Day 154, Year 6 Snorkel ’til You Drop

Day 154, Year 6 Snorkel ’til You Drop
Date: Sunday, March 27, 2011
Weather: Overcast Early, Turning Sunny; Wind E 20-25 knots
Location: Behind Baradel Island, Tobago Cays, the Grenadines

I think we’ve done Steve in. It was overcast and windy this morning as a cold front passed over, so the guys decided it was a good time to clean the bottom of the boat. This requires snorkel gear, but I guess it is unfair to call it snorkeling. They worked for almost two hours and are still only 75 per cent done, but when they came up to take a break, they realized that they really didn’t have the energy to continue. Steve took a little snooze while Mark worked on the oven for me. I was trying to bake a pecan coffee cake, but the oven just wouldn’t light. By the time Mark got the oven going, it was time for lunch, so we put off tasting the coffee cake until mid-afternoon. Right after lunch, we hopped in the dinghy and headed out to snorkel. As soon as we got in the water, we realized there was a tremendous current. We did see lots of beautiful fish, including parrotfish much larger than we saw yesterday as well as lots of Blue Tangs and a great variety of other small fish. The fish life was great but the current was not. We fought it for a while, but since Mark and Steve were already tired from their morning’s work, we called it quits and said we’d return later in the afternoon. We came back and looked at some underwater photos from Madagascar and Chagos from this past year and from back in 2007 when Steve sailed with us in Fiji. It was then nap time for the ‘boys’. It was almost 5 o’clock when they got up. We went back out to the reef to snorkel, but this time Steve stayed in the dinghy. He said he was enjoying watching a wind surfer, but basically I think we had worn him out! Mark and I enjoyed our time in the water but the sun was getting low in the sky and it was soon time to return to Windbird.

On the way out to snorkel in the late afternoon, we stopped by a catamaran that came in this afternoon. The boat’s name is Nexus and it is out of Cape Town, South Africa. The people aboard were from Austria, but the yacht’s captain was Shelton Lindsey (we think) from Cape Town. We asked if by chance he happened to know our friend Bruce Tedder from Cape Town and he smiled really big and said he has known him since he was knee high. What a small world.

Tomorrow we will leave this beautiful spot and sail to Bequia. It is really hard to pull yourself away from a place like this. The Tobago Cays are just five little uninhabited islands with white sand beaches surrounded by almost surreal shades of iridescent blue to milky turquoise water. It is definitely my favorite kind of anchorage and I just have to hope that I will be back here in the next couple of years.

110327 Day 154 Tobago Cays–Underwater
From 110327 Day 154 Tobago Cays–Done In

Day 153, Year 6 Lovely Day

Day 153, Year 6 Lovely Day
Date: Saturday, March 26, 2011
Weather: Mostly Sunny Day, Wind E 15 knots
Latitude: 12 37.945 N
Longitude: 061 21.472 W
Location: Behind Baradel Island, Tobago Cays, the Grenadines

What a great day. The first thing we did was to get the flags of the countries we have visited strung and flying from the mast. It was truly exciting to see all those flags flying and when we took the dinghy to shore to visit the village of Clifton we were able to get great photos. The village of Clifton looked much like it did five and a half years ago with just a little more paint. But all the little shops are all still the same. We bought some fresh produce and a case of Hairoan, the beer of the Grenadines. I’m pretty sure Mark’s sister Mary Ellen and her husband Lee will not be joining us in St. Martin, but ‘just in case’ I want to be sure to be able to share the various beers of the Caribbean with Lee. And if they don’t join us in St. Martin, I will be able to share them with him when we arrive in Florida.

When we returned to Windbird, we jumped in the beautiful turquoise water and snorkeled out toward the reef. It was VERY shallow and there was nothing to see but grass and a few small fish but we enjoyed the warm water. We then took off for Tobago Cays. We sailed north along the west side of small island named Mayreau and then headed east to the Cays. We anchored and took off almost immediately to snorkel out near Horseshoe Reef. This was a delightful experience. Horseshoe Reef forms a shallow lagoon with many coral bommies scattered throughout. We tied the dinghy to one of the dinghy moorings and then snorkeled in amongst the bommies. The Stoplight Parrotfish are the biggest that we saw and there were large schools of beautiful Blue Tangs. As I am writing, I’m having Mark and Steve look in the fish books to identify some of the other varieties, so maybe tomorrow we’ll have a more detailed account.

