Saturday, 20 December 2014

Carriocou to St.Lucia

 Looking at my calendar I see it has been two weeks since we left Grenada;  it feels like much longer than that. Eight islands later ( I’m including Sandy Island, Carriacou a mere spit of sand and coral in the count) each island seems to blur into the next and we are having trouble remembering the names of the anchorages and towns.  Two things remain constant. The weather has been outstanding. Day after day of sun and warmth with the occasional cloud thrown in giving us momentary shade for which we are quite grateful. It might very well rain during the night, but only for a few minutes, just long enough to require us to jump up and close the hatches. Repeat daily.   The scenery is just beautiful. Mountainous Islands, cute little towns, sandy beaches all surrounded by turquoise waters.

Grenada to Carriacou - Diamond Rock

The Islands we have visited these last two weeks are all part of the Grenadines. We checked in on Union Island, the most southerly and cleared out of Bequia, the most northerly excluding St. Vincent, last week. The islands are typically 10 to 15 miles apart, a short sail and within sight of the next in the chain. They have all been delightful. They all offer good uphill hiking with magnificent views. The snorkeling and diving has been very good. At the Tobago Cays we snorkeled off the dingy at Horseshoe Reef where there were lots of fish and healthy looking coral. One of these days I will remember to take my underwater camera!  At all of the anchorages we have been greeted by the local “boat boys” hoping to sell either a service or product. Water taxi, laundry pick up, bread, ice,  drinks, live lobster, fish, t-shirts, we have been offered it all. 
Hillsborough, Carriacou
Petite St. Vincent from Carriacou

Sandy Island off Carriacou
Clifton Anchorage, Union Island with Palm Island in distance

Downtown Clifton, Union Island

Ian limin', Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau

Pippa chillin, Salt Whistle Bay

Ian goes to church, Mayreau
Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau

Sidney, boat dude, Tobago Cays
Zooropa off Horseshoe Reef, Tobago Cays
Mustique is an island unlike any other we have seen. The scenery and vegetation are the same but the houses!  Unbelievable. We biked the Island ( well, half of it, the hills and heat got the better of us). It is immaculate. The roads are all in good repair, there’s no garbage to be seen, the hedges are neatly trimmed and the landscaping is simply beautiful.

Shops, Mustique

Macaroni Beach, Mustique
We have really enjoyed Admiralty Bay, Bequia, and wish we could have stayed longer. We will definitely be back for a more leisurely visit. It has a large anchorage with lots of different anchoring or mooring ball options. Two very nice sandy beaches, with good snorkeling off of them. A very nice pathway winds around the southern side of the bay giving a pleasant walk from the beach into town. The town is actually a good size with several chandelry’s , grocery stores and a fresh fruit market.  Doris’ Fresh Foods was particularly outstanding.
  We are currently anchored at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia following a midnight to noon passage.  Unfortunately the winds were on our nose so we ended up motoring.  We did have a couple of pesky porpoises off the Pitons playing in our bow wake and encountered a pod of whales (species unknown) during the passage.

 Rodney Bay is a large anchorage with beaches, hiking and lots of boating infrastructure centered around the IGY Marina.   Seems like a great place to get some boat work done.  The marina is quite congested at the moment as the ARC boats have been arriving over the past week with many remaining for recuperation.

 The excitement is building on Zooropa  now as the kiddlies arrive tomorrow to spend Christmas with us. We can hardly wait!!   Merry Christmas everyone from the Zoo crew. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Marina Heaven

We have now spent four nights at the Port Louis Marina here in Grenada and I have to say, we are liking it, a lot!   A marina is like a trailor park for boats, this one is upscale. Here, as I see it, are the pros and cons.

St.Georges carenage

1    1  You hook your boat up to shore power, which means you can have air conditioning ( not a normal occurance on Zooropa).
2    2  The marina has (somewhat) reliable wi-fi.  We have been feeling internet deprived.
3     3  You can step directly off the back of your boat onto land. No having to get on to a wildly bouncing, possibly wet dingy for a ride into shore where you then have to either climb out onto a rickety dock or attempt a beach landing, often in the dark.
    4  Unlimited and long showers. The water can be left running while you lather up and wash hair and body, a real treat. If I feel like it I can even blow dry my hair afterwards too.
5    5 The boat is more or less completely stationary. No wild rocking when a power boat or jet ski goes by and no rolly nights when the wind and the swell are coming from different directions.
      6  There is a nice pool by which to while away an afternoon.
7    7   A nice salon and spa at which I had a good haircut.
8    8   Dinner out every night at their reasonably priced restaurant.

