Sunday, 26 May 2013

Nics Diary - Part 13 St Lucia to theBritish Virgin Islands & Bermuda crossing.

Nic’s Diary – Part 13

Mandys link with her photos: The Baths Guadalupe

Places Visited:
St Lucia – Rodney Bay
St Martin – Marigot Bay
British Virgin Islands (BVIs) – Virgin Gorda, Virgin Tortola, Norman Island
Also, a daily diary of our crossing from BVIs to Bermuda
This blog entry covers 28.4.13 – 25.5.13, from picking up our crew, and our sail to Bermuda.

St Lucia
On the 30/4 I felt the babies first flutter, so I was really happy. I asked ‘all the mummies out there’ on Facebook if what I was feeling was actually the baby as I have no idea!! It was like a tiny vibration inside of me – really cute.

After a slight delay with our first new crew members flight, Mandy (39 years old, from the USA) joined us on the 1st of May. Graham (60 years old from England) joined us a couple of days later.

Finally we collected Stevies sparkly new passport, and he was dancing with joy all day!! (It’s been 7 months since he lost his other one, on a drunken night out to the bingo and casino in Gibraltar).
We moved out to the anchorage on the 5/5 and all 4 of us spent a good few hours diving under the boat to scrub off the green slime that always manages to grow!!

Once the hull was nice and shiny, we headed off to St Martin, to start stocking up for the Atlantic crossing.

Maybe time for some new flip flops?


As the conditions for our sail to St Martin were getting a little annoying – currents and winds against us – we decided to stop at Guadeloupe for the night. On our approach it started to rain, and visibility was poor. We dropped our anchor, dried off, and managed to go to land for some dinner in between showers. We had a good night’s sleep, and then headed off to St Martin (once again) in the morning.

St Martin

We spent a few days here, got in a massive 4 trolley load of shopping in preparation for our Atlantic crossing.

Just a wee bit of shopping!!

We took Mandy on a long walk to see the bar where the planes fly over really closely when landing. Mental note – do not walk for over 1 hour, on rough ground, when pregnant, wearing flip flops – my right foot was killing me.

Much busier than when we were last here in Jaunary
I managed to get a second scan of the baby, and had the date calculated as 10 days further ahead than I thought, making the due date the 7th October (My best friend Amanda will be pleased, as this is her birthday). It was fantastic, as I had my own screen, and managed to see everything. Stevie was allowed in too, and we both had a wee tear. The baby really is a fully formed baby now – it’s fab to see. The report was again in French, and we interpreted that the age of the baby is calculated by measuring all of the organs, and dating them. I wasn’t surprised to see everything measuring up to be 17-18 weeks old, and the brain to be 20 weeks old – definitely Stevies baby!!!

20 wk old - medium sized bump!!
Stevie 30 wks - large bump - he he!!


Well, the pain in my right foot worsened within the next few days, to the extent that I could not walk on it. It felt like the whole sole had tightened into a spasm. Some serious muscle damage I think. I had painkillers, and deep heat on the boat, but surprise, surprise every bit of medication says ‘do not take when pregnant until you consult a doctor or pharmacist’. Of course, we had no internet to google, so I had to hobble (tears and all) to the nearest pharmacy. He advised using the things I had, but the next day it wasn’t much better. As we were about to commence our 6 day sail to Bermuda, I decided it was time to visit the doctor. He gave a little chuckle when I said the distance I had walked in flip flops, and prescribed me an analgesic cream, that worked a treat. I got him to do a quick pregnancy check too, and he confirmed all is well.

We enjoyed the BV!s, although we felt like we were slowly going back to the ‘real world’, after a few months in the rest of the Caribbean. The prices were pretty ridiculous, and it was full of charter boats. The supermarkets were poorer than some of the rest of the Caribbean, with fresh meat, dated 2012, at room temperature in the freezer – no thanks!!

We had a fab day out at the baths at Virgin Gorda and the Devils beach. We were unable to bring our dingy ashore, so we tied to a bouy, and swam the rest of the way. The walk along the beach consisted of crawling and climbing through some caves, that were formed by massive granite  boulders. Probably one of my favourite days out so far.

