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…



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!



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.


We’ve been in the Chesapeake for most of October – but unfortunately not seen much of it – it’s been too busy!

First off we were at the OCC dinner in Annapolis – great event and we met loads of old friends – we no longer feel like we’re the newbies in the cruising world! Fantastic how many great people we’ve met in our travels – and how we keep crossing paths.

Then it was the boat show – and we had several things on our minds to get fixed – the number one item was getting the Freezer sorted out. While it worked, it would only bring the temperature down to 16F – not quite enough to keep stuff frozen. Working with Frigoboat’s dealer in Annapolis, Coastal Climate Control, we finally got the whole thing working! We also had a problem with Monitor Windvane – the self steering mechanism that hangs off the back of Toodle-oo! – it’s never really worked very well (even though we have a new unit hanging there now). The Monitor folk were rather stumped but offered Matt Rutherford as a resource to fix it – Matt sailed his 27ft sailboat around the Americas (yes, North-West Passage AND Cape Horn!) using a Monitor to steer the whole way. While he didn’t make it aboard Toodle-oo!, he did have a couple of pointers which appear to have paid off… A minor kink in our downtube was affecting performance. We’ll see if we can get it working as we head south to the Caribbean. Then we had the engine alternator reveal that it wasn’t doing anything useful! With help from Bob on Baloo, we’ve managed to sort that one out and it’s working again! Unfortunately Bob sustained a nasty bang on his big toe (dropped the engine cover on it!) and looks like he’ll lose the nail – sorry Bob!

We spent a lot of time with great friends Peter and Patty on Serendipitous, who’ve temporarily suspended cruising while they fill the kitty and make improvements to the boat. They hosted a great party and helped out several OCC members, fetching and carrying and trying to fix various systems aboard various boats!

We finally managed to get away from Annapolis to discover the Chesapeake – it’s nice, though the shallow water is somewhat unnerving. A highlight was arriving at Mathews Yacht Club for another OCC event – with a whole load more friends to socialize with. We also got to spend 2 nights in the Commodore’s slip – able to charge the boat and fill with water.

Gwynn Island

Gwynn Island

We’re now approaching Hampton for the start of the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua, hanging out in a small creek near Yorktown while a front passes through with it’s associated winds. We took an Uber ride into Yorktown yesterday so I could see where Cornwallis got thoroughly beaten by the Americans and French in the decisive battle of the revolution. Yorktown is a very small but very pretty little town – could be a village in the Cotswolds!

Yorktown Monument

Yorktown Monument

This could be an English village...

This could be an English village…

Main Street Yorktown

Main Street Yorktown

Will try to post again before we head offshore – but in case I don’t remember you can track our progress here:

In the Chesapeake

Toodle-oo! is on the move! We departed Bristol, RI right after the installation of a new Autopilot ram on Monday September 25th and made our way to Block Island, picking up Perigee as we passed by Newport. We had a very pleasant sail even though fog was threatening and engulfed us at times.

After a night in Block and with hurricane Maria heading up the east coast, we had to take the inland route down Long Island Sound – but which gave us an opportunity to visit New York for a day and then we sailed down the East River – playing tag with Perigee as we photographed each other’s boats against the dramatic backdrop.

Toodle-oo! in front of the Financial District - Courtesy David Vogel

Toodle-oo! in front of the Financial District – Courtesy David Vogel

Toodle-oo! and Liberty - Courtesy David Vogel

Toodle-oo! and Liberty – Courtesy David Vogel

Liberty and Perigee

Liberty and Perigee

Perigee in the East River

Perigee in the East River

Our best sail of the trip was a rollicking good sail in which we averaged – yes averaged! – 7.95 knots between lifting the anchor in Sandy Hook, NJ and arriving at Cape May. However we then turned to go up the Delaware, right into the wind and after an hour of bashing and crashing into the chop, we called a halt at just past midnight and headed to the Harbor of Refuge at Cape Henlopen, where we waited until conditions moderated the following morning. Since then we’ve motored the entire way to Annapolis where we managed to shoe-horn our way into Spa Creek, right beside the boat show location where we’re anchored for the next few days.

From here we plan to cruise slowly south through the Chesapeake (our first visit here) to Norfolk, the start of the Salty Dawg Rally in November.

Jose and Maria

So with Jose doing more damage to the Leewards and now Maria wiping out Dominica and headed for Puerto Rico, it looks like our upcoming winter is going to be very different from last year!

With Dominica being one of our favorite islands, we’re going to plan our relief efforts such as they are, aimed at Dominica, which is so reliant on the cruising community. In an effort to best coordinate our efforts, we’ve joined up with the IRG (International Rescue Group) – a Public Benefit Non-profit Corporation. Apparently they can source needed supplies for a given disaster area and can supply them to Toodle-oo! for transport south… We’re interested to see how well this all works out.

Meanwhile, Jose is at our doorstep so we are hunkered down in Bristol, but fortunately looks like we’ll only have moderate winds with gusts to 40 knots perhaps. However, Maria is a lot stronger and the forecasters are having a difficult time predicting her path. Right now the particular GRIB files I look at, show her headed smack at us mid next week! While this forecast persists, we will remain where we are, but are anxious to get going south towards Annapolis where we’re hoping to attend an OCC event on October 4th… We’ll see if we can get there!

Fortunately, we’re amongst friends – Perigee, Camomile and Allegro, all OCC boats, are also hunkered down in Bristol…

Hurricane Irma

We were planning to begin moving south in the next week or two. First came Lola, and now Irma is conspiring to change our plans…

Lola (mother-in-law) is in process of selling her house and moving to a new spot where she’ll be surrounded by numerous other senior folk. Trouble is, the schedule is a bit up in the air. If it happens real soon, we’ll hang around and help with the move but if it’s a few weeks from now, we’ll begin our plod southward and fly or drive back at the appropriate time to assist.

Then came Irma… What a storm! The damage in the northern Leeward islands has to be seen to be believed! Our plans to sail with the Salty Dawg rally in early November to the BVI’s are somewhat in flux right now as the BVI’s have basically been decimated by the storm. The rally organizers are trying to regroup to allow some sort of rally go on, but a bunch of the participants are either looking to abort this year’s rally or go down as relief merchants, bringing whatever useful they can with them – including themselves to assist the rebuilding efforts.

Toodle-oo!’s plans are up in the air in terms of where to go to be the most useful. We’d like to head straight to Barbuda which took the heaviest hit of all – and to which we attach great memories from last year, but the anchorage situation there is limited at best making the prospect difficult.

Alternatively we might head to Anguilla, which at least has a relatively secure and secluded anchorage in which we could base ourselves for a couple of months while helping out in whatever way possible.

All this means we have to treat the trip south somewhat differently this year – bringing everything we need with us so as not to be a burden – so 3 months worth of food, fuel, etc., as well as relief supplies. We’ll leave the decision as to what specific supplies to bring until we are closer to our departure date so that we can make sure we bring sensible stuff…

I’ll post more details of our plans as we develop them – there are many things to consider – including how to manage with all the debris that will likely be in the water following a disaster of this magnitude…

If anyone reading this would like to contribute to Toodle-oo!’s efforts, by donating cash (best done through the non-profit Salty Dawg organization) or supplies – or by convoying down with us to assist, please email me directly at