Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Sailing in the Windward Islands

 We have left Grenada and headed north. The trade winds seem to blow from the NE at this time of year and that is the exact direction we want to go!  So… we waited for a day when the wind shifted a little from the south and beetled our way up the Windward Island chain to Carriacou.  From there we visited Petite Martinique (which is nowhere near Martinique!).  This little island is packed with character and friendly, helpful people.  This is a photo of us and the welcome sign for the island.


We hiked to the top of the Piton on Petite Martinique (an extinct Volcano) and had the place all to ourselves.  What a view!





Next, we headed back to Carriacou to visit its main town of Hillsborough, a very cute, quintessentially Caribbean village. We had homemade Roti, and stocked up on supplies. This photo is of Oyai sitting at anchor just off the main pier in town. 




In Hillsborough we went to the Paradise Beach Club where they encourage visiting boats to leave some art with the boat’s name on it.  So we painted up our “Oyai” sign and left it there for posterity. 



While we were there, Aria had a homeschool class using the club’s Wifi. Thanks Lisa and Self Design!  What a place to go to school!



On our way over to Carriacou, we made a quick stop at the smallest island we have seen so far on the trip. It was about the size of a small house and totally breathtaking. It’s name is “Morpion” and we had a 20 second race around the little island. 


We could have stayed on this island all day, but we had to get moving as it wasn’t very protected for the boat at anchor. 



We have been exposed to the most amazing wildlife here in the Caribbean. Monkeys, lizards and bugs. This was one of the more beautiful caterpillars we have ever layer eyes on.  This guy was just hanging out at the beach with us.




After Carriacou, we sailed more north to Union Island to check into a new country (St Vincent and the Grenadines) then onto Bequia. We were close hauled, and the sailing was pretty boisterous in 20-25 knots of wind. Luckily, we were able to make our destination with just 3 tacks, and a little motoring. 



We came through Bequia at Christmas on our way south and love it here.  This island has so much to offer and everything is so close. There are many cruisers here and we love the vibe both on the water and in town. 




Once you step on land, the signs are welcoming, and the people are all smiles!




Next up, we are looking forward to having visitors from Canada for a week!  Addy and Erica from Comox will join us for some sunshine and sailing.  It’ll be a blast!








Sunday, January 15, 2023

From The Grenadines to Grenada


We have sailed south from The Grenadines, and have spent the last week in Grenada.  This will mark the southernmost point of our trip!  We will savour a slow journey back north after this.  The crew had been adjusting well to life on land (mostly) and we have visited more than one chocolate factory while we've been here!  Micah loves munching on raw cocoa nibs.


Grenada is absolutely beautiful!  It's not a very large island and has only about 110,000 people.  Everyone here is very friendly and helpful, and there is a harmonious mix of people from all over the world.  Things are very well organised for cruisers (people like us, living on boats) and there are social events, bus rides, tours and even a weekly running event called "The Hash".

The "Hashers" call themselves "Drinkers with a running problem" and host a walk or run through the jungles and pastoral lands of Grenada every Saturday afternoon.  We were lucky to participate in Hash number 1,226 (or something like that).  Lots of sailing friends from the ARC were there too!





A couple of days later, we hired a local driver and had 2 days of amazing touring around Grenada.  His name was Patrick, but he is known locally as "Shademan".  His Toyota HiAce was well past its prime, but got us around the island in style!  Our family really enjoys hanging out with our new Quebecois friends from the boat "Jayana", Sylvain, Sounda, Mael and Lohan.  Bret, Amanda & Renner from "Out of the Woods" have been super fun as well.  Lana has been put in charge of hairdos for the boys, and they love it!


We drove for an hour to reach a famous Grenadian Chocolate Plantation/Factory - Belmont Estates.  We learned how to make chocolate, from tree to chocolate bar.  In this photo, Micah takes a raw cocoa bean after Sheldon picked a ripe cocoa pod from a tree.  The raw beans are coated in a very delicious slime that tastes like sweet lemonade.

Next, the cocoa beans are fermented for 6 days under a bed of banana leaves.  After that, the beans are dried in the sun and, traditionally, workers would walk through the beans daily to aerate them and help in the drying process.


We tried some raw, dried cocoa nibs and they were very bitter.  A lot of sugar and dairy goes into the chocolate we all know and love!  The factory also brewed us some traditional chocolate tea that was so-loved by the Brits who started Belmont Estates about 100 years ago.  In fact, it was their main way of consuming the chocolate for many years.


