History Log: Season 2004
Amida travels from Toronto to Trinidad.
Our first years adventure.
Log 11: Salinas, Puerto Rico to St Lucia
June 14th, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
It seems just a couple of weeks since I finished the last Log and uploaded it in Salinas, Puerto Rico, but over a month has since
passed! Time flies when you’re having fun… First, here is a quick summary for those of you who don’t feel like reading the whole,
We are now in the final stages of our voyage to Trinidad and are in a marina in Rodney Bay, St Lucia. Amida is doing well, as are
her crew. The weather has been pretty awful but now we are heading more “south” and the wind is no longer on the nose as
much and the last couple of legs have had really great sailing. We are traveling with Colonel’s Lady (a Cal 46) and Allways
Sunday (a Lagoon 38 catamaran) and are usually last into port as they are much faster than us now that we are not beating into
the wind and waves. The first Tropical Waves have arrived which means we are still governed, and hampered, by weather
windows but, it is not too far to go now, some 200 miles which we need to cover before July 10th. We are booked on a flight
from Trinidad to Toronto for July 13th returning to Amida on Sept 6th, which will give us a chance to spend much of the summer
months in Canada. The budget is getting hammered again, especially when I discovered I owed a rather substantial amount to
the Canadian Tax authorities (maybe I should register Amida as a Quebec vessel and get a Federal grant for promoting
Canada?). We had more excitement than we needed in Dominca when, while at anchor in the early hours of the morning, a local
thief boarded all three boats. Luckily, I’d had a premonition and, for the first time on the trip, put up the drop boards and closed
the sliding hatch. Allways Sunday was also locked up. Colonel’s Lady was not so lucky and the thief came into Chris’ stateroom
and took US$200 from his wallet which was some two feet away from his head!
Now the details…
We left Salinas, Puerto Rico, on May 5th in the early evening and reached Marina Del Rey, on the eastern coast of PR some 22
hours later, being very glad to be finally away from the chop, swells, and “noserlies”. Noserlies, as you might have guessed, are
winds which, apart from being easterly or whatever, are also “on the nose”… and we’ve had more than our fair share of these,
which is why this route is called the Thorny Path. A few hours out of Salinas we finally turned the corner and were able to steer
in a more northerly direction and had a few hours of pleasant sailing. Before that, however, we were all under reefed mains with
engines running at medium revs. The wind direction left Allways Sunday, the catamaran, tacking at wide angles and hence by
the time we turned the corner they were about an hour behind but once they had the wind off the nose, they caught up quickly.
Marina Del Rey has a huge, huge marina with over a 1000 slips, occupied mostly by power boats with impressive arrays of
outriggers ready to be deployed for fishing trips. We decided to take a slip as there was no good anchorage nearby and we
wanted to visit the local West Marine chandlery to make a few boat purchases. I’d decided to buy a new handheld VHF as our old
one would not hold its charge for more than a couple of hours any more and I also wanted to get a remote mike for the main
VHF set as we’d had enough of clambering out of the cockpit to the nav station every time we were hailed, which happened
frequently during the night passages. It wasn’t a mere “convenience” as having a remote mike in the cockpit meant the speaker
at the nav station could be turned off and the person who was off watch, trying to sleep, would not get woken.
From Marina del Rey we had another of those night time passages, heading east to St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We left
Colonel’s Lady behind as Chris wanted to stay to find electronics technicians to take a look at his SSB radio and Autopilot. Chris
is a retired US Marines Colonel who has been single-handing since he left California, some seven years ago. A great guy! The
weather that evening was absolutely perfect, with the sea almost completely flat and winds of around 10 knots, and the moon
shone brightly. We couldn’t quite sail the rhumb line (the direct course to the destination) but didn’t have to put in too many
tacks along the way. To our surprise, Amida made approx 5 knots of speed under these conditions and just ghosted along with
the only sound being the gurgle of water as it flowed past the hull. It was quite magical… We arrived in St Thomas around 0630
in the morning and, after a short rest, headed into town to complete our check-in procedures and also partake of the wonderful
duty free shopping opportunities, the main one was the purchase of a new camera. We couldn’t, unfortunately, find another
Canon S30 as these are now out of production, so the add-on gear such as additional memory chips, a spare battery, an
underwater case, and the Extended Warranty was all now quite useless. The new model is an Olympus Stylus, which is
“waterproof” to the degree that occasional rain won’t damage its innards. Booze and cigarettes were also exceedingly cheap so
Amida’s bilge became loaded with bottles of rum, wine, tequila, and took on more than a passing acquaintance to a pub’s
A couple of days later we left for St John’s, the next island of the US Virgins… and got beat up again! Thankfully, this was a
relatively short sail of some 7 hours.
