Saturday, April 20, 2019

French Guyana

Hi all
October has come and passed so I am due to write up my travels for that month again but I am starting where I left off in Lencois and we headed toward French Guyana
On the way out of Lencois the wind was very strong and we hit fishing nets but I dived up and turned the engine into neutral and Carlos turned the steering so we drifted off of them and were ok. Well that was the beginning of the nets sagas and during the next 768 miles of sailing I chose to sail on the 50m line and I admit it was a really big mistake because it was a constant watch out exercise with fishing boats all around us all the time and twice we had to motor nearly four miles to go around nets across our path. I couldn’t just sail over them because I have the keel then prop and then a skeg all of which can get snagged and will give headaches for cutting away in the high seas.
Next time I will go over the continental shelf and do the extra miles at sea just to avoid the fishermen, who were all the way along the Brazilian coast and seemingly disappeared when we crossed into French waters.
We arrived at the perfect time in the penal island group of Isle de Salute (Papilion fame) and dubbed by Napoleon as paradise in prison. I think the people sent there had no chance of being in Paradise and checking the stats only 900 of all the prisoners sent there ever made it back to France so Devils Island earned its name
The group are beautiful and the history was wonderful to see and spend time on  

Devils Island                                                                    Only way onto the island was with the kayak
When we arrived we found some of our friends there from Taurus and they gave us advice where to anchor. We immediately put the kayak into the water and went onshore to explore the first of the islands which was a leper colony and found it interesting.
We spent the next day there as well and chilled before heading into Kourou to check into the country and well as always as soon as I arrived we went ashore and on the jetty we met one or two of the sailors who live on their boats on the jetty and headed off to Customs
Well we had been given good advice about the busses but got it wrong anyway and instead of a no 3 bus we got on a number 2 and the poor driver tried to speak English to me but we seemed to miss it over and over. So at a point he (the bus driver) told me we should get off and walk the rest of the way (we thought it would be a short walk but it turned out to be a serious long walk in 40 Celsius and Carlos was complaining bitterly so he decided to hitch hike and once we were nearly there we got a lift but the guy also only spoke French so he tried to drop us off at customs but we never found it. As we were walking I decided to ask for directions and a young lady working on her catamaran spoke English from behind her dust mask and wow that was welcome. Anycase her boyfriend offered to take us there and as I was climbing into the car I saw another cat and recognized the name Entheos and quickly knocked on the side to see if anyone was at home. Well Bertie saw me and that was the end Teresa came down and instead of the frenchies helping us Bertie took us around and gave us a guided tour.

                                                                 Carlos and Chris    
                                                    Theresa Calipso and I at the birthday party

                                         All the others at the birthday party
It was Teresa’s birthday so we were invited to a party under the boats that night and of course we stayed without going back to the boat. Carlos wanted desparately to phone his wife and kids so Teresa put him on skype and we went walking to fetch ice and braai meat and charcoal and other stuff when we came back we set everything up and after about two hours Carlos joined us but so did every other person living on a sailing boat in the town and the party was great with loads of laughing and fun until 2 am in the morning
So the next morning it was back to customs to try again but we failed because one of the ships had come up the river with things for the launch of a rocket I into space so everything was focused on that as Kourou exists for the launch site. And that afternoon we went to get supplies and I was looking at the racks and a pretty French lady was next to me so I chirped and she responded in English and soon I was introducing her to Carlos and well sparks flew between them and Chris took us to another supermarket which was cheaper and had more stuff so I was happy.
That night we all had drinks together and stayed out late drinking and having dinner at a mobile kitchen and there we met some of Chris’s friends who worked at the space station and she eventually dropped us off sometime in the early hours of the morning and she had to go to work the next day.
That evening she invited us to dinner at her place and we agreed but when she came to collect us another party had begun with all the yachties on the jetty for Adrians birthday so Carlos persuaded her to stay and we enjoyed the evening on the pier with all the others. I had decided we were leaving the next morning so Carlos and Chris went home and we arranged that I would collect him on the jetty the next morning which I did and we were off at 8.00am towards Isle da Salut again
Once there we met up with Barbera and Christof again and spent the day exploring the islands again. While we were walking around we felt like some coconut and Carlos tried to get us one from the tree but failed and to my surprise Christoff just put a rope on his feet and within seconds he was up the tree and throwing coconuts down for us like a proper monkey. Carlos then taught us how to open them and get the milk and then the white meat to eat.