We moved around to Norman Island, where there were no houses, but a couple of bars. One of the bars was a floating boat called Willy T’s, where the alcoholic crew members (and Stevie) enjoyed a night out!! I opted for a quiet night in with a movie!!


We caught up with our friends from home, Chris and Steve on yacht Chewsy. It was great to see them again. The last time we saw them was in Antigua, several months ago, and said our ‘final’ farewells, as we did not expect to be crossing back across the Atlantic at that point.

On the 16/5 we left the BVIs for our sail to Bermuda, as the weather window looked good for the next wee while. Chewsy had left in the morning, also heading to Bermuda.

Daily Diary – BVIs to Bermuda

So finally we are off. Definitely a sense of excitement and relief, that we eventually have a descent weather window to commence our crossing. 850 miles and an estimate of 6-7 days, heading due North to (apparently) chilly Bermuda. In all honesty, we are all looking forward to cooling down a little, as 4 bodies on a boat, in the start of the rainy season in the Caribbean was getting a little uncomfortable!!

17.5.13 – 3am-6am watch

My first night shift of the journey, and we are flying along at 6-7kts, with 18kts of wind close hauled. I am keeping a close eye on things, such as the dreaded black cloud s!! We are off to a fabulous start, and Stevie recons that if this progress keeps up, we may make it in 5 days.  All good, so far wind wise, and no boats around – a lot quieter than I thought this area may be.

18.5.13 - 6am – 9am watch

Beautiful sunrise shift, but not a terribly great day!! I was downstairs at around 6.30pm last night, helping Mandy with dinner, when Stevie decided to start the engine, to give the batteries a good charge for the night. Immediately we both knew that something wasn’t right, as the bang and clatter from the engine sounded awful. I shouted to Stevie   that it didn’t sound right, and to shut it off, but he already knew, and the fuel shut off valve would not work. The engine would not stop, and it started to over rev, sending big black clouds of smoke into the air!! Mandy and I grabbed fire extinguishers in case needed, and Stevie  managed to shut off the fuel supply down stairs. We knew instantly that what just happened wasn’t good, and after much discussion with Graham and investigation, we found fuel in the sump. Looking like possibly a damaged seal of some sort, and not repairable until we reached land, the consideration as to whether or not to turn back was on the cards. With 160 miles covered until this time, and still good winds, we decided to contact my brother Neil in Bermuda, who put us in touch with the Bermudan coastguard (via my mum – thanks mum and sorry for worrying you!!). My friend Steve from home gave us an up to date weather forecast, which predicted 2 days of calm, but no storm to follow, as we originally were worried about. The other consideration was running out of all power. We had new batteries, but we were worried about the solar not being able to keep them charged enough to last the night, also we only had a tiny amount of petrol for the generator. After considering all of the possibilities, we decided to continue to Bermuda.

We are still making good progress, but expect the wind to die down soon.

18.5.13 7pm

Well as predicted, we have had a very slow day due to the wind dying on us. Morale a little low, so we decided to crack open a tin of Quality Street, and life suddenly seems a little better with chocolate!! Most of my watch during the day has been spent trying to turn the boat a little to stop the sails collapsing so much, reducing the chance of damage to them or the rigging. Stevie is very worried, that 48hours of no wind could do harm to our rigging, and then we would really be in trouble. Quite an intense 24 hours, to say the least. On the bright side, we are well stocked with food and water, for continuing on to our Atlantic crossing, so there are no concerns there. In fact, I am starting to wonder if this trip will take longer than the actual crossing at this rate!! No other boats been seen for a while, and no exciting wildlife to report.

19.5.13 5pm

Thankfully the wind picked up a little last night, and for once clouds have become my friends. They tend to bring gusts of wind with them, lasting approximately 20 mins, and we fly along for this time. You just need to keep a close eye that things don’t get too carried away, as we have heard that some of the squalls around here can increase to 35kts in minutes – a little too much!! I am starting to enjoy the challenge of having no engine now that we are over the initial shock of it. I have to really think about sail trim, and the best course to take, when Stevie is resting. It’s taken away some of the monotony of sailing, and is making it an exciting challenge (you have to look on the bright side!!). Glad to be making good progress once again. We asked for an up to date weather forecast today, and looks like the wind has increased for our benefit!! Fingers crossed this continues. 370 miles gone, and 480 miles to go!! Current speed 6.5kts – excellent!!

