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Diving for Galvanized

Today we went mostly free-diving for Galvanized Roofing Sheets – there are loads of these sheets strewn around the bottom creating a real anchoring nightmare. In one morning we collected all these pieces – from just a small area of the anchorage.

Diving for Galvanized!

Diving for Galvanized!

Got a bit of a scare when I got my leg tied up in the hauling line just before surfacing – that gets the adrenaline flowing!!

The morning's haul!

The morning’s haul!

Meanwhile, the kitchen counter is ready for pouring…

Ready for the counter-top to be poured...

Ready for the counter-top to be poured…

 

The Project Continues

Work continues in Portsmouth – on island time…

Island Time... The Womens Club has the coldest beers!

Island Time… The Womens Club has the coldest beers!

Unfortunately, we’ve still not started on the moorings but the Pavilion is coming along nicely. It won’t look finished until the roof is done – which has been contracted out by a charity organization that Hank Schmidt operates – they’ve raised over $25,000 for the Portsmouth area – including the roof!

Preparing for the footing

Preparing for the footing

How many engineers to hang a flag?

How many engineers to hang a flag?

The kitchen counter takes shape

The kitchen counter takes shape

Chief Engineer, Bill from Alembic

Chief Engineer, Bill from Alembic

Meanwhile, we took some time off to do the Indian River Tour with Albert and his son Avin. Helen on Alembic had been insistent that Albert join us – his first trip up the river since losing one leg below the knee shortly before Maria struck. He was in fine spirits as Alvin rowed us up the river. Sadly the river is not in such spirits and I’ve included a couple of shots from last year to compare with this year’s river…

Indian River December - same spot...

Indian River December – same spot…

The Indian River pre-Maria

The Indian River pre-Maria

Indian River close to the Jungle Bar

Indian River close to the Jungle Bar

Pre Maria close by the Jungle Bar

Pre Maria close by the Jungle Bar

The Jungle Bar :-(

The Jungle Bar :-(

Even so, we had an interesting tour and saw quite a variety of wildlife.

A group of happy OCCers. From back left to front right: Albert, Carl (Northern Star, Bill (Toodle-oo!), Ardys (Northern Star), Helen (Alembic), Bill (Alembic), Laurie (Toodle-oo!)

A group of happy OCCers. From back left to front right: Albert, Carl (Northern Star, Bill (Toodle-oo!), Ardys (Northern Star), Helen (Alembic), Bill (Alembic), Laurie (Toodle-oo!)

Can't remember the name of this pretty bird

Can’t remember the name of this pretty bird

Green Backed Heron. (I think it had a different name on our last visit!)

Green Backed Heron. (I think it had a different name on our last visit!)

Green Iguana

Green

Gifts presented and gratefully received…

The four OCC boats filled two large tables of ‘stuff’ – from Tarps to bandages, toys to solar lights, Tuna to reading glasses… Our gratitude again to the Centenary United Methodist Church of Attleboro for their generous donation – along with that from Frances and George of Kittiwake.

Several of the PAYS guys, who’d lost their houses, gratefully accepted various bits and pieces, and the school supplies and medical stuff was delivered  by the OCC contingent to the local school and hospital.

Meanwhile, back at the PAYS pavilion, Bill from Alembic kept bashing on to get the kitchen area finished.

Meanwhile, Toodle-oo! took a bit of a time out to take a bus ride down to Roseau, capital of Dominica, to get a feel for the damage the rest of the island had seen… Some places on the route seemed to have been wiped out completely, but for the most part, damage was similar to that seen in Portsmouth – which is to say extensive, but recoverable – given time. Unfortunately, photos were impossible in our racing bus – it had darkened windows (that were dirty!) and anything taken would surely have been blurred!!! Got to love these Caribbean buses!!!

 

Work Begins

All the OCC boats got right to it today making repairs and improvements to the PAYS pavilion and dock. There was a really nice cooperation going on between cruisers and islanders – all messing in to help.

  • The PAYS dock is now fully functional
  • The kitchen area has its foundation poured – and it’s planned to be ready for Christmas Eve’s bash!
  • Moorings have been located for repair
Ardys and Helen cutting wood for forms...

