“Sailing is a sport that is both very new and very old at the same time. The earliest evidence of sailboats dates back to about 3,900 BC… The beauty of sailing is the trail is unmarked. You must make intelligent decisions about where and even whether to go… – Dennis Conner”
From time to time, I change my hobbies. Even though I took a sailing lesson from a local community school about seven years ago, my actual sailing training started a year ago with Sunfish (October 2012). I joined a local sailing club and discovered the humongous sciences and history behind sailing. After joining the club, I had a couple of chances to participate on a private boat for ocean races. Now, my sailing experiences are growing here… Difficulty Level Scale (1 Low 10 High), Niceness Scale (1 Low 10 Greatest)
Sailing from Prickly Bay to Tyrrel Bay in Grenada (Monday, September 30, 2013): I am a guest sailor on Bad Bunny, a 47’ Valiant mono hull, Built in 1992. My friend bought this boat about 5 years ago during the economic recession, left in a boat yard for two years, finally quit his lifetime career, lived and worked on the boat for two years, and started sailing around the world after Thanksgiving 2012. From here, my first island hopping sailing started with a trip from Prickly bay to Tyrrel Bay in Carriacou, Grenada. Wind started from ENE (about 62 degree) but later from north east, mostly 15 to 25 knots with 2-4 waves, sometimes 25 to 30 knots with 4-6 waves. We sailed about 54 nautical miles for 9 hours and arrived at Tyrrel Bay at 6 P.M. The Customs office was closed at 4 P.M, so we had to stay overnight until the office re-opened the next day at 8 A.M., we decided to cook nice dinner: fresh eggplant, onion, and garlic from the local market at St. Georges, along with soy sauce (my favorite seasoning), grilled pumpkin with nutmeg from a farmer near the Seven Sisters water fall in Etang National Park in Grenada, with leftover rice, and a glass of wine… Simple and good! A day starts and ends real early in the islands. I was glad to find the early bird culture in the Islands: after sunset, people and things go calm… Difficulty of Sailing: 5, Anchorage: 7, Exciting Moment: unexpectedly we stuffed the bow into a boarding wave and got pile of water in the cockpit while sailing. I saw a big turtle but when I wanted to share the moment with captain, it submerged. Notes: Auto-pilot did the most. As a Sunfish sailor, I felt I was not learning much but at the same time, the captain did 90% of all the sailing related work because I don’t know much about the boat. We did tack 7 times. Thought of Day: It looks like sailing is an easy and romantic sport when you see pictures of couples drinking nice cocktails and sitting on the deck of sailboat and watching the sunset. Sailing is really a sport where you are constantly watching the weather, wind, waves, and boat behavior. Cruising world by a sailboat takes physical endurance, a certain mindset and some brute strength.
Sailing from Tyrrel Bay, Grenada to Fort de France, Martinique (Tuesday, October 1, 2013 to Wednesday, October 2, 2013): Got up 6 A.M. Sleeping 10 hours helped a lot. I felt as if my hands were swollen and my arms were filled with lead. We went to clear the customs and waited for the authorities. While waiting for the officials, I decided to use a toilet in a run-down hotel room. The problems started when I couldn’t open the door from inside. There was no window and the toilet was located deep inside the building. There was no one around. Pounding the door and yelling for help didn’t work. It was a scary moment but I know the captain will eventually look for me. (Probably) After screaming for a while, I decided to find a way to unlock the door, magically it opened this time. Big lesson I learned was to try unlock a door before you lock yourself into an unknown place! Sailing from Carriacou to Martinique was about 160 miles but it took 27 hours as we had to beat the wind. Wind direction changed from East North East to North East. We were heading north so we had to tack periodically. Sailing in the pitch dark night, as a beginner sailor, I had to remind myself that ‘Fear is your own enemy.’ We decide to do 6 hour shifts. I did sailed until 9 P.M. alone. My friend sailed from 10 P.M. to 4 A.M. Then, I did 4 A.M. to 10 A.M… With an auto-pilot, night sailing is mainly watching for the other boats, monitoring the wind speed and direction, and adjusting the boat accordingly. Since the crescent moon didn’t come out until 3 A.M., just watching the countless stars in a pitch dark night was okay at the beginning. In between, I read a book. Later, I felt someone was calling me from behind of the boat and wondering if Sirens were luring me down to the ocean. It was not nature that scared me, but the imaginary voices! Overall Sailing Speed: 5 to 8 knots, Wind Speed: 15 to 25 knots, Sailing Difficulty: 5, Anchorage: 5, Hourly ferry boat runs by the anchorage make the boat rock. Notes: (1) I think 4 hours of sailing during a night shift might be better than 6 hours shifts. (2) Be Aware: On a French keyboard an alphabet ‘a’ is located at letter ‘q’ location and the country ‘USA’ is ‘Etats Unis’ (?), when you clear Immigration and Custom (free) through an website at a marine store by the anchorage. Thought of Day: It is said that the most common accident that happens on a sailing trip is a burn from cooking. I made my coffee on the stove while sailing; however I later realized that it would have been a better choice just to go with a cold cup.
