15:34.750N 61:27.732W Dominica
2 & 3 December 2007
Last week I forgot to mention the earthquake which was a magnitude of 7.4. We did not find out about the tremor until we got to Canouan and the man in the dive shop said that he could not keep the chair he was sitting in still. We had anchored there at 2pm, the quake was at 3pm, but none of us noticed it.
Yes, this should have been on last weeks blog, but I wanted an early start today.
Today I am leaving everybody, which is quite huge after so many months of bumping into people I know. Anyone reading this, please do not underestimate how much I miss everybody, yachties and shorebased people alike. I have had a little cry, but out here I can tuck my MP3 player into my bikini and sing along to all the songs – even the ones that I have no hope of reaching the correct notes for.
I am heading for Monserrat. I got up as far as Antigua when I went up and I want to skip the islands I have done and pick up where I left off and continue up to the Virgin Islands.
My course is due North, straight up past St Vincent, then St Lucia and Martinique curve away from me and Dominica and Guadeloupe curve back. The direct route saves quite a few miles and I am hoping the wind will be more favourable in strength and direction. This route also relieves me of the strain of arriving in a suitable anchorage before dark, the down side is that it is still over 200 miles and I have to stay up for a few days.
I am typing this in the dark in the cockpit having had a busy day. I put the rudder on Horatio (my Hydrovane wind steering for newbies) this meant going in the water, believe me I tried for a long time to do it from the boat. The rudder now forms a good foothold for getting back on the boat from the water. I set off at 6.45 and by 7.45 I was out of the harbour and under full sail with Horatio steering. 8.00 and the wind died and I was motoring. By noon I was motor sailing, but I had to put the genoa away several times in the afternoon and just motor.
I had bought the netting for the guard rails yesterday and although it is not that strong it makes me feel better, I think it defines my boundaries and at the moment it is white and clean; it will hopefully save a few things from going over, maybe even me, and it should stop the fish coming aboard. It took 5 hours to do one side as I had to take the mid guard rail out and then the lower rail as I had threaded the old netting through these. I had also taken the top guard rail off to slide the old netting over the stanchions, but I decided some cutting was more desirable than taking this rail off while at sea. It was a long job, but it helped take my mind off all those I have left and the fact that I was going away from land. Island hopping here is comforting in that you can see where you have left and where you are going to. The route I am taking meant that I had to let St Vincent slip away behind and to the right and I had to sail away from St Lucia, which was difficult to deal with if I kept looking - perhaps I should island hop?
I then spent 2 hours making water, this is labour intensive as I still have the leak on the inlet side. I can make good quality water for an hour and then have to fill the filter again and bleed the system and then run it for another hour. I am still putting the water into bottles and walking up to the front to pour it into the tank as I still have a leak on the hose to the tank. I have been trying to fix these things, but I have not won yet, but the system is manageable and I have a full tank.
It was 6pm before I was able to set Horatio in charge of the boat, the wind is reasonably constant, but only 9 knots and at 23 degrees is setting me off course to the west, which is not wonderful, but I have a long way to go; I am doing 5 knots and have been able to turn the motor off for the first time today. I had very full batteries, which is why I ran the watermaker, but now I have the lights on so I have put DG in the water and he is making electricity for me. I am using sails, Horatio and DG; using only nature’s power. The last time I was this eco friendly seems to be when I came to the Caribbean, but maybe I used them a little in the islands. That euphoria lasted an hour, the wind died again and it was back to the motor. The wind had been taking me off course anyway. When you have 150 miles to go and it is 30 hours at 5 knots motoring, or 50 hours at 3 knots sailing, would you turn the motor off? Not a good cruising attitude, but I have to do this trip and no wind is better than wind against me. It would be different if I was going a really long way, then it would just be a matter of pootling along, but this is just to be endured as a means to an end.
A cruise ship passed ahead of me at 2100 and another one was coming out of St Lucia as I got level with Castries.
The nights are so difficult for me, I must not nap, but it is natural for me to want to sleep when it is dark.
A freighter overtook me at 0200 giving me a ¼ mile clearance.
I did 100nm in 24 hours, 150 to go. The wind is still 4-6 knots and so I am still motor sailing. I could not hear the weather on the SSB because the engine is on.
John, Non Linear, is always good for the weather and when we parted on Saturday night he just happened to have a printout of the weather which he gave me. The actual wind has not even lived up to that forecast, which was feeble anyway. On the back of the weather is an e-mail regarding the earthquake. This is important to me as I am heading to Monserrat, which is only habitable in the North now after the volcanic erruptions in the late 90s. The recent quake was tectonic, not volcanic and affected Monserrat slightly with 4 pyroclastic flows, but should not lead to further problems. The epicentre was 30 miles NNE of Martinique and 100 miles down. It was the strongest quake in E Caribbean in 33 years – and I did not notice.
I am not enjoying myself, it is very hot and sunny, too sunny to be outside. I could not make the watermaker work today and gave up after over 20 minutes struggling with it and I am still pounding away with the engine – I find this all very depressing.
By 11 I had cleared the top of Martinique, which is the last of the Windward Islands and then the Leewards start with Dominica. I did not want to stop on Dominica, I could have been in Deshais at the top of Guadeloupe by daylight. Something made me change my mind and I changed course for Portsmouth at the top to anchor at the top of Dominica. I still did not want to do this and changed back for Guadeloupe and then finally back for Dominica. Why? I assume there is a reason and will have to go with the decision and find out later whether it was a good call.
I was 6 miles out when I saw some white caps around me and I was visited by 8 dolphins. It seems an age since I saw these, 1 day out from Barbados comes to mind. Dolphins are my sea angels, they turn up when I really need cheering up. They played for a while under the bow before heading off.
The sun set at 1733, exactly when my GPS said that it would. I was not quite at the anchorage and it is a big bay. I had to cross the bay in the dark, looking out for pot markers. So much of me wanted to turn round and continue on, but once I had got into the bay there was no point going back out. The yacht that had come along the coast and was quite a long way ahead of me was still motoring around the anchorage. I passed a dark hulled yacht without any lights, in the morning I was to find out that it was Graffiti, he was in the bay at Chaguaramas, but I do not know him; I could hardly make him out and that made me leave my mooring light on all night, rather than just my solar light. I anchored at 1900 and went to bed, I did not wake up until 4.45, so I was very tired.