Ardys and Helen cutting wood for forms…

Helen and Laurie cutting re-bar for the footing

Helen and Laurie cutting re-bar for the footing

Helen (Alembic) levels the concrete footing

Helen (Alembic) levels the concrete footing

Sinking a footing for the dock's on-ramp

Sinking a footing for the dock’s on-ramp

On comes the covering

On comes the covering

The finished ramp

The finished ramp

The end of the dock is installed

The end of the dock is installed

Tomorrow: More of the same!

It would be really helpful if any boats coming to Portsmouth to assist could look at bringing some ¾” mooring chain for the moorings that they are working on.

There are no doubt a bunch of OCC members arriving with the ARC in St. Lucia – perhaps some will feel inclined to join the effort in Portsmouth.

On Friday we’ll be distributing the aid that various boats have brought with them – to schools, medical centers, PAYS and individuals in need…

 

Dominica – First Impressions

We went ashore in Dominica this morning and walked into the center of Portsmouth. What a mess. Not to say that they hadn’t done a good job of getting back on their feet  – but what a mess!

There are spaces full of debris where a house once was. The forest beside the town is broken and battered.

A house used to stand here...

A house used to stand here…

The destructive power of 200mph winds...

The destructive power of 200mph winds…

Chaos...

Chaos…

The beach beside the PAYS pavilion

The beach beside the PAYS pavilion

The waterfront in Portsmouth...

The waterfront in Portsmouth…

But the people are still Dominicans. Still very happy and friendly. Still very pleased that you’ve come to their island to visit.

In the afternoon, we got together with Jeff, President of PAYS who look after all the moorings and provide security for the Yotties… He immediately set us to work and we dug a trench for a new kitchen wall and counter in the PAYS pavilion – where he’s planning that they will hold their first BBQ of the season on Christmas Eve – just 3 weeks from now. Bill on Alembic was in his element and quickly came up with specifications for the trench and set the whole thing up. Tomorrow we go back to PAYS at 08:30 to lay the footing for the new kitchen.

We’ve also got plans to assist them in refurbishing the pavilion itself which is missing some of it’s roof, we’re to build a new storage area (so he doesn’t have to store stuff in the Ladies room(!) ) and we’re going to start laying mooring balls tomorrow afternoon. There’s lots to do, and we’re planning on getting on and doing it! So far we have 4 OCC boats in Dominica for the express purpose of helping out – Toodle-oo!, Cranstackie, Alembic and Northern Star. We’re hoping others will be joining us in the coming days as there’s lots to be done! (If anyone is coming up from Martinique or down from Antigua, we need some Mooring Chain – 3/4″ stuff…

The items the various boats have brought to Dominica will be collected together tomorrow and Thursday and then distributed on Friday. Looking forward to that whole process.

We’ll have more details and photos tomorrow…

 

 

 

 

The Saintes to Dominica

We’re in the Saintes… last year we climbed a few hills to get to various forts – this year on our brief stop we decided to climb to the highest point – another fort…

The highest point in the Saintes... got to do it!

The highest point in the Saintes… got to do it!

A great view over Bourg de Saintes

A great view over Bourg de Saintes

 

See red arrow! Great views on the way up – but sadly none of Dominica, our next destination just 30 miles south, but hidden in haze. Sensibly, we walked up to the fort by way of a disused road – steep but doable. Stupidly, we decided to come down the other way via a steep footpath (blue arrow)… Now just remember that the Saintes suffered from the huge hurricane, Maria… we managed to lose the path very quickly and ended up bushwhacking our way down through nasty prickly thorny things and very a steep descent…

Today we checked out of the Saintes (having got our washing done) and sailed to Dominica. Our arrival was somewhat sad – it’s clear that they suffered major devastation as a consequence of hurricane Maria – massive de-forestation, damage to buildings and structures…

This hotel under construction had a red roof last year... no more...

This hotel under construction had a red roof last year… no more…

The Dock is messed up, so is the building and the trees...

The Dock is messed up, so is the building and the trees…

On the approach,  it's clear that there's been extensive damage to the forests...

On the approach, it’s clear that there’s been extensive damage to the forests…

We arrived too late to check in, so anchored close to shore and will do the immigration thing in the morning. Meanwhile, I dived on the anchor to ensure its not snarled up with some hurricane wreckage (it’s not) and set the boat up for a gentle evening. There are 3 OCC boats here already for our relief efforts – Toodle-oo!, Alembic and Cranstackie. More will arrive tomorrow.

 

Isles des Saintes – in sight of Dominica!

