Friday, July 16, 2010

Farewell Heat Wave

7 years, 3 months and 3 weeks, after moving onto Heat Wave, back in Florida, before Charlotte was born, we said good bye to Heat Wave in a boat yard in Curacao. Our original plan was to have the boat for 5-8 years. We’ve had some great times on the boat and it’s now time to move on to other things. The boat will be continuing on with its new owner to Australia. We are now back enjoying the summer in Bermuda.

Below are some photos of some good memories over the last few years:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Curacao July 1st-8th

We had a great downwind spinnaker sail from Bonaire to Curacao, arriving late in the afternoon. This was the first time we had arrived at an island with no cruising guide and it felt very strange!! We had downloaded some information from the internet regarding clearing in, anchoring proceedures and had emailed with some friends already there.

Curacao, part of the Netherland Antilles, is 171 square miles and has a population of 142,000 - the largest of the ABC islands. In addition to Dutch, there is a big Spanish influence (due to proximity of south America in particular Venezuela). The "local" language is Papiamento. We found the ABC islands to be very different to the Eastern Caribbean Islands - more organized, better infrastructure, better roads.

Most of the cruisers anchor in Spanish Waters, a very large lagoon type area. Its about 20 minutes from the capital Willemstad, where we had to go to clear in. We anchored up in “the kids bay” by Pacific Bliss (with Zinnia and Cosmo) and 3 other kids boats – Blue Sky, Bonaire and Jonathon A. It was nice for Charlotte to get a chance to play with some other kids for a while, although unfortunately not for long enough as we were soon due to be hauled.

We arrived Thursday afternoon. Friday night we went to a bonfire with some other kids on a nearby island.

Saturday Steve and Cathy rented a car and we all toured the island, first stop the capital Willemstad. Once again the boat "A" was following us:

The island is about 30 miles long and 5 miles wide. The north east coast was quite rugged. We visited the “Natural Bridge" and the "Blow Hole" – a bit similar to the east coast of Antigua.

Sunday was July 4th (when the Brits allowed the Americans to try it alone!!) and some cruisers arranged a pot luck party on the beach.

Steve and Cathy headed up to Willemstad to check into a hotel while while we were getting the boat sorted. Charlotte stayed with Blue Sky for a sleepover with Pheby that night.

Monday morning we set off from the anchorage, first dropping Charlotte off on Pacific Bliss, who were going to look after her til the next afternoon while we got the boat hauled and sorted.

A 6 mile motor up to Willemstad and into the harbour. We had to request an opening on the footbridge and then on to the industrial bay to Curacao Marine.

Steve and Cathy came over to help us with a few bits and we anchored out that night. Early Tuesday morning took the boat into the dock – we were scheduled to be the first boat hauled at 9am. We were finally hauled at 11.30am …..

In actual fact we were lucky we were hauled at all, as that afternoon Holland played in the semi-final of the world cup and the whole yard shut down!! Tuesday was a late night working on the boat.

We checked into a hotel near the boat yard for Tuesday and Wednesday night, as staying on the boat while it is out of the water is not so comfortable. (no breeze, can't use the toilets, have to climb up and down ladders, etc ….)

Wednesday, Liz, on Pacific Bliss, very kindly look after Charlotte again, at the hotel, while Jimmy and I slogged on – preparing a boat for long term storage is a lot of work, not to mention all the packing of all of our possessions! By Wednesday evening the boat was all sorted for long term storage - we left the boat yard exhausted, with little time for emotional farewells to a boat we’ve been on for over 7 years!

We headed to the hotel, looking forward to a nice long shower and aircon. The water was scheduled to be off in the day and back on at 6pm – it finally came back on at 10.30pm!!

Early alarm call the next morning, and we headed to the airport with our full baggage allowance, packed to every last allowable pound. We had to change the rental car on the last day in order to accommodate all our luggage!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bonaire - 27th June - 1st July

Bonaire is part of Netherlands Antilles, with its sister islands Curacao and Aruba a little to the west (often known as the ABC islands). It is located north of the Venezuelan mainland. It is a charming quiet and extremely clean island with a population of around 11,000. The main town is attractive, with pastel coloured buildings and red tiled roofs. One of the main attractions is that it has some of the Caribbean’s clearest water and best diving.

