31/01/2016 – Vive la France in the Caribbean!

Firstly, an explanation; we are not time-travellers however I wrote this blog on my old iPad then tried to post it when we found wi-fi. Unfortunately the mail wouldn't work without the password. I tried but failed, then asked for a new password to be sent to John's e-mail account but that didn't happen either. McDonalds in Fort de France limits you to 30 minutes and it's not good to start with!. Long story short, I'm now about to copy the text on John's old iPad. We eventually tore ourselves away from the Tobago Cays and returned to Bequia for two important tasks, to file our tax returns and clear out. We were successful on both counts and pulled up our anchor early on Thursday morning. Darkness falls suddenly in the tropics, soon after 6:00 p.m. at the moment, and it it is more difficult to anchor in the dark, hence the early start. We made water most of the way and arrived in Anse Cochon on St Lucia at about 1730 with a full bottom tank. The next leg to Sainte Anne on the southern end Martinique is a shorter trip so we left a little later, just on 0800. Again, the wind was a bit too close to our heading so we motorsailed, arriving early afternoon. Martinique has the clearance procedure sorted! We dinghied ashore, found 'Boubou Snack Bar', entered the details on the computer, handed the printout, the passports and the boats registration document to Monsieur, paid €3 and received our clearance document back duly stamped. We can recommend the wonderful, locally produced icecream that we bought at the same time. From Ste Anne the yachting mecca of Le Marin is about 2.5 miles. We zoomed up there in the dinghy, had a look in the chandlery but they didn't have the right masthead light fitting, had a beer in Mango Cafe then dinghied around to Zone Artimer, which has the closest dinghy dock to Carrefour Market. We were in need of some essentials, especially wine! The trip back to the boat was a little challenging as it was becoming quite dark and we hadn't left an anchor light on so it was a tad difficult to find Starblazer. Sunday in Martinique, as in France, is dead. Some of the shops are open for a few hours in the morning, but not many, so we stayed onboard and did a number of jobs. Monday morning we went shopping. John had a list of items, including a replacement alternator, plus the name of a chandlery that stocks Aquasignal lights. He was successful up to a point. He even found the correct alternator but, at €545, he decided we would go to Plan B. Our backstop position is to leave the dead alternator in place because it drives a water pump but rely on the generator or the engine battery alternator to charge the domestic batteries. He found a suitable alternator in the US, $120, free shipping to the UK. However shipping to the Caribbean added $100+, local taxes and handling charges could easily be in the same order so we dropped that idea. We walked around to the new part of the marina to find lunch and were just leaving when we spotted Annelise and Manfred getting out of a car. Deja vu! Exactly the same thing happened back in April. They had left Tulasi in Rodney Bay, St Lucia for the hurricane season and got back in November to discover they had had a severe lightning strike. To compound the damage the automatic bilge pumps had failed and water ingress had damaged their hydraulics as well. Le Marin has an AMEL repair facility which is doing the work. We left Sainte Anne on Thursday en route to Fort de France, capital of la Martinique. We picked up a mooring in Petit Anse d'Arlet, also known as Les Anses d'Arlet, just off a lovely golden beach. The village is a holiday town without any resorts or big hotels, in fact there are few shops and we only found one restaurant. There are, however, lots of little, informal cafes and bars on the edge of the beach. Over the next two days we spent some time on the beach and snorkelled out to some rocks and reef development just off the beach. This was possibly the best snorkelling area we have found in the Caribbean, for both variety and number of fish. It doesn't compare with the fantastic Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia but it comes close! Sunday we made the short trip to Fort de France. We went for a wander but everywhere was shut though we did stop in McDonalds. While we were in Anse d'Arlet we noticed a lot of people with full face masks and a snorkel sticking up top dead centre. John spoke to a chap who said he bought it in Decathlon, a sports shop. Later he offered me a trial, it was so comfortable and allowed me to breathe normally instead of through my mouth. Monday's task was to find a bus to go to Decathlon which was, conveniently, alongside a huge MrBricolage and across the road from La Galleria, allegedly the biggest shopping mall in the Caribbean with a SuperU Hypermarket. Everything is available in Martinique, it just costs a lot of money! I even found a shop which sells embroidery threads. I bought a couple of colours I needed at €1.50 each. Thankfully, I only paid $0.33 in Walmart in the States otherwise my big project might never have been started. I have yet to discover the price of threads at home, I expect it will be closer to the French price rather than the 50p equivalent I paid in Hong Kong for the same brand. Our plan is to head north, making a 48 hour non stop trip to St Martin where we'll clear in on the French side. There are no internal borders so we'll hire a car to drive to Philipsburg to meet Chrys and Roger when their cruise ship docks a few days later. It's a plan, we just have to carry it out. By the way, the plan worked. See the next post in a day or two. Joyce Starblazer