Pics of the main island and then Christoff in the tree and me eating the fruits of the adventure

It was great and I shared my coconut with all the people around me and we enjoyed it a lot
The next day was Friday and I don’t leave on a trip on Friday so we chilled much to Carlos disgust as he had checked the wind and there would be good wind on Friday but not Saturday. However I was adamant and we stayed and left the next morning in light wind and we sailed to St Laurent du Maroni very slowly. Actually it worked out perfectly because at 0530 am we arrived at the river mouth and it was exactly where I wanted to be because the tide was in our favour and we would be pushed into the river for six hours. The 30 miles up river were great with the tide pushing us along with the engine at 6 to 8 knotts and an hour before the tide swung we were 1 mile from our destination. Perfect timing.

Sailing 30 miles up the Maroni river towards St Laurent Du Maroni
We anchored and went ashore and met a whole bunch of new yachties over happy hour drinks at 1 euro per beer and we were informed by David the marina owner of all the procedures and we settled in
We walked around in St Laurent du Maroni and looked at the history wth the connection to the islands and wow I am glad I was not one of those prisoners again. The town is truly a reminder of French Colonisation and  the people are mostly of slave decent and are friendly. The markets in all of these places I travel to are a real treat and this was one of the better ones I have been to but the truth is that almost all the people selling at the market come from across the border in Albina in Surinam and trade with the French locals. Chinese control the economies of both Albina and St Laurent because they work hard and they own the shops and supermarkets . At the Market we were told to try the Mung soup offered for sale so of course I did that and it was delicious so every market da after that I went for soup. But also sometimes the Mung tribe had some small shops and I would go and have food there as a treat
Albina is a town in Surinam and I took a ride in a Pirogue three time over there to explore and each time was a new experience. The place is thriving with all the French doing there shopping over there because the prices are so much cheaper (non Euro prices) and the illegal Brazilian miners come there for there pleasures and supplies when they come out of the jungles so watching the goings on was funny even down to the vigilantes guarding their space with semi automatic rifles so as to keep the Brazilian miners identities from any photos and the price to those guys is gold everything is paid in gold. Except for people like me who paid in Euros which were happily accepted. 
One day in the week one of the other  guys came and told us all the yachties were taking our dingies and having a picnic on the leper colony island and we should bring our meat and food and join in so we did it was a five mile run for mrs 2hp each way but we made it and it turned out to be fun (this is the Island shown in the movie Papilon when he was being ransferred)

Picnic on Leper Island
During the stay Carlos had invited Chris to come and visit and she brought Bertie and Theresa with so she could have time with Carlos and Bertie and Theresa and I could catch up while the work was being done on their boat in Kourou. And it was during this time Carlos decided that it was very important that he go home for his daughters graduation so we sat down and discussed the trip to Tobago and when I was going to carry on. I had decided I was going to spend my birthday going to see the launch of a rocket into space at the space center and the graduation was on the 8th of November so Carlos took a decision that he should travel home to Brazil from French Guyana and miss the last leg of the trip to Tobago. And so when Chris came down to visit him it was arranged that he would get a lift with her to Cayenne and fly home from there and that is what happened. Bertie Theresa and I had a lovely weekend together and Carlos and Chris had a good time together and they all left together on the Tuesday. And that was the end of my crew experience.
In reflection it was good for me having Carlos as crew because he was willing to learn and I was willing to so him what it was like to sail in rough and sort out problems underway as well as sail really slowly with less than five knots of wind (that is when most other sailors switch on engines but living slowly allows you to go slowly as well). I enjoyed having the boat back for myself for a while and when Bertie and Theresa came again for another visit a few weeks later Chris stayed with other friends. I think also it will be a long time before I think of new crew unless I know them as I have found I am difficult to adjust to.
After Carlos had left there were a couple who were Americans at the marina and they suggested a Halloween party and there was not even a squeak before it was arranged and the theme was orange and black using things we had on the boat. Well it turned out a great evening with all of us doing something and the cobb society came out with four Cobbs and we braaied and I took music and we partied until late with Sameul and his friends joining us and adding a local flavor for all of us
Barbera and Christoff showed us ballroom dancing as well to add to the fun