        The only one I can think of
      1) We had to Med. Moor ( meaning stern to) against the dock. It was our first time. There was a dock, mooring balls, another boat and the cross wind to contend with, a bit “hairy”.  

 We intend to pry ourselves off the dock tomorrow and head back out. All good things must come to an end at some time.  

Zooropa med moored at dock
Looking down on St. Georges

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Horrible

We are now happily anchored in Grenada after completing an approx. 3,255 nautical mile  passage from south of Rio.  To put that distance in perspective, it is 3,000 nautical miles from New York to London, England.  Oh, and that doesn’t include the 1,100 nautical miles we had already done from Buenos Aires to Angra ( south of Rio). It was not all fun and games, more about that in a moment.

Arriving Buzios
Ian, Bridget and I

After leaving Angra we had a very slow 36 hour trip to our next stop in Buzios. We had wind , waves and current into us the whole trip and so motored , it was excruciatingly slow and very hard on morale to see a boat speed  of 6.5 knots but speed over ground (SOG) of 3.5 knts. We were practically moving backwards!    Buzios was a great little town, made famous by Bridget Bardot in the ‘60s, she loved to visit apparently. It is now a busy little tourist town full of shops and  restaurants and has a very nice beachfront.  We spent a happy three days there, refueled with diesel and food, restocked the freezer and cleaned the boat.

Sculptures, Buzios 
 Three nights out of Buzios is when the S--- hit the fan, so to speak.  When cruising up the Brazilian coast you have the pleasure of sharing the waters (mostly at night of course) with Brazilian fisherman. Their boats  mostly do NOT show up on radar ( although they are well lit) , they trail LONG ( several kilometre) nets and when hailed on VHF radio they may answer but only in Portuguese.  If I never see another faffing fishing boat on my night passages again I will die a happy girl!   At the end of the afore mentioned net is a flashing strobe light, not easily seen .  One now needs to decide which f---ing fishing boat this light belongs to (remember it could be a long way off and distances are very deceptive at night).  Anyway, on this night Ian and I got it all wrong and ended up running over the net. Yes, our engines were running at the time which means that the net got wrapped around the props, resulting in a clunking sound. We immediately put the engines in neutral and were now dead in the water but attached to a very long net. The offending fishing boat was along side us by this time with lights on and yelling at us in Portuguese. There was nothing else for it, Ian, my hero, put on snorkel and mask, took flashlight and knife, and went overboard to cut the line. It was dark, the sea was rough and the boat was bucking all over the place, my stomach still gets knots when I think about it, not a happy time to say the least.   Ian eventually got the line cut free and we were on our way but since the line was still wrapped around the starboard side prop we now only had one functioning engine. We had two more days/ nights , mostly motor sailing into the wind, dreading seeing more fishing boats ( which we did) before arriving in Salvador. Here we initially anchored in the calm harbor and Ian went over again and was able to remove the remaining line from the prop. Now with both engines again functional we moved into a marina and docked. 

Approaching Salvador

Old city, Salvador

Salvador is another large ( 2.5 million people) Brazilian city, there are many. Its redeeming point is the Old Town. You can take an elevator ride, the Elevador Lacerda, from the harbor area to the top of the hill where the old town is located. Again, lots of touristy shops surrounded by lovely old buildings built in the 17th and 18th century along cobblestone streets on some quite steep hills. Salvador is the capital of Afro-Brazilian culture and this was very obvious when browsing the stores  full of African themed merchandise.

 We had several much needed days of rest and boat related work here before again heading out .  A three day/ night passage  with lots of  sailing this time, it’s so peaceful with the engines off. We did see more fishing boats at night but no more high seas drama! Our last stop in Brazil was the small town of Cabedelo. Nothing much to report about the town but we did a good grocery shop, laundry got done and we filled up with diesel again.

 After officially checking out of Brazil ( no small feat, three different stops required)  we started what was to be a  twelve night passage to Tobago. Our longest passage to date by far. I would describe it as crappy. Ian describes it as horrible!  The weather was not the problem. We actually didn’t have enough wind most of the time, although we did have a few days when the seas were quite “ bumpy”. It was the monotony of each day. Do your two hour watch, sleep, prepare food and eat. I actually found I lost my appetite and I generally love to eat. It took a real effort on my part to occasionally cook up eggs for breakfast and to heat up a meal in the evening. Doing anything other than the most basic of housekeeping was out of the question. When not on watch I basically spent my time lying in bed, which explains my lost muscle tone. Oh, it was hot too!  Anyway, twelve days of this was way too long for us. The last two nights we had multiple rain squalls with winds in the 30 knt range and then finally , on a very grey cloudy Monday we arrived in Tobago, yahoo!