15/01/2017 – The St Vincent Grenadines

We left Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia, soon after noon on Friday 30th and motored south to Anse Cochon where we anchored for the night. The repaired alternator worked! At first light on Saturday we pulled up the anchor and motorsailed towards St Vincent, the alternator stopped working but at least it kept pumping the fresh water cooling system. It was a windy, bumpy ride between St Lucia and St Vincent so we stopped the engine until we reached the wind shadow of St Vincent. Sadly, it is not considered a safe island to anchor at so, as several times before, we continued on to Bequia which is the first of the St Vincent Grenadines' islands. We anchored in daylight, but too late to go ashore to clear in and have to pay overtime. Saturday morning we launched the dinghy and went ashore to clear in, the woman who stamped the passports complained there was no room left! We appear to have a problem, we each have space for only 3 more stamps. The only way we can get replacement passports is to send them back to the UK and wait 4+ weeks. This isn't viable for a couple of reasons: we don't have an address to send them to and we need them regularly. Our best bet is to only visit French islands until we get ready to leave the Caribbean from the BVI then take our chances with being allowed in to Bermuda. Ho hum, these things are sent to try us. The firework display in the harbour was spectacular and free, much better than New Year's Eve on Union Island in 2009 and Martinique in 2013. Following the display, someone then sent up a big display from the hillside overlooking the harbour. It was wonderful. The weather in the new year wasn't spectacular, windy and wet, but our anchor held us very steadily. One problem that we became aware of in St Lucia was that the wind instruments were only reading 50%, however we had a spare masthead unit. Since the discovery it had been too windy to do anything about it. John went up the mast several times three days ago to swap them, take them apart, put them back together, replace them etc. until,eventually, the instrument was reading accurately. On Bequia we took a taxi, shared with two Russian guys, to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. It was an interesting visit, marred only by John slipping as he got back in the dinghy and dunked my iPad! We eventually left Bequia 10 days after we arrived and made our way to the Tobago Cays, motoring all the way because we needed to make water. The bottom tank is leaking again, we shouldn't have used a full tank in 10 days! This is a stunningly beautiful area; a park with turquoise seas surrounded by a reef to offer protection, small islands inhabited only by iguanas and birds, the water is home to a number of turtles. In 2009/10 the turtles gathered just off Baradel where the park wardens had installed a buoyed area to keep dinghies off, except a small passage through to the beach. Now the turtles have eaten all the seagrass and we have seen none there on three visits during 2016/17. Instead they pop up close to the boats just to tease! You see one, grab a camera and they disappear. We have seen large, full grown adults and some smaller, younger ones. The area is served by a number of 'taxi drivers' who come up from Union Island daily offering a number of services including garbage removal, fresh bread, T-shirts, fresh fish and lobsters, help with picking up a mooring (essential) and beach BBQs. They take it in turns to meet and greet and offer their services, all very orderly and not at all pushy. Kojak helped us with the mooring and, a few days later, we had a meal ashore. His partner, Aquila, is an excellent cook and took very great care to ensure no cross contamination of my food when we explained my allergy to lobster, crab and prawn. John was really pleased with his lobster, my tuna was excellent, and the meals were served with rice, jacket potato, green salad, plaintain chips and banana bread for dessert. We can strongly recommend Kojak and Aquila. A couple of days ago I spotted Makena coming in; Luc and Sarah with Kai were on the World ARC we joined in Fiji. Luc offered to have a look at my dead iPad as he has the proper tools and has taken a number apart before. He returned it later with some hopeful news. Connected to a computer, it will communicate with iTunes but needs my id entered however the only obvious damage he found was a badly corroded connector affecting the backlight to the screen. My next challenge is to connect it to my laptop and try to hit the correct 'buttons' when you can't see them. If that works we'll try to find an Apple shop and ask them to fit a new screen. Thanks Luc! At the moment the wind, which had been from north of northeast is slowly clocking around to the east so the plan is to leave for Bequia in the morning. There is quite a good breeze today and about two dozen kite surfers are whizzing up and down in the shallow area between the anchorage and the reef. One or two are doing little jumps but no real tricks. I spoke too soon, one has just successfully landed a jump with a triple twist or something just behind us, impressive. Yesterday we snorkelled just off Jamesby and saw squid for the first time. Today the water is choppier and the kite surfers have taken over Jamesby so I don't think I'll venture in today. Joyce Starblazer