We had decided to anchor at Coral Bay and had a few moments of anxiety as there is a dangerous shoal on the approach which
was shown on the paper charts but not the electronic ones. BTW, the quality of the Raymarine CM NT+ electronic charts
continues to be absolutely abysmal, which annoys me no end. Garmin has much better resolution and details on their GPS chips.
Coral Bay was a bit of a disappointment as it was yet another anchorage with more than its fair share of “wrecks”, i.e. derelict
boats which appear to have been anchored for several years and had no intention of leaving in the near future, being without
masts and rigging was a clue in that respect… also there were no beaches and, in the morning, we were woken to the sound of
jack hammers pounding away at the hillside creating the foundations in the hillside for yet another villa. The weather had turned
to rain, so it was a little miserable. Drury wanted to find a restaurant so he could treat Jennifer to a Mother’s Day Dinner and this
proved a little more difficult, and wetter, than we expected. The restaurant at the anchorage was pretty much a hamburger place
and was full of rowdy sailors who had just finished a local regatta. Another was close to the boats but didn’t have a dinghy dock
so getting to it would involve a bit of a hike. The last had a dinghy dock but was quite far from the boats which would mean we’d
get soaked getting there! We finally settled on the middle of the three and actually enjoyed the walk and had a great meal.
On May 10th, we finally reached the British Virgin Islands where we spent a couple of days at each of Norman Island and
Roadtown before heading to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, where we left Amida at the marina while we became landlubbers for a
week… residing in an absolutely fabulous villa, right on the beach. The villa had been arranged by our good friends in Toronto
and we were able to share it with Cathy and Peter Bonch who flew down to join us and also by Drury and Jennifer who left their
catamaran for a couple of days to savour the delights of a proper bed. It was wonderful to relax, swim in the pool, sit under the
awning… and wonder when the clouds would go away! Yes, the weather was still not cooperating and Marilyn said she’d never
seen such strong winds, 20-25 with gusts to nearly 30 knots, in the five or six visits she’d made here. We had once exciting night
when a young fellow from a nearby villa got a touch inebriated and couldn’t find his way back, from the beach, in the dark, at
around 2.00 am in the morning. Peter awoke when he wandered onto our villa grounds and dealt with him very effectively by
shining a flashlight into his face, telling him to stand still, else “he’d shoot”. The poor drunk must have wet his shorts, again, as
he desperately insisted he wasn’t armed. We visited the Baths, a bit of a misnomer as there really aren’t places there to bathe.
The area is full of gigantic boulders that look like they’d been dropped at random from a great height. We clambered over them,
pretending we were in the Alps and then somehow, the guys got separated from the ladies, then it was just Peter and me, and
finally Peter went off into the water, and I didn’t follow. Some ten minutes later, he reappeared with a sheepish look on his face
and a fair bit of skin missing off his arm as a result of slipping off one of the boulders. After a week at the villa we returned to
Amida and spent a few days sailing around the BVIs… and joined up again with Chris, on Colonel’s Lady and Image, a boat from
Quebec whom we’d sailed from Mayaguana to the Turks and Caicos. The three of us then headed to St Martin’s with quite
reasonable waves and winds of 12-18 knots, nearly on the nose again, and completed the crossing in 18 hours. Chris had a
rough time as his autopilot decided to stop working again, and he is a single hander!