On the way home from the chocolate factory, we visited the mountain monkeys that were imported from South America many generations ago.  They are quite tame, and clearly were looking for hand-outs from the tourists.  Brave Aria put some food on her head to entice a monkey to land on her.


Micah also got very close and personal with the mountain monkeys.




After the monkeys, we had the chance to hike to a spectacular waterfall up a meandering creek and muddy trail.  The jungle was lush and wonderful.



There was an amazing spot to do some cliff jumping into the pool below the waterfall, and all the "kids" threw themselves in with wild abandon.





During our last couple of days in Grenada, we stayed in a quaint little Marina named La Phare Bleu.  There were many new kid boats there, and the girls had a great time playing with all of their new friends.  Moored at the same marina was an antique, restored Swedish Lighthouse Boat that the kids played hide-and-seek on.


Our time in Grenada is coming to an end, but we have been very impressed with this little island in the southern Caribbean.  It's clean, safe and friendly with lots to see and do!  We will definitely be back one day.



During daily life, Micah has taken a keen interest in boat handling skills.  She coils lines, presses buttons, steers the boat, and just generally likes getting into the sailing.  


Next we will sail back north back into the Grenadines which is usually an upwind affair.  We will try to choose days with favourable winds (lighter and slightly from the south, if possible).  That way we will keep the crew's stoke level high, and be easier on the boat, in general.  We are very excited to be hosting Aria's good friend Addy, and her mom Erica for a week at the end of January.  We have so much to show them - snorkelling with turtles, cute little Caribbean villages, sailing around idyllic islands - the list goes on and on!







Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Caribbean is Unbelievable!

We have been slowly readjusting to life off of the high seas, and have been chilling Caribbean Style!

After arriving in Saint Lucia, we have made our way south towards Grenada.  Our last week has been spent in the Grenadines.

There is so much to see and do here.  The many amazing friends we have made as part of the ARC have been our constant companions since we arrived!  The weather here is always perfect, and there is always somewhere to go, or something to do.

Christmas was so special because we had dozens of great friends to share it with.  Lana organised a gift exchange for the kids and for the grown-ups.




Next, we had a wonderful Christmas Potluck and Beach BBQ organised by one of the other ARC boats.  Instead of Ugly Sweaters and Turkey, we had Hawaiian shirts and Jerk Chicken.  On Boxing Day, yet another boat organised the First Annual International Beach Olympics!  The teams included, North America, Scandinavia, Great Britain & Germany/Switzerland.  There were lots of fun games, like tug-of-war, silly relay race and a blind-folded SUP race.









The snorkelling has been absolutely mind-blowing!  The variety of coral and fish is impressive.  We try to find a new snorkelling spot every 2-3 days.  The girls have become very comfortable under the water, and Aria has been able to free dive to 20-25 feet deep.






The hikes have been beautiful, and even on small islands, there is always a trail to get to the top of something.  Aria is pictured here with friends from Montreal and Sweden.  This was taken on an island called Bequia which is part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.




We have been trying to eat as local as we can.  Coconuts are plentiful and plantains are amazing when fried.



In the recent days, we have been snorkelling with turtles, and spending some quality time at anchor with friends doing water sports.  There has been some foiling behind the dinghy, kids group SUP, and Opti sailing.






We have also been able to figure out our drone somewhat, and have done a few flights to test it out.  This is our anchorage on Mayreau Island in the Grenadines.  Such beautiful, clear, warm water!  Oyai is in the centre of the shot.




In this video, Aria and her friend Molly are swimming next to Oyai.



Sailing on a small boat may bring-to-mind a life of isolation, but nothing could be further from the truth!  We have met so many great friends, all who have kids of similar ages to ours.

We have been having so much social quality time with friends and going to party after party.  Its been wonderful!







Next, we plan to head to Grenada and explore that island for a couple of weeks before meeting some friends from Comox back up at Saint Vincent.  We will have seen so many great places to show Erica and Addy once they arrive in 3 weeks!





Saturday, December 24, 2022

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a sailboat (part 2)

We had so much footage of our crossing and so many great moments, that we wanted to spread them out over two posts.  Our daily routines were often interrupted by dolphin sightings, swimming in the deep blue  water and catching fish.  

This was one of our more successful catches - an Atlantic Bonito.  Other boats in the ARC were much more skilled than us at fishing and some caught Mahi Mahi, Tuna.  Someone even caught a Blue Marlin!





After a few days at sea, the kids really began to embrace the experience and enjoyed the daily activities a lot.  Fishing, baking, doing watch, etc.  Watching the sunset was a favourite pastime and we were always pointed west, so the sunsets were right in front of us!


