After our time ashore Monday enjoying our last views of Admiralty Bay….
we went back onboard for the afternoon to get Morphie ready to go to sea…. including getting the outboard off of dink and securely fastened to the rail. Liferaft; grab bag; food preparation; equipment checks; passage planning all done; and the last thing we did was check our lights as darkness fell – with the help of Dan and Ruth on Evensong who were anchored nearby. All working and we said sad goodbyes on the radio to all of the people we had spent time with in Bequia. We shall miss you all and hope to see you again soon! Completely ready we went to bed.
Tuesday morning we were up early…. donned lifejackets and picked up our anchor by 5.45 am. We turned into the wind and put up our mainsail – double reefed until we tested what the conditions were like out there – and turned towards Dominica, which lies 150 miles north as the crow flies. The wind wasn’t too bad so we put out most of the genoa although the waves were bigger than forecast at about 9 feet. We were thinking about shaking out the reefs in the main – anticipating a reach all the way – and then we had a significant wind shift and, of course, not in our favour as it had a north element… So now we are in 26 knots and close hauled so put the reefs back in and pulled out the staysail too… In the middle of all this activity we were visited by a large group of dolphins who swam alongside momentarily. Unfortunately we were pretty busy and by the time we had grabbed the camera they had gone. Oh well – it was lovely to see them anyway. We said a sad farewell to Bequia as the sun came up….and we ducked our first cruise ship of the passage!
The wind and waves remained higher than forecast for most of the day and we were screaming along averaging about 7-8 knots – quickly passing St Vincent and then into the passage towards St Lucia….
But the currents were running strongly too at about 2-3 knots and we were getting pushed constantly out to sea to the west. So we tacked towards St Lucia and made a tedious 2 knots against the current to get more east….. But the boat was much flatter so took the opportunity to eat and make tea! Having crossed our original rhumb line we then tacked back and we took off like a bat out of hell…. And then the wind died down to less than 10 knots. We carried on sailing but had to put the metal sail on in the end as we were making no headway at all in 5 knots of breeze. Then an hour or so later the wind kicked back in and we were off again…. Wow loving this, although it was pretty bouncy! We were taking it in turns to be in charge – on an hourly basis – doing the log and keeping watch etc with both of us in the cockpit.
The sun started setting so we reefed in ready for the night and donned more clothes. And now we moved into three hour shifts with the other one down below asleep in the saloon…. Richard was just about to leave me alone when I spotted another cruise ship – lit up like a Christmas tree and no navigation lights showing. And, of course, they were not broadcasting their AIS signal either…. Grrr…. We couldn’t work out what the hell he was up to so we attempted radio contact – and they didn’t answer that either. So we had to change course – to our detriment – to stay safe. As we finally passed them we realised that they were just drifting around in the current as they had time to spare before docking in the morning. Oh well…..
And the pattern was set for the night – huge winds, large rain squalls (on my watch of course!), no wind, light airs and more cruise ships and freighters to avoid…. I think Richard was a bit worried about me when he felt the boat accelerate sharply in the gusty conditions – but my whooping in the cockpit with excitement must have set his mind at rest because it wasn’t long before I heard him snoring down below again! This was the most fantastic star studded night you can imagine with the milky way easily visible. Martinique was the busiest in terms of commercial traffic at night as well as the French coastguard cruising along the coast. Watching the sun come up while at sea is one of the must-have experiences to witness in your life!
Wednesday morning came and we are nearing Dominica … and the wind remained fickle and we had to do another tack into the current to get closer…. Then the wind died and the engine came on – then it picked up and we turned it off…. Then we had company with a huge racing yacht coming by…. and finally into Portsmouth to be met by Alexis our boat boy (man really) from last year, who remembered us and welcomed us back to Dominica. We did 172 miles in total over a period of 31 hours – and enjoyed the experience. Felt really pleased with ourselves…..