St Martin’s was great, great, great… we anchored in Marigot Bay, close to town, and treated ourselves to the French
atmosphere… a café with tables under the trees, sipping coffee and eating a pastry… pate, cheese, baguettes, wine… Mind you,
once we got off the boat where it was at least a little windy, it became unbearably hot, clammy, and sweaty. We were also a little
apprehensive as we heard that 10 dinghies had been stolen this year alone.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t tarry for too long as, after some four or five days, a weather window appeared and it was time to
head to St Bart’s, just for the afternoon, then an overnight sail to Antigua. St Bart’s is another very picturesque French island,
but it is very expensive. We sat and lunched watching the tiny, tiny cars, lots of Suzukis and Fiats, and little scooters buzzing
around, many with bikini clad beauties on board. Very easy on the eyes… This island apparently is a destination of choice for the
rich and famous, so I kept my eye open for Jennifer Lopez but alas, she was a no show…
For us, the 75 mile passage from St Barts to Antigua was OK but, for the Colonel, it was a nightmare. First, his engine gave up,
then the screws in his furler drum fell out and, after managing to get it furled in again and now sailing with the staysail, the sheet
car broke… all of this in some hefty winds. Marilyn saw a gust of 36 knots during one of the many squalls. The waves were quite
large and, from time to time, broke over the high side, drenching the cockpit and even allowing sea water to somehow find its
way inside the boat around the cockpit hatch. While the Colonel is usually first into an anchorage, this time it was us who got to
Jolly Habour first, then waited a good few hours for him to arrive and drop his hook with great aplomb, not having anyone to
help on board, not even an engine… It turned out that his fuel tank had crud on the bottom and the feed tube had become
clogged. For us that would have been a major problem but he was able to change filters and switch over to his second tank.
Jolly Harbour is another fine place for boaters as it has a marina (only 50c/ft slip fees), a swimming pool, several restaurants,
and even a casino. We met up here again with Allways Sunday who had left the BVIs before us. Checking in is an interesting
process as you have to visit three tiny offices, each next to the other, and complete paperwork for Customs, Immigration, and
the Port Authority… seeing carbon paper again reminded me of the three-part memos we used in the office a lifetime ago. Of
course, you also need to check out, but thankfully, only with two of the three. We noticed that when we check in these days, they
have started to ask for our check out papers from the previous location, something that had not been done elsewhere. We took
a bus trip from Jolly Harbour to St John, a real bargain at EC$2.75 (US$1 and a bit) per person and is an exciting event as the
drivers seem to be pretending they are in training for Formula One racing. St John has a great local market, full of vendors
selling produce, mangoes, pineapples, and other things I didn’t even recognize. The price? Well, everything seemed to be $5 per
From Antigua we sailed the 50 or so miles to Deshaie, Guadeloupe, another small pretty village. The winds were 20 – 25 with
gusts up to 30 and lulls of down to 14 kn. We sailed with reefed main and worked the genoa in and out as the wind speed
dictated but to me, Amida’s performance was disappointing. As it was a Sunday, only one restaurant was open and it was no
bargain, either for the price or for the quality of the food. This was also the first place we encountered where English was not
spoken at all. Apparently, the local bakery sells croissants… except on Mondays! So, early in the next morning, we hoisted
anchors and sailed on to Dominica, a distance of another 50 miles with winds again in the 20-25 range with occasional gusts to
30 knots. This time we tried a full main and a small reef in the genoa and this made a huge difference. In fact, we broke our
all-time speed record with a 7.4 knot Speed over Ground reading on the GPS! There was an ugly stretch between the southern
tip of Guadeloupe and a bunch of small islands called the Saints as the ocean swells became funneled and the water became
very, very choppy. Thankfully, we were pretty much broadside to the swell so it wasn’t too bad though, again, we had a few
waves breaking over the high side and drenching the cockpit. It was on this passage that I was impressed by Allways Sunday’s
performance. While they cannot point into the wind as well as a sloop, having a wide platform gives them much more stability
and they stay flat even at high winds… and don’t need to do as much reefing as we do. A catamaran had definite advantages…
roomy, stable, lots of cabin, deck, and storage space, fast… but too expensive for our pocket! Maybe in a different life.
The bay we stayed in is by the town of Portsmouth and we tied up to mooring balls outside of the Coconut Beach Hotel.
Unfortunately, as the season is pretty much over now, it was rather quiet there… and that night we were all boarded by a local
thief. Apparently, according to the Doyle Guidebook, when he is in prison, thefts are not a problem but, too bad for us, he’d been
let out recently, from a BVI jail. As I mentioned in the summary, I’d had a feeling that we should lock ourselves up and this
saved us from the fate that encountered the Colonel. His hatches were open and the thief brazenly went into his cabin and stole
money from his wallet which was sitting two feet away from his head. As he left the boat, however, Chris woke up, grabbed his
machete and gave chase. He saw the thief slide over the side of the boat into the water and disappear from view. Man, was that
thief lucky he had 30 seconds head start. I think I mentioned that Chris is a retired US Marines Colonel… and knows how to use
a machete. Apparently, he can down a flying bird by throwing it… Were it not for those 30 seconds, Mr Thief would be an ex now,
with a machete sticking out of his torso… Of course, we reported to the Police that we and Allways Sunday escaped with just blue
footprints in the cockpit and on the decks, from the anti-fouling paint, and Chris described his loss. Was he ever PO’d, for quite a
long time afterwards.