29/12/2016 – Rodney Bay

Where have the last three weeks gone? Sorry there have been no updates, I won't bore you with excuses. Our first shift on the ARC Finish Line was really busy. I think we registered more boats (34) than any other crew. We took over from our friends on Chat Eau Bleu at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday 10th and had our first boats about half an hour later. The busiest two hours was 2200 to midnight when we had seven boats crossing the line, made rather difficult by the lack of moonlight! At least these days we have the advantage of AIS and Yellowbrick. All ARC boats carry a Yellowbrick and their position gets updated every hour as they close in on St Lucia so we know who we are expecting. Not all boats transmit an AIS signal but those that do were often picked up on Marine Traffic so, again, we had a pretty good idea when we could expect boats. They are supposed to radio in when two miles from Pigeon Island then again as they come around the point and can see in to Rodney Bay though not all did. Modern technology plus local data cards for the iPads made our life much less fraught. We had a gap between midnight and about 0230, so time to grab a short sleep, except you are mindful that they might actually arrive a bit quicker if the wind suddenly perks up and we were both awake well before the alarm went off! After that one there was another gap of about three hours, so a bit more sleep. This particular boat seemed to have decided to arrive in daylight and we were up well over an hour before they arrived. A chap came up in a dinghy to find out when we were expecting a particular boat as he wanted to welcome them when they crossed the line. We invited him on board to wait. We discovered that we had both crossed with the ARC in 2009. After he'd left I finally remembered his name and that of his wife! We subsequently met Gerald at the final prize giving party and on the marina pontoon. When we were relieved at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning we re-anchored in the bay, not without a couple of problems. Problem number one: the alternator charging light and temperature warning light both came on. A slipping fan belt could cause the first but not the second while motoring about a quarter of a mile wouldn't cause the second. The second problem was setting the anchor. In the end I pulled it back up, or rather the windlass did, and discovered a very large, heavy fish trap impaled on the anchor which I couldn't shift. Eventually John freed it and we dropped it well inshore, close to some fishing pot markers. The next few days were spent on boat jobs. An Internet search revealed that the two lights meant that the alternator was dead, bad news because it was New in Annapolis less than two months before. It was doubly bad news because there isn't a replacement in St Lucia. John took it ashore and Egbert of MarinTek sent someone to collect it. The next day was a public holiday so we didn't find out about it until later in the week. Our problem was that without the alternator the fresh water cooling would not get pumped around the engine because we couldn't fit the belt, this meant we were stuck out in the anchorage and needed to be on the Finish Line again on Friday. John made a shorter fan belt using fairly chunky bungee, sewn together and the joint protected with some heat shrink. It worked! Our second shift on the Finish Line was very different! Officially the line closed at noon on Friday but several boats were expected before about 10:00 on Saturday so we were asked to man the line and welcome to St Lucia. We did get a bit more sleep this time. Once we dropped the mooring we made our way into the marina where we were allocated a berth. The prize giving party was held on Saturday evening, it was very strange knowing so few people but recognising the names of boats which we 'finished' when they were awarded prizes! The following week passed fairly rapidly. Egbert sent a mechanic called Gary to replace the crankshaft seal on Wednesday. He thought it should take him a couple of hours, in the end it was nearer seven, not helped by the number of times he had to return to base to collect extra tools or search for information on engines as old as ours! Fortunately John has a lot of tools which saved some return trips. We now have an engine which doesn't leak oil to be sprayed around by the fan belts. John spent a number of hours touring Castries in search of a replacement alternator while a recommendation, just up the road on Gros Islet, attempted to repair ours. Fortunately he succeeded because John failed! It possibly won't work for long but at least it is now in place so its double belts will power the water pump. An aftermarket alternator in the U.K. will cost 40% of the official one available 'locally at some time in the future-1 week, 2weeks....'; we'll see how long this one lasts. Provided that we can keep the waterpump turning a failed alternator is not a serious problem, the engine battery alternator can be switched to charge both batteries and either the main generator or the Honda can power the battery charger; double redundancy system. We spent Christmas Day with Deb and Pete on Chat Eau Bleu, a catamaran with air con. Pete cooked lamb, roast potatoes, squash and green beans while we provided roast turkey, stuffing and Christmas pudding. Deb made gravy and I made custard. We also took along a box of crackers. It was a very civilised occasion with plenty of lubrication. I had also made mince pies and a Christmas cake which we are still eating. We had bought a whole turkey but John jointed it because we could never have cooked it in the boat oven. I cooked up all the bits first, leaving just the boneless crown for Christmas Day. All we have left now is some turkey stock with lots of little bits of meat in it which should make a tasty soup. We finally cleared out of St Lucia this morning and left the marina at about 1330. Our destination is Bequia but we have anchored for the night in Anse Cochon, ready for an early start tomorrow. Sent from my iPad