Now in the Isles des Saintes – and in sight of Dominica – our immediate goal.

Seems like we have a bunch of sailboats converging on Portsmouth, Dominica next week to assist in relief efforts – though it’s difficult to work out if there will be 3 or 30! I suspect maybe 5 or 7 will show up but let’s hope for more!

Looking forward to assisting them in their efforts to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. I think when we get there, we’ll be tasked with getting the PAYS organization back on its feet – this is the group that controls the harbor – and it’s an important role, since money comes into Dominica via tourists – and in this case the tourists arrive in boats like Toodle-oo!.

They hope to have 20 moorings up and running by Christmas and the full compliment of 50 by February – in time for Yottie Appreciation week – when typically, about 100 boats descend on Portsmouth bringing needs for supplies and tours – therefore cash for the island…

We are scheduled to arrive there on Tuesday December 5th – but we might just go a day earlier to see what gives and be able to guide the rest of the fleet home…

On to Guadeloupe

We had an excellent if somewhat boisterous sail from Hermitage Bay in Antigua to Deshaies, Guadeloupe yesterday – sailed the whole way and averaged 7.85 knots! Now anchored in about 40 ft of water.

Today we visited the Botanical Gardens with Lisa and Andy from Kinetic, a sister (OK, somewhat younger) Outbound and had a lovely time. It’s hot here and the bloody garden is a mile up a steep hill! Interesting gardens and some nice aviaries with Parrots and McCaws…

The Gardens start with a fish pond!

The Gardens start with a fish pond!

Then Parakeets!

Then Parakeets!

Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos

Big Bugs

Big Bugs

Here's a flower that got stuck in the viewfinder

Here’s a flower that got stuck in the viewfinder

And a large McCaw!

And a large McCaw!

We’ll probably stay here another day and then head towards the Isles des Saintes so that we can have a quick and easy jump to Portsmouth, Dominica where we’re planning to donate the aid we’ve been carrying from the USA – and to do some hard labor – as yet to be defined! Several other boats have said they’ll be coming too – the more the merrier!

We also learned that for the second year in a row, we’ve recruited the most new members to the Ocean Cruising Club – last year we won with a paltry 7 new members. This year we badgered 35 into joining!!! Woo Hoo!

OCC 's Flying Fish

OCC ‘s Flying Fish

Passage – Hampton, VA to Jolly Harbour, Antigua

We arrived in Antigua on Friday, November 17th at 5:30pm – sunset and just as we set the anchor in Jolly Harbour, witnessed a spectacular Green Flash! What a welcome – what an auspicious arrival!

It was quite the passage – our second longest to date at 1,757 miles (planned passage was just 1,593 NM. We covered that distance in 11 days, 13 hours and ended up with more engine use than we had hoped – at 53.80 hours (19.4%) – largely because the last couple of days we were facing winds on the nose (very unusual to have southerly winds) and we finally gave in and turned her on when our VMG (Velocity Made Good towards our destination) fell to below 1.5 knots! After 10 days at sea and with land close to hand, the idea of tacking back and forth was simply not appealing!

We had some interesting events along the way!

The Start: It started with a pod of Dolphins to send us on our way, followed by a pod of Humpback Whales feeding just outside the Chesapeake – breaching and flapping fins all over the place. THEN… we got buzzed by a Navy jet – he was about 50ft off the deck, 300 ft off our starboard side, doing about 500 knots. As soon as he roared past us he climbed vertically and did a couple of rolls! Later on, he and another jet were practicing dogfights right above us!! What a show!

Gail: Our Monitor Windvane ‘Gail,’ with whom we have had very limited success to date turned out to be the champion of the passage, steering us the whole way from the Chesapeake, silently, without using any electrical power and completely reliably. So much nicer than using the autopilot that consumes amps like they are going out of style, and makes a completely annoying noise! Not to say that Otto doesn’t have his very valuable place aboard Toodle-oo! too!

The Head 1: Unfortunately, our holding tank, which drains to the ocean (when allowed – 3 miles + offshore) didn’t. It was blocked. We tried everything to free the blockage (shaking pipes vigorously, etc.,) all to no avail. As the tank filled, the boat got a little wiffy, so Laurie doused the thing in Head Sanitizer – adding the pungent blue fluid both via the toilet bowl and directly in through the deck fitting. We were now at least wiff free! We’ll work on getting the blockage sorted later, or start practicing use of the bucket system!

