Newsletter 2 -Cruising in the Caribbean, Then to Bermuda, and Finally, Home

May, 2012
I flew home from Cascais, carrying numerous parts that needed repair. While home I got the shaft generator fixed, with help from Bob Berg and Roy Perry. I flew to Orlando and spent a few days at Disney World with Brenda, Colin and Gabriella. I returned to Portugal with a few days to spare before a new crew showed up, time spent installing the parts I had brought back. Unfortunately only one of my e-mail connections actually showed up: Markus, a German professional musician. We enjoyed a very easy sail to Porto Santo in the Madeira archipelago with light winds from astern, which died after three days, we powered last 115 miles. Unfortunately Marcus was seasick. I had never been to Porto Santo before, the big attraction apparently is the white sand beach, which is popular with people from Madeira, where the beaches are black. Christopher Columbus had a house there. The cruisers at the marina staged an impromptu musical evening on a German cruising boat; Markus played some bongo drums they had on board. He was very good. We sailed on as the following day was a public holiday and I did not want to arrive at Funchal and find everything shut. The harbor was crowded, as usual, yet mostly with local boats, which seem to be more numerous every time I visit Funchal. I took a tour of the spectacular mountain landscape and Markus hiked along the central ridge, unfortunately in clammy cloud all the way. I took the Telerifico to the top the hill in Funchal but the season was getting late; no tourists were taking a chance on the mad toboggan ride from the top of ‘ El Monte’ on the wicker sleds. This was a little curious as there were several cruise ships visiting the island, sometimes two at a time. And they were huge: 5,000 passengers, although the customs man said they usually carried only 3,500. If Portugal is facing a financial crisis, as the papers say it is, it is not obvious in Madeira. The streets are crowded with new cars, the women are elegantly dressed and even in the villages there was no sign of overt poverty. The Great Depression it is not. In the harbor was a Dutch brigantine, Tres Hombres, originally built in Germany in WW II, which the skipper assured me made money carrying freight between the islands of the Caribbean and Europe. However he made most of the crew pay $1,500/month each for the experience. We had a great beam wind for the leg to La Gomera in the Canaries, in fact we had to slow down by striking the jib so that we arrived in daylight after a two day sail. Markus again suffered from mal de mer and flew home the day after we arrived.

Thus I again faced the problem of finding crew for the leg to the Caribbean. The marina had an extensive notice board and several people advertized for crew positions, within the week I stayed at La Gomera I was able to recruit Marco, a young German cabinet maker on a walk-about and Jorden, an even younger Israeli woman. Marco had completed a three-year apprenticeship and it is a German tradition for the newly qualified man to leave the area so as not to compete with the former master, hence the term ‘journeyman’. Neither had much sailing experience but they spoke adequate English. The town of San Sebastian is a pleasant place, not overly crowded and with lunch-time temperatures in the 70s I thoroughly enjoyed my quiet hiatus as I waited for the crew. On a Saturday night there was a a concert in the main square with a sprinkling of Christmas music. Marko signed on the day before we left and we had a final shore-side pizza with an English cruising couple. Jorden arrived very early on the ferry from La Palma, after getting a few last minute grocery items we pushed off. We refueled and headed for Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands.

Apart from a few hours when the wind was upset by the proximity of the islands we had great trade wind sailing to the Cape Verdes. Unfortunately the refurbished shaft generator I had installed at Cascais died due to a failure of the pulley for the driving belt. It was made of an aluminum alloy and simply machined itself away. Next time I should use a steel pulley. This meant we were a little short of 12 volt power, but Victor the vane performed well as the autopilot, which eased the load on the battery. We dawdled as we approached Mindelo so as to arrive with sun-up. Good job we did; since my last visit a huge marina has materialized. A couple of lads in a dinghy helped us secure to mooring ball and we tied up stern-to, Med style, to a floating pontoon. The place has improved since my last visit. Jorden had not been too happy with thought of the long haul to Brazil and the Caribbean awaiting us and decided Christmas at Mindelo sounded better. Marko ran into a French backpacker, Damian, who had sailed as crew to Mindelo on another boat and he signed on the day we left, Christmas Eve.