Haloween party in St Laurent
Chris had told us about a cultural festival and we all went together to see it even though David had warned us not to go to that part of town. It turned out to be an interesting occasion meeting many new people and two of them was Oceana and Camille a pair of gorgeous young ladies having a blast. Chatting to them they didn’t know where they were staying after and because Bertie and Theresa were sleeping outside the front cabin was free and they were invited to lay there heads there. Bertie took the phone numbers as I must say I never expected to see or hear from them again but at 4 am bertie’s phone screamed into life waking us all and it was Oceana asking to take up the offer for a place to stay, so I had to get up get into the dingy and go and fetch the two girls and get them back to the boat. It was a big palava because I had to give direction on how to get to the jetty and I didn’t really know much about the town however between Oceana and I we made it and two giggling ladies looked at the dingy and weren’t sure at first but got in and we were on the way to the boat.
Oceana first had something to eat and then the two climbed into the cabin giggled a bit more and passed out until about 9.30 am. When they woke I made breakfast for all of us and stretched the bacon and eggs to small portions but with coffee it worked out. We chatted and I found out that Oceana was the journalist for the Space center and Camille was doing a thesis on local environment issues but both were very interesting and confident ladies. After a short while I took them back to shore and walked them to their car and they left to go back to Kourou. Bertie, Theresa and I spent the rest of the day on the boat chatting and later Chris came to collect them to go back to Kourou as well.
On the 10th I went to the launch which entailed catching a bus to Kourou for two hours and going to a site 5 km from the Launchpad and watching from there. Because the launch was after dark I didn’t get many pictures but it was impressive even though I had seen one in USA before. The wait for the bus after the launch was dragged out because we had to wait for all the speeches to finish (two or three hours before they left and I got back at 11.00 pm
The next morning I lifted my anchor at the change of the tide and I was off initially I had decided to spend the night at the entrance to the river but when I got there the current was in my favour so I just carried on sailing to Tobago.
I too a decision I was going to sail slowly to Tobago so I put three reefs in the main and a sliver of a genoa out ad was going to leave it like that irrespective of how much wind I had and sail. Well except for two incidences it was a fantastic sail, I had a fishing boat chase me for miles and miles and I thought of Venezuela pirates but I started the engines and with motor and sail ant 16 knots I outran then and eventually they gave up and disappeared. Once out of sight I was over the continental shelf and the wind picked up to 20 knots from behind and stayed like that all the way to Charlottesville Tobago where I am at the moment
I have applied for a visa for USA and have an appointment on the 3rd December and once I get my documents back from them I will sail to Grenada for Christmas and New Year but the exploring here and the sail there will be for the next journey

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A journey from heaven to hell and back

Having have a really wonderful time in Cuba it was time to say goodbye and head towards St Lucia so I would be in plenty of time before they arrived for their two month visit
So after much planning and preparation I set off at 0830 hrs after a resounding farewell wave from all the friends I had made in Santiago da Cuba and it was humbling to note that people I had known for such a short time were happy to come out at 7am to wave me off