Bonaire’s two main industries are salt and tourism, especially diving and eco-tourism. The attractions for tourists are snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing and bird watching. It was interesting now seeing the Dutch and Spanish influence.

There is a no-anchoring policy on the whole island. To protect its fringing coral reefs there are about 40 moorings set up by the National Marine Park along the waterfront of the capital Kralendijk. There is reef right along the coast – so the front of the boat is in say 20 feet and the back in 60 feet! – there is great snorkeling right off the boat, where we saw massive parrotfish and angelfish the size of a dinner plate!

Jimmy, Steve and I went scuba diving. We took the dive boat out to Klein Bonaire, although a lot of the diving can be done direct from the shore. The whole coast is a line of dive sites! Although we never could figure where one ended and the next began!

One day we rented a car and explored the island. It was amazing how different the other side of the island was, with many cactus trees - you could have thought you were in Arizona. Charlotte loved the donkey sanctuary, especially when the donkeys put their head through the car window. At one stage there were 3 donkey heads in the same car window, looking at Charlotte:

We also saw pink flamingos,

the slave huts

and the massive saltpans.

We caught up with some other cruiser friends in Bonaire – Steve, Kim, Mike and Tim on North Star, who are now staying in Bonaire for 4 months, and Jackie and Adrian on Oceans Dreams. We celebrated our wedding anniversary at a Pizza Place with a romantic dinner for 9!

Bonaire was a very pleasant dry island. Since leaving wet Grenada, we have still not had a drop of rain! The decks are dusty!! We could have stayed a lot longer but all too soon we had to leave to head to Curacao. Time is running out on us – the boat is being hauled this coming Tuesday 6th July, so on Thursday 1st July we dropped the mooring, turned the boat, raised the spinnaker and set sail the 35 miles to Curacao. Again a great downwind spinnaker sail. Our last long sail before we say good bye to Heat Wave…..

Heat Wave under spinnaker sail courtesy of North Star who followed us out on their dingy to take pictures:

On the cruise to Curacao, Charlotte painted her nails red, white and blue in preparation for the July 4th party this Sunday! A few cruisers we know are already in Curacao and so we already have the social calendar arranged! Charlotte is looking forward to play dates with Zinnia on Pacific Bliss again.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Islas de Aves 25-27th June 2010

Islas de Aves are two separate little island archipelagos, (Aves de Barlavento and Aves de Sotavento) separated by about 10 miles of deep water. They got their name from the large number of birds that make them their home. The birds live in the dense mangrove forests on the larger islands.

On the way there we got the spinnaker out again - loving this downwind sailing!

Once again we had put the fishing lines out. Just as we were approaching Islas de Aves, we had a load of birds (boobies) circling above us

– maybe we had finally caught a fish!!! I felt the line – yes it was taught, we had caught something!! Steve took over as the fisherman, reeling in the fish as we took in the sails. I ran to get a bucket to put the fish in. It was looking long and thin as Steve pulled it in. What was it? A tuna? mahi mahi? No, it was a ………… bird……. A booby to be exact.

Needless to say neither fish or poultry were on the menu that night!!

Our first stop was the first of the 2 islands, Aves de Barlavento. After we anchored up we took a dingy ride to the island – the landing was in a little clearing in the mangroves.

We saw a bird nesting near by

and lots of hermit crabs. On one side of the island there are mangroves and then on the other, is reefs and stones. We saw an area where all the visiting boats inscribe their boat name on a stone.

Many species of birds live on the island but boobies predominate – we saw red footed boobies. While in the dingy, birds would circle us almost landing on our heads. A quote from the guidebook: “do not anchor too close to the shore as you will probably get splattered by defecating birds and bitten by bugs” – we were fine where we anchored. Surprisingly there were 3 other sailing boats in the bay.

The following day, we sailed about 2 hours over to Aves de Sotavento. We decided not to put the fishing lines out again! Some friends had told us we would not see any officials in Aves. We anchored in a beautiful horseshoe white sandy beach bay.

We heard some repeated calling on the radio – I recognized the word “catamaran”. We had anchored off the coastguard station bay!!

A few minutes later we were visited by 4 Aves de Sotavento coastguard who must be bored out of their minds with this station!! They came on board, took all our boat and passport particulars, checked our safety equipment, took a look around the boat, enjoyed the cola and peanuts we offered them and then left, with the only stipulation that we could not stay in that beautiful bay!!