16/12/2016 – Grenada to Rodney Bay, St Lucia.

The plan came together! We pulled up the anchor at about 0630 on Saturday and motor sailed to Carriacou, the urgency was to avoid paying overtime to clear out. We had lunch ashore and were told of a beer tasting the same evening, needless to say we attended that as well. In the anchorage we spotted a Westerly Corsair ketch, just like our previous boat Fair Encounter. We went to investigate and discovered Galene, a boat we said goodbye to in 2012 in Gosport. We told them about the beer tasting then found Freebooter and told them as well. We had a convivial evening. Sunday morning we refuelled once Customs had stamped some paperwork. From there we headed for Union Island, a port of entry for St Vincent. It was Sunday so overtime was charged, that was expensive. We made a beeline to the Tobago Cays and went snorkelling. Near the boat there was quite a current and only a few small fish. We took the dinghy to Baradel, the island with the protected sea grass bed, but there were no turtles. We then motored across to Petit Bateau and swum out from the beach. We saw one huge ray but very little else. Unfortunately we didn't make our minds up early enough on Monday morning whether to stay another night or head to Bequia. We took the latter decision but anchored at about 1600. The Customs & Immigration. Office is open until 1800 but charges overtime after 1600. More extra charges! Just before dawn on Tuesday we pulled up the anchor and motored and sailed and motored again, arriving in Rodney Bay just after 1800. We cleared in the next morning, checked in with the ARC office, collected our T shirts and returned to the boat. Since then we have done one stint on the finish line and have just taken up position for a final 24 hours but I'll write about that later. Starblazer continues to throw problems at us! John didn't need to go up the mast to try to sort out the intermittently flashing masthead light, it jumped overboard. It looks as if the self-amalgamating tape he used wasn't up to much! When we passed on the finish line duty and motored back to the anchorage we had two warning lights on the engine Panel. John thought it was probably a loose connection, unfortunately it was a dead alternator. This is the expensive one he fitted in Annapolis less than two months ago. He took it ashore and passed it to Egbert, a great diesel mechanic. Unfortunately it is irreparable. We are waiting for a replacement so, in the meantime, John has made up a shorter temporary fan belt to drive the fresh water cooling. At least we could motor to take our place on the finish line and, tomorrow hopefully, go into the marina. The final problem with the engine is a badly leaking crankshaft seal, spraying oil everywhere. Hopefully Egbert has a spare and his guys can fit it for us next week otherwise we'll be stuck in Rodney Bay until sometime in the new year. Cruising = Boat maintenance in exotic locations. Definition of BOAT - Break Out Another Thousand. Joyce Sent from my iPad

