Sunday, January 30, 2011

Martinique to Curaçao

Four days of 20kn, more or less the same direction and speed. It wasn't the most comfortable, but at least we had no calms! Steve is having a slightly tough time, dropped himself in the sea instead of the zodiac and had a nasty fall from galley to chart desk. He did catch a nice tuna and fixed up my crash lines and lures, so it's not all bad. We had an Attenborough moment with hundreds of big tuna smashing the water, dozens of dolphins leaping out, all over in a few secs. There is a pic of a tiny bit of the aftermath, just a few white splashes.
We were slightly nervous as we headed down to round the bottom of Bonaire in the middle of the night. There is a lot of talk of pirates in Venezuala and all advice is not to go anywhere near the country. Maybe 30 miles isn't considered near over here, but in the middle of the night on the lonely sea we were not so sure. So when a plane flew over, just next to our mast, with no lights showing apart from one little red led somewhere, and a whisper quiet engine I did get a surprise! What if they have pirate friends? It's only an hour or two from the dreaded Venezueala…. Anyway, I ate a lot of Haribo gummy bears and kept on sailing. The next day in Curaçao while the coast guard searched Ellida I mentioned this plane to them and they said "oh, that was the customs plane" So while in customs I mentioned what the coast guard said and she laughed "oh no, we don't have a plane, that was probably the coast guard plane" The more I think about it the less it makes sense… I asked the same coast guard, a very very pleasant chap, about the 200L barrels tied on top of the Venezualan fish shop boats (fish and veggies are sold direct from boats that come over and tie up on the docks) and he said "Oh no, those are not for diesel, they bring fish in them to sell". Now in the back of the photos of the guy catching a monster tarpon you can see the fish shop boat, with some 50 barrels tied to it's roof. They have two inch holes in the top, perfect for pouring diesel through, but not great for inserting and extracting fish. I have read that diesel is 7c/gallon in Venezuela and they bring it here to sell for $1/gallon.
I think I should keep asking questions!
We took most of the day clearing in and ran out of daylight to go down to the nice natural anchorage, so we found a spot to anchor in a very industrial area, next to a boatyard with a tiny marina attached. A great view of refinery chimneys with flames lighting the night sky. I love it, but my crew want nature, so we'll have to leave. We were welcomed with open arms by the mostly american yachts parked here. They were having a 'pot luck' by the Curacao Marine office so we landed right into a party, with trombone, guitar, a banjo player whose main thing seems to be firing cannons at Battle of New Orleans re-enactments. It's good for me to meet so many really nice americans, I'll try to remember them next time my prejudices creep up on me.
Curaçao seems pretty weird so far. The architecture is painted nice colours but some of the dutch curly bits are just revolting. There are tall cactus growing from the gutters of ramshackle sheds. People have been delightful, relaxed and helpful, great with language. They have their own language, Papaimentu a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, English, Dutch and others. It sounds great.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Croissants and coral

Finally moved out of Le Marin, through the channel and over to a patch of sand amongst coral reef off a coconut palm beach. Straight in the water and had a lovely snorkel, lots of different fish, of course. The Douane boat came up and politely explained that we couldn't anchor there, that tho other boat nearby was on a mooring. Very kind of them to wait till we'd finished our swim…. so pottered over to St Anne's, a beautiful village with a mile or two of sand to anchor on. Caught up with No Rehearsal again for the last time. Played tulum across the water at night on account of a Turkish boat anchored not far from us.
Left early in the morning for Fort de France for Marcel to do his boat license medical and to check us out of Martinique, and had a great sail, 7-8kn on a flat sea. This is why people want to cruise the Caribbean, and here we are just scooting through! Mad. Steve had a fun first sail, hope he doesn't expect the rest to be like this!!
Spent the afternoon wandering the streets of Fort de France, admiring the beautiful people for the last time. Wandered into Cash Converters…. yes, it's just the same. It's even down the street from KFC.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More Martinique