We motored around the corner, through the reefs, to Mangrove Bay. Out in the dingy we saw some turtles and rays.

The following morning and an early start. We motored 3 miles over to another of the islands, Curricai, in the archipelago, with a beautiful long white sandy beach.

A dinghy ride ashore for an hour or two and then we set sail for Bonaire, 40 miles away. Very soon we were having another beautiful down wind spinnaker run. We made excellent time with speeds up to 11 knots!

Los Roques 23rd-25th June 2010

Los Roques is a National Park and is one of the offshore Venezuelan islands – about 70 miles north of the capital Caracas on the mainland. It is an unbelievable cruising area made up of about 14 by 25 miles of protected, reef-studded water, dotted with pretty little islands. It appeared very similar to the Bahamas.

We arrived at the south eastern entrance of Los Roques - Boca De Sebastopol. As a precaution we lowered all our sails before entering into the passage, due to reefs all around, even though the guide book said it was possible to sail. It was a spectacular 10 miles motor up to Grand Roque, with reefs on both sides. The light was fantastic and it was very easy to navigate between the very visible reefs.

Venezuela has strange customs and immigrations rules, in that, even if you check in at Los Roques, you need to go to the mainland to check out – we had no intention of going anywhere near the mainland of Venezuela! And this would be a reason for avoiding Los Roques. However, we had found out from friends ahead of us that the coast guard will give you a 2 day “in transit” pass without requiring you to check in formally. However, you are not allowed to cruise around the islands and need to keep your vessel in the bay at El Grand Roque.

With its 380 foot hills El Grand Roque stands out like a beacon across the other flat islands.

This is the only island with a village on it and it also has the main (small) airport (at the end of the street). There are no cars and the streets are sand (which they sweep).

It’s a quaint fishing village with a few bars / restaurants and fishing boats along the beach.

The colours of the sea and sand are spectacular.

Los Roques is reputed to have the best bone fishing in the world. Most of the houses were built as holiday homes for Venezuelans and they are simple but pleasant. There are many Posadas / inns for visitors and many fishermen now rent out their homes. There were only a couple of other foreign vessels in the bay – mainly Venezuelan charter boats.

Checking in was an interesting procedure.

First we went to the coast guard. The officials were all dressed up in army uniform. I spoke more Spanish than they spoke English, which meant communication was pretty limited! When he was asking how many days we were staying, I was answering “5” as the number of people on board – they then said “no possible” ….. Then when he was asking how much fuel we carried in both tanks combined - and I was telling him the combined HP of our engines! – he thought 80 liters of fuel wasn’t right…. He wrote down all our details on one line in a ledger book. We had heard that we needed to clear in with 4 different officials – Coastguard, National Guard, Parks and Immigration - however, when the coastguard said “finito” we took that as a cue to run and forget about anyone else…

We had been told to come with US$. The bank rate was 4.5 Bolivars to 1US$ however the “official” black market rate (in the shops and bars) was about 7 to 1US$. This made beers about US$1.5. After so long in the Eastern Caribbean it was interesting to now be in a Spanish environment and culture.

The main “supermarket” gets supplies from the mainland about once a week. On the first day we asked where the supermarket was and was told there was nothing in it!! – the next day it was full of supplies as we saw small fishing boats land and offload supplies. Food shortage is wide spread though out Venezuela.

Charlotte found a park and played with the local kids.

Cathy and I tried to teach the naught little boy to count in English, rather than him ripping up the bench… The boys climbed up a great big tiny hill to see the old lighthouse.

We saw the healthiest and most wide spread mangroves that we have seen in the world.

In one of our economizing measures to finish off everything on the boat we managed to finished off the bottle of tequila and margarita mix – which was a good night but not necessarily a good following morning!

We had a very enjoyable stop in Los Roques. We left about 7.30am Friday morning, weaving our way west through the Los Roques Island for about 15 miles. Once we were clear of the islands, we popped the spinnaker again and had a great downwind spinnaker run to our next stop, Islas de Aves – about 45 miles away. We are really getting to like these down wind spinnaker runs!!

Sail Grenada to Los Roques 21st-23rd June

We left Grenada at 2pm, with 5 of us on board. Los Roques was 280 miles away, which would be just under 48 hours if we averaged 6 knots. We estimated we should average more than that due to current and downwind, so didn’t want to leave too early as we needed to arrive in daylight.