Dominica (what we saw of it at least) is quite poor and run down but the kids and the adults, except for the thief, that is, are all
very charming and exceedingly well spoken (English). We came across a woman called Judith who said she would cook us a local
meal, and that her culinary skills had been written up in Compass, which is a Caribbean sailing rag. We took her up and
appeared at the local bar where she reserves a table, seeing as her home is too small. We had brought a couple bottles of wine,
bought a few more beers, and then she came across the street with the pot of land-crab stew… or something similar. There were
certainly crab legs and a torso or three surrounded by mango / pumpkin / christophine (sp?) / celery mush. The mush tasted
quite good but the pieces of crab flesh were so small that they barely had any taste at all. It was hard work getting these tiny
morsels free, so we probably had our first calorie negative meal of the trip (beer, of course, doesn’t count). To tell you the truth,
the meal was forgetful but, at only US$40 for the five of us, it was not a big loss. We went into another restaurant on our way
back to the dinghies for desert, flambéed bananas, which, just possibly, may have tipped us back into calorie positive land. Here
in Dominica, it has rained a LOT! Each morning, I have to bail copious amounts of water out of the dinghy. We also discovered a
flaw in the design of our dodger and bimini… the sides do not go past the cockpit coamings so, as a result, rain water drips into
the cockpit and onto the seats. So, when it rains, we have to close the hatches, making it rather hot inside, and we have a tough
time staying dry in the cockpit because of the wet seat surfaces. This makes sleeping in the cockpit troublesome as well.
OK, OK, I don’t expect much sympathy… but could we have just a teeny weenie bit?
We then sailed some 20 miles to the southern end of Dominica, to Roseau, where stayed for a couple of days waiting for the
next weather window to show up.
Despite the poor taste left in our mouths because of the burglary, we have found Dominica to be a great place. We took a trip
into the “interior”, by renting a taxi for some 6-7 hours (US$25 per person). The driver took us up into the mountains and the
rain forest and to one of the waterfalls, Emerald Pools… it was nothing like the ones we climbed / swam up in Luperon and,
unfortunately, a class of school kids had taken over the place with a noise level that was horrendous. We figured we’d wait a
while and they’d move on, but they seemed to be there for an extended time. In desperation, our next idea was for the guys
(one aged 67 and two in their mid-50s) to take off our shorts, figuring this would scare the kids into leaving. On reflection, this
was discarded as rather than merely scaring them away, we’d probably scar them for life and likely put us into the local jail, as
perverts! So, just as we reluctantly decided that we’d go, without having peace and quiet, the teacher gathered them all up and
they disappeared! Yes! The walk to and from the waterfall, through the rainforest, was fascinating. Next was a visit to another
river, which we had to swim across to get to a natural hot-pool. The current was pretty strong, so we walked upstream to get a
better angle, and then sat in the natural hot-tub for a while. Last on the list was the Botanical Garden to see the parrots which
are plentiful in the wild, but hard to spot. The caged ones were also hard to see as they were too far away from the fence. Of
more interest was a tree that had been blown over by a hurricane and had landed on top of a parked school bus, crushing it.
Luckily no one was inside at the time but, ironically, the bus had been a gift from the Canadian Government and had arrived a
mere three weeks earlier… The bus, squashed like a fly, is still there and the tree grew another trunk and survives. Dominica is
also blessed with a lot of rain (250 inches a year!) so fruit and vegetables are plentiful and cheap. The bananas are a different
variental from the ones we normally buy in Canada and are absolutely delicious. The pineapples are also very, very tasty. The
only downside to Roseau was that we were tied up to mooring balls and the swell kept us awake much of the night. It was
incredible that the very small waves could make the mast sway that much, I swear it was 30-45 degrees off vertical each way!
Their wasn’t enough wind and what was around made us point broadside to the swells.