Maybe they were actually coming to see if I Gould get off the jetty  single handed or if I would call for help because they all thought I was loco
Well I got my clearance and jumped onto the boat having loosened the lines and it went perfectly and I was off
I knew I would have to motor some way on the first day as the winds would be very light and so I i called to wish some Irish friends on their way and headed for the gap between Haiti and Jamaica .
About two hours out the wind picked up and I was able to sail for around two hours so I believed I was in heaven still but the wind died again so on went the motor and I donked for 12 hours achieving 110 miles that day
As I came around the end of Haiti the wind picked up not to the 16 kts I saw on the forecast but to 25 kts peaking 30 kts so with two reefs in the main and a tiny Genoa I started my beating into the wind
Well day two I did two very long tacks and made 48 miles headway which was around three miles sailing to one mile forward This was going to be a slow sail
At the end of the day two I went to start my Volvo and well the clunk told me something was wrong so I went down to check if the water problem was back and well I got thrown about and saw that the engine had filled overnight to the point where the oil was pushing out of the air intake  so I opened the oil filler cap and oil poured out of that too
Needless to say I allowed my spirits to sag to an almighty low being in such strong winds without an engine. I was not a happy camper but at least I still had my generator to charge batteries and it meant real sailing for me
So out came Mrs Kipor and I started her up and all was well for around 10 minutes and the overload alarm light came on and shut the system down and nothing I could do would change it even trying to start it with nothing connected didnt work. So now I am 100 miles offshore without and engine or generator and only Mrs windgenerator and solar panels to help me on the way
So I carried on and on day three i went down to have a look at Mrs Volvo and what I could do to save her and started by pumping out 15 liters of sea water (luckily no fresh water was lost )
Then I got all the tools out while being bounced about on close haul bashing into waves and everything going flying around the saloon in different directions all the time
I found a bucket and started stripping the engine very slowly to ensure I put all the parts in so I could put them back in the exact same order and eventually got the injectors out and put away
Then as I thought was a good idea I could pump the water in the piston out by cranking the starter motor and the piston would pump the water out and once all out I could assemble and put new oils new filters and save the engine. Well now what I didnt realise was when I turned the starter motor that instead of sea water black sooty engine oil would come flying out of those 19mm holes and cover me and every single mm of the engine room in oil very slippery oil
It was here I went outside checked the liferaft and got my passport and wallet into the grab bag in case I needed to get out fast
Not only did Id cover the engine room but it started dripping down and filling every crevass in the boat storing it for later. So I sat back in disbelief and instead of crying I burst out laughing with my black face and all of the other parts
That was when I decided that my bath towel had to be sacrificed and first wiped myself down and then covered the engine and blew the remaining oil out of the cylinders and then started wiping down some of the engine room and engine
Then I rested before i reassembled the engine and left the filler cap off and the drain plug out of the sump and went to change tack for the evening
Next morning I went down to look and low and behold the engine was full again so out came the pump and I drained it again but by now I was in panic mode (almost) and switched  my  sailor engineering
Brain on and started using logic so I found an old cloth and stuffed it into a zip lock bag and stuffed it into the exhaust to ensure water could not come in that way . Mindful of the huge waves that were breaking over me all the time and that I was soaked
By this time the steady strong winds were giving a constant white foamy spray and it was coming into the boat through everywhere it could so having plugged the exhaust I went to my cabin to get some dry clothes and get out of my oil rags from my baptism of oil the giggling motor gave me
Well on my way out of the cabin my foot slipped on a wet patch and I cam crashing down in the gangway on my face but the doorway decided to take my shoulder out with it
I am not sure if I was unconscious but I realised that a facelift wasnt on order but I was really sore and this wasnt going to help me with changing sails everytime I tacked but I couldnt allow that to stop me now or I would be in serious trouble
Having plugged the exhaust I decided I was going to ensure the siphon release worked and I also added an extra stopcock to prevent any seawater getting near the engine and then went down and pumped another 15 liters out of the engine and then left it again
By this time I was exhausted and was for the first time ever feeling a little seasick so I had to force myself to eat because I needed to keep my strength up .
I had cooked 21 meals in preparation for the trip but I had added a little too much chillies in the food so at sea it was too much so I reverted to adding a box of soup to half a jar of bottled food and it got the spicy tast just right and so i knew what my meals were going to be for the rest of the journey
So now its day four and I am grinding the winch to set the Genoa and my left arm screams at me and I just knew I had pulled a muscle leaving me no arms to grind with (I suppose after four days of doing gym in strong winds and very big swells and boat bashing down the back of waves you should be tired
Well now I had to really put my mind to work and ignore the pain so using two hands every time to spread the load I positioned myself over the winch to help me but this meant that waves crashing on the decks would wet me every time I was out there and being wet caused me to get nappy rash which also gets painful and you eventually cant sit anymore but have to lay down and I didnt have any medication to use on it
