Friday, March 25, 2011

The Fast Track North

We just arrived in St. Martin. What? St. Martin? The last update was from the Grenadines, more then 300 NM from here where we had been weathered-in in Bequia for a month. We had no particular sailing plan for this year and in fact, we thought we might not sail further north then Martinique. But then we were lured north by the crew of Orchid and the thought of rendezvousing with them in St. Martin was too tempting. With the weather improved, it was time to set sail again. March had come in like a lamb and the weather forecast looked great. We decided to take advantage of the good conditions and just keep moving which is a little unusual for Merengue and crew. We usually like to stop and smell the roses, or maybe it’s the baguettes! For those of you who follow our blog for the sailing, here’s a look at our trip north.

Ships log

3/03/11: Bequia, Grenadines to St. Lucia. 53.3 NM. Wind 10-25 knots, 4-5 ft. swell. Travel time 10.5 hours. Left at sunrise. Beautiful beam reach between Bequia and St. Vincent then the typical no wind in the lee of the island. Close reach from St. Vincent to the moorings between the Pitons, St. Lucia. Great sailing!

3/04/11: The Pitons to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. 18 NM. Motor-sailed in the lee of the island.

3/05/11:  Rodney Bay, St. Lucia to St. Pierre, Martinique.  44.2 NM.  Wind 12-18.  Beam reach with speeds over 6 knots until north of Fort de France Bay, then wind died.  Travel time 9 hours.  Spotted 2 whales dozing in the water.

 St. Pierre waterfront.

3/6/11: Martinique to Roseau, Dominica. 35.6 NM. Wind 10-18 knots, low seas. Beam reach again! Travel time 7 hours.

3/07/11: Roseau, Dominica to Les Saintes. 40.3 NM. No wind in lee of island then 11-18 knots in the channel. Travel time 8 hours.

These 5 days of sailing were some of the best that we have ever experienced. Beam reaches, low swell and waves, blue sea and sky, the sailing was fabulous! We celebrated with a 2-day lay-over in Les Saintes, one of our favorite places in the Caribbean. Watch for a future blog post on the carnival celebration.

3/10/11:  Les Saintes to Deshaies, Guadeloupe.  38.0 NM.  Forecast was for light winds but we had from 10 – 25 knots on the nose.  Motorsailed.  Travel time 8 hours.

 Lighthouse on the southwest shore of Guadeloupe.

Leaving Guadeloupe at sunrise.

3/11/11:  Guadeloupe to Montserrat.  42.7 NM. Wind 6 -8 knots, then slowly increased to 13-16 knots near Montserrat.  Confused seas near island.  Travel time 9.5 hours.

The Montserrat volcano is still very active.  If you look closely you can see steam rising out of vents near the top.

Waterspout forming over Montserrat.

3/12/11:  Montserrat to Basseterre, St. Kitt’s.  47.0 NM.  Wind 13-16.  Travel time 9.5 hours.

Leaving Montserrat.

In a rare moment of spontaneity, we decided to stop in St. Kitt’s to visit our friends Mike and Renee.  We had told them that we would visit on our way south in June so they were a little surprised when they received our email telling them that we were at the marina.  Hey, we’re in the neighborhood.  Whatcha doing?  We spent 4 days hanging out at the beach, by the pool, at various beach bars and restaurants and at their villa.  It always feels like we’re on vacation when we visit them.  They do a good job of spoiling us!

 Sandy Bank Beach.

 Ahhhhh!  The swimming pool at the villa.

The view of Nevis from the pool.

 Michael's Bar.  Not our friend Michael, a different Michael.

 Michael at Michael's.

3/17/11: St. Kitt’s to Gustavia, St. Barth’s. 47.4 N.M. Wind 11-15. Close-reach. Travel time 9.5 hours. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

With all these islands named after saints, how come St. Patrick didn’t get the honor?

3/19/11: Gustavia to Columbier Bay, St. Barth’s. 2.8 N.M. Beautiful turquoise water, sea turtles, stingrays, reef fish and big remoras under the boat! Met up with our friends on Orchid here.

3/21/11: St. Barth’s to St. Martin. 17.8 N.M. Wind 13 – 18 knots. Travel time 4 hours. Alexander and Nicholas (S/V Orchid) came along as crew. We were greeted by a spinner dolphin off the south coast of St. Martin!

We will be calling St. Martin home for the next few months.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fort Hamilton, Bequia

On Sunday, we decided to take a walk and explore the other side of the bay and the ruins of a fort overlooking the harbor.

 This beauiful little stone church, St. Michaels Catholic Church, is set back from the main road,
just up the hill.

The road follows the bay and then winds it's way up the hill through residential neighborhoods until it reaches the site of the old fort.

 The view of Admiralty Bay from the top of the hill is the reason the British chose this location.

 Nothing remains of the original fort which was built in the late 1700's.  A wall has been constructed to hold a number of cannon that remain and to give you an idea of how this site could be used to protect the harbor and the island from American Privateers and French Raiders.  Interestingly, the fort is named for Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the American constitution who was born on the island of Nevis in 1755.

A panoramic view of Admiralty Bay from the site of  Fort Hamilton.

Back onboard and it's time to make some decisions about where we'll go and what we'll do this year.  The sea is settling down and it looks like we'll have good weather to head north.  Our friends on S/V Orchid are headed to St. Martin to prepare for their Atlantic crossing to the Mediterranean and we'd like to meet up with them before they leave in April.  So our plan was to take advantage of this next weather window and just keep moving, stopping just for the night until we reach Les Saintes.  I'm beginning to think that PLAN is a dirty, 4 letter word!  Everytime we try it, something seems to stop us.  PLAN to meet Natalie in St. Lucia and the weather turns bad.  PLAN to leave Wednesday and we break an engine part doing a routine oil change.  Yes, the plastic top on the dipstick in the transmission broke as Jim was putting it back in.  There are a number of marine services in Bequia but none carrying Yanmar parts.  We asked around and were referred to Kerry Machine Services where Kerry informed us that he was well aware of the problem as he has fixed this very thing on a number of boats before.  "They're made of plastic, they always break."  Jim took him our broken dipstick this morning and Kerry says he will make a stainless top for it.  Hopefully, all will be fixed by tomorrow and we can be on our way Thursday morning.
Here's hoping for fair winds!