a stop at Union Island to check out of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We then enjoyed a relaxed sail past Carriacou, overnighting at Ronde Island (right next to “Kick ‘em Jenny” an underwater volcano), before sailing down the West coast of Grenada to tie up in St George’s for check-in.

Location of Kick’em Jenny just north of Grenada.

Underwater profile.

Tobago Cays, Mayreau, Canouan and Union Islands.

Salt Whistle Bay from the top of the hill.

Our next stop 19nm to the South west of Mustique, was Salt Whistle Bay on the island of Mayreau. We had drinks and dinner at the “Last Bar before the Jungle”, a Rastafarian joint where you can also smoke pot.

Walking along the Salt Whistle beach before dinner.

Unlike Keith Richards, I was not climbing up to pick a coconut and fall on my head.

Salt Whistle Bay restaurant strip!

The last bar before the jungle.

The wind came up overnight and after heavy rain the next morning, we motored the mile south to the sheltered anchorage of Saline Bay. The anchor winch gypsy started slipping whilst we were anchoring, so after settling down, we stripped the winch, cleaned and serviced it, with a note in my diary, to do it again in 60 days. At sea, the salt buildup inside the anchor winch is substantial and needs constant cleaning.

View down to Saline Bay with Union Island in the background.

We walked to the highest point on the island, to orientate ourselves with the Tobago Cays which lies next to and to the east of Mayreau Island.

Walking down to the anchorage.

The unique Rastafarian architectural style.

The next morning we motored into the Cays through the South Passage and anchored between two small islands, Petit Bateau and Petit Rameau, which are located in the National Marine Park costing us EC$10/person/day. After a swim and relaxed Sunday afternoon Nanna nap, we tackled the walk to the crest of Petit Bateau to check the dinghy pass through Horseshoe reef.

Our anchorage between Petit Bateau and Rameau.

View from the top of Petit Bateau – Petit Tabac on the other side of the reef..

The dinghy pass through the reef led us out to sea, to do the short one mile hop to Petit Tabac Island, where there are good dive spots. Unfortunately, the swell coming out of the East resulted in huge breakers on the beach, ruling out a landing and the swells on the reef would have smashed us while snorkelling. So we bounced back in the dinghy, to safety inside the reef.

Petit Tabac out at sea – too rough to land.

The reefs inside the outer Horseshoe reef, are disappointing, but the water and sand is quite clear. In the afternoon the heavens opened and so we had to shelter from the tropical rain through the night. We picked up the anchor at 8:30 the next morning and motored out through the North Passage into a 30 knot wind on the nose, to Canouan Island 6 nm to the North and anchored in the sheltered Grand Bay.

A dinghy ride to the rough concrete ferry wharf, got us into Charlestown, which from a distance looked quite pretty, but up close, down at heel and dirty. Photos won’t do justice to the squalor. I spent the afternoon doing a long overdue service on the high pressure desalinator pump, replacing the oil and the filter. The strong easterly wind predicted  for Wednesday night the 12th August, hit us with force during the night, tearing the canvas infill panel over the cockpit – more repairs to be done when we get back to Bequia.

Grand Bay anchorage and Charlestown, at Canouan Island.

The wind settled down the next morning, so we had a relaxed sail down to Union Island, 11 nm to the South. Quacey, of Marine Tech Services in Clifton harbour came highly recommended as an outboard repair specialist, so we had him test our Suzuki 6hp dinghy outboard motor. The motor has for the past two months, just spun and cavitated at higher revs.

Clifton harbour anchorage at Union Island.

Quacey stripped the propellor and found that the rubber hub on the lower drive shaft had stripped and hence the prop slipped at higher revs. He didn’t have the correct prop or hub kit in stock, so he refitted the prop. Hopefully, we will find the correct parts soon – we just need to be patient about puttering around slowly.

Small bar on a rock in the bay.

Union Island history.

Quiet main street of Clifton.

Now we know where to run to in case of a tsunami.

Union, like Canouan and Mayreau, being smaller islands close to the Tobago Cays are totally dependant on tourism. Covid-19 has wiped out their small economies and the towns have hardly anybody on the streets, with the locals lazing about or fighting one another, zonked out on beer and ganja. It is quite a sad situation.

Our anchorage in Clifton Bay behind the reef – lots of kite boarding and Palm Island to the right.

Palm Island – we didn’t stop, as it is a private island.

Esprit’s track in the Grenadines.

On Saturday the 15th August, the wind changed to the South east providing us with a good apparent wind angle to sail back North to Bequia. We left Union Island at 9am and anchored off Jack’s Bar in Bequia at 2pm – in time for drinks and a BBQ at the Upper Deck at 5pm. On Monday we will check if my Visa renewal card has arrived at the Fedex agency. We will hopefully report from Grenada, in the near future, as Trinidad is still closed . Until then, cheers for now.

