Sunday, January 29, 2017

St. Nicholas Abbey

I really wanted to visit St. Nicholas Abbey. It was a sugar plantation back in the day and the home that was built on the estate is only one of three remaining examples of Jacobean architecture in the new world. 
It actually never was an Abbey, one of the mistresses of the estate named it after the parish where she lived, St. Nicholas and the place where she was married, Bath Abbey.  There were conducted tours of the house and the out buildings. The present owners have converted the sugar mill into, you guessed it a rum distillery. The tour include fascinating facts about the house and the furnishings, as well as the history of ownership . Included was a free rum punch as they gave you a sales pitch about the types of rum available from their distillery. I inquired in the shop and a bottle of the rum that had been aged for 18 years would cost $170.00 USD!! We also got to see a movie of the plantations  and scenes from Bridgetown that was taken in 1935 by one of the owners. All the women wore hats in the movie, it was considered unseemly to have a bare head when you were outside in public. 
This is an original lazy boy! It was great, it had a slide up table that came out of the arm for having your tea on, there was a reading light as well as a stand to hold your newspaper, the bottom came out to rest your feet on and the back declined so that you could sleep in it.  The tour guide maintained that the only reason to get out of the chair during no the day was to use the washroom. In the 1700's women were not allowed to own property, so when the plantation became the property of a daughter, her husband's began mysteriously dying.  She went through three husbands and eventually the estate was passed on to her son. I guess she REALLY wanted it to stay in her family! 
Most tourists when they arrive here either come by taxi, tour bus or hired car. We, being the thrifty sailors we are decided to take the local bus.  Getting around the island by bus is not difficult, figuring out how to do it is a big problem. The internet site has a list of destinations and schedules, but no map. Often the destination of the bus is not a large town and they have quaint names like Pie Corner and Stag Hill, which I had a difficult time finding on a map. ANYWAY, after waiting for an hour and a quarter we got on a bus that was not to our destination, but we had been assured by a passenger that we could take a mini van from Speightstown, where we had been before to St. Nicholas Abbey.  So, we did, on the mini van we informed the driver that e wanted to get out at the Abbey. We saw several signs indicating the road to the Abbey so we reminded the driver, he just grunted. Then we stopped by a field with a track running through it and he said just walk down there and you will get there. Sure enough after a lovely stroll through the field we came in the back way and this was our first impression of the estate. 
The current owner is an architect and has an office on the property but does not live in the house.  He purchased to preserve it and turn it into a top notch tourist attraction. You are allowed to sit on the antique furniture which I found quite astounding, but the upper floor is off limits because the stairs are not capable of sustaining the use they would get from everyday wear and tear of thousands of people a year tromping up and down them. 
There was a lovely herb garden just outside the house and mature mahogany trees grew on the property. We saw one woman sitting on a bench enjoying the peace and quiet reading a book. There were guinea fowl running about the estate and we saw a land tortoise waddling by one of the barns. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

What's Happening in the Barbados

This week was race week in the Barbados. There were three days of sailboat races around the buoys and then on the fourth race day they sailed around the island.  We had great fun watching them from our unique vantage point about a kilometre from the start line. One of the marks were within 400 meters of the boat so we got some great views of some pretty fancy boats. We tuned into the race starter's frequency on the VHF so we could figure when the classes were starting.  Some classes had very few boats in the race so we did not see the intricate starts that we have witnessed in the past.  From here, they race to Antigua, 
Close quarters around the buoys, from a distance when they are closing on the marks it looks like a collision is inevitable. 
Popping the spinnakers on the down wind leg. 
This very classic beauty came roaring across the finish line of the round the island race with every possible sail pulling. It was a beautiful site to behold. 
This trimaran would zoom down the course at amazing speeds. Here she is furling in her head sail as she prepares to tack back up to the start line.  She only participated in the round the island race and started at least an hour after all the other boats had left and finished well in advance of any other contender. 
The other fascinating thing for me is the training taking place in the water for a different sport.  It is for the sport of kings, horse racing. There is a track just south of town and they race once every two weeks.  To train the horses they bring them down tin the water and swim them around a few boats before returning to the stables. 
At first the horses are led into the water and splashed to cool them off.  Then they are encouraged to go into the deeper water and their trainers splash the salt water on their heads. Eventually with some encouragement they start swimming, on the way out the trainers stay ahead of them guiding them along and nice they are allowed to head back to shore the guys hang on to their withers and get towed along.  The horses snorts as the extend themselves as they are swimming back are quite audible throughout the anchorage. 
Our newest computer developed a horrible problem with the LED screen so we are waiting for the parts to be shipped here to fix it.  The computer should be ready for pick up at the end of the week. We have decided to head to Grenada after that to haul out and paint the bottom.  It is a spot we have been before and we really enjoyed it so we are looking forward to returning their. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Exploring Barbados