 The boat (Antares 44i) handled beautifully for the whole trip. We had very few malfunctions and those were for the most part easily fixed. When seated in the cockpit you are high above the water so that the waves do not seem threatening at all, they just roll under you. The full enclosure cockpit keeps you warm and dry. If not for the wind speed dials you’d never know it was blowing 30+ knots out there. I must say, I felt very safe on Zooropa. 

 Our advice to new Antares owners who are considering doing the trip from Argentina to the Carribean. Don’t.  If you really have a yen for passage making  then hire Pikin and do the Buenos Aires to Angra stretch. Take a few weeks to cruise Isle Grande, it really is a beautiful area. Then hire a delivery captain and crew and have them deliver your boat  to, wherever, while you fly home and await its arrival.  You then fly down and meet your boat and happily continue with  your  new cruising life.

  Throughout our time in Brazil the Brazilian people were a pleasure to interact with. Everybody was friendly, happy and very helpful. I know we made a mash of their language ( actually using a lot of Spanish) but they appreciated our efforts and in turn tried their best with English.   The scenery was stunning, especially at Isle Grande and Rio. 

 Writing this now two weeks after our arrival in Tobago we are feeling much more positive about our future cruising plans.  The boat is no longer up for sale!!! 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Rio and Home

After a hairy taxi ride to Rio ( they drive way too fast and too close down here in South America) we checked into our hotel and then immediately took a taxi to Pao de Acucar ( Sugar Loaf Mountain). It's two different cable car rides to the top and then, wow, what a fabulous view. We were fortunate to have a clear sunny afternoon and the 360 degree views were just amazing. You are looking down on the sprawling city of Rio, the beaches, the domestic airport ( strange to be looking down on arriving and departing planes), even the circling birds are beneath you. They have done a very nice job at the top, there are path ways and seating areas shaded by trees and many lookout points.

 The following day we did the next obvious tourist visit to Cristo Redentor ( Christ the Redeemer) on the top of Corcovado Mountain. To get to the top we chose to go by tram which was quite an interesting ride up a VERY steep track. At the top, again a spectacular view of Rio, this time looking down on Sugar Loaf. On this day it was somewhat hazy and the crowds were larger then the previous day, so we didn't linger as long.

View from Christ the Redeemer
 We had a very enjoyable two days in Rio. Our hotel was on Ipanema Beach which was an upscale  area, we felt very safe walking the streets at night. We visited the night market of local crafts on Copacabana beach and contributed to the local economy. Certainly the Rio that we saw was clean and we felt safe but then we weren't walking around the favelas drunk at night, with Real notes hanging out our back pockets singing "The Girl from Ipanema"! Seriously though, we drove past the favelas on the way to the airport and it sure does make you think about how fortunate our lives are.

View from Sugar Loaf with Copacabana in distance

 Back home we took a quick detour up to Ottawa to visit our darling daughter ( Hi Sammy) who is still dealing ( magnificently) with complications due to a ruptured achilles which occurred back in March.  Then it was home for my Nephew Greg and Laura's wedding, which despite the rain ( the ceremony was outside) was a lovely affair.   I was fortunate enough to get together with close friends( whom i will now miss greatly) and now here we are at the airport waiting for our flights back to Rio. Tomorrow we will make the 2 plus hour drive back to Frade where Zooropa awaits us. We will provision in town and then wait for a favourable wind to blow us up the Brazilian coast as we continue our trip to Trinidad.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Grand Isle indeed

  We have had three weeks here in the Ilha Grande area, how time flies. What a special place this is. We are surrounded by lush green mountains, it seems that around every corner there is a white sand beach, the water is a beautiful green-turquoise and there are multiple bays tucked behind headlands or islands in which to drop anchor. Just about every day is sunny and warm, I think we have had fewer than a handful of grey cloudy days.

We have walked beaches, kayaked, swam and (my new favourite) played beach tennis. To top it all off, the island of Ilha Grande  has a network of hiking trails surrounding the island. So you drop anchor in a bay, swim, kayak or dingy in to shore, walk to one end of the beach and pick up the trail. They are generally well sign posted and well trodden. Because of the elevations here you are guaranteed to get the heart rate up and a good sweat on !.
Walking on Lopes Mendes beach, possibly the worlds nicest beach?

Downtown Abraau. Tourist and provisioning hub of the Island

Hiking in the hills

There's Zooropa!  

Small fishing village
 One more week of this and then it's off to Rio.