We had a great happy hour aboard Key of D tonight with Steve and Truus. We met them on the dock in Simon’s Town and it was great to learn about their years together as sailors. I had hoped to be able to list our ‘top ten’ favorites from our voyage in today’s log, but that is an even bigger job than I had thought. In fact, I think it is a book we are talking about, not a quick report in a daily log. I was able to list our ‘top five’ wildlife spots-the Galapagos wildlife, the Komodo Dragons in Indonesia, the orangutans of Borneo, the lemurs of Madagascar, and the Big 5 in South Africa. But that is as far as I got today. I’ll keep working on this and report as I make progress. We are staying here tomorrow to do more snorkeling and to clean Windbird’s waterline and bottom. Then on Monday we will be off to Bequia.

110326 Day 153a Union Island–Clifton Village
110326 Day 153b Tobago Cays–Arrival

Day 152, Year 6 Closing the Circle

Day 152, Year 6 Closing the Circle
Date: Friday, March 25, 2011
Weather: Partly Sunny Day, Wind E 20 knots
Latitude: 12 35.785 N
Longitude: 061 24.689 W
Location: Passage from Tyrell Bay, Carriacou to Union Island, the Grenadines

Unbelievable. We have finally crossed our outbound track and officially completed our circumnavigation. I will not feel that I have completed the circle until we reach New England, but I am happily celebrating our return to the Caribbean. We celebrated this special occasion on Happy Island which we first visited in January of 2006. A local named Janti built a little island here on the reef using abandoned conch shells left by fishermen on the beaches and has turned it into bar and restaurant. Watching the sunset with a rum punch in hand on Happy Island was perfect closure. Steve says he is honored to be here with us and we are so happy that he is here to celebrate this occasion. We have to pinch ourselves just to check that this is a reality. We are gathering all of the flags of the countries we have visited so we can fly the flags tomorrow and remind ourselves of the wonderful experiences we had had. We are behind Newlands Reef, on a mooring ball in beautiful, clear turquoise water, and the view is phenomenal. This reminds us that the voyage is not yet over. We have another six weeks of travel here in the Caribbean before returning to the US. So the circle has been closed but the Voyage of Windbird is not over yet.

Our day started in Tyrell Bay in Carriacou and we moved to Sandy Island to snorkel. We picked up a mooring and then headed out in our dinghy. We headed south along the island. I was drift snorkeling with the dinghy as anchoring was not allowed and Mark and Steve were following along behind. Somehow I got myself into a very precarious position, between a rock (the coral) and a hard place (the dinghy). The current and wind pushed me into a very shallow area and I could not turn myself around. I ended up with my first coral scrape in the past five and a half years. Since I did not have on my dive skin (as our daughter has always recommended when snorkeling) I ended up with a horrible coral scrape along the line of my swimsuit at the top of my leg. It is really not pretty and my only hope is that it does not get infected. In the meantime, it is very painful but is being treated with the appropriate drugs. Once I got the dinghy out of the very shallow area, the rest of the morning went much more smoothly. We snorkeled the north end of Sandy Island and found the swaying soft corals that we had read about. They were deep but it was mesmerizing to watch. We walked on the beach and enjoyed the beauty.

Next we motored over to Hillsborough on the north side of Carriacou to check out of the Grenadan Grenadines. Anchoring there was a long process as we just couldn’t get the anchor to hold. We finally had to call it good enough and I stayed on Windbird to watch while Mark and Steve went to Customs to process the formalities. Then we sailed into the wind for the five miles to Union Island. We were met by Andy, a local boat boy, at the entrance to the harbor and asked if we would like a mooring. I said no, but then Mark decided that we’d pay the 50 EC ($20 US) for the night since anchoring here is between two reefs-one in front of you and one behind you. He wanted the peace of mind of not having to worry about the anchor not holding in such tight quarters. We followed Andy to the ball (not a ball really but a collection of old life vests and plastic bottles) and got ourselves attached. Then another boat boy, Nicholas, came by offering fresh mahi mahi for sale. Steve sprang for the fish which we planned to grill for dinner after returning from Happy Island. Mark and Steve went ashore to check us into the St. Vincent Grenadines and then we were off to Happy Island.