21.5.13 6pm

Well the last 24 hrs have been really crap to put it politely. The wind really kicked off after dinner last night. We put a second reef in the main, and minutes later there was a bit of a clatter. We wondered what had happened now, and realised that our topping lift for the boom had snapped, and was trailing in the water. (problem 2 of the journey – what next??). We never release our topping lift when the sail is up, as our boom can gradually lower and hit off the bimney, also the noise of the loose rope can become annoying.  

The whole day yesterday involved strong winds on our nose, resulting in constantly banging and smashing into the waves. No chance of sleep for anyone, and a few things flying inside of the boat. Everyone was getting a little tired of a very crap passage.

Next drama of the last 24 hrs – just to really rub salt into the wounds - our fridge has quit cooling due to the constant heeling over and the smashing into waves. (Number 3 problem, and hopefully the last). This has happened before, and usually turning it off for about an hour is enough to settle it, but not in this case. Luckily enough, most of our fresh meat was eaten, and the remaining food (cheese etc) appears to be ok. I am trusting my super sensitive pregnancy nose to keep us safe!!

It’s been really cold, and we are wearing 3 layers or more on a night shift these days – I miss the Caribbean!!

All in all a truly crap day – but on the bright side our batteries have been coping really well, and the generator has only been used to top them up once.

22.5.13 – 1pm

Well things finally calmed down yesterday, and everyone got a good sleep so we are all feeling much better. The fridge still isn’t 100% but we are still eating ok. We have seen another boat, and heard a few on the radio, so finally we are not all alone! Eta 5-6am tomorrow morning. My wonderful wee brother, Neil, has arranged a boat to assist us into the harbour in the morning, and I have asked him to bring some cold champagne as a wee celebration is definitely in order. Also, we made radio contact with our friends Chris and Steve, who we knew were crossing the same time as us. They have had a wee leak on their boat, and a bit of a crap time too. They plan to arrive the same time, and will be joining us for a wee glass of champers!! 95 miles to go!!!

Stevie has heated the water with the generator (as the batteries are fine and we are nearly there), and we have all been treated to hot showers – luxury!!

23.5.13 – 2.30pm

Finally we have arrived in Bermuda. Things didn’t quite go to plan, as we lost all wind during the night, as Chewsy had predicted. Luckily for us (and a big thank you), Chewsy made their way over to our course when they heard about our engine failure, and low power causing our VHF signal to be poor. They reached us around 10.30pm last night – just as the wind had died. We were having a dilemma as we really wanted to lower our main sail, and pole out the genoa, as the poor wind had shifted onto our bum, and this would be the best sail set up for these conditions. However, the dilemma was, that due to our topping lift for the boom being non-existent, then we would have to use our spinnaker halliard, but we also needed this rope for the pole. Decision time - Should we lower the main and not be able to raise it again, in order to put up our pole – and risk having no control of our boat to turn into the wind, as this would involve no sails being up for a few minutes? Chewsy had offered a tow from this point, but as there were still 60 miles or so to go, we felt that this would be too much to ask. So, using the spinnaker halliard, we gently lowered our main sail, then, managed to turn the boat to get the wind onto the genoa, to then raise this sail with the pole out. Unfortunately, after all of our brainstorming and efforts, the wind was still so poor that even the poled out genoa was collapsing. So, at 2.30am we decided to take up the lovely offer of a tow for the remaining 50 miles. Thank you so much Chewsy – you are a super star!! 

Chewsy to the rescue!!

The tow was much easier than I expected. No steering required, and no jerking like you get in a car – just plain sailing!!

For some strange reason, it appeared that the coast guard had changed their mind and decided that Neil was not allowed to tow us in. Steve, from Chewsy, got on the radio, and told the coast guard that they had been towing us for 50 miles and would be bringing us into the harbour. As Bermudan customs are strict, they insisted that we must tie up to the customs dock – even if we did not have an engine!!! Steve, luckily knew what he was doing, and rafted our 2 boats alongside each other to make this possible. It appeared that there were several boats hovering around the harbour, some waiting since 8am, to tie up to the dock to check in. I immediately got on to the radio and explained that there was no way that if they were going to make us tie up with no engine, that we were going to hover around, rafted up, for hours on end, risking damage to both of our yachts. They eventually said it was ok for us to jump the que. 