Sailing from Fort de France, Martinique to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia (Friday, October 4, 2013): According to the weather forecast, this sailing should have been perfect. It was the worst sailing so far. Wind got slow, wind changed, wind started, wind died, and bunch of storms swirled around. We kept switching between motoring and sailing and anchored at Rodney Bay before the Customs office (Fee: 40 Eastern Caribbean Currency = 18 USD) closed at 4:30 P.M. I took a nap on and off during sailing due to the side effects from a less-sleepy motion sickness pill. Distance Sailed: 30 NMS, Wind Speed: 5-20, Wind Direction: North East-East-South East, Sailing Speed: 3 to 8.50 knots, Sailing Difficulty: 1 with lots of frustration, Anchorage: 5, No Limit of Boat Speed, Note: There are many resorts at Rodney Bay. Loud music stops at 1:30 A.M.
Sailing from Rodney Bay to Soufriere, Saint Lucia (Sunday, October 6, 2013): Since the fuel station is better located for docking and the price (Diesel $6 USD and water $.12 USD Per gallon) is reasonable at Rodney Bay Marina, we filled the diesel and water before sailing. Boat holds 200 gallons of water and 100 of diesel. It has a water maker and it makes 17 gallons of water an hour. Buying water is usually more economical than making water. Talking about water, the hardest part of sailing for me so far is using as little water as possible for showering, cooking, and washing dishes. After getting the diesel and water, we sailed and motored about 20 NMS to Soufriere, right under the Pitons, a UNESCO Heritage site. Anchoring is not allowed at this place but there are mooring balls available. Since this is a still hurricane season in Caribbean (most boats stay under latitude 12 degrees for insurance purpose to avoid the hurricane season), we found a great location right down the Petit Piton. As soon as we saw a mooring ball, a boat boy (He calls himself ‘Dr. Feel Good’, dinghy name ‘Peanut’.) came to our boat and tried to sell his service by helping lifting up the mooring ball and hooking up lines. I was able to manage to do all this by myself but we ended up negotiating hiking service to the Petit Piton with him. Later, other small boats came to sell some fresh produce. It is difficult to refuse so I now have lots of fruits and vegetables on the boat. After settling, we decided to snorkel and saw lots of sea urchins but no big fish. Marine Rangers came and collected the fee for two nights (17 EC per night) for staying at this place.
Sailing from Soufriere (The Pitons), Saint Lucia to Wallilabou, Saint Vincent (Tuesday, October 8, 2013): The Boat Boy ‘Dr. Feel Good’ in Saint Lucia turned out to be a nice kid. We hiked with him to the Petit Piton. When we were ready to sail out, he delivered freshly baked bread at 7 A.M. as he volunteered (but we paid). We left Soufriere (Saint Lucia) at 8 A.M. and arrived at Wallilabou Bay (Saint Vincent) around 2 P.M. For some reason, as my skin gets darker, I feel less fear of sailing. Just adjusting the jib sheet in and out and letting the auto pilot handle the steering, sailing seems more natural. A great sailing day! Because of my schedule, we tried pushing ourselves too much by sailing one day and hiking the other day. Oh, no… The captain is getting sick. While he was sleeping, I periodically monitored AIS (Automatic Information System). I saw a Cargo Ship Hanjin Chittagong on the AIS. She was heading South East and we were heading to South West. After watching the position, we decided to drastically change the course downwind, so Hanjin Chittagon knows what we were doing. (Hanjin Shipping is one of the top ten shipping companies in the world, sister company with Korean Airlines. This cargo ship is registered in Panama but the office is in Chittagon, Bangladesh.)
Wallilabou Bay is famous as the filming location of three ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ movies. There is a rock dangling a fake skeleton on the ocean and rundown studios props from the filming. As soon as we approached, many boat boys were rowing toward us to sell souvenirs, and fresh produce. None of the boats had a motor. One rowed with a piece of plywood on a broken surf board and the others with paddles on a leaking wooden boat or patched inflatable boats. At Wallilabou Bay, it is required to anchor stern to the beach, with the rear of the boat tied to a palm tree. As soon as we anchored, the flies came on board. Insect Spray was handy! After anchoring, a line was handed to a helper. The boat boy tied the line to a tree on the shore from the boat. Anchoring is one thing but dealing with these boats while settling is another. We hired another person for getting ice and bread since our refrigerator is not working because generator is not working. Another one was trying to sell a copy of local carnival music CD during this hectic time. Another one put all of his souvenirs on our boat. Anyhow, even though I was so tired, I decided to cook the chicken we bought from Saint Lucia because of the refrigeration problem by putting all leftover vegetables and all parts of a whole chicken including the chicken feet. We invited the boat boys (Franklin, Nicholas, Heavy D, and Kenneth) for Sangria and shared the curry chicken dish. They told me that I should open a restaurant in Saint Vincent and it was the best curry chicken dish they had. Later, one of the Island Windjammers came with tourists. (They left at night.) Sailing Distance: 40 NMS, Thought of Day: When it comes to a cargo ship, it is best to avoid even though a sail boat has a right away. Sailing Speed: 6 to 8 knots most of the time.