A few more pics from Martinique.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Ellida has grown a big crop of goose-neck barnacles during the ocean crossing despite being totally smooth and clean when we set out, so I can't put off anti-fouling any longer. The yard had a free time slot for the travel lift on our first day here so we are straight out of the water and into cleaning.
Steve has arrived, I'm not sure how happy he is to have flown over the world to sleep in a boat parked in a yard! Luckily there are mangroves all around so fishing is possible even here.
It's been ten days on land now. Getting the propeller shaft out was quite a job, ended up with a friend of Marcel, Laurent, spending about 5 hours sitting in the engine room, like a contortionist folded over himself sitting on the motor, and gradually easing the seized coupling from the shaft. I went looking for a new support bearing and was getting a little frightened but the shipyard lady phoned to RAM, the bearing shop near the airport, looked sad, asked for the manager then looked happy. So we rented a car and drove to RAM. The bearing they brought out had the same number but a different diameter! More sweating…. but the chef de atelier brought out a lot of excellent books then came up with the perfect bearing, even better than the original and only 23 euros. We spent the rest of the day driving around the capital, Fort de France, and the interior of the island. Traffic is thick, people are very friendly. We tried to buy a babadine fruit, and Mirala who was buying one for herself insisted on paying for ours too. We are also drinking juice of 'Prune de Cythere'. No idea if there are english names for these, but they are great.
Work on the boat has gone slowly but well. Prop shaft went back in this morning, rudder is all connected back but not sealed… at least probably not. I did a shonky silicone job in the end. Getting it all out was just looking too hard. Steve did a sterling job of painting and made the whole bottom nice new blue while I managed to squeeze two bits of packing into the stern gland….. then he had a sleep while I did the third bit of packing. We should have been back in the water today, but they forgot about us, so we are first in the morning.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Day 25
Our last day without sight of land… We finally have the conditions we were hoping to have all the way! 20-25kn, Ellida is smooching along between 5 and 7kn, even the occasional 9 down a wave. Water looks delicious, just saw a tropic bird sitting on the water, a funny sight with it's long tail like a droopy danbouy. A shark wandered through the lures behind the boat and an immature gannet circled us for a while, trying to pick up a flying fish for itself. We are very excited to be almost there, but I'm sure we'll miss the open ocean.
(can't put this in blog, but told Andy his biscuit and choc behaviour was out of line. He admitted lying about how much he'd spent on food. A good outcome I hope, we'll see.)
Day 26
We've been watching the glow and lights of Martinique all night, and now the sun is up, there she is. Beautiful lush green land after nearly four weeks at sea. I'm so used to the ocean now, it seems a shame to finish, but the purpose of heading out into it was to cross to land and here we are. It will be wonderful to wash in fresh water and to sleep a full night! Marina was full, but Marcel found us a free space on a council jetty so we have arrived.
first shopping trip was great. Very hot chillie, yams, rum casks, cinnamon in the veggie section.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Flying Fish Day

day 12
It's flying fish day! The water is exploding with them, escaping the fearsome dragon boat's prow. I wonder if it's a special flying fish party, or is it normal to see them fill the sky like this? (It WAS a special flying fish day, but you could watch them all the way across the Atlantic, pre-historic mythical dragonflies)
We have a Northerly swell so 'Nav-boy' can't handle the steering and it's all by hand for the last 2 days. Shoulders ache… Sabine, where are those massage hands when I need them?
Day 17
didn't fuss about xmas. I cooked a loaf of bread and we had bread and butter for lunch. it was pretty good! Today we have 25-30kn, so not too restful. Had our first squall, decks have the salt washed off. Just lost the beautiful heavy black bucket over the side… Marcel had knotted a fantastic painter for it. Both paring knives and most of our teaspoons are gone as well….
Day 19
two pretty awfull days. wind was down to 20-25 yesterday and down to 10 now, but sea is horribly confused, so we have been rolling terribly. I almost expected to wake up with a broken bone from being thrown around in bed! Mainsail tore a seam last night, despite being so carefully tied and reefed and positioned. We have been unable to make much distance these days as the roll means we can't put up much sail without flogging them to pieces. Spent yesterday trying different sail arrangements and combinations, but nothing worked. Now we are back to just the yankee, rolling and hoping to get back over 4kn. We dream of waking to a calm sea and 10kn or so and we will spinnaker to the finish line! Or even back up to 30 would have us moving..
Day 20
Sunrise and we're still rolling, but… a tropic bird flew by, the first I've ever seen, then came back with some friends to circle us for a while, chatting to each other about Ellida. Marcel has his sewing kit out and sail repairs begin. We are taking turns sewing.. it's a slow job. Rolling is not as bad now, but still can only go 4-5kn. It's a gorgeous day, if we didn't have people waiting for us in Martinique we could more enjoy the salubrious weather.
Late in the afternoon finally have a sea that let's us put up the twin headsails again and we are comfortably cruising in the right direction. No hands! Sunset was scrumptious, trade wind cotton wool clouds… peanut sauce, mahi mahi and potatoes.
Day 21
Marcel pointed out after we had raised the spinnaker that it was the new year! That was the lowest key NYE ever, forgot about it completely. What a contrast with last years at Woodford with Aristotelis. We've had 24 hours of nice running but now a painful day with spinnaker averaging 3.5kn, wind shifting constantly. Back to motoring and we can't even catch a fish for dinner. Last few fish have been one hour of lines in, choose the small one and put the big one back. Andy cooked last night, a tin of tomatoes, a tin of baked beans and a tin of Plumrose cocktail sausages in a saucepan. Well it was a change from fish! Actually it was nice, it had the last of the Canary chillis in it. Dolphins came for the New Year, we haven't seen any since leaving Cape Verde area about 12 days ago, and another tropic bird.