Poor Damian was terribly sea-sick as we headed down the choppy St Vincent Channel on our way to St Peter and Paul Rock. As soon as we got out of the wind shadow of the island we picked up good trade winds that blew for days. On Christmas Day we rigged the traditional tree in the cabin. On our first day out from Mindelo we reeled off 162 nautical miles in 24 hours, and that with the reefed storm mainsail. Apart from one four-hour hiatus the winds continued strong until the 30th. On New Year’s day the wind became erratic with numerous squalls, we had entered the doldrums at about three and a half degrees north. We ran the engine periodically to keep up some progress and on New Year’s Day we sighted St Peter and Paul Rock, which lies about 55 miles north of the equator and 500 nautical miles from the Brazilian coast. As we approached the weather deteriorated. To our surprise as we neared the rock we found a fishing boat at anchor, called Natamar. As they pitched and rolled at the end of a long anchor rope we called on VHF, the occupants were scientists. There was a heavy swell running, a stiff wind with rain and obviously there was no chance of a dinghy ride to the rock. It actually comprises about four rocks in a cluster, on the largest we could ee a small hut with a parabolic antenna, to the south there was a navigational warning beacon on a short pole. We circled around for a while and then set a course for Fernando de Noronha.. I was very disappointed it could not actually set foot on the rock, but I got close!

We had good winds and a favorable current to whisk us to Fernando in less than three days; we anchored to seaward of the crowded harbor at 3 am local time. A cruise ship, Ocean Dream, was still blasting out loud music at that hour. In the morning we pumped up the inflatable and launched it over the side. It was the first time it had been used since we visited Sable Island in Canada. The Japanese outboard refused to run and we substituted the old Seagull engine I had first used during Iona’s 1968-69 Caribbean cruise. We chugged our asthmatic way to the jetty, pouring out copious smoke and oil. As we had no Brazilian currency we walked up the hill under a blazing tropical sun to the old village I remembered well from previous visits, Vila de Remedios. When F de N was a prison island this is where released inmates lived, they were not repatriated to the mainland. After vainly trying my card at the bank we discovered the only place to use an international card was at the airport. We took a taxi, which turned out to be rather expensive and returned to the village for lunch. On the way back to the port we stopped for a few groceries and then at the port I checked in with the Port Captain. The authorities had come up with a new way to tax yachties; an anchoring fee which for Fiona amounted to $89 per night. This is in addition to the head tax imposed on all crew members ( xcept for the first day) for $22 per night. Soon the small office was filled with Federal Police, Maritime Police and goodness knows what other officials, all filling out forms. I said we would stay one day, and was informed in no uncertain terms that the next day began at 8 am, so we must be gone before that. I did discover Elda no longer owned the bar nearby which had been our watering hole on other visits. Also the large wind generator, which had disappeared, had been hit by lightning and pulled down. We chugged back to the boat, dismantled the dinghy and I felt a lot better after a couple of Fiona cocktails. The depredations of the taxi, lunch and the voracious port captain had depleted all the cash I had gotten from the ATM except for the equivalent of about $30, about 10%. Clearly the cost of living on the island had skyrocketed since my last visit–was this consequence of introducing cruise ships? The half-hourly bus service from the dock to the village, about a mile and a half, which used to cost about a buck, had escalated to $7 one way.