02/12/2016 – Anchored off Whisper Cove

I'd discovered from Facebook that our friends Annemarie and Steve on Freebooter, who did ARC Portugal and the ARC in 2013 with us, had arrived in Grenada and had the boat relaunched. Monday morning, as we were topping up with water before paying our bill and leaving the marina, Annemarie came along in the dinghy. They had been relaunched at Clarke's Court on Friday and even came along to the food festival but didn't know we were there! We agreed to anchor near them, just off Whisper Cove Marina, with a plan to eat at the marina that evening. Unfortunately they don't do food on Monday evenings so Annemarie produced a lovely chicken curry and I provided sliced oranges steeped in red wine syrup with squirts cream. We had a great evening catching up. Tuesday we went ashore to catch the shopping bus. This is not a bus that you'd recognise in the U.K. Think smallish van with four rows of seats squashed in, basically three abreast but the near side one in three of the rows is a folds out. Health & Safety would condemn it instantly. The bus stopped at a bank drive through, then a big ACE Hardware store, next it was Budget Marine chandlery and the main stop was at a good supermarket. We were advised that the return trip would only take about half the people as the shopping would take up quite a few seats but that the driver would return quite quickly for the rest. We were lucky and got the first trip back which also stopped at a cash and carry, useful as I found some cans of diet ginger beer there. Back at the marina we stopped for lunch, chicken parmigiana with salad or chips and a bottle of beer for just under £9. It was very tasty. It rained heavily all night and Wednesday morning was quite grim. We were supposed to be going on an island tour, however the driver was willing to postpone to Thursday if all the boats agreed. That was easily sorted! The highlight of Wednesday was pizza night at Whisper Cove though it did dry up a bit in the afternoon. Thursday's tour was excellent. We went with Cutty's Tours whose bus was a very nearly new Nissan, big enough to carry 15 passengers with a small gangway between the offside seats and the single seats on the near side. Cutty was very informative, stopping frequently to point out particular fruit trees, spices etc. The first official stop was at the Annandale falls, from there we drove into the rainforest surrounding a crater lake which we had visited in March with the World ARC. This time I had a monkey sitting on my head, John did as well. It was great fun! We then continued across to the east side of the island and visited the Grenada Chocolate Company where we were shown the machinery involved in turning dried cocoa beans into chocolate. The chocolate company gets all its cocoa from the Belmont Estate which we then visited briefly. It was crawling with cruise ship passengers so Cutty first led us to the shop where there were 6 different chocolate bars to taste however at US$5 per bar we saved our money! After that he pointed out the drying racks and explained the process to us. We went inside the shed and saw the beans fermenting under a layer of banana leaves with sacking on top. It was a whistle stop tour but we were running late for lunch. Next stop was Rivers Rum Distillery. We had a very good lunch in their dining room before we had a guided tour around the distillery which still makes rum in the same way it did about 200 years ago, which is when most of the machinery dates from. A canal brings water from the river to the waterwheel which still powers a number of machines. A conveyor belt carries the cane up to drop it in a crusher, basically two large rollers which squeeze out the raw sugar. The waste is either used to fuel the fire under the pools where the water is evaporated out of the sugar syrup or it is used as a fertiliser in the fields. In the evaporation room the juice is heated slowly to start with, with the pools getting hotter as the juice/syrup is ladled into successive pools. From there it goes into fermentation bins where it stays for 8 days before going in to the still, heated by wood which burns hotter than the sugar cane waste. It was really interesting to see the whole process, in quite different surroundings from those found on the Port houses in Portugal! The finale of the visit was a tasting session: the strongest, not allowed to be taken on planes because it is flammable; the 69%, allowed on planes; a rum punch with fruit juice, only 16% and finally a chocolate punch, also 16%, absolutely delicious and the clear favourite amongst the ladies in the group! The return trip to the boats followed the east coast with one more destination, the old airfield. The runways are now used for drag racing but the reason we were there was to see two Russian built planes from the 50s which were shot up by the Americans when they invaded to throw out the Cubans in 1983 (I think). It was a very good tour, reasonably priced, with lots of information. The plan was to leave early Friday morning to sail to Cariacou, however Starblazer had other ideas. Thursday evening the generator was purring away then it suddenly stopped while we were having a late supper. John went to start the engine, it was dead. The Honda was pressed into service but wouldn't produce full power so John had to back off the battery charger. The first possible cause which sprung to mind was that the engine battery had gone flat but the windlass worked (using the remote) so that wasn't the cause. We give up and went to bed. Early Friday morning John started investigating in the engine room, looking for a single cause. He in fact found two completely unconnected faults! A fuse had gone in the generator and the ground lead from the engine starter motor was loose. Both faults were easily rectified, both started so we were ready to go. The only problem was that it had taken several hours and we didn't want to anchor in the dark. Time for a plan B, we sailed most of the way to St George's and anchored off. After lunch we went for a quick trip ashore in the dinghy, BBQ'd back on board and went to bed reasonably early. The plan for Saturday is an early start, then Cariacou to clear out of Grenada. We shall see. Joyce Sent from my iPad