We have checked into twenty-eight countries or territories on our ‘world tour’ and each one has been wonderful. We met a fisherman from Montauk, New York, on Happy Island this evening. Dennis was a NYC fireman during 9/11 and retired with disability after that terrible disaster. He started fishing with his dad on Long Island and is here in the Caribbean as crew. He is trying out different sail boats and plans to buy one and sail his dream around the world in the next few years. He asked the question that almost everyone asks. “What was your favorite place as you traveled around the world?” And it is a question that we can’t answer. Each country and each little island within those countries were all special in some way. We’ll spend part of tomorrow reflecting on our travels and let you know what we come up with as our ‘top ten’ favorites-if we can get it down to that. It will also be fun to list all the islands and see just how many we have visited.

Day 151, Year 6 Exploring Carriacou-On Land and in the Water

Day 151, Year 6 Exploring Carriacou-On Land and in the Water
Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011
Weather: Sunny Day; Wind E 18 knots
Latitude: 12 27.348 N
Longitude: 061 29.345 W
Location: Tyrell Bay, Carriacou

What a beautiful day. The sun was shining all day and we didn’t have any rain. I was up early rinsing and hanging out the laundry I put in to soak overnight. I got the laundry hung out and then Steve went in the water to clean the anchor chain that Mark was on deck paying out. This was a necessity as Steve was barely able to sleep last night for the smell. Yesterday when we brought in the anchor chain, it had a really ugly growth on it. Once the chain was all piled in the anchor locker forward of the v-berth, the smell from that growth began permeating the air inside the boat. Overnight, it became almost unbearable, thus the early morning anchor chain cleaning. As soon as that was done, we made the decision to up anchor and head over to Saline Island for a mid-day snorkel. This meant bringing in all the clothes that were hung out to dry, but they had a good start and bringing them inside the boat to complete the drying process was easy. It took us about an hour to motor the four miles to the island, but it then took us almost an hour to get anchored. We were between the island and a reef and we just kept dragging. On the third try to felt secure enough to all get in the dinghy to snorkel the nearby reef. There was a pretty fierce current in the middle of the pass where we were anchored, but when we took the dinghy closer to the reef, the current wasn’t so bad. Mark and Steve jumped in the water and I said I would stay with the dinghy to rescue them if the current swept them away. It soon became apparent that the current was not affecting them all that much and I had been pretty stable in the dinghy, so I jumped in as well, holding on to the dinghy line and pulling it along with me. The first little bommie I came to was teeming with small fish and a few larger ones hiding in the cracks and crevices. I was delighted to discover so many fish that are new to me. Almost immediately I saw a pair of Banded Butterflyfish and Bluehead and Yellowhead Wrasse. We have seen many different varieties of butterflyfish and wrasse in our travels, but these were new to us. The Bluehead Wrasse is particularly striking with its very blue head followed by a black band, then a white band followed by another black band before getting the greenish body. We also saw some familiar fish-Black Durgon triggerfish that are all black with the exception of a white stripe along the top, Blue Tangs which can be all blue or can be yellow with blue trim, and French Grunts that are yellow with horizontal stripes of grey and black. We saw an old friend that we haven’t seen for quite some time-the Stoplight Parrotfish which is black with white spots, red fins and a red belly. We also saw a bright blue fish with a yellow head and tail, but I am not sure yet what that one might be. I think it is an angelfish, but need more time to identify that one.

After snorkeling, we returned to Windbird and motored back to Tyrell Bay. We anchored in almost the same spot we had left earlier in the day and then headed to shore to explore Carriacou on land. We went to the Carriacou Yacht Club which is probably less of a yacht club than most we have visited and then we walked along the beach. Tyrell Bay is a very tiny little community with a couple of small stores and about half a dozen small restaurants along the waterfront. We found Shep, crew on Key of D, entertaining a table of women at the Lambi Queen Restaurant & Bar. One of the women was from Newton, Massachusetts, but now lives here. We walked on to the end of the road and then came back to the Lambi Queen to have a beer. We talked with Shep for a bit and then headed back to the dinghy at the Carriacou Yacht Club. This time we walked by road instead of beach which required a hike up a high hill and then a descent down an almost vertical driveway back down to the yacht club.