Sailing from Wallilabou Bay, Saint Vincent to Hillsborough Bay, Grenada (Thursday, October 10, 2013): Smooth and Relaxing Sailing Day! Wind speed and direction were in our favor and the current was with us. No tacking. We just sat and read books enjoying the breeze and listening to the splash of the waves. 10/10! It’s my birthday. Sailing, what a wonderful gift I am having on my birthday! It has been a joy experiencing my life on the ocean. As promised, I am looking forward to having my birthday rum-cake later, specially made by the captain. When I started sailing on this boat about 10 days ago, I didn’t know what to do. All terms were confusing. I asked the captain to make a checklist. We made the Pre Departure Checklist and the Arrival Checklist. It let me learn more about the boat. When arriving, we had to clear the customs in Grenada. We anchored close to the shore, packed all the documents in a waterproof container along with shirts and shorts and shoes (no swimsuits in public), and snorkeled to the shore. Hillsborough Bay is similar to a small US town, no hassle by people and things are well arranged. The immigration office is near the beach. Since I will be flying out in three days from Grenada, I had to fill out another form. Sadly, I only have two days left before heading back home. Well… what about beer? I don’t want to be an ugly American in a foreign land but we walked to a thatched roof on the beach with ‘Presidente’ (Captain’s Favorite Beer). It was as good as ‘Red Stripes’! Drinking ‘Presidente’ looking at the ocean and Bad Bunny, I felt lucky! Wind: 10 to 20 knots from 160 degrees, Sailing Speed: 6 to 8.5 knots, Sailing Distance: 44 NMS (6 Hours Sailing), Notes: (1) Anchor moved at night. Captain had to reposition the anchor at midnight. (2) There are three ways to charge on the boat: solar panels, Generator, and running the Engine. We periodically ran refrigerator by running an engine to get the battery voltage high enough so that the inverter would handle the high load.
Sailing from Hillsborough Bay to Prickly Bay, Grenada (Friday, October 11, 2013): Last day of sailing during my trip. Since we had to arrive at the final destination regardless, we didn’t check the weather. We initially motored but once getting out of the no-wind zone, we sailed all the way. About 5 Miles north of our final destination, there is an active submarine volcano called Kick-‘em-Jenny. It rises 4,265 foot above the sea floor of the Lesser Antilles ridge. It is advised to sail 5 miles outside of this zone (Kick-‘em-Jenny) so we did. There were a couple of squall lines during the trip, but not a major one until we approached to the final destination. There, we had a serious squall and couldn’t see much around. After debating, the captain changed direction dead downwind and rolled the jib sheet in, about 30%. He then turned directly into the wind and lowered the main sheet to first reef. Until this happened, I sailed most of the time just watching the telltales and adjusting the jib sheets. The sudden storm at the end, was an eye-opening experience for me. I was so relaxed until but the storm stressed me all of my senses. The captain calmly handled the situation. Even though I felt good at sailing at the end, I am still a beginner sailor. Amazing… what the power of wind can do! I learned a lot about it in the last 10 days. Sailing Distance: 35 NMS, Wind Speed: 10-20 knots, Sailing Speed: 6-8 knots, Anchorage: 3 (Rocking), Notes: Prickly Bay is busier than any other place. At night three bar/restaurants on the shore play live music.
How many hours was I online for last 17 days? About two, free Wi-Fi at MacDonald’s in Martinique and Kentucky Fried Chicken in St. Georges in Grenada. Did I feel guilty about it, or lonely without it? Somehow, a little. I sailed about 384 nautical miles visited four countries, a lot of walking, and hiking, new languages, new foods, and lots of new experiences. What was the best moment during the trip? A few come to mind; when the boat itself moves well about 6-7 knots, when drinking morning coffee with sea breeze and playing with the kitten ‘Swat’, watching the sunrise on the deck, drinking wine and smelling the salt watching a sunset after sailing. What didn’t I like being adventurous? Getting all sorts of bug bites (mosquitoes, No-See-Ums, Sea Lice, and many unknown creatures). It made me itch so badly. Damaging my skins by sun and heat, I feel I am getting ugly. What is my best pick of this sailing vacation? Hiking to La Soufriere in St. Vincent because it is real not yet touristic and night sailing because I learned a lot about myself.
Excerpt from “Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook”: “In theory, what distinguishes a sailboat from a powerboat is its ability to keep going with nothing but the wind as its motive power; things need to be kept this way. The farther offshore it is intended to take a boat, the more important it is to ensure that nothing compromises this basic capability.”