We enjoyed a really pleasant downwind sail to Fortaleza under a tropical moon that got bigger every night. We arrived about midnight, the small marina looked complicated to enter in the dark so we anchored just outside until dawn. It was a good job we did; shortly after sunrise a sailboat emerged and the captain asked us if we intended to enter, I said we did and he warned us not to proceed past a large catamaran which had lines stretching right across the harbor due to the heavy surge. Interestingly, the boat was a Westsail 42, very similar to Fiona except it was yawl rigged. It had formerly belonged to Walter Cronkite, now called Mailee. We dropped our hook just to the seaward of the cat and backed up to the massive steel pontoons which formed the marina. We secured the boat about four feet from the pontoons because we were warned again by the crew on the cat about the surge to be expected and rigged a gangplank using a fender board. The marina had no facilities except use of the showers and toilets at the nearby swimming pool, part of the hotel complex. But marina guests could use all the hotel services, there was a handy fast food bar and an internet café. The dock master, Amando, arranged for us to get diesel from a local entrepreneur who had a pick-up with a 200 gallon tank in the back. We drove to the local gas station, put a 100 gallons in the tank and drove back to the marina where the driver tossed a line on to the dock and we hauled as hose across to Fiona. Cost about US$4/gall plus US$80 for the use of the truck. Fortaleza is the largest city on the north coast of Brazil, there was little architecture of note and much of the place had a run-down air. About a 10 minute walk from the marina was the huge municipal market, which was architecturally interesting; inside were four floors connected by spiraling walkways hanging in space. But the place was separated from the marina by a very busy highway, trucks, motorbikes and cars screamed by at full throttle. When I was crossing a side street to enter the market one day, on a pedestrian crosswalk, a maniacal driver saw his chance and I escaped only propelling myself violently forward by pushing off his driver side fender . We handled maintenance chores in the mornings; I went over the side with scuba gear to replace the zincs on the propshaft but the water was too murky for me to see more than a few inches and I postponed the job until I was in clear water in the Caribbean. I spent a lot of time fiddling with the shaft generator which hadn’t worked right since the Cape Verdes, despite the new pulley installed there, but I was unsuccessful. Marco and I rebuilt parts of the Aries wind vane, which gets a lot of wear and tear on a trip like this. Damian took our laundry to some machines a taxi ride away. He decided to sign off here and we went with him to the bus station, he was heading for Recife, several hundred miles away. It was interesting to see the large number of destinations and inspect a large map of the routes; Brazil is a HUGE country, only slightly smaller than the US in area. Marko and I left after five days for French Guyana.

Marco and myself double-handed to Kourou in French Guyana, a leg of over 1,000 nm, but it took us a little over six days, due to the 45 nm per day boost we got from the Equatorial Current. The sea is very shallow along this part of the South American coast; even 30 miles from shore the depth varies between 30 and 50 feet. Following the channel to the Kourou River entrance we often had only two or three feet under the keel, although it was nearly high tide. Once in the river we spotted a small stone jetty and what looked like a boatyard so I decided to anchor there. After the tide turn the ebb ran very fast and we dragged, we re-anchored with more chain. As it turned out we should have anchored further up the river, which would have put us nearer to the town of Kourou. This illustrates my unfamiliarity with electronic chart plotters, which I was using for the first time. Basically I found it like navigating on a postage stamp, well–a beer-mat, either you can zoom in and see great detail over a small area or zoom out and see a wide area without detail. The display on my plotter is only 4 inches square. Once settled we launched the rigid dinghy and puttered to the jetty using the old Seagull engine. It was about a half hour walk into town, we bought a few groceries and took a taxi back. We were only five degrees above the equator, remember the line about mad dogs and Englishmen and the mid-day sun, although Marco is German? The next day we were fortunate to bum a ride to the port area to clear in at Customs. The port is divided into two parts; the commercial port, where we eventually located the Customs, and the space launch dock, which is protected by three rows of barbed and razor wire, as well as an electrified fence. Kourou is where the European Space Agency launches rockets. After a pleasant but expensive lunch at a restaurant near the dock we walked back to town, mailed a few cards and attempted to log onto the internet at a bar with a gorgeous barmaid and lousy WiF. After more grocery shopping we taxied back to the dinghy and boarded the boat just in time for Happy Hour. In the morning we weighed anchor and sailed for Devil Islands, seven miles offshore, in rain and squally winds. Several small boats carrying tourists passed us in the channel, they were all catamarans, both sail and power.