Rafted up with Chewsy, waiting our turn for check in

So, finally we dropped our anchor, after checking in, and opened our well-deserved bottle of champagne.

My wee brother popped around later in the evening, and was telling me how frustrated he felt about the whole towing in situation – one minute the coastguard said it was fine, the next it was a ‘no’. Never mind, all good in the end, and it’s been fab to catch up with him. Drew, my brother in law, has had a wee look at the engine, and we think it may be repairable, and not a new engine, as we dreaded it may be.

The plan is to tow us around to the Yanmar mechanics in Hamilton in a few days, for them to have a proper look.

We went out with my wee brother and his in laws yesterday on their wee boat. So nice to relax, and catch up with them. Definitely a nice end to a rather hard going week!!!

We also visited Neils new home (which is beautiful), and had a BBQ. My first time in a house for over a year!!

BBQ lunch at Neils with Graham, Shelly, Mandy & Neil

Swimming with Neil & Pita the dog
Well, that’s about all for now. We are all well rested and feeling much better. Missing you all millions, and hopefully be catching up with some of you soon?? Lots of love, Nicola and ‘medium sized’ bump!!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Nics Diary – Part 12

Places Visited:

St Lucia – Soufrier, Marigot Bay
St Vincent & Grenadines – Bequia,  Mayreau, Tobago Cays, Union Island (Chatham Bay)
Carriacou - Hilsburgh & Tyrell Bay
Grenanda – St Georges, Prickly Bay, Hog Island

This entry covers 5.4-28.4.13. Over the last month or so, whilst waiting for Stevies Passport to arrive in St Lucia, we decided to head south and see some more islands. We have recently celebrated our 2nd year anniversary of being together (20th April), and our 1 year sailing anniversary (22nd April).  Boy how time flies. We cannot believe that we have been sailing for one whole year already (apparently I am now a real sailor – says the captain)!! What a fab time we have had!

Pregnancy wise, everything is going well – even my nausea at sea has finally calmed down - all looking good for the next Atlantic crossing!

16 weeks - and yes my ass is getting fat too!!

St Lucia:

We attempted to anchor in the small inlet outside of the bay in Marigot, but unfortunately the holding wasn’t very good, so we headed further south to Soufrier and stayed the night. Soufrier was very smelly (of sewage -not so good for a pregnant sensitive nose!!) and felt a little unsafe so we did not go to land here, but enjoyed the nice view of the Pitons. 

The Pitons

The next day we decided to return to Marigot bay and take a mooring ball inside the bay. Marigot bay is very touristy, has a few resorts and restaurants, and a wee bit of beach where you could swim. We had seen another yacht ‘Hanta Yo’ many times on our travels, both in the med and in the Caribbean. We decided to pop over and say ‘hi’. We jokingly told them that they must be following us, as we had seen them many times over the last year. They didn’t say much, so we assumed that many people must tell them the same, as they have a very unique, easily identified yacht, as the name is written along the whole side of the hull, in bright green.

Marigot bay is a very pretty place, but little to do, so we checked out, and headed for Bequia.


A wee while after arriving in Bequia, surprise, surprise, Hanta Yo appeared. They popped over and invited us for a drink. We had a good chat, and it turned out that they had been to most of the same places in the med as us, and at the same time, as we had first thought! Talk about a small world! Both Juergen and Antje (sorry if I have spelt it wrong) were lovely and it was great to share stories of our adventures. They happened to be heading in the same direction, over the next week or so, so we agreed to meet in Tobago Cays in a couple of days. 

Bequia was quite pretty, with nice beaches, and a lovely shore walkway. We managed to pick up a wee bit of food, but the supermarket wasn’t so super so tins were looking like an option over the next wee while. 


Hanta Yo left before us, but as there yacht was smaller (and slower) than ours, we soon caught up with them on the crossing to Mayreau. We first saw them on AIS, they we put the foot down, so that we could catch up, and take some nice photos of them sailing, and they took photos of us too. 

