Thursday, January 30, 2014

Look Out World: Here We Come!

Raising the World ARC flag
The big day had finally arrived. On Saturday, January 11, 2014, we left the dock at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia and headed out of the marina to the Start Line for the 2014 World ARC. There are about 4 boats that were to start with us or join somewhere along the way. Many are going to complete their circumnavigation in about 16 months and return to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia in April of 2015. A few of the boats are headed back to their homes somewhere in the Pacific and will leave the World ARC then.

Another small group of us are planning to head to New Zealand in October and will rejoin World ARC 2015 when it comes through Australia in the fall of 2015, returning to St. Lucia in April 2016. We are looking forward to meeting those who are taking more time to complete the circumnavigation.

Unfortunately, several boats had to turn back for repairs or equipment. We have not yet learned the details, but our numbers arriving in the San Blas Islands off Panama are slightly smaller than expected. The remaining fleet arrived over a three day period so we are staying somewhat together on the seas. Those that had issues are supposed to catch up by the time the last group transits the Panama Canal.

Our friends on Nexus
We had an uneventful crossing which is a good thing! Harold and Christel had advised that we stay at least 60 miles off the coast of Columbia, which we did. If you were following our track, you may have thought we were going to Jamaica! The wind was East and East North East all the way so we were being moved along nicely. Trillium loves to sail in 20-30 knots of wind even when the swells are 6-9 feet. We were being set to the north some of the time so needed to tack a couple of times to come back down to our course. Our friends on S/V Nexus reported 40 knots of wind off the coast of Columbia and a rough ride. I am glad we chose to stay further off the headland.

Wing and wing
It was our first time sailing wing and wing. We poled out the genoa on the side opposite the mainsail. This really steadied the boat and required very little tweaking of the sails once we had them balanced.  We were able to maintain this sail plan through the night as well. The timing of the Start was probably good planning on behalf of the World Cruising Club, as we had a beautiful full moon for 6 nights in a row! It was lovely night sailing. We keep a steady speed between 6.5 and 8 knots over ground depending of the wind. At times, we were surfing the huge swells and would register 10+ knots of the ride.

After everyone settled into the motion of the boat (I had my usual challenge with mal de mare for two days), we were able to eat, sleep, read and enjoy the passage. Unfortunately we were skunked in the fishing department. I think we were going too fast. Hopefully we will have better luck on the longer passage coming up. Some of menu planning was counting on, but not dependent on, some fresh fish!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Friends – New and Old

Law partners and friends: Dennis and Loretta
While in Rodney Bay Marina, we reconnected with sailors from previous Rallies. We had just tied up to the dock when friends from Switzerland came up in their dinghy to say “hello” and catch up. We first met the owners of S/V Callista in our first Caribbean 1500 Rally in 2010. We haven’t seen them since then. Just after they left, a couple arrived on the dock to welcome us. It was David and Julie from S/V Mahalo. We had sailed with David and his crew in another Caribbean 1500 Rally. In fact, we have David’s crew joining us on the leg from the Galapagos to Marquesas. This will be Tom’s third trip on S/V Trillium and we look forward to meeting Tony from Wisconsin.

WARC Welcome Party
The World Cruising Club provided several evenings of entertainment and opportunities to meet other boat owners and crews. These events are a welcome break from the frantic list of tasks to be completed before the starting date. We had a great crew who worked well as a team to get Trillium ready to sail again. Loretta had to head back to cold and snowy Detroit. Vicky and Peter arrived and had a car available for provisioning, which was a great help. Ron arrived and jumped right into the preparations. This is Ron's third time on S/V Trillium. It is great to have returning crew members.

A job or two for everyone!
There was laundry to do (always), propane to fill, provisioning, skippers’ meetings, weather briefings and the like to fill the days. Of course, rain always managed to burst out of the clouds every few hours. Last minute shopping at the local vendors on the marina property topped off our fresh items.

Just before we were to cast off, we had a lovely surprise. Harold and Christel from S/V Sophie appeared on the dock! We had not seen this German couple since Caribbean 1500 Rally 2010. We had taken them with us to dinner and had a chance to get to know them a little. Then I followed them as they participated in World ARC 2012. Seeing them again was a nice surprise. They gave us several pointers about the circumnavigation that have already paid off.