In the 18th Century the French were impressed with the British development of Botany Bay using transported criminals. They decided it would work for French Guyana, Devil Islands was only one of numerous convict settlements. In a bit of pre-Orwellian doublespeak they were named Iles du Salut (Salvation Islands, in English). The group consists of three islands: Royale, St. Joseph and Devil. Royale is the largest and was the main prison and administrative center. St Joseph was used for ‘hard cases’. Some cells there were built with no roofs, just iron bars, so that the prisoners could be monitored continuously. Other cells, for solitary confinement , allowed no light to enter. All these remains have returned to the jungle, although we dinghied over the St Joseph, the interior is inaccessible and we were confined to a shoreline footpath. It is now forbidden to land on Devil Island. We spent two days at Iles du Salut, mostly visiting Royale Island. Most of the buildings were originally made by the convicts using stone quarried on the island, so they are substantial. One building has been converted into a hotel. Each day we concluded our tour at the bar. There is a very interesting museum which depicts the hard life of the convicts in graphic detail. The punishment for infractions was often death, the prison had a guillotine set up in an inside courtyard. The yard and the cells for condemned men next door are still open to visitors. There was a cemetery on St. Joseph which we inspected, it was for warders and their families, convicts were buried at sea. The most famous prisoner was Captain Dreyfuss, a French army officer, falsely accused of treason in an anti-Semitic plot. A special cell was built for him on Devil Island, where he spent several years in solitary. Warders were forbidden to speak to him. If a strange ship was sighted near the island the warder held a pistol to his head until the ship disappeared. Finally a campaign to exonerate him, led by Emil Zola, was successful, but Dreyfuss returned to France broken by his experience. Guyana was taken over by the Vichy government in WWII and was blockaded by the US, causing half the prisoners to starve to death or die from lack of medicine. The prison was shut down after the war.

We left early in the morning and headed for Barbados in the West Indies. It took us a day to sail out of the shallow water that extended for miles from the coast, driven by strong NE winds. But then the wind died and in the sail slatting that followed the mainsail developed a couple of tears. We took it down and bent on the spare. hat night the wind came back with such force that we had to reef the sail we had just installed. This burst carried us through the next day and we dropped anchor in Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown, just about midnight. It was very windy in the bay, in fact for most of our stay. The Bridgetown Signal Station instructed us to tie up in the main cruise ship harbor, something I try to avoid as it is designed for very large ships, not yachts. The last time I was there the rail cap was damaged, but this time we managed to slip in behind the huge sailing schooner, Spirit of the Wind, without trouble. The terminal building as packed with the passengers off three cruise ships, but eventually I got the clearance papers signed by officials in several offices and we returned to the anchorage in Carlisle Bay. The next step was to inflate the dinghy, when we launched it Marco suddenly yelled ‘Eric, the dinghy’. I glanced aft; the dinghy was free of Fiona, and rapidly heading for the horizon under the 20 knot breeze. Marco dived in and swam to the dink, but he could not start the outboard, and it was impossible to row and make headway against the wind. I started the engine on Fiona, raised the anchor and started in pursuit of Marco and dinghy, which was now far to the west. Some tourists on jet skis had tried to help, but without a painter there was nothing to tow with. Eventually we sorted it out and reanchored the boat. It turned out the strap on the dinghy holding the eye for the painter had broken. We headed for a look at Bridgetown by taking the dinghy up the Careenage, under the bridge and tying up at a new dinghy dock. We spent a few days doing boat maintenance in the mornings and and dinghying to shore for meals and shopping. I donned the scuba gear again and went over the side to change the zincs on the prop shaft. We rigged a line from one side of the boat to the other, so that I could pull myself down to the prop, I had a scary moment when the tank got wedge between the line and the hull, I could not get back to the surface. Fortunately by banging on the hull I alerted Marco that something was wrong and he eased the tension on the line. The torn storm mainsail was repaired by Nigel Richings, who met us at the dinghy dock in the Careenage and dropped the sail off at the same place a couple of days later. The cost was reasonable. The ‘Boatyard’, despite its name, is a bar/restaurant with a pier and dinghy dock on the beach about half a mile south of the entrance to the Careenage. The dock is in disrepair, care is needed on tying up to ensure the dink does not get caught under the rotting vertical planks. Entrance is by means of a wristband coating US$10, which is redeemed as drinks and food are consumed. There are several inexpensive Asian and Indian restaurants about a fifteen minute walk south along Bay Rd, just passed the yacht club. I made my usual pilgrimage to visit my great-grandmother’s grave in the military cemetery, number 58. Susannah is still there but the structure is showing the effects of 132 years of weathering. We also visited the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, but the tour was disappointing , all the old oak barrels which used to age rum in huge warehouses have been moved and the plant near Bridgetown just bottles rum. The tour is basically a video promoting Mount Gay rum and a free sample. The old firm (founded 1703) was taken over by Remy-Martin in 1989 and I suspect was greatly expanded, probably at the expense of the quality of the rum, although Mount Gay is still what we drink on the boat every Happy Hour.