This is the view of the wharf as you enter the canal that leads into the centre of Bridgetown. We dinghy in and tie up just under the first bridge. 
It is a very historic spot with the former parliament buildings just opposite where we land the dock Nagy. 
Tourism is king in the Barbados and we have to run the gauntlet of the taxi drivers when we head into town. We are perceived as cruise ship customers and are constantly asked are you going back to the ship, do you need a taxi? We had a chance to head up the western edge of the island to day and explore a spot called Speightstown. We took a $2 bus instead of a $50 taxi, it was a very noisy ride with music running in the background but a very annoying disc jockey hollering at the top of his lungs rap lyrics or promotional jingles, we must be getting old. 
Once we got to Speightstown we headed to the beach and came across this sign as we wandered along. I think it would go great with the bison crossing sign Barry got from the Dept. Of Highways in the NWT. 
We discovered this mural on the side of a building after a fellow who repeatedly tried to sell us a newspaper, and had no luck directed us down a narrow pathway between two buildings. It hits on some highlights of Barbados history and depicts a famous cave on the island. 
This is a typical Bajun home. It is pretty tiny, very colourfully painted and there is not a lot of space between it and the neighbor. 
As we tried to find our way back t the highway to catch the bus back to Bridgetown we came upon a track meet, or a field day.  Youngsters were standing with their classmates, being cajoled by their teachers and they were cheering the on the runners. Here is the leader of the race we watched, she is headed into the finish line in fine form. 
We were a day late to visit the St. Patrick's Parish flower and garden show but managed to see some of the exhibits before they were totally dismantled. The women who were tidying up the church were kind enough to let us take some pictures of the gorgeous floral displays.
We visited the Barbados Yacht Club yesterday and they are very welcoming to boats that have crossed the Atlantic. They allowed us to have a one week membership, we are given a number and we can charge, food, drinks and merchandise during that time.  The best part is that they have a great library and can exchange the paperbacks we have been reading since leaving the Canaries for new ones. I was getting a tad desperate as I saw my choices for new novels diminishing rapidly. 
Our lap top computer we bought in Florida, has developed a wonky LED screen.  We took it in to be repaired, so we will stay here until that issue is resolved. Then we will head for whatever Caribbean Island gives us the cheapest rate for getting the boat hauled.  We have not painted the bottom since we left Canada and going down the ICW we scraped a lot of painted off the keel.  It is time for new paint.  At the moment Grenada is winning the price war but we have a few more quotes to come back to us. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Two weeks and seven hours later we arrived in the Barbados, safe and sound. After our Pacific crossing of 21 days from the Galapagos to the Marquesas, this passage ranks as the  favourite second in our long distance passages.  The trade winds were blowing and we consistently averaged over 150 nm per day, awesome sailing.  The last two days saw some squalls and very finicky winds just enough to challenge us.  
Here I am raising the yellow quarantine flag with Barbados in the background. We made landfall about 1300 hours and decided to just drop the hook and do the check in dance tomorrow.  Whew, another safe passage. 
  Bridgetown, Barbados!