De-Wiffing Liquid

De-Wiffing Liquid

Fish On!!: Fish number one was a small Mahi-Mahi. The last time we caught one was on passage last year from the BVI’s to St. Maarten, but lost the slippery sucker while cleaning it! This time, I wasn’t about to lose the damn thing, so ended up filleting the thing within the confines of my large fishing tuppaware. It was also my first time filleting a fish – in the past I’ve simply ‘Steaked’ them. It’s quite an effort – especially peeling back the skin – but came out well and tasted good. Laurie has been experimenting with recipes…  Cleaning up the mess afterwards was quite the chore and I used lots of Dawn dishwashing soap – rather too much it seemed since I had a Devil of a time getting the blue hue out of the tuppaware! Still, we ended up clean – and Gail appreciated a bath in soapy water to boot!

Fish 1 - Small Mahi Mahi - Good for 2 meals!

Fish 1 – Small Mahi Mahi – Good for 2 meals!

The Head 2: After enjoying our fist Mahi Mahi meal, Laurie was cleaning up and found it equally difficult to rinse out the Dawn washing liquid – and then it ‘dawned’ on her… She must have put the head Sanitizer into the WAter deck fill instead of the WAste deck fill. A quick read of the label showed it to be highly toxic, so we had to empty the entire tank of water! Fortunately, we have 2 tanks so we wouldn’t die of thirst.

Sun and Moon rising together

Sun and Moon rising together

Watermaker: With water supplies somewhat compromised, we set to making more water (our RO – Reverse Osmosis – system is big and will make 40 gallons per hour) but unfortunately, to run that requires running the generator – which apparently does not like to run when the boat is heeled over. I could get it to run for maybe 20 or 30 minutes before stalling out… Still, even though not optimal, we were able to get water when we needed it – but were very glad when we reached Jolly to be able to fill up from land!

The Head 3: The holding tank was now at over 75% full. We needed a remedy. A blockage like this had happened up in Newfoundland last year and the cure was to come alongside in the dinghy and using a plunger on the exit hole in the hull, work the pipe until goop started to flow. That’s reasonably easy to do when at anchor with dinghy available (yes, sorry, we did this inshore – but had little option at the time). Here we are mid ocean, dinghy packed away, rocking and rolling. We rigged up the Bosun’s Chair, me wearing a life preserver and with a couple of additional lines so that I could position myself at the right spot along the hull – and then Laurie lowered me down to the water.

Bill the Plumber

Bill the Plumber

There wasn’t much wind, so we’d left the sails up – but even that speed was too much, I couldn’t control my position, so I came back aboard and we dropped all sail. Back in again – but now the boat was not stabilized and we were rolling like crazy and I was alternately getting thrown off the hull and then slammed back onto it! This was not going to work. Even though the seas weren’t bad, they were not calm enough…

Fish On!: Another Mahi-Mahi succumbed to the new lure – this one goes in the freezer!

The Head 4: The following morning there was about the same amount of wind, but the seas were calmer. To we did something really clever! We hove to. Essentially, one tacks the boat, but leaves the sails set as they were – this ‘backs’ the jib, and essentially the whole boat stops. What’s more, it tends to stop with a significant list – so the hole in the hull would not be as deep in the water!  I’ve never managed to get Toodle-oo! to heave to in the past – I’ve always fore-reached (similar but different) – so another trick enters Toodle-oo!’s arsenal!   Over I go again, plunger and snake in hand… Success!!! Laurie quickly hauled me out as soon as the ooze began – and a good shower outside cleaned me up nicely! We’re back in business with a working toilet! (Just in time!)

We had a few days of really nice sailing, but our weather forecaster, Chris Parker had by now identified a problem for the likes of Toodle-oo! in that we would be facing unusual southerly winds at the end of our trip. His recommendation was therefore to proceed south and then turn to the east when the southerly winds took hold. This would get us south and then east to a position just north of Antigua – from which we would be able to tack down to Antigua or motor directly into the wind. Well, while it sounded like good advice, as the wind veered, we found ourselves not making progress towards Antigua. Laurie does not do well in these circumstances – so rather than get ear ache, I decided to tack much earlier and against all advice. Even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut – and we found one this time! As the wind continued to veer, our easterly path which took us well beyond the longitude of Antigua, became progressively more southerly and we arced towards the island. We continued like this until our VMG fell to about 2 knots, then tacked to the south west, gaining southerly distance. I was able to keep this up until once again the VMG fell – at which point the winds had become light so we ended up motoring the rest of the way in…