It took a little less than 24 hours to sail to Charlotteville on Tobago. We anchored in 40 feet at Pirates Bay, on the north side of Man of War Bay. Unfortunately it was a Saturday when we arrived and I was hit with a fee of US$45 for overtime for the Immigration and Customs officials. Charlotteville was like going back in time to when Edith and I cruised the Caribbean in the ’60s–a simple village with roosters crowing and hens running around followed by their chicks.There is an ATM next to the customs office, but I was never able to actually extract money from it. Prices are relatively low, there are a couple of small markets and a restaurant. A shop on the waterfront provides internet and laundry at very reasonable prices. The Trinidad Tobago government now requires all yachts to clear in and out of each port, we cleared Immigration and Customs for Scarborough and sailed there the next day. We actually anchored at Store Bay, just on the SW corner of the island. This is more popular than Scarborough which has very little room north of the jetty and is constrained by the busy ferry terminal. There are quite a number of small shops and restaurants clustered around Pigeon Point road, Bagos Beach Bar and the adjacent store (Store Bay Marine Services) provide for immediate needs; book swap, laundry and internet. Some protection from the surf when landing the dinghy is provided by the artificial reef of the Coco Reef Hotel, we landed on the beach as far south as possible.We cleared Immigration and Customs in Scarborough, both are located in or near the ferry terminal building. Transportation is provided by the public taxis; they are not marked, one just stands at the bus stop at the corner of Pigeon Point Rd and waves a hand, just like the ‘publicos’ on the Dominican Republic. The trip costs $1. Marco decided to become a backpacker again and took the ferry to Port of Spain. I spent a few days anchored in Store Bay until the new crew arrived; Louise and Bob. Louise is a veteran of many Fiona cruises but this was to be Bob’s introduction to living and cruising on a sailboat. Louise is a keen bird watcher, so we arranged a tour of the rain forest on the north of the island. This was conducted by Harris, he was very knowledgeable and Louise collected several new sightings. We were all issued with rubber boots, the trails were very muddy. After clearing out we sailed the next night to Grenada with a lovely beam reach, the wind touching 25 knots.

We dropped anchor in crowded Prickly Bay, the marina provided inexpensive showers and meals. Getting the local currency, the EC dollar, was a minor problem, it took an expensive taxi ride to an ATM a couple of miles away. The next day we rounded point Saline and tied up at Port St. Louise Marina. This is a new facility which is making every effort to attract cruisers. We rented a car to explore the hinterland but that turned out to be rather a bust; nothing was signposted. We didn’t find a single scenic waterfall, no doubt the taxi drivers union try to make sure local knowledge is needed! We did find Lake Grand Etang, a crater lake where we examined the nature center. Arriving in the coastal town of Grenville in time for lunch the only place we found open was a Kentucky Fried Chicken. We drove back to another nature center on a mangrove swamp, but the birding was poor and we treated ourselves to a drink at a nearby hotel. From St George’s harbor we sailed to Carriacou and cleared out of Grenada for Union Island in St Vincent at the south end of the Grenadines. When we cruised these water many years ago some of the islands had a boat under construction on the beach. Tourism and fiberglass seemed to have killed that, but before we left Carriacou we had a couple of suppers at an old shipyard on the south side of the bay which had metamorphosed into a restaurant called the ‘Slipway’. Indeed, the rusty rails and winding winch could still be seen. Near the bar were two large belt-driven saws that must have dated to the 19th century, plastic sheets on the original platens provided a convenient stop to rest your rum punch. The food was excellent, too. We cleared into St.Vincent at the small airport. We enjoyed sundowner rum punches at the unique bar on the small island in the harbor–accessible only by dinghy. High winds kept us pinned in the harbor for another day, we were entertained by the incredibly skilled kite surfers, who used the high wind to zip to and fro along the reef, occasionally launching themselves into the air. Our next stop was Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau Island. Considerable development has occurred since Edith and I had the anchorage to ourselves in the late ’60s. A paved road now runs from Salt Whistle to Saline Bay. A large Club Med cruise ship disgorged hundreds of tourists for a few hours of beach fun. But Anna Maria Alexander (1853 to 1956) is still sleeping peacefully in the little cemetery near the top of the hill.