The trade winds are predominantly from the east. We were finally going to be heading downwind (west) after the last few years of up and down the Eastern Caribbean islands. It was exciting as this was a new area and new islands for us.

We had to motor a lot of the first day and night as the winds had died down – at least our batteries were getting a good charge! By 4pm we started the watch system – Steve and Jimmy 4-8pm, Cathy and I 8-12pm, Steve and Jimmy back up for the “graveyard shift” 12-4am and Cathy and I back on for the nice sunrise watch 4-8am. During the day we switched to single person 2 hour watches.

We were sailing about 90 miles north of the Venezuelan coastline. We were a little nervous with all the reports of piracy off the Venezuelan coastline (although much closer to mainland than we were sailing). We had a constant watch on the radar to keep track of any boats within 24 miles, to ensure that they didn’t head for us!

In one instance there was a boat asking for fuel on the VHF radio – the first boat ahead of us passed him and we decided to head off in the other direction – afraid it might have been a set up – especially as we could see him “drifting” at the same 9 knots we were doing! However, 6 hours later we still heard him talking to someone on the VHF radio saying he was drifting to La Blanquilla, continually reporting his position.

At night, to be less visible to pirates, we decided to go “dark” (ie no running lights and no interior lights) although this was probably not necessary. There was very little other traffic, a full moon and we kept a sharp watch on the radar.

The offshore islands of Venezuela are very dry, low-lying islands. After the torrential rain of Grenada, we were now finally drying out the boat and didn’t see another drop of rain.

By 9am on Tuesday we were able to turn off the engines and get the spinnaker up! The first time we had flown it for about 3 years!! Spinnakers are great for downwind sailing.

We had a champagne mimosa toast on the trampoline to celebrate getting the spinnaker flying.

We saw dolphins on the first day and pods of whales on the second day – it looked like 3 or 4 different pods within about half a mile of each other. We put the fishing lines out but sticking with our record, we caught nothing!

It was a pleasant downwind sail. The seas were very calm – we even got to hang out on the trampoline with the autopilot doing all the work! The spinnaker provided a good pink sunshade!

Getting close to Los Roques we suddenly found that our course was plotted through a restricted area – sack the navigator! We arrived at the southeastern end of Los Roques at 10am perfect timing (reinstate the navigator!). This gave us a great light and time to work our way through the reefs.

Grenada - Part 2 - 4th-21st June 2010

Life in Grenada continued as though we were living there. A lot of cruisers spend a few weeks, even months in Grenada once hurricane season starts (June) and so we tend to build up more friendships during this time, and meet up again with cruisers we have met along the way. Also there seems to be a lot more social events organised. Charlotte’s friendship with Fynn, (off the boat Meteor) grew stronger with many play dates and sleep overs and there were a few tears when they had to say good bye to each other.

We also enjoyed time with her parents Pat and Nick.

Charlotte went to the local Beacon Junior School for 3 weeks. Every morning the 6.30 alarm call to get up, breakfast and make pack lunch to be on the dock by 7.30 for a lift to school with Fynn and Red. And after school there was home work also!! See her in School uniform:

She was asked to represent the school in a swimming meet and won 3 rosettes.

Jimmy and I took advantage of our newfound freedom and I enjoyed the break from home schooling.

One day we went out fishing with some friends to try and learn how to fish! – they lived on monohulls so very excited about the size of the platform at the back of a catamaran to fish off. We did finally catch a fish – not with our line though!!

Friday night at the Tiki bar became a regular event – there were about 20 kids playing there. A steel band provided entertainment for the 5-7pm happy hour

and then followed up with a live dance band. Wednesday Burger nights at Clarkes Court Bay Marina also became a regular on the social calendar. They would send a bus to come and pick a load of us up from Prickly Bay for the event. Charlotte also did a stint behind the bar!!

One evening we did a trip up to the north of the island to see the turtles laying their eggs. Fascinating. I was unable to get any photos this time but see our blog entry from the same trip a year ago at:

We did a trip back up to Carriacou one weekend – with Charlotte at school we were now on a schedule so had to take advantage of the weekends!