Bequia and Mustique.

Since our last post, all the major maintenance work on the boat had been completed: the sail and canvas work mentioned before, reinforcing of the framework for the solar panels over the bimini, stripping the stove and oven to replace broken door springs and treat corrosion and numerous smaller jobs.

No sooner could we sit back and relax, when tropical storm no. 7 started forming south of the Cape Verde Islands and moving across the Atlantic. On the 22nd July this storm was named “Gonzalo” by the US National Hurricane Centre, predicted to reach Bequia by midday on 25th July 2020.

Hurricane Gonzalo.

The cruisers anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia decided to have drinks on the beach on the 23rd, so that we could all worry together and talk about what to do. Quite a number of boats sailed south the following day and a few went north, as it appeared the centre of the hurricane was heading for Bequia.

A toast to Gonzalo.

This being our fourth hurricane since 1987 and having survived the previous three, gave us the misplaced confidence to think we knew how to deal with this one. So, we stayed put in Bequia, moving Esprit 400 metres to a buoy on the north side of the bay, stowing all loose items and crossing our fingers.

Alex the mooring man helping Annie to tie up to a buoy.

Luck was on our side, as 24 hours before reaching Bequia, the hurricane veered southwest and passed south of Grenada, leaving us with a 30 knot wind and heavy showers for an hour. We celebrated by having a hike across the hills to Friendship Bay and back – and the news that another system was already forming off Africa and heading for the Caribbean, faster this time!

A solid downpour.

Hurricane Issaias.

Hurricane Isaias came charging across the Atlantic, but on a more northerly course, hitting the Leeward Islands to the north of us and producing heavy rains in the rest of the Caribbean – most of the islands needing the rain. On Friday the 31st July 2020, Esprit was booked to be hauled out at Peakes Boatyard in Trinidad. The Trinidad borders are still closed, so, no do.

On the coastal track into town.

View from the coastal track across the bay.

Walk to Friendship Bay – a friendly dog at the bus stop.

Friendship Bay – life’s a beach.

Old Pretoria girls at Jack’s – Rowena and Annie.

Sunset at Jack’s jetty.

Life carried on in Bequia, with walks into town to get provisions, drinks at Jack’s with the sailors and Annie having an EC$30 haircut. I asked her to cut my hair, and either out of spite because I wouldn’t pay her, or because she thought I could audition for the new season of “Prison Break”, she cut my hair to within a millimetre of my life. I now wear a stylish Panama hat for the sun.

My free haircut.

Annie’s EC$30 haircut.

My sun protection.

The 1st to the 4th of August were public holidays in Bequia – Emancipation Day and Vincy Mas days. The party music was very loud on the Monday, so we decided to leave town and go and explore a bit further afield. We had a good sail down to Mustique, 14nm to the south east, where the friendly harbour master tied us to a mooring buoy. Not cheap at EC$220 for 3 days.

Anchored off the beach in Mustique.

The island is owned by the Mustique Company, a private limited company which is in turn owned by the island’s home owners. The island has around a hundred private villas, many of which are let through the Mustique Company. The name Mustique comes from the French moustique, “mosquito”, which thrive in the tropical environment of the Grenadine Islands.

Statue of Lord Glenconner.

Mustique was purchased from the Hazell family in 1958 for £45,000 by The Hon. Colin Tennant, who became The 3rd Baron Glenconner in 1983. He initially planned to start farming, “cotton, beef and mutton” but then decided to develop the island into a hideaway for the wealthy, after forming the Mustique Company in 1968 and spending a fortune on the project.

Two pretty shops in Mustique.

The Food store.

View out on the anchorage – Esprit the only yacht in the bay.

Today, the rich and famous holiday on the island, to name but a few: Tommy Hilfiger, Paul McCartney, Shania Twain, Tom Ford, Mick Jagger, Peter Lynch, Denzel Washington, John Travolta and Bryan Adams. We didn’t spot any celebrities during our hikes over three days around the island – only candidates for “Weight Watchers” tooling around in golf carts.

The rich and famous do need horses – picture Mick and Keiff on these fillies!

Walking to the south – a tortoise crossing.

On his way to a tortoise meeting.

Sea view.

Basil’s Bar, which is on the water’s edge and famous for its Blues Music Festival in January/February each year, is an excellent watering hole with good food. They hosted a “Jump Up” music session on the Thursday night we were there.

Basil’s Bar.

On the deck for sundowners.

The stage for the music events.

Annie having a rum punch and studying the dinner menu.

Our next report will be from the Tobago Cays!