Dominica is beautiful and the anchorage at Portsmouth is notoriously tricky with loads of grass and last year there were numerous boats dragging…. so we picked up a mooring ball to give us peace of mind when we go exploring. The mooring balls here are provided and maintained by PAYS the local boat boy association who also patrol the anchorage at night for security. Great initiative and really works well.
Alexis took us into customs and we cleared in and out (covering three weeks) for the princely sum of EC $10 – about £2.50. There were a lot of French sailors in the office – usual here as Martinique is to the south and Guadelope to the north – and they were struggling with both the forms and making themselves understood. We were trying to fill our forms in standing up as all available table space was taken and the customs girl came out from behind the counter and moved some of them on…. Didn’t go down too well – and we were given the evil eye! Ooops….. that’ll teach ‘em for beating us at rugby. Sorry Florence Hubert, had to be said LOL!!!!
Then onto the Blue Bay grill and bar for a couple of well-deserved cold ones and to let people know we had arrived safely….and then we had an early night and slept through.
Thursday was spent cleaning and tidying the boat and ourselves up followed by happy hour ashore….. and treated to another spectacular sunset.
Friday and we are off diving with Island Dive Operation – which last year had just set up and now have a little dive shack shop on the beach. Everyone remembered us and we had a good time catching up. We dived Toucari and Split Rock with Fabian leading us – both dives were too deep (100ft / 80 ft) to take photos without a camera casing, which we haven’t purchased (yet)!!!! And no buddy Dan with his either – so no photos sorry!
These sights are spectacular with huge sponges, gorgeous swim throughs threading through the sites – and watching bubbles come up like champagne through the coral we had just passed below was pretty special. Very pretty with lots of the usual suspects in attendance with my favourite being a huge crab sitting inside a sponge waiting for a critter to come swimming by!
On the dive we were joined by Marcus from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who was a photographer…. actually he referred to himself as an artist. Well he was a right royal pain in the proverbial!!! Kicking everything in his way as his sole focus was on his subject and not his buoyancy… As a vet he should know better than to damage the marine environment although, having said that, the guy who stole Nemo was a dentist! Marcus also got lost on numerous occasions where we had to stay put while Fabian went looking for him. He also never checked his air gauge the whole time we were down – and came back with less than recommended…. During the dive I had made a less than complimentary internationally-recognised hand signal to Richard about this guy not realising that Fabian had seen me do it – and struggled to keep himself composed!
Everyone was laughing about it later…. when we had a few beers together after Marcus had gone back to his holiday eco-lodge.
Saturday and we finally got dink down and the outboard installed – although it wouldn’t rev higher than idling. We looked at the troubleshooting guide and Richard did the obvious stuff to no avail. So we took a very loooooonnnnnnnggggg slooooooowwww dinghy ride into the nearest dock and went to see Fabian who organised Don to come and have a look at it for us while we were in town.
We wandered into town – it was fresh fruit and veg market day today – and enjoyed the walk…. The people of Dominica are the poorest we have come across, with many of them living in shacks and the houses largely hand-built – and one in particular was very stylised!!! The shops are not exactly stocked full and they sell an amazing variety of stuff… much of it home produced. One particular business sign for a consultancy didn’t really inspire us – with a name like NITS Richard didn’t think they would get any work in the UK!
Despite having very little the people of Dominica are by far the friendliest and, unlike last year, we didn’t encounter any beggars here in Portsmouth. Fresh bread and produce purchased we headed back to the dock and Don had fixed our outboard – salt had seized the throttle – for a very reasonable EC $50, £12.50. Later on we cleaned the rust from Morphie’s foredeck, caused by our anchor chain, and did a bit of polishing. Had a quiet evening on board and early to bed having enjoyed another beautiful Dominican sunset.
Sunday is a day of rest. I’m sitting out of the rain down below blogging and Richard is reading in the cockpit – having installed our new canvas on the foredeck. We are heading out tonight to the bi-weekly beach BBQ organised by PAYS to support their organisation….. Really looking forward to it.
Bye for now