We stopped at Canouan Island but heavy surf and discouraging signs on the jetties prevented us from landing the dinghy. We moved on to the much more attractive Admiralty Bay at Bequia overnight and anchored before picking up a mooring. Port Elizabeth is a quaint village which hasn’t changed too much over the years. We walked over the hill to one of my favorite spots: Friendship Bay, but discovered the beachside hotel had closed. Perhaps a victim of the economic downturn. The next day we took the ferry to Kingstown on the St. Vincent’s main island. The ferry was old and decrepit, it had apparently began life in Scandinavia, and rattled and shuddered its way for an hour to cross the passage. The streets were alive with colorful vendors shouting their wares. It was very much the West Indies of my earlier visits. We found a peaceful restaurant on the top floor of the Cobblestone Inn for morning coffee and later for lunch. A little shopping and a walk through the busy fish market completed our tour and we returned at 4 pm on the same rattletrap ferry. Dinner at a small beachside bar rounded out the day. The next day we set out for St Lucia, to break up the trip we anchored at Chateau Belair Bay, near the north end of St Vincent. It was a rolly night, shared with two other sailboats that had adopted the same tactic. Early the next day we started for the passage crossing. The northern cape of St Vincent is notorious for high wind and seas, in 2004 Fiona was badly damaged as we made the same trip by a wind gust that broke the bobstay, which in turn caused the roller furler to break, the bow platform to shear the attachment lugs which bent the tubing forming the platform. An expensive few minutes. This time we did not set sail until clear of the cape, although it was a slow, rough ride under the engine. The lumpy ride stirred up dirt and sediment in the fuel tanks and the engine stopped , fortunately after we had cleared land, and we sailed along the coast of St. Lucia while I spent an uncomfortable hour or two in the engine room changing fuel filters. We anchored in Rodney Bay as the sun set.

Early the next day we tied up at the Rodney Bay Marina, a well organized operation and relatively cheap at 70 cents per foot, per night. We met some folks from the CCA we had first run into at Bequia (Eight Bells) and also a fellow retiree from Brookhaven National Labs, Mike and June on Idunno. A water taxi took us over to Pigeon Island, now it is connected to the mainland by a causeway but when Iona first cruised this way in 1969, it was still an island. During the Napoleonic wars the British Navy built a large fort on Pigeon Island, much of which still remains. We got our laundry done by ‘Suds’, who delivered it to the boat the same day. I also got a local worker to touch up the oil on the teak, relatively expensive at US$15/hr. The next we took a full day taxi ride to the volcanic south end of the island; Soufriere, from the French for ‘smelling of sulfur’. On the way we stopped at a few spots so that the locals could pester us with items for sale, I am sure the taxi driver was in cahoots. One stop was fairly unique; for a couple of dollars Louise got to pose with a boa constrictor wrapped round her shoulders. We were told snakes had been introduced to the island to discourage slaves from running away. After supper at one of the marina restaurants it was early to bed; we were up just after sunrise for the sail to Martinique.

We anchored just after lunch at Anse Mitan in 25 feet and took the ferry, which run hourly, to Fort de France. Here I cleared in, instead of the usual customs and immigration officials I was eventually directed to a small snack bar near a gas station in the commercial port. On an old cable reel sat a laptop computer. After filling out a complicated spreadsheet, mostly in French, I hit ‘Enter’, and entered the boat into Martinique, the old-time officers with their kepis have been replaced by a push-button. The next morning we motored across the bay and anchored just a hundred yards east of the old fort. The morning was spent exploring the old town; we photographed the famous statue of Empress Josephine, who hailed from these parts, her head was still missing– it had disappeared even when Edith and I first visited the island in the early ’60s. We had lunch at one of the stalls in a small square. In the afternoon, we toured the ethnological museum which had a good exhibition of Carib and Arawak Indian artifacts. Supper was in the restaurant of a high-class hotel where we brought down the tone of the place in our grungy sailing clothes compared to the well-dressed resident diners. We left early the next day to push twenty miles up the coast to St. Pierre, the former capital, which was wiped out in 1902 by a volcanic eruption of Mount Peleé. When we anchored Iona there in 1969 there were just ruins with virtually nobody living there. Now it is a thriving village with a bustling market and traffic jams. The Museum Volcanique has some interesting photos of before and after along with a a lot of battered and melted remnants. In 1902 an election was pending, the governor somehow felt that to acknowledge the possibility of an eruption was a reflection on his regime, despite many signs Mount Peleé was going to blow. He used troops to prevent people fleeing and he was killed along with about 30,000 others when the volcano blew its top at 8:40 am on the 8th of May, 1902. Only one person survived: a prisoner in the deepest cell of the jail, it can still be seen, next to the remains of the elaborate former theatre. After supper ashore we dinghied back to the boat in the crowded anchorage and left the next day for the long haul to Dominica.