On Saturday 19th June Steve and Cathy arrived from Bermuda to do the sail with us from Grenada to Curacao. It seemed like the wet season arrived just as they did, with their first 2 days in torrential rain!! On Monday morning we did the last bits and pieces – last minute shopping, filling up our water tanks, moving the life raft to its “Offshore” accessible” position, safety talk from Jimmy, up the mast with the new radar detector...

On Monday 21st June, over 5 weeks after arriving, we finally left Grenada to sail to Curacao. The plan was to stop at Los Roques, Islas de Aves and Bonaire en-route. The trade winds are predominantly from the east. We were now heading west and finally downwind!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Grenada - Part 1 - May 14th - June 4th

We spent our first few days in Grenada anchored off St Georges, close to Grand Anse beach (the nicest beach in Grenada - long white and sandy).

Hilary, my sister came to visit for a week, so we went into a marina for a couple of days. We enjoyed all the luxuries of a marina (swimming pool, no dingy i.e. no wet bottom ashore, plentiful water etc) but were please to head back out to anchor due to the heat/lack of breeze and mosquitoes in the marina. It had certainly warmed up a lot in the last couple of weeks, and so a nice breeze is essential at nighttime.

Hilary and Charlotte did the Island tour (that we’ve done a couple of times before) – they swam in waterfalls,

were shown all the different spices growing on the island,

had monkeys climbing over them,

visited the ancient rum factory, (where they still use all the old traditional methods from over 200 years ago),

and generally had a good time seeing all over Grenada.

We met up with Pacific Bliss, who we had originally met in Antigua back in December and last seen in St Martin in March. Charlotte got to play a lot with Zinnia and have sleep-overs at each others boats.

We then headed over to Prickly Bay, where a lot of cruisers anchor. Charlotte arranged a kids play date on the beach. We met a cruising couple from London (Pat and Nick), with 2 children (a girl, Finn, of 8 and a boy, Red, of 11) – Charlotte and Zinnia were soon busy playing with them. They had arrived in Grenada a month ago, having sailed across the Atlantic, and were staying for a while – Finn and Red had just started at a school on the island…. That got us thinking!!

Saturday morning Charlotte and I went to help with the Mount Airey Reading project – which involved spending the morning at a community centre in a small village in the hills and helping local children out with reading and maths.

Saturday afternoon, a motor over to Clarke’s Court Bay Marina’s pot luck, then on Sunday to Hog Island for Charlotte’s 7th Birthday party (see prior blog entry). Monday a trip over to La Phare Blue marina to enjoy their pool and restaurant – it was Hilary’s last night.

Tuesday, 25th May, was Charlotte’s birthday. Fortunately, due to Hilary’s visit, there were plenty of presents (from family in London) to open!

We sailed back to Prickly Bay, as it was close to the airport. Hilary seemed to have a fun relaxing time, enjoying a few of the restaurants, Jimmy’s cuisine and the sundowner G&Ts! After tea and birthday cake she headed off to the airport to fly back to London.

Finn and Red came over after to help Charlotte finish off the cake!

Other activities in Grenada so far included:

- Geocaching – I still had a travel bug that I had picked up back in Antigua in February that I needed to deposit in another geocache! So found one in the grounds of a hotel on Grand Anse beach;

- Ski-bobbing with Red and Finn and water skiing;

- Snorkeling the Underwater Statues

- Burger night and other social events at the different marinas.

Jerry and Tracy on Challenger arrived and so it was nice to catch up again – last time we had seen them was St Lucia.

The big boat "A", owned by Russian billionaire turned up in Grenada.

We are sure they are following our route... having seen them in St Barts, St Martin, Antigua, St Lucia, and now Grenada. Last year it was the mega sailing yacht Maltese Falcon that was following us..

One of the “highlights” for both us and Charlotte (although for completely different reasons!) was Charlotte going to school for 2 weeks at a local school in Grenada. It was the same school that Finn and Red has just started at, although they were in a different class.

Although very excited to go (mainly for meeting other kids), when we got to the school, Charlotte was a bit nervous. It was a good experience for her to be able to just join in a class of 20 children, not knowing anyone and join in the lessons and playtime. When I went to pick her up at the end of the day she said it was “grrrrreat” and that all the kids were so friendly. Hopefully the enthusiasm for going to school will continue for the whole 2 or 3 weeks, until we leave Grenada!! Meanwhile I am having a nice break from the every morning homeschooling!