Tomorrow morning we head out to Sandy Island which is a marine park just north of Tyrell Bay. We are hoping to be able to get a mooring there so we can snorkel before going into Hillsborough to check out of Grenada. It is then about seven miles to Clifton Harbor on Union Island. We should be there tomorrow evening to celebrate the official close of our circumnavigation. This will be the first place where we have crossed our outbound path. We arrived in Clifton Harbor on Union Island on January 7, 2006 So tomorrow night will be a very special celebration aboard Windbird. I’m hoping Janti still has his Happy Island bar where we can go for sundowners. He literally built the island from conch shells abandoned by fishermen on the beaches of Union Island and it is a very special place in the world. So we are looking forward to tomorrow.

Before ending, I just have to share a little ‘romance’ story. When Steve landed in Trinidad he met a woman from England who was waiting for the same plane as Steve to bring them to Grenada. He and Annie spent the afternoon together. She had a bottle of rum punch that customs was taking away from her. She couldn’t see it go to waste so suggested to Steve that they share it that while waiting for the plane. Annie was coming to Grenada to sail with friends and she and Steve have been corresponding each day via email. Mark sends the emails and just can’t resist sneaking a peak at what is being said. The boat Annie is traveling on has been heading north at a very fast pace. They stopped in Mustique, Bequia, and will be in the Blue Lagoon in St. Vincent tomorrow. These are all what Steve calls the “hoity toity” Caribbean spots and when he emailed that to Annie, she responded that he had her pegged. Too bad she is flying back to England so quickly. We would have loved to have met Annie. Maybe another time . . .

110324 Day 151 Carriacou–Exploring Carriacou

Day 150, Year 6 Grenada to Carriacou

Day 150, Year 6 Grenada to Carriacou
Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Weather: Overcast with Squally Periods; Wind NE 10-20 knots
Location: Passage from Prickly Bay, Grenada to Tyrell Bay, Carriacou

We made the break from Prickly Bay at 0645 this morning. We first had to sail west along the southern coast of Grenada with an almost 3 knot positive current giving us a great boost. But we very soon had to turn to the northeast directly into the wind. Thankfully the wind was light, 10-15 knots, but this still required us to motor sail all the way up the west coast of Grenada. Once we made it around to the north side of the island, we were able to sail across to the Ile de Ronde. This is a small island near Diamond Rock, more commonly called Kick’em Jenny, which is in the vicinity of a submarine volcano that periodically spits and belches from the depths. We knew that stopping at Ile de Ronde should only be done in settled weather, which is not really what we had today, but we wanted to check out the snorkeling on the north end of that island. We anchored, dropped the dinghy, and hopped aboard with all our snorkeling gear. Unfortunately the seas were not settled and we could not get close enough to the reef area where we think the good snorkeling would have been. Mark stayed in the dinghy to make sure it was not swept to shore by the rolling breakers while Steve and I got in the water to explore. We saw Porcupine Pufferfish, lots of Ocean Surgeonfish, and some Gorgonian sea fans. It was not as good as we had hoped, but it was great to get in the water. Considering the conditions and the miles we still had to sail to Carriacou, we ended our exploration, got the dinghy back onboard, and headed northwards once again. As we motored out of the Ile de Ronde anchorage, we saw Grenada disappearing behind us into rain clouds. Then we saw Carriacou in front of us disappearing into rain clouds as well. We knew we were going to be hit by the storm clouds and we were. The wind went from 12 knots to 25 knots and the seas got very quickly, very lumpy. Visibility was limited and the rain was pouring down. The weather stayed like this for the two hours that it took us to motor sail against the now stronger wind coming directly at us. But just as we approached the anchorage in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted a bit. We are now safely anchored here for the night and will stay here tomorrow and tomorrow night. We are hoping to explore a couple of snorkeling sites and see a little of the island of Carriacou before moving north to Union Island.