There is much discussion about whether “to rally or not.” There are always pros and cons to every decision, but for us there are a number of reasons we choose to sail with the World Cruising Club:

  • While there may not be “safety in numbers”, there is comfort in knowing you are not out there alone. In port or anchorage, we fly our WCC flags so we can find each other.
  • The WCC takes care of many of the legal formalities with the various ports of call. Yes, we pay a hefty fee to sail with them, but we avoid hiring agents and many of the hassles of checking in with Immigrations and Customs. These formalities can take several days when sailing independently.
  • We enjoy the daily roll call so we know the position of everyone in the fleet. Sure it helps to know where they are if you a serious about winning a leg, but more importantly, we know who is near us for assistance if needed. It is always fun to see one of the Rally boats appear on the AIS screen. Then we call them on the VHF to chat.

Personally, we like the rally format because of all of the personal connections like the ones above. It is more fun when you come into an anchorage or marina and see someone whom you have met before. Catching up on each others’ travels makes for good conversation. And the smiles say so much!

Friday, January 24, 2014

100th Aniversary of Panama Canal

The shortest way from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
What an exciting time to be passing through the Panama Canal on our own vessel! I remember how interesting my Mother found her passage on a cruise ship. Now we will do it with other yachts in the World ARC. Apparently, they will raft several of us together as we pass through the locks. The only other time I have experienced passing through locks was on our honeymoon when we took a river cruise from Budapest to Vienna.

I wonder how long this will take?
The Panama Canal was opened in 1914 and was considered "the greatest liberty ever taken with nature" at a cost of over $400 million. It also took 33 years to complete. The 50 mile span allows for the movement of international trade between the Atlantic via the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific oceans. It was a truly historic engineering feat- especially at that time!

Of course, political pressure over the years have played a role in the Canal's history. The French attempted to build a sea-level canal in the late 19th century. Both a lack of engineering capability and the onset of diseases impeded their progress. The United States became involved and took over the project with construction starting in 1903 when Theodore Roosevelt was our President. Over 100,000 workers were involved in the project.

It will be an interesting trip across Panama.
Once completed in 1914, the Panama Canal was considered one of the seven wonders of the world! In the past few years, the Canal has been widened with a third lane at the cost of $5.25 billion. As ships became larger in size and trade increased, it was necessary to keep the cargo traffic moving freely through the Canal. Of course, a few years ago, the United State's lease expired and the Panama Canal was turned over to the government of Panama.

Once we are going through the canal, I will take our own photos and videos to share. Of course, the real excitement lies on the other side of the canal: the Pacific Ocean where we will spend the next year exploring!

We are scheduled to make our passage on January 28th. We will report from the other side!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Off to the Market! A New Experience

Loretta and Laurie with Ericka and Ness
We girls had a day out! Actually a day at the open air market in Castries which was a 20 minute bus ride away from the marina. Laurie, Ness and Ericka from Nexus and Loretta and I made the trek. I am sure I will see many and a great variety of these markets as we continue around the globe. The bus ride was only $2.50 EC each way, which is less than $1 USD.

Just put the goods on the ground!
There is obvious price fixing within the market so there is no real bargain hunting. This is not a problem since things are so inexpensive based on our US shopping. The market is colorful and lively. Pleasantly, the vendors do not hound you or try to negotiate. If you want to move on, you just say "thank you" and move on.
That piece on the left was our dinner!

We bought a large bunch of bananas for $1 EC. That is around $0.35 USD! We found a butcher with meat just laying there in the open. The first time, we passed by thinking: YUCK. Then Loretta reminded me that this market will probably look really good compared to what I am going to experience in the islands of the South Pacific! The next time we passed the butcher, we bought a nice hunk of beef. It was something like a roast so into the pressure cooker it went! Out came a wonderful pot roast dinner with potatoes, onions and carrots. Along with a nice bottle of Chianti, dinner was the beginning of a lovely evening!

Ness bargained with the fish monger and came out with a beautiful Mahi Mahi (also called dolphin fish - not the mammal). We bought three pieces from her and had that for dinner with some of the fresh vegetables. And of course, fruit for dessert.