We stayed the night in Mayreau, where there was a wee bit of a town, and some pretty beaches. We were starting to get the feeling that we were reaching some isolated islands, with still no sign of any reasonable supermarkets!

Tobago Cays:

Tobago Cays are a group of wee islands, protected by reefs, and they were beautiful. Not a house, supermarket, or restaurant in sight though. Some of the water around the islands was quite shallow, giving it a beautiful turquoise green colour. There were white sandy beaches, with palm trees – exactly what I imagined the Caribbean to be like. I have to admit, from never being to the Caribbean before, and only seeing it on TV or brochures, I have been really surprised at the lack of palm tree beaches, with beautiful waters! So, I was really pleased to see what I had been dreaming of. 

We stayed there for a few days, and had Hanta Yo over for dinner. I never in my life imagined inviting neighbours round for dinner, and only being able to offer them corned beef hash, as we had no fresh meat! They didn’t mind, as they had little food too. 

The following day we visited another island, had a swim, and climbed to the top for some stunning views. We called this island ‘lizard island’ as it was full of big iguanas! Juergen snorkelled around this island in search of lobster, as Antje really wanted some for dinner. He saw quite a few, but they were too fast for him to catch!

Jeurgen & Antje

Union Island – Chatham Bay:

Moving on, with Hanta Yo, we went to Union Island to check out, and decided to stay in Chatham bay for the night. There was nothing there except for a few restaurants on the beach. Boatie boys from each restaurant came around the yachts, trying to persuade us to come for dinner. After a little haggling, all four of us decided to go to a restaurant that was offering lobster for dinner. We were the only guests in the restaurant, and the lobster was yummy – to Antje’s delight!


We travelled here again with Hanta Yo, and after checking in at Hilsburgh, we moved around the corner to Tyrell Bay. Still with no food on board, and no real supermarkets in sight, we again decided to eat out. We found a tiny wee shack on the beach that was offering dinner really cheap, and a camp fire on the beach to follow. We had a lovely evening – delicious food, then singing around the fire, with some locals jaming along with drums!


I was really looking forward to visiting Grenada as apparently it was previously regarded as being outside the hurricane zone, and hence was busy with cruisers who lived there much of the year.  We checked in at St Georges, where I was absolutely delighted to find a real supermarket, which even gave a discount to boaties! For me, it felt like Christmas! It even had butterkist toffee popcorn – fantastic!!

Unfortunately we said ‘good bye’ to hanta you here, as they were heading towards panama, and we would be heading back north, after visiting some bays on the island. It was so nice to have some female company for a while. Antje agreed, and was almost in tears when we said goodbye! We had a fab time with them – you will be missed hanta yo!!

We moved on to Prickly bay – which is meant to be the highlight of the island for cruisers. The marina there did live music on a Friday night, and the atmosphere was great. We met quite a few people that night – and really enjoyed ourselves. Unfortnately, the anchorage was really rolly, so we moved on to an anchorage around the corner. 

This anchorage was next to a tiny island called Hog Island. Apparently it is ‘the place to be’ for cruisers on a Sunday, as the beach bar (the only thing on the island) has a cruisers BBQ. We went along in the afternoon, but didn’t find the atmosphere terribly inviting. We returned to the boat around 5pm, to find all of the other cruisers just arriving for a sun downer. By the looks of things, during the day it was a party catamaran (not cruisers) that dominated, and the cruisers arrived in the evening. Nevermind, we were too tired to return to the party, so we just had a nosey from the boat. 

Quite a few yachts in this anchorage appeared to be permanent residence. The man on the yacht next door seemed to be going to work each day, and his son was going to school by dinghy! After work he went to the wee bar on hog island, joined by many other yachties, for a sundowner. It looked like quite an established permanent yachtie community. (Not that we spent our time spying on the neighbours!!)

So, after our wonderful adventures of some of the southern islands, we headed back to St Lucia for Stevies Passport (which finally did arrive – thank goodness!), and the collection of our 2 new crew members – Graham and Mandy. I will fill you in on the stories from this time, when I next update the blog in a couple of weeks – hopefully from sunny Bermuda!