A Westerly Tale

Our buddies Kathy and Jeremy have circumnavigated in their boat, Sal Darago, a 36 foot Westerly.  It is what they call a bilge keeled boat, it has two keels and can sit and balance on them when the large tides they have in England recede and leave a boat stranded in too little water.  Apparently, these boats were not made to circumnavigate and people are amazed that they have accomplished the feat.  Barry has never got over the fact that this bilge keeled Westerly beat us when we sailed from Walvis Bay, Namibia to St. Helena. For one thing it is only 36 feet and we are 39.6 feet so given to our waterline length we do have a faster theoretical hull speed so we should have got to St. Helena ahead of them.  Hmmm, well I think we were just outsailed, but.......
We met another British couple in Mindelo and guess what they were sailing, a bilge keeled Westerly, it is only 32 feet. The boat left the day before we did, they are also headed for the Barbados, and ever since we have had our eyes peeled to see if we can spot it. According to my calculations if we sailed a knot faster than them we should have passed them on Day 5, if we only sailed a half a knot faster we should have passed them on Day 10. Barry has visions of them rounding the last corner into Bridgetown, Barbados as we appear on the horizon. He is driven to distraction wondering where they are. We know there are at least two other boats out there but we have not seen anyone, it is a big ocean. One time Barry was snoozing when I came up from down below and I said "There's the Westerly ". That woke him up in a hurry. I do rather hope that 32 foot boat is not sitting merrily at anchor flaunting her bilge keels at us as we drop the hook.  We have only 101.5 miles to wait to find out!

Still at sea

Day 8 
It is 0330 and I am star gazing. It is the clearest night we have had yet and I turned on the ap on our IPad for identifying th stars. I can pick out about 5 constellations without any problem but I hope to be able to identify more. 
The coloured planet is Jupiter and Virgo is my Zodiac sign so maybe I should try and identify her. Tonight I can see the Big and Little Dipper as well as the Southern Cross, very special. We are at about 15 degrees north and I wondered if I could spot the Southern Cross, I am quite tickled. 
Just before sunset yesterday we had a visitor. We are pretty sure it was a large shark. Barry was on watch and he saw it about 4 times, I only saw it once ( I was below doing dishes) but he kept coming back and making lightning passes by the boat. He was about 1/3 of the size of the boat which would make him 4 meters, so a good sized animal. He had a distinctly white underbelly and a dark top, Barry saw a fin a number of time and I saw a very small fin when he executed a high speed turn right beside the boat. I think it was his dorsal fin the second one some sharks have by their tail. It was rather exciting, just when we thought there was nothing around.  It kind of gave me the creeps to think he may be stalking the boat in the middle of the night!!

Day 9
Things were going far too smoothly so yesterday we had a couple of "Oh S&%t" moments.  We had the Genoa poled out with our huge heavy Genoa pole, it is the only pole we have and Barry has always intensely disliked it. The topping lift broke and the pole was dragging  in the water, NOT GOOD! After a Chinese fire drill at sea which consisted of Barry trying to muscle the pole off the shrouds and yelling at me to hurry and tie lines up so we wouldn't loose the pole, Barry figured out we should put the boat in a heave to position, basically head to wind with the wheel tied off so the boat kind of sits in one position and lessen the stress on everything and everyone. Once that was done we could wrestle the pole aboard and get to work trying to repair it. About an hour later we were underway again but we had discovered our boom vang line had pulled the standing block off the deck so we could no longer use it. Barry said there was no way he could fix it but after a night to think about it he came up with a solution and we once more have full control  of the shape of our main. 
A gorgeous sunset last night . Today we had some rain showers for the first time and I was able to get a little of the dirt off the boat. The cockpit cushions which have been crusted with salt also got a fresh water rinse. After the showers we were treated to one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen.
The colours even continued into the water, I was sure we were going to sail right over the pot of gold. Barry's brother Bruce and his wife Margaret are in  the Barbados today on a cruise ship. We are just a little bit short, about 690 miles. I will wave at sunset when the ships usually leave. To be there on time we would have had to sail over Christmas and we really didn't want to do that. 

Have you heard of the Sargasso Sea? It is a big bunch of sargasso floating weeds somewhere in the Atlantic. I think we may have run into a part of it. At times there are bits of weed everywhere, then it is clear then we run into more, interesting. 