FISH ON!!! On our final south westerly tack, we had a fish hit the lure and broke our 80# test line! Bloody glad that one didn’t come aboard! We then hooked a small Barracuda – and decided that in spite of warnings, we could safely eat this one which was caught about 200 miles off shore – so probably not susceptible to ciguatera poisoning (a real problem with Barracudas feeding on reef fish). Another one goes in the freezer. THEN… we got bold and deployed George’s fishing tackle, with its monster lure. FISH ON!!!

Fish 3 - Lil' Barracuda

Fish 3 – Lil’ Barracuda

We’d hooked a monster Mahi Mahi! I reeled it in on the Yoyo and brought him (clearly a bull with its massive head) alongside Toodle-oo! Now what? I managed to gaff him and hauled him up the side of the boat struggling like crazy and Laurie liberally sprayed rum into his mouth and gills. That quieted him nicely and allowed me to bring him aboard and do the necessary. Filleting this thing was quite the process and I had to use all my strength! 2 days later I’m still sore from the effort! Laurie put 20 large portions of Mahi-Mahi into the freezer!

FISH ON!!!

FISH ON!!!

Alongside - Fenders??

Alongside – Fenders??

Up you come!!

Up you come!!

One BIG Fish!

One BIG Fish!

Nearly the length of the seat!

Nearly the length of the seat!

So, we arrived in Jolly Harbour, enjoyed some cocktails and dinner off the barbecue (all land stuff – I got a steak, Laurie a chicken breast) and collapsed into bed. The following morning we got up stupidly early and sat in the cockpit drinking coffee and smelling like a fishing boat! It took us hours (days!) of scrubbing and cleaning to rid Toodle-oo! of the fish guts and smell!!!

Overall, the passage was good – no serious breakages that we couldn’t fix ourselves, no dreadful weather other than a couple of squalls that did a wonderful job of cleaning down the deck, our choice of delaying departure until November 6th paid off – such that we were able to sail so much more than the other boats in the Salty Dawg Fleet BUT, we certainly could have used some trade winds instead of the southerly’s for the last few days – that would have made the trip perfect instead of it become a somewhat tedious affair… This was certainly the longest up-wind passage we’ve made.

We are now safe and sound on a slip in Jolly Harbor enjoying water and electricity. We will move around to Falmouth tomorrow to join the rest of the Salty Dawg fleet.

 

A Little Relief for Dominica

The Salty Dawg Rally has started! 70+ boats with the majority heading to Antigua – but Toodle-oo! is still in Hampton, VA with about a dozen other rally boats – waiting on weather. The majority of the fleet left on Thursday (November 2nd), but with a very light air forecast and lots of motoring in their future… Toodle-oo! and the others have decided to wait a little bit in the hopes that the wind will cooperate and take us down to the Caribbean with a little less noise!

Meanwhile, we’ve been busy! The Centenary United Methodist Church have sponsored Toodle-oo! with a great donation – such that we were able to go out and buy some much needed items for the folks on Dominica. George and Francis Sadler on Kittiwake, cruisers we met last year on the Salty Dawg, also sponsored us and we’ve amassed some products that I think will be very much appreciated in Dominica.

Relief Supplies for Dominica

Relief Supplies for Dominica

Relief Supplies begin the trip to Dominica

Relief Supplies begin the trip to Dominica

Items we’re bringing: Tarps, nails, hammers and crow bar, solar lights, water treatment pills, cans of Tuna (in case I fail!), Band-Aids, bug spray, lots of extra tools from Toodle-oo! and lots of rope out of the boat’s collection. They’ll be getting quite a haul.

George also drove us around the various shops to buy the items – and also helped me spend some money on Fishing gear – ‘cos you just know the islanders must surely be in need of some fresh Tuna!!! He also threw in one of his own lures – with the biggest fish hook I’ve seen – I think he wants me to land a Great White!!!

Whoa!! That's a big lure!!! Thanks George!!

Whoa!! That’s a big lure!!!
Thanks George!!

We plan to depart Hampton now on Monday morning and if the weather forecast holds, it looks like we’ll be able to sail nearly the whole way down! 10 – 14 days to cover the 1,700NM or so.