He is preparing a coconut so I could drink the water in it.
Along the way, I was looking for coconuts. I had my first lesson in coconuts and of course, I always learn the hard way. The coconut I chose was yellow-green and filled with yummy coconut water. However, I was expecting the coconut meat,. Now I know that I need to find the brown husky ones and have them cracked open with a machete to get to the little brown coconut that I wanted!

And our fruits and bread.
We had a full morning of shopping, bought three bags of goodies and did not spend more than $50 USD. I saw so many different root vegetables that I have no idea about how to cook them or what they taste like. Since I have limited storage space, I decided not to bring any back to the boat. We will probably return to the market again before we leave for Panama on January 11.

The next task is washing all of the produce as soon as it gets aboard because we don't want to take any hitchhikers with us, i.e. bugs, spiders, snakes, etc. I am not looking forward to seeing any of those creatures on board with me, but I am sure I will have the experience at some point! ICK! In fact, I was lying awake in my berth looking out the porthole when it occurred to me that any dock critter could just jump on board and right in on me! OOOOOHH!

Their version of fast food!
On the way out of the market, the gals stopped for a snack at a little "fast food" joint. It did not appeal to me. I guess I am going to have to learn to be more flexible in my tastes and sanitary food requirements to survive this adventure.

Remember: you can follow our track at Click on World ARC and then on Fleet Tracker on the upper left. Scroll down to Trillium and watch us go. And remember, we love to get comments from you on the blog so we can stay somewhat connected. Your email address will not be shared so you don't have to be anonymous!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

St. Lucia! At Last!!!

Leaving Mt. Pelee behind.
There were times when I didn't think we were going to make it to St. Lucia for the start of the World ARC! I know Dennis was confident, but I was extremely frustrated with the repairs and the wind/weather situation. When Loretta showed me the weather she had been watching before flying down to Guadeloupe, I saw the extremely strong Sahara winds (that are still blowing) and understood why we were struggling with the wind. It didn't change anything, but it helped me put it into perspective.

A welcome site: St. Lucia!
Following our two nights and a day of sightseeing in St. Pierre, Martinique, it was time to raise anchor and head south again. As we passed the port of Fort de France, we knew we had made the right decision to stay in St. Pierre. The bay is huge and it would have added hours to our trip just to get in and out of there.

When passing on the lee side of an island, the winds are calmer, but somewhat squirrely. The mountains affect the way the air flows down and out to sea. Once you pass the headlands and reach the open channels, the wind is totally different - and almost always, much stronger. We had a good sail across the Martinique Channel to St.Lucia. With some motor sailing, we were able to maintain our course against the east to west current and the heavy swells.

Entering the Rodney Bay Marina while passing the
local fishermen and their boats.
On our way south, we were approached by a northbound yacht. As it came into view, I noted the burgundy sail cover and wondered if it could be our friends, Rick and Julie on Altier. Sure enough, it was! What fun to see someone you know in the middle of a passage and pass within a few hundred yards of each other. Dennis got on the VHF and had a great chat with them.

Rodney Bay Marina office
Wow! We finally have arrived in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia! It is a great marina and we were able to dock opposite our friends on Nexus, a 60' catamaran. It was good to see them again.

We had just tied up when a dinghy pulled along side. It was friends from Callista, whom we had met in the Caribbean 1500 Rally in 2010. They live in Switzerland most of the time so we haven't seen them since we left them in Nanny Cay, BVI. Just as they pulled away, David and Julie from Mahalo. another Hallberg-Rassy, knocked on the side of our boat. Again, we had not seen David since Caribbean 1500 in 2011. What fun! It was like "old home week!"

Friday, January 10, 2014

Moving South to Martinique

Roseau from the sea
 After two wonderful days in Prince Rupert's Bay in northern Dominica, it was time to move south again. We actually had wonderful weather for it on New Year's Eve Day. Since it was too far to make a run for Martinique in daylight, we stopped in Roseau, the capital of Dominica, for the night. After an enterprising boat boy (who probably was not officially one) helped us moor and another pair brought us some ice, we were ready to relax. The pair was looking for beer, too, but they settled for rum and coke!