27/11/2016 – Promises, promises!

No, I didn't write this just before leaving Tortola so no surprise there then, I hear you mutter! The afternoon tour around the west end of Tortola was interesting with stops at Soper's Hole (good ice cream), Bomba's Shack (scene of the reputedly best Full Moon Party), Cane Garden Bay (very old rum distillery), then a stop at the beach before returning via Road Town. I must admit, the hairpin bends and steep hills don't look any better with someone else driving. In 2000 I drove these roads with Richard and his friend Paul while John did an introduction to Scuba diving. Friday evening was the final dinner preceded by the prize giving and results. We were awarded a fantastic tray of fruits plus a bottle of sparkling wine, cheese and biscuits for our efforts to raise our home made code flags as quickly as possible. We came 4th in our category; first place went to the other Hallberg Rassy 42, crewed by three 20 something males and definitely not laden down with all the cruising paraphernalia we carry. 2nd and 3rd went to the only two boats theoretically slower than us. They had fewer engine hours than us, mainly because they were so far behind they caught the back end of a gale and sailed, albeit well reefed, while we had to motor in 6-8 knot winds! Oh well, at least we beat the other 9 boats in our category. We finally left Nanny Cay on Sunday, shortly before noon, for the 440 nM trip to Grenada. The forecast suggested 10 knots from the north east veering to the east. Forecasts lie! We sailed for a number of hours then motor sailed. On Monday the wind had swung around to just south of east and we had difficulty holding our course. Eventually on Monday evening we decided to put in a tack to the east as the wind had veered further. Ten hours later we tacked again and managed to sail and motor sail less than our required heading, giving us a few miles in hand if the wind changed again. We eventually anchored soon after 1700 on Wednesday outside St George's, Grenada. Our intended destination had been Prickly Bay on the south coast to clear in before moving on to Clarke's Court Marina where Palm Tree Marine is based. It is dark soon after 1800 and very dark by 1830, the moon wasn't due to rise until about 0300. The entry to Prickly Bay is well charted but anchoring in the dark amid a large number of other anchored yachts is fraught. Early Thursday morning we pulled up the anchor and made for Prickly Bay where we were anchored by about 0830, before Customs and Immigration opens! Dinghy pumped up and launched, we went ashore to clear in, John had a fried breakfast while we waited for the Immigration officer to arrive, then we returned to the boat and made our way to Clarke's Court. We anchored off, dinghied in, visited Palm Tree Marine and spoke to Mike, the owner, then returned to the marina office to book us in for two nights. We moved Starblazer to the Marina in the afternoon so that the engine would be cold when the chaps brought the generator back on Friday morning. Two strong men lifted it onto the boat, down the companionway and over the engine! The thing weighs about 75kg so that was not an easy task. Kevin worked hard in difficult conditions to reinstall the unit and it was ready to test a few minutes after 1500. It started, tick the box, it didn't make electricity. Oh dear! Kevin hunted around, found a circuit breaker, switched it on and, bingo, we had a working generator. He checked it for leaks, then got Rahim, the apprentice, to look for leaks. They left happy. John decided to run it to warm it up and have another check for leaks, he quickly discovered a water leak around the water pump so off he went to the office. Kevin returned with Sim, the office manager. They decided the pump was leaking at a seal and Sim didn't have high hopes of getting a replacement delivered before Christmas. A bit later Kevin returned and said 'The Boss' (Mike) wanted him to remove the pump. Friday evening there was a food festival in the yard. We met Mike there who said that there was a good chance that he had spare seals, he'd have a look in the morning. He had the seals but didn't have an impeller, we did. He finally refitted the pump soon after midday on Saturday. In the meantime, I discovered that the gas didn't work any more. John finally discovered the problem was not with the remote switch but rather with the gas solenoid. He sourced a replacement at the small chandlery on site, replaced the faulty unit and we had gas again. By this time the office was closed and, though they have our credit card details, we decided to stay another 48 hours especially since we had just discovered that there is wi-fi! How unlikely is it that we should meet someone here in Grenada who went to the same secondary school as us, even if it was 20 years later? Mike had lived in Nazeing, a village a little west of Harlow, and went to Netteswell. The school closed the year he left, we think it opened the year before John started there in 1956. What a small world! Joyce. Future posts will only be made to our website yachtstarblazer.co.uk Sent from my iPad

