Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sailing season is almost over....

We are back in the country of Grenada, almost to our final destination for the 2012-2013 sailing season.   Our exact location is on the island of Carriacou, moored at Sandy Island.   Sandy Island is small shoal island in a protected marine sanctuary with a limited number of moorings available.  Anchoring is not permitted.  We have wanted to stop here for the last three years, but the moorings were always full.  Yesterday we got lucky and were able to move to a mooring shortly after 7 am.   I looked online for some good photos, and was reminded that this island has changed a lot over the years, due to hurricanes.  

The sky was cloudy for most of the morning, but we were able to snorkel under clear skies in the afternoon.  It was fantastic!   A first for me was seeing a turtle under the water.  It was a hawksbill, and I would guess it was at least 5 years old, comparing it to the turtles we saw in the Bequia sanctuary.  I also had a sighting of about fifty reef squid.  They remind me of an underwater armada.  They all face the same direction and seem to be marching in lines.  

RIght now there are lots of schools of baby fish in the water, ranging in size from less than an inch to six inches.  The numbers of fish are huge (10s of thousands or more) and it is so interesting to watch how they react to us, and other fish, darting apart, together, then move on in a colorful stream or forming a large ball underwater.  Of course, where there are baby fish there a bigger fish and birds looking for a meal.  We saw mostly jacks in the water, with gulls and boobies in the air.  This morning I also saw a pelican. 

Today is very rainy and overcast, tomorrow we plan to move onto the main island of Grenada with a stop planned at another famous snorkel spot of underwater sculpture, which has recently been updated with new statues.  Then we will go to Prickly Bay and begin working on the chore list, before our haul out on the 3rd of May.
Reef squid (from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary

On the island of Bequia, a retired diver and fisherman, Orton King, has dedicated his life to supporting wild populations of Hawksbill turtles.  He collects newly-hatched turtles, and raises them in captivity until they are five years old, then releases them into the wild.

Left on their own, only one in 3000 hatchlings makes it to adulthood.  Mr. King believes that as many as 15 out of every 100 turtles in his care survive in the wild.  He marks the shells by drilling two small holes, and gets many reports from cruisers and divers who have seen his turtles, some from as far away as Grenada.

We saw small turtles, about 7 months old and the size of your hand, all the way up to large ones, almost ready to be released.  Every shell has different patterns and colors, all are beautiful.

It was fantastic to see these creatures up close, and amazing how graceful they are in the water.

Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

Yesterday we made a passage from St. Lucia to the island of Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  This is one of our longer passages, more than 50 miles.

In planning the passage, one important question is "On which side of St. Vincent do we travel?"  St. Vincent is a large island with many tall mountains.  We knew from experience that traveling on the leeward (western) side of the island would mean little or no wind and extensive motoring.  We don't like to motor -- it is noisy and diesel is expensive.

The alternative is the windward (eastern) side of the island.  You have to be careful to stay well off-shore, since the wind would push you into trouble if you had an unexpected problem.  This adds a couple of miles to the journey, but worth it to avoid extended motoring.

The trouble is that, usually, the wind doesn't cooperate.  In order to take this more-easterly route, we would need to tack.  This means, not a couple of extra miles, but many extra miles.

Yesterday, though, we were in luck.  The wind was from the due east, and since our course was basically due south, we could travel without tacking.  Seemed like an ideal time to try the windward option.

Unfortunately, there is another factor to be considered.  When we started on our southward course from St. Lucia, we discovered that we were facing a very strong, adverse current.  The current had both east-to-west and south-to-north components.  We face east-to-west currents almost continuously in the Caribbean, but the south-to-north component isn't all that common.  And it was flowing at more than 3 knots!  We rarely see currents that strong.  Perhaps it was due to the new moon.

Well, time to reconsider our plan.  If we kept going down the windward side, we would be traveling at only 4 knots or so -- not fast enough to make our anchorage by dark.  We changed gears and headed for the leeward side.

On this course, the current was basically pushing us sideways.  We could compensate for that by changing our sailing angle, and maintain good average speeds.  Plus, while we were behind the island, we would be protected from the east-to-west current.  As it turned out, we even experienced a favorable north-to-south current for a few miles along the southern coast.

So, a couple of hours of motoring.  Not the end of the world and we have done it many times before.  Still, it was a relief to get around the southern end of St. Vincent, set the sails, and turn that noisy machine OFF.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Another Day, Another Waterfall

We're always looking for destinations to justify a hike, and waterfalls certainly fit the bill.  On Dominica this trip, we've visited two very different ones.

Cruisers in the Caribbean rely very heavily on cruising guides to help them through day-to-day decisions.  The most popular by far are published by a company called "Cruising Guide Publications," and two we use most heavily (Leeward Islands and Windward Islands) are authored by a man named Chris Doyle.  Chris has been doing this for decades -- our Windward Island guide is the 16th edition -- and he is very influential among both cruisers, but also among the various service providers, restaurants, and shops on the island.

Well, when Martin of "Providence," one of the boat services folks in Portsmouth, Dominica, asked us if we'd like to take a hike with Chris Doyle, it was a very immediate "Yes!"  We went to a place not well publicized, called Sherry Falls.  This is a relatively easy (35 minute), and extremely beautiful walk through the forest.  The falls are modest, maybe 25 feet high, but quite picturesque.

Here's a shot with Chris Doyle and Martin:

The other extreme of waterfall tourism includes several very well-known and well-visited large waterfalls.  The most popular is Trafalgar Falls, because it is easily accessible by cruise ship visitors.  Another famous one is Victoria Falls, which we visited last year.  Today we hiked to Middleham Falls.  This is the highest waterfall on Dominica, at 180 feet.  It is a much more difficult hike than Sherry Falls, but promoted enough that there is a fairly steady stream of visitors.  We saw three other groups during our two-hour hike.  Anyway, Middleham Falls is pretty spectacular:

As you can see, we were enjoying ourselves:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dominica - Portsmouth

Just a quick note before we leave for Roseau.

We have had a great week in Dominica, as usual!   We were very honored to be asked to accompany Chris Doyle (author of the definitive cruising guides for the Carribean) on a hike to a small but beautiful waterfall on Easter Sunday morning.  The hike was arranged by Martin "Providence", a very knowledgeable guide.   Two other US couples joined as well, Soul Mates from Florida and Sinbad from Michigan.  After the hike we took a small northern island tour, which included a visit to "Cold Soufriere".  Cold Soufriere is a cold essence the gases bubbling up from the earth have come such a long way that they are completely cool by the time they surface.    We learned that Dominica is one of the youngest islands in the chain, and that is why there is still so much seismic activity here.

The second highlight of the week was a chance to go fishing with Alexis.  He is a very patient man!  I fed two fish (meaning did not set the hook) which Alexis said were almost surely kingfish, and David fed three.  Finally, I managed to hook and land (with Alexis'help) a barracuda and a jack.  The barracuda was very tasty.  I steamed it with some Adobo seasoning and lemon grass we collected on the tour with Martin.  We are assured that there is no ciguatera in Dominca so it is safe to eat reef fish and reef fish predators.  David and I both agreed that having the chance to see the shoreline up close was an added bonus.

Today we are off to Roseau, and hopefully there will be some pics in the camera to add to this post.