The next legs, from southern Dominica to Martinique, to St Lucia were great. Finally, the windspeed, wave heights, and even
direction of travel all cooperated and we made good time. We played around with various sail plan options to see what was best
for Amida and discovered she really likes, and can take, a full main in windspeeds of even 25-28 knots, letting out traveler and
mainsheet as appropriate. While in calm water, in the lee of land, we reached a max speed of 7.5kn and a sustainable speed of
in the high 6’s, with the wind coming at just under 60 degrees... exhilarating!
St Pierre, Martinique, was quite asleep despite it being saturday afternoon when we arrived. Smart locals… they hide from the
hot sun while we sweated our way around the village! We came across a lady begging for money. She knew two words of
English… money and hungry… actually, very few people on these French islands speak a word of English. The grocery in St Pierre
wouldn’t take US currency nor do a credit card transaction below E$15 (someC$25), so we had to pool our purchases. These are
the kinds of tough problems we are faced with these days!
Our last leg, yesterday, was from St Pierre to Rodney Bay in St Lucia. The wind was in the 14-18 range and this meant we could
carry full sail, but still not make good enough speed in order to get to the destination by the early afternoon, despite departing at
6:30am. The reason for wanting to be here at this particular time was that I was desperate to see the England vs France soccer
game on TV… and succeeded! Yes! The final few minutes of the game left the watching Brits shell-shocked and the French
cheering, as their team won 2:1 with both their goals coming from set plays right at the end of the match. ‘Twas good to see it,
despite the result.
Tropical Waves started appearing a few weeks ago and bring with them squalls up to 40 knots. These Waves are the embryos
for Hurricanes later in the season, so we tend to give them a lot of respect! Frankly, the weather for much of the trip has sucked.
Even in the BVIs, we had 22 – 27 kn winds most of the time. In fact, if we had encountered all of this weather on Lake Ontario
during the sailing season weekends, we’d have stayed in the house for all but five or six days of the last five months! But, we’re
on a schedule and need to move south. Except for the last few days, it’s not been much “fun” but, rather, a lot of hard work.
Worst of all, we’ve hardly had a chance to actually see any of the islands in any detail, nor to snorkel, nor get our scuba
check-out dive done. We’ll be able to do all that next “season”, as we sail back up the chain.
In the last Log I mentioned we’d had a fire on board resulting from the KISS resistive load overheating. I got in touch with the
US Distributor, Hotwire, and they were extremely helpful… and concerned. So much so that John is making up an additional piece
of circuitry to ensure the same conditions won’t result in the same, or worse, outcome. We actually had another pyrotechnic
adventure recently. I lit the BBQ, in the dark, and put on our last steak. Usually, I leave each side to toast for some 6 minutes,
so went down to get a glass of wine. When I came back up a few minutes later, I noticed that there was quite a flame inside the
BBQ and thought that the steak must have had a lot of fat in it, which had dripped and caught fire. Indeed one side was more
than a little charred, so I turned it over for the final 6 minutes and noticed that the flame didn’t die out as quickly as my
experience said it should… and thought that maybe there had been a huge amount of fat in the first side so, I moved the steak
over to the side of the grill where it is a little cooler, and away from the still burning flame. Well, when I judged the second side
ready and turned off the gas, there was still quite a bit of flame in the BBQ. I had better things to do, eating the steak, than
trying to figure out what might have been the problem, especially as eventually, the flame petered out. A few days later, when it
was again time for me to use the BBQ, I looked around for the brush so I could clean the grill surface… and yes, you guessed it,
all I found were the metal hairs and the scraping plate, while the handle and head had vanished without trace. Mind you, that
steak did have quite a distinctive taste to it… I’m trying hard not to think what kind of carcinogens we ingested that evening, but
maybe the wine killed them off.
Last topic, before I sign off… I read in a BoatUS sailing mag that the ICW is woefully short of funding and, as a result, has
shoaled up in many places to 5-6ft. They specifically mentioned Lockwood Folly as having a control depth of a mere 3ft now.
Reading this made us feel very good as it helped explain why we had hit bottom so many times… and that we were wise (lucky)
to have made sure we crossed the Folly at high tide, else we’d have been stuck there till either TowBoatUS came along, or the
tide turned. So, those following us south… beware!
‘nuff for now… hope the sailing season is being kind to you, that work is not too much of a drag, that your favourite political party
wins the election, and that a Canadian Hockey team wins the Stanley Cup again in what’s left of my lifetime (we did manage to
watch most of Game 6). See you soon in Toronto!