15/11/2916 – The end of this part of our journey

Sorry this is a bit later than intended but I wasn't on watch between 0500 and 0800 when I normally write my blog! As expected we reached Tortola mid afternoon on Monday and were safely tied up in the marina by about 1700. The day's run to noon was 143 nM, not brilliant but it did include about 7 hours of sailing, peaceful but not particularly fast. Now it is time to reflect on the passage. We had no major problems, just a few niggles which might prove to be expensive! I have previously described the problems with the mainsail slugs which detach themselves from the cars on the mast track. Today I reconnected another one which had popped out before I stowed the mainsail properly. John needs to revisit the design of his pins. A second, relatively minor problem concerns the tricolour light at the top of the mast. It became intermittent so we relied on the deck lights. The disadvantages of using these is that they are lower down so not seen so far away and there are three bulbs rather than one. Actually, now they are LEDs, the additional power consumption is not really an issue. John will have to go to the top of the mast to inspect the connections etc. and, if necessary, replace the rather expensive bulb. A third, possibly expensive, problem concerned the battery charger. When we started the generator the battery charger sensed the power input and tried to start charging, then the ELCB/RCCB/GFI dropped out. We were reduced to running the engine to charge batteries. Diesel engines do not like running with no load so our lack of sailing wind actually worked in our favour! Today John removed the battery charger and took it to a local company. They tested it extensively and reported 'no fault found'. Phew! That saved us about $600 but it left John with a problem. The two possible faults were either within the wiring or the socket, Long story short, a new cable to connect the original socket to the fuse box seems to have solved the problem, we are now charging. I have left the best, or perhaps worst, problem till last. We kept finding water in the saloon bilge. As a precaution we turned off the top tank which feeds directly into the bottom tank. The gauge only measures the bottom tank so we saw the level drop quite quickly and found yet more water in the bilge. One tank should easily last two to three weeks if you are not showering everyday. We used half a tank in just a few days. We removed the tank in New Zealand and had it welded as we had found it leaking a few days out of Galapagos. It looks as if the rough sailing conditions have opened up more cracks. We will wait until we get home to replace the tank, in the meantime we will not overfill it and keep the tap switched off between the two tanks. The watermaker ran well and feeds directly into the bottom tank so we will be fine. The top tank will be kept as an emergency backup if the watermaker fails. Now for some numbers. We sailed 1,298 nM from start to finish plus about 20 miles to the start and 10 miles to the finish. We motored or motor sailed for about 74 hours, we finished in 8 days, 23 hours and 56 minutes. I've ignored the seconds as I don't think they are necessary in this time span. Tomorrow we will enjoy Tortola before finishing boat jobs on Thursday. I'll write one last blog on the Caribbean 1500 page just before we leave for Grenada on either Sunday or Monday. Joyce.
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14/11/2016 – Sunday