Prince Rupert Bay was just an overnight stop that was rather rolly, early in the morning at first light we raised the anchor and sailed with a good wind to Iles des Saintes. We arrived at lunch time, finally got the anchor down in 50 feet after dragging a couple of times and dinghied ashore. Our plan was to visit the fort perched on a hill overlooking the harbor. These small islands were the scene of an important naval battle between the French and the British in the 18th century. The British victory under Admiral Rodney assured their dominance in the West Indies during the rest of the Napoleonic Wars. As we trudged up the hill under the burning sun we ran into a bunch of French tourists who told us the fort was closed, and we thankfully walked back to a bar on the dock to sink a beer and watch passengers boarding the ferry to Guadeloupe. When we returned to the boat for Happy Hour a small launch came alongside and we were told that anchoring was no longer permitted and we had to pick up a mooring, which cost US$15/night. This was to become a pattern as we worked our way north; permanent moorings protect reefs from damage caused by anchoring and, of course, the local authorities don’t mind the extra income.

The next day we sailed along the long coast of Guadeloupe, sometimes with an assist from the engine as we fell into the lee caused by the high mountains, and headed for Montserrat. In 1995 the southern part of the island was inundated with ash and boulders from a volcanic eruption of Soufriere (another one). The capital town, Plymouth, had to be abandoned. We had a great view of the destruction as we sailed a couple of miles off the coast, the tops of buildings poked out of the ash and lava and black smoke still rolled down the hillside. We anchored for the night at Little Bay, it was a rather gloomy place with high cliffs surrounding the anchorage and we rolled badly as swell came in from the north. We were glad to leave at first light.

From Montserrat we sailed to Nevis, part of the twin island country of ‘Nevis-St.Kitts’. At first we anchored at Charlestown, but, as was becoming common, we had to move to a mooring after clearing in at Customs and Immigration. In the morning we contacted a British expat who had e-mailed me with an invitation to visit him while at Nevis. He was a retired surgeon called Desmond, who had spent most of his career at St.Kitts. We moved down the coast to pick up a mooring opposite his charming cottage on Tamarind Bay. We met Desmond and his wife, Catherine and over lunch heard many interesting stories of life as a surgeon in the West Indies. Desmond swam out to the boat for Happy Hour and we had dinner at a lovely beachside restaurant called ‘Gallipot’. From Nevis we sailed to St. Martin, the French side. The first order of business was to contact Kay Pope, our old friend from Iona’s cruise in the ’60s. We had a pleasant lunch at her beautiful apartment overlooking Marigot Bay. After a shopping spree in tax-free Philipsburg we sailed overnight across the Anageda Passage to Virgin Gorda.

The area was inundated with bare boat charters, captained by idiots with no knowledge of the rules of the road. As soon as we cleared in we escaped to tranquil Anageda Island. Louise went on a hunt for the pink flamingos. The original flock became extinct many years ago and the taxi driver confessed his grandfather had shot one of the last ones. New birds were introduced from Bermuda about 20 years ago. We stopped for a night at Jost van Dyke, were we ran into two other CCA boats (Phoenix and Delawana) and organized an impromptu CCA rendezvous. The island has many memories for me of the time Edith and I spent a year cruising in the Caribbean when we were both young, but not so foolish. From Jost it was a few hours downwind to Culebrita, where we anchored for the night and also tried a little snorkeling on the reef. The next day we officially entered the US at Culebra Island, a small part of Puerto Rico. We soon moved on to the huge Marina del Rey. Bob left almost immediately to visit friends on the west side of the island.