Well it was day five and the night had given me a new challenge and the bilges were filled up and all the oil in then had now been deposited on all the floors in the saloon and galley and passages and the auto bilge pump wasn’t coping with the flow inward
It was the worst sight I could have woken to so back on hands and knees I was using sacrificial towel and shirt and a couple of rolls of kitchen towel I got it cleaned up and was able to move around again
Then wondering how the water had come in I went forward to the front cabin and to my utter disbelief it was saturated and there was a jet of water coming through from the chain locker every wave that hit Mrs opela and it was a lot of water so next job was to try and plug it with silicon which I did but silicon does not stick to wet salty surfaces and eventually I cut the two wires going through the hole and got a wooden bung and banged it into the hole
Then Mrs auto bilge pump started winning again and soon the bilges were cleared with an oil residue on the bottom not floating around the cabin
So drenched again for six days Now and in the day it was hot but at night it got really cold so even with foul weather gear on I was freezing and got out the warm fleece blanket out to help me
Under the waxing moon the wind on day seven had a squall and shredded my sunshade which also kept the bulk of the fine spray coming off the sea from my feet as I lay in the cockpit to rest
So the end result was I was wet some more
Over the next few days I checked the engine and yay no more water was coming in but I was worrying that the parts inside might be rusting which would mean it would seize but had no option but to leave it
Going back on day two I had to decide what electric equipment needed to be switched off to conserve the batteries because I really needed the autopilot with my arms hurting the way they did so Out came the battery powered led lights and off went computer and everything else except fridge and autopilot and AIS and vhf
Well here is where Mrs wind generator came to the party and during the whole time she kept enough power in the batteries to run those items even though i had decided to sacrifice the food in the fridge over the autopilot
It was monitoring these iTunes and power that I noticed the solar panels werent working properly so I was back on the hunt for faults and found that one was disconnected all together so of course I fixed that in another wet exercise but after that the batteries stayed full all the time so my spirits were lifting again
Well days nine and ten were better because the wind came down to 18 kts and it was easier sailing because the waves only crashed over me every third wave as opposed to almost every wave
And I was set at doing three miles sailing to one mile forward I couldnt point into the wind any better than that and I knew it was a matter of time and I would be near a port where I could get spares and fix the engine
By now the water problem was stopped so I put oil into the engine and cranked it around two or three times to ensure it was loose
Well now on day 11 I went to the heads and did a number and when I started pumping nothing worked so now I have a full toilet and no way to get it out of the boat. A really shitty experience on its way
So I had to strip the pump put some thread tape on the I side of the o ring and then grease the tubes and then reassemble it again while every wave tried its best to share the loaded bowl all over the boat
Luckily my efforts paid off and the pump worked again and was good from then on
Well by this time I was more than exhausted and I was 32 miles out of Ponce in Puerto Rico  and decided the port was open enough I could sail onto anchor and there was a marina so I should get spares and if needed assistance from qualified artisans to sort everything out that still needed sorting out
So I needed to arrive in daylight as I was really afraid to sail onto anchor in a strange port at night so I put in a final tack which put me past the port and allowed me to enter on a beam reach and settled in for the night and of course I fell asleep but something woke me and I found myself two miles offshore heading for a reef so I came about and move to until  morning then as I passed the first bouy  marking the channel I tried turning the engine just praying that it would start and allows me to use it to put the anchor down and flush it out for a final time
No chance and after five attempts I gave up and waited 10 minutes sailing in slowly
First ten and I failed again so I asked the universe for help and on the third attempt she fired up and took me to anchor like a wonderful lady she is
Well I have been here seven days Now and not all the jobs are done because I cant get the spares I need so I am leaving tomorrow to head for St Thomas so that I can try again but I ordered spares online here and they are being delivered to Entheos and I will collect them there and it means I have to beat again and put plugs in all the holes again but at least this time it wont be 12 days but 2 and because I carry the spares I need I have flushed the engine out and fixed all the holes and most of the broken things and sewed a new shade cover it wont be too bad
I must also say that opencpn on a tablet was as good as on the computer and will be happy to share it with everyone to help them
And also I want to add this that because I had AIS the captains of ships were really good in that they always steered around me and I was never put into a dangerous position because they were courteous and also when I asked for weather updates they were very forthcoming I was impressed
Well a week later and my arms are still stiff and sore but I am moving on so that I can get my things sorted out and will be in St Thomas in a weeks time to collect my one way valve for the exhaust and other parts like replacement filters to keep my stocks up
Lets hope the next hop will be less of an adventure

Hi all this is my blog for adventures sailing in my home to as many beautiful places i can