If Saturday was full of positives I’m afraid Sunday did not follow in the same mould! Overnight there had been several squalls, more rain than wind though the latter waltzed around the compass. I led a charmed life; the squalls all arrived during John’s watches. I didn’t mention yesterday’s sunrise as I wrote the blog because it was unspectacular, light working its way through dense clouds which threatened more rain. We motored most of the morning, sailed during the afternoon, motored again for a few hours then sailed until 0200. There were a number of heavy showers as the black clouds marched past but, by late afternoon, the skies cleared and it became a lovely evening. I do appear to be doing my best to fit the stereotypical Brit, always going on about the weather! At sea there is not a lot to do, what we do or how we do it is largely governed by what the weather is. Our decision making is partly based on forecasts and partly on the actualities; i.e. the course we decided upon was expected to make the most of the forecasted winds and currents, the way the sails are set and whether or not to use the ‘iron tops’l’ (engine) depend upon the strength and direction of the wind. We have decided to arrive in daylight, without the engine that could be Tuesday morning or later, however we expect to arrive today, Monday, before sunset. The day’s run to noon yesterday was a very respectable 151 nM over half of which was under sail. As I write this we have 57 miles to go and I am looking forward to a rum punch and dinner ashore! As the weather was Not Quite What We Wanted or NQW3 I cooked egg, bacon, black pudding and toast for lunch. For dinner we had pork chops with apple sauce, boiled potatoes, carrots and courgettes. One item which has proved invaluable for producing varied meals on a two ring cooker, apart from the oven and the now repaired grill, is a silicone trivet bought from Lakeland. I threaded some cord around the edge and pulled it up to form a basket. The potatoes go in the saucepan first, the trivet sits above and I add the vegetables as the cooking time demands, meaning that the potatoes are boiled and the veg is steamed. If we had any other crew on board this wouldn’t work but it’s great for two. The final blog on the trip should appear tomorrow. Joyce

13/11/2016 – We have neighbours.

The ocean is a mighty large space and, though 35 boats are heading towards the same destination, the fleet is spread over a wide area. The first night at sea we could see the lights of several rally boats, however sightings for most of the time have been few and far between. We have spotted the odd non-rally boat but they have not stayed close. At about this time yesterday morning the AIS alarm went off for Windarra, a 13 metre sloop. At the time it was 3 miles ahead, slowly crossing our path. Today they are 10 miles away, on the port quarter (rear near side in carspeak for right hand drive vehicles). Yarona, another British owned Hallberg Rassy, also in the rally, came across our bow about 3 hours ago and are now 2.5 miles away on our port beam. Yesterday was rather frustrating, the predicted wind arrived rather late in the day. We motored until about 1800 when a useful breeze sprung up and we started sailing at 6.5 to 7 knots. We have decided that we want to arrive late afternoon on Monday, if we had continued to sail so well all the way the arrival time was coming forward rather nicely. Soon after 0300 the wind dropped to 4 knots, wandered around the compass and didn’t come back. We are motoring again. On the plus side, the batteries are well charged, we made about 50 litres of water and we don’t feel guilty about motoring! Our day’s run to noon was 135.8, we should have started the engine sooner. As I write this we have 195 nM to go. The list of jobs to do before we leave Nanny Cay on Tortola has increased but I’ll leave the definitive list until we arrive, just in case something else needs attention. I can report one breakdown John successfully repaired on passage. Our mainsail has 4 full length battens going from the luff (forward edge attached to the mast) to the leach (back edge) which help the sail keep a good shape. On the mast there are a number of cars, each batten pocket has a box with a top hat shaped peg which slots into a car and is held in place with a long U shaped pin. Between the battens there are pegs held on the sail by tape. The pins get broken legs and have proved impossible to source so John has made some from stainless steel welding rod the correct diameter. Unfortunately the series of kinks which keep the pins in place is hard to replicate. When a pin lifts the peg comes out, not drastic in itself, we keep sailing without noticing. That was true until we found the peg bit had unscrewed itself from the batten box and landed on the deck. Then a second one arrived in the same place. In one of the periods of no wind and flat seas John dropped the sail, screwed the pegs back in, plugged the pegs into the cars, pushed the pins firmly into place then re-hoisted the sail. That is one job less to do in Tortola. We think the pegs rattled loose when the sail was pulled in tight with just a little apparent wind from behind. Dinner on Saturday was pan-fried Flounder seasoned with lemon pepper and garlic granules with potatoes and an avocado, tomato and onion salsa, followed by yogurt with banana slices. Joyce