At sea

Day 5
We are 765nm into our journey from the Cape Verde Islands to the Barbados, over a third done. We are throughly enjoying the trade wind sailing. The first 3 days saw us making over 150 miles per day, which is great for us. Day 4 was a slight let down as the wind lightened and our speed diminished, although we still made 128 miles which is not too shabby f. Today saw the wind strengthen and we once again are romping along at over 6.5 knots. 
The fishing continues to be good, yesterday Barry had this beauty within gaffing distance when it gave a mighty heave and spit out the hook. 
To tell you the truth I was not sorry it got off the hook it was a magnificent looking fish. I was on watch at dawn today so I let out the line, about 0800 there was a jerk . We thought we had lost it but when I went to pull it in the fish was still there. This is probably one of the first fish I have caught aboard. Barry the seafood chef baked it up and we enjoyed it with rice and a cabbage and carrot salad mid afternoon. 
This is the same kind of fish Barry caught the other day, it is called a dorado, a mahi mani, or a dolphin fish. Once it leaves the water the colour immediately begins to change, compare the colouring of the one in the water to the one in my hand. Nature continues to amaze me. 

Day 7 

We are approaching the halfway point, we have gone 1003 miles and we have 1011nm to go. The wind and swell picked up yesterday, we have a double reefed Main with about half of the genoa poled out. The boat is scooting along at an average of 6.4 knots, any faster and she rounds up and staggers around and the sail flogs terribly so we are very happy with 6.4 average. We have had two boats show up on the AIS, th first he was about 100nm from Cape Verde and even though she was only 4.5 miles away we could not see her for the dust. The second one showed up last night and Barry spotted it in the dark before it showed up on the AIS. The only wildlife we have seen besides the fish we have caught and the flights of flying fish that pop up everywhere are two tropic birds.  The were over 600 miles from land they circled the boat twice checking us out but did not land. We were hoping they would hitch a ride for a few miles. Barry had hidden a package of black licorice in his cubby so we broke it open last night and had a real treat. I bought some peanuts in the shell in Mindelo , little did I know they were raw. I shelled one package the other day and roasted them for awhile and put them in a vegetarian ground nut stew. I am going to roast the other package today and see if they will be good enough to snack on. We still have apples, oranges and a coconut as fresh fruits and lots of fresh veggies left. 
It has been warm enough during the day we put up the bimini so we can have some shade, but the wind of the water keeps it cool. I think we can look forward to more wind and swell as we approach the Barbados, we will just keep rocking and rolling along. 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from about 250 nm west of the Cape Verde Islands. We decided to bring in 2017 with a sip of Bailey's. Dear friends of ours gave us the glasses when we met them in Norfolk Virginia so we toast all our friends and family from 16*41' N X 029*27 W.
I decided when we left to switch our time from Cape Verde time to Barbados time so that my 24 hour calculations won't get mixed up.  I can't say that decision has been working out for the best. We went from -1 UCT to -5 Universal Co-ordinated Time and now our daylight hours go from 0430 to 1530 , it will get better the further west we go but it is a little bizarre at the moment. 
This is Day 2 at sea and we are having a terrific sail so far. Once we got out of the wind shadow of Sao Anita the wind has been on the beam and then clocked around so it is on the starboard quarter. We have had two consecutive 150 mile days, wonderful trade wind sailing. The swell is at a different direction from the waves but so far it has not been a problem. 
The first day I did not bother to clean the dust off the boat as it was still thick in the air. Yesterday was a little better so I went to work and washed off what I could, with salt water. Our clothes were all brown from raising the sails, handling the lines and brushing against the deck. 
This shade from our bimini used to be white!! I even threw some lines overboard and trailed them in the water while they were still attached, in an attempt to get them clean, salt is better than silt.
We hope that 2017 will be a year where you can realize your potential and work towards following your dreams, only you can make it happen! The power of positive thinking is amazing. This year will see big changes for us as we make a home in Canada once again. Our plan is to leave the boat in Costa Rica, fly home to Canada, set up an apartment and then go back to the boat in the winter of 2018. That is as far as the plan has evolved so far! Here's wishing everyone all the best from the Atlantic Ocean. 
What a way to start off 2017. Barry caught this pan sized dorado shortly after sunrise on the first day of the new year. We had it for supper and Barry cooked it to perfection. He had a slightly larger one on the hook first but it managed to escape as we dragged it through the waves, it leaped as it came out of a wave and it was gone, it's buddy was not so lucky. Yum!