Street in St. Pierre
We did not go ashore as we were not sure how they celebrate. We were hoping it was not going to be "Detroit style" with gun shots. Fortunately, it was very quiet on the waterfront. There was music coming from shore but nothing else.Ours was a quiet night after we finished a dinner of ham and escalloped potatoes, we pretty much crashed. We didn't even crack open the chilled champagne! It was a group decision to welcome 2014 at breakfast!

Still showing Flat Stanley the sights for
the Monteith First Graders!
The waterfront in St. Pierre
The sail across the Martinique Channel was a good one. As usual, the wind was more on the nose than we would have liked, but the real challenge was the east to west current. The more we turned to the east to offset the current, the more we faced into the wind. I can see why these islands are called The Windward Islands. The wind and swells are strong and steady. At least it was a sunny day so it made for a good sail.

We chose to anchor at St. Pierre rather than at Fort de France. We prefer visiting the small villages rather than going into large ports. Large ports are like train stations: they are never in the best part of town and they are busy and industrial. In the villages, we can meet people, see how they live and experience their culture.
Fresh vegetables at last!

This was our first chance to shop at the local open air market. It was great to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. When I was purchasing some cucumbers, I asked the lady who only spoke French (and I do not), how much for the cucumbers. She used her fingers with her words to indicate 1 Euro per kilogram. Okay. I am not sure how many that will buy so I loaded three onto her scale. She then threw what looked like a one pound bag of dried beans on the other side of the scale and said to me: more! So I kept adding cucumbers until she smiled and removed the bean bag. I got more cucumbers than I thought possible for 1 Euro!

A view in the theater that was lost to the volcano.
We always visit the local churches.
Contemporary stained glass window tell the story of
the resurrection of St. Pierre after the eruption of Mt. Pelee
After checking in and out with Immigration, we toured the sights of the museum and the remains of the theater and jail. In 1902, the 250 year old city of St. Pierre was totally wiped out by an eruption of Mt. Pelee. The people died instantly from the blast, heat, gases and ash. It was not the lava flow that got them. Even those trying to escape in ships in the harbor, died and the boats sank. The harbor still has the wrecks of 11 ships below the surface - in the deep area so they do not affect boats like ours.

Until the eruption, St. Pierre had a population of 30,000 and was a booming city, known as Little Paris. The farm land around the town was rich and fruitful. Today, it is plush and green due to the numerous daily showers and the sunshine. The town only has a population of 5,000 as the capital was moved down to the southern end of the island away from the volcano to Fort de France. Now St. Pierre is a quiet village.

We enjoyed getting warm bread and pastries at the bakery. And we had a wonderful dinner at La Tamaya, a well-known restaurant. Hopefully it will retain its reputation with the new owners who just opened on January 1st. Based on our meals, they will be successful. I can still savor the flavors of my veal chop Normandy-style!

Relaxing with a cold one while I fight with the Internet!
The biggest frustration we had here was trying to get Internet service;. We visited and Internet cafe/bar and purchased 20 hours for 15 Euros. However, we could never get online as we were caught in some loop that wanted us to pay again. After fighting with it for hours on several computers and tablets, it was obvious that the seller had not activated the code I purchased. That required a return to the Internet cafe. Unfortunately, our timing was terrible because they were serving lunch and did not want to be bothered with me. I held my ground and after wasting an hour there, he finally gave me the money back.

That was the good news. The bad news was NO INTERNET AGAIN. Just as I was frustrated when I had my cell phone bundled with the home and office land lines and Internet service, I realize when you can't make it work, you can't work! I had the experience of a check getting lost in the mail so they cut off my service,. resulting in no way to communicate at all. That was the end of "bundling" for me! Do keep in mind that as we all become more dependent on the Internet for everything, it can go away in a nano-second. And then you have no access to anything. So as we continue our journey west into the Pacific islands, you will not hear from us often as Internet will be very limited or non-existent.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

More From Dominica

Mother Nature sculpted the terrain at Red Rock.
As we continued our island tour with Paul, we visited a volcanic area which was most interesting. The area is called Red Rock. From a distance, it looks like the red rocks of Sedona, AZ. However, it is the compressed ash of a very old lava flow. When walking on it, you see the sculptural forms created be Mother Nature. This is just one of the many reasons the Dominicans refer to their island as the island of beauty. Apparently the local young people come here to party. Occasionally one will slip into one of the crevasses and break a leg or something. Sounds like things kids do everywhere!
A beautiful view from on top of Red Rock.