 



Being on a small sailboat in the middle of the ocean is a crazy experience.  Your world shrinks down to this small space where you can only take a few steps at a time.  Anytime we were on deck, outside the cockpit, we were strapped into the boat on "jacklines".


 


We had some very settled weather for a couple of days, and decided to go for a swim in the 5 kilometre
 deep water!  Stu had to go under the boat and scrape off some barnacles from the propeller anyways, so we thought it was the perfect time for everyone to join the Mid-Atlantic Swim Club!






The incredibly deep water was such a magical shade of blue!  James swam under the boat for some great video footage.  We didn't see any big fish during our swim, but it was definitely on our minds.






Our last few days were calm and peaceful with light winds and beautiful weather.  We were either hard-on-the-wind sailing or motor sailing for the last 48-72 hours.  





Dolphins came to visit us on multiple occasions, and we caught some great video of them riding our bow wake.







Our arrival in Saint Lucia was surreal.  There were so many other boats around and the smell of land was delightfully overwhelming.  Once we got into the marina, many of the other ARC sailors, who had arrived before us, honked their horns and cheered loudly for us.  It brought tears to our eyes.  What a welcome!







Now that our Atlantic crossing is behind us, we plan to take some time to rest, clean the boat and just generally enjoy exploring on land for a few days.  Our wonderful crew mates Amelia and James will say goodbye and fly home to Canada.  Thanks so much for all the help and warm company!  It was an amazing experience.
















Thursday, December 15, 2022

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a sailboat (part 1)

 We have now arrived in the Caribbean after a wonderful crossing aboard Oyai.  It took us just over 19 days and we had lots of different conditions along the way: strong winds, ideal winds, very light winds, sunshine, rain and squalls.  The sunsets, sunrises, stars and moon were our constant companions guiding us along the way.



We left Las Palmas in grand fashion, with all of the other 150-ish ARC boats as a mass start.  It was pretty amazing to see that many sailboats all charging off together.  The start of the ARC was scheduled for November 20th, and the wind was quite strong, gusting to 45 knots on the southeast side of Gran Canaria. 









Crossing an ocean brings many experiences and emotions at different times and we are proud to have experienced them all!  From elation to fear.  From boredom to sheer joy.  Life quickly finds a way of shrinking down around you, allowing you to feel all of these things so simply and intensely.  It is truly an amazing experience - one that we will all cherish for a lifetime.  






In the next sunset photo, you can see our map and where we are on day 7 (far off of the west coast of Africa).




We tried our hands at fishing, but were only able to entice very small fish on board.  This was an Atlantic Bonito which is a small type of tuna.  It was tiny, but still delicious.  We caught 3 of these and nothing else on our crossing.  We did have something big on the line at one point and we saw it jump out of the water.  It quickly bit through our steel leader line and was gone with the lure.  Perhaps its best we didn't try to haul that beast on board!



The sailing was sublime for most of the trip, and Oyai was purpose-built to sail in these tradewinds.  We mostly sailed dead downwind for the first week under twin headsails.  We would average a speed of about 7 knots day and night while sailing in the trades.





Having the ARC fleet of boats to share the experience was also incredible.  We stayed in SSB radio contact with a few boats, but rarely saw anyone on the horizon - the ocean is so vast!  All-in-all there were just under 150 boats in the rally, and we got to know most of the crews.  We especially made close friends with all of the "kid boats" that were part of the rally and have made bonds which will be lifelong.  



We would all occasionally sit at the bow of the boat and have our feet splashed by the bow wake.  The water got quickly warmer as we nudged into the tradewind belt south of 20 N latitude.






The fleet had its share of issues, as one would expect when crossing an ocean.  The most dramatic event happened about 7 days into the rally when a Swedish "kid boat" was dismasted in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Luckily nobody was seriously injured and they cut away the rig quickly without damaging the hull.  With the support of a handful of other boats, they were able to get enough fuel to motor all the way to the Caribbean without further incident.  They have quite an harrowing story to tell!

We will post a second blog entry in few days about the second half of our Atlantic crossing.  So many memories and photos/videos to share!  Next up will be mid-ocean swimming, dolphins playing in the bow wake, squalls and more!  Stay tuned and share the blog with anyone you think may be interested in our voyage.

Sailing in the Windward Islands

 We have left Grenada and headed north. The trade winds seem to blow from the NE at this time of year and that is the exact direction we wan...