The next day I rented a car and Louise and I toured the impressive ‘El Yunque’, the ‘rainmaker’, which is part of the Caribbean National Forest. Walking along a mile-long footpath to a waterfall we were drenched by a downpour, but what can you expect in a rain forest? Louise flew home at this point and I picked up the new crew, George and Peg, at San Juan airport. On the way back to the marina we discovered the highway had been flooded and police were diverting traffic. Our rental car maps were useless to find the minor roads back to the marina but George and Peg fished out their i-phones and soon brought up Google Earth and navigated us back to the boat. Obviously I had a 21st century crew. We left with a stiff easterly wind blowing into the marina entrance, after 20 minutes the chop stirred up the sediment in the fuel tank and the engine stopped. A rocky islet lay 200 yards on our lee; Peg and George got a quick introduction to sail setting. We sailed without difficulty through the pass in the reef and on to Bermuda, 840 nautical miles away. For several days we had a beam wind and enjoyed great sailing. Peg is a naturalist and found the ocean a marine desert–no dolphins, no whales, just a few flying fish. About half way the Trades petered out but we kept sailing, the light on Gibbs Hill hove into view and we tied up in Bermuda after a week’s sailing. Friends and family planned to visit and I spent a couple of weeks at Captain Smokes Marina in St George’s.

After Peg and George returned home Lew flew in for a week. He is the editor of the famous Fiona sailing videos. Wandering the quaint streets he encountered again the St George’s’ Town Cat, Flea. In 2010 when Fiona was tied up at Ordnance Island he awoke with a shock when Flea jumped on his chest in the middle of the night. Apparently Flea is a well-known night-time prowler. A few days later my son Colin, granddaughter Gabriella, my daughter Brenda with her friend Gina all arrived at the airport. The reason was a celebration for my eightieth birthday. Before the party we managed a quick sail up Ferry Reach, lunch anchored at Whalebone Bay and a return to St George’s via the Town Cut. We all gathered at the ‘Carriage House’ for a quiet dinner, I received several presents and read choice pieces from a collection of witty sayings about growing old given to me by a Bermudian friend. With that out of the way, my new crew for the last leg to Long Island flew in.

Bob is an old friend from the South Bay Cruising Club who intended to sail the Newport to Bermuda Race in June, he wanted a preview of the Gulf Stream, especially the accuracy of the current predictions. John is an experienced sailor who once rowed across the Atlantic. It was pleasure to have such an expert crew aboard. There was little wind as left and we powered for a few hours until Bermuda sank over the stern. Then some wind developed. As we entered the vicinity of the Gulf Stream we motor-sailed in a light wind but the engine overheated. The cause was apparently the very warm sea water, which peaked at 85.8F. Once clear of the Stream the engine ran normally. There was almost no wind north of the Stream and we powered to Fire Island Inlet, entering at midnight. Bob had surveyed the Inlet the week before and we had no difficulty with shoaling, which had been such a problem when we entered after the 2009/2010 cruise. The wind picked up as we threaded our way down Great South Bay with light rain and fog. Alerted by e-mail Wayne was waiting to take our lines as we approached Weeks Yard about 4 am. We had logged 12,515 nm since we left in July, 2011.


Until the Next Time,

Fair Winds,



The fruit and veg market, Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands.

Street vendor, Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands.

St Peter and Paul Rock.
Marco, Father Neptune and Damian, crossing the equator.
The captain poses the famous symbol of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil.
A view of Devil Island, from Royale Island, French Guyana.
Eric visits his Great Grandmother’s grave, Military Cemetery, Barbados.
Bob and Louise at the cemetery on Mayreau, St Vincent.
A cannon on Pigeon Island, St Lucia.
A boa constrictor embraces Louise, St Lucia.
The headless statue of the Empress Josephine, Martinique.
The famous Foxy’s Bar, Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.
Snorkeling at Culebrita, Puerto Rico.
Waterfall in the ‘El Yunque’ National Forest, Puerto Rico.
Family group at the Carriage House, St George’s , Bermuda. Brenda, Colin and Gabriella with the old man.
The St George’s Town Cat, an infamous nocturnal prowler.
Colin in the stocks at St George’s,Bermuda.
The final crew of the nineteen that sailed aboard Fiona, 2011-12. Bob, Eric and John at Weeks’ Yard.
Eric poses with the courtesy flags of the 19 countries visited during the cruise.