Dominica: Adventures of Day Two

On our second morning, Martin picked us up at the boat and took us in his boat up the Indian River. The area is now a National Park so access is limited to rowing the boats. No power motors allowed. This is a good thing because part of the beauty of the river boat tour is the serenity of the area.We were the only ones in the river until the end of our two hours when we saw a couple of other boats rowing up stream. They seem to have a path they follow so everyone sees the same sights while not causing a boat jam.

Martin jumped out of the boat to grab the crab for us to see.
Catch and release, of course, in a National Park!
Your senses become overloaded with the sounds, sights and smells. With hundreds of species of birds calling out and other creatures popping out of trees and undergrowth, you are totally immersed in nature. Martin hopped out of the boat at one point to catch a large male crab so we  could see it up close.

The roots are beautiful sculptures

One of the most fascinating sights was the trees and their roots that form beautiful wooden sculptures along the banks. Some of the trees are up to 400 years old.
The roots were like drift wood sculptures with a
beautiful patina.
The banks are lined with these beautiful trees. Their roots create a gallery of wooden sculptures,. The photos cannot capture the beauty or detail.

I was fascinated with the roots of these old trees.
The blood root trees line the banks of the river near the mouth. They and several other types of plants play a role in filtering the salt from the water. As the water flows in from the salty ocean, it moves up the river. The fresh water flows down from the hills. These trees and several other plant species have learn to adapt by filtering the salt out of the water so they can survive. Mother Nature sure is clever!

We saw Mullet fish, egrets, cranes, several species of hummingbirds and many others. Most of the plants and animals have a scientific name and a Carib name. It was interesting to hear both of them.

The black thing is the termite nest.
One of the most interesting things we learned was about termites. They live in large black sacs hanging 5-6 feet in the air off living trees. They do no harm to living trees. Their role is to "trim" the dead wood off trees and eat things that have fallen in the forest. We had been wondering about the black lines we had seen running up palm trees. It turns out that the. Termites do not like daylight so they create a tunnel or covered path from the ground up to the top of the palm trees and ascend the tree out of the sunlight. Look for it on the next palm tree you see. The termite nests are always up in the air as they do not like wetness. Their job is to eat the dead growth after the coconut has fallen.
We saw a variety of birds including this egret.

We also learned that the coconut palm grows two rings a year. So you can tell the age of a coconut palm by counting the number of rings and dividing by two. Dominica is covered with palm trees at all elevations as a result of early plantations planting them. When a coconut falls and is not harvested, it will send up a shoot and send down roots to create a new tree. The young shoots are gathered to put into salad or create hearts of palm.

This is a structure built for the movie Pirates of
the Caribbean
but left as it is a replica of what
might have been there.
We discussed the issue of longevity as recently their 128 citizen passed away. Since they grow all of their food in the mountain farms, people each mostly fruits and vegetables with some eggs, chickens and goats. The land is so fertile that fertilizers and other chemicals are not used. People trade what they grow with others who grow different crops. There is a bartering system in place. If you help someone for two days, you can expect him to help you for two days. They are proud to take care of one another.
The canopy of leaves created a feeling
of an outdoor room over the river.

Dominica is a relatively new country in terms of its independence. The people are very proud of their country and very warm to visitors. Many of the younger and middle aged people played a role in founding the new government. Martin very proudly sang their national anthem to us after explaining the design of their flag. It is a very lush country and the people are trying to take care of the natural beauty.

We are looking forward to stopping here on our return trip in a couple of years. And we will be calling Martin on VHF Channel 16 again. Thanks for a wonderful experience, Martin.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dominica: Adventures of Day One

A couple of lawyers! Loretta and Dennis
Loretta arrived in Pointe Pitre on Saturday, December 28. After a lovely dinner out, we prepared the boat for an early departure to Dominica (Dom-in-ee-ka). We had over 40 nautical miles to sail passing between Marie Galante and Isle de Saints to Prince Rupert Bay on the northwest end. Crossing the Guadeloupe Passage was a fast sail with swells in the range of 5-8 feet. Fortunately the wind was on the beam so we actually sailed more than motor sailing. We averaged over 7 knots per hour in a sunny fresh breeze. Finally a really good day for sailing!

We were welcomed by Martin of Providence
While the beaches of Dominica are not wonderful (black sand and rocky), the wild and rugged rainforest and jungle areas provide awesome views, smells, sounds and sights. The rainfall is about 350" annually with numerous showers every day. They are short lived but enough to drench you and keep us opening and closing portholes and hatches. The Sahara winds gather moisture as they cross the Atlantic Ocean from Africa. When they reach the tall volcanic islands, the heavy black clouds drop the rain as it crosses the top of the islands. This year the Sahara winds have been very strong resulting in the wild Christmas Winds we have been fighting on our passages.

Christian the Fruit Man
Upon arrival in Prince Rupert's Bay, we radioed for Martin on Providence to be our tour guide. He has a great reputation as do the other professionals in the PAYES group. The tour guides are highly trained and registered and they provide a number of services: helping secure a mooring ball, taking you to Immigration, setting up island tours, etc. We highly recommend Martin and encourage you to call him on VHF 16 as you enter the bay. Otherwise, the next guide in line at the point will offer his services.

Passion Fruit, Bananas and Grapefruit.
That's Passion Fruit in the bowl and Flat Stanley
who is sending messages to the Montieth First Graders.
Once we were tied up, the Fruit Man whose name is Christian, showed up next to the boat. I bought a couple of passion fruits, bananas and grapefruits from him. Then he asked me for a "little green bottle." I told him that I did not understand what he wanted. He couldn't believe that I didn't know. Finally he told me he wanted a beer! Sorry, we don't carry beer. I later learned the local beer is in a very small little green bottle and it is called Kabuli. He was quite frustrated with me.            

Martin arranged for Paul to take us on an all day driving tour of the northern end of the island. We saw many different villages, each having its own distinction in housing, crops, terrain, and the like.

Paul with the Medicine Woman (herbalist) and her children.
We visited a Carib medicine woman who shared her knowledge about the many plants and their medicinal qualities.It seems that you can cure most everything from female problems to male problems and everything between with a tea from leaves, stems, bark or roots. It is too bad the medical community does not take more of an interest in the ancient medicinal qualities in nature instead of stuffing us full of chemical concoctions!

Lemon grass, bay leaves, viagra, and basil from the hillside.
As we hiked to different sites, Paul gathered plants and fruits to share with us: lemongrass, bay leaves, hearts of palm, basil, grapefruits, limes, passion fruit, and star fruit from his backyard. There was also a chunk of tree bark they call Viagra, but apparently, it is not the one we know from the pharmaceutical company! All of us smirked a little when he named it.

All along the route, Paul stopped to collect herbs and other forms of plant life to share with us. The star fruit from his tree were very large and very yellow. This is how they are supposed to be when you eat them. Not the little green sour things we usually find in the fruit markets. He gave a us a full bag of them so we are able to enjoy and share with our friends on Nexus. 

The way star fruit is supposed to look!
We hiked to the Cold Soufriere (volcano). It is the only cold water volcano in the islands. It is cold because there is so much fresh rain water trickling down that is cools the water bubbling out of the volcano. We walked on the top of the volcano crater. It smelled slightly of sulfur, probably much less than normal due to the lack of hot steam. The water was cool to the touch and did not leave a smell on our hands. 

Paul explained the phenomenon and how the volcano functions here. All of these islands were created from volcanoes hundreds of years ago. Some let off steam and some have blown in recent history causing death and destruction.

On our journey, we enjoyed an lunch of MahiMahi and a number of side dishes, including plantain, white yam, beans, potatoes with cheese and a tomato and corn salad, at a small establishment on the Atlantic Ocean. Our guide advised us that if we leave a cash tip, it goes to the woman waiting on us. If we add it to the credit card bill, the extra is taken by the owner. The currency is EC which stands for East Caribbean Dollar. The exchange